Saturday, June 27, 2009

We Shall Overcome!

Thanks, SooT, for teaching me this song.

Michael Jackson... forever

Don't Stop Till You Get Enough
Billie Jean
Beat It
Wanna Be Startin' Something
You Are Not Alone
Dance and Shout (?)
Billie Jean
I Just Can't Stop Loving You
The Girl is Mine
Beat It
They Don't Care About Us
Billie Jean
You Are Not Alone
Black or White
My Childhood
(Unidentified Jackson 5 song)
We Are the World
Smooth Criminal
Earth Song

Thus was Michael Jackson celebrated by Traxx, Hitz, Mix and Lite.

Thus making the hour-long battle with the jam more than just bearable.

[edited, 12:16 AM, 14 July 2009]

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day 2009

We had lunch at Cozy Corner, Jaya 33.




* * *

But the highlight of the day came immediately after service at DUMC.

Bumped into Aaron (in blue) who spotted me, and his kaki (whom, of course, I've never met). The tall guy in orange is called Chia Ming.

And surprise of surprises, Jia Min and I share the same Chinese name (minus surname)!

Finally settled voter registration. Of all places, at the DUMC foyer. They're having a voter registration drive.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Conservation of Nature: First-Day Cover

It's been quite some time.

The Philatelic Counter at the General Post Office.

Buying the newly-released stamps.

Stamp collecting kaki.

My first-day covers.

Picked up nasi lemak outside the Pudu LRT station on the way to University.

* * * * *

Malay and Chinese stamp uncles. Like brothers.

The Malay aunty and her Chinese friend outside the Pudu station.

Racism? What racism?

Thoughts after Gadoh

We watched Gadoh yesterday.

(More information here.)

* * *

Chew Kin Wah plays the headmaster, Mr Chua. I haven't seen him on TV since the Kopitiam days.

Watching him cane the students reminded me of the discipline teachers in the VI.

Mr Gana. Mr Shamsul. Ustaz Asri. Ustaz Riduan. Mr Zainuddin. Mr Nik Dzulkefli. Mr Othman. Mr Sandhra.

They, however, whipped us not on the hand but on the backside.

* * *

The theatre teacher, Mr Azman, reminded me of Miss Shanti.

She, like him, took delinquents and made budding thespians out of them.

She took tongue-tied and rattle-nerved boys and conquered debate floors and public speaking podia with them.

I know, for I was one. And as far as I know, she's still going strong at this.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Yen for inspiration

Dear Yen,

This was taken when you were only about a week or two into your life in UM, post Haluansiswa.

Now, you are about to graduate.

Over these years you've been an inspiration and a wellspring of beauty from which my art has, from time to time, drawn.

At that time, I'd just acquired my now-famous SLR, and this is the proof of your enduring appeal: you far from survived the crapshot I certainly was then!

You're still as gorgeous today as ever.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

People Like Us... at BLC

So I attended the People Like Us: How Arrogance Divides People forum at BLC last night.

This was what the promo said:

In this upcoming forum, we hope to explore new ways forward as we bring together the stories and perspectives from two complementary experiences as minorities in pluralistic societies: as Muslims in a Western society and as Christians in a Muslim majority society.

More information here.

All in all it was a good forum, or as Sivin would prefer to say, 'conversation'. I've been to enough dialogues and forums to know that it's not always easy to walk away from one feeling that you've received a great revelation or learnt something earth-shattering.

More often than not, if you've been keeping up with the conversations and developments in society, there is little that is novel in a dialogue. But dialogues do serve as agents of confluence, and it is the bringing together of threads already floating about out there that is the purpose of dialogues.

It was really something to see BLC packed, more so than I've seen on any given Sunday. More, even, than on Easter this year; I've yet to attend a BLC Christmas service. It was something even more to see that at least half of those who attended (this is just a rough observation; the guest book will have the full details) were not Christians or free-thinkers or people who'd accidentally wandered into church, but Muslims.

Point number one in overcoming division: we must begin to see places of worship as places to seek God and discuss matters of faith, not as taboo zones or restricted areas. Almost every religion is distorted by the media and public opinion, and one of the best ways to learn about a religion is to see for oneself how its followers actually worship.

One of the very first things brought up by Waleed, who started the conversation, was that everyone is a product of his/her history. He said this in commenting on the Iraqis' democratic choice of a 'theocracy' in favour of a secular government. He pointed out that Europe was at its nadir when the Church was in power, while the Middle East, on the other hand, reached its zenith under the rule of the post-Mohammedan Caliphs.

