Monday, December 28, 2009

Bacardi Special

2 measures Bacardi rum
3/4 measure gin
1 measure lemon/lime juice
1 teaspoon grenadine
1/2 teaspoon castor sugar

Shake. (Some say shake all except rum, then add rum and shake again.)

Hardly a better way to end my last end-of-semester holidays.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Double take on Art

In a world of anything-goes art, one might imagine an exhibition featuring these works:



* * *

This morning, I returned to where it all began, this time with Tim, Fit and Zilah.

Merry Christmas!

I don't know if it was a phase in time, or if it was a phase in just my life, but somewhere in the past (and in fact a little even now), there are/were those who would eschew the traditional 'Merry Christmas' for 'Blessed Christmas'.

Perhaps the word 'merry' was too much associated with the froth of commercialised Christmas, or else with the mad drunkenness that characterises the manner in which some celebrate the occasion.

'Blessed', on the other hand, carries with it connotations of divine presence, of the action of God. At the very least, something that is blessed has to be good as well. Hence the idea that a 'blessed' Christmas is perhaps more meaningful than a 'merry' one.

I don't know if such a point of view can be substantially defended, but this year, I feel exceptionally comfortable greeting others with a 'Merry Christmas!' and a lot less so with 'Blessed Christmas!'

Maybe it's because merriment sounds like joy overflowing, if we do not perpetuate its unfortunate association with drunkenness. And maybe also, merriment is a far more concrete emotion or state-of-being than 'blessedness'. For in a world where joy seems scarce these days, I can only imagine that Merriment either sounds like the echo of the greatest news ever heard, or else the most ridiculous story told by a drunkard.

And we are not all drunkards, certainly.

In the words of Uncle Scrooge's nephew, Fred; "Merry Christmas, Uncle! And a Happy New Year!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Finally, someone has done the Freeman-as-Mandela movie. Back in Form Six I used to wonder why no one ever did a movie on Nelson Mandela, starring Morgan Freeman. Mel and I agreed that Freeman would make a great Mandela.

Turns out many people also thought the same, but no one got down to making the movie. Now Clint Eastwood has beaten everyone else to it, and I can't wait to see it, if and when Invictus hits Malaysian shores.

* * *

William Ernest Henley, 1875

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

* * *

Invictus trailer.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bob Dylan ages backwards!

A roll of Ilford HP5 film (incidentally one of my favourite black-and-white films) developed recently yielded images of Bob Dylan 31 years younger!

This photograph was shot by Mark Estabrook in 1978. The photographer stumbled upon a roll of undeveloped film while moving house recently, and after consulting Ilford Photo's technical team, proceeded to develop it.

Read the full story here.

I doubt anything we shoot today on SD and CF cards will be readable in the year 2040 (31 years hence), and yet this photo of Dylan looks as if it were shot yesterday, literally!

This is taking into account that the film wasn't stored in a refrigerator since 1978, but in some corner in the photographer's home, subject to fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

As Estabrook says, "Try that with a hard drive."

The return of film is imminent. In the words of a legendary intergalactic villain, "It is futile to resist."
After my first paper (Ecology of Seaweeds and Seagrasses) on 5 November, I headed to the PWTC to check out the seafood fair and, if I remember correctly, biotechnology conference (upon Prof Phang's recommendation).

Later, I found myself in Petaling Street, seeking crickets for my then 'pet' centipede. I learnt then that Ashaari was nearby, and since we were to meet that evening, it was decided that I should head over to Mercy Malaysia's headquarters in Bangunan Dayabumi.

This is a bit of what I saw along the way.

View across the Klang River.

Dayabumi: take one.

Dayabumi: take two.

Dayabumi: take three.

Dayabumi: take four.

Part of the KL skyline.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

October began with cameras and planes.

The U.S. Embassy saw my photographs in The Star ('Passages and Windows'; Star Two, 24 Sept) and invited me to be a guest photographer at the USAF Thunderbirds' flight over KLCC on 1 October.

They said I could bring a friend along, so I asked Doulos.

From the exclusive vantage point of the Traders Hotel, with U.S. Air Force personnel, other officials, and photographers from the European Pressphoto Agency, Bernama, Utusan, Sin Chew and SIPA Press. One other amateur, Rakesh Agrawal, however, failed to show up.

Downstairs in the lobby, Halim Berbar of SIPA Press looked at our cameras and said, "Manual cameras? You must be crazy!"

The Air Force guy carried a Pentax manual SLR; surprise of surprises, for Doulos and I thought we were the only jokers carrying manual cameras up onto the roof!

