Sunday, January 28, 2007

All I Once Held Dear...

All I once held dear, built my life upon

All this world reveres, and wars to own

All I once thought gain I have counted loss

Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you,

There is no greater thing

You're my all, you're the best

You're my joy, my righteousness

And I love you, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know you more

To be found in you and known as yours

To possess by faith what I could not earn

All-surpassing gift, of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life

And to know you in your suffering

To become like you in your death, my Lord

So with you to live and never die

The above is one of my favourite modern hymns.. the lyrics speak volume. And they meant even more as I sang it this morning at church..

As I rededicated my life and my all to the Lord the beginning of this year, I am determined to not let this `decision' wane.. it happened always in the past. And what's more powerful than being reminded again that this life is but a passing phase.

Why are we so concerned about things of this world - be it pleasure, possessions or positions.. Most of us have more than enough but enough is never enough.. and it seems the norm to better ourself or to seek for career fulfilment and success. And that has become our focus and priority in life.

God and the Kingdom's matters meanwhile, become more like our favourite pastime..

Pastor pointed out quite correctly that in most churches, there is a gap of worshippers between 30-40 years-old. That's because they are just too busy either climbing the career ladder or building up a family..

No, I don't think Pastor is being extreme or putting us on a guilt trip.. i believe the key words here are PRIORITY and OBJECTIVE. What are our priorities and objectives in life? A high-flying position? an affluent lifestyle? or just to enjoy and be happy?

But.. as it is written in Scriptures, uttered by our Lord Himself is this: What use is it if we gain the whole world but forfeit our soul?

Everything we invest on earth should have eternal value.. something that is pleasing to God. The academic qualifications, wealth or positions we accomplished here is nothing compared to what he wanted us to do: "LOVE GOD AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER" - which can be translated into serving and proclaiming His Gospel.

The fact that so many had fallen short was because we are basically weak, and that's why we need to come to draw ourselves closer to our Lord by reading His Word and praying, everyday.

I know this blog has not had much spiritual content in it so far. But in this new year, I intend to blog more on my spiritual thoughts, as a child of God.

Well, I thought of starting a separate blog.. but then I thought why should I compartmentalise my life.. I'm a Christian first and foremost and as much as I'm a physical and emotional being, I'm also a spiritual being.

So yeah, I think I should not feel shy or ashame to post about the greatest thing about my life and the most meaningful relationship I have.. and I hope that whoever who reads it, Christian or not, would somehow be encouraged or inspired in one way or another.

Like what I had blogged some time back.. there is a time for everything. And now, I believe the time has come for me to write more substantial and heartfelt posts in my blog..

But of course, don't rule out me posting frivolous and shallow stuff here as well. After all, I'm still me - a complex being that is often a paradox. :)

Rain Damper

I am not the most punctual person when it comes to attending press conferences or even interviews.. but in my 15 years or so as a journalist, i could barely recall I've ever missed an entire event..

But I did it today.. for Rain's press conference!! I arrived at the hotel at 1:40pm and the PC just ended minutes ago.

I tell you, I seldom felt so stupid and so angry with myself, and at the same time I also cursed the horrendous Saturday afternoon KL traffic!

It was my fault really. I had all the time to get ready for it. Knowing that the invitation says 1pm, I actually `dilee-deli' and ended up leaving home at 12:50pm. At that time I thought i was still ok as it normally takes less than 30 mins to reach town and press conferences for celebrities NEVER starts on time.

But guess what, this one started pretty on time because Rain was hardpress for time.

It was the longest 50 minutes drive where I had to abandoned the normal way (as the road was sooo jammed) to seek alternative routes and maneauver my car as quickly as possible in the middle of maddening traffic situation.

And when I finally reached the ballroom entrance, everyone was happily having refreshments. The girls at the media registration table gave me an incredulous look and said: `it's just over'.

