Saturday, September 30, 2006

New Templates.

Don't you hate it when you're searching for a particular something and you just can't find it but when you're not even looking for it, it pops out right in front of you? That was how I found this new template. I swear, I wasn't even looking forward to it after all those failed templates I've tried from Practically given up any hope of ever changing my original blogger template. But while clicking unenthusiastically at V4NY's site, I came across the template that you're looking at now. Wasn't sure about it at first but downloaded the .txt file after previewing it. I backed up a copy of my original skin beforehand, in case anything goes wrong, and proceeded with applying my new template which means, putting all the links, players and tagboards into place. When it comes to me changing template, it's usually got alot to do with the [copy] + [paste] buttons being used. Nothing professional that requires kick-ass Photoshop skills. Just a simple rip-off from the developer itself. =P

Still, I'm kind of proud and content with this new template myself considering the fact that I designed the head banner myself. Not the whole thing, but I made the words of my blog title with Photoshop which only comes to show that the copy of Adobe Photoshop CS2 for Dummies I downloaded the other day is proving itself useful and the pure fact that I can work Photoshop now! I know it's nothing impressive but at least I can call it my own creation. Of course, the little devil by the side was from the original template. I only added my blog title and the sub-title. The simplicity of the fonts are intended, for your information. And the things by the sides of the main content are arranged in no particular order. The tagboard's colours are sel-customised to fir the colours of the template. Admittedly, there're still some weaknesses here and there but this is one of the skins that I deemed as perfect. And of course, nothing compared to dear Adelyn's more refined work.

I've also just recently changed the template over at Durian Photography. Took me long enough to notice that my photographs look much better on a black background. Anyway, it seems to me that I wasn't the only one who's changing templates. Even Yahoo's been making some changes with its new Yahoo! Mail Beta. Being curious myself, I switched my Yahoo! Mail instantly, yesterday, went through the short, animated introduction to what's new and found out that the whole interface's pretty much the same with Outlook Express 6. It's running kind of slow too if you actually notice. But I guess, overall, it's ok and with a little bit of patience, I can live with it. If it's possible, please tell me what you think about the new template here and on Durian Photography. And don't forget to try out the new Yahoo! Mail Beta. Even if you don't it's only a matter of time before they make it default. So why not give it a shot?!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Amah, Poh Poh, and Akak.

Amah has finally moved back into her musty smelling loft with low-hanging cobwebs and smoked ceilings (due to the joss stick she burns). I mean, she's preferring blurry cable TV over crystal-clear satellite TV, man! How desperate can she be? I tried talking her out of it with her before she left to only receive blatant smiles and tear-jerking moments along with soft refusals and empty promises to come back when she's free. C'mon... she's always free. "Whatever it is, the house still belongs to me and it needs a tenant," she ends the conversation, wiping her tears. It's either another one of her superstitions that leaving houses empty for a long time signifies leaving the house to rot or that she really misses her fuzzy TV. Weird. Well, at least, she's happy now, sitting at home in, catching another one of her soaps and falling asleep eventually. It'd be a while before she actually decides to visit, despite the fact that we only live a couple of kilometres apart.
Amah, talking with Grace over the webcam...

On the other hand, poh poh's been keeping herself busy lately with her sudden sewing addiction. Not sure if I'd actually call it an addiction but she's pretty content with herself after successfully completing sewing something. To me, it's a good way of utilising her time and keeping busy instead of just sitting at home, thinking about our dear departed kong kong. In return, I get custom made pants and pyjamas pants. Yeah, she's been sewing pyjamas pants for most of the male members of the family. She's using the cloth brought back by mom from her factory and making them into simple pyjamas pants for everyone. I've heard mom mention that I was the only lucky person who got two pairs of trousers while everyone else got one. Lucky me, I guess. Poh poh even had mine washed and ironed before bringing them to me, unlike everyone else's. Plus, I even got to request for normal short pants. It was the perfect opportunity for me to save on pants seeing that the ones I got either has holes on the ass area or washed for so many times that their torned and the material, almost see through. Guess I've got to go say my 'thank you' later.

I've not mention this before but akak's going back to her hometown. She's going back to her home at Jawa Tengah for a month to celebrate the Hari Raya festivities with her family. The last time she went home was 2 years back, if i'm not mistaken, that was for a month also. The air tickets have been purchased and she's already starting to pack her bags. There's still 20 more days before her departure and she's pretty excited about it, I can tell. It's just that we're hoping that she'll come back home. You know, all those stories about Indonesian maids taking off for their holidays and never coming back again really freaks us out. She has proven to us that she's trustworthy the last time and now we're just praying that she doesn't disappoint us. I think she's alright. Well, her going back only means one thing - more house chores for me! I'll have to do the dishes, laundry, cleaning, dusting, and even scrubbing toilets. Hey, the last time when she was away, I lost weight doing all the house chores. But then, I had Grace's help. Now, I'm going to have to settle everything myself. *sighs*. Thankfully, I've inherited mom's compulsive overeating desire to see everything sparkling clean. I swear it runs in the blood! Well, looking forward to shedding off some pounds.

Rainy Season.

The clouds above are pulled over like curtains closing on stage, blocking out the burning rays of the sun, leaving nothing but a faint glow of sunlight behind and a dull, grey sky for us to pass the day with with the occasional drips from heaven. Right now, as I'm typing this, it's drizzling out there with the rain, taking liberty to wet every surface that it lands on. Things are pretty much the same for the past few days. Even at school, students make their way hurriedly across the roads, ignoringly stepping on puddles of water while holding files over their heads to avoid the rain, to make it into the waiting cars of their parents. The rain's been causing the drains in school to be filled to the brink, overflowing the fields and causing enormous puddles of water in the hallways and stairways due to the roof leaking at several parts of the school building. I've been pretty much spending my cosy cold afternoons in bed napping, furled up under the covers comfortably or watch multiple episodes of Grey's Anatomy with the covers pulled up to my chin.