This particularly resonated with me because I've been bringing up the subject of historical context and influence quite a lot in the Student Council's recent online discussion on the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English.

Dr Farouk said that of all the things with which God has endowed His creation, reason alone is unique to man. I don't know how this impinges on what I learnt from the forum, but I remember that when he said that, the word logos came to mind.

Specifically, the word as it appears in the epigraph to T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets: "Although logos is common to all, most people live as if they had a wisdom of their own." (from Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker)

All in all, I feel the conversation called, however indirectly and subtly, for more thorough self-examination, both in moral (our own shortcomings and prejudices, and not those of others) and spatio-temporal (our history, and where we are now) terms.


Tricia, Waleed, Sivin and Dr Farouk. Jesus was watching over the conversation!

A view of BLC in forum mode.

Q&A session. As is not uncommon, some of the 'questions' turned out to be more like lectures from the floor!

Sivin taking down the questions during Q&A.

Waleed remarked that, when religion is working well, it leads to introspection, but when it is working badly, it works in the opposite.

Bumped into Ashaari at the forum. It's been ages. He's now with Mercy Malaysia. Turns out he knows Sivin, too.

Jorin and Steven, and Bob Kee.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Celine... reprise

This is Celine, performing her original composition 'Reality' with friends.

Round One of the UCSI's Got Talent competition is over. The second voting period is from 3 June till 20 June. So if you haven't already done so, click this link to vote!

Vote for Celine!

Just in case you are asking, "Why should I vote?" or "Is she really good?", let me show you the video of a (then) relatively unknown band's performance on a TV show 29 years ago.

John McKenna introduced them with these words, "What can I say about these august men, these titans of rock-n-roll... The band for the future, the 80s or 90s, who knows."

The audience laughed, because U2 were anything but titans of rock-n-roll. Yet somehow they played as if they knew someday they would really make it to the very top.

Turns out they would not only become the band of the 80s and the 90s, but still remain dominant today in 2009. And no one is laughing anymore, because the 'baby band with the big idea' really did it.

I'm not saying Celine is the next U2, but really, who knows? *wink*

Enough of that. Go vote for her!

Return to Sungai Pisang

So I returned to Sungai Pisang, or rather, the tributary at the 12th Mile along Jalan Gombak Lama. This time it was with the BF Classmates, on 31 May. Pentecost.

By the bank after the first crossing. This is where the group was lost for nearly an hour last December. Oddly enough, the BF Classmates got lost on the way back.

A new thorny plant has grown in quite a number of places by the river bank. I think it is safest to say that the correct path is where the thorny plant is not.


Valerie and Phak Hoe. Some branches were placed in the mud to act as walkways.

The enlightened one.

These nails protrude out of the bark like mushrooms.

The main falls became a children's playground, with a colossal mass of kids thronging the place. Further up, a group from the International Islamic University Malaysia in Gombak had set up a barbecue party. So we hiked a little beyond them and found this very welcoming enclave with two water 'slides' and some two or three small pools.

Well, at first it wasn't so welcoming. We crossed the rapid slide in order to hike further and see if there was another waterfall nearby, and in doing so Yen Ching lost both her handphones. One of them was 50 per cent resuscitated using the hair dryer in Phon's house, but the other was certified dead almost on the spot.

Tsu Wern and Valerie, with Si Toh, Justina, Yen Ching and Phak Hoe's magnificent torso in the background.

The water was cold, but oh so refreshing!

Valerie slides. It wasn't a fully smooth slide, what with the rocks below, but it was certainly exhilarating!

Tsu Wern lost two slippers along the way. Her left slipper broke along a steep-ish part of the track on the way back, after the main waterfall. Si Toh lent her a pair of slippers, the right one of which was carried away by the water flowing through the tunnel. It just had to happen at the end of the journey...

What surprised us was that Si Toh seemed prepared even for such a mishap. She brought a pair of shoes on top of the spare pair of slippers and the pair she was wearing at first!

The following were shot on Valerie's camera.

This was taken from the pool where some guy was fishing.

A sense of mystery and anticipation.

The log shot! Apparently it was a scary experience, what with Phon standing at the back and shaking the log somewhat.

* * *


Nikon FM10
50mm f/1.8 lens
Fujicolor Reala 100

Minolta Dynax 800 Si
28-90mm lens
Fujichrome Provia 100

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Two years... and counting

Paul McGuinness, U2's manager, first saw them circa 1977 at the Project Arts Centre where they were playing support for a band called the Gamblers.

