Saturday, April 29, 2006

Thorny Dawn

sunrise on MUET day, originally uploaded by mincaye.

I wrote this after completing the MUET Reading Comprehension paper, the first for the day. It is something of a reflection on the last 24 hours, during which I evaluated the two weeks since the Great God Experiment began.

Thorny Dawn

"My grace is sufficient for you,
My strength is made perfect in weakness."
-- Jesus, 2 Corinthians 12:9

Said Teresa of Avila,
"More tears are shed over answered prayers
Than unanswered ones."

In the waking hours of dawn
My heartbeat was as a healthy man
Yet troubled was my soul,
For though the thorn had been removed
The pain remained--
Not pain of a spear through the side
But an emptiness:
A longing for something more substantial
Than flesh and blood.

Pain drove me to my knees,
Where I met my Maker
And threshed things out with Him;
But this pleasure (like all pleasures)
Was like anaesthetic--
Pain removed, and yet retained;
Not knowing, not feeling,

No coloured arches or candy clouds,
Only raindrops lightly falling
From a gloomy sky.

Morning on a roof above an open field:
Cold darkness thawn by dawn,
The Son of minarets and steeples,
One and the same.

On bended knee, slave and free
Heat of a sun shining warmly;
The rose, the rose, that I may see,
This thorn, this thorn, come back to me.

While on the way back to school for the Premier Cup, Li-Shia and I were talking about the pronunciation of MUET. It's one of the things I remember vividly from last year: 'moo-et' and 'mew-et' (interestingly, these are the sounds of cows and cats respectively).

And Li-Shia suggested 'dew-gong' for dugong. Wai Loon misheard her, thinking she meant something bad in Cantonese. I kept repeating the two words in the car, much to the dismay of Wai Loon, Kian Ti, Phak Hoe and, of course, Li-Shia.

But small things do have great impact, and at least I learned something new today!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Celebrating Secretaries

Today marks the end of the International Secretaries' Week. Phak Hoe and I brought our secretaries, Denise and Suzanne respectively, out for lunch today. I also invited Valerie along as I owed her lunch for being a great ear in recent weeks. ;-)

After a pit-stop at BP, a pseudo-trip to Cheras, an event with the horn at the Suria KLCC carpark entrance, and several encounters with 'interesting' drivers within, we finally managed to get a parking space and arrived at Santini at 1.40 p.m., ten minutes later than scheduled.

I'll let the photos do the talking.

Phak Hoe and Denise.

Valerie and Suzanne.

The photographer, taken by Denise.

Starter: Insalata Cesare
Classic Caesar salad with poached quail eggs, croutons and Parmesan cheese.

Soup: Pappa alle Patate
Potato leek soup with smoked salmon.

Main Course: Oragnello
Roulade of lamb stuffed with mushrooms, served on (minty) carrot puree and fresh mint. Phak Hoe, Suzanne and I had this. Valerie wanted it too, but she's allergic to mint.

Main Course: Pollo alla Moda
Stuffed supreme chicken with cheese, olive mashed potatoes, grilled eggplant and pesto sauce. Denise and Valerie had this.

(There was one more choice for main course, which none of us opted for: Pesce Mediterraneo, which was crusted fish fillet with basil with paella rice, spring vegetables and capsicum sauce.)

Dessert: Cannelloni Sicilian
Sicilian cannoli (some kind of crepe) filled with ricotta cheese custard and dried fruits. The filling was actually supposed to be almond and vanilla ice cream. But it was really good, and, garnished with strawberries, dragon fruit, and berry and kiwi sauce, who could complain?

The five of us outside the restaurant.

[this paragraph entered at 8.20 p.m.]
We joked about Phak Hoe's incredible appetite. There was talk about a three-metre-sausage-eating challenge (Emmanuel, Denise's brother, finished it in 50 minutes of the 60 allowed) and his two-minute carbonara-eating feat. On the subject of Phak Hoe reviewing food, it is almost certain that a restaurant whose appetizer could fill him, would instantly get an A+. In his words, "That's what I call a restaurant!"

At RM 28 each, lunch was pretty reasonable, considering the fact that we're students. Only the juices were rather expensive at RM 8 each. But then again, when do student chairmen ever treat their secretaries to lunch?

Suzanne, you've been doing a wonderful job. Keep it up! And do remind me, if ever I write a novel or short story about a secretary, to title it 'Ah, Suzanne!'

Testing shutter speed (and Photobucket)

Today, I observed Li-Shia's attempts to update her blog from a computer in the media lab in school. Now I'm about to try something: upload more than one photo in an entry.

