Archive for January, 2009

Welcome, 5DMKII!

a new addition to the family

The Canon 5DMKII kit with the 24-105mm f/4 L lens, that retails for around $5,400 at the well-known shops. My first DSLR. An answered prayer. Fully paid for. Like Jesus’ perfect work at Calvary. Everything we receive by His grace is fully paid for.

To you who blessed me with this, may you be blessed a thousandfold in return. Blessed are those who bless me. Amen.

the 5DMKII – a work of art

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Swift & Graceful

Had a bit of fun today. Drove the GM’s car with the engineer for some operations work, and he shared with me on his time in Moscow, dating a Danish exchange master’s student in Singapore, how his Russian girlfriend was dating another dude back in the motherland, and how this was really all okay.

Crazy, man. But he has never heard of Vitas.

And today I find out my kryptonite: sheer and pure indifference.

Just Keep Breathing

ponyo

The storm is coming but I don’t mind
People are dying, I close my blinds

All that I know is I’m breathing now

I want to change the world
Instead I sleep
I want to believe in more than you and me

But all that I know is I’m breathing
All I can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing now

All that I know is I’m breathing
All I can do is keep breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing

All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing now

Ingrid Michaelson – Keep Breathing

Free favour & qarah today – bumped into Coach M again and had an awesome time talking with her, ZK & Bobby. You always send the right person at the right time.

I’m letting go of everything. Taking that jump off the cliff, get caught up in the wind, soaring on Your wings. Let my heart be good ground for sowing. It doesn’t matter how You nurture and grow that seed. All I know is that You will bless me with the hundredfold harvest.

“my Father’s got the best plan/saving His daughter for the best man/seven hundred faces/seven hundred places more” – Mat Kearney

Ordinary Radicals

ordinaryradicalShane Claiborne: The Irresistible Revolution

“We have insulated ourselves from miracles. We no longer live with such reckless faith that we need them. There is rarely room for the transcendent in our lives.”

Living life radically is not so much putting ourselves in a place of impossible circumstances, but knowing that we have a God to whom the word ‘impossible’ does not apply, and acting out of that trust.

Teach me to always look to You. Amen.

*

Love the cardboard and duct tape!

Star-Filled Evening

jumpjump

Even before the gig had begun, it started playing out with Run Lola Run type of intensity, set to ‘Ageless Beauty’ and ‘Set Yourself On Fire’: three sets of characters trying to get into the gig venue together, because one person had all the tickets, and all were arriving at different times.

1:

F strolls around the Esplanade with his girlfriend. Bright fluoroscent lights from the ceilings, while soft glows from the shops around beckon. Excited-looking youths stream around them, each trying to outdo each other with white Doc Martens or huge geek glasses or skinny jeans or fashionably-tossed bed hair.

“Is this band any good?” she pouts.

“They’re great, lah. Trust me.” F reassures her.

“But I don’t think I even know one of their songs.” she frowns, unconvinced.

“You will, after the gig. The band is tight, okay.” F brushes off her concerns, fully confident in his musical aesthetics.

“Where’re your friends?”

F looks at his watch. Eight-thirty. “Dunno leh. R said he’ll sms when he’s coming.. he’s got rehearsals or something.”

“Okay. How many albums they have?”

2:

Close-up of a big, chunky watch on lean arms and wrist. It reads eight-thirty. It’s outdoor, with the overhead street lamps washing a warm amber hue over the empty streets. Funky beats from the soundtrack gives a quirky discordant tempo to the tranquil surroundings.

“Wah lau, the taxi is late..” R complains. He tugs at his vest in annoyance.

J, his wife, smiles. “Dear, you sure you told them the correct place?”

“Of course, lah. I even told her it was Kallang..”

“Better SMS JZ and F.”

“Yah..” R whips out his mobile from his bag.

3:

I’m emerging from the City Hall MRT and entering Citylink when the message comes in, playing the familiar tune of piano keys tinkling.

Hey, J and I will be late, waiting for the cab we called. See you at the entrance. Closeup of my mobile phone, noticeably beat up and patched together with ugly brown masking tape.

“Heng ah, I thought I was the latest.” I think to myself, breathing a sigh of relief.

I strain my legs as I open my stride and try to walk fast without looking like a dork half-walking and half-running. I dodge and weave through the crowd with distorted guitars and Amy Millan‘s voice overhead.