He says,

They were doing then, badly, what they now do well. Bono was at the front of the stage trying to engage the audience. Most other singers at that time were looking anywhere but at the audience. Edge was playing a kind of jangly guitar but it was notes rather than chords and you could kind of make out what he was trying to do, even if he wasn't quite getting one hundred percent. Adam looked as if he knew exactly what he was doing. Larry was bashing away at his drum kit, and they were all standing in the same positions as they stand on stage now.

I can't even see where I'll be two years down the road, let alone twenty years!

But how I'd want the same to be said of me, that I will be doing well twenty years hence, what I am now not getting 'one hundred percent' at.

* * * * *

Farewell, Adrian. You've been a pillar in my growth and journey these two years. (How apt that there should be a brick wall and plants behind you; support, refuge and growth!)

Pastor Vincent shared from Psalm 37:21-22 (The Message) prior to the collection of this morning's offering:

Wicked borrows and never returns;
Righteous gives and gives.
Generous gets it all in the end;
Stingy is cut off at the pass.

It is one of the crazy beliefs of our faith that we ought to give even when we may not have much. That is exactly what you did in your years in the University of Malaya.

I only regret that I did not carry my duties as PKV Secretary and SRK Deputy Director well; perhaps I have not failed you as much as I have failed the Master who commissions all of us. But for all that you invested in my life, I would like to have had more to show than this present MPM mess.

* * * * *

Prayer head.
Ecology freak.
Environmental activist.
Wild outings organizer.

These are all your masks...

She said.

This morning in church, I found myself thinking about what I've achieved/done these two years in university so far.

Oddly enough, one of my first contributions to the university was to the Alumni Association. It was in my first semester that I submitted a set of photographs for a competition they organised to gather material for the UM commemorative book, The Calling of Pantai Valley. Five of my pictures were published.

The rest of that first semester was mainly dominated by my involvement with the debate team, but after the National Royals in UiTM that November, I decided to take a break from debating and left the team to focus on the Christian Fellowship (PKV).

My second and third semesters (most of 2008) were built around my involvement with the PKV as Prayer Head. In college, I mainly took photographs for the Editorial Board (SRK) and the Chinese Cultural Club (CCC), as well as a great variety of college programmes and activities.

Earlier this year, everything moved into high gear so quickly that I am only now getting a firmer grip on things. I contested in the Student Council elections and was eventually elected to the position of Treasurer. I hold that office until the next elections, which may be as early as September or as late as next January.

All along the way, these two years have been full of all the complications of human relationships.

And now, I am working as a research assistant (RA) to my lecturer, Prof Susan, while awaiting the commencement of the next semester, which will be my fifth.

She said a lot of these are my masks.

Without the camera, what would I be? Without the ecology?

The more I work with Prof Susan, the more I wonder if this is really what I want to do for the rest of my life. It is not that I am not enjoying ecology; it's just that I desire more room for the photographer, the painter and the poet within.

Broga Sufficiency

It dawned on me along the way up Broga Hill, last Wednesday with Tim, Adelene, Jia Hui, Pui Yee, Fitrah, Zilah and Bee San, that photography isn't about capturing what we can appreciate with our eyes. It is about accentuating, exaggerating and exalting the ordinary.

That is why photographs never capture magnificence in the same way we experience it with our five senses. Photographs are expressions of emotion, not replicas of reality.

It was a steep climb through heath forest with ravines lining the path. Well worth it in spite of the fact that we had to park in, and make our way through, the oil palm plantation surrounding the hill.

(Note to the uninitiated: oil palm and nature appreciation DO NOT mix.)

Tree in spotlight.

Backlit stunt.

Tim landed on a metal beam that was mysteriously discarded on the hilltop. Thankfully, he did not suffer any major injuries.

On one of the peaks of Broga Hill (well, a hill in the Broga area to be precise). Great view.

The others were on the lower peak, which can be seen in the midground.

The soft blue sky and warm evening light screamed 'jump shot'!

And another.

And yet another.

Tim's masterpiece. Nice juxtaposition of the vegetation and the view!

We stopped over at the nearby Petronas for solat and drinks.

There's grace enough for everything.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Digital camera fluff

On the way home just now, I finally figured out how to explain to the digital shooter the difference camera sensor size makes in photography.

Pizzas usually come in three sizes here in Malaysia: personal, regular and large. A personal pizza is usually divided into four pieces, regular into six, and large into eight. Of course a personal pizza can be divided into eight pieces also, but each of those pieces would be smaller than one-eighth of a large pizza.

Camera sensors are like pizzas. Full-frame digital SLRs like the Canon 1Ds Mk II, 1Ds Mk III and 5D, and the Nikon D3, D3x and D700, have a sensor measuring 36mm x 24mm, which is the size of conventional 35mm film.