I overheard him telling another person about his camera, "I've had it for 35 years. These things last forever."

View of KLCC from the rooftop of the Traders Hotel.

We waited quite a while, and unfortunately only two planes took off in the end. They didn't fly as close as we had expected, so none of us managed to get the dramatic shots we'd envisioned.

However, I quite liked the sense of mood and place captured in this one. You can actually see the people in the Twin Towers' skybridge.

As a gesture of compensation, the Embassy invited us to the private practice session at the Subang Air Base the next day, ahead of the air show on the 3rd.

Thunderbirds lined up on the tarmac.

Spot the odd-one-out!

Thunderbirds in flight.

Thunderbirds are go!

Thunderbirds pulling off a stunt.

On that day I learnt a very important lesson. Audrey, once again I'm sorry; may it be the first and last time.

* * *

These are real cameras. So what's the difference between the mighty FM2 and the entry-level Cosina-made FM10?

The FM2 has:

1. A higher maximum shutter speed of 1/4000, vs 1/2000.
2. A higher flash-sync speed of 1/250, vs 1/125.
3. A metal body, vs polycarbonate.
4. Aperture direct readout, which enables the aperture and shutter speed settings to be viewed in the viewfinder.

On 30 September, I accompanied Xiao Lee to purchase her new camera, the Canon Powershot SX120 IS.

This model is arguably the best buy below RM1000 for a camera that has a 10x superzoom, great image stabilisation system and manual control. The only weaknesses is that it doesn't have a very wide angle (35mm, vs the 24mm and 28mm cameras that are all the rage today), is a little bulky and doesn't have quite a robust body.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


It was a beautiful morning.

The truth about debate.

(English Finals, Royal Intervarsity Debating Championship 2009.)

Faking it.

(Rehearsal for the Closing Ceremony.)

Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, the Regent and Crown Prince of Perak, and gang.

We began our foray into debates as team-mates, with Dinesh, Kishan and later, Zer Ken.

And now Danial has made it to the finish line (as far as national debating is concerned) as victor and champion. Congrats!

It was a beautiful evening.

Dinner at Dunkin Donuts, home of the country's largest 'doughnut'.

* * *

It's been a great day!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Onward, Christian Soldiers!

Like a mighty army moves the church of God
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
but the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
we have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail.

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King,
this through countless ages men and angels sing.

-- Lines from the hymn, 'Onward, Christian Soldiers';
words by Sabine Baring-Gould, music by Arthur S. Sullivan

We sang this hymn in church today.

There are those who think that the Christian language has become too entangled in metaphors of war, e.g. 'conquering the world for Christ' and 'crusades'. I would agree that, in an increasingly pacifistic world, Christians can afford to widen their vocabulary.

But at the same time, I don't think we can run away from war metaphor. The fact that the book of Revelation speaks of wars at the end of time makes it quite clear that until the new heaven and new earth come, wars will not cease. Great pieces of literature like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia eloquently suggest how righteous men and women ought to live in a world where war is nature.

With reference to the stanzas quoted above, we Christians would do well to be united as an army is united; to fight the Enemy and not the enemies we make of each other. We would do well, as Pastor Vincent pointed out, to remember that we are on the offensive; the Gates of Hades will not prevail. It is not a picture of us defending our posts against an invading Hell, but of a Hell retreating and falling apart when Christians march.

'Join our happy throng' reminded me of how we are an army whose weapon is the joy of the Lord. In this manner were the walls of Jericho and the armies attacking Jehoshaphat defeated.

Soldiers are taught discipline and loyalty, courage and honour. The Church would do well to remember this.

* * *

I arrived just in time for Communion. Among those serving today was Angeline, who is training to become a pastor.

Charisse Tay is the leader of a newly planted College Zone cell hosted by Cindy Koh. I remember when Charisse was a primary schoolgirl in VBS (Vacation Bible School) back when I was a helper.

It is encouraging to see these people still faithfully serving, standing their posts as soldiers of Christ Jesus.

On another note, it occurred to me that the Senior Pastor of my very Pentecostal church has one Catholic trait: he is single! Perhaps this is one of the subtle reasons why I remain drawn to Catholicism.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Perfect Sunset

People moving all the time inside a perfectly straight line
Don't you wanna curve away

It's such, it's such a perfect day
It's such a perfect day

Now the sky could be blue, I don't mind
Without you its a waste of time

Could be blue, I don't mind
Without you it's a waste of time

The sky could be blue, could be gray
Without you I'm just miles away

The sky could be blue, I don't mind
Without you it's a waste of time

* * *

Words from 'Strawberry Swing' by Coldplay