School's been alright. I mean, there's still an endless list of homework for me to complete (it just keeps coming in!) and there's the lazy feeling of attending classes for five days a week but other than that, I can say that my days in school are ok. It's the same every single day. I go to school, meet Edward and get amused by his facts over his obsession of Ms. Mimi, and then I attend classes obediently while battling with myself for sanity and some awareness and attention. After that, it's watching Edward and another dozen students munch down their food as they chit chat over the table and exchange false smiles in the canteen before attending the second half session of school when I'd usually daydream and ponder over the possibilities of Mrs.Tan having an illegitimate love child. And later, I'll find myself sitting in the co-driver's seat in the car staring outside the windshield at the splashing water made by wheels of zooming vehicles and having my thoughts disturbed by the car pulling over at the parking space at home. Then, I'll spend the rest of the day couped up in my room, clicking selflessly on the mouse and staring mindlessly at the computer screen until my eyes get weary and I'll decide to go to bed. Pathetic isn't it?

Oh well, the rainy season's clearly here. Ironically, we're covering Monsoon History (the poem) by poet Shirley Geok-lin Lim, totally giving the whole rainy season feel to the class everytime Mr. Goh gives us notes to copy during his class. Plus the rain pouring outside, the sound of rain hitting the tar road, and the chilly wind brushing against our faces as we listen to his views on the poem itself, it's hard not to fall asleep in the cosy atmosphere. Just have to resist laying my head on my folded arms on the table. *sigh*.
Nowadays, I only find Mr. Goh's class relatively relaxing. I mean, the man walks in and goes around the class repeatingly firing the question, "Work or sit around?" to his students and when majority chooses the latter, we'll eventually get to laze around in class. Seriously. Is that cool or what? And especially now, the month of Ramadhan has began and the Malays have started fasting, Mr. Goh's been taking more requests by the students to rest during his lesson. Now that's what I call understanding.

Sadly, other teachers who failed to be at least a little bit understanding remain their same old ways. Mr. Khor still "graces" the class with his endless , complain rants on discipline and his schoolwork woes while Ms. Chee is not even near to cons
idering reducing her workload on us. I have my History notes piling up before me and another handful of Accounts to complete. I mean, everytime the bell rings, either one of us from class will deliberately run to the Teacher's Attendance board to check and see if the next teacher's in school or not. If their names were listed, it'll give all of us something to rejoice. If they're not, it's back to sitting in class and hoping for the clock to turn miraculously faster. There's always that tiny flicker of hope in between classes, you know. The hope that the teacher might be absent from school, on sick leaves or bogged down with other school affairs, leaving us with some lousy substitute that does nothing but patrol the class. Without this hope, I'm not even sure I'd be able to make it through everyday in that mad house under the new management.

Enough about school. Already disturbing enough to be attending it for five days a week. The rainy season's here and so is the MoonCake Festival. It has, undoubtedly made its presence felt with the annoying battery-operated power ranger lanterns that plays nursery rhymes whenever it is switched on and of course, the excessively packed mooncakes, stacked in the malls. Even cable TVs are occupied with mooncake commercials - and I especially think the Cantonese commercial with the people singing in it quite amusing. We never bother to even take a second glance at the stacks of mooncakes and annoying battery-operated lanterns in the malls cause mom always receives free mooncakes from her colleagues. I came back from school that day to only find two boxes (those really fancy boxes that could be used as jewellery boxes) of mooncakes on the table from mom's colleagues and to see another one later that same night . I'm not exactly a die-hard fan for mooncakes but have a sudden liking towards it due to photography values. I opened them to check out the contents to only see "Cheese" and "Nyonya Sambal Udang" tags pasted across the plastic packaging of the mooncake. Certainly raised my curiosities cause the only ones I'm familiar with when it comes to mooncakes are red-bean paste. I'm gonna have to cut them open to try soon.

It's freaky what the confectionaries could come up with these days...

Still, doesn't change the cold fact that there'll be more chilly mornings and cosy afternoons to look forward to. Going to try to get some schoolwork done over this weekend. That is if my desires to watch The O.C. doesn't prevail. Oh, how I love the rainy seasons. Don't you love the rainy seasons? I think it's way better than scorching suns and hazey skies.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tormenting Treatments.

All covered in sweat and breathing a little bit too heavily, I sit here and type this post with jittery fingers. The musty smell of sweat that has dampen onto my t-shirt's really beginning to annoy me. My throat's tied up and the taste of bitterness at the back of the tounge is so prominent and my lips feels like the Sahara dessert. The smell of a rotting corpse, exposed for days, is no different to the smell of my breath and the oil on my face is similar to the oil covered on a fried egg where you could easily see it stain a tissue paper. I'm light-headed most of the time, walking as if I'm suspended from mid-air and having no sense of direction. The body's weak, extremely weak - I suppose every single muscle and tissue I have in me have shrunk and shrivelled up in agony.

I guess this was supposed to be expected when I fall sick. I came down with a fever on Wednesday night, when I started feeling oddly cold and I suspected that it was quite bad as I couldn't even wake up to blog about it. Though, I did wake up to play some songs but got quite dizzy after attempting to type with the jittery fingers. Pretty weak, I guess. Don't know where this fever came from but I suspect it must've belonged to Edmund as he had a fever the past couple of days before. One thing's for sure, I've not had (solid) food or showered for days! That's probably one of the consequences when you decide to visit the Chinese doctor. It's always the same old crap - no bathing, no air-conditioning, no fried food, no solids and what not. Funny, I didn't even think of trying to take a shower secretly this time. Probably was way too sapless to even think straigt. It's starting to piss me off that there's so many restrictions when it comes to the proverbial Chinese singseh when the medicine he prescribes is already gut-wrenching enough!