Great! I actually MISSED Rain's PC and I had no one to blame but my lackadaisical attitude to timing. :((

Being the (ahem) competent journalist as i am, i got all the relavant details from fellow reporters and even dug up stuff like what Rain was wearing, how did he speak, was he friendly etc.. Ok, i think i managed to savage the assignment but I was upset for myself.. I missed seeing Rain face to face and a chance to ask him questions!

Oh, but I managed to catch a glimpse of him as he walked from one room to another for other group interviews, but the media I represented weren't selected for such `privilege'.

So what about the concert itself?

Well, because of the incident earlier, I actually reached Bukit Jalil by 7:30pm - very early by my standard. And spent some time loitering outside chatting with fellow journalists and even `camwhore' with a poster of Rain! (well, that would be the nearest I could get close to him!)

Found out that the editorial coordinator fo the magazine I was freelancing with is Reta the blogger - we also have a mutual friend Jess Tan who works with World Vision (which Rain is now an ambassador of) Such a small world..

Here is a pix of Reta and myself at our seat, me, holding a poster of Rain.

Ok, back to Rain's concert. Just as what I read.. it was a top class production. A beautiful stage design, stunning visual effects and top rate performances. Rain can REALLY dance, and the choreography was nothing short of brilliant and innovative. And he has such good stamina!

I tried to be absorbed into this great visual experience but somehow after a while, the sensation began to numb as the music and songs seemed to be more or less the same. And worse of all, we have no idea what he was singing. There were were English lyrics for a few of the songs. And to be honest, such pop fare was not really my cup of tea..

But you can't deny his enormous popularity.. his fans' response was simply thunderous anad overwelming. Every move he made there were more screams and yelling and he wasn't even taking off his shirt! Speaking of that, I heard our censor had laid out the rules and Malaysian audience won't be privileged enough to see Rain strip.

Yes, he kept his shirt on throughout the concert - the sexiest part must be when he was drenched in rain. And when he wore a singlet to review well-toned biceps, his fans went wild as well!

He teased by shaking his booties and for one of the songs, he did some rather crude pelvic trusting move that again sent his fans into delirium!

From where the media sat, it was hard to get any good photos with a digicam. This one was lifted from the organiser's website - taken in his earlier concert. Here, he was wearing a white shirt - buttoned up.

He may dance like a sex symbol, but when he spoke, he couldn't be more mushy!

"Don't forget I will always be with you my baby. I love you my babies!" He called the audience his `baby'

"I love your face, I love your heart, I love your body", he cooed at one point in his broken American English.. Argghhh, even as a woman, I was cringing. And whatever he said sounded so rehearsed and mechanical.

One thing came through from the show. Rain really tried very hard. He put in a lot of effort to make his show `the best' as he hoped it to be.

But to be honest, I was a little disspointed. I was expecting more - the kind of charisma and appeal and showmanship that exudes from the music and the performer himself.. like Leehom, like David Tao, like Eason and yes, like Alan Tam even...

But Rain? He is still so fresh and he lacks that X-factor. And his music doesn't have soul.
Sure, he is one mean dance machine.. but I don't see more beyond that.. even his vocal was nothing superb.

Now, Rain's fans can kill me but that's how I felt after watching 2 hours of him on stage.. But I guess I couldn't be this honest in my reviews for the publications..

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Torrential Rain!

This is Rain - a 24-year-old bloke from Korea who is taking Asia by storm - and will be sweeping Kuala Lumpur this weekend with the largest ever concert to be held in our country - so promised the organiser.

Unless you have been living in a monastry of some kind, you would not fail to be bombarded by the ever-going on ads on TV and radio, as well as billboards to announce this young pop king's arrival to our shore for a one-night concert as part of his `Rain's Coming' World Tour.

And why am i publicising this concert? No, i'm not a fan of Rain. I think I might be if i'm like 20 years younger.. ok, make that 15 years ;) But like almost everyone who enjoys entertainment, you can't deny that Rain's performance IS something. I mean, the way he dances, the way he moves his body, the way he heats up the stage with his sheer presence - it is unprecedented as far as Asian entertainers are concerned.

