After much preparation, the young self-proclaimed Emperor of The Han Dynastory is now serving a full-time mission to the UK with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He will return in 2014.

Hello!

Welcome to the Han Dynastory!

As I am now serving a full-time mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have left this blog under the stewardship of a family member, who may post updates on how I'm doing as he/she sees fit.

Enjoy your stay!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day Three of Day Out

... is just about to begin.

I'll be back next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day Two of Day Out

I went to Toa Payoh for lunch at Swensons followed by watching a movie (Bedtime Stories) with cousin Ying Er and Marie Low today. We made a pact to go out and celebrate the end of 'O' Levels, especially after going through an overnight study marathon at Ying Er's house. We got to see Jeremy and Sherman hard at work during the crowded lunch hour XD

We had an hour between our lunch and movie, so the two girls decided to get hair cuts, while I slipped away to the nearby library. I read a really interesting book entitled Kids Play: Igniting Children's Creativity by Michele Cassou. As someone interested in teaching little children how to express themselves through drawing, I was glued to the book. The writer, Michele, opened a studio where children could paint with no restrictions, using her "Point Zero" method, which I will elaborate on in a future post. My fingers were dancing with excitement as I turned the pages. My perception on creativity was challenged, hers being so beautiful that I had to pause and ponder at the end of each chapter. I shall share my "discoveries" after I've recovered from my post hanging out exhaustion.

Bedtime Stories was fantastic. While Ip Man had me glued to the chair with fingernails digging trenches on the seat through its intense martial arts choreography, Bedtime Stories froze me onto my seat as it captivated me with its magic that we've come to love and expect from Disney movies. The spontaneity of events, overall bizarreness and must-have fairytale romance all blended together wonderfully into the ultimate bedtime story. Bedtime Stories is undisputably a movie that stands right up there with other timeless classics such as Secondhand Lions and Big Fish. To me, what makes Bedtime Stories exceptional is its friendliness to younger audiences. Big Fish was a great movie, but if you watch it with a young child, you'll be spending too much time trying to explain what can only be felt (which is what I like about Tim Burton's movies). With Bedtime Stories, children and adults alike can easily connect to the magic of the film. A magic which reverberates with a special chord in their hearts that never wears thin.

New Year's Eve Youth Dance tomorrow!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Day One of Day Out

Going out again tomorrow. My wallet is sobbing in some dark corner of my room. Anybody interested in buying School Blues greeting/birthday cards again?

Michael, Sherwayne and John came over today to work towards our Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God Award again. The goal we worked on today was much like a scripture treasure hunt. We were to look up scriptures to use to discuss certain topics from the Book of Mormon. The hunt for that elusive scripture verse was repeated each time we tried to recall supposedly memorized scripture masteries. It was a real treat, because I woke up this morning realizing I have begun craving for some good reading again.

We watched Ip Man after that. To say that Ip Man was exciting would be a serious understatement. There were moments where I actually felt like crying just because it was too much excitement for me. I am a freak haha. Having watched a documentary on Hong Kong stuntmen a few years ago, I appreciated the stunts pulled off by the many awe-inspiring calefares who got bashed up by the gentlemanly kungfu master played by Donnie Yen. With Sammo Hung as the action director, the fight scenes were intense, grabbing you by the neck while connecting a thousand fists to your face. I just think that the close up shot of someone spitting out a spray of blood was a bit rude.

My favourite line from the movie was when Ip Man was taunted for being "afraid" of his wife. In response, he calmly replied

“世界上没有怕老婆的男人,只有尊重老婆的男人”

On the overall however, it was quite weird to hear the whole movie dubbed in mandarin. It made the movie seem plastic. I guess, coming from KL, I'm just too used to cantonese.

Sadly, I felt that the climax of the movie did not meet my expectations. Rest assured, the movie was by no means short of heart pounding moments where you could spill popcorn all over yourself (or worse, your drink all over your date if you brought one) and not even notice (or care). Just don't expect the ending to hurl your thoughts into a spinning roulette the way The Dark Knight did.

That's not to say that Ip Man was a shallow screenful of martial arts. I enjoyed the theme of united resistance and one man's realization of what he means to his society, but I am yet to watch a movie that beats the message The Dark Knight flings at you at the end.

I shall see if Twilight can impress me with more than its classic romance.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

This Christmas

As the Christmas season comes to a close, it is time I unleash my recent reflections on this festive time of the year.

Something felt lacking for me this Christmas. And oh, crime of all crimes, I actually got sick of Christmas Music. Perhaps my recent transfiguration into a Music Snob accounts for my dwindling interest in anything non-orchestral. But then again, I'm still infatuated with Bossa Nova, Latin Jazz, and a bunch of old Frank Sinatra songs. Mom had to tell me to stop listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Abide With Me; 'Tis Eventide and play something more related to Christmas instead. If you're not feeling the Christmas buzz from the Music, then you're probably not really in the Christmas mood, and I guess that was me.

Next problem: I wasn't feeling the "magic" of Christmas. Perhaps I could blame Santa Claus for that - as I grew up, the magic of Christmas that came to be associated with him faded away along with him.

Perhaps that was the problem. Perhaps I needed to see Christmas in a new light. Before Christmas, I looked forward to it for all the family gatherings we planned. They came and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but it did not feel enough. I still found it hard to feel as excited as everyone else seemed about Christmas. I guess Christmas = Family was not the magic equation that worked on me.

Even if Christmas = Giving, I still feel somewhat apathetic. I spent no small amount of time taking Christmas presents to express my appreciation to some friends who mean a lot to me, to the point that my overused left arm is suffering from sore muscles. It was nice to see the many smiles that the little 4" by 4" cards created today, but it still didn't make me feel any more Christmas-ey. I contributed a lot of time to help out at the Stake Christmas Nativity, especially where my Musical training is concerned (Ying Er's little Instrumental Ensemble and the Ward Choir), and even a few reprise performances that had me rushing all over the place on the day of our Ward Christmas Party. I felt great being able to help out, but I still didn't feel like it was Christmas.

Today, the Stake Young Single Adults held a Cottage Meeting featuring a short fireside on the Gift that Endures: The Abiding Love of Heavenly Father & Jesus Christ. It was a good reminder on the true meaning of Christmas: Christ.

Then I realized, perhaps the reason why Christmas did not feel special is because I had already begun remembering Christ since the start of the holidays. It was at the start of the holidays that I finally had the discipline to carry out daily scripture study seriously. It was then that a door somewhere at the back of my head was finally opened and I received fresh enlightenment. Faced with a commercialized Christmas season, it was like receiving a bowl of instant noodles after feasting upon a five star eight course meal.

Perhaps I have already felt the spirit of Christmas, but just not during Christmas.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Not Funny.... Yet

Friday was one of those bad days where I had to face mood fluctuations caused by unbridled feelings for a girl.

It was some time late in the evening, when she started kicking up a storm at the back of my head while I was attempting to resume work on belated Christmas/New Year cards. The first few symptoms of my affliction was sudden crankiness and a lingering sense of emptiness. Initially, I tried escapism by attempting to make Mom's evening better - by helping someone else, I forget about my own troubles. Mom took up a job in designing the interior of a house, and was running into a lot of obstacles. Knowing from experience how annoying it is to face problems when about to start work on something, I decided to do all that I could to help Mom. Eventually however, Mom decided to go out for a walk to the market with Shuan, and I found my source of escapism slipping away.

I opened up iTunes and played some of my favourite relax-to music, this time choosing to lie down on the couch, soak in the chords and harmonies of what I perceive as beautiful music, and take a nap.

Unfortunately, I was still feeling cranky when I woke up after Mom and Shuan came back. I tried eating ice cream while reading Get Fuzzy comics, which had me laughing really hard for a few minutes until Shuan got annoyed and told me to stop laughing so loud. I was so emotionally unstable that I had to consciously push my bowl away in order to prevent myself from flinging it at him. I remember being utterly disgusted at myself for flitting between unrestrained laughter to barely restrained anger that quickly.

Instead of going straight to bed which might have been the best solution, I decided to "screw everything" and just focus on making the cards. It did have a slight calming effect, but weirdly enough, it was Ern coming home in an even crankier mood than I was that became my turning point.