Certainly, the old man seems to have taken a little pride upon himself over the years of proficiency in dealing with numerous ailments and diseases. I mean, the guy leaves for lunch breaks without prior notice, leaving a whole crowd of patients waiting outside, fanning themselves vigorously due to the slow spinning age-old fan above them. Technically, he can't switch on the fan to a higher number as most of his medicine are powdered herbs and roots. Another thing is, his shop isn't exactly well equipped with air-conditioning, air refreshener and comfortable leather seats to chill on. It's the four-legged plastic chairs we get during local wedding dinners and the smell of mixed spices (the bitter ones) will always fight their way to your nostrils. It's been decades he's been working in a condition like this and yet, he refuses to change anything for the better! See, I never had anything against this old man until that day when he had me waiting on number 11 when I began to realise how slow this man worked. Due to that, I kind of developed reasons to dislike him.

I came back home shivering and thwarting over the possibility that the old man purposedly put me on hold, knowing that I was the only person who looked extremely unwell. Surpirsed that I still had the energy to frown, I stormed into my bedroom and buried myself under the blankets. I woke up with mom's soft prompting, telling me that I have my medicine to take. I thought it was going to be the usualy powdered crap I get after every visit to the singseh, never once did the thought of brewed herbal tea crossed my mind! If you have that clear, transparent, yellow coloured water which comes from dropping a tea beag into a hot cup of water in mind, you're absolutely wrong!! This... this... thing comes wrapped in brown paper (like the ones we see on traditional Chinese movies where the tai tai clips them uner their armpits) and requires careful brewing to attain the right amount of medicine. I haven't actully seen the contents in this brown paper before - cause mom is always so secretive when one of us has to drink it, whispering in hush vocies to akak - but I can vaguely remember seeing cricket's legs and tree twigs at sedimented at the bottom of the bowl.

The whole thing is jet black in colour and it smells horrible. A taste of it will evoke senses that you will never want to go near in contact again for the rest of your lives. It's really that disgusting. The smell is so strong and it sticks to the insides of your mouth that swallowing and chewing multiple sweets at one go could not make the taste any fainter. I always have my nose clipped with pegs, or else, I would never even make it through the first excruciating gulp. I remembered how Grace puked half her bowl of medicine when she first had to drink it! And the worse thing is, it messes with your stomach, churning the insides. Mom says it's clearing up the toxic in my stomach. I say, that tea has poison and it's making me crap it all out!!

Nothing much really changed after that. I spent Thursday and Friday in bed feeling the change of my body temperature so rapidly that it gets me confused some of the time. One moment, I'm shivering like a dog left in the cold, the other, I'm sweating like I've been running in the open fields in broad daylight! I only wake up for medication (every 4 hours) and for toilet breaks which I will wobble dangerously before regaining my balance from holding onto my cupboard and then drag my feet slowly to the bathroom, grabbing anything I could to maintain balance to only have my pee smelling like the medicine I took hours before. I felt drowsy and my eyes were weary. Not sure if it was the medicine or the fever itself, but either way, it didn't feel good. I tried watching Prison Break but got highly nauseous at the middle of it that I stopped any further attempts of watching anything. The nausea was due to the hunger, I suppose. I kept gagging for no reasons and everytime I gagged, it feels like the whole body was about to turn inside out. Really sick.

Oh well, let bygones be bygones, that's what they say. I'm feeling much more better today. Still on the road to recovery, I'm not thanking the singseh cause his medication has always needed a significant amount of time to take effect. I still prefer the modern day tablets and pills to brewed crickets or cockroaches! I'm definitely going to resume my solid intake and I'm finally getting a shower! Akak's making spaghetti today. It's her first time and I'm relatively excited about it. Now, I'll have to go clean up. Give my teeth some good brushing and my tounge, a good scrubbing to get rid of the smell of leftover medicines.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Some Catching Up.

Plastic was banned from school today. It kind of sucks for all those people (including me at times) who usually buy junk food, packed in little plastic bags and bring it somewhere else to eat (probably due to the heat of the canteen they prefer eating outside) which is counted as breaking the rule in our school. Dumb rules, I know. But since I had to strap rubbers over my teeth to keep the posture straight, I've pretty much stayed away from canteen food, so I had nothing against the banning of plastics in school. Unlike Edward, he found it a little bit annoying that he couldn't buy food to take it somewhere else to eat anymore. He got frustrated today and decided to eat at the canteen instead. Poor thing.

We'll usually stay away from the canteen and reside at the pond area of our school where there are marble benches and table for students to hang out. Student here are confined to their own respective places (the early bird gets the worm) and friends and they don't bother much about what other people are doing, like taking a dip in the filthy pond nearby, unlike the canteen of course where it's filled with the noise of clanking pots and students chatting. I'll always try to grab a spot at the pond area before others get to it and will try to deliberately complete given homeworks. Edward will buy his food from the canteen and stuff the plastic bags of food in his relatively huge pocket and join me. As I said, it was illegal to be eating outside the canteen, so Edward usually eats with caution and I'll warn him if prefects were nearby.

With the ban of plastic in school, I guess it only means one thing now. I have to spend more time in the canteen, watching Edward and the rest of the senior class line-up for their food as they exchange words of no importance. LOL. Recess is the only time where I get to talk with Edward, like, real conversations (eventhough the topic may be any less important). But I don't exactly get to talk with the other 20 people in my class who barely use English and don't listen to English music. Besides, his what you call a best friend.

On a totally unrelated matter, we've received the timetable for final examinations of the year. Some really fishy rumours has been going around that the principal's monitoring the results of every student for this exam and he'll pick out the bad apples in this school with the mere excuse of reclaiming the "Premiere School" title back as it was tarnished over the years with bad discipline records. But whether or not the rumours are true, it all lies within the monster himself. I was thinking I'd probably be one of those who's going to get picked by the horrible man himself and thus, never too be seen or heard off again after the holidays. I mean, look at my ever-failing Add. Maths and Accountancy papers. I'm just counting on the fact that I don't have many disciplinary records to boast about keep me in this school. Though, I secretly feel that it wouldn't be such a bad thing after all if I left this school.

