Tuesday, August 30, 2005

the case of the missing plectrum

Every guitarist will be able to relate to the problem of the missing pick.

I've just lost my 2nd one in the span of 4 months, since I picked up the instrument.

My friends tell me that it's common to lost your plectrum and not be able to find them back.

Maybe guitar shops should sell picks in bulk, so that we can keep a year's supply ready at hand, just in case.

Or they should have DIY pick machines or something, where you just pour some molten substance into whatever mould you want and voila! you have your own custom-made pick, in whatever colour or shape you wish, as long as they can be used to strum the guitar :)

Monday, August 29, 2005

watashi wa kawaii desu

I don't mean to rant. Really. It's not me anyways. :D

I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but this Jap thingy is taking a toll on me. I'm beginning to wonder if it's worth the trouble... and money.

1) Most Jap uni websites are in Japanese. Whatever links they have in English do not seem to be a direct translation of the original Jap pages.

2) I have great respect for Japan, the people from the Land of the Rising Sun and their refined culture, but a minority (of which I've encountered) seem to be a little "cold" when they find out youI don't speak their language.

3) The scholarship (if I get it) includes a 6 months language training before the course proper. I doubt it will prepare me to write a thesis in Japanese! There's a great possibility I might just have to start attending classes beforehand...

4) Medical examinations are not cheap. Blood tests, urine tests, liver tests, ECG, x-ray scans set me back about rm150. Good news is, I know I have no major health problems :p

5) And apparently, the admission deadline for a certain university was in July. The professor from Hitotsubashi was also surprised that it was even before the preliminary selections were made for the scholarship. I'm supposed to check back with the Embassy on this, whose people are, let's just say, proud of their language. Waitaminute, these aren't Japanese. The staff there are actually Malaysians! And they're so action just because they know Jap and I don't

Excuse me while I go rest my head. I can't take the headaches anymore. :p

6) And before I forget, I think I'll have to make a trip down to Singapore end of next month. Another uni is making their rounds in a few Asian countries as part of their MBA tour. Unfortunately, Malaysia is notOur southern neighbour is one of them. Now, I must commend the IUJ staff for taking the effort to reply my emails, and welcoming me to visit their booth when I'm down there.

I really must go. If the Japs read this, they might just petition to have me off the preliminary selection list. No matter how much I spent on those bloody tests, it just ain't worth it. Again, let me reiterate how much I love the Japanese! :D

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

jazz with the apu

collage - jazz fest finale

I know this is long overdue, so promise to come back with more than a one-liner :)

Welcome back, to me.

I wanna write and rave about the Aseana Percussion Unit. In fact, I was halfway doing it this morning when suddenly the 15th floor's electricity supply decided to go haywire. It was only our floor which was affected. Half the lights were on, the other half blinking, halfway deciding whether to go off or not. The electrician blamed it on the Hungwy Ghost Festival.

Anyways, I'm more than a week behind for this post. The Japanese scholarship thingy caught my attention and time. I don't know whether I should be happy that I got through this round, seeing that my lack of the language may well hinder me from pursuing this a step further. But I shall leave that for another story another time. Perhaps you can buy me a drink and I'll entertain you with my explanation as to why God certainly has a sense of humour.

But I digress.

Aseana Percussion Unit, or at least the Sunrise Jazz And Rhythm Fest 2005 deserves this post. First caught sight of them during the Jazz Fest last year. I wasn't into jazz at that time. I've just recently learnt to appreciate this form of "unstructured" music, and I must say I still cannot get what makes jazz.

As a classically trained pianist, I can identify structures, orders, patterns and well, basically that which makes it easy for people to say "Oh, that's baroque" or "Definitely Bach, no mistake about that one". With jazz, I crack my head trying to figure out how to make jazz music. Where's the sequence? Where does what I just heard come in again?

Since I have no answers, I decide to just relax and enjoy jazz. With excellent music sponsored by Sunrise, it's like godsend. This is not some music exam, I'm not required to fill in jazzy chords or jazz up an otherwise ordinary piece. This is a jazz fest, I just need to chill out and immerse myself in the music.

And chill I did. It was great seeing more people this time around. Perhaps because it was the finale. Restaurants around the stage was enjoying a roaring business, thanks to the people who had no choice but to sit at their tables enjoy fine foods. My frends and I decided to grab a chair near the back, where we could choose to order from any outlets.