Ern threw a tantrum in front of Mom over something I recall to be rather petty (likely due to puberty and his raging hormones, which I am not immune to either). I was faced with a decision to either bash the crap out of him (and regret it for the rest of my life) or silently clean up the mess he created (which was what I did).

One of the things I often find myself doing when plagued by my insufferable infatuation is cleaning up the house. Seriously. I think cleaning up my junk and arranging them neatly reflects my desire to sort out my thoughts of her. Since the former is infinitely easier than the latter, I suppose that is how my body attempts to do something about the situation. Mom may like having me in an infatuated state more often upon knowing this.

Anyway, cleaning up Ern's mess was what I did, and it helped ease my emotional thunderstorm. The sun was soon shining again, all traces of her dark yet alluring clouds slowly fading away, ready to haunt me another day.

Many years from now, this experience will be something to laugh at, but only in retrospect.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day Dinner

We had an extended family Christmas Dinner at cousin Claudia 姐姐's place yesterday. Whoever could not make it to our family's Christmas Eve Dinner were all there, which was nice.

The fruit dish Mom cut up and I prepared. I couldn't resist.
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Joshua's attempt at photography with my camera. Not bad, I must say.
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Playing Octopus (many thanks to cousin Ying Er who decided to be our photographer)
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The final stages of Octopus
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Mom telling her story of a tree. If all goes well, she plans to turn it into a book that I may illustrate.
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The audience.
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More of the audience
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Right after that we rushed to another extended family gathering, this time from Dad's side of the family. We played Cranium with our non-blood relatives (Dad's older brother's wife's sister's children). We had so much fun, Shuan is now dead set on getting the game.

I'm having trouble getting back to work on the logo designs. I think I've been having too much fun.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sage Advice from Mom

This morning my Christmas present was to have yet another misadventure with my computer.

Dad brought some old RAM from another computer, and asked if I would like to try and see if it could boost my computer. It turned out he brought two 128mb SD RAM, which is mostly obsolete these days according to a computer technician I talked to. Nevertheless, my computer being close to a historical artifact, had open slots for SD RAM (along side my newer DDR2 RAM). I inserted both in, and fired up my computer, hoping for faster, smoother browsing. Ironically, my computer hanged the moment Windows booted.

I suddenly remembered that years ago, my SD RAM slots were diagnosed by Brother Meyer as malfunctioning. So I pulled out the SD RAM and tried booting the computer again. My computer literally screamed at me. That nightmare beeping noise from Hell that usually indicates hardware issues. Eventually I decided to pull out my DDR2 RAM and re-insert them. It solved the problem, but brought a new, interesting one.

Each time my computer booted, it would open up the CPU settings screen, where I loaded the Setup Defaults and saved changes. After that, however, Windows would not boot and my monitor just displayed a blank screen.

Much later, after taking a break from all the madness, I tried exchanging the places of my two DDR2 RAM cards. It worked. My noob computah skillz could not explain it, but it worked.

Mom, who was watching me the whole time, gave a priceless piece of advice:

Computers are like Women - Love them, don't try to understand them.

Ho!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve!

The extended family Christmas Eve I was looking forward to crumbled today. In the end, only cousin Simon and his two sons Joshua and David came over. Even Dad and Ray didn't make it back from KL in time. Hence, Mom let us invite our friends over. Ern invited three of his friends, while I invited Glen Lewis from Toa Payoh Ward. Glen declined the invitation since his good Ward Members already invited him. Ern's three friends came.

It was crazy to find out recently that Germaine Yee actually worked at the child care centre that Joshua attended. However, Joshua was not able to recall who she was. Either he was too busy causing trouble to remember her or she has been tucked into that hidden corner of his mind meant for traumatic experiences hahaha.

David brought his PSP to play with, and was soon glued to it on the couch. He was playing GTA, of all crazy games. Poor Joshua kept hugging his Dad as he was a bit shy without Ray or my niece Beverly around. I decided to play ball with him outside, and he quickly became his normal, screaming and laughing (and totally irresistable) self.

While we were in the middle of a Manchester United VS Arsenal match (Joshua watches soccer, and proclaimed himself ManU, while I randomly picked a team I've heard of) Joshua got thirsty, so we headed back indoors for a drink of water. Instead of continuing our mini match, he got distracted by the piano, having recently started taking piano lessons.

Joshua and I at the piano
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Soon it was time for our all-important Christmas Eve family dinner, albeit without Dad and Ray.

Group shot
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Die-die-must-have-on-Christmas-Turkey. Mom suggested Roast Duck instead, which I supported with all my heart. It turned out that I was taking a joke too seriously.
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David enjoying our family's trademark Mashed Potatoes.
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Joshua finished his food quickly, and was soon pestering me to do the same and continue our ball game. Mom asked him if he would like more food.

"Would you like more turkey?"

*shakes head*

"More mashed potatoes?"

*shakes head*

"More jagung? [corn]"

*shakes head*

"More cookies?"

*shakes head*

"Ice cream?"

*shakes head*

Mom laughs halfway when a mischievous grin creeps onto Joshua's face as he says "要!"

I thought it would be the end of me, having to play with a child who just had ice cream. Thankfully, it did not supercharge him as much as I thought it would. He got tired as fast as our first round, and we soon headed back again. He took a bath and started singing Christmas songs to my piano accompaniment. Just like my other nephew Evan, he got bored very fast and wanted to do something else, so he pestered me to bring out some toys. It must be symptoms of the "Thong Syndrome" which Germaine diagnosed him with XD

Poor Joshua is yet to train his rubber band shooting skills. He couldn't even hit a toy soldier at point blank range. That might be a good thing. Imagine what he'd be doing if he was an ace shot with rubber bands.

It was soon time for his family to leave, so we exchanged goodbyes and I now find myself feeling empty again. I've been wondering if there's such a thing as therapy where you play with children. Several months back, I had a very unpleasant experience in KL, and I had to spend an extra day in KL. It was then that I spent a whole morning entertaining my previous Branch President's two children. Their laughter worked magic and soothed away all the troubles and insecurities that plagued my mind. Playing with the Seow children after Church here has the same effect. The only problem about such therapy is the risk of pedophilia. Oh well. I guess the only therapy I have a chance of facilitating is music therapy.

Christmas Day is near!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas CDs

I went to Borders today to buy Christmas presents. I brought my Borders Gifts Cards - $30 from last year and $10 for winning the consolation prize for Best Dressed at my ACS(BR) Grad Night. If there's one thing I've learnt today, it's that I musn't go to Books and Music CD stores too often. Otherwise, I will either go broke or go missing. I spent hours walking around and checking out books and CDs. When I dropped by the Social Science section, the first thought that crossed my mind was "Where have I been all these years?" There were a couple of books that caught my attention there:

Naomi Wolf - The Beauty Myth (an interesting take on the problems Women face due to the Beauty Myth)
Tyler Cowen - Discover Your Inner Economist (very funny)
Mark Thomas - Belching out the Devil (which has me considering a boycott of Coca-Cola)
Al Gore - An Inconvenient Truth (now a major motion picture on Climate Change and highly recommended by my Geography Teacher)
Mollod & Tesauro - The Modern Gentleman (an informative guide on modern etiquette, fun to read but not very in line with Church standards)

That soaked up a lot of time, but not as much as when I found myself exploring the Jazz and International section of the Music CDs section. I sampled almost every Latin Jazz, Salsa, and Tango CD I could get my hands on - Music with enough spiciness to get me buzzing with excitement. As I stood there quivering and smiling to myself like a drug addict, I thought I had finally found the music I needed to fill my growing void in musical taste. Then I bumped into a collection of Frank Sinatra CDs. It took about ten seconds of Strangers in the Night to know that life will never be the same again.

What I came home with.

My temptation now is to open them before Christmas Day. Thank goodness that's only 26 hours away =)

What Would Be Nice for Christmas

A couple of days ago Mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas. A moment of silence followed.

Just like my birthday, I had no wish list in mind. Of course, I could ask for a new, up-to-date computer or an all-paid-for year's worth of dance lessons, but those are just for dreams. Without a wish list, Mom got me a shaver and a belt on my birthday, while Dad surprised me with a new camera. In essence, Mom got me what I needed, Dad got me what I didn't know I wanted.