I should be studying my ass off by this time of the year, going through revision books like they're some kind of old novels that I so desperately love to read and completing various so called "Clone SPM" excercises. Nah. I still have Grey's Anatomy, Prison Break, and The O.C. to finish, you know. Wow! Talk about procrastination. How long has it been since I finished downloading and I'm still not done with them! I'm not only procrastinating my work anymore, even shows! LOL. Desperate Housewives season 2 has already started airing on STAR World, every Tuesday 9p.m. (Malaysian time). I decided to watch the first episode the past two weeks, despite having watched it with Grace on DVD already, and got so annoyed with all the commercials breaks that I switched off the TV during the 3rd commercial break! I guess I've gotten really used to watching ad-free TV series that it's getting hard for me to watch real TV.

I've also noticed a slight change of my music taste lately. Don't what's the cause, but I'm really into John Mayer, Frank Sinatra, Enya, Michael Buble, Tom Petty, Josh Groban and Joshua Radin. They're all really soft music. Not sure what genre you call them (never bothered about the genre of music I listen to) but I like it. I suspect it has got something to do with hanging out at Uncle G's the other day. Maybe I was just blown away with his CD collection that I discovered a side of me that has never been known. I currently have Frank Sinatra's Come Fly With Me on my Windows Media Player. Don't misunderstand, I still think Danity Kane has got some good beat in their album and am still awaiting JoJo's and Jesse Mccartney's new album releases. The love of pop music is going to stay, I assume.

Adrian has just recently gotten a Canon PowerShot A530 from his uncle fro
m Australia. His grandma was on a holiday in Sydney (or Melbourne) and she brought the camera back with her. Lucky guy. I started out digital with a FujiFilm FinePix A330 (it's probably extinct by now) and his first camera's a Canon PowerShot. He did allow me to fiddle with the compact last Sunday and I realised how much I miss using compacts - light and a breeze to use with not so many complicated functions. Hey, but no compact beats my baby. I made him set up a Flickr account to showcase his photos and here's his page. Which reminds me of what I meant to say. Adrian's a big boy now. I've never actually realised the fact that his going through puberty - the harsh voice change from the high pitched little squeks - and all until last Sunday when Uncle G (the choir master) "promoted" him from sopranos to tenors. I guess he's actually growing. Freaky to even see another member of the family go through puberty.

Which brings me to another unrelated matter. My blog readers. Lately, I realised Adrian has been reading my blog (he always said he has but I never believed him) when he sent m
e an image of his dektop. I mean, who would actually plough through this amount of words in blinding orange? Another person who has been reading my blog is Grace. Surprisingly. With all her blogs-are-stupid point of views, I'm fairly shocked that she keeps herself updated about the family and me through my blog. She sent me an email the other day, saying that she was frustrated that I haven't been sending her any emails and that I've not been updating this blog. My goodness. Imagine the shock on my face when she said that. And I think Edward and Carina are the other ones that check into my blog often. Don't know if they read but they do check in. Strange, huh?

Before I end and go back to packing my bag for tomorrow's school (double periods of Accountancy and History!), here's how my current desktop looks like. This is by far, my favourite skin from WindowBlinds.

Waiting On The World To Change

A great song (lyrics and tunes) from John Mayer's latest album, Continuum. Caught the end of the video on MTV last night and found it on Here it is. I really like this song from Continuum. Apparently, it's his first single from this album too. You should really check out this album.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Vanessa Hudgens - Come Back To Me

Twisted Tales.

So we were on our way home from Aunty G's place, riding in the car, looking forward to nothing else but a good night's sleep, when I suddenly felt the urge to tell mom and dad about me winning the first prize for the school's oral competition. I'm not sure what made me blurt out that uninteresting piece of information to mom and dad but I suspect there was something to do with dad asking about the month of October which reminded me that the prize giving ceremony would be held somwhere along that month.

Certainly, no one reacted the way I expected. I know it's kind of a small thing but as far as I'm concerned, parents are best known for exaggerating their child's success (at times) and feeling strangely proud of the little things that their child achieves and little brothers are better known for not giving a damn about their older sibling's achievements/news/whereabouts. But when I broke the silence and harmony in the car, mom and dad only shrugged their shoulders and smiled, saying, "Good lah," while Edmund, suddenly waking up from lying on mom's laps, turned inquisitive and started asking more questions about what I was blabbering about.

Edmund : What did ah ko say? He win what? What's oral competition?
Matt : Umm... reading competition...
Edmund : Ah ko win reading competition ah?
Dad : Yes lah, ah ko got first prize.
Edmund : Of course la. Ah ko trained by Aunty Anne one. Sure good!

It was true that my reading skills were honed and sharpened by a certain teacher by the name of Aunty Anne. Mom sent me to her for English tuition because she was one of mom's best friends and also Grace's official godmother. I was under her observation and training for almost a decade to get me where I am today and mom, being so pleased with my result has never stopped encouraging her other friends to send their children to Aunty Anne. This time, it's Edmund. By the way, just for the record, the bad English I use here (or anywhere else for that matters) is not to be blamed on Aunty Anne. I blame me for the lack of attention in her classes back in the days and the lack of proper excercises. Please forgive me.

Still, taken aback by this sudden, unexpected comment, I quickly kept quiet and my face grew hot. Usually, it's either mom or dad who starts the I've-never-regretted-sending-you-to-Aunty-Anne conversation but this time, Edmund gave his fair share of comment. Mom, being her encouraging self started saying to Edmund, "Then you have to learn and be hardworking from now also, so that you can grow up like ah ko." Honestly, I wouldn't make that much of an 'ideal brother' (I mean, with all that lazing around at home... who wants to be me?) but I was in no position to quarrel. Edmund did nothing but stare at mom for a few brief moments and turned to dad who had both his hands on the stirring wheel and said this :

Edmund : Dad, I don't like to recieve first prizes you know.
Dad : Why? You have to always strive for the best mah!
Edmund : I don't know why but I like to see my friends get first prize lah. I just don't like to get first prize.