I felt so detached from the happenings in front that I decided that this wasn't the way to enjoy music. Alvink and I joined the group sitting on the floor right in front of the stage. He managed to get pretty kewl shots of the Aseana Percussion Unit. There were about 10 members altogether, all dressed in white. Bathed in crimson and deep purple, they stood out, each with their own instruments.

Everyone seemed to be playing together at the same time, and yet there was a sense of harmonious blend. It wasn't a messy cacophony, but wonderfully fused music created with various instruments. They looked like they were at home jamming away. Instruments, ethnic and modern, were all over the place. Even the band leader (well, he looked like one!) was trying not to trip over the wires lying everywhere.

They seemed to be having the time of their lives making music. Each instrument was given its due recognition, having its own solo moments. They are as varied as the multiracial members that play them, ranging from the Indian tabla and taviel to the Malay kompang and gendang, from the Chinese traditional er-hu to the modernday violin.

I wish I can go into the technicalities of their brand of music. But what I can say is, I'm astounded by their sheer ability to make beautiful music using drums and percussions. You'll be blown away by this talented group, whose music are unexpectedly delightful and at the same time, refreshingly different. Try listening to some of their pieces, and you'll understand why some people can't just get enough of them!

Monday, August 22, 2005

bloody tests

I just went for another round of blood drawing this morning. All because of the GPT! Since blood = life, I felt like my life was being drained out of me, test tubed and sent away, never to be seen again.

The first time I did it, I almost fainted at the sight of the deep maroon liquid swirling in the test tube. I know, I bleed every month, but this isn't the same mar :p

That got me thinking about my fears - if I wasn't hemophobic and acrophobic, I'd be a bungee-jumping physician... or maybe a flying doctor in the jungles of Borneo!

By the way, I did not have to lie down after the bloody experience. I got braver the 2nd time around! :D

Friday, August 19, 2005

prelim selection 2

Guess wot? I just found out that I only have to submit my "Health Certificate" by the 26th. I still have time to find the supervisor and apply to the relevant university. *Phew!*

Some issues here, which I need help on :

1) Does anyone know how to read Japanese? I need to download some form to apply for my entrance examination at this link given by the Jap professor from Hitotsubashi University : http://www.cm.hit-u.ac.jp/kyouiku/mcm/exam.html. Apparently I need to do this by the 1st week of Sept, without which I can't gain entry to the university. I have a rough translation of the page, but it makes no sense!

2) What is GPT? This term was grouped together with my ESR, WBC count and Hemoglobin in the "Certificate of Health" form, even my doctor and the lab don't know what it stands for. After googling, I found that it is also called ALT, alanine aminotransferase.

Anyone who can assist me in the above areas, pls contact me ya. Much appreciated. :)

Monday, August 15, 2005

prelim selection

I tell you, so tension when I saw the white envelope lying on the coffeetable when I got home on Friday. Just minutes before that I was talking to Vince K, telling him that I might just forget about going to Japan. They had not gotten back to me in more than a month.

Lo and behold, with trembling hands, I felt the envelope and its contents from the outside. It was a bit bulky. If it was a reject letter, it should only contain 2 pages, max. But maybe this was something else. I dare not imagine, my wild imagination tends to disappoint me!

So I sat down and opened the envelope. I quickly scanned the words, trying not to see the words "We regret to inform you that your application...", just like what I got for my Chevening scholarship letters 3 years back.

But guess wot? This is the first paragraph :

...we are pleased to inform you that the Scholarship Interviewing Board has decided to nominate you to the Government of Japan for the final selection of scholarship candidates. For your information, the Monbukagakusho will finalize the decision the earliest in February 2006. Once we obtain the final result, we will forward it to you immediately.

And in the following paragraphs, they listed down the documents to be finalised by the 26th August. I was like, OMG!! If you knew what I had to do in 2 weeks' time, you would agree that I need a miracle.

First of all, I had to do a medical checkup, which wasn't too much of a problem, even if I have this slightest fear just looking at blood. The one thing which was more important was the Letter of Acceptance from the Jap Uni I had stated in my application forms.

There is just minor a problem here. Due to his hectic schedule, my Jap professor from MMU recommended me his peer in Japan only after I had sent in my forms. This particular professor is not from the university I mentioned earlier, as I had no idea this uni even offered the course I wanted in the first place! And secondly, I have to submit the full set of documents which I had earlier sent in during my interview, to the above university, together with a certificate of preliminary selection from the Embassy, in order for the uni to issue me a Letter of Acceptance.

And how am I going to do all these by the 26th? By God's amazing grace, of course! :D

clear skies again

This is the day that the Lord has made, and indeed it is beautiful!

