Thursday, 31 January 2013

Bird bird, why you no wake up??

When words are best left unexpressed, when expressions are best left unworded....

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Of missing children

You know, missing children is nothing new in this country. William Yau is just one addition to an alarming list of children that have gone missing. And why do I say alarming? Because the list is ever growing and we do not know how long it is. For every child that had been reported missing and publicised in the media, including the Internet, there must be at least one missing child that we do not know about. Or care about. And this is the real tragedy.

Nobody knows the anguish better than the parents of the child that goes missing. And when the realisation sets in that the child is indeed gone forever, the deep feeling of guilt must be truly indescribable. It creates a psychological scar that is impossible to heal. So let me say this to the insensitive outsiders who continue to pass unwarranted judgment on the parents: please don't. There is already a permanent hurt. Give them space to grieve in private. After all, they will have to live with it until the end of their days. I doubt the passing of time can improve matters for them.

When I was reading the stories of the hunt for the missing William, my thoughts immediately went back to the time when my son was three years old. At this age, boys are beginning to be playful. That's alright with me. Boys have to be playful. It's part of growing up. But they lack the sense of danger because at this age, they live in a state of naiveness. They won't know danger until danger visits them and teaches them.

In my son's case, he chose to play hide and seek with us in a department store. One moment he was with me, the next moment he had hidden himself completely behind a clothes line. I had always known where he was but this time, the clothes were so thick that I couldn't find him. My reaction was to call out to him but he being mischievous, he refused to answer me.

He didn't know it then but I was frantic. My heart did not skip a beat. In fact, it skipped many beats. But my wits were still with me. Luckily, we were at a secluded spot in the department store, almost a cul-de-sac. There weren't any other customer. Come to think of it, no sales person either. He wouldn't be able to run out to another area of the store without passing my wife. So I stationed her there while I went searching for my son among the rows of clothes lines.

I saw some rustling and zoomed in. Parted the clothes and there he was, looking at me and about to begin laughing. Inwardly, I heaved a big sigh of relief. But this was an incident that couldn't go unpunished. So down came my hand and I thwacked him hard on his bottom. He was surprised. He thought he was being clever playing hide and seek with us, and not getting found out for a while. And now he was being punished. Must have hurt badly too because he started crying. I picked him up and then came the explanation why he must never, never do such a thing in public again.

That brief incident has stayed with us all this while. Since then, every time we learnt about a child going missing, the moment comes back to us. It never fails to. So you see, we know how parents feel like when their child goes missing. Luckily for us, it was only a fleeting moment. But it was enough to teach us an invaluable lesson that if anything can go wrong, it can.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

First full moon of 2013

I woke up at about six o'clock this morning to the moonlight streaming in through the windows and realised that despite the full moon occurring three days ago, our nearest celestial neighbour was still round enough to impress me. Grabbed my camera to take a few snapshots before the moon disappeared in the brightening sky. It is times like this when I yearn to own a digital SLR camera with a long telephoto lens... 

Monday, 28 January 2013

Scene from Equatorial

Honestly, I never thought that I would get to see this breath-taking view again. Normally, I wouldn't have any more reason to go to the Hotel Equatorial in Bukit Jambul, Penang; not ever since I retired at the end of 2009. But there I was with my wife yesterday to listen to Joey Yap's annual seminar on fengshui and astrology.

Like I mentioned on facebook, this is Joey Yap's 15 seconds of fame with me. Ha ha...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Flying AirAsia or JetStar?

I happened to be away from Penang earlier this week. Caught an AirAsia flight on the way out on Sunday and returned by JetStar on Tuesday. This was only the third time that I had flown by Jetstar while returning from Singapore.

In my opinion, JetStar's cabin services remain far more superior to AirAsia's. Their cabin crew are much more polite and helpful. Without being asked, they would unhesitatingly help the passengers with stowing away their bags in the overhead compartments, whereas AirAsia's cabin crew would invariably just stand and watch the passengers struggle on their own. Big plus point for Jetstar.

That's one of my two main reasons that sets the two airlines apart. The other reason?

Jetstar uses the aerobridge at the Penang International Airport while AirAsia forces their passengers to walk up and down some flights of stairs just to get into their aircraft. It precludes and discriminates the elderly from flying their airline. This was actually my primary concern last year when I brought my aunt and my in-laws to Singapore for a holiday. Choosing Jetstar over AirAsia became a no brainer.

