Sing like you’re singing

April 6, 2011 Comments Off on Sing like you’re singing

I have to admit that I bought Jodi Picoult’s latest book Sing You Home after reading its review in a local newspaper and of course, a review will usually give you unintended informational spoilers (yeah, right) more than you want to know but then, at least you know what to expect–what’s more, it’ll save your time from hanging around for too long at a bookstore just to decide if a book is worth your money or not.

Which, of course, all books are actually worth our money if we have a heart to respect the words inside even when we disagree with them so furiously we want to force other people to read them so that they too can feel what we feel inside. Except that, we are always wrong. That’s all.

But then, no. I lounged around at the bookstore for so long as I tried to make up my mind whether to purchase the book or not and nearly got in fight with the store assistant for trying to put back the magazines I definitely wanted to buy at their shelves just because I let them rested on one of the book shelves–seriously, talking about store assistants who can’t leave you alone? believe me, I’ve got tons to tell–just because I was afraid, the moment I stepped outside with the book in my hand, some people would point at me and shout, “Gotcha! Got you!”

Well…. I guess I was being paranoid because people paid more attention to iPhone and iPad nowadays–hardly books–and so I purchased it and started reading it immediately. And I did something I shouldn’t have done–I let my eyes and memory to swim in a pool of past lesson plans as I searched for some English lessons during my teaching practicum that involved songs in those. Of course, there was… one lesson. A Lenka’s song, Live Like You’re Dying, that I actually (of all the humanity torture!) sang. LIVE. Unplugged. In front of my 4 Rajin students one unusually fine afternoon nearly two hours before the end-of-school bell rang. But we have plenty of that later. Um, save me from the humiliation, at least, for now?

I don’t think I have anything more to say about the book regarding its plot or sensitive issues because I think it’s up to each one of us to decide what’s best for us or what we want. Except that–am I too predictable? You think?–I think most of the characters are too surreal. No… it’s not because a husband abruptly abandons his wife after nine years of marriage or that two people decide to tie the knot after just five months in a relationship, but it’s what they say. All the right words they say to each other that I know I’ll definitely use as my Facebook status. I mean, do people always talk like that? You know, like, “So when you tell me Nothing happened? You’re dead wrong, Vanessa, because I love you. And that means everything happened. Everything.”

Definitely a perfect Facebook status!

Then again? Maybe I need to get a life. And I read the book reviews on the Amazon–the ones that give the lowest rating because reading bad reviews about the albums I listen to or the books I read send effective signals to my brain regarding of the level of attention that I need to give during the process of listening or reading. Of course, it seems ridiculous for Max to divorce Zoe out of blue and yes, many readers seem to question that one too but I think it’s perfectly understood if not comprehensible. When I think Max is weak, he is indeed. But it’s not because he’s an alcoholic with unbelievably low self-esteem to stand up to his love for Zoe (really?)–no, he is weak because he can’t forget his love for his sister-in-law and marries a woman he does not and cannot truly love. Zoe is lucky–don’t you think?–because how many women out there, divorced and live their whole lives blaming themselves for everything when all their fault is… married some men who are too weak to fight the ghost of old love? But you know what I can’t stand the most in the world? Children born out of lust–and only weak men (especially, seriously, if men can freely talk about women supporting them nowadays, it seems a lost cause to get them to actually take responsibility in family planning, though, women are more empowered when they have education and career, but just exactly what kind of education it takes for men to finally make a demand for their own birth control pills?) and/or women are capable of discarding them out of their body system.

Click on the image for its original source, thank you.

