Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Golden Tortoise Beetle. Turning my sweet potato leaves into a buffet table.

It is interesting how an insect so cute and beautiful can cause so much destruction. There are so many holes in my sweet potato leaves now, they look like batik. Pretty. But no. Not the point of planting sweet potato leaves, which really would be more beautiful fried with belacan.

I know it looks like the beetle has gunk over it, but no. That is the shape of the beetle itself. At first, I thought it had some liquid around it too, until the insect started moving and the whole gold and transparent shell moved with it. Lovely, very lovely. But not for my garden.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hello - A new single by Adele

Okay, hands up, who else totally broke into a zillion goosebumps the moment that chorus kicks in?! And it is not just the sheer power of that voice that we had not heard for some time already, but how deliciously creepy are those lyrics, right?!

And then how that powerhouse chorus dims down to the second verse with just that piano! Talk about taking a completely cliche song theme to a completely different level, yo! This song is an in-your-face reminder of exactly why we are so in love with Adele.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fatbaby waffles and ice cream for dinner. Jangan jealous ye.

Lovely, soft, buttery waffles. My favourite honeycomb ice cream and banana. Salted caramel sauce.

Today, this is dinner. There is no reason for this whatsoever. I just want this for dinner, and so this is. And for today, this is all that matters. This is sufficient. This is perfection.

That late morning visit to the nursery

This is one of my first runs on the S6 camera, which is pretty amazing, as you can see. The following photos has been cropped but not filtered. I particularly like the depth of field on the camera. The auto focus is pretty decent, but like all cameras, there is sometimes the need to guide the focus to the point you want. This is done through tapping on the point and 90 percent of the time, this is really easy to do. The rest of the time, it is the simple extra step of pointing the camera someone else first and re-focusing the camera.

The S6 really has a lovely and very enjoyable camera.

Our first visit to Free Tree Society's Free Tree Giveaway

This is a shout out to the folks at Free Tree Society who organised the free tree giveaway yesterday in conjunction with the International Day of Climate Action.

It was our first visit to the FTS Nursery in Bangsar and I was delighted to find how well maintained the place is and how friendly everyone was. We arrived slightly before 9am and there were already so many people there.

The giveaways were nicely arranged by fruiting trees, shrubs, herbs, flowering plants, big plants. There was also an all-you-can-carry section outside with more goodies. Between the three of us, we happily walked away with a lemon tree, an avocado tree, a sawtooth coriander plant, a double petal blue pea plant, a spearmint plant, a cat's whiskers plant, an aloe vera plant, a curry plant and a few of those mother-in-law plants which we were told were great air purifiers to combat against this terrible haze that's going on.

I got to go back to FTS Nursery. One of those days when there are not so many people and I can spend more time appreciating all the awesome work these people are doing. Even in the little time I spent there yesterday, I learnt so much. I have some great additions to my garden now. Looking forward to more of such events. To the folks at FTS, keep up the great work!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Last Ship - By Sting

I love how personal this album is. If you have not seen Sting's ted talk about the back story of this album, I highly recommend it. It is really inspiring to know that even someone as awesome as Sting can experience and overcome writer's block and produce something so amazing. The sincerity and honestly in this album is undeniable. Going back to his strong English roots is pure genius.

My favourite songs in this album are: The Last Ship (track 1), Dead Man's Boots (track 2), August Winds (track 4), So To Speak (featuring Becky Unthank) (track 11), and, The Last Ship (Reprise) (track 12). I also absolutely adore The Night The Pugilist Learned How To Dance (track 7). In the deluxe CD, Shipyard (featuring Jimmy Nail, Brian Johnson and Jo Lawry) (track 1) and Hadaway (track 3) stay with me the longest. All in all, the entire album is highly enjoyable and I spent many pleasant long drives accompanied by Sting through this album.