I cast a quick glance at the breakdancers at the halfway point, slowing my pace down as to glimpse, regrettably, at the photo exhibition held along the walls leading toward the Esplanade. Quick shots of the prints and text interspersed with my scuttling legs.

1:

“Crap lah, we go in first.” F is moving slowly through the teen-hipster crowd with tickets in hand. His other hand is clasped around his girlfriend’s, making sure she doesn’t get separated in the thick of the throng.

“But later how? Their tickets?” she asks.

“I’ll come out when they SMS me.” he hands two tickets to the usher, who directs him into the concert hall.

2:

Quick cut back to R&J, who are bundling into the back of their blue-coloured cab, shifting their bags around.

“Esplanade?” He looks over his shoulder in his faded brown checkered shirt.

“Yes uncle! Hurry!” J points ahead with her index finger from the backseat as R fiddles with his iPod.

Ground-up POV as the taxi takes off in a cloud of exhaust fumes. Close up of R&J’s hands brushing each other’s, before panning to their anxious-looking faces. The city skyline appears in the distance through their windows, sky already dark, cast with a faint glow from the city lights.

3:

Scene cuts back to me, typing a message out on my phone.

“H…e….y… m..a…n,… I’…m… h…e…r…e… W..h..e..r..e…. a..r…e… y…o…u.. g..u..y…s..?”

Message Sent

I stroll aimlessly around the foyer, watching the crowd stream into the concert hall. I lean on the railings, trying to spot F or R&J in the masses.

A while later, a mobile phone tune causes my attention to shift. I whip out my phone and read the new incoming message.

“Just got into the cab. On the way now and will be slightly late, sorry… call F.”

1:

“Wah lau, the seats suck, man..” F complains as he leads his girlfriend to their seats in the bleeder areas of the concert hall.

“What to do.. still can hear the music what.”

“But the band will be tiny specks. That is not good, leh.” F replies, indignant.

The girlfriend says nothing, but rolls her eyes in response. Quite obviously, she’s heard it all before.

“Basket sia, dunno why they not here yet..”

“Check your phone?”

2:

Quick cut again to R&J. They’re pouring out of the cab, grabbing the change without looking, R almost pulling J along by the arm.

“Oh man, it’s past nine already…” R says, stealing a glimpse at his wristwatch.

“Oh, no! I don’t want to miss the first song!” J pouts.

3:

The number you have just called is currently unavailable..

“Eh wah lau, why cannot get thru..”

I hit the “End Call” button and try again. The same message plays.

“Man, he must already have gone in..”

I flop onto one of the benches, tapping my fingers on the surface. I watch the last few stragglers dash to show their tickets to the ushers, before running into the concert hall. The tempo of the soundtrack increases, reflecting my impatience.

My phone rings.

“Eh! JZ! Where are you ah?” F asks.

“I’m right here. At the entrance!”

“Where? I don’t see you..”

I start walking around, looking out for F.

“Eh, I see you!”

I turn my head and see F emerging from the concert hall. I hang up and wave at him.

“Alright, man. Were you trying to call me?”

“Yeah, but couldn’t get through. Inside have no reception, you know.”

“Yah! That’s why I came out.”

“Oh yeah, you have the Mogwai tickets too?”

“Yup, here..” he fishes out the tickets from his wallet.

“Ahahahaha..  yes!!” I flash them about in triumph, for no reason in particular.

2:

Two pairs of legs are puttering across the clean marble floors. The background blurs as the camera follows R&J dashing to the concert hall entrance.

The walkways are nearly empty, and the shutters of the shops in the Esplanade are halfway down. The soundtrack fades into the foreground, beats intensifying.

“Quick quick quick..”

1&3:

“Eh! They’re here!” F says.

“Hey guys!”

R&J come down the steps, looking flustered.

“Hey, sorry man..” R says.

“Never mind. Let’s go!” F strides to the first level entrance, whipping out the tickets to the usher.

“Sorry, sir. Please go to your left and take the escalator to your right.” the usher smiles. “Please hurry as you will not be allowed into the concert hall if the performance has begun. You have about one minute left.”

“Wah lau, where is the escalator?” F says.