Up until now, I've always matched a single picture to an entry, or created montages for events which find better expression in multiple photos. So now I'm going to try what virtually every other blogger has already discovered.

Denise calls me a 56-year-old trapped in the body of a 19-year-old. I do suppose I learn some things too soon, and others too late, heheh...

While on my way to KLCC after the SPM results were released on 13 April, I passed a fountain of sorts. So I decided to experiment with shutter speed and ISO settings. Indeed, the slower shutter speeds produce an impressionistic, flowing effect, while the faster ones are better able to freeze the drops of water in mid-air.

1/30th of a second:

1/250th of a second:

1/640th of a second:

1/1000th of a second:

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


sunrise at NSCF, originally uploaded by mincaye.

(I'd originally posted this entry two days ago, but somehow it failed to appear on the blog.)

Honesty becomes me
(There's nothing left to lose)
And the secrets that did run me
(In Your presence are defused)
Pride has no position
(And riches have no worth)
And the fame that once did cover me
(Has been sentenced to this earth)
Has been sentenced to this earth

I've quoted the bridge of dcTalk's 'In the Light' before, but I think it deserves yet another mention.

Considering the state the board is in, we need to be honest and open about anything and everything which affects the board. As Pn Vasantha said, we need to be tactful, but not necessarily polite.

Whatever the case, some intense hammering out needs to be done, and there will be bruises and scars. But if these scars are signs of victory, as Jesus' scars were to Thomas, then hope has indeed risen.

Let us keep praying.

Today, after school, Li-Shia wrote a few quotes on the whiteboard in my class.

"What you get by reaching your goals is not nearly as important as what you become by reaching them."

--Zig Ziglar

"Successful leaders dare to be unpopular when they have to make tough decisions... and they accept that there may be long periods before the rewards of their efforts finally appear."


"Leadership isn't about titles, positions or flowcharts. It's about one life influencing another."

-- Anon.

N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, centred his Easter sermon on John 20:1-18. He described Jesus' commission to Mary in these grand words:

"And who is it that carries this stupendous message, this primal announcement of new creation, this heraldic proclamation of the king of kings and his imminent enthronement? It is Mary from Magdala."

Near the end, he said;

"Again and again this call [to Christian ministry] comes as the voice of Jesus breaks through tears of sorrow, as with Mary; through doubt and distrust, as with Thomas; through previous failure, as with Peter..."

I have never said this to the board before, but since there's no point in keeping secrets and clamming up, I might as well go ahead. There's nothing to lose:

When I was chosen to be the Editor-in-Chief last year, I saw it not merely as an election to position or even responsibility, but to ministry. It was as if I became the pastor, and the editorial board my flock.

God gave me this last chance to make a difference in the school, and our approach to our work has reflected a marked departure from the way things were done in previous years.

And so, the conflict of the previous week comes as a great blow to what has been achieved so far. Indeed, I do not measure achievement merely by how much of the magazine is completed, but by the spirit of the board.

It has been so encouraging to see the board come together as more of a community than merely a committee. And the members' enthusiasm has been an immense source of joy thus far.

A week ago, I reflected on my failures during Lent, and prayed for a new beginning this Easter season. God has chosen to respond in the most dramatic of ways.

I cannot imagine what good might come of this, but if God can turn a tomb into a monument of life, and a cross into the hope of humanity, then maybe some good can come out of this.

Again, I am reminded that although I am the 'shepherd' of this 'flock,' God is its master. This is God's work, and as it was begun by Him, so will He lead it through trials and tribulations, into triumph in his time.

"He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it to the day of Jesus Christ."

--Philippians 1:6

May it be so with the Victorian Editorial Board. Amen.

(p.s. There were encouraging developments yesterday. Thanks especially to Sivin, Soo Tian, Denise, Li-Shia, Ching Yeng, Tee Ming, Phak Hoe and Weng Ken for supporting and praying along with us. Let us continue to wait upon God even as he leads us through this.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Only in the Dark

forest, originally uploaded by mincaye.

While reviewing the photos I took at FRIM, I learnt a lesson: never take a photo of the 'forest.' The lush greens give no sense of perspective at all; the photo above is one of the better ones, probably due to the light and the relatively bare canopy.

Li-Shia sent me several verses via SMS today for encouragement. They are Romans 8:26, Isaiah 40:29-31, Romans 5:3-4 and Matthew 6:34.

Isaiah 40:31 has always encouraged me.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

And the logic of Matthew 6:34 is unquestionable.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Nevertheless, I still don't know how to face tomorrow. It will be a decisive day, and will determine the direction of the editorial board for, probably, the rest of the year.