Can't even begin to express my delight at seeing the brilliant colours God painted in the sky today.

Such a stark difference to the smog filled landscape that all of us in the Klang Valley had to endure for the past 2 weeks.

What a fantastic way to start the week off!

Here's to more bright sunny days to you, and you, and you :)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

hazy quizy

A little quiz with regards to the latest happenings in the country. Please do this while visibility is still good. Soon you might not even be able to see your hand.

1) Why so misty?

A) Open burning in Cyberjaya
B) Forest fire in Indonesia
C) Biological attack by terrorists
D) It's an optical illusion. Something wrong with your eyes

2) What can I do?

A) Drink more water
B) Rub your eyes
C) Stay at home, stock up on food and supplies
D) Join the Al-Qaeda and die fighting

3) Why is the gamen not doing anything about the haze?

A) Conspiracy with pharmaceutical companies selling masks/medicine
B) Give rakyat the illusion they're in Genting/Cameron/Frasers
C) Top gamen people not in country to experience haze
D) Indon brothers already apologised. All is forgiven

4) What is the colour of the sky?

A) Yellowish brown
B) Greenish yello
C) Greyish purple
D) A watercolour blend of all of the above

5) Who is responsible for the haze?

A) Poor farmers who 'slash and burn'
B) Natural process due to current changes in weather
C) Smokers, emissions from vehicles & factories
D) Haze? What haze?

6) Is this a sign of...?

A) the end times
B) war of the worlds
C) dementia
D) bad eyesight

There is no right or wrong answers. You can even tick all the answers. But the most important thing is, please have fun while you still can. News at 2pm reports that the gamen has declared a state of emergency for Kuala Selangor and Port Klang. Their API's have reached past the 500 mark as at 11am. Oh, I beterg o, I'm losing wight of what i'm gyping.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

jazz with mr gambus

After a series of impromptu arrangements with various people, I finally got myself to the Jazz Fest!

Was supposed to celebrate Connee's birthday, but she couldn't make it. So it was just me and the grrls (my ex-housemates from uni) this time. It was great chilling out and listening to good music. We actually have really talented local musicians, they just need our support to grow and develop further.

Arriving near the backstage just when the 1st act was playing their last piece

It was my first time hearing this guy called Mr Gambus, let alone watch him work his magic on the strings! He's passionate about using the local instrument to play jazz and wants to bring it to a higher level. Apparently he's very famous abroad, it's such a pity not many have heard of him locally.

mr gambus and his gambus
He really looks like he's enjoying himself performing up there

My apologies, I was too engrossed with the music from where I was sitting, that I didn't want to move my butt to take a better picture of him and his band. They are that good. I should have had the guts to go near the stage to take shots of them in action.

mr gambus and his guitar
He's as versatile on a traditional instrument as he is on a modern one

One of my grrlfriends immediately bought 2 of his CD's just as his band was about to perform. After the performance, we quickly went backstage to get some autographs and pictures with the band. If I'm not mistaken, the drummer is Jose Thomas' son, and the keyboardist is from Beijing.

the mr gambus band
(L-R) : terror saxophonist, impressive bassist, the Mr Gambus, talented keyboardist, hot drummer

Again, I was too impressed with their musical skills that I did not hear Mr Gambus introduce them one by one. Personally I thought the keyboardist rawked - I can relate to that because it's the only instrument I play! But I'm also beginning to appreciate the other instruments as I get more involved in the worship team. There's just something about the kind of music that is produced when everyone works in perfect harmony.

keyboardist from beijing?
We actually "stalked" the keyboardist to have a photo with him!

Oh well, it was a great night, despite the humidity and the many many human beings that were there to be seen just to chill out. We should have more of these. Thanks to Sunrise, we got to listen to great music at no cost. Well, maybe add a little for parking and food.

Jazz Fest comes to an end this weekend. Come and have a fantabulous time, bring your parents, uncle, aunty, granma, granpa, kittens, pet lizard, next door neighbour, newspaper man, and... you get my point. :D

Monday, August 08, 2005

vietnam kitchen

I have this habit of sharing food with friends. One, I think it's always better to have a variety of food for a more fulfilling gastronomic experience. Secondly, there is no issue of food going to waste. A lot of eateries these days seem to cater for the American tummy. TGIF's and Chili's are good examples.

Having said that, let me share with you my recent makan session at Vietnam Kitchen. I've been to their Taipan outlet with my family before, and found their offerings to be rather authentic. There are some Vietnamese restaurants with seemingly oriental ambience and menus, but pale in comparison when it comes to the real deal.