“There! Come, follow me!” I point out the escalator, back up the same steps R&J had just come down from. They both laugh when they realise this.

F hands the tickets to the usher at the other entrance.

“Bag check, please.”

R&J with their barang-barang have to accede to the compulsory, time-wasting affair.

“Where now?”

“Here!”

We take the escalator up, where another usher greets us. “You have seconds left before the performance starts. You probably have to run.” He points us to another end of the hall.

“Man, this is like running to catch a bus or something..” R huffs as we sprint up the stairs.

“Or a flight.” I grin, taking two steps at a time.

“Yeah, this place does look like an airport..” J offers.

“Hahaha! Yah lor, this place really like an airport!” F says, already metres ahead of us.

Finally, we reach the magic entrance leading into the concert hall itself. But it’s too late.

“Sorry, the performance has already started..” the usher says, stretching a forbidding arm across the entrance.

And the soundtrack fades out as we look at each other in dejection.

Details are as I recall and reimagine at 3AM in the morning

*

First gig of 2009, and it’s been a blast. After the performance we talked about how uncool the band looked but had such energy and verve that when they pranced and grooved to their own music that it didn’t really matter. Because it was really all about the music and the wholly transforming experience that it is to hear them live.

They threw flowers into the crowd, from the dozens of bouquets they had on stage, and hurling up clouds of flower petals as in caught up in some private celebration, not caring what it said about them because they were rock stars and they were on the stage with fifteen hundred people paying good money to watch and listen to them and they were just really glad to be there for the first time ever.

When they played ‘Calendar Girl’ I immediately thought of you and thought about how I had let you down. But the music was so good and I only wished that you could be there listening to the same song I was listening to, even if it meant that we could only do so  seated in different corners of the hall.

It’s really amazing how Torquil Campbell‘s and Amy Millan’s voices meld so well together; so well that I couldn’t help feeling we take it for granted, that we don’t realise how special and rare that is, especially when so much of the music we put through our ears is so slickly manufactured and packaged that we can’t tell where it really comes from.

But Millan’s voice is something else. It’s silk and cream, willowy soft but also so full and rich that it becomes something so unreal in a way you can’t really put the words together to describe it. It eludes you, infuriatingly, but beautifully, because you don’t really need to understand why it makes you feel the way you do; you just need to stop thinking and allow yourself to listen.

And as you just hear and feel that liquid gold trickle down your soul you don’t need to wonder why Millan’s voice makes you think of the most beautiful person you know. You just do. And you remember that person’s smile, or how her eyes look when she does, or the way her voice sounds in the morning.

starssetlist
with thanks to Justin

Never Stop Dreaming

rosered

And the start of 2009, this dektos/radzon/acceptable year of the Lord, brings its own flurry of madness already.

It’s going to be a great year. I know and believe it. And I speak it, now, full of confidence in the One who qualifies me to receive every good thing that is stored up in heaven for me. There are and will be days of heaven on earth for me, all because Jesus was nailed on that cross and endured the darkest day in the history of earth so that I can live good days, living and loving life to its fullest.

I’ve said everything that I could have said. Done everything I thought best. And stood vulnerable and open against my every inclination to turn tail and run, in spite of knowing how lacking I am in every way. Fought every thought that said “I’m just not good enough”. Stood in the sidelines, waiting, hoping, wishing, praying, for something to change, even though I knew I could not play myself false and be someone or something I am not. Wanting only to love. Only to love. And nothing in return. With my heart held in perplexity, in those tiny unknowing palms.

Now I can walk away, without regrets or backward glances, knowing full well I am the person He has made me to be, with all my weaknesses and failings, needing so much of Him, and that I always have His perfect strength in the face of my own perfect weakness, that I never have to be who people want me to be, that I can just be. Be that me, that man so utterly ordinary and insignificant that everything good that I am or have is really just Him shining in and through me.

Sigur Rós’ Glósóli played in my head, at 3:55 onwards as the thumping drumbeats and basslines in the background grew in sound and intensity until the crescendo at 4:34 when the guitar crashes into the mix with all madness and fury, creating magic and perfect noise for the next sixty-five seconds;  slide in the dash up the hill, the casting away of the little drum, the running and stumbling up the cliff face, faces full of hope; and there I was, writing the end of that near eleven-month-long story.