Yesterday, at the Phases Online Launch at The Mustard Tree restaurant in The Ampwalk, I received as a gift an EP featuring songs (in remembrance of the 2004 Tsunami) by Patrick Leong, Liang, Juwita Suwito and Altered Frequency.

Suwito's contribution, in particular, encouraged me tremendously as I listened to it in bed this morning. Here's the chorus of 'Only in the Dark':

Only in the dark when I can't seem to see
I learn to hear Your whisper
That's been guiding me
Reach out for the Hand
That bears the light
So my step is right
Only in the dark

I just printed out the sermon given by N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, on Easter Morning. (Thanks Steven for sending it to the mailing list!)

Here's hoping, as Denise and Sivin said to me, that we will experience the resurrection power of God even in this Easter season. Yet the irony is that, before something can rise to life, it must die.

Someone once asked, "Why do we fall, but to rise again?"

Elsewhere, Thomas Wayne and Alfred put it this way, "Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up."

What is it that must die this time around? What needs to be sacrificed?

I beg of you, if ever you come across these words, please pray for the Victorian Editorial Board, that God may lead it where he wants it to go from here.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dreaming of a Resurrection

waterfall, originally uploaded by mincaye.

A very symbolic picture. Phak Hoe in the shape of the cross, beneath a waterfall (symbolising, perhaps, baptism?) and a ray of light at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.

I pray our story won't end with Friday's death. As Denise reminded me, Jesus rose victorious from the grave.

A poem and a song that speak of what I'm going through lately.

After Rain by Eamon Grennan

See how our big world turns tiny and upside down
in raindrops on thorns of gorse: along the lane
to the small harbour the hedges are empty of leaves
and everything has a flayed, scrubbed look, antique
and about to be new, the brusque wind flailing branches,
declaring change, a change in the weather
that must unsettle us, too, who persist inside its loops
and mazes, unable to see straight, unable to forecast
tomorrow or the day after, only able to remember
what happened: the air scenting to freshness, a sense
of calm coming down, of getting to the other side
of turbulence, of things being touched for once
to wholeness; that somehow nothing bad could happen.

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own by U2

Tough, you think you’ve got the stuff
You’re telling me and anyone
You’re hard enough

You don’t have to put up a fight
You don’t have to always be right
Let me take some of the punches
For you tonight

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don’t have to go it alone

And it’s you when I look in the mirror
And it’s you when I don’t pick up the phone
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

We fight all the time
You and I… that’s alright
We’re the same soul
I don’t need… I don’t need to hear you say
That if we weren’t so alike
You’d like me a whole lot more

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don’t have to go it alone

And it’s you when I look in the mirror
And it’s you when I don’t pick up the phone
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

I know that we don’t talk
I’m sick of it all
Can - you - hear - me – when – I -
Sing, you’re the reason I sing
You’re the reason why the opera is in me…

Where are we now?
I’ve got to let you know
A house still doesn’t make a home
Don’t leave me here alone...

And it’s you when I look in the mirror
And it’s you that makes it hard to let go
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own
Sometimes you can’t make it
The best you can do is to fake it
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Great God Experiment

Originally uploaded by mincaye.

The last of the Lent Meditations was on Focus. The reflection question was:

"What are the main areas of commitment in your life? How can each of these areas of your commitments be focused on the values and the cause of the Kingdom of God?"

John Donne wrote, in Meditations XVII:

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind..."

Let this week be an experimental one. Dad will be taking the camera to Vietnam, so I won't be taking any photos for the next five days. Also, I will refrain from blogging.

In the place of these two passions of mine, I will devote time to prayer and poetry. There are some things I need to sort out with my Master. There are friends who need prayer.

I shall list them:

A is struggling with her sense of identity, seeking balance in an off-kilter world, and desiring to live without fear.

B is having a tough time dealing with crises involving his committee, and feeling that his sense of authority is being undermined.

C has the delicate responsibility of juggling his studies and shepherding his flock. He also happens to be under the weather presently.

D is trying to forge a better attitude towards his studies, while yearning for freedom which now lies a year away.

And then there's E. Jesus said to pray for enemies, so I will. I do not know him well; in fact, I hardly know him. But I will pray for his needs and for grace to overcome his fears, because we all need that. And I will also pray that our conflict be resolved, much as I want to exact revenge upon him.

My friends, if you recognise yourselves above, I ask for only one thing: that you also remember me in your prayers. And those descriptions, though they be primarily of you, are truly a reflection of what I am going through myself.