In a materialistic sense, the following would be nice, simple things I would like for Christmas.
1. A tie that reflects my personality
2. A nice, smart casual, long-sleeved shirt
3. A set of really good colour pencils
4. A new notepad
5. An Astor Piazzolla or Joe Hisaishi Music CD I don't currently have
6. Drawing pens of diameters I don't currently have
7. The Piano & Vocals score to The Girl from Ipanema or Meditation by Antonio Carlos Jobim
8. A T-shirt that says "Reserved"
9. A guide to Conducting
10. Something that will surprise me XD

In a non-materialistic sense, the following would be nice things to happen for Christmas.
1. Mom teaches me how to draw with Charcoal
2. A successful extended family reunion on Christmas Eve
3. I find enough (committed) people to start Dance lessons again
4. I get straight A's for O Levels
5. I pass my driving test in January
6. I receive inspiration and a mood to complete School Blues' Second Album
7. I receive inspiration and the patience to finish writing a composition for the Piano
8. I gain the ability to actually memorize Piano scores
9. I overcome my greatest flaw
10. I finally decide on a future career

If all of the above fails, a nice bowl of good ice cream in an afternoon spent with some close friends would be a nice Christmas present. It was a great birthday present, after all =)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sowing the Seeds of Sewing

A few days ago as I was about to sit onto the chair at my computer desk, I noticed that the cushion needed mending. I made a mental note that I would patch it up with my recently revisited sewing un-skills. Having sewed on two buttons on one of my favourite shirts before going back to KL, the sewing procedures were still quite fresh in my mind. I decided to have a go at sewing again.

Yet again, I forgot how to tie the knot on the thread attached to the needle before you begin sewing. Mom rescued me, and before long I was performing a highly complicated hand dance that upon closer inspection might resemble actual sewing. My weaving was all over the place. Sure, I was following Mom’s instructions to weave through the cushion and not over the edges of the cushion, but a detailed observation will reveal a rather messy pattern that would make even an abstract artist cry out in protest.

Nevertheless, I was not about to be thwarted by aesthetic atrocities. I doubt anybody will want to look very closely at a cushion that comes into contact with backsides all day anyway. Before long I was presenting the results to Mom, who did not say much. It was done, but like all excited novices, I was eager to start sewing anything I could lay my hands on. Soon, I was mending my old school bag which had a torn strap while soaking in weaves of Bossa Nova playing softly in the background. Much to my embarrassment, I messed up and the needle got stuck somewhere. I cut the thread, effectively nullifying all that I had done to mend the bag. Thank goodness I’m getting a new school bag for Christmas.

Looking back, I find it interesting how my sewing reflects the way I think. There is a general pattern that guides my line of thoughts, somewhat like undercurrents. However, their path is by no means linear. Much like how my weaves were all over the place, so are my thoughts. This is also frequently reflected in many of my Blog posts labeled “thoughts.” Most of the time, when I sit down and start Blogging, everything spills onto the screen, and if I don’t take the time to go back and edit the posts, reading them will be like taking part in the Amazing Race without guidance. Rather than thinking solely on a single subject, I tend to jump around and make connections here and there. According to Dad, this would be the “relater” aspect of my personality, which means I tend to relate things with each other. But see, here I am already linking a simple sewing misadventure to Dad’s personal reading, forgetting what I wanted to type in the first place.

I think I lack focus.

Retrospect

I helped Mom sort out all her old digital photos earlier. What a blast from the past.

Ever wondered why Han in School Blues doesn't look like me at all?

Now you know.

Something interesting is happening. As I grow older, the characters in the Strip seem to grow as well (as in their looks somehow age). When School Blues first started I was 13, and I wanted them to be 14 "forever." They don't look very 14 right now, though.

Friday, December 19, 2008

When Sleep Becomes a Burden

I just got back from KL a few hours ago. A brief misadventure left me exhausted. And broke.

The bus dropped me off at Beach Road at around 7pm. I had planned to make my way to Art Friend (a popular store that sells almost all the art materials you need) down at Victoria Street to buy materials for making Christmas Presents. At first, I was feeling a bit adventurous so I decided to walk around, following my gut feeling. Eventually however, it became apparent that Bras Basah Complex (where Art Friend is) was not walking distance from Beach Road. I hopped onto a taxi.

I was quite pleased when I realized I had been walking in the right direction as the taxi brought me to my desired destination. However, whatever smile that crept across my face evaporated when I paid the peak hour taxi fare.

So imagine my horror when I found myself standing in front of the "closed" sign at the entrance to Art Friend.

Thinking desperately, my first course of action was to head straight to the toilet.

Okay, so maybe that does not sound sensible, but try making a decision that will affect the amount of sleep you will get when you're distracted by your bladder.

With a clearer mind, I initially decided to go home and work on what I could for the time being. The reason I was stressed was because the present I intended to make was due by Sunday, and I would be out the whole day on Saturday (unless I skip the Youth Sunday School Party at Sister Megan's house, which would be akin to handing a knife to Marion to stab me with). That meant that I would only have Friday to make the present. Due to the relative complexity of the present's structure, I knew I would need as much time as possible to piece it together. Having to go out and buy the materials on Friday would be a fatal blow to any momentum I hope to build in the present's construction. Alas, stressing over a failed attempt to buy materials would do me no good, so I decided to take the nearest bus home.

As I was walking, it suddenly crossed my mind that Orchard Road isn't too far from Bras Basah Complex. Perhaps the Art Friend down at Takashimaya along Orchard Road might still be open. I took a gamble and decided to find a bus that would take me there. Trusting my instincts yet again, I walked what could be observed as "aimlessly" until I magically ran into a familiar bus stop. Too bad my luck didn't extend to magically getting a free helicopter ride to my destination.

My gamble paid off - the Art Friend at Takashimaya was still open. The hunt for materials was on. I happened to windowshop at Art Friend while on an outing with the Clementi Ward Youth a month ago, and wrote down a list of materials I intended to buy when I could come back with a confirmed decision to make the present as well as money. Interestingly, I did not buy what I wrote down on the list, but what I found near the original items.

The next misadventure involved carrying around a massive piece of cardboard (they did not sell smaller sizes) and getting weird looks from people. The cardboard was so big, I would have to use measuring tape to get its dimensions (each side being more than my arm's length). Thankfully, I knew the way home, sparing me the adventure that lugging something bulky while having to trust instincts to bring me home would have wrought.

Sadly, I'm too exhausted to go without sleep tonight, so I will have start working on the present in the morning.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For Best Results: Squeeze Dry Until Insane

Here I am racking my brains for creative inspiration again. Having had my designs for a logo accepted, it is now time to design the individual labels for the products. I came home from a fruitful driving lesson today pleased that I had a whole day to work on it.

Instead, Shuan woke up and started playing games on the laptop I brought up from Singapore which has the programs I work with.

With nothing else to do, I actually napped all the way until eight. Wasted a whole day.

He's still playing, and I'm still waiting. I need to get my hands on the laptop, even if I have no inspiration. Holding my graphics tablet pen, aimlessly playing around with the various tools, staring into a blank computer space - that's what I have to do if I'm to eventually churn out anything productive.

On a side note, driving lessons today went pretty well. Within half an hour I was already on the streets, getting used to the heavy traffic that defines Kuala Lumpur. The non-Mercedez Malaysian "SLK" (Small Little Kancil) which we use in driving schools is easy to get a feel of due to its small size. I haven't started on the more exam-oriented exercises yet, such as parking on a slope and parallel parking. Those will be killers, but our good 'ol SLK makes it easier I think, compared to if I had to do it with a bulky Audi. I like the feeling of changing gears manually. The hand action makes it seem so professional which makes me excited, weirdly. Perhaps I am just deprived. The clutch, however, will take some getting used to. The engine died countless times today thanks to my poor release of the clutch. I have to admit that I like the feeling of working the clutch though - it reminds me of working the damper and soft pedals on the piano. In both cases, working the foot pedals is an art - master the action, and you pull off something beautiful. Yes, I find delight in the weirdest things.

I'll be having dinner with Hao Ran, Zi Jien, Fang Soe, Zi Xian and See Ee tomorrow. I didn't get to catch up with them on my last trip back, so I'm pretty excited. I particularly miss talking to Zi Xian, ever since we were placed in different classes on my last year in Tsun Jin High.