It is a very stupid policy by AirAsia. It has been mentioned before by the media - for example, here and here - that the cost is only about 25 cents per passenger to use the aerobridge based on a full load of passengers. Apparently, AirAsia looks too stingy to fork out this amount, true to their low-cost business model, but in the process they inconvenience and alienate a significant segment of those who want to fly with them.

If I have a choice, I wouldn't use AirAsia and I know that I do have a choice on the Penang-Singapore sector.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

KL 112

Stadium Merdeka and the surrounds, as far as the eye can see.

Stadium Merdeka at 2.30p.m. today...

Stadium Merdeka at 1.58p.m. today...

I'm sure there will be still some people who would claim that these pictures, as well as many others, were doctored.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Black dog and Kashmir

Of course there will be people who will disagree with me but when I say that they are the "best band ever," I really mean it. Here are two official videos from Led Zeppelin's Celebration Day website. Play them loud.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Li Chun, 2013

I was bounding down the stairs this morning when I bumped into my aunt. Evidently, she had been waiting patiently for me to come down. Her first words: "What time is Li Chun 立春 this year?"

"Why do you want to know so early?" I asked back. "It's still more than three weeks away."

"I just need to know, that's why" was her reply. Faced with this obstinacy but indisputable reason from her, I had no choice but to reverse myself and creep back upstairs to my study area and search for my once-a-year reference book, Joey Yap's The Ten Thousand Year Calendar. Found it.

I flipped it open to the page on Year 2013. Couldn't find the date. Then I realised that Li Chun, the Coming of Spring, for 2013 was on the preceding page (on Year 2012). The book was arranged according to the Chinese lunar months and as this year's Li Chun will fall even before the first day of the new lunar calendar, the day wouldn't show on the Year 2013 page. So there it was, finally, Li Chun falling on 4 Feb 2013 which corresponds with the 24th day of the 12th lunar month. The exact time of Li Chun will be 00:15 on that day, that is, 15 minutes past midnight.

So I came downstairs again to let my aunt know. Her second request: the next time I go over to the island, she wanted me to go to her regular joss stick shop to pick up several pieces of the red paper with the Chinese character Chun  to stick on the family rice bucket when the day comes rolling by. I wouldn't dare ask her why she needed so many pieces when one would do. I can anticipate her answer: "to keep, lah, it won't spoil one." Irrefutable logic.

Past entries:
Li Chun, 2012
Li Chun, 2011
Li Chun, 2010
Li Chun, 2009
Li Chun, 2008
Li Chun, 2007

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Celebration Day: reliving the Seventies with Led Zeppelin

I was at the Artist Gallery yesterday, the one at the Gurney Plaza, Penang. I waltzed in, saw a box set on the shelf, smoothly picked it up and promptly walked to the payment counter. The girls behind the counter observed my every move, especially since I was hardly browsing the store at all.

Their eyes lit up when they saw what I had brought along. One of them quickly ran to the front of the counter to confirm that there was another copy of the box set left. Yes, there was.

Noticing my raised eyebrows at their strange reaction, they quickly explained that the box set I picked up - which comprised two CDs and two DVDs - was one of their fastest selling items lately. They said that at first, the store had brought in three copies of the box set but they sold out quickly within two or three days. So the store ordered another seven copies. My copy was the sixth sold from the second batch.

The funny thing was, they did not understand why this box set was so popular. They were utterly baffled. I don't blame them because they are so much younger than the youngest musicians featured in the box set. They would hardly be aware of the status of this band. I didn't tell them, but I was surprised that there were actually more people in Penang than I could give credit to that were fans of Led Zeppelin. We sure have good taste in rock music. Welcome to the club.

So this was the box set that I picked up at the music store: Led Zeppelin's Celebration Day which was recorded live at the O2 Arena in London on 10 Dec 2007. This was a one-off reunion concert of the last three surviving members of, in my opinion, the greatest rock band in music history. I did not know that the box set had only been released in November; so I must have been very lucky that the Artist Gallery unknowingly carried the title and that I happened to walk in while the box set was still available.

The reason why I was so prompt to buy the box set was because I have been aware of the concert since 2007. BTW, I wrote about it in Oct 2007 which you can read here. At that time, I was also rather envious of the 18,000 people who managed to buy the concert tickets. A Led Zeppelin concert, let alone a reunion concert. In 1969, Led Zeppelin opened my mind to rock music. Of course, there were other genres of music like pop, but rock music generally still had little following in my island of Penang. I could never forget the occasions I heard Whole Lotta Love over the airwaves, courtesy of Radio RAAF Butterworth. It thrilled me to no end.

Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980 following the death of their drummer, John Bonham. Sporadically, the remaining members had still come together for some short reunions but nothing really compared with the one at the O2 Arena in London. That it had taken so long - five years - for this concert to be even released surprises me.

I must say that the music on this box set is excellent. John Paul Jones did a marvellous job with his throbbing bass lines. Jimmy Page continued to show off his wizardry, squeezing out every imaginable note from the guitars. Robert Plant was still in full control of his voice and reminded the audience why he remained one of the finest rock singers in the world. Jason Bonham turned in an incredible performance worthy of his father.

My breath was already taken away when I listened to the two CDs on my car audio and then through my home audio system but my admiration for the music of Led Zeppelin was complete when I finally managed to play the DVDs at home and sit through the full concert.

There was such an incredible display of power and musicianship. Staggering, considering that these were three senior-aged men - in 2007, Jimmy Page was already 64 years old, Robert Plant 60 years old, John Paul Jones 62 years old - who were joined on stage by a comparatively youthful Jason Bonham at 42 years old. Today, as I add a further five years to their ages, I continue to appreciate the music of Led Zeppelin.

So what are on the CDs and the DVDs? Basically, the same set of songs for either an audio or visual feast. You take your pick. But you get two hours of solid rock music. Sixteen songs that could be considered the cream from nine studio albums.

The concert opened with Good Times, Bad Times, which was the first song from their very first album, Led Zeppelin, and this was followed by Ramble On from Led Zeppelin II and Black Dog from their untitled fourth album. Like I mentioned earlier, Jason Bonham did a very fine job attacking the skins, ala his father.

In quick succession after a brief greeting of Good Evening from Plant, the band followed with In My Time Of Dying from Physical Graffiti, For Your Life from Presence, Trampled Under Foot from Physical Graffiti, Nobody's Fault But Mine from Presence, No Quarter from Houses Of The Holy, Since I've Been Loving You from Led Zeppelin III, Dazed And Confused from Led Zeppelin, the anthemic Stairway To Heaven from the fourth album, The Song Remains The Same from Houses Of The Holy, Misty Mountain Hop from the fourth album and Kashmir from Physical Graffiti.

There were two encores that closed the concert: their signature Whole Lotta Love from Led Zeppelin II which defined their music for me and Rock And Roll from the fourth album. Wonderful...

Monday, 7 January 2013

Lotus in bloom

I was at the Nandaka Vihara yesterday morning and one of the first things I noticed was this very spectacular lotus flower in full bloom at their lotus pond.

What was interesting about this lotus pond was that it was covered with a wire mesh to prevent the fishes from jumping out of the pond. The lotus plants were all matured and there were two or three blooms trapped beneath the mesh. However, there was this one singular flower that the temple coordinators had set free, allowing it to bloom above the mesh. This was the lotus flower that had caught my eye. This was the lotus flower that I'd like to share with everyone.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

The anti-bullshit boys

At the reading of selected articles from Kee Thuan Chye's latest book, Ask For No Bullshit, Get Some More, at the Borders bookstore in Queensbay Mall on 5 Jan 2013.

Left to right: Lam Yoong Koy, Yeoh Oon Hup, Andrew Choong, Lim Teik Wah, Quah Seng Sun and Ooi Ling Heong with Kee Thuan Chye (seated)

Left to right: Quah Seng Sun, Kee Thuan Chye, Lim Teik Wah, Yeoh Oon Hup, Ooi Kah Theang, Ooi Ling Heong and Andrew Choong

Nightcap at the OFA Restaurant: Ooi Ling Heong, Lim Teik Wah, Kee Thuan Chye, Ooi Kah Theang, Andrew Choong, Yeoh Oon Hup and Quah Seng Sun

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A New Year wish fulfilled?

Two days ago, I mentioned in this blog that my wish for 2013 would be to see a more efficient Province Wellesley Municipal Council (Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai, MPSP) in relation to upkeeping the cleanliness of my Taman Jernih neighbourhood in Bukit Mertajam. I couldn't imagine then, as I write this piece today, that the story had been read more than a hundred times already.

But action has been taken - swiftly. One of my old friends, Jeffrey, posted up my story on facebook and almost immediately, I was contacted by Steven Sim, one of the MPSP councillors, for details, which I promptly gave him.

And soon enough, he told me that the sweeping contractors, Syarikat Hasbina, do come round to my neighbourhood every Wednesday at around 10 o'clock in the morning. [This actually begs another question: why are the sweepers contracted to come only once a week? It should be a daily job.]