Last week, while I was at Jon Siao's house for debate prep, Wilson drank some water from my bottle. I was irritated, but he just smiled and said, "Oops, sorry. I was thirsty."

Thing is, he was somewhat ill, and I think that was the cause of the sore throat which has now afflicted me. But I shall not blame him, because this sickness has driven me to this point where I realise just how far I've strayed from God.

This is what it truly means to be 'one,' as in the U2 song:

We're one, but we're not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other

And being involved in mankind (see Donne above) means sharing the pains of others as well. So, my friends, your burdens are mine, that the grace of God given to each of us may be shared too.

And to tie together the various strings of the entries over the last few days, indeed I thank God for the trials I'm facing simply because I have come to experience and know, as a ray of light in a dark jungle, his never-failing grace.

Life was never meant to be easy, but I have to agree with T.S. Eliot:

"I had far rather walk, as I do, in daily terror of eternity, than feel that this was only a children's game in which all the contestants would get equally worthless prizes in the end."

The next five days be yours, O God. And as I have asked, heal me only when this week's mission is done. Let the experiment begin!


triptych, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Triptych: [‘trip-tik]
A set of three associated artistic works intended to be appreciated together.

Art forms, by nature, are designed to stimulate the senses: most are directed at one, while some others, two. Take, for instance, the orchestra. There is visual and aural pleasure to be experienced at a live concert. On the other hand, an audio recording is merely sound minus sight.

Then we have sculptures, whose aesthetic value lies along both visual and tactile dimensions. Photographs, however, only appeal to our vision.

With Triptych, photographer Tate Ghazi achieves a whole new language for communicating both thought and feeling by fusing tactile and visual stimuli, creating textured pictures by printing digital images on various surfaces.

In his own words, “Technology now allows us to take the captured image to another dimension, enabling us to create an internal synergy between the image and the surface it is printed on. Triptych is a study of such synergy, where the combined effects are greater than their separate effects.”

The exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery in Starhill features six themed sets of three photographs each, printed on six different surfaces.

Grow is a leaf motif on raw silk, while Trunk is printed on wood, as its name suggests. On pulp, rounding up the organic pieces, Shade resembles Chinese ink paintings.

Then there are the inorganic ones. Buildings is a road’s-eye-view of skyscrapers printed on aluminium, and Highway is a sturdy composition on concrete. Finally, there is Spirals: three shots of a spiral staircase on stainless steel.

Taking the novelty even further, the inorganic pieces are displayed very creatively. Spirals is set on the floor of the gallery so as to heighten the depth of the staircase, which was shot from the top down.

Too heavy to be hung on the wall, Highway’s slabs are propped up on reinforcement bars, further complementing its construction site appearance.

The most modern of the lot, Buildings’ three photos are printed on a single aluminium frame, and attached to the wall using only—believe it or not—very strong double-sided tape.

Yet the most striking thing about the exhibition is that these images go beyond merely describing a scene or an idea. There is a certain presence about them that transcends both physical and mental dimensions, transforming the tiny gallery into a microcosm of today’s world.

Here, in this hypothetical universe of the artist’s imagination, the force of man’s advancement is pitted against the fragile simplicity of nature in a dynamic tension.

On the whole, it appears that fewer and fewer boundaries now stand in the way of artistic expression. And this is probably good news for artists whose dreams are too great for the provision afforded by conventional media.

In the spirit of true innovation, a member of the audience asked, during the talk given by Tate on 16 April, if images of people would be printed on skin. He replied, as any witty artist would, “We tried, but the girl just wouldn’t fit into the printer.”

The exhibition was launched by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, and is on until 31 May 2006. For more information, or to view the pieces, visit Prices of the works range from RM 3,000 to RM 15,000.

(Thanks Tien for the flyer! And thanks Li-Shia and Samantha for joining me and my family today.)

Ridiculous Faith

Originally uploaded by mincaye.

This Easter, one word kept suggesting itself to me over and over again: ridiculous.

Many have written that the Christian faith defies logic, but I am inclined to agree with Dallas Willard that this faith is perfectly logical. After all, why should anything be beyond the Creator of logic?

But for all its logic, faith still seems to me a rather ridiculous thing, not because it doesn't make sense, but because it seems too good to be true.

This morning at church, a story was told of a minister who raised fourteen people from the dead, at least one of which was repeatedly thrown onto a wall until he came back to life. When I hear stories like these, I really don't know what to think.

Yet I must check myself before simply scoffing at it, for in the same manner was the resurrection of Jesus discredited and disbelieved.