Dad was obviously speechless by this as he didn't add another word when Edmund sank back into his seat. Seriously. That was so strange. I was actually stunned to hear these words from Edmund's mouth that I wasn't able to say anything to protest. The whole atmosphere in the car fell silent and awkward.

Then it came crushing down on me that I felt the same way too when I was at his age. Gosh, I still feel a little bit like that now. I never liked the idea of me going up on stage to shake hands with some stranger and receive a certificate or a trophy, only to have a horrible picture taken of me descending the side stairs of the stage and risk the possibility of me stumbling offstage due to my clumsiness and break the trophy. No way! It doesn't mean I don't like winning. Hell, I love winning for the feeling of success is as sweet as can be! Still, I don't really anticipate the whole idea of making a fool of myself on stage. I prefer someone else to get the prize on behalf of me. Things are even better if I was in a group.

I guess I can say that this is one of the many insecurities I have. Insecurities, that's the right word. A guy with not so much of self-confidence, of course I'm bound to have insecurities! Well, first of all, I'm not exactly the popular jock in school and certainly am not the kind of guy everyone looks forward to be friends with. The only appearance I've made on stage so far (as long as I can remember) in my four years of schooling was that one time that when I entered the elocution and that was that. I don't have any recollection of any prize-giving ceremony I attended that involved me. My only main worry (besides the one that involved me falling off-stage) is the fear of being ridiculed on stage. Shit like that happens in school, you know.

Even when I was younger, I had no inclination or whatsoever towards the alluring stage of my school's empty hall or the cheap stage set up you see during Chinese weddings where wasted relatives belt out horrible renditions of a Teresa Teng number! Yuck! Children will always flock happily up the stage at the end of the wedding dinner without any invitation and will prance around in their tiny little skirts or smart little tuxedos only to have half-drunken family members cheer for them. I on the other hand, had never ever went near or joined them in their little concert. When every other children jumped and pounded on stage, I just stood by the side and watch them with a slight distaste while clutching at mom's hands.

Thankfully, throughout my life, I've never actually been in on many award winning situation, therefore, never the need of risking myself to all the stage drama accidents. Being the overall under-achiever, myself, I'm the kid who always appear 2nd or 3rd place and that's it. Can't remember working extremely hard to be the first in everything I do either. Though, come to think of it now, there were times (rare as they come) when I had to go on stage to collect prizes for reasons that only I can remember if I think really hard. It's probably prizes for some subject in primary school. And those were the times when I had horrible pictures taken of me, receiving the prize and descending the stage. I guess that was how my hate of having my pictures taken when receiving prizes came about.

Now I wonder what Edmund's reasons are for not wanting to be another award-winning kid like every other foolish competitive kids in school, preferring only to watch and celebrate the joy of his friends. Maybe it's in the family gene. You know, under-achiever and all. Cause Grace and I had never won anything destiny-changing in our schools or any competitions that we took part in and I just couldn't remember any of us being status hungry. We managed to see that there's so much more to life than getting good grades from a very young age. Can't exactly remember me striving to be the first in school or any other undertakings for that matter. Yeah, it's probably genes. I mean, what kind of normal child wouldn't want to excel? Twisted, I'd say.

"I want to eat supper," Edmund broke the sound of the moving vehicle in the night under the orange street lamps. When mom and dad refused to spend another hour at the nearby hawkers, he turned cranky and didn't stop wailing. It was close to midnight and we had to wake up at 7a.m. the next morning to make it for mass. None of us was keen on wasting an hour of quality sleep to watch Edmund chew on his food at the hawker centre filled with scrawny looking ah peks holding their beer bottles loosely. We could all tell he was sleepy himself - with him rubbing the eyes vigorously. Dad started scolding him for being unreasonable for he just had dinner a couple of hours ago and he started retaliating, making the sound in the car almost unbearable.

Dad did not give in to him and we headed straight home, with Edmund wailing and repeating the sentence, "I want to eat something," softly, after every wail. To be thinking, this whole crap would end when we reach home and Edmund's going to wake up the next morning looking as bright and feeling as good as ever and everything's going to be ok. What we all needed was some sleep. And there was Frank Sinatra singing, "...this is reality..." on the radio at the moment we turned the junction where it parted the hawkers and home. Gosh, this is life.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dinner at Uncle G's.

We were invited by Aunty G(eraldine) to have dinner over at her place today. She felt obligated and pleased to whip up one of her specialities as a treat for us - after the numerous gatherings we had had together (with us being the host), dining and chatting across the table, exchanging dirty jokes and point of views. Yeah, that's us with our fortnightly (or whenever we're free and on special occasions) "eating" gatherings we would hold amongst our church friends. It's not something obligatory or a tradition of some sort, hell no! I guess this all happened among us when we started realising that we shared one common interest which is the love for food. This was my first time being invited over at the G's residence for dinner and I must say I was fairly pleased that it was us who was invited this time.

We turned a junction into a dark and quiet neighbourhood, looked for the house in between the multiples rows of terrace houses and pulled up in front of their house at about 8p.m. with dad cursing under his breath about all the lousy drivers he met today. Mom hushed him down and we made our way safely across the road after dad parked his car in front of someone else's house, blocking a tiny part of its entrance. The whole lane was really dark, no lamp posts or anything. The only light that shone so close to the road were the lights from windows of the houses that piled up on both sides of the road. Joshua (Aunty G's 9 year old son) was with us the whole time as dad pciked him up also together with Edmund from school (they go to the same school).