This guy is just 24!! And started off as a not so famous actor on television. And suddenly in the last two years, he has created such a storm, so much so that even Time magazine named him as the top 100 influential people in the world (the only artiste form Asia) Hmm.. could it be the name Rain that has brought him luck?

Anyway, yours truly will be hit by the Rain fever this Sat. You see, being an ent. journalist at heart, I won't want to miss out this historical concert. But no I am not gonna pay for someone I don't really know! So the way to go was to cover the story for a publication, and that proved to be not difficult. So much so that it ended up I'm not just covering for one publications but two! A magazine, and a newspaper. That also means more work... and some `sacrifices'.

(btw, Rain is so hot that the concert organisers are not giving out any comp tix to the media at all this time!)

Rain will be holding a press conference on Sat itself. And I was asked to go - well, I would like to go myself too. But the time clashes with my vocal class that I've already missed once this term due to travelling. Sigh.. work being work (althoug it is freelance work), and it's Rain and not any so-called stars.. so after just minutes of deliberations in my head, I promised the magazine ed that I would go for Rain's pc too.

Good thing I made that decision for the newspaper ed also called me to attend both the PC and the concert. And for the paper, I need to file in a newstory on Saturday evening itself to be out in the paper the following day! That means I have to write the story before hand - thank goodness it's just a short captions story - as I won't want to go to the office after the concert! Will have to brief the news editor on the story too from the stadium. And from experience, it's impossible to talk on the phone due to the loudness of the music. we could only sms.

Quite a lot to juggle on Saturday and then have to start working on stories for the paper and the magazine the following days..

All thanks to Rain.

So, the concert better be as explosive as everyone has touted it to be, and Rain himself better blow me away to make me feel doing all these hard work is worth while!

p.s. as of now, i feel quite a lot better but the cough is quite persistent still.. hope i'll be fit enough to handle Rain on Sat!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

self-induced suffering?

Sigh. guess i have over-estimated my health and recover ability.

After one week of first coming down with sorethroat and fever last Tuesday, i finally decided it is time to visit the doctor.

I have been getting medicines from pharmacist as well as from chinese medicinal shop but looks like it is not working. My illness is more serious than that. This morning, my cough got so bad that i felt i was running out of breath and my chest seemed to hurt..

Then i felt so tired and lethargic - something I have been feeling for days - and so much so that I had no energy to write up my articles even, on of which deadline is tomorrow! Today, although i woke up at noon, i had to go rest again after lunch and only woke up in between to see doctor.. and slept again from 5 to 8:30pm.

I think i cant blame not seeing doctor sooner for this. Basically i have not been resting enough.. In fact, everyday i have been out since i fell ill.. sometimes just a couple of hours but usually longer.

AND on top of that i had not been sleeping early! many of the nights were spent either updating my blog with my Bali updates and uploading photos really took a long time! Somehow to me that was so important to do that i was even willing to sacrifice my health for it!!


Doctor seemed to take my illness quite seriously.. asked me lots of questions like "do you have fever on and off? do you have body ache? hows your appetite? etc.." and then he told me that I had virul infection after looking into my throat.. BUT added that he did not rule out dengue! You see, he just had two patients in the neighbourhood who had dengue and one of them died..!

So, after prescribing me loads of medicines - antibiotic and five others - he said if i still do not get better by Sat, i have to go back to him for a thorough medical examination - urine, blood test etc..


But somehow I do not believe it is dengue.. for one i hardly have fever - only twice in the whole week and quite mild. and i have not been bitten by mossies lately at all.. at least I didnt feel it.. whatever it is though, I know i cant take my health for granted..

Hope the anti-biotics and med work. I want to feel alive and energetic again! I want my voice back.. and I miss gym!