It really goes to show the kind of genius that one can create when one puts their heart into things. There is nothing fake or pretentious in this album. Part of me feels that it is not even about the audience when it comes to this album. It is the compilation of stories from an old man who simply wants to tell whoever who would listen, stories about his childhood. Whoever who would listen. This album does not scream for attention. It simply sits and speaks, and we, the audience to it instead of it coming to us. And that is something truly magical.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

That afternoon at Jalan Masjid India & some thoughts on Street Photography

It was one of those random afternoon. I was tagging along for the ride. There weren't many people around and there was more 'scene' to observe. As a photographer who leans on the conservative end of the people ethics school of thought, I have always been sensitive about having people in my photos. Yes, I have heard of all about creative licences and artistic freedom of expression and even the moral obligation arguments. At the end of the day, I guess it all comes down to this: That works for you and this works for me. We will just have to agree to disagree.

This is where I stand where street photography is concerned: I think it is not right to photograph people without their permission for any reason whatsoever, especially the most vulnerable people in our society. People do not automatically consent to being photographed simply by virtue of being out in public. I believe that it is the responsibility of a photo lies with the photographer solely. And the photographer has no right to assume consent.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A cup of homemade organic homegrown blue mint tea

Came home after one of those kinda days at work. It was late and dark and hazy but I just had to immerse myself in nature for just a little while, you know what I mean? I stand there among my pots of greens. I give them a little water. I tuck a couple of loose vines. And sigh.

And what does my garden give me back? I see a few bunga telang flowers smiling at me. And a few sprigs of mint too. And I know. Tea. I shall make fresh tea.

I try not to take more from my garden than what I need. So I harvested just enough to make one cup of light blue mint tea. I used two flowers and one full sprig of mint. Making fresh tea is both easy and therapeutic. The fragrance released by the mint the moment I poured in the hot water was amazing!

And so I settle for the evening, relaxed and inspired. Everything they say about consuming things you grow yourself is true. The tea was aromatic and sweet, I did not even need to add sugar! There is also the satisfaction of knowing for sure that this tea is completely organic and has no pesticides or chemical enhancers.

Just the goodness of nature in a cup. Ahhh.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian - By Marina Lewycka

I picked this book up at the airport on my way to Langkawi a few weeks ago. It was one of those sleepy early mornings. I did not have any particular title in mind but I knew I wanted something comedic. I seem to lean towards comedic literary fiction these days.

This book does not disappoint in the comedy genre. But there was more to this book's mission than just to tell the story of a hopeless romantic old man (and its tragic consequences). The book set out to tell several main stories. The old man and his new wife. The two sisters (whose story development, I particularly enjoyed). And the story of civilian life during the Ukraine war.

The thing about this story is that the characters do not go out of their way to be funny. The normal things they do is just funny. Well, "funny" to the reader, at least. They are, in relative terms, pretty normal. Actually, scarily normal. So scarily normal that they can actually be people around you and me. Heck, it can even be you or me. Which makes one think, actually, could whatever situation we are in actually be funny in retrospect? Or even current-spect? To someone else, maybe? Even if we don't think it is funny?

To me, I thought the book was refreshingly insightful. Not just because it peeps into someone else's life, but I have never read a Ukrainian heavy story before. I appreciate how the writer kept the integrity of Ukrainian conversation style in tact throughout the story. It was interesting getting used to all the spellings and sometimes fragmented speech, but I think that was stylistically cool. In reading stories like this, I want to be immersed into the cultural background of the plot and setting.

I recommend this book, but I caution that it is not necessarily light reading. There are parts that are easy reading but the real meat of the story is in the heavier, history laden parts. These are the parts that lend depth and dimension to the story. The tractors part. But you should read this book. It is too close to reality not to.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Book Of Souls - By Iron Maiden

To those of you still shocked by the CD cover and immediately think that these guys are Satan-worshippers out to break the morals of our society - get over it. Heavy metal is not for everyone. But if you'd like to give it a chance, turn off the cover and listen to the music. Like all music, travel with the band into their songs and their lyrics. Journey with them to what inspires them, not just as a band, but as individuals.

