Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Photographing Old Penang

As promised earlier, here's the entry on my recent trip to Penang for the PCP-Nikon Photography Workshop.

So what's so amazing about a few portraits in a moving bus? It depends, I suppose, on who the photographer is.

The guy who shot this set of pictures was actually trying out my recently-acquired Nikon P5000 Digital Camera (a high-end camera with a low-end price). He is also the person who shot the pictures used in the advertisements of a certain mobile service provider...

Introducing... Kelvin Chan, also Creative Director for Photo Creator Publication (PCP; and yes, it's 'publication', not 'publications').

* * * * *

While walking along the north-east coast of Penang, along the way back from Fort Cornwallis at the end of the second day, I chanced upon this rojak seller. His name is Mohd Rafi and he worked in the agriculture section of a Japanese company before leaving his job to start the rojak business.

Apparently he earned about RM7000 a month in the company but said rojak was more lucrative. His fruit is extremely fresh and he maintains a high standard of cleanliness at his mobile stall. Probably the best rojak I've tasted in awhile, except that it was rather soggy by the time I ate it as I was already late for dinner and had to rush back to the hotel with Bee Sze, my newfound friend.

On the way back, Bee Sze and I passed the headquarters of the Municipal Council a.k.a. Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang. The building glowed so brilliantly against the darkening sky; she graciously held my rojak while I quickly composed this shot.

This was an experiment in long exposure. The Shell station along Jalan Penang (opposite Hotel Continental where we stayed) is probably the smallest petrol station I have ever seen.

While I made these exposures, Kelvin passed me on the way to meeting some of the group at a nearby pub. Once I was done, I had sup lembu and bandung barli panas at a nearby mamak shop. The man who served me was grinning from ear to ear when he served the bandung, just like the guy at the Maulana restaurant where I first came up with the concoction.

That's my roommate Wesley, who is a Malaysian working in Singapore. I'd say the hotel was a semi-budget one (the 3D/2N trip only cost RM280 per person, everything included) but nonetheless comfortable.

I learnt that most hobby photographers stay in backpacker hotels when they travel; apparently the air fare virtually drains their resources, and as we know they like to travel far and wide.

* * * * *

We were sent on two photo shoots; the morning session took us into the heart of 'old' Penang (the equivalent of Malacca's Jonker Street and KL's Petaling Street) where there was much Eastern influence (e.g. temples, Little India, a mosque and Chinese mansions) while the evening session was mostly a coastal affair with much Western influence (e.g. churches and colonial buildings).

Evidently much planning went into the choice of accommodation, as the neighbourhood was really very photographable and, above all, accessible by foot.

We each received a cap and T-shirt from Nikon, and I must say the T-shirt is a real breakthrough. It sports a collar which can be flipped up nehru-style to provide padding for the camera strap (SLR straps tend to hurt after awhile) and is made of jersey-like material which allows for excellent ventilation.

* * * * *

The following photos are my personal favourites. They have not been doctored in any way, save for some brightening on the Fort Cornwallis shot.

Shot early in the first session. I felt the plant brought some life to an otherwise 'dead' shoplot. The weather was much better when we went shooting; apparently it was cloudy earlier in the morning.

I have heard it said that when God closes one door, He opens another. I guess the same goes for windows. ;-)

This man was resting on the terrace of the Masjid Kapitan Keling. His 'reflective' look seemed to be echoed in the reflections on the well-polished marble floor.

This is one of my favourites from the second session. It was taken in the Cathedral of the Assumption, which has a working pipe organ; probably one of the four (it is said) existing pieces in this country.

The candle's flame 'folded' into quite a perfect shape; the Fire of the Word.

I shot this because Fort Cornwallis was closed for some 25 minutes by the time I reached it. Not wanting to leave without a photo, I chose to 'frame' the closed gate with one of the ropes on the 'drawbridge'.

This picture drew favourable comments from Greg Yang (editor of Advanced Images Magazine, published by PCP) who reviewed the photos during the review session on the third day. It also prompted a participant to dismiss all the other participants' photos as 'not appealing' in comparison.

And now, for what I regard as the best shot of the trip.

Walking along the coast towards Fort Cornwallis after buying the bubble gun for Li-Shia, I came across pigeons and crows on the beach, mostly scavenging for food.