Almost every other DSLR has a sensor slightly less than half full-frame. See what Ken Rockwell says here. Olympus SLRs have sensors which are only a quarter full-frame.

As you might expect, the sensors in compact digital cameras are even smaller.

Now about megapixels. Megapixels are like the pieces of a pizza. Sensors are divided into photosensitive sites called pixels. So for any given sensor, the more pixels it has, the smaller each pixel is.

The makers of digital SLRs and compacts like to brag about the increase in megapixels, and fortunately for them, what people don't understand is that it is pointless to have 14 megapixels in a digital compact camera. It is like cutting a personal pizza up into 40 pieces, and expecting it to be able to feed 40 people.

Just as a small piece of pizza is not worth much, so small pixels aren't very useful. They require more light to work effectively (hence reducing low-light performance), and they are more prone to noise.

An initial increase in megapixels is good. However, every sensor has what might be termed an 'optimum pixel count'. It is hard to empirically establish what this value might be, but for a compact digicam it is about 7 megapixels, tops. One must also remember that a compact digicam can still function with 700 megapixels, but only when the lighting is really, really good. The slightest shade would produce a ridiculous amount of noise.

So this 'optimum pixel count' is what might be expressed as the best balance between quality and performance.

Nikon's D2H only had 4 megapixels but retailed at RM13,000. It was a hit with sports photographers because the resolution was sufficient for newspaper prints (no one believes it these days, but 4 megapixels is more than enough for many applications, provided the sensor is good). Only at a low megapixel count can a camera truly function at great speeds for demanding shooting like sports.

Among other popular innovations are 'smile detection' and 'face detection' functions. Smile detection triggers the shutter when the subject smiles, though I cannot imagine how it is supposed to function when taking a group photograph. Does everyone have to smile before the camera snaps away?

As for face detection, it is supposed to render all faces in focus. This is an easy way out for people who don't understand depth-of-field and the significance of a smaller aperture. Then again, today's automatised photographic milieu has done away with the need for any photographic knowledge. One just 'points' and 'shoots'.

Ken Rockwell opines, and I especially agree on this point, that cameras these days are fitted with all kinds of smart functions, ornaments and other paraphernalia, but there has been very little true innovation in making cameras more powerful tools for photography.

Celine's Reality

Valerie's sister Celine took part in this Talent Contest in her University.

If you ignore the substandard digital camera recording (nonetheless beggars can't be choosers!) and the not-so-professional comments from the judges/critics (I'm sorry but that is what I honestly think), the performance is really quite a gem in my opinion!

It's a popularity vote, so if you like it (or if you know Valerie, or you're a friend of Ben's), go vote for Celine!

Click this:

Fly away Peter, fly away Paul...

Pentecost is a melancholic season. There is the hope of Advent, the passion and longing of Lent, the exuberance of Easter, but on the whole I think Pentecost is a subdued time of the year.

Yes, it was the day on which tongues of fire rested upon the believers and the Spirit of God swept through the congregation in a dramatic part-fulfilment of the prophet Joel's prophecy (Acts 2:1-4). Yes, it was the delivery of what Jesus had promised prior to His ascension (Acts 1:8). But it was also followed by the fragmentation of the church, sharp disputes here and there, and all manner of crises to which the apostles had to apply themselves with as much wisdom as the Spirit of God gave them.

More than that, the first Pentecost also marked the beginning of a season of goodbyes. Reading Paul's epistles to the Romans and the Corinthians, I come face to face with an apostle who knew loneliness, and who longed for the company of his fellow brethren time and again.

Perhaps I feel it now too. Soo Tian returns for a year of graduate studies in the UK. Ai Wei is back in Penang. Li-Shia heads off to Wollongong for an exchange semester, and Alissa to Sweden. My dear cousin Leanne will be doing the same in Melbourne.

Pentecostal and Charismatic churches like to trumpet the grandeur and drama of Pentecost; I come from a Pentecostal church so I know this. And all of that is well and fine, because Pentecost is a season of power and signs and wonders.

But let us not forget the painful decisions the apostles had to make following Pentecost. Let us not forget their sacrifices and the hardships they endured, that we too may be encouraged in our times of hardship and loneliness. Let us remember that the grace of God which was sufficient for Paul, will be sufficient for us.

And He who has His eyes on the sparrow, has His eyes upon us always, too.


* * *

(Little India, Penang. Nikon FM10. 70-210mm f/4-5.6. Provia 100.)