I'm not sure why, but lately I've been wanting to take my Singaporean friends on a trip to KL. To show them my hometown I guess. Perhaps next year, when I will have my driving license. They just have to try the food here =)

Back to work!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Return to KL

I just arrived in KL, after a long ride on the bus.

When we arrived at Dad's home, Ern lunged straight for the computer that Dad brought over from the office, chuckling about the 1 gigabyte's worth of RAM. Shuan went to set up the Playstation, and Ray went to get his toy sword that's not allowed in our home in Singapore. I was apparently the only one who wanted to take a bath.

Driving lessons tomorrow!

False and True

As promised, these are the answers to last week's post.

This Is Me [Or Not] :
1] I sleep with a "teddy" bear on my bed
2] I plan to get married by age 22
3] Mom is all that's keeping me from having no fashion sense
4] I listen to Vivaldi on a regular basis
5] I speak partially perfect English
6] I enjoy teaching
7] I own Han's
8] I once started a fight in school
9] Culture is my middle name
10] I can't stand geeks

True:
1] Yes, I do. It's right here. It was birthday present from Yung Hui when I turned 16. I thought it was the funniest teddy bear I've ever seen. It's on my bed to stop my handphone (which I use as an alarm) from falling off the edges of the bed.
3] Haha. Orchid Ball was proof. More recently, when Mom cut my hair for me, she turned down my request to shave off my sideburns entirely, citing the fact that having sideburns is in fashion.
6] To inspire others is my dream
8] Back in my 5th year in Primary school, I lashed out at about 4 guys over them teasing me about liking a girl (yes, I was that sensitive back then). I lost a tooth in the end, but we being guys, I made four good friends not long after that =P
9] "文" can mean culture. Do I look cultured to you?

False:
2] If you know me and did the math, this would be impossible. I'll be on my Mission then.
4] I avoid listening to Vivaldi on a regular basis.
5] Partially Perfect is a redundant statement. The word "perfect" is absolute, so it cannot be "partial." Hence, the statement is false because there can be no such thing. You did not have to know me to guess the truthfulness of this question, but you now know how seriously I treat the English language.
7] =) I haven't eaten there before
10] I love myself too much to be able to say that truthfully

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Early Christmas Presents

Study guide to the Doctrine & Covenants + Church History for next year's Sunday School, True to the Faith booklet, and the latest Simplified Chinese Triple Combination.

Why they are awesome "presents":
The study guides for Sunday School always present interesting opportunities to delve into the scriptures more deeply than you thought you could, making each reading experience more wholesome and rewarding.

The True to the Faith booklet explains almost everything we need to know as Latter-Day Saints. Think of it as Life's Instruction Manual. Apparently I was supposed to get it the moment I turned 12, but I didn't, so here it is now.

The new Simplified Chinese Triple Combination is a sure sign that the Church is preparing the way for all Chinese to come to know of the truthfulness of the Gospel and to taste of the blessings it brings. Being a Triple Combination, it means that I'll have the Chinese Doctrine and Covenants to study alongside the English version in Sunday School next year. Furthermore, this book has a Bible Dictionary, meaning that Chinese Gospel terms now have definitions I can refer to when trying to explain things to curious mandarin-speaking friends. Thanks, Mom!

Going back to KL for driving lessons tomorrow.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Help Me Help You Help Yourself

Have you ever thought about why people help each other?

We all know about that nice feeling we get after doing a kind deed to another, and that is usually why we engage in acts of service from time to time. In that sense, as Irfan funnily pointed out once, we are being selfish. By helping others, we gratify our personal need to feel appreciated. There are also those who have developed an appetite for that warm fuzzy feeling when someone thanks them for their kind deed. Of course, that would be akin to deliberately seeking praise. What about anonymous deeds? Well, it cannot be denied that it still feels nice after doing an anonymous deed.

So, have we come to a conclusion that kindness is a selfish act simply because it brings personal gratification to the giver? That would be interesting.

The response? In order to do an "unselfish" kind act, one must perform such an act with a mentality that "it just had to be done." Perhaps the expression "rising to the occassion" could be applied here. By doing something just because it seemed like it had to be done brings no personal justification, therefore justifying the act of kindness.

Regardless of your current stand on doing good deeds, I shall now wrap up this example of how some people have nothing better to do with their brains with an even weirder suggestion: we should all ask for help from strangers more often.

On the last day of O Levels, I went out with some classmates. Miraculously, it rained despite the fact that I had my umbrella (it never rains when I take the trouble to prepare for it). As I was crossing the road in the rain with my umbrella out, a man rushed to me and asked if I could share the umbrella with him and backtrack until he was under shelter. Without a pause I agreed, shifting to one side of the umbrella while making an about turn. After the man reached his desired short term destination, I continued on my journey with that nice warm feeling in my heart. The lesson learnt? By asking someone for help, you provide him with an oppurtunity to help you, allowing him to experience that wonderful feeling of performing a kind act. You, in turn, will also feel good because you will have come away knowing that there is kindness in this world.

In essence, by asking help from you, I would be requesting help from you to help me help you help yourself feel good. So would performing that kind deed be selfish? No, because the reasoning is just too crazy to be anything selfish.

=)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Overload!

So many activities happening at once. To elaborate on all would do no justice to the rights of readers to understand what's going on, so I won't bother trying. Yesterday saw me helping Marion and her friends with storyboarding, then rushing over to an unofficial Clementi Ward Youth Slumber Party at Sister Connie Woo's house. Came home this morning with Michael and Sherwayne to work towards our Duty to God Award, followed by some gaming and then a mad rush for me, Shuan, and Ern to get to the Stake Centre to practice and eventually perform in Ying Er's Ensemble for the Evening in Bethlehem. That was followed by me providing a brief "singing lesson" for Shem, with the aid of Germaine and Ben along the way. I am pooped.

Photos:
Storyboarding - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=44315&l=79638&id=781834543
Slumber Party -
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=44322&l=d9a7e&id=781834543

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Somebody Save Me

I dislike the way she trips me over my own words.
I dislike the way she affects my mood.
I dislike the way she sends me spinning in my own circles.
I dislike the way she haunts my thoughts.
I especially dislike the way she clouds my judgment.

I like everything about her, just not what she's doing to me.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Camera & Family

Today is one of those days where I can go to bed with a megawatt smile, knowing that it was a day well spent.

I started the day by rushing to the Stake Centre with Shuan to practice for Ying Er's ensemble for this weekend's Night in Bethlehem at the Stake Centre. I will be playing the Clarinet while Shuan will pwn all with his mad flute skillz. I was in a mood for photos today.

Shuan's flute
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Marie's oboe
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Benjamin's piano score
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After the practice, Uncle Yen Wei and Aunt Chai Yan took me and Shuan (and Ying Er, of course) for lunch at Ghim Moh (however you spell it). Crazy food. I didn't know such a popular place existed.

The highlight of the day was the extended family picnic at Sentosa that I've been looking forward to since last week. Despite the crummy weather today, we went ahead and had a picnic with 4 of my cousins, 3 nephews, 1 niece, 3 aunts, 2 uncles, and even a cousin's parents-in-law.

I was all excited about the plethora of oppurtunities to practice taking photos of children at play. I intend to become a Dad who can take beautiful shots of his family in the future, so what better time to practice than at an extended family reunion.

I decided to focus on two of my nephews. They started off playing with sand by means of an umbrella.


I like the composition of this shot
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They eventually shifted closer to the water, where they entertained themselves by destroying the one-cup sandcastles they began to create.


I never cease to be amused by how much concentration children display when at play. It goes to show how interest is so critical in influencing focus.
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Ern came over to ask me if I was up for some sports. How could I tear myself away from photographing my nephews?
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Father and Son moment. I want to be able to take plenty of Mother and Children moments when I have my own family, so I suppose this is a good start.
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This would have been my most favourite shot of the day if I had just tilted the camera a little higher
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Blissful day
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I have a crazy week ahead, but at least I'm finally earning money. Tomorrow will be the first payday for my work as a logo designer. It won't be much, but Mom agrees that it is good work experience. I hope I can manage, though. My weekly planner has reached a point where it needs a weekly planner planner.

Family's Back

Mom, Shuan and Ern came back from KL with Dad last night. I was taking a nap on Mom's bed, having drained myself of energy after a feeble attempt to help Ying Er compose some music transitions. I was awoken at about 11pm when I saw Mom standing in front of me.