Going to sleep soon despite getting lots of sleep today. I am still ill. And I need LOADS of rest.

footnote: it s so annoying.. suddenly i can t type the apostrophe sign on my keyboard!! other letters and symbols are normal, except the arrows and the stroke.. anyone know how to solve the problem?

a writer's dream..

Have been semi-ill for the past week or so. Thank God it wasn't a full-blown flu but from sorethroat and slight fever it has now developed into persistant coughing and hoarse voice. Maybe it's the medicine i'm taking or maybe just the reason of not feeling well, i've been feeling tired and sleepy easily.. even my owl-like sleeping habit has been broken, which may be a good thing..

But, but.. i feel SO unproductive. You see, this week I have three full-length feature stories to be submitted to three different magazines.. yeah, they're part of my rather leisurely freelance work. But heck, deadlines are really looming and I'm no where near completion. Well, at least the intereviews are done but i seem to be having writer's block from this bad cough.. or just feeling plain lethargic and unmotivated.

Yeah, it can't really be writer's block or else i won't be writing this post! I am quite a natural writer I know that but..

Speaking of writing. I went for a ex-colleague's book launch this afternoon at Borders. He has shared with me his book draft many many years ago and i could see it wasn't an easy path to get the book completed and published. He hardly mention about it in recently years.. and thus i was kinda surprised when i heard from someone that he's launching the book today!

What is more remarkable for him is that he actually got the subject's mother to launch the book. he has written a motivational book based on his childhood (and adulthood) hero Sylvester Stallone and his movies - especially the Rocky series, drawing life principles from Stallone the star (who incidentlly had a very tough childhood due to physical disabilities) He even went all out to sent the book to Stallone's mother Jacqueline and the action star himself.

At the launch/press conference, I could sense how proud and happy this author was for it was a journey that started almost 20 years ago.. and yet he has finally made it.

Congratulations, Gerald. It's great to see that you didn't give up your belief and ideals and finally achieved your dreams. And thanks for calling me up to share your joyous day. It has been an inspiration to me.. for someone who has started a so-called book of my own and had never even touch it in the last 8 years or so.. it is not even one-quarter on the way..

For 10 years, I told myself i really wanted to continue to write it and then get it published.. the experience i wanted to write meant a lot to me, for I won't be where I am now. And for it will be a great testimony about how God has worked in my life.

But alas, I think I don't have half of Gerald's will power and perserverance.. (he wrote for weeks non-stop and finished his first draft!) i'm so easily distracted by other things such as the Internet, or even my blog! - they're probably the biggest stumbling block to my book-writing journey.

You don't even have to talk about writing a book.. reading a book is a bit like a chore now for me.

Sigh...It's quite sad.

But again, I know if I want to, I could do it - like what my proud author friend signed in his book - just `Go For It!'

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fashionable two Js ;)

Among the many things I bought from Bali were two fashion items for Jojo and Jelly!

I chanced upon this little shop called Dogs Tail in Seminyak, it sells a range of dog's fashion items! But the prices weren't cheap. But so cute that I just had to pamper my dogs. So I slected a pretty cotton apron dress for Jelly and a blue motif scarf for Jojo. Being a big-sized dog who is scared of heat, I reckoned clothings will be too much for Jojo.

While Jojo takes to his new gift quite well (since it's more or less like a collar) I think Jelly prefers to be naked rather than be clothed. She seemed uncomfortable in times even rolling on the floor. Poor thing. So after a while I took it off and will probably only let her wear it on the first day of CNY! ;)

Jelly loves her joy ride!

Little (fat) Jelly has an affinity for cars.. or more like for car rides.

She would jump into a car whenever the car door is open, maybe hoping to be taken somewhere interesting!

Early this morning, I took her with me into the car to send off dad and mom to the airport. It would have been her longest car ride ever - a total of one-and-a-half-hour to and fro KLIA..