Kelvin commented, during the review session, that this was "actually quite good." As the participants were reviewed alphabetically, I was the third in line and it was nice to see 20 of my shots projected onto the screen (many had less). Elina (Sales and Advertising Manager for PCP) remarked that I was the youngest participant at the workshop after Kelvin's comment.

It occurred to me today that this shot probably represents 'Old Penang' better than any of my other photos. Simply because before the old streets, before Francis Light, before the Malay rulers, before the Chinese and Indian immigrants, before all civilisation... there were beaches.

And there were pigeons.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Of T.S. Eliot, toilets and more

Yesterday, I was chatting with Wei Yun (Category A Winner of last year's MPH Search) and somehow we went from T.S. Eliot to toilets to manure disposal to world peace and a plan for post-war recovery.

None of this is to be taken seriously and should by no means be treated as an indicator of the minds of today's youth. None of this information is to be used as evidence against either of us in our institutions of learning and/or employment.

Having said that, enjoy (if you can) the ride!

WY: t.s.eliot is an anagram of toilets
B: but toilets are essential!
B: imagine, ladies and gentlemen, a world without...
B: where would your wee wee go?
WY: hmm
WY: in a hole
WY: or under a bush

B: and where might we dispose of your poo poo?
WY: as manure
B: there'd be many many holes
WY: it would be essential for the farming industry!
B: but what about singapore?
B: where there are more humans than farms?
B: or hong kong?
WY: too bad for them
WY: sacrifices must be made!

B: what would happen in mid valley, or queensbay mall, or KLCC?
B: in the airports, or on trains?
WY: hmmm
WY: we could fling poo at passers-by


B: i think we've just hit upon a great idea for a book
B: "A World Without Toilets"


WY: ah, the wonders of dung
B: we'd make lotsa plants grow!
B: and send the municipal council staff to retirement
WY: say good-bye to global warming!
B: genius!
B: we can also win the Nobel Peace Prize


WY: ah, yes. toilets are truly what is causing all war and strife!


WY: and when we are forced to drop our pants in the open
WY: we will feel some semblance of equality

B: indeed, indeed
B: our bowels are made the same
WY: yes
WY: and the smell is the same

B: be they american or asian or middle eastern
WY: yup
B: chemically all produce methane
WY: we have just hit on a new idea for world peace!


B: and methane can be used as a fuel
B: no more need for petroleum
B: or nuclear weapons
B: we now have...
WY: ah well
WY: they're environmentally friendly

B: yes
B: so after the war and all the carnage, the ground will be fertilised
WY: yupyup
B: so that the survivors can plant crops and begin life anew
WY: hmm
WY: we really SHOULD patent this idea

B: haha
B: i think i'll put it up on my blog

Monday, May 28, 2007

Shadow of the Cross

For Kung Kung

Rest now, in the shadow of the cross.

Receive your gold
Remove your dross
Freed at last from pain;
That which you count for gain
We count for loss.

The dark nights
The little lights
Of hope at last dismayed;
In hope we wait
In ground now laid
The soldier has finished the fight.

Rest now, in the shadow of the cross.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Aloha 'Oe

No one likes graveclothes. No one discusses graveclothes. Have you ever spiced up dinner-table chat with the question, "What are you planning to wear in your casket?" Have you ever seen a store specializing in burial garments? (If there is one, I have an advertising slogan to suggest: "Clothes to die for.")

Most folks don't discuss graveclothes.

The apostle John, however, was an exception. Ask him, and he'll tell you how he came to see burial garments as a symbol of triumph. He didn't always see them that way. A tangible reminder of the death of his best friend, Jesus, they used to seem like a symbol of tragedy. But on the first Easter Sunday, God took clothing of death and made it a symbol of life.

(Max Lucado, He Chose the Nails)

You no longer need a phone; you have His voice.

You no longer need the media; you have His truth.

You no longer need a watch; you have Him beyond all time.

And He has you.

Aloha 'Oe, Kung Kung. Till we see you when we're home at last.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Waris

This is an entry long overdue. I intended to type it out shortly after 19 Jan, but somehow delayed here and there and never got down to doing it. Needless to say, it was a permanent fixture on my ever-changing to-do list.

* * * * *

I sat the driving test on 19 January, and had to take a day's leave off school. The date in Cantonese sounds like Cantonese for 'sure enough', and I reminded myself that morning that God is sufficient.