I’m sorry. I’m being sensitive and emotional alright. Cruel too….. After all, who am I to judge? Back to Lenka’s song I think. Music therapy. So it does exist and there are even sessions for lyrics analysis! My favourite, undoubtedly. Of course, music and language learning are inseparable because it makes you feel more relaxed and learning more enjoyable. I know because I’ve experienced it in three semesters of Mandarin Chinese class and I found myself singing the 找朋友 (Zhǎo péngyou) song whenever the bus was late, except that I substituted the noun 朋友 with 巴士 (bāshì) as if the song could magically summon the bus–I don’t know, maybe it does–and the unforgettable fun of singing the Chinese New Year song, 恭喜,恭喜 with our Liào Lǎoshī (Assoc. Prof. Liau Lay San–she can sing wonderfully) but that was all to my experience in learning from songs since I’m still trying to tell myself that Chinese songs will not make me feel lonely like they did when I was a little child. Anyways, after figured out my class was rescheduled from before recess to before the ending of the morning session, I was quite furious. According to verbal sources I can’t recall, afternoon is the point of the day when we feel most sleepy and stupid I mean, passive, hence, of course, I started to imagine the worst: I am sleeping in the classroom at my desk because all of the students were sleeping and you know how sleepiness can be so contagious. Um… wait, it’s yawning, actually. So, I don’t blame myself when I think song is a great tool of revival and I picked Lenka’s Live Like You’re Dying to teach the Lotus Eater short story–just perfect. However, before I go further, my advice to teachers? Invest some money to buy a good mp3 player that can be attached to wireless portable speakers like iPod or a laptop with Dolby Digital and long battery life because some classrooms have pitifully dysfunctional electrical sockets (time-saving plus!) because if you love bringing some music to your lesson, the students will do too. Back to singing time. Before I started to humiliate myself, I mean, sing, I asked the students a question to let them empathize with Thomas Wilson. I asked them about the things they would do if they were to die tomorrow. Some of the answers were funny like, rob the bank, getting married (sorry, maybe it wasn’t funny but it was for me), and eating non-stop. Funny, no one answered pray. Afterward, I took out my pitiful mobile phone and the music was inaudible to my horror but I told the students, “This is the song that perhaps, will help you to justify or at least understand Wilson’s decision to live the way he chooses,” and started singing.

The class was so still and when my voice cracked as I reached the chorus, the students didn’t even laugh, to my utmost disbelief. I always think they strained to listen to the song or the question finally got them–it does all the time, for me. I don’t know. But I’d like to think both.

Writer’s note: Now you know that there are many fun ways to learn English than implementing the language in the teaching and learning of Science and Maths. I am all for PPSMI if it helps the students to work harder but endless struggles to understand due to language barrier will not help the students reach even a centimeter closer to that actually. Let the students learn at their own comfort and pace and stop poisoning their minds that better means having more of many things than someone and that it can give them rights to look down on those who don’t.

Oh by the way, it’s anemone, not coral. I blame my inability to snorkel and dive (which I will, one day! Whee!!)


Sand through our feet

March 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m so exhausted to think of anything to write at the moment… All I really want to do is to surround my body with the refreshing water of deep blue sea and just sleep right there *blissfully, stupid smiles*

Ageless beauty...

But the sound of waves crashing on sand will do–anytime. I hope you eat well, sleep well, and rest well.

Susan Enan – Bring on the Wonder

Image source: NG / Song:

Susan Enan features Sarah McLachlan in that remarkable song… Too tired to conjure up any sense from the song but I think the clown fish and the coral love it xD I hope you do too…..

You Never Listen

March 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Click on the image for its original source

So now you know, it’s not actually me–but you, oh hey, finally, after almost seven years of breaking up, courtesy and good manners just fly out of the window, I guess.

But anyway, please ignore the introduction since I really have no idea, really, but here’s a personal project for you that I think you may be interested in participating, uh no… no… don’t worry, there is no dentist, stalking the dentist or pulling out the dentist tooth involve like last time… but just your ears.

Wait!! Do you have to run that fast? But don’t worry, okay? Julia Kotowski (known spectacularly as the Entertainment for the Braindead) is not interested in possessing your ears physically but with regards to her personal project of collecting written descriptions about the sounds of your favourite places, you need to hear or listen carefully, which means, your ears are highly in demand for this super-duper awesome, fun task. Yeah, it is because now you have more excuses to go to your favourite places that I know most of us have no privilege of visiting often due to work or busy schedule, unless your workplace is your favourite place in the world, lucky lucky you! Or yeah, if your house happens to be your favourite place on earth, why, this project will simply be one of many ways to show your gratitude for being able to be and live in a place you love the most or to relive the pleasure over and over again, except this time, by listening with all your heart.