And what a cool and calm passenger she proved herself to be! On the way there, she quietly sat on the floor space by my feet (since I was sitting at the back) While coming back, she just sat and mostly lay on the passenger seat quietly.. without disturbing me at all.. and really seemed to be enjoying the ride!

Oh, must mentioned when we reached the departure hall and I took her down while dad took down the luggages, she was all excited and ready to charge and even tried to pounce on a man (fortunately he was an Indian :P) Her usual wild behaviour!

But once she's inside the car, she is all steady and good. Even when we reached home and I opened the door to get down, she remained still on her seat.. hoping to go for another round of joy ride!

And I practially had to drag her down after a few minutes!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bali sightseeing photolog (part 1)

ust 4 days - how do you begin your vacation on a land that has EVERYTHING to offer?

Well, we finally more or less divided our time into two parts - sightseeing vs shopping and leisure. So after arriving in Bali in the late evening, we made it free and easy for the rest of the night - where we explored some eatery as well as checked out the famous HRC (Hardrock Cafe) in Bali!

Needless to say, it was too exciting to sleep early on the first night (however, we did not go clubbing after leaving HRC at midnite) We dicided to sleep in a bit so we got a guide to come to our hotel only at noon the next day..

Our itinerary was to visit two main places - Tanah Lot - a rocky temple on an island, and Uluwatu - a temple on a cliff. Along the way, we also visited Taman Ayun - the Royal family temple.

It was a blazing hot day - contrary to what i read in three separate weather forecast over the Internet which all said Bali would be cloudy during the time of our visit.. hmmm.. it turned out that the following days were mainly hot and sunny, with cocasional showers at night.

The entrance toTaman Ayun

Ok.. fortunately none of us are having that time of the month..

Inside Taman Ayun temple

A small art village in the temple

Trying to mimic the `creature's expression! ;)

Posing in front of the three towers

A dog spotted when we exited the temple.. (there were many dogs whereever we went, I don't know whether they are stray or otherwise..)

After another hour of drive, we arrived at Tanah Lot...

The entrance to the Tanah Lot temple

Some huts selling paintings

The grand doorway leading to the temple in the sea..

Posing with a local guide

The sunset terrace

The rocky temple on a small island just off the shore

We had lunch at Tanah Lot - there were lots and lots of stalls selling handicrafts and souvenirs as its a tourist attraction.. in fact we came across so many of them wherever we went that I somehow felt its `supply exceeding demand'.

Speaking of buying things.. one of the `skill' or `art'(depending on how u see it) you need to know is to bargain! The vendors hike up a price of a good a great deal! And of course, having been to places like China a few times and seeing my own mom's expertise in bargaining, I'm quite adept to this `skill'. In fact, the way I bargained seemed to astonish my travel partners for the most they could do is to cut the offer price down by half but I managed to do it to 70-80 per cent even!!

Anyway.. after Tanah Lot, we drove south to Uluwatu and arrived in the early evening to get ready for sunset!

The awesome cliff.. we either have to wear a sarong to cover up legs or don on a `holy belt' to show respect when visiting the temple

One of the peculiarities of Uluwatu is the wild monkeys there!! These creatures are quite scary as they were out to get food and would not hesitate snatching things like glasses, hats and other loose items from passerby.

We were repeatedly warned by our guide. But alas, i was wearing glasses that day and without them I would be practically blind! So I had to hold onto it tight while making my way to the temple. However, my hat I was holding almost got snatched by a monkey. Luckily I was stronger than him/her!

My friends took many more pix of the monkeys but I was too worried about my glasses and hat etc.. that I couldn't take pix of them!

Before sunset, we watched the Kecak Ramayana & Fire Dance - which is touted as one dance you shouldn't miss in Bali. It was perform on a `stage' overlooking the sea. Well it was interesting, the singing/chanting was good and the costumes were awesome. But to me, I got a little impatient sitting through same `music' background and similar movements on hard stone for 1 hour so I went to take pictures of sunset instead!

