Runs on food and music, will sing for chips and pasta.

Friday, August 31, 2012


終於都學到了。 是, 非常辛苦的,慢慢的在黑暗中摸出來 :)


好吧, 希望下來的日子自己會繼續的`寫‘ 下去。




Saturday, August 25, 2012

books just happened

Anyone who loves reading knows that the fastest train in the world is your mind, the speediest way to travel is by reading.

Whatever my childhood may be pale in comparison with the more affluent families, my parents made it up by letting their children read whenever they want, wherever they want.  Even during Chinese new year where some older folks frown at the sight of books because `shu' 书  also sounds like 输, losing...not something old fashioned Chinese want to be associated with during Chinese new year.

Hence even though my parents' house was shabby and my siblings and I never grew up with a VCR player...or fancy electronic games and overseas holidays (I don't remember any holidays other than our CNY visits to Ipoh), we always had books in the house.  Though it was never a big thing, as far as I can remember, books just happened in my childhood.

It wasn't like a vegetable force-feeding thing for some kids, or kids having been dragged to ballet class...or piano lessons (though now I kinda wish that it did).  Reading for pleasure just happened at home.  I was not a high scorer at school subjects, I was horrible at sports, I didn't join the school choir, my mathematics were borderline case.  Vivid memories of joy during my primary school days were that twice a week during recess time, I raced other kids to the small school library to choose two books to borrow.  I have clear vision of me and other kids, standing on old wooden chairs in front of the ceiling height (or maybe it was just so much taller than us that it felt like it was ceiling height?) book shelves to access to books on the higher shelves.  I was reading a series of all the the translated classics like Little Women, Great Expectations...etc, in the Mandarin edition.

Yes, I only read books in Mandarin back in school.  My primary and secondary school days were spent in national Chinese schools, till form 4 when I transferred to a Malay school near ISA Kamunting. The world of written English only came to me in high school where it started rather slowly and not without a bit of teething pain.

Other memories involving books and reading include those late outing with my father to town in Taiping.  My father would take me with him to run his errands and work in town, he was the accounts person in a small cinema then and would go to the cinema office in the evening.  Within walking distance from this dodgy little cinema (they screened dodgy films too, I remember watching some of them!) there was a Chinese bookshop called Nan-Hwa Shu Ju (南书局run by this tall and skinny lady whose name I have forgotten but not her face, she was a friendly figure, short curly permed hair with big mouth of big teeth jutting out of her constantly talking or smiling face.  Am sure if I asked my father now he would still remember her and her name.

She would let me loiter in the shop for hours while my father muck his accounts in  the office down the road.  The shop wasn't air-conditioned and only had an old fan but to be able to read pages from different books before I finally put them back if I couldn't buy one was good enough for me.   Sometimes it gets so late that I would walk to my father when the bookshop closes and on the way there, there was another opportunity to read.  Right in front of the entrance to the cinema and its office, there was a kiosk selling Chinese comics, novels and magazines.  I have no memory of the dude who runs it now but I remember standing there with my sore legs squeezing in as many pages as possible before I had to put a book back and go home.  I have bought many copies of comics from that store too..mostly girly stories.

Then my sister left school and got a job in the city!  Shortly after her stint in a music school and a few interviews with Malaysian airline she started her training as a stewardess.  She would write me letters from the city in Malay (she doesn't write Chinese) at first, because my English was very limited.  Slowly she would mix the letters with simple English and ask me to check my dictionary if I couldn't understand the letters.  She encouraged me to pick up my English writing and speaking, "so that when you are bigger next time I could take you flying with me to visit other countries, but first you will need to speak good English."

To me that would always remain as the...for lack of better word, the starter or initiator for my chapter in discovering the world of books in English.  The desire to want to see the world and be more sophisticated - I had to be good in English, back then in the late 80s and early 90s.  I didn't need much pushing, soon after that I was tuning into Radio 4 and listening to the late night broadcast of `song dedication' hosted by Janet Ambrose.  In the morning I listened to the crazy duo Yasmin Yusof and Patrick Teoh breakfast show.  I tried very hard to understand the punch lines and conversations in sitcoms like Growing Pains, Family Man, The Simpsons, Saved By The Bell...Doogie Howser, etc.

For reading I had to start with Enid Blyton...constantly being confused with very old fashioned words such as `crossed'.  I was already in high school then and the library in the high school was way bigger and it even had an air-conditioned section.  I would have a after school lunch (peanut butter sandwich my mom made for me) and stayed in school till 3 or 4pm before my father come around to pick me up.  Those wonderful lazy afternoons were spent dreaming and reading in the library, looking at books that I couldn't borrow and choosing between ten books that I want to borrow.

I was reading elementary books in English while I devoured advanced Chinese literatures like 巴 金's , and others (like my favourite 三 毛) to satisfy my otherwise rather mundane life.  Soon I moved to what I remember as the simplified versions of classics like Picture of Dorian Gray among other titles (I wish I kept a record of what I read then).  When school holidays came when I was in form 2 or 3, I graduated to reading old copies of Reader's Digest, given to my family by friends. The days spent at home during school holidays were long and hot (no air-conditioning in my parents' house, not even now) but I was very much pacified by lying on the cool cement floor in my room, glued to the pages of various Reader's Digest.  I was lucky like that that my mom let me get lost for hours everyday in my room, I never have to help her with cooking and much chores, also explained my very very limited cooking repertoire now.