"Hi Mom!"

Before I knew it Shuan and Ern were sitting on the edge of the bed telling me all about the Playstation games they played at our house in KL. As I lay there on my side listening to them ramble on, I couldn't help but smile, realizing how much I missed them all.

Of course, about an hour later, I wasn't missing the mess Ern started creating in the house.

True and False

Got tagged by Marion
I remember doing something like this before, but every time you do things like these you answer it differently, and when you come back in the future to read it, you gain insights in your own personal development. I'm still working on the 16 Random (Interesting) Things post after being tagged by 姐姐. I'm trying not to lose control over word quantity, but I've been failing at it so far.

Instructions
1. List down 10 facts about yourself - 5 true & 5 false.
2. Tag 5 people to do the exact same quiz!
3. Blog readers are to guess the 5 false facts.
4. Reveal 5 facts exactly one week after this quiz is being posted up.

This Is Me [Or Not] :
1] I sleep with a "teddy" bear on my bed
2] I plan to get married by age 23
3] Mom is all that's keeping me from having no fashion sense
4] I listen to Vivaldi on a regular basis
5] I speak partially perfect English
6] I enjoy teaching
7] I own Han's
8] I once started a fight in school
9] Culture is my middle name
10] I can't stand geeks

Hint: One of the false statements can be detected without having to know me at all.

No point tagging. Those 2 I always tag are already tagged, the others never do these.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Life as a Logo Designer

On a good day:
I wake up in the afternoon, start the day by studying scriptures, have lunch, then play a few rounds of a computer game with my brothers after being pestered for 15 minutes straight. After that, I work the rest of the day with satisfying results.

On a bad day:
I wake up (relatively) early, run some errands in the early afternoon (after the start-the-day-routine), and get to work as soon as I get back. Unfortunately, I spend an hour developing new ideas without coming to anything I'm satisfied with, and have to spend the next few hours napping just to clear my head. By the time I wake up, I'm in no mood for work.

And every day is a bad day until the very last.

Not that I'm being cynical, but when it comes to creative work, it's always at the very last moment that inspiration hits you and you're forced to rush. The best ideas don't come until you've squeezed your brain dry over everything else.

I can't say it wasn't fun, though. To finally finish your work and produce an end result you are satisfied with brings an overpowering sense of triumph. It is truly rewarding work, just not financially......

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tosto @ T3, Singapore Changi Airport

I was invited by Marion to take part at a fun-filled event at Tosto, a European restaurant at T3, Singapore Changi Airport. We were both invited to the event through Bezner, her classmate.

Marion all smiles at Tosto
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Basically, we had a food sampling session after which we were to fill in a survey form to give feedback on the dishes. We then had some fun in a sandwich making competition, where the winning team would not only receive prizes, but have their sandwich put on the restaurant's menu for all to savour.

Some of the food we sampled:

Garlic Fennei Pork Sausage & Cheese Wraps (Marion liked these)
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Mandarin Orange Smoked Duck Wraps (these were good)
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BBQ Chicken Piadino (there was also Hawaiian Chicken Piadino)
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Croques Madame. Deeply delectable.
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Chocolate Eclairs and Cheesecakes were also served, the cheesecakes with a savoury twist to tease the senses =)

Overall, I would rate the food experience as 4 out of 5. Both Marion and I agreed that the Croques Madame were exquisite, and I particularly liked the texture of the bread. The Mandarin Orange Smoked Duck Wraps accentuated an appetizing amount of saltiness that had me ready for more. As aforementioned, the cheesecakes packed a delightful surprise that Bezner pointed out to the two us of us. There was a reason for the unique sweetness that rewarded each bite of the cheesecakes. I ate the chocolate eclair I had on my plate a little too fast to be able to provide opinions on it. Chocolate eclairs have always been dangerously addictive to me. Unfortunately, the Garlic Fennei Pork Sausage & Cheese Wraps and Piadinos did not appeal to me as the other dishes did. Although they did not have any problems I can point out, they did not have anything that stood out to me either.

We had a blast during the sandwich making activity. Marion and I paired up to create what we, after much debate (she kept wanting to call it Bossa Nova, despite it having no resemblance to any Brazillian dishes I know of), named "The Harion." Our sandwich included a spread of mustard mixed with pesto, layered with mesclun salad beneath slices of ham and smoked salmon, topped with crushed rosemary. We decorated our plate with tomatoes, parsley, and rosemary. Shall it suffice to say that I think my drawing of our sandwich was more attractive than the end result? That doesn't mean we didn't have a ball of a time.

Thanks for tagging me along, Marion =)

To those looking for a satisfying dining experience at T3, I would recommend Tosto. The service is excellent, and if you're a coffee lover, Tosto promises well brewed coffees, Italian style. Just going there to provide feedback on the food was an enriching learning experience for me, thanks to the impressive amount of knowledge shared by the staff. Viva la Tosto!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Bossa Nova Dreams

I received a belated birthday present from Benjamin today!

Bossa Nova Dreams, a CD featuring the artistes Mark Bracken and Caio Torrado. Extremely soothing if you listen to it with a clear mind, but highly dangerous when under the influence of an infatuation. Lethal lyrics.

Ray found the pen for my graphics tablet while sorting out his junk today. No idea how it ended up with his things, but it means that I can work better with Adobe Photoshop now.

The deadline for the logo I'm supposed to design just got extended. My employer has that much faith in me. You always have to squeeze your brains dry before that brilliant idea finally works out. I think that's why I'm afraid of a future career in the creative line.

Stunned

It feels like I've just attended a funeral.

I wish I could cry over this just to let everything out, but tears are not streaming out in my current state of shock.

I will not pass judgment. I will not point fingers. I will probably never understand what exactly happened, being nearly 300km away from it all.

It hurts to see old friendships crumble. I know that, in a way, isolation has kept my friendship with him safe. But oh the pain of seeing this happen while knowing and trying to accept that there's nothing I can or should do.

Hao Ran, I have heard enough to know for myself that too many people see you differently than the way I do. I have always looked up to you in my days in Tsun Jin, and I just cannot understand how this could happen. I do not ask to see a reconcilation between you and everyone else, but I want to make sure whatever has shaken me will never take hold between the two of us.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

When Drawing Saves the Day

I found myself having to deal with a Primary class at Church today. I was heading to the toilet while deciding whether to help teach one of the Primary classes or attend the combined Priesthood and Relief Society meeting. I passed by a class and saw Sherwayne and Brian having to deal with Sherwin, Denzel, Myra, Yong Ling, and Yong Hee. Sherwin alone took at least three Young Men to deal with the last time I remember teaching him. Couple him with Denzel and you have enough "potential energy" to tear the chapel into shreds. I stepped into the class.

It might be to do with my age, but I found myself taking the lead despite Brian doing the job previously. Nobody had a prepared lesson, so I decided to run through their two class rules pinned next to the whiteboard:

1. Be Reverent (sigh)
2. Show Respect for one another

Obviously, the need for Rule #1 had to be emphasized as many times as I have to go to the toilet on a school day. Game after game failed to calm the two boys down. Towards the end I finally decided to let them draw what they felt "reverence" looked like.

The girls were the first to get to work. I was lucky because I happened to have lots of scrap paper in the folder I bring to Church every Sunday, and I brought all my drawing pencils today. Each of them took a pencil and paper and started drawing reverent self portraits. Sherwin and Denzel, on the other hand, started entertaining themselves by creating objectionable material on the whiteboard. Boys will be boys, after all.

Eventually, Sherwin attempted to draw rainbows on his sheet of paper using one of my drawing pens (even I can't pull that off convincingly) while Denzel proceeded to draw dinosaurs on the whiteboard. Not exactly along the lines of my instructions, but at least they finally behaved. I joined Denzel at the whiteboard, though I just realized I mixed up Diplodocus with Plesiosaurus while naming a water-borne dinosaur (despite anything water-borne not actually being classified as a dinosaur). He later drew a T-Rex to fight with my Triceratops, Pokemon/Dualmasters style.

Looking around the room to see everyone glued to their work, I couldn't help but wonder if all people are inherently creative, and given the opportunity, will devotedly express themselves through the use of creative material. This may seem like a stupid statement when you observe all children, but when you look at some really "boring" grown ups, you may wonder what happened to their creative fires.