When we think about it, everything about the death and resurrection of Christ was 'wrong.' Creation cannot kill its creator; angels are not silent when the Lord-of-the-Angel-Armies (Eugene Peterson's version of God Almighty) is being flogged; death does not work backwards; and so much more.

But as John Irving observed in his book, A Prayer for Owen Meany;

"Anyone can be sentimental about the Nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event; if you don't believe in the resurrection, you're not a believer."

The cross is indeed, in Max Lucado's words, the hinge of history. One cannot be indifferent about it. Probably the question isn't so much about whether or not it happened, but why it happened the way it did. Hence, being logical doesn't remove the silly side of it.

To me, Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:55 echo the celebration on that first Easter morning, sending a mocking taunt reverberating through the depths of the abyss:

"O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?"

And this is the hope of Easter, as expressed in Romans 6:6,8;

"...our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin... Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him."

It is the difference he makes. And this, to me, is the most ridiculous part of God's redemption plan: the fact that he still puts up with scum like me.

No human, noble as he may be, could possible endure humanity, especially people as incorrigible as yours truly. Indeed, only a god could: and not just any god, but a God who would defy human expectation and pigeon-holing.

A God who, in the sum of all things, brings us to the state where we are resigned to his will; till our words are those of Michael Card's:

When we in our foolishness thought we were wise
He played the fool and He opened our eyes
When we in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong
And so we follow God's own fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable
And come be a fool as well


Originally uploaded by mincaye.

These words are not my own, but truly they could have been, for I know them to be true of me:

"I feel like an imposter for claiming to be a Christian but not leading a Christian life. Things don't feel right; they don't fit. I've dark secrets. I don't belong anywhere."

Commenting on U2's album Pop, The Edge said:

"It’s very difficult to pin this record down. It’s not got any identity because it’s got so many."

And we lose sense of who we are, and we lose our faces, not because we're blank slates without identity, but often because we assume so many that we no longer know who we really are.

And thus we lose our focus. And life becomes a blur.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Roses and Thorns

angels with roses, originally uploaded by mincaye.

(Photo taken by Yi Jing at the SBU-MBS Easter Rally at the Cheras Gospel Centre. This is the same rose that appeared in my last post yesterday.)

As I read the April 14 reading in the Nails and Thorns Lent devotions this morning, its title, 'On Trials,' struck a chord within me. Scripture was taken from John 18 and 19. Some excerpts:

The life journey of the one who truly desires to follow Christ is one that is commonly characterised by trials and suffering... The important thing, in the face of these trials, is to remember... [our] God suffered.

Philip Yancey quoted Edward Shillito in The Jesus I Never Knew:

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds but Thou alone.

The journey to the Pandan Jaya LRT station post-rally was undertaken in the rain. And while in the Jeep on the way out of Menara Dion yesterday, it was raining outside, and Mariah Carey's 'Through the Rain' was on the radio:

I can make it through the rain
I can stand up once again
On my own and I know
That I'm strong enough to mend
And every time I feel afraid
I hold tighter to my faith
And I live one more day
And I make it through the rain

As I thought about the rain, I pictured the crucifixion of Jesus. The Bible tells us that the sky became dark at about noon, and if it rained, I think there's a sense of poetic justice in the scene: how God completes the act of redemption by shedding tears of love and life on a dead and hardened earth.

Yet, on a deeper level, it did rain. Perhaps it is not too far-fetched to imagine that the God who healed with saliva and soil, could breathe new life into his creation with his dying breath, and rain down healing with his dying blood.

Jurgen Moltmann once said, "God weeps with us so that we may one day laugh with him." And for all our trials, it is comforting to know that even God was not beyond tears.

Rain means something to me. Many a time have I mentioned the storm on May 27, 2004 (the night I met up with Sivin at BLC, and then the debaters for dinner at BSC), and storms would never be the same again.

Yet this Easter, I cannot think of any great change or revival in my life. In fact, the opposite seems to be happening. Worries about studies and my responsibilities in school are boiling over, while I struggle with the philosopher/photographer within.

Here's a question: should a Christian teenager hide his/her faith from his/her parents? We're not talking about going to church here. Let's say the teen meets up with some Christian friends, and is later questioned by the parents. Is lying ever justifiable?

A long time ago, these words were featured in an advertisement on TV:

"You may complain because roses have thorns,
Or you may rejoice because thorns have roses."

To me, roses are a powerful symbol of redemption. Consider God's curse upon humanity in Genesis 1:17-18:

Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.