Joshua and Edmund didn't need any further invitation cause both of them just barged right into the house greeting everyone uninterestingly with 'hello's and made their way into the play room. I entered right after them, with mom and dad behind me, into a cosy living room, basked in the warm light from table lamps located at strategic places of the house and greeted by the people who were already there and finished with their dinner. The walls were beautifully adorned with framed paintings and scrolls of Chinese proverbs from China and opera and musical posters from Spain (or Italy) and the living room was decorated with numerous unique antiques and thingamajigs collected by Uncle G(erard) from all his world travels and the furnitures were embelisshed with expensive lamps, cloths and frames of family pictures taken during their holidays or on special occasions.

Adrian and Carina were already there and so was a few other close friends from the church, which includes Aunt Amy with both of her daughters, Kathryn and Karyn, Aunt Julie, Uncle Sunny and his son, Andrew. The aroma of something brewing in the kitchen made me realise how hungry I was, pulling me back to reality after being mesmerised by the state of the house. Mom called me to the kitchen, located at the far end of the house, where she was helping Aunty G serve. I glided past the people who were seated around the table, busy slurping noodles down their throats, and found mom in the kitchen. "Come, come and help yourself, don't be shy," said Aunty G, moving around the kitchen holding multiple bowls as I greeted her. "It's jawa mee lah," mom said when she noticed me staring enquiringly at the big pot of bubbling orange liquid.

Mom grabbed a bowl, put in some noodles and some other ingredients and filled the bowl with a
huge scoop of boiling, hot, orange, creamy gravy that attacked my nostrils immediately. She told me to go outside and wait for her. I did as I was told, seated comfortably at the table with Aunt Amy, Aunt Julie, Kathryn and dad and waited patiently for mom. She came out with a tray of four bowls of jawa mee and carefully placed them in front of dad, me, Aunty G (she was too busy to eat) and then herself. We dig in at once and let me tell you, it was the best jawa mee I've ever had in my entire life. It's true, I'm not exaggerating! I've never been a fan of Penang's jawa mee or anywhere else's jawa mee for that matters but I seriously liked Aunty G's jawa mee.

She told mom that her gravy was only tomatoe based but everyone agreed that it tasted like oxtail soup with noodles. She had minced beef in her jawa mee and I believed it was that that made the noodle taste so good. Small conversations were conjured when our mouth was busy munching. "I chew my food for at least 40 times before I swallow," Kathryn said defensively when her mom told her to hurry up to make space for other people to eat (which wasn't entirely necessary cause we were the last ones). As usual, I went for a second serving and was full enough to lay off the carrot cake (Aunt Julie brought it) and the tau fu fah (mom's special) we had for dessert.

By the time everyone had their share of carrot cake and tau fu fah (I could tell they were practically stuffing themselves), they decided to have a little chit chat around the table. I couldn't be bothered to join them cause I was busy taking pictures of the house and the unique antiquities arranged properly all over the house. I got bored with taking photographs under the dim light and asked permission to put on a CD. Handpicked Josh Groban's CD and meddled a little bit with the CD player before getting the CD to play. There was something wrong with Josh Groban so I had to change it with a random CD entitled The Sounds From Heaven. It was practically wrong for me to only sit and lay on the couch with good music and Chinese tea without a book.

Aunty G led me up to one of her rooms filled with books and left me alone there. Nothing really caught my interest as there was a huge amount of Law books and city guides. Seeing that Uncle G is an estabilshed lawyer himself, I could've predicted this earlier. I left the room and went downstairs where evrybody were and went into the playroom and spotted a copy of True Singapore Ghost Stories 14. Slightly pleased, I grabbed the book and settled comfortably on the couch with the soft music. Uncle G had already fallen asleep on the opposite side of the living room and the rest of them were talking at the table, so I took the liberty to retreat myself from their activities to reading. Wasn't exactly the best choice of book but it way better than Law or city guides.

They thought that the children ought to be sleeping already, so we bid farewell and left with a happy note. The women seemed to share something personal and intimate cause they looked as if they've grew closer compared to the time we walked into the house. Reluctant to leave as I was, but we had to attend the 7a.m. mass the next day. I mean, who wants to leave reading a good book in an extremely cosy setting that it could even make you fall asleep? Well, I'm definitely looking forward to our next gathering!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Living With Amah.

At about 8a.m. in the morning, the sound of pills rattling in her daily-organized-pills-box clutched in her hand could be easily heard from my room, as she opens the door clumsily and slowly makes her way out to the dining table for her usual kopi-o (black coffee). She greets akak, who's busy in the kitchen, and sits down comfortably on one of the six chairs hidden under the round marble table, lays her box of pre-arranged pills on the shiny gleaming surface and sips a little bit of coffee with a loud, "Slrrrppp...". Back in the days (when black and white photographs were famous) she loved eu char kuey dipped in her morning coffee, until the doctor told her that she had to lay off those oily food. Now, she prefers kiam pia (biscuits) dipped into her coffee. At times, when she's in the mood for it, she requests dad to get her some heavier food like char koay teow or wan tan mee. Bu most of the time, the coffee is enough for her.

She repeatingly sips her coffee for another couple of times before placing the mug down on the table again. She looks around the empty living room, for everyone has either left for work and school or that no one had woken up yet, exchange a few words with akak and dips her biscuit into the black liquid. Jittering (I guess it's normal for her age),she holds up the soften biscuit and uses her lips to 'lip' the biscuit into her mouth for she has not enough teeth to bite. Three pieces would usually make it for her morning breakfast. A few minutes later, she finishes her morning coffee with the final slurp of satisfaction and slowly brings the cup to the basin to rinse it.

She checks on akak's cookings and sometimes offers a hand but will be usually refused by akak. Most of the time, she picks up the chopping board by herself an settles with slicing meat or chopping vegetables. Despite the fact that she has not been the one behind the kitchen since akak mastered most of her dishes, she still had skills in meat-slicing (yea, I watched her the other day with awe and inspiration). After doing all that she could manage, she'll politely ask akak to bring her a cup of water as she rests with her elbow on the table. She'll shakingly open her pill box and carefully take out her multi-colored pills, count them on her palm before she puts them all in into her mouth at once. She does all these before settling down on the couch for some good chinese soaps.