Last Sunday I gave "Art Lessons" to three of the Seow children after Church. Ryan came up to me asking for recommendations on sizes of drawing pens he should get. Meanwhile, Rachel and Renee who came to check on their older brother, decided to have a go at drawing. Of course, I was only too happy to give them some paper and pens to work with. I taught Rachel how to draw various objects such as flowers and other random things she wanted to learn. Renee decided to show me her artistic masterpiece of lines and lines and lines, all the while mentioning something to do with ABCs. She has a sweet way of talking about things in her own little world. While Rachel continued to draw, Renee eventually switched to cutting up the paper with my scissors. Watching her handle my Grace-gnawed scissors in an attempt to produce an odd shaped paper cutting she called a "telephone" was thoroughly entertaining.

In both instances I saw how children, when given drawing materials, will temporarily lose their desire to run around and scream, focusing instead on a piece of paper in a very impressive manner. Maybe I should learn how to teach Art to preschoolers. Combining my love for drawing and taking care of children of that age sounds like a good idea.

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I have just discovered my latest favourite Hymn sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

Abide with Me; 'Tis Eventide, arranged by Barlow Bradford, taken from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir album Come, Come, Ye Saints.

The hymn is arranged with a highly Impressionistic feel, and the Music just blew me away. Not in the way of a John Williams-ish Fanfare, but in the way of an Out-of-this-world Sunset in an Ocean of Colours.

This is the sort of Music I recommend a serious listening to if you want to experience a mystical, alluring rendition of a beautifully written Hymn.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

人类是一家人,地球是我们的家

I attended the Global Social Innovators Forum today, organized by the Social Innovation Park. The event involves the gathering of various social entrepreneurs from around the world to discuss ways in which we, as entrepreneurs, can contribute to the social well-being of those around us. Knowing my recent interest in the area of Human Development, Mom called me while I was in KL just to ask if I wanted to attend it when she was invited by her niece to attend it.

Today was the first time I walked into a formal event fully aware that I was under dressed. I was not informed that the dress code was formal wear, so I showed up in my favourite blue checked shirt, baggy pants, and sneakers. Everyone else wore suits. I went there actually to volunteer to help out while being exposed to people whom Mom and I had hoped would share similar ideals as I currently do, but I ended up becoming a participant. That meant sitting in a room full of highly established entrepreneurs with an old mindset that all businesses are profit-driven and should therefore be burnt. On top of being under dressed. I could actually feel influence radiating from the people around me.

The first forum session featured four interesting panelists. Each had their own ideas and methods regarding social entrepreneurship, but seeing them discuss issues together, sowing the seeds of positive change through collaborative innovations, was a truly inspiring experience for me. There was Mrs Veronica Colondam from Indonesia who believes that the key to the future lies with the Youth (hence, her current mission deals with the problem of drug trafficking and abuse by teenagers in Indonesia). There was Mrs Pamela Hartigan, who believes that you have to put yourself in another's shoes before you can truly begin to understand how to help the needy. There was also Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Mayor of the North East District, who gave valuable insight on how the Singapore government deals with the country's social issues. And finally, perhaps the most popular panelist during that session, Mr Jet Li himself, a Hollywood Actor-turned Philantropist who put all movie projects at hold in 2008 to concentrate on his philantropist work.

To say that Jet Li radiated passion for his work like a noon day sun would be a grave understatement. Despite having to communicate through a translator, his excitement, motivation, and feelings instantly connected to all of us in the audience (that or my trip back to KL has brushed up my mandarin listening skills). He deeply believes that for social entrepreneurship to work, there has to be, in each of us, a belief in helping others. I liked his example that, if each person in China were to throw one piece of litter onto the ground, China would be a rubbish dump overnight. On the other hand, if each person in China were to pick up a piece of litter from the ground, they will have accomplished a month's work of a giant corporation overnight. Simply put, he believes in how each of us can contribute by society just by a little bit. A little bit from everyone adds up to an amazing potential to change lives for the better. To him, we will have acheived a perfect society the day helping others is infused in our lives the way breathing is. My favourite quote from him is the title of this post =)

Two more forum sessions followed, plus a workshop. I attended a workshop led by Mr Robert Chua, Founder & Chief Executive Office, Health and Lifestyle Broadcast Company Limited, and Mr Greg Walter, Founder & CEO, QPay Pte Ltd. The workshop answer three main questions:

1. What are the mindests that promote or inhibit successful innovation?

2. What leads innovation - social impact or business profits?

3. How can social consciousness give innovators a competitive edge?

It may seem that the third question paints the picture that social entrepreneurship is a profit-driven movement. However, the discussion cleared all my doubts of social entrepreneurship. I have emerged from today's Forum with the sweet assurance that all over the world, there are highly influential people ready to push for change we need. Both Mr Chua and Mr Walter gave me priceless advice and encouragement in response to a question I raised, advice I will take to heart. Both of them have inspired me in ways my brain working past bedtime cannot express in words.

I shall take that as a sign that it's time to bridle this newfound excitement and get some rest.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Non-Spring Cleaning

I woke up 4 hours later than I wanted to today. Again. I know very well I should sleep way before 1am, and that waking up at 8am gives me a whole lot of time to make my day productive, but somehow I still find myself living in a different time zone. Holidays mess me up that well.

I dared not touch the sketchbook when I woke up this morning. I'm still waiting for the second wave of inspiration to hit me before I have another go at designing that logo. Instead, I sought the piano for some 抒情-ing. Yes, I have just campurised Chinese and English. I picked up Hector Berlioz's "The Damnation of Faust," which Mom is learning in the Singapore Symphony Chorus. I attempted some parts of the orchestra on the piano, failing miserably. Before long I found myself playing fragments of the melody from The Girl From Ipanema in the wrong keys. I later scrambled to find that old book on Jazz Improvisation, plus a few books with my favourite sentimental songs. The arrangements for those sentimental songs were terrible. I tried out the Jazz improvisation after that, though I don't think I learnt much.

After brunch, I suddenly had this urge to clear out all the junk I accumulated over my two years in ACS Barker Road. Cupboards were emptied, drawers cleared, piles of paper reorganized, past year papers thrown out, and jewels from the past rediscovered. Jewels worth a few cents if you sell them to used paper collectors.

While I was back in KL, my family somehow reached the decision that the birthday decoration Germaine made for Ray should belong to me, and I found it on top of all my junk that needed clearing. Knowing that it can be used when the birthdays start rolling in next year, I had to find a place to keep it. I pulled out a drawer where I keep old letters from friends, and spent the next few minutes delightedly going through precious words from old friends, jewels which increase in value as the years go by.

Nothing beats receiving letters from friends. I found a whole bunch of letters from two past crushes I didn't think I'd get over at that time, smiling to myself while remembering those crazy days. There was a goodbye card from friends with a weird sense of humour that had me chuckling for a few seconds. All those spiritually inspiring letters from Sister Kate, my Seminary Teacher last year, were clumped here and there in the drawer as well. Realizing that I couldn't spend the rest of the day sitting with a drawer between my kneeds and reliving the past, I pushed the letters to one end of the drawer and placed the birthday decoration on the other. I truly hope all those drawings I give away have the same effect on their recepients as all those letters did on me.

It sure feels good clearing out old junk. Feeling organized brings a satisfaction in knowing that you have "control" over your life, especially when your heart keeps messing around with your brain. That feeling of running into old letters while clearing out old junk? Ahhhh......

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let the Music Overwhelm

I have this urge to discuss something of intellectual nature, just to keep my brain active. I was advised to read a few books on philosophy if I intend to take Knowledge Inquiry in Junior College next year, but so far all I've been doing is drawing as fast as inspiration hits me.

I'm currently working on a few things apart from School Blues. I've been "hired" to design a logo for a small bit of cash. I have a fun idea to work with, but it's not working out yet. Then there's the upcoming Night in Bethlehem again. I've been asked to write a few piano transitions in between 6 songs. I roughly went through them this morning. Transitioning from G major to F major is taking me some time...