We could say that Jesus Christ, the second Adam, brought roses out of the thorns of this world. Even the colour bears a deep symbolism for me. Green leaves and thorns represent the natural order of things; but the blood of the Lamb is the crimson flower of a supernatural force of grace.

A rather mixed up Holy Week. Mostly words, few sentences. Random thoughts distilled into the following:

Torn curtain
Dying God

And maybe more, now and then.

A final word about the picture's title: 'Angels' was actually suggested by our white uniforms, although Li-Shia could very much be an angel (at least much more than me)!

But also, it has a certain ring to it. 'Angels and roses,' while bearing a distinctly heavenly timbre, will always remind me of the grace of God ministering in the midst of earthly suffering, holding out a stubborn hope in the darkest of nights.

It is a light that, though flickering, will never be snuffed out.

Peace be with you this Easter season. Amen.

Two Blogthings quizzes

This is Li-Shia's fault. *wink*

Check out the April 15 post on her blog if you'd like to compare our 'results.'

Your Blogging Type Is Thoughtful and Considerate

You're a well liked, though underrated, blogger.
You have a heart of gold, and are likely to blog for a cause.
You're a peaceful blogger - no drama for you!
A good listener and friend, you tend to leave thoughtful comments for others.

Indeed, can't disagree. ;-)

You Are 60% Boyish and 40% Girlish

You are pretty evenly split down the middle - a total eunuch.
Okay, kidding about the eunuch part. But you do get along with both sexes.
You reject traditional gender roles. However, you don't actively fight them.
You're just you. You don't try to be what people expect you to be.

*Whew!* At least I'm a guy!

Two Songs

Heard Cliff Richard's 'Miss You Nights' while passing The Weld on the way home yesterday. Written by Dave Townsend, it was said to be one of Sir Cliff's biggest hits in Malaysia (at least, if I remember correctly what he said at the concert in 2003).

I've had many times, I can tell you
Times when innocence I'd trade for company
And children saw me crying
I thought I'd had my share of that
But these miss you nights
Are the longest

Midnight diamonds stud my heaven
Southward burning lie the jewels that eye my place
And the warm winds that embrace me
Just as surely kissed your face
Yeah these miss you nights
Are the longest

How I miss you
I'm not likely to tell
I'm a man and cold day light
Buys the pride I'd rather sell
All my secrets
Are wasted affair
You know them well

Thinking of my going
How to cut the thread and leave it all behind
Looking windward for my compass
I take each day as it arrives
But these miss you nights
Are the longest

Lay down all thought of your surrender
It's only me who's killing time
Lay down all dreams and themes once remembered
It's just the same
This miss you game
Yeah these miss you nights
Are the longest

While going through the Love Actually songbook on the piano just now, I had a go at Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides, Now.' I'm no fan, but the lyrics seemed to jump out of the page. Quite a powerful song, reflective without getting totally disconnected from everything else.

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As ev'ry fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

Originally uploaded by mincaye.

Two poems for Good Friday.

Grand Chorus

As from the power of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator's praise
To all the blest above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And Music shall untune the sky.

--John Dryden

East Coker, Stave IV

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood--
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

--T.S. Eliot

(Not that I understand much of the above anyway...But I do enjoy the poeticism)

This is a close-up of one of the roses used by SBU for their sketch at the Easter rally this afternoon. They didn't want it after that, so I took it home; Li-Shia has another.

I tried keeping the rose in focus, and the leaves out. Looks like it worked quite well! I also increased the red and blue pigments, and created the purplish background by accident. Nice. Very nice.

Have a blessed Holy Week-end!

Maundy Thursday at McDonald's

wiping feet, originally uploaded by mincaye.

After attending the Dewan Rakyat session at Parliament for a short while in the morning, Phak Hoe, Li-Shia, Yen and I walked to Masjid Jamek (for want of taxis), from which we took a train to Hang Tuah.

We then walked to Times Square and met up with Tien in Borders. It was, as usual, impossible to decide on a place for lunch, so we ended up in McDonald's.

After lunch, Tien and Yen left for the SU office, while Phak Hoe took to the papers and the land of forty winks.

Li-Shia began wetting a piece of tissue to wipe her feet. (Excessive walking from Parliament House was a major strain on the feet, what more with heels; so she removed her sandals altogether while in Times Square, thus picking up lots of dirt.)

Suddenly the idea to use baby wipes instead, occurred to me. Thankfully, there were enough sheets in my (ever overstocked) bag. As I cleaned her feet, I realised something similar would be happening at the Bangsar Lutheran Church that night, which I would miss for Rojak! at KLPac.