That being said, there is an evident raw-ness to The Book of Souls. Each song is so emotionally charged, I almost feel like I was intruding into someone else's private space - that space where they bare their hearts and souls. I particularly enjoyed those long immersive solos in their music where words disappear and the rest of the story is told through the music. That is exactly how emotional the music is. There are stories behind the songs. And these stories are told by both the lyrics and the music.

Other songs I really enjoyed: If Eternity Should Fail (Track 1), The Book Of Souls (track 6), Tear Of A Clown (Track 9), and, The Man Of Sorrows (Track 10). And that epic Empire Of The Clouds (Track 11)! In those long spans of wordless music, I was literally standing in the tragic battlefield watching the masterpiece behold upon the whole wide world. It was amazing! That piano! I put on my headphones to this song and there is nothing else.

Rembat, Just Duit - Directed by Shamyl Othman

We went to watch this movie quite by accident actually. It was late in the evening and we wanted to watch something but most things were either off timing or heavy or received unexpectedly bad reviews. Or we were just not interested in them. And then we scrolled into this and thought, oh-kay. It was about Harimau Malaya fans and we were Harimau Malaya fans. Not that Harimau Malaya had a whole lot to shout about these days. And we have not really heard, well, anything about this movie in the first place. The publicity (I will get back to this in a bit) was so low key, it was next to nothing. When we got to the cinema, the cardboard poster of this movie was literally next to the restroom corridors. And there was no digital poster presence either. Not that we saw any, anyway.

There were approximately ten people in the audience. Including us. You can imagine our expectation of the movie at this point.

The movie begins and it was immediately A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!

I kid you not. It is up there among some of the best movies I have seen this year. Fine, it has been a year of pretty lousy movies, but that makes a gem like this one even more surprising!

Rembat is a laugh-out-loud comedy that any Malaysian can relate to, with the right amount of racist jokes to boot! There was a lot of thought behind the writing and directing and it was packed with Malaysian flavour. Sure, it could use a hairline more snappiness, but that is just me being petty. I cannot get over how great everything was packaged into the movie. Great story. Great directing. Great casting (no star studs here, but everyone falls so perfectly into their roles).

No spoilers here. I just really want all of you to go and watch this. On the drive home, we were talking about how we had to accidentally stumble into a movie like this just because we didn't feel like watching anything else. This brings me back to the point of publicity. We could have easily missed on this amazing movie. And God knows how many of such great movies like this that we have missed already just because we did not know they were showing! In writing this post, I scoured the net looking for other reviews or even a site that promoted this movie. Na da. Just a Facebook page and one 15-second YouTube trailer. Even the poster wasn't easy to find (the Coming Soon poster is more popular than the actual poster!).

I am obligated to write this post because I think every Malaysian should watch this movie. Yes, it is slapstick and no, you'd probably have never heard of the actors. But you should still all go round up all your friends and watch this together. It is fun. Lots of fun.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Spinach flowers and spinach babies

I love spinach. Bayam Batik is one of the most common local species of spinach that we see at our markets and I absolutely love them. Especially in soup. Isn't sup bayam just one of the simplest things to cook ever? I cannot imagine anyone not loving it.

So you can imagine how excited I was to get hold of some bayam seedlings for my garden. That was about 4 months ago. Come October (and many, many delicious bowls of sup bayam later), I realise how old my bayam trees are getting, and then these babies pop up! That's right, bayam flowers and therein, seeds for the next generation of yummy sup bayam!

The best part if that cultivating them is next to effortless. One evening, I found they they sown and germinated themselves! Hello, well what do we have here? Baby bayams peeking out into the world! I am going to leave them with their parent plants until they get a little bigger before transferring them onto their own beds.

Sting: How I started writing songs again

In starting to write songs again, I am so inspired by this Ted Talk by Sting. The idea that songs can carry such deeply rooted stories about feelings and observations so long ago. And in revealing that part of one's past, one's history - through new eyes. Eyes that are not necessarily wiser, but just a little bit more experienced. The effect is, in my opinion, a revelation even to the songwriter.