I got to check out the latest Simplified Chinese Triple Combination at the now-closed Church Distribution Centre today. There are now rather useful footnotes, plus the index has become a form of the Bible Dictionary as well. That means that Chinese definitions of Chinese Gospel terms can now be found, which I think will be useful. Mom has agreed to get me one =)

I caught myself whistling the tune to The Girl From Ipanema in the toilet of the General Office in school today. That was rather embarrassing. I found a piano & vocal score for the English version of The Girl From Ipanema from Sheetmusicplus.com today. I got to peek at a sample of the first page. So far it looked like no jazz improvisation is required, so I may be able to play it provided I can play with the right feel (I'm too rooted in the classical playing style for my own good). I wonder if it's on sale here in Singapore? It might make a nice Christmas Present I can buy myself if I still find myself loving the song after a month.

Due to my current infatuation with Bossa Nova, I have an urge to learn the Samba. Not sure if I have the time and money though. Even if I do, I would appreciate it if there were friends to join me. It's kind of sad if you learn a dance but you can't use it at an actual Dance because nobody else knows it.

If I wake up tomorrow to find out that my blanket turned into a trillion dollars, I'll spend it all on Music and Dance lessons.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sublime Sensation

Hardly anything compares to feeling productive. Since the start of this week I've churned out 2 School Blues strips a day, and I already have ideas for two stories. I'm not sure how long I can keep this up, though. Ideas don't come easily.

Hardly anything compares to listening to Bossa Nova either. Put listening to Bossa Nova while drawing and feeling productive and you get a feeling like no other. Being a Music student to the core, I tried to listen out to what makes Bossa Nova Bossa Nova. I haven't detected anything particularly enlightening yet, but I realized how much I like it when the music does a short descending motive in three consecutive semitones. Meditation, a beatiful recommendation by Trent, is a perfect example.

Bossa Nova is lethal. While listening to the music, take in a deep breath, slowly let it all out, all the while keeping your eyes closed and envisioning the most breathtaking view of a shoreline you can imagine. When you open your eyes, see if you want to do anything else.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pbbhhht!!!

Sketched this about two weeks ago, but I didn't have time to do the full drawing till today. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself when I sketched it.

It's no fun letting a girl mess with your heart, especially if you unavoidably find yourself offering it to her. The worst is her not even realizing what she's doing to you, unlike the comic above.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Food and Laughter

There's never a silent moment when you have Thanksgiving dinner with Shem on one side and Marion on the other.

Laughed my head off this evening. The Stake had Institute Enrollment along with a Thanksgiving Dinner today. The food was great, except that I had to be careful. I've gained 5kg since O Levels ended. Mom thinks I'm crazy to want to lose that 5kg. Okay, theoretically speaking, I should not have too much trouble converting all that food into useful muscle. However, if I start slackening in terms of physical activity after that, it's all just going to turn into fat. Theoretically speaking, fat is not useless either, but chances of me having to starve within the next few weeks are quite slim, so practically speaking, fat is useless. Furthermore, considering my plans to fulfill that "20 School Blues strips" goal by the end of this year, I think chances are high that whatever muscle I gain is going to turn into flabs.

Right, I have just spent 99 words justifying attempted weight loss. So much for being a guy.

The holidays are in full swing now. Both 'O' and 'A' Levels are over, so everyone's having a wild time. Except for the Polytechnic students, of course. I'm yet to produce a productive holiday schedule. I've pretty much nailed my next trip back to KL for driving lessons as well as to catch up with friends I hardly got to see the last time round. I just don't know what to do in Singapore until then. I'm just living for the day.

So far I know that I have to spend time working towards my Duty to God award for the Aaronic Priesthood. That should take up every waking moment actually, since I haven't even completed my Deacon manual. Today was my first step into doing Genealogy Work with Mom. We read the brief history of the origin of the Thongs. Not that skimpy bit of clothing, but my Mom's ancestry. Having done that, all I can say is that I hope I marry a wife whose grasp of Mandarin is at least as good as Mom's, because I might not survive Genealogy Work on my own. All those mandarin words, worsened by the fact that they're all in 繁体字 (traditional characters), do nothing but make my head spin. That's not to say that it wasn't fun, though. After a while I got a bit warmed up and began to interpret the records more clearly. Like Mom said, it's interesting when you take chinese characaters and break them down to find the meaning. It was even more interesting to read about various outstanding ancestors. If anyone wants to point a finger at me and scream "geek!", he or she can blame it on my lineage to a plethora of scholars. One ancestor had a whole paragraph of acheivements.

Ever heard of dangerous creative inspiration dangerous because it's for dangerous reasons? I've been struck again. That Serenade for Piano in G Major I started near the end of the exams is collecting dust, but I had this idea of making a Christmas decoration to match this. I didn't think I'd be spurred so soon, but it seems I am. Mom has already expressed hesitation, knowing the dangerous motivation that has driven me to such an infinitely insane intention, so I'm still wrestling with myself on whether I should go ahead or not. I need to talk to someone about this.

In the meantime, I'll most likely keep myself busy with Christmas songs on the piano in the evenings. Otherwise, my hands will itch for the cutting mat, loads of glue and murdered trees, and a whole lot of lost sleep.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Worth the RM45

I just arrived in Singapore a few hours ago.

For once, the bus ride back was no hassle at all. My last trip back to KL ended with a nightmare. Thank goodness for Hao Ran, Marion, and the KL Branch President. I might not have survived that trip without them to turn to during that disastrous evening.

This time round, I took a higher end coach from Bangsar. The price wasn't too much higher, but the service provided beats your average Puduraya bus hands down. Every seat had a screen in front, where you could choose to watch an assortment of movies, or listen to music. The only music they had, however, was about 300 songs worth of hits from the 80's and 90's. I was feeling rather adventurous, so I put the earphones on and randomly picked whatever song that had a title that caught my eye.

I found some songs I recognized and liked (didn't know the titles previously).
  • Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple (first heard the main tune sung by a friend when I was nine)
  • That Thing You Do by The Wonders (I love this song and associated it with a certain someone months back XD)
  • Smooth by Carlos Santana and Rod Steward
  • Kiss Me by Six Pence None the Richer (the song was featured in the movie She's All That which spurred me to draw nine School Blues strips in one day. I haven't hit that level of productivity since)
I have this unquenchable thirst for Bossa Nova. Recommendations, anyone?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tahniah, Anda Telah Lulus!

I passed my driving theory test yesterday!

I had to answer 50 multiple choice questions on a computer, and the requirement to pass is a raw score of 42/50. I got 48. I know I lost one mark for mistaking the age we are allowed to have a licence, but I don't know where I lost the other mark. But hey, I did everything in Bahasa Malaysia!

I used to score rather decently in Bahasa Malaysia back in Tsun Jin, but moving to Singapore kind of deprived me of oppurtunities to retain whatever skills I had in Bahasa Malaysia. As a result, disjointed sentences spawn out of attempts to form something comprehensible in my head. However, during the times when I found myself speaking Bahasa Melayu in Singapore, instinct kicked in and I surprised even myself.

And that's how I survived a total of 12 hours of lessons in Malay, plus the test.

Dad shared with me what he read from a book on Accelerated Learning. It said that when you try to learn something completely through logic and reasoning, your brain has about 40-50 stimuli involved in the learning process. During subconscious learning, however, your brain has about 17 million stimuli involved in the learning process. Needless to say, I threw whatever I remembered about Bahasa Malaysia and went along with whatever I felt.

After the first hour of the theory lesson on driving etiquette, I had no trouble listening to the instructor's lecture. During this morning's theory lesson on the basics of a car, I was taking down notes in Bahasa Malaysia. During the first actual in-the-car lesson today, I was conversing with my instructor in Bahasa Malaysia without having to pause and construct sentences. Except that I have that robotic accent that comes from using Bahasa Baku that Irfan never ceases to point out when I try to speak the language.

I guess it goes to show that deep down inside, I have a Malaysian core.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In Defense of a Culture

I had planned to post an update on my ball of a time in KL, but Irfan's recent post kicked a few gears in my head into motion.

Almost everybody knows Singapore for Singlish, as well as Malaysia for Manglish, though I've not heard of any controversy nor debate regarding Manglish (relak la, we're Malaysians after all). I am not uneducated, and I dare say that I am able to whip up rather decently accurate sentences in English, but I am as guilty as the classmate who never returned your eraser in Primary school when it comes to speaking broken English. In my case, I frequently speak a hybrid of Singlish and Manglish.