And so it was, Maundy Thursday at McDonald's. Not Jesus washing the disciples' feet after supper, but Ben wiping Li-Shia's after lunch. In fact, I believe we drew some stares and giggles from the secondary schoolgirls sitting at a nearby table!

Later, as I was flipping through the latest issue of TIME, which had just arrived, I came across this short column on the Gospel of Judas. The character of Judas as portrayed by the Bible was contrasted with that of this new 'discovery.'

In it, Judas is painted as:

Christ's Confidant
Jesus said to him, "Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom."

Loyal Servant
"You will be cursed by the other generations... But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me."

Jesus answered and said, "[Y]ou will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy."

As soon as I read those words, I realised that the entire Biblical account of Jesus would be pure rubbish if the Gospel of Judas were true, for there is no consistency between the two.

Above all differences, one in particular stood out: Jesus did not preach a Gospel of human glory, but one of sacrifice and humility.

First off, Christ's closest disciples were probably Peter, James and John. Nowhere do we get the idea that they received preferential treatment, or that they were privy to 'mysteries of the kingdom.' Rather, we find that they were rebuked more often and charged with more responsibility than the others.

Then there is the 'loyal servant' argument. In Judas' Gospel, Jesus seems to promise some form of superiority to Judas. Yet this is difficult to reconcile with the One who told Peter, "Feed my lambs." It would appear from the Gospels, that we are not to be reassured by some airy dream of such glory, but by the fact that Jesus is always with us.

Finally, Jesus warned his disciples at the Last Supper to avoid 'lording it over others' as the rulers of the world do. Certainly the same Lord would not have promised rulership to Judas.

Taken together, the claims of the Gospel of Judas are too human to be taken seriously. It seems to cast Jesus as nothing more than just a man with big ideas. Interestingly, this is a perfect foil to the Bible: any man can concoct a story about a saviour, but only the true Saviour can shake the world as Jesus did.

Humility is something I have yet to learn. Oh, how much indeed is my life in want of it! Today Ching Yeng told me that I have to be more sensitive and aware of my surroundings. She was referring to the manner in which I walked quickly ahead, though Li-Shia was in heels.

At the Last Supper, Jesus took on the role of a servant (a slave, even). Would that I learn to do the same, for this life is not all about me, and the world certainly does not revolve around M.E. number one.

So, Li-Shia, if and when you read this, I'm sorry for what I did. I don't know if the foot-cleaning exercise was merely for fun, or perhaps a means for me to allay my guilt. Whatever the case, please forgive me.

And hold me back if ever I walk too fast: I need more balance in my life, more than anyone knows.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Artesian Wells

fountain, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Artesian well, a 'well made by boring into the earth till the instrument reaches water, which, from internal pressure, flows spontaneously like a fountain. It is usually of small diameter and often of great depth.'

Great ideas have been in want lately, for in my search for them they have been few and far between. But over the past week some pretty thoughtful quotes showed up in the Poetry Speaks calendar.

Like Artesian wells, they reflect those fine ounces of inspiration that are frequently stumbled upon only after much boring through dry, arid earth.

And these rare instances do not flow as rapid rivers do, but spring towards the heavens delicately, yet forcefully with much focus and depth of insight.

"Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toenails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared an forever all your own."

--Dylan Thomas

"A poem always has elements of accident about it, which can be made the subject of inquest afterwards, but there is always a risk in conducting your own inquest: you might begin to believe the coroner in yourself rather than put your trust in the man in you who is capable of the accident."

--Seamus Heaney

The picture above was taken during Biology class on monday. Phak Hoe turned on the tap and a fountain of water emerged out of the rubber tube. He was leaning on the sink.

Here, I have increased contrast to sharpen the fountain and soften Phak Hoe. I have also reduced saturation, bordering between colour and black & white to give it a more subdued look.

Going to the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) in Kepong with the class tomorrow. The debate finals (motion: the Department of Environment is ineffective in conserving the environment) are also on in the morning. All the best, guys!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"My place is here."

This Wednesday, the V.I.'s debate team, comprising Zamil, Wilson, Jon Siao, Andrew and Adli, will face St. John's team in the Wira State Debate Finals. I've been following the team's progress from the third round, through to the Semis, which they cleared last week. And this round may yield a repeat the triumph of 2004. What's more, Danial, Dinesh and Kishan will be going to watch. It's in SMK Petaling in the Old Klang Road area.

But this Wednesday, at the same time, my class is going to the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) in Kepong. It's organised under the Science & Mathematics Society, and some members of the Bio-Maths class are also coming along.