Then I started going to the town library near the Lake Gardens, first on my bicycle and later on on my motorbike when I passed my license.  The library was a symbol of worldliness to me back then..especially when I walked over to the magazine area in the library where adults lounge and read magazines like Newsweek, Times and Economics.   My understanding of the English language was still limited.  I remember sitting in the huge sofas next to the library main door trying to decipher the articles in those magazines.

Oh, and the entire building was air-conditioned so there's never any need to go anywhere to stay cool, except when it closes and everyone gotta get out.

I was introduced to Sue Townsend's books in this library.  'Rebuilding Coventry'...I was immediately attracted by the novel's opening line, (somewhere along the line of, since I don't have a copy with me now)

"The two things that you need to know about me immediately are that I am very attractive and I have murdered my neighbor yesterday."

The town library was the last place with books that I hang out at most in Taiping, before I left for the city.  And then reading became a different creature once I started making my own allowance for books, with my own money.

Reading morphed into owning and collecting books besides just reading them.  I started to buy and collect at a rate way way faster than I could read them.  With the distraction of a gazillion things and chores in an adult's life, reading without a care in the world is a conscious effort and a luxury.  There were months where I wasn't really any book in particular, it's too easy now, I have books by the shelves full in my flat and more within my reach - they have been taken for granted.

The influences I got for my grown-up reading were from my city friends.  Meanwhile, my sister became a part time contributor for various magazines and dailies, and then she started to publish her own books.

SeeMing and Justin were possibly my biggest influence in what I read when I was fresh out of college in late 90s.  Both fast readers, like how SeeMing could finish one book in one sitting.  They were trading books between themselves and would pass me some to read.  I was at the hand-out corner, hungrily awaiting ideas and ideals.  Through Justin I learned to love reading science books written for layman.  It took me a long time to finish Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World" but the ride was worth it, I would never see the world the same again! And what a liberating feeling it was to understand and to know why people always have ghostly encounters at night!

I would made many many more friends later in great many different circles but finding your mates in reading in a city like KL is a little harder than find the perfect tenant or landlord.  These days I trade reading list with my colleagues in music, we talk about writing we benefit from and we exchange.  My jazzer friend Cher Siang has been instrumental in bringing me back to my Chinese roots in reading.  And thanks to Lynn, the next book to get curled up in maniac depression is going to be "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"

The list of great books that change my life goes on and on, and so many more to change me further lies all around me.  I have been living a charmed life and am gifted with many things.  The ability to find immense joy in reading is certainly somewhere very close to the best gifts I have in this life.

And of course, years after those letters from my sister and her promise to take me traveling.  I finally confronted my sister when I speak a lot more English since I started in standard 6, "So when are you taking me flying to those English speaking countries?"

She smiled, "Silly, now that you speak English fine, you can go out and visit the world yourself!"

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Friday, August 03, 2012

a good soul

I wonder what is the root of evil.

Back when I was still in school and first learn the concept of doing good and being a good person and being mindful - it wasn't in the school classroom doing the Pendidikan Moral paper.  It was when my family and I attended our weekly lecture at the Tao centre.

The lectures given by senior Tao practitioners were mostly in Tawainese Hokkien with thick accent, and some were in Mandarin which I could follow better.  Doing good, being good, all seem to be a rather tedious and highly intellectual thing through my half-cooked understanding of these lectures.

And then I became a vegetarian.

Years later now, when almost all of the content of what I learned back then is a blurry page in my mind - I feel that I finally understand what being good is about.  I learned about being good all over again after I left school.  The society is really the best place to study, the working place, in a family, on a bus, in an office, over the post office counter, at a public toilet queue, over the cyberspace, between two best friends, from a book, over two paragraphs of written wisdom...etc.

The more I build my relationship with my work and understand the role I play at work, the more I see that being good, doing good, and being happy, and spreading love, are all inter-related.

I have a sense of having-arrived at a good place in my life now, without having to be a high flying achiever.  Answers for my questions are always found easily when I stick to my fundamentals of what is intrinsically good.  On a day when being right or wrong gets blurred, I go back to the foundation of being loving and kind.

I guess this is the point in life where the strong thinker in me (proven a Myers-Briggs 'ENTP' type) is starting to mould into a balanced person, merging the character of a thinker and feeler.

Whenever anger comes, pause and take the journey forward with love in my heart and anger leaves me.

Whenever frustration enters, pause and walk the gratitude road and I will find my way out.

Whenever a self-doubt hits home, I measure all that I have to be grateful for and I see clearly that hard work and diligence is the answer to self-doubt.

Whenever am feeling stuck and confused, I retreat to a good book, either fiction or non-fiction...

This brings back to the childhood study of being good and doing good - maybe I had a hard time understanding what it meant in those lectures back then because I was too young and had little life experience to appreciate what it meant.

In a world that spins increasingly faster and crazy as ever, I know we can change things around if everyone can just look inward and just do your part of goodness - that would do a lot of good already.

Even that means just to spay your home pet, and keeps it well cared for and loved.

And love your neighbor.

Live in the moment, put on the signal before turning.

Register to vote.

...maybe this is a very poor illustration of what I understand lately, I shall leave the painting to someone who is better, I close here with a quote from my friend's (Cher Siang) blog - Thank you Cher Siang.





Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Letter one hundred and eighteen - The days go on

Dearest J,

I finally watched the movie [Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close].  The book is still sitting on the bookcase.

It was nice to watch the movie alone in our home, with no one around and just the cat.

I think I know now that the story for most people who have lost someone they love very much is very very similar.