In the toilet early in the morning, I revisited Psalm 121.

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip...

--Psalm 121:1-3 (NIV)

The third verse took on a whole new meaning for me. Anyone learning to drive will know that the trickiest thing about driving a manual car is controlling the clutch. And anyone about to take the test will know that a mistake on the clutch causing the car to stall will result in an immediate FAIL. (Unless, of course, one opts for the 'sure pass' route.)

That verse was an encouragement, because I knew my route wasn't a 'sure pass', and I knew who the true Judge of my driving was. But the One who judges is also the One who provides, so I went out in His confidence.

Although my number was 'Kuning 59', I was the first to go. I will always remember my tester; the moment I got into the car, he told me to start the engine. Anyone learning to drive will know that the procedure begins with checking the cockpit, adjusting the mirrors, seat etc. But this guy just said "Start engine!". And as soon as I started the engine, he cried "Jalan!!" leaving me no time to adjust the mirrors!

(I had to stop near the dragonfruit farm to do the adjusting.)

We all know that Malaysians are good at slamming the accelerator even when the light is red, but what about people who slam the brakes when the light is green? Doing that at the first junction under the flyover must've shocked the tester; he said, "Hoi! Awak buat apa?!"

He spent most of the trip talking to someone on the other side of the phone, and eventually passed me with 18/20 marks. One of the marks was lost in the 'correct gear' section, because I never really knew then that a car should not travel too long on first gear; it becomes more obvious when one drives a car larger than a Kancil and at speeds higher than when learning. I forgot where the other mark was lost.

I remember that David thanked God for providing him an honest tester; I cannot quite say the same about mine. I mean, rushing the test by not going through the pre-driving checks isn't exactly honest, is it? But then again, I do thank God for an otherwise 'non-corrupt' tester who did not find fault where there was none.

And here's to anyone reading this who has yet to learn driving: it is not true what people say about the necessity of bribing. Although many officers may be corrupt, not all are. And many people just pay the bribe before they are asked for it, just as an insurance measure. I say this: if you believe in God, then know that He is the Great Tester. Fail Him and no man can save you; trust Him and no man can stop you.

Jeyabaskaran also sat the test on the same day. It was nice to see a familiar face. We talked about giving tuition and fees, and somehow reached the conclusion that RM 20 per hour seems to be a good average rate these days.

* * * * *

I am the new owner of my grandfather's Proton Iswara Hatchback. Indeed, the word 'Iswara' can be anagrammed to form 'A Waris' which is basically English-BM rojak for 'an heir'. But that's really what I am: the heir of my grandfather's car...

...which got smashed yesterday by a BMW 7 Series which was speeding in the Mid Valley car park.

Some people are oblivious to 'Berhenti' signs; that's the BMW on the far left. And some people obviously don't realise that, no matter what, there is no fast lane in a car park.

Thankfully Mum and I emerged unscathed.

* * * * *

David is back.

Monday, May 21, 2007

In and out of focus

I'm back from Penang.


* * * * *



Three days late (Blogger took forever).

Echo: time to give birth?

* * * * *

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart

and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,

who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,

who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.

--Psalm 15 (NIV)

I like this psalm, but I have a problem with the fourth verse. David speaks of despising 'a vile man', and I cannot help wondering if this is what the Pharisee in Jesus' story was thinking when he thanked God for not making him like the 'sinning' tax collector (Luke 18:10-12). Besides, Jesus was known to be a good friend of sinners and the scum of society.

There is also another problem: we are all sinners, which means we are at some (if not most) points of our life the 'vile man' spoken of in the psalm. Ought we then to despise ourselves?

I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back.

* * * * *

Immediate cure for jellyfish stings (on radio last Tuesday; I think):

First, apply vinegar.

Then, apply a solution of one part ammonia to four parts water.

Finally, apply aloe vera gel.

I wonder if it works.

* * * * *

While in Penang, I experienced the 'Shern Ren experience' for the first time in my life. Following that, this reflection came to me:

It would seem the pictures children are fed of smokers no longer scare them when they are adults. Death is a fact of life. Living for the moment seems so good that purity just isn't worth it.

On the way back from Penang, we passed the Penang Adventist Hospital. Its motto was:


I'll be darned if that's not true.

What's so great about this picture?