And then, finally, it’s the leap off the face of the cliff, instruments and music melding into glorious distortions and metal on metal; and I am jumping, knees bent and muscles straining and legs coiling and springing, not looking, never looking down, just up and above and ahead, through clouds and air and skies just pure and blue; I’ll just jump and soar, into the mist and uncertainty, in every way understandably terrified, but I’ll still do it, just because I know You’ve got me.

You’ve got me. I know this. For this year. And today You whispered Your word for 2009: joy. Just joy. A smile in the face of despair. A grin in the face of impossible odds. A skip in the face of scraped and bruised knees. Laughter in heartbreak. Pure delight in the face of unworthy hands. Madness in the face of crushing circumstance. Dreaming big in the face of disappointment.

I walked out of the lift of the carpark before church today and bumped into Coach M. And she said, “You look so happy today.”

2009. I’ll jump into puddles. I’ll let the sun glow. I’ll keep writing, because this is how you know me and how I know my self, because this how You made me to be. I’ll let myself love, and remember, and live.

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t to forget make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

…I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be,  be wise, and that you will always be kind.”

– Neil Gaiman

2008: The Year The Envelopes Win

Envelope Revolution

This is the year the envelopes win. Which is really my half-baked madhatter idea for this year’s “cards”, in which the envelopes are the cards.  And what I nearly gave myself a hernia in attempting to complete by the New Year’s Eve gathering last night.

Even thought I had to delay them a week after Christmas, I still didn’t have enough time. Worked through the night on the 30th, collapsed in an exhausted heap at 7.30am on the 31st before waking up at 11am to continue. Grateful for the pushback of timing to pick up some of the Easties as Vanessa had to take a nap, even though I still couldn’t get my haircut due to the long queues at the salon downstairs.

So after picking up chef extraordinaire and purveyor of fine desserts Bobby, the wee ones with their big sisters, I had to continue writing the greetings (had only finished all of the artwork) at Darrell’s place, finally applying the finishing touches after eating breadcrumb batter fish and potato wedges with Denise’s salad with balsamic vinegar.

All the artwork is really ripped off from stuff I found on the internet, just in case you get any ideas that I have any real artistic talent at all. I’m no artist or designer, just a very excellent forger. A real copy ninja, if you will. Heh.

Here’re some of the envelopes I made, each as different and unique as the people who received them. Of course by saying that it sounds more awesome that it really is: plagiarised art, words written on four cups of coffee mixed in with a lack of sleep, two little girls drawing on my arm, playing with and messing up my exquisitely-coiffed hair, kicking me in the shins, shoving my extra pen down the back of my shirt and making what really ought to have been a sweet and sincere writing exercise into an example of a Christian’s journey of building character and developing an uncanny ability for longsuffering.

Coach Maddy’s: a celebration of coffee and cute little animals; Hanyang’s: depicting the Great Panda Exodus, admist huge yeti-like monsters with an appetite for endangered animal flesh

The photos of the cards were taken on my bed, which explains the wrinkly sheets. Changed them this week to commemorate the festive season!


Esther’s: Long-eared pandas who eat sound; Cheryl’s: Happy explosions, primordial protoplasmic goo and an army of cute anthropomorphic animals that will aid in the envelopes’ cause; Yukie’s: my favourite Siamese Beards making a second appearance, angry robots, a sad fat monster who sat on his friend

Denise’s: a big fat hamster-looking bear that wants to eat an entire city and afro-donning floating monsters; Bobby’s: happy destructive cloud monsters wreaking havoc and trucker-cap wearing, ba-kwa loving gorillaz

Joseph’s: the Annihilation Bodysuit with badass everything to destroy all zombies


Zhengkai’s: References to Fight Club and Ip Man and general machoness. With roving cloud monsters.


Yoshie’s: Piano music loving cats, turtle/tortoises, small-eyed deep sea explorers and a man in a monster suit who wonders why no one will play with him


Prints made from my negs, stuck onto the wall of my makeshift home “studio”. There’s actually double the number as there were several duplicates! Were placed in the envelopes, keeping true to the Envelope Manifesto.

So 2008 is here and gone, almost too quickly. But it’s been a more than awesome year because I refuse to look at the downs as any indication of my Abba’s heart for me. His love for me never changes, never wavers and He only has good for me.

And 2009 will be even better. Amen.