For more information, feel free to visit Miss Kotowski’s Audio Travel Log’s page here. Enjoy your listening experience and have fun!

By the way, speaking of listening, I’m not too fond of portable music for forgettable reasons I have written somewhere in one of the previous posts but other people, on the other hand, listen to music everywhere they go. On the train, it’s not uncommon to catch a group of young people listening to music from their mobile phones LOUDLY without the earphones plugged in that draws irritating glances from fellow commuters to which they ignore blissfully. Or somehow you can still catch the music seeping through the headphones wall and you figure out you and the person standing next to you share similar taste in music (voila!) but sadly, the mutual information will remain in secret forever since you can never tell her with both her ears stuffed with those ubiquitous white earbuds. Of course, those are not enough reasons to despise portable music but for my friend, Pija, it’s the increase risk in being hit by a car for having both your ears occupied can lessen your awareness to your surroundings. Good point there but what about people who drive? My former landlady, Kak Lim, was afraid of driving at night, hence, Diana who rented the room next door, asked her to put on some LOUD music and sing to it out LOUD while driving. I have no idea if the remedy worked or not but apparently, as Arcade Fire sings “my mind holds the key…” Kak Lim succeeded in overcoming her fear by yeah, simply, driving at night and not to think too much of her fear.

All in all, I hate listening to music when I’m outdoor doing outdoor tasks such as walking, running, stalking, sleeping, window-shopping with saliva drooling from my mouth like a fountain, and reading because, as pathetic as it may sound, I want to have something to look forward to when I reach my house after a long day, that is, my music. Indeed, according to a dear friend, it’s sorrowfully pathetic. Unlike me, she loves having her music to accompany her outdoor because, “When I reach the front step of my apartment and I fumble with the doorknob before I step inside, all that I ever want to hear, all that I ever want to listen to more than anything in the world is the voice of my beloved as she tells me about her day on and on and on… I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t listen to that lovely voice again… w..well, maybe that is pathetic but at the end of the day, music alone can’t make you feel loved or serve as a hidden message of love for that one you love. At least, that’s what I believe though I understand our situations are not the same.”

Yes, they aren’t. In the meantime, let us just listen and relive the sounds for many days to come so we can still feel the breath of those we love and miss dearly.

*Writer’s note: God bless the victims of Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Your donation, even in small amount, can make a huge difference. Thank you.

March 13, 2011 Comments Off on

I think with so many things that have happened in the past and will happen in the future, there are infinite reasons to be grateful when we can still sing to someone as the days go by even if they don’t sing back to us. But, hey it’s Sunday already–the best day to stay at home, lazying around with our loved ones and yes, listening to their plans for the coming weekdays (to me at least but still, it’ll always sound enticing to me even if that may sound… unadventurous?).

Rachael Sage – Anything, Anywhere

Wish you a splendid weekend with your loved ones! And endless singing to them even if they don’t sing back to you or are not within physical reach anymore.

NMBI…: An Ant-like Cyclist on a Lonely Road

March 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

SE G900:

Can you find a cyclist? (A view from Alor Setar Tower)

Canon EOS 500D:

On a lonely road and a long way to go...

Nine Million Bicycles In…

March 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Alor Setar, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia!

This–I hope–is a long-term personal project of mine that simply focuses on capturing endless pictures of bicycles and cyclists in Malaysia and around the world (one day!). Another posts in the future will carry the same title, Nine Million Bicycles In…, but different places (again, hopefully), though, the next post will be about two of my favourites. First and foremost, this is NOT a photography project since I am not a photographer; nor do I have a big interest in that area but just my intention of sharing this little miracle in this world, that is, albeit the scorching sun or the stormy rain, there are individuals–the admirable and the strong ones–who journey along life’s tough roads, on their two-wheeled bicycles–some of them are even humming and singing cheerfully! And yes, it’s because I’m “bicyclely frustrated” .