Most restaurants have a similar theme and layout in all their branches, but I was surprised to find that the 1Utama outlet looked really different from its sister branch in Subang. Chernie wanted something "rice or noodle", so we decided to stop by and check out their food. I did have quite an ok experience in Subang, and wondered if this was as good.

glowing farmers' hats
Glowing farmer's hats neatly arranged in rows form the decor for the side wall

It has a dark exterior with lots of wood and warm colours, accentuated by non-oriental interior design. The other wall had these purple cheese-holes for partitions, and paper lanterns adorning the center.

cheese-holes and whatnots
This must be the modern version of Vietnamese interior design

We quickly sat down to order our food when we realised we must've looked like suaku's taking pictures of the place. For appetizers we had the Fried Mango-Banana Shrimp Roll, which was something new for me. One roll had bananas wrapped with fresh shrimps, while the other had yummy mangos also with shrimps, spinkled with something which tasted like wheatgerm.

mango-banana shrimp roll
This is one appetizer you must check out, it's recommended!

Both tasted good with the right amount of mayo. I had the water chestnut drink with what looked like egg pieces swirled in the glass while Chernie had Chinese tea which she claimed was actually Jasmine tea.

We shared the Seafood Fried Noodle for the main course. It looks like our Chinese Yee Mee, except that their noodle is slightly harder in texture. Served with generous amounts of broccoli, calamari, green pepper and more shrimps, it was just nice for the both of us.

seafood fried noodle
The Vietnamese version of our Yee Mee

Before we left, we decided to take one more picture. For this, I had to endure the stares of patrons sitting near the bar. But at least I got one which showed the other part of the restaurant, where the theme was bamboos with backlights and heart shaped tanglungs.

one last picture
Heart shaped tanglungs at the bar

All in all, it was a really good meal. Much better than most Vietnamese restaurants around the Klang Valley, not that I've been to all of them! But looking from the queue that lined up waiting outside the restaurant, and the gorgeous looking food everyone else was eating, I give it 3.75 stars.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

he ain't heavy

I'm happy. :) Eve said she will "take care" of my brother while he's based in Singapore.

I messaged her about my brother working there, and to ask her to look him up. After all, this is his first time going overseas by himself, and he was really looking forward to it. It would be a good chance for him to be (more) independent. I know he's enjoying this short-lived sense of freedom!

He hasn't been going to church for some time already, so I was quite worried that it would be even easier for him to stray if he's away like this. Thank God Eve managed to talk to him, and got him to share some stuff. At least he's opening up a little.

I guess, maybe God's using this opportunity to, well.. to draw my brother back to Him. I don't know, it's quite hard, on the rest of us, we've been praying for my brother for years. I really hope something good's gonna come out of this.

When I see whole families going to church together, I want that for my family as well. The only memory I have of us doing that was many years ago. I would like to relive that memory again. And yes, that's my prayer right now.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

palatable plucking

Guitar learning has been getting more fun of late. There was that initial period of excitement and anticipation of learning new stuff. Then came the period where it wasn't so shiok anymore because fingers were getting painful, there were more things to catch up whenever classes are missed, and discipline was required in order to stay on top of par with the rest of the class.

Now I'm slowly beginning to see the fruits of my classes. We're entering the 2nd semester and things are gradually picking up. Learning more chords and various strums. It's such joy just getting them right and listening to nice music coming out from the guitar.

I must confess I am nowhere near performance level, I always play better when I'm practicing alone. I get a little nervous in class, especially with that grrl who's supposed to be in the intermediate class. She seems to already know whatever the teacher's teaching. I secretly think she's there to give the rest of us unnecessary pressure. Maybe my teacher paid her to sit in and show off her skills, so the rest of us have no choice but to buck up. In a way we're actually better than the other beginner's class.

2 weeks ago, we started plucking. I find it quite tough controlling the fingers to pluck at the right string. At this point of time, the challenge is to get the left fingers to get the right chords, and the right fingers to pluck the right string for the various inversions, and at the same time concentrating on the score sheet in front of me.

Our first plucking piece was "As The Deer". We started with strums, slow ones, and it was ok. But once I picked up plucking, it became apparent that plucking was reallllly nice! Just perfect for this sorta song.

Just hearing the raw tones vibrate through the instrument is good enough to motivate me to better myself. It's still a long way more before I can even play smoothly. But as they say, practice makes perfect. It's still painful, still frustrating at times, but I think more palatable music's on the way :D