Like a flower

August 15, 2014

Wrote this when I was 18?

Like a flower
we blossomed
but like a flower
when we are apart

it would wither and die

In time

when we should meet again

a new seed would have taken over its place

and with hope



X Factor

June 17, 2014

My mother bought an electronic organ for me when I was young, and sent me twice a week to a nice Christian lady for piano lessons. I preferred cycling around Johor Bahru with reckless abandon, and playing video games with equal recklessness, and so it transpired that I wasn’t paying much attention in piano class, nor did I practise a lot at home.

But I did come away classically trained, interspersed with Christian hymns and melodies, and the occasional choral performances from my yet unbroken voice.

By the beginning of secondary school, I had already pledged my soul to Simon le Bon, Boy George and David Bowie, but then I began to start to practise some form of musical elitism. I would be discovering relatively unknown bands (at least to my schoolmates), and discarding them as soon as they became more popular. Nothing was more grating than to have some uncool kid coming up to me saying, “have you heard the new single by Depeche Mode? It’s awesome!”. Yikes!

As with all teenagers, this desire to set yourself apart only lasted through some of those formative years. By the time I reached university, I had taken with me to the states the stalwarts of my music collection; David Sylvian and Sakamoto Ryuichi, The Cure, and the Smiths. By then, I believed that the music helped shaped the man I would become, in the way I thought, the way I expressed myself, from words of the heroes I aspired to and emulated.

But much more than this was the music itself. If the literature of a particularly precocious childhood were works from Paz, Mishima, Marquez, Kundera, Rilke, Kafka and Calvino, then I was already in the hands of great masters and poets. But music was more liberating, and certainly its limits were only constrained by my imagination.

And with Jazz, in particular when you hear it live, with its improvisations and different interpretations, is an art form that is attractive beguilingly because, and at once in spite of, its flaws. There is a moment of inflection when momentum builds up, and at its zenith; perfection is reached. One could not simply bottle up this singular moment, with its limitless contributing factors – and then in an instant it vanishes.

Now, as an avowed anti-theist, I see deep spirituality in the natural world; the beauty & awe of the night skies through the telescopes, the realisation that we began as stardust; the marvel and wonder of our physical world, of biological evolution, of mathematical truths & constants, of symmetry & chaos. Of boundless knowledge, of serendipitous discoveries, the human inventions, and the human spirit.

And the validation of our ingenuity and imagination that we are capable of producing such works of art, such beautiful music.

Perfection, however fleeting.

Almost Italian

December 6, 2013

I have Italian neighbours who live on the same floor of the apartment where I live, and we have become friends. Pier says Malaysians don’t say hi in the elevator, and he was surprised I did but I guess i’m almost Italian that way.

I think I also almost understand the language. It helps that Italians are very expressive with their bodies and hands, and its visual clues fill in the blanks as well.

I almost went to Italy, a country I have never been.  When I was in school in the states, and summers I would spend in NYC where I would be at a youth hostel in Harlem, where if I chambermaid-ed twice a week I would live for free, I picked up odd jobs and would save enough to go on heavily discounted freelance courier flights somewhere.

It was a courier flight that I almost took to go to Italy, and I remember it clearly – taking the A or C train downtown to a courier broking house called Now Voyager, talking to a girl called Erin, a Columbia student who was part-timing in that office that summer, and asking for a flight to Rome. She said matter-of-factly that I had to wait a couple of days for Rome, though there’s a flight to Caracas the next day, do I want to go there? To which I also nonchalantly replied, “yes”.

(And so began my decade long love affair with Latin America, which is of course another story.)

And there is a topic of conversation I would always initiate about Italian food, that it shared the same principles as Japanese food.  To most people spaghetti and pizzas and sushi and tempura are representative and symbolic of these cuisines, which is of course true but you’d miss the essence if you think there’s all there is to it.   Italian and Japanese cuisine share a demand for the seasonal, the locally available, the very fresh, and a minimalist attitude – that simple, fresh ingredients should make uncomplicated dishes.

Now that I have Italian friends, I’d catch glimpses of the Italian community in KL, through their usual hangouts and their lunches and their coffee invites. They are a gregarious bunch, and whatever their stories are, they would try to live as dolce a vita as they can here.  I try to do that too wherever I am in the world as well, and I guess I’m almost Italian that way.

The mantisization of women

October 17, 2013

I had a thought recently, borne out of relatively recent events like the girl who was raped on a bus in India and left for dead, and the other girl in Pakistan who was shot by the talibhan for her wanting to get an education; despicable acts of men imposing their will on the women. For all the progress the human civilization made, there is always be religious bigots, racists, sophists, cheats, misanthropes, deviants et al in society, but worse are a larger and more general section of the public who will only stand on the side and do nothing, at best lacking courage, at worst apathetic.

It will always be.

So the thought is this – what if we genetically engineer women to be bigger than men. We go through the UN or whatever we need to get through, to make all new born girls larger than boys, and that they’ll grow up to be 7 feet tall, and weigh 250 pounds. In 4 or 5 generations all women on earth would be bigger and stronger, and in a few hundred years it would be business as usual, except men would no longer be able to force women to do anything.


August 17, 2013

I am obsessed with the song from my last post. Listening to it over and over does not diminish the sense of beatitude and I am soon engulfed. The difficulty is when leaving the trance you’d wish you could linger just a little bit longer.

The road that lies in your heart
light shines on
the road you take

The scent of the wind
a road butterflies dance on

Light, scattering shadows
the road you walk

Beyond this light scattered road
Dusk, pierces you in the twilight

The scent of the wind
path of a southern dance
Seeing dreams, spreading illusions
on this light scattered road
I realize that translating across languages is not easy. To be mindful of cultures, the context of the essay or in this case a song, there are even arguments to be made of trying getting under the skin of the originator. To what extent could you take artistic liberties, as long as you think you are retaining the essence or intentions of the verses?

The original Japanese above is deceptively simple, but the words for “path”, “road” & “way” are the same, as are all the words to invoke “light”, as it shines, scatters, spreads or pierces.

Random wisdom

September 14, 2011

I read in a book once, I forgot which book or what it was about, just that I suddenly remember the gist of a particular passage, of the which the premise is like this;

“Modern people are those who think they won’t die”

We live in an age where perhaps only in the last 100 or even just 50 years in the history of humanity that we live in relative prosperity and peace – the streets are safer; wars are waging, but in distant lands; progress in medicine & technology are such that people don’t die in their homes any more.  All these led to people not being able to see death as reality, and when that happens we stop living each day to the best we can.  That is why it is easy to delay the promises that should be kept today, even though one never knows what may happen tomorrow.