The traditional Kecak dance which was quite a spectacle

I managed to take a few facets of sunset from the holy cliff temple of Uluwatu

After the sun went down, we left fo Jimbara Bay - which is famous for its seafood dinner on the beach! The prices were not cheap at all.. so we budgetted for the less costly seafood.. it was quite nice enjoying our meals at the breezy sea-side. Oh yeah, the food was good but got cold quite fast unfortunately.

When we returned to Kuta, we decided the night was still young and went for a walk along Legian Street, which is off Poppies Lane.

Took a pix by the monument that commemmorates the victims of the first Bali bombing - that killed many tourists from all over the world. Bali was bombed again for the 2nd time.. but the terrorists could never bomb away the beauty of the island..

Bali sightseeing photolog (part 2)

The next day, we got up earlier and continued our Bali sightseeing tour.. This time, we asked our guide took us northward - onto the Kintamani Vocalno-Ubud route. Gunung Batur is one of the two volcanoes which are either active or dormant. And Ubud needs little introduction. I was really looking forward to visit the place full of arts and cultural heritage..

It was another hot day but this time I have both my sunnies and hat. ;) On the way, we stopped by a batik-weaving place (for toilet stop mainly), a silver & goldsmith shop, a oil-painting/art gallery, coffee plantation.. and in between, stopped for lunch at a restaurant with a great view of Gunung Batur.

Guess what I saw! A Jojo-lookalike at the gold/silversmith place.

The entrance to shop for paintings. I ended up buying two paintings - one abstract and another traditional Balinese drawing in woodcarving frame. And yes, I had to employ my bargaining skill and managed to slash the prices down to almost 70 per cent. Two nice paintings for just RM120.

A local artist at work

We reached Kintamani at lunch time and our guide led us to a restaurant with a great view of the volcano and the lake surrounding.. We had buffet but the main attraction of course is photographing the scenery!

Restaurant with a view

My buffet lunch.. (first serving)

The majestic Gunung Batur

Outside the restaurant after lunch. After which we adjourn to a coffee plantation for free coffee!

Trying my hand at roasting coffee beans!

At the coffee plantation

Sampling coffee, tea and other drinks, as well as rolling cigarrettes! (which wasn't easy at all)

It was then driving back southwards towards Ubud and stopped at two interesting `pura' (temples) along the way.. They had quite a lot to see and although we knew time was a bit limited, we still wanted to see as much.. so finally we didn't have much time left to explore Ubud town itself.. which was such a pity. Ubud streets consist of rows of interesting shops selling all types of arts and handicrafts.. But we only got to explore the market place for a while before heading back to Kuta. I told myself I would spend a day in Ubub the next time I come! (and yes, i am definitely going back!)

The entrance to the Holy Spring Temple - Tirta Empul

At the `holy spring' where devotees cleansed themselves

In the inner court of the Holy Spring temple

Offerings for the gods

Next we went to the Elephant Cave temple or Gao Gajah..

Touching the `holy water'

At the entrance to the Elephant Cave where statues of idols and gods were displayed inside.

A huge rock with Buddha's face that was split open due to earthquake

A man selling handicrafts - we bought some painted eggs from him and bargained hard - yes, it was me again at work but with my two friends around giving the man pitiful look, I couldn't be too `ruthless'!

Finally we reached Ubud town and first made a stop at the market which I ended up buying quite a bit there! We just walked nearby for a while and as it was getting late.. we had to go back.

With a local vendor at the Ubud market

On the way back, the guide stopped by a spa which I booked myself in for the next day.. I kinda regretted soon after as I found the spa was located by a main road thus traffic noises could be heard! Well, too late.. it was quite a good experience (more on that and other misc. of Bali later..)

We reached a busy Kuta and found quite a nice place for dinner to chill out a bit, and did some walking on busy Legian Street.

The popular Bounty club at Legian Street