I have decided to go with them to FRIM. I'd come to this decision about five days ago, but only today, upon reaching home from the Chairmen/Prefects' Leadership Camp, did these words ring in my head: "My place is here." And at that moment, images from camp and of my camera and Mr Leong, flashed across my mind. He and Mr Kali are going to FRIM as well.

As I reflected further on those words, they ring true also for the little problems tugging at the Victorian Editorial Board. Mr Nik Anuay (the teacher in charge of the extra-curricular wing of the school administration) wants the board's committee to be reshuffled, so as to 'better reflect Malaysian society,' i.e. make sure the races are proportionately balanced; we suspect the Principal is also involved in, if not masterminding, this.

And Mr Anuay made mention of this before all the presidents and prefects at the camp this morning, in his address. This is the second time, the first being at a Board of Chairmen meeting earlier this year.

But this is not feasible or, for that matter, possible. How can we balance a committee if we do not have enough members of a certain 'required' race? This is not National Service, where it is possible to engineer a microcosm of society. What's more, the purpose of the editorial board is to produce the school magazine/yearbook, not become a vessel for the expression of a teacher's whims and fancies.

Above all, effecting such a large-scale restructuring of the committee would require a major infringement of board policy, not to mention a great disturbance of present board dynamics: after all, we're getting along as a team just fine, and shaking things up won't help.

Even friends and teachers are not in favour of such drastic action, and so this is my answer to the school admin: "This is my place, between you and the board." (As Batman said to the Ra's al-Ghul, "My place is between you and the people of Gotham"). I'm here as a leader because some people placed their trust in me, and my responsibility is a duty to them as well as to posterity.

As Martin Luther said when forced to recant his convictions: "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

No Greater Love

waodani, originally uploaded by mincaye.

From March 27 to April 4, Weng Ken went on a missions trip to Long Lamai, Sarawak. Prior to that, he asked me to pray for him every day throughout the trip.

One thought stayed with me throughout the nine days, and that is the story of Operation Auca:

In 1956, several men of the Waodani tribe of Ecuador attacked and speared to death five men who had 'mysteriously dropped from the sky into their jungle.' These were the missionaries Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming and Ed McCully.

Surely they were supported by many in prayer. And yet, I cannot help feeling that missionaries head into the unknown, not on the assurance that prayers will keep them safe, but that God may have his way.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said to King Nebuchadnezzar:

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Melody loves this quote, because it's true, she says. And it is.

And as far as heaven's servants are concerned, their treasure is immortal. Their reward is their God.

Maybe that is why Jesus says that, unless we surrender all that is ours, we cannot follow him. A missionary may know no fear, simply because there is nothing left to lose. But those who hoard their possessions risk everything.

Steven Curtis Chapman told the story of the Ecuador missionaries in his song 'No Greater Love.' It remains one of his finest:

Man of courage with your message of peace
What is that look in your eyes?
Why have you come to this faraway place?
What is this story you would lay down your life to tell?
What kind of love can this be?

There is no greater love than this
There is no greater gift that can ever be given
To be willing to die so another might live
There is no greater love than this

Broken hearted from all you have lost
How can you sing through your tears?
What is this music that can bear such a cost?
What is this fire that grows stronger against the wind?
What kind of flame can this be?

This is the love that God showed the world
When He gave us His Son
So we could know His love forever
Beyond the gates of splendor

Here's to you, Weng Ken, and to all missionaries out there. Heaven knows your names, and God will give you peace.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Thoughts on Love

dandelion girl, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Love's Farewell

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,--
Nay I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free;

Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.

Now at the last gasp of love's latest breath,
When his pulse failing, passion speechless lies,
When faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And innocence is closing up his eyes,

--Now if thou would'st, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might'st him yet recover!

(This poem, by Michael Drayton, was featured on March 31 in the Poetry Speaks calendar.)

In Act IV, Scene V of Hamlet, Laertes utters these words:

"Nature is fine in love, and where 'tis fine
It sends some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves."

Harold Jenkins, in the Arden Shakespeare edition of the play, comments on the above excerpt;

"Human nature, when in love, is exquisitely sensitive, and being so, it sends a precious part of itself as a token to follow the object of its love."

Last Tuesday, the grass on the slope facing the Form Six block was cut. But some thirty minutes before that, Li-Shia managed to get a few shots of the dandelions she loves so much.

In this picture, my angle is that of a dandelion, or perhaps an insect. While her camera is focused on one of the many delicate, downy flowers, her attention (betrayed by her eyes) is diverted to the insect on the left side of the photo.

I think the overall effect of the picture complements Drayton and Shakespeare.