With amah around, the TV's usually switched on the entire day - whether if she's watching the TV or the TV's watching her. It's easy to hear her snore occasionally during the hot afternoons while she's "watching" TV. She claims she's not tired or that she's not sleepy, but twenty minutes through the show, you can see her head pointed to the ceiling and her 4 yellow teeth jutting out from her opened mouth with her eyes closed. Sometimes, akak comes running to me to tell me to convince her to go to bed cause the look of her sleeping isn't really pretty and it gives akak quite the scare. It creeps me out at times too.

Amah's not the type of grandmother who's an old smelly witch who wrestles with you for the remote control and she definitely ain't the type who makes every single day a living hell with the frequent exchange if yells and so called "advices". Though, the ointment that she rubs on her knees every night before bed does emit an unbearable smell which nerver fails to send us rushing into our bedrooms shutting our doors and closing all the windows whenever we hear her rummaging through her bag for the oil. Kinda makes us sleep early too. The shows she watches ranges from chinese soap dramas to chinese reality modelling shows. We never storm right in front of her and snatch the remote control from her hands and turn the channel to watch Beyonce doing her crazy Deja Vu dance on MTV. We always ask for her permission before changing the channel and she'll happily try her best to understand all those ang mo kaus shaking their bootties with only bras and panties. Sometimes, it even amuses her that I scream and yell to the voice of Christina Aguilera performing Ain't No Other Man on stage.

Amah has been living with us since tua pek's passing. It's her fourth week here and I'm quite happy that she made the right choice to stay with us for the time being. Strangely enough too, (numbered as it is) all her requests of returning home were easily brushed off with a little pestering and sweet talk. She doesn't really favour leaving her home to come live with us, unless there was an occasion. During normal times, it only takes her less than 2 weeks to insist on returning home. I'm guessing that she's probably still emotionally unstable to be left alone in her home. Her home's practically vacant except for her and imagine all the thinking she'll be doing with thje fuzzy cable TV she has got at her place. We're all afraid that she might go crazy. I mean, last week, when I took the courage to play tua pek's funeral photographs on the DVD player outside, she did a great deal of crying before muttering something like, "I hope he's in a happy place. I don't get to see him anymore, " in Hokkien. But I did allow her to pour her sorrows out without the usual phrases of "concerned" relatives that goes something like, "Haiya, don't cry any anymore lah. It's no point. You'll only ruin your health!". Yea right. I say, let the woman do what she needs to do!

The usage of Hokkien has also increased in this household. We accomodate her with speaking Hokkien so that she could feel part of the family. Other than that, our politeness and good characters are under careful observation, with amah being here for the past 3 weeks. There's been barely any fight in the house or the common stamping of feet and expressions of dissatisfaction on certain matters which may lead to an endless argument. It's either that we're all determined to keep a good impression towards the grand old lady or that everyone's been in a pretty good mood lately. Now that I've said it, I hope things stay the way they are.

Amah also doesn't create alot of mess for us to pick up after. She doesn't leave stains in the toilet bowl or drops food all over the floorboard under the dining table. The only thing she leaves behind is her trail of used tissue paper. I think she just forgets that she has a used one stuck in between her buttocks and the couch or deep down in the depth of the couch. Disgusted as I may be, I don't complain and I just pick them up if I see one. By the looks of it, I daresay that she's pretty happy spending time with us for the past 3 weeks also. Watching her laugh, cringing up her entire heavily wrinkled face until her eyes disappear in between them, everytime she sees Edmund's antics is, enough to seal my doubts.

I don't stay at home all day long to sit with her on the couch and torment myself into watching her chinese or hokkien dramas. Neither do I spend alot of time with her at home. I'm always stuck with the computer, remember? Curled in my room and clicking my mouse feverishly. However, there are times when I just get very intrigued with intense conversations with her about my childhood and stories of her life. It's normally filled with me asking endless questions and laughing cunningly about my mischieve or stupidity. Things like that just happens when you pay a little extra attention to old people. They have loads to talk about. I for one, am highly amazed by the fact that she can go on and on for hours and all I have to do is to sit and listen with great amusement. Lending my ears and attention are few of the little things that old people find comforting. Frankly, I'm not afraid of raising a conversation with amah for I've always been a fan of what she has to say. And it's fun (and sentimental) to be dwelling on fond memories during my childhood with amah!

Her day ends with a bowl of oatmeal. Her final movie finishes at 11p.m. and that's the time she decides to go to bed (after rubbing her ointment on her knees, of course!). I asked her the other day why she needed to take oatmeal before bed. "I need to take medicine before I sleep mah and I cannot take medicine with an empty stomach," she replied in Hokkien, smiling. She drinks her oatmeal and rinses the bowl. She fetches her own cup of water and takes her medicines just like the way she does in the morning, goes to the loo and retires to bed. Of course, we always help if we see her doing something. She always calls me, 'ah boy' (the chinese really favors this nickname for first sons in the family) to switch on the mosquito repellant for her when she's sitting on the bed preparing to rub her knees with the awful ointment. "Leave the lights in the hallway on so that's easy for me to go to the loo in the night," she'll say while rubbing her knees. I hurry off into my own room after checking that everything's good.

See, amah's not a pain in the ass. She doesn't require a fan during the night (in fact, she complains that it's too cold while I'm sweating and toiling in my bed). She doesn't complain alot. She doesn't eat alot. All she needs is the TV, bed and the loo. She doesn't cause alot of trouble. She's still pretty much aware of her surroundings. She doesn't get in the way. She could still see, hear and feel. Although, sometimes, I think that she's a little bit deaf when she doesn't answer or show any signs of recognition. Thankfully, only sometimes. Clearly, I don't see any reasons why she shouldn't stay longer. We do have our eyes on her and if anything happens (her heart attack) there'll be people around her to help her (resuscitation?). Akak is her main companion while she gets to see all our antics everynight. I don't see any reason why she should even think of going back to her deserted house! Whatever it's worth, I love having amah around!