In my music, I have never ceased in learning and connecting, sometimes over and over again. And every time, like new.

And then there are those walls that one encounters. The kind that simply needs to be broken in order for the song to flow. Sometimes, that wall falls easily. Sometimes, it is harder to conquer. And sometimes, one just can't bear to bring oneself to lay even a scratch on the wall, that one journeys the long way around it. All the while, the song flows. For better or worse, the song flows.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Some of my favourite quotes from Paper Towns by John Green

A quick review of Paper Towns - the book, not the movie - by John Green. I liked the beginning. A lot. I liked the beginning a lot. I thought the way Quentin and Margo were introduced was dynamic, and the premise of that night that brought them close together was exciting. As the book moved towards the middle, it was still okay. And then it got, well, draggy. By the second half of the book, the pages turned slower. Most importantly though, was the end of the book worth the crawl? It depends on how you are by the time you get there. If you are tired, then it could be a tad disappointing. If you are still hopeful, then you could get a satisfying enough closure. As for me, I think I was a bit of both, which is why I feel both. I got to the end of the book hoping for that POW! ending that the beginning promised. It was not as POW! as I expected, but just okay. Not terrible, though it really could be. I think it really could.

In my humble opinion, this is what saved the day: Brilliant quotes along the way. You find them on some pages and they are a delight. So as the title suggests, here are some of my favourite quotes from Paper Towns:
That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfeast cereals based on color instead of taste.
It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.
Maybe all the strings inside him broke.
It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined.
If you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all.
Maybe its like you said before, all of us being cracked open. Like each of us starts out as a watertight vessel. And then things happen - these people leave us, or don’t love us, or don’t get us, or we don’t get them, and we lose and fail and hurt one another. And the vessel starts to crack in places. And I mean, yeah once the vessel cracks open, the end becomes inevitable. Once it starts to rain inside the Osprey, it will never be remodeled. But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And its only that time that we see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs. When did we see each other face to face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade, but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.
The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightening, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us. I could have seen it rain frogs. I could have stepped foot on Mars. I could have been eaten by a whale. I could have married the Queen of England or survived months at sea. But my miracle was different. My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.
I'm starting to realize that people lack good mirrors. It's so hard for anyone to show us how we look, & so hard for us to show anyone how we feel.
And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn't being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surrounding her. I thought of her asleep on the carpet with only that jagged sliver of sky above her. Maybe Margo felt comfortable there because Margo the person lived like that all the time: in an abandoned room with blocked-out windows, the only light pouring in through holes in the roof. Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made—and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make—was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.
It was nice - in the dark and the quiet... and her eyes looking back, like there was something in me worth seeing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Almost time for cili padi harvest again!

I am happily surprised that there are these chilies on my one plant. And bright red too! Okay, they are strangely a wee bit... well wee. They are tiny small. Bright red and tiny small. But you know what? They pack a punch. Just like that they all say about cili padis.

Oh, but I do wish they are just a wee bit bigger. Oh well, not bad for my first attempt with my first plant. Love it!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I come from beyond, the King of Lies, the dream-wrecking Spookshow Demon

Our yet to be named motley crew staged yet another original at this year's Short+Sweet Musical. To me, the most exciting and fulfilling part of this year's experience is just how incredible the journey had been leading up to our stage. The synergy between myself, CK and AD was something that I really admire. We were creative and production was silky smooth - but most importantly, we had an incredibly awesome time at it. We played off each other's strengths and we were all passionately invested into this project.

We did not get into the gala finals of this festival, but personally, I earned something so much more valuable. I got to experience a great production.