Coming soon: the Penang trip.

* * * * *

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.

--Psalm 17:8 (NIV)


Saturday, May 12, 2007

If stills could tell a story

"Conveying movement in a still is the art of a true professional."

This month's Digital Camera Magazine challenge is to shoot a picture that conveys movement. And I already have one in mind. ;-)

There is something epic about the Lord's Supper, an expectancy inherent in awaiting the return of the King. The still icons of bread and wine hold in them the promise of redemption, renewal and re-creation, and the Word upon which the entire universe hangs is represented in these common elements.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

--1 Corinthians 11:26 (NIV)

As I look through the Mersing photos, I realise that the two shots that most concisely describe the atmosphere of Teluk Iskandar Inn (where we stayed) are so-called two-dimensional stills.

The story they tell is more in the detail than the composition.

Henri Nouwen writes, in The Way of the Heart;

"Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature."

Only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Options, options.

What are the factors involved in choosing a university?

What is God's will?

Let us journey on with nothing less than a desire to see the impossible come true. For there are times when the light will lead, and by itself dictate the shape it must assume.

Happy 47th birthday, Bono!

Monday, May 07, 2007

"You never know how much innocence is worth until you've lost it."

Profound? The other half seems to think so.

* * * * *

[I wrote most of the following yesterday, but fell asleep immediately after the conversation with Li-Shia and so was unable to finish the entry.]

There are several reasons why I don't usually respond to tags. Among them, tags are simply too time-consuming.

But this tag from Denise is pretty short and straightforward, so I'll take a whack at it while waiting for the photos to be copied over.

April 1, 1997

1) How old were you?
Nine going on ten.

2) Where did you go to school?
SK Taman Segar.

3) Where did you work?
At my desk.

4) Where did you live?

5) Where did you hang out?
At different locations across the school grounds.

6) Did you wear glasses?

7) Who were your best friends?
Leanne and Wei Jian.

8) How many tattoos did you have?

9) How many piercings did you have?

10) What car did you drive?

11) Had you been to a real party?
Birthday parties thrown by family and friends.

12) Had your heart broken?

April 1, 2002

1) How old were you?
Fourteen going on fifteen.

2) Where did you go to school?
Victoria Institution.

3) Where did you work?
Still at my desk, though sometimes at my students' desks.

4) Where did you live?

5) Where did you hang out?
Mid Valley, mostly.

7) Who were your best friends?
Guru, Ern Li, Lian Jen and Ming-Shien.

8) Who was your regular-person crush?
Can't remember if I had any.

9) How many tattoos did you have?

10) How many piercings did you have?

11) What car did you drive?
Does Michael Schumacher's computer game Ferrari count?

12) Had you had your heart broken?

April 1, 2007

1) How old are you?
Nineteen going on twenty. I'm still a teenager.

2) Where do you work?
At my desk, the computer desk, the dining table and the VIOBA Clubhouse.

3) Where do you live?

4) Do you wear glasses?
No, but I probably need to.

5) Where do you hang out?
Anywhere and everywhere, depending on my fellow hang-outers.

6) Who are your best friends?
The d'NAers, the debaters and Li-Shia.

7) Do you talk to your old friends?
Definitely. The best stories are always about how time changes things.

8) How many piercings do you have?
Do piercings caused by insect mouthparts/stings count? I've got plenty all over my legs, probably from some beach/sea insect(s) at Mersing.

9) How many tattoos?

10) What kind of car do you drive?
A grey Proton Iswara. Inherited from my grandfather.

11) Has your heart been broken?
Several times. Bono wrote, "A heart that hurts is a heart that beats." As Shern Ren might say, God's power is evident in the cracked pots of our lives (2 Corinthians 4:7).

* * * * *

Coming soon.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


All this shooting...

21 in Brazil.
32 Virginia.
A Japanese mayor.

Shoot with cameras, not guns.

At least that's what I'm going to do over the next four days.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A little bit of shit

This came to my mind on the morning of 13 April, while I was with Li-Shia on the sofa in her TV room. The VI debate team were in the midst of their first round this year.

When a bad debate team goes up against a good one, it's...

Manure vs. Main point

Faeces vs. Facts

Crap vs. Content

Shit vs. Substance

Refuse vs. Rationale

Dung vs. Depth

Poop vs. Persuasion