« Read the rest of this entry »

A cup of Chinese characters

February 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

An acquaintance, upon seeing me flipping pages and pages of 新华字典 (Xīnhuá Zìdiǎn) as I struggled to balance a dictionary in one hand and a Jimmy Liao’s book in the other, was so impressed that she exclaimed everyone could read Chinese too once they knew how to use the dictionary and of course, willing to repeat the mechanical process every time they encountered a new character. But I told her I wasn’t reading. True. With the help of a good dictionary, everybody would be able to identify the pronounciation(s) of each character in a reading text, but reading, on the other hand, is a different matter altogether since it involves many aspects (I prefer the term more than processes) that may have direct/indirect impact on one’s emotional and/or psychological state based on one’s understanding and interpretation on as well as interaction with the text that was written by a great mind. Hence, I can confess that I’ve never completed a single, real reading in Chinese after nearly five years of learning since all that I do is identifying and memorizing the characters as well as occasionally finding the meanings with the help of many dictionaries and yes, Google Translate.

“Oh, what a bore–what you do!” And she walked away.

A friend of mine, too, apparently carried the same opinion of my way of learning when she asked me, “Kau ni aku tengok tak adanya nak pandai-pandai belajar Bahasa Cina ni. Dah berapa tahun dah aku tengok masih macam tu jugak. Tak pernah aku nampak kau baca buku Cina ke, suratkhabar Cina ke, tak tengok kamus. Kau tak jemu ke? Bila kau nak pandai ni, cuba bagitau aku sikit!” (*Writer’s note: Basically, she just questioned my inability to read Chinese even after many years of learning). I told her that I keep doing what I’m doing because I like it and I wouldn’t mind if I stayed the same until the next forty or fifty years but I didn’t tell her I too at one point gave up because I was tired and frustrated only to realize that I musn’t if I wanted to one day being able to be literate in Chinese language. I could have lived with an unknown character for the rest of my life but to be able to identify it and find its meanings, I need the dictionary. It’s like life, you see. Sometimes, to see my friends at the peak of their education and career does indeed make me feel desperate and want to start doing something great that I really have no idea of to be honest but I know that will be an ultimate disaster without proper planning and preparation, hence, explains the things I’m doing at the moment–all the temp jobs that will lead me to my goal one day. Maybe, some people opine it’s too laid back or ignorance but they can say what they want. It’s like ascending and/or descending a mountain. You don’t straight away reach the destination, do you? The same goes out to reading in Chinese because you don’t miraculously know how to read a text (say, classical literature) without learning how to identify and memorizing the characters first. But then, it’s because I can’t afford being embarrassed like small children–something that I need to learn…

It’s just that, I admit the inevitable feelings of inferiority, incompleteness, incompetency, and low self-esteem that it brings, though, I realise that it’s always good to know the real state you are in to avoid some misleading disillusionment in life. Camellia Siow of Purple Cane’s Tea Art Learning Centre, told The Star, “If you can afford only RM20 tea, you shouldn’t pine for RM2,000 tea” (Weekender, Saturday, 20 February 2011). That is exactly what the lady at the shop in Klang Valley where I used to shop for green and pu-erh teas told me three years ago. She said that the tea may be cheap and of low (not poor if you buy the leaves at good tea shops) quality but then, everyone, regardless of social status and wealth can always benefit from drinking it, while the expensive ones will only remind you of all that you’ve achieved in your long life journey–not that it’s a bad thing but what matters most is, you must know who you are first. It’s true. In the meantime, let’s try as best as we can to be happy at our friends’ rezeki for ours will come next if we are willing to work hard and appreciate the people we have by our side, the tea that we drink, and yes, the long way to go in life for we are still healthy and happy to walk towards it with our loved ones.

Writer’s note: I really enjoy writing Chinese characters too because it helps a lot with my concentration. I still remember at Ija’s–my former colleague during teaching practicum–horror when I told her how I unconsciously let the word “friend” to be written as “frie” (since I was writing an essay for my 4 Rajin class) just before both of us engaged in a long waste-of-time talk. She said, “Hiii… I read from somewhere yang itu menunjukkan you ada bipolar disorder! Entah-entah pagi you Saha, malam you orang lain…”

*Sigh* If you excuse me, I want to brew a nice cup of pu-erh tea.