This is a recording of the staged Spookshow Demon. We'd like to thank everyone who embarked on this amazing journey with us. They say that the journey is more important than the destination. This is so true in this production.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Wilder Mind by Mumford & Sons

The general sentiment of this album is that, compared to M&S’s previous albums, Wilder Mind is easier on the ears… but not quite as exciting. On the up side, it is easier to contemplate the lyrics of each song. On the down side however, the songs don’t come across as deep. I have always thought that the drama in the music – their off beat pitch changes, their erratic tempo arrangements, their sudden and abrupt mood sequences, their intensely acoustic mellowness – all these drama, was what made M&S a particularly interesting band. Yes, yes, there are smidges of it still all over this album, but so much less dramatic. Less rocky. More poppy.

The effect is interesting. Like I said, not quite as exciting but much easier on the ears. If new fans are what they are after, then it is my bet that this album would be their first essential introduction to M&S before digging back to their more intense albums. For those who have been following them for the last few years, I’d say that this is a notch below Babel (2012) which one really cannot help but to compare.

My favourite songs on this album is Tompkins Square Park (Track 1), Wilder Mind (Track 4), Monster (Track 6) and Broad-Shouldered Beasts (Track 8). Oh, how I really enjoy Broad-Shouldered Beasts. Beautifully penned lyrics has always been a major strength of this band, and from this point of view, this album does not disappoint.

It’s just the drama in the music. Still wow. But I know that these guys have so much more in them.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Smoke + Mirrors by Imagine Dragons

I have a confession. I have never been a fan of any of ID’s albums before. Maybe random songs here and there. But their previous albums have not really been something I’d even invest the time to post and write about.

Shots, however, feels like they have taken the learnings of their previous albums and given us a report card of it. And not a bad one either. Shots feels like ID has finally found an identity that they are comfortable with and it suits them very well. A bit rough around the edges, but it is the kind that gives them a little character in reminding us where they came from. Some songs are still a bit too self-indulging, though. But a lot of the songs in this album clearly shows that they are capable of honesty. I’d take this album as ID’s step in the right direction, but hey, life’s a journey like that.

I found that most of the songs in this album written with much more care and respect. And I appreciate that. More thought has gone into the lyrics and how the music carries this. And the harmonies.

Personal favourite songs on this album: Shots (Track 1), Smoke and Mirrors (Track 3), I Bet My Life (Track 5), and Dream (Track 9). Special mention to Polaroid (Track 6). There is just something pretty smart about this song.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Songs of Innocence by U2

I really like the idea of an album that is written to be performed acoustically. Though not exactly reflected in the album, it is interesting to imagine acoustic renditions of the songs performed in, as Bono envisions it, intimate pub-ish settings. I just wish that it would be included in the album. Okay fine, some songs are in variations of the albums. But still. Maybe a stripped down version of the album then. Something.

I see U2 return to its honest roots in this album. I have nothing against its more enraged albums, but as one of those who would browse the world wide web for chords to strum to songs in my living room, I connect a lot with this album. I can filter out the distortions and come to the soul of the song: its lyrics.

My favourite songs in this album are: Every Breaking Wave (Track 2), Song for Someone (Track 3) and Sleep Like A Baby Tonight (Track 9). I think the tribute to Joey Ramone is a beautiful touch (Track 1).

Of course, the simple style does not divorce U2 from reflecting their social concerns in their songs.

Friday, October 02, 2015

The book thief - A novel by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is, by far, one of the most heart breaking story I have ever read. Beautifully written and deeply provoking, I took a long time to finish the book. On one hand, I am a slow but steady reader. On the other hand, the story is such a heavily moving one. The kind that stirs a raw sense of humanity.

I started this story just weeks after a hard, awakening trip to Berlin, where I learned about the devastation of the Nazi regime and its prosecution of the Jews. So it seemed timely to start this book, as if to drive home the point that racism and war is never ever the answer.

I love the voice narration of Death in this book. Death looks at life and humans both lightly and deeply. The constant. The constant observer. The constant destination - in whichever way, form or manner. 

A highly recommended book. But a word of caution: I don't think the story is for everyone. Not many historically laced stories are. It is heavy. So heavy. And weighs heavily upon the soul. But if it is for you, it is a truly, truly increadible read.