Anyhow, I've got to thank Steven for this quick response. I told him that I would try to keep an eye out for them on Wednesdays. But of course, like I mentioned before in my earlier story, I'm not one who will normally wait to look at life crawling by past my windows. I won't be watching out for them purposely from my windows or stand watching from my house porch for the sweepers to come by. I shall take his word for it that the contracted workers will come to Lorong Jernih 4 and sweep the road clean.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New year resolution

I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2012 oops, I mean 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook
I must remember to write 2013 in my chequebook

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

My New Year wish

Uhm, good morning. I know that many of you visitors are expecting to find all sorts of fun, bright or interesting static or even interactive graphics celebrating the New Year in every new post that appears on blogs on the first day of a new year. Well, sorry, I don't have them. Always a graphics noob, I find it a problem trying to design something new and I loathe copying other people's work. Gave it up several years ago when I found it difficult to grapple with graphics programs. Even Microsoft's Paint program can cause me difficulties at times. Duh is the word to describe me! So let me just shout out a simple Happy New Year text message, and may you enjoy great happiness and blessings in 2013.

But I do know what I want to wish for on the first day of the brand new year. It is for the Province Wellesley Municipal Council (Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Prai, MPSP, to those people who don't know what I'm referring to) to show more efficiency in their work. Why do I say this? It's because last night, I shot off an email to to complain about their workers not doing their job in my neighbourhood.

Of all the roads in my neighbourhood, the cleanliness of my road has been neglected by the road sweepers. Don't get me wrong: I do see the MPSP workers sweep the roads in my housing area but in the eight years that I've been staying in Bukit Mertajam, I have only noticed them sweeping my road once. (Maybe that's my - wait for it: The Malaysian Insider's Word of the Year - "perception". I don't normally wait to look at life crawling by past my windows.) And that came only after my wife had spoken to someone at the Council and somebody popped along to my house almost immediately to ask me whether I had any complaint to make. I said: "Yes, I need your people to sweep this road." And off he went. And you know what? The next morning, I noticed these two fellas sweeping the road. Never noticed them coming back ever since....

Of course, this does not mean that the condition of the road is in a mess. On the contrary, the residents along the road have been doing the upkeep of the areas outside our own houses by ourselves. But this cannot go on forever. We, as ratepayers, want the MPSP to do their job efficiently, what with the Cleaner, Greener Penang tagline the state has adopted. So can we have that from you please, MPSP?

Speaking of the country's biggest municipal council, I went to their headquarters yesterday afternoon in order to pay the assessment bill on my property. Why didn't I do it online, as inquired by some friends on facebook, people like Jeffrey, Mah Jin Khai, Ted Targosz, Ong Chong Eu and Steven Sim. Well, the MPSP had an offer to place ratepayers who pay their Year 2013 assessment in full before the end of 2012 into a lucky draw contest this month or next month. As the prizes seemed to be quite attractive enough, why not give it a shot and go settle my assessment bill in full?

Apparently, hundreds of people must have had the same idea too. The moment I stepped into the building at 3.06p.m. and pressed the queue button for my ticket, this chit of paper came out: my number in the queue was 6937 but the number that was being served was 6574. I tell you, it did not have to take a mathematics professor to deduce that there were 363 people ahead of me, all wanting and waiting to pay their bills because of the magical deadline for the lucky draw. And there were a few people in the crowd who were visibly holding on to three or four or more assessment bills to pay at the same time. Who says that only the Singaporeans are kiasu? Nah, this was an original trait of the Malayans and the Malaysians, but now proudly proclaimed by the Singaporeans to be theirs.

So I settled down into a chair. Having driven through one end of Bukit Mertajam to the other in heavy traffic, I was determined to stay put here in the MPSP hall until my number was called at the payment counters. Yessiree, no way was I giving up my chance of a lucky draw. Luckily I had the presence of mind to arm myself with the ipad in which I could read my online newspapers in peace. In peace, that is, if I can ignore the people looking over my shoulders.

Gradually the crowd started to dwindle as time moved on. Most had disappeared because their bills had been paid; many having paid their bills were lingering to be registered for the lucky draw and claim their free gift from the Council as well; and a few were left still waiting to willingly empty their pockets into the Council's coffers. I glanced at the wall counter. My number was slowing coming up. It was almost like waiting for the year-end countdown at the Esplanade or Gurney Drive or Straits Quay or up Penang Hill, only that this wasn't much exciting at all. By the time my number was called, it was about 5.10p.m. Ten minutes later, I was out of the MPSP building, clutching a booklet of parking coupons (that's all?), a reward for my patience, sufferance, endurance, perseverance, staying power and kiasuism. Don't you think so? Please agree with me, won't you?