First, in response to the accusation that Singlish and Manglish are destroying the English language, consider what we call in English at this point in time. Do you seriously expect me to accept rendezvous and gourmet as English words? Now consider the history of English. If I threw you six hundred years into the past by means of a Time Machine, do you think your supposedly perfect English will be understood by the locals of the 1400s? Try reading some old manuscripts and tell me what's perfect English.

Oh, and what about Shakespeare? The famous writer made up his own words and transformed the English language. Didn't he destroy the language, then?

My point is that a language is bound to change over time. Change is the only certainty we have in the world of Man. A language is used as a tool to communicate with fellow human beings. Where one language fails to communicate a thought, feeling, or command, another language may be utilized to save the day. Once a realization that the former language does not possess that specific expression occurs, the grafting of a term from the latter language will follow. Thus, communication between Man is not hindered. Instead, it is enhanced. What's a language for if it's for preservation and not communication? Do you preserve your best pen in a glass case so that nobody uses it?

Consider this modern example: the telephone was first invented as a means of communication. Later, a handphone was invented to improve on the concept of a telephone. Later still, cameras, music players, video games, calendars, stopwatches and many other inventions were fused into the handphone. Instead of calling the end product a handphone-camera-musicplayer-videogamingdevice-calendar-stopwatch, we still call it a handphone. It's primary purpose? To make phone calls. Is that any different from a telephone? What we have now is a phone that is even more desirable due to its wider range of functions.

Now consider language. Let as assume that language was first invented so that commands could be communicated. Over time, language developed such that emotions could also be communicated, and so on. However, it appears that different languages have developed initially independently of each other over time. But are their functions equal? Yes. When two languages are exposed to each other, each side realizes its own inadequacies, and inevitably takes from the other side to make up for it. For example, a silent person learns from a talkative person that speaking up improves your chances of being heard, while a talkative person learns from a silent person that silence can have a more powerful effect than it initially seems.

English is a language that has integrated many terms from other languages. Isn't it amazing that, despite all the borrowing here and there, we still call it English?

Now, in local settings, Singlish has proved itself to be of great use. Why? By the sheer fact that it is still in use! If Singlish failed to allow locals to communicate, wouldn't it have been dropped? Our feelings and actions are largely affected by our cultural backgrounds. Hence, certain cultural terms may be needed for us as Singaporeans/Malaysians to communicate, but are not found in English. By fusing chinese or malay terms into English, locals have invented a more "effective" variant of English. Can English, on its own, provide the feeling that lah implies on a sentence?

Finally, what's Singapore without Singlish?
"Hey, I think Singlish is ruining the image of Singapore. It makes us seem like we have lower standards. Let's get rid of it."

"Yeah. While we're at it, let's get rid of everything else traditional that is holding back our development as a modern, developed nation in the world."

"Good idea. I'm sick of all those people who sell random traditional stuff on the pedestrian walkways in the city."

Then come the Western tourists.
"We're in Singapore! I wonder what's special about this place..."

"Wow! They speak just like us, their streets are just like us, and they act just like us! It feels just like home!"

"Wait, didn't we pay for this trip so that we could experience something new and unique?"

"You're right! Hey, you know what? I'm bored of Singapore already. Let's go to America. It's less hot there anyway."

"Sure. The exoticism I was hoping for doesn't seem to exist here. At least in Cambodia they speak in a language we can't understand."

"Why did we want to come to Singapore anyway?"

In short, there are three reasons why Singlish (or Manglish) should NOT be condemned:

1. With the change that globalization brings, "contamination" of the English language is inevitable anyway.

2. Singlish does improve communication between locals.

3. How are you going to sell yourself to the world as a unique little red dot if you throw away what makes you unique in the first place?

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I'm taking the exam on driving laws tomorrow! In Malay! It's nothing short of a miracle that I've understood everything I've studied the past few days.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Itching

Tsun Jin High School's Grad Night was two nights ago, and up till now I still have not been able to upload the photos. Something's wrong with the computer(s) I'm using (or just me). Oh well.

It was a blast going back to Tsun Jin to meet up with old friends one last time as a school. Some girls were funny enough to point out that I did not grow taller XD Oh well.

So many of them can drive now! Just after the Grad Night a bunch of my ex-classmates from 06 S1S1 decided to go out for some drinks at Station One. Chern Hui drove me there, where I enjoyed a decently priced Banana Split while watching my friends attempt Carlsberg.

At Grad Night itself, I (as expected) received an endless amount of surprised looks. They were just so surprised that I actually zoomed all the way back from Singapore for their graduation. I was pretty busy catching up with everyone that night. It was Yung Hui's birthday that night (we both can't believe the fact that I actually still remember it) so I gave her my best wishes, after which we talked for a bit. She's thinking of going into modelling and brushing up on her English. She told me about her ambition of becoming a translator a few months back, but I honestly didn't think she's still thinking about it. All I can say is when we were still classmates, I wouldn't even have dreamed that she has an interest in the English language.

We got to do the box Waltz after that. And that's also something I never would have imagined years back. The school was smart enough to provide classes for three dances in preparation for Grad Night/Prom, which are the Waltz, another dance in triple time, and a version of Rock 'N Roll I'm not familiar with (but the feel is just as Rock 'N Roll-ish). So for the first time in my life, I was on a dance floor where the music played only allowed partner dancing, which was awesome. I got to watch my old friends dance together, a scene that really seemed unimaginable before that night. I attempted the box waltz with a few friends, and spent the rest of the night talking. The only downside of the dance was that the school auditorium was too small, and too many people were camwhoring on the dance floor XD Well, it was their first dance ever, after all.

As a side note, I kind of wish the Stake Youth Dances in Singapore could be like that. Nobody really knows how to partner dance, which means we're all missing out on a very fun aspect of dancing. Dancing with a partner is fun because you learn to coordinate with different people throughout the dance, and being able to pull off stylish fluorishes with a partner to the music brings a unique sense of exhiliration. Messing up is just as fun too, as I observed that night (and experienced first hand at Orchid Ball hehe). The problem is that most of the Youth are just too shy to do partner dances. The Disco Rock workshop my dance teachers Brother and Sister Tan held for the Woodlands Ward Youth earlier this year was a disaster XD Brother Tan had to stop to reassure some of the Young Women that just because you dance with a guy it doesn't mean you're going to marry him >.< And then there was the Cha-cha workshop the Toa Payoh Ward Youth had that our Clementi Ward Youth was invited to join. It was a laugh, because everyone talked more than they danced, and we came out of the workshop without a clue how to Cha-cha. The selection of songs during the dances don't really favour partner dances anyway, but mostly likely because the DJs have been smart enough to know that the majority of the crowd aren't craving partner dances in the first place XD

Ok, I'm overusing the "XD" emoticon.

Anyway, I guess the point I failed to make was that the dance at Tsun Jin was a refreshing experience for me. It has me all fired up to go learn more social dances. I just need the money to start trickling in haha. Thankfully there's potential work for me at a certain upcoming Tuition Centre next January heh heh. Making cards is just not worth the time unless people are willing to pay $10 for a card.

I've got a busy week ahead. Hanging out with old friends while working towards a Driver's Licence is tiring.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thanks to the Wonders of Blogger...

...despite supposedly not having access to the internet at the point in time at which this post appears online, I can still tell the world that at this point in time, I'm most likely sitting on a bus, losing a battle to keep her out of my mind for just a precious few seconds. Precious few seconds needed to let logic help me see reason.

All thoughts of her are blinding, and therein lies the danger.

Will I be able to overcome myself and keep a distance? That is the issue I'm most likely grappling with right now.

That or I'm sleeping on the bus.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Exhausted

I had an awesome time with the Clementi Ward Youth today when we had an unofficial outing at Orchard Road. Took lots of photos, but the camera stupidly runs on batteries when I connect the cable to transfer photos, and it has run out of battery before I was able to transfer the photos >.<

Was late for Grad Night after that. I just realized my ACS Barker Road days have come to a close. I'm too tired to ponder on this new stage of my education in Singapore, but all I can say is that Singapore is doing too good a job rooting me here, because deep down inside, I know I actually want to come back to Singapore as soon as possible when I make the trip back to KL tomorrow.

The four LDS Barker Boys who have hopefully left behind some sort of legacy in ACS Barker Road that has touched lives the way all Latter-Day Saints should.

Sigh.