She'll wake up tomorrow and the whole cycle starts again. Routines of a grandmother, I suppose? And if she gets the chance, she'll say that I had my songs playing throughout the night, speaking in a way that I've forgotten to switch them off, not knowing that I need music to make me sleep. Now, I keep them as soft as possible!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Malignant Beliefs.

I've always believed that when a person is close to death, you can see how their faces look like when they're laid in the coffin. It's usually obvious when that person is sleeping or lying in bed with their eyes closed. I've seen kong kong's and some other old folks before they die and they looked exactly the same in the coffin, just a little paler. Well, at least that was how tua pek looked like when I approached the grand coffin and peered into it through the glass. Nothing unordinary, his eyes were just tighter than usual. If I didn't know him better, I'd swear that he had his mouth curled up into a smile.

So there I stood, at the side of his coffin, staring down upon him, observing every tiny detail - from the white silver strands of his hair, to the buttons of his shirt where from the third button onwards, got covered up by joss papers till his feet - never once did the thought of him opening his eyes and springing back to life to scare me left my mind. I must say, arriving (from KL) after the crucial moments were over certainly gave the others a headstart in shedding tears of pain. Grace and I were only greeted by the moody faces of relatives and the solemn silence of the wake.

Well, everything's over now - the 5 solemn (and tiring) days of wake, the ceremonious funeral, the languishing cremation and finally, the collection of the bones. Tua pek was given a final goodbye with utter dignity and respect. At this moment, I gotta say that being involved in the undertaking industry himself for the whole of his life certainly gave him an advantage till his after-life. Most of the crowd that attended his wake everynight were his friends (from the same industry) that had no grieving families to attend to, all the necessary and thoroughly expensive Chinese rituals were sponsored by the people from his long list of clients and connections and other tiny funeral arrangements and needs were taken care of (subsidised) by his company.

I bet tua pek's probably smiling from beneath above, sipping kopi-o-peng (iced coffee), hanging out with ah kong and god-knows-who, and both laughing at our silly human antics. *sigh*. Yea, right.

See, I've encountered two deaths in one year, this year and I daresay that the difference of culture and tradition between these two deaths really shocked me. Things are outrageously different between a Catholic and a Chinese funeral. There are all sorts of beliefs and rules to abide to during a funeral. Trust me, I would love to go on about the vast difference between these two death but (as usual) I'm senile. It's like I get so inspired and so many ideas come to me when I'm sitting at the humid funeral parlour alone, every now and then gazing at the joss stick that was lit to keep vigil. But everynight I come home, I'm so dead tired that all those ideas seemed to be buried into my pillows. Besides, my room was occupied and I had to spend everynight in the living room.

But there was one prominent difference that I have to point out. The chinese (in my case, Taoist) are way too superstitious. It freaks me out to hear all the explanation given by amah or one of my aunties when asked about the reasons about certain do's and dont's. They highly believe that there's an afterlife. Actually, I don't quite know what they believe. One moment, my second aunt was blabbering about re-incarnation and how the deceased will be reincarnated into different animals. Another moment, amah's explaining about how wealthy (with all those hell money we were burning) the deceased will be in hell and stories of re-uniting with ancestors. Really weird. They spend a huge amount of money in paper effigies like houses, cars, and TV which will later be burnt for the dead into the afterlife. They offer all sorts of food that the dead liked when he was alive, believing that he was THERE to eat it. I was like, is this for real?

I don't even want to think about it. I comfort myself with the fact that these remain as beliefs of different people from different religion. To me, open burning destroys the environment. Spending so much money for those paper effigies to be burnt is kind of like burning cash. And it gives me the creeps to be staring at the food laid in front of the coffin, imagining tua pek was there actually eating. With all those illustration of chinese ghosts in chinese horror flicks, it was definitely hard for me to imagine the spirit of the dead, descending down from heaven with his glorious wings and perpetual white light shining down from heaven. I can only think of unhappy, haunting, souls standing by with the look of dark hate burning in their eyes. I can't say I totally do not acknowledge the existence of ghosts but I can say that it all remains as a mystery to me. Bone chilling mysteries!

But apart from all these mind-boggling beliefs, the whole process gave me quite good opportunities for me to photograph. Which explains the many days of my absence from blogging. I was really busy with all the photographs - editing. I took the urge to experiment with Photoshop, actually. I had it installed but I never came around to using it. So it took me quite a while to delete, edit, and compile the pictures into CDs for family members who wanted a copy of my photographs, seeing that I had the camera glued to my face all the time. It was also an excuse a good way for me to skip a big part of the rituals. In total, I had about 2000 photographs that required a big space on my drive. I had to make way for these new sets of photographs, so I spent a good amount of time, compiling archive photos into CDs before I inserted these.

Photoshop runs extremely slow on my computer but I learnt a thing or two about it, with the help of Digital Camera Magazine (they give some really kick-ass tips and tutorials!). Managed to make it into two CDs for family members and I still haven't received any feedbacks. *sigh*. And for the past week, I find it oddly satisfying whenever I manage to correct a picture and I thoroughly enjoy the time I spent, editing my photographs and going through the tutorials over and over again. I don't know why, but I'm happy when I'm in contact with my photographs. Strange.

Anyways, it's back to school tomorrow. I've skipped three days of school last week, attending only one day and enjoying another day of public holiday due to the country's Independance Day (Merdeka!), all in continuation after the one week of school holidays which was cut short from tua pek's death. I thought I deserved all those days off, working on my photgraphs. Don't I? Well, I'm sure Mr. Khor wouldn't be pleased to see me after for such a long time. I've missed so many lessons from school and I'm seriously slacking! Think about theamount of homework! Urgh. And Grace is back for her term break and will be here for this entire week! Back to life for me!