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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Change.

So as 2008 draws to a close, I have come to a conclusion -

A part of my life is changing.

***

Music has always been a part of my life. DAMN, how many times have i said that? Or typed that? Well, after all, it is the truth.

Since the very beginning - from the time when I was first inspired by of all people, Vanessa Mae, to my first 'violin' made out of cardboard, to my foolish days of 'hating' classical music as a child, playing the piano and violin because I was 'forced' to by my parents, to going crazy about Backstreet Boys and Westlife and such, to listening to Hitz FM for all that pop/rock stuff, to discovering the wonder of underground music and other sub-genres of rock such as emo, post hardcore and others, to the days of metal domination in my ears, and finally of late, to coming back down to the roots of all music - classical.

Yes, it's true. Something has really changed in me. Even after I became a member of the MPYO, I still felt that I preferred modern music compared to stuff like what I was playing in the orchestra. For awhile, I was still writing and performing with Rosewood and stuff. Then came the SPM year when nearly all things seemed to fall apart for me except of course my development as an orchestra player and generally an improving, aspiring classical musician.

The proof of my somewhat sudden stronger interest in classical music is simple - it's practically the only thing I listen to now every day for the last few weeks or so. In the past, I would have my latest downloaded albums in my downloads folder, and I would fill my phone with various songs, primarily in the metal genre. Nowadays, I listen to various types of classical music - orchestral, chamber, solo and duet concerti and what not. The last time I updated my song list in my phone was a few days ago, and everything there is classical.

And I'll tell you one thing, I really haven't been listening to anything of my former interest. The other night I gave it a go - I played As I Lay Dying's The Darkest Nights at a relatively loud volume, only to find myself half paying attention to the song. I haven't been jamming either, and my band The Archetype? Seems dead.

I would have to say, part of this change had to do with a decision I made. I told myself, since I'm going to be majoring in classical music - it's about time I at least got serious in terms of discovering and listening to various repertoire. The decision eventually made me actually enjoy it and now there's no turning back. I won't completely say goodbye to the stuff I had been listening to previously, but for now I will welcome a new dawn into my current most important aspect of my life as 2009 beckons.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Heroes.

There are certain people in this country who really deserve to be called 'heroes'. No, these do not necessaraly include Datuks, Tan Sris or YBs who have apparently done 'amazing' things for Malaysia, for example being the first 'astronaut' from Malaysia.

Yesterday at The Annexe at Central Market, five Malaysians were honoured as 'heroes' to this country, for various reasons, mostly to do with freedom of expression and views. Yes, I was there because my father was one of those honoured mainly for his contribution in the form of the book March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up, but for me it was a real eye opener, having the chance to see real 'heroes' on show.

Listening to Irene Fernandez speak about her 13 year struggle as a human rights activist and of the moment she was acquitted of 'telling the truth' definitely compelled my attention. Yes, long story, so it's hard to explain here.

I also found it very interesting when one of the other 'heroes', Hafidz Baharom openly admitted he was a homosexual and actually explained how his family found out. I mean, to announce to public that you are gay is already an 'achievement' in itself, but Hafidz sure ran a high risk since he is, after all, a Muslim man. As my dad says, anyone could easily blog about what Hafidz said (which I am doing right now), but after all, the man himself said that since his family already knows of this discovery, what is there for him to hide? Great stuff.

Journalist Shanon Shah of The Nut Graph also told of interesting stories involving him, the most significant one was of him trying to get to do an interview with PKR MP Zulkifli Nordin and how he had to as he says, "get my hands dirty" as a journalist.

Yati Kaprawi meanwhile spoke of her activism as a member of Sisters in Islam and her achievements for this year, while mentioning about the recent fatwa ruling regarding yoga. Yati put forth some very logical reasoning, saying that the government should not make yoga 'haram', but instead state that all yoga is 'halal', except those which involve chanting.

All in all, a very interesting evening.

Datuk Sheikh Muzaphar? Hero? Really?

I'd say even Peter Petrelli beats him to it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Amazing.

It's amazing.

It's amazing how time can manipulate you, how it can make you feel differently about different events, whether it felt like an age ago, or whether it felt like it happened just before you blinked.

It's amazing how my last blog post was more than three weeks ago.

It's amazing how it's only been 18 days since I did my audition recording at Carolyn's.

It's amazing how I remember my last dental appointment, god knows how long ago.

It's amazing how it's already been a year since the last MPYO tour, and a year on, it's time to tour East Malaysia this time.

It's amazing how I was in college for the last time for a long time, eight hours ago.

It's amazing how in less than 24 hours, I'll be seeing my pals again.

It's amazing how it's only been 3 months since I switched my major instrument from the violin to the viola.

It's amazing how Barack Obama was made the new President-elect only 24 days ago.

It's amazing how in slightly more than a month, A-Levels will be on again.

It's amazing how Jia Rong has already been in the US for more than three months.

It's amazing how in eight to nine months, I myself might be going overseas to study music.

It's amazing how I've been in college for nearly a year.

It's amazing how the next tutti rehearsal is barely three days away.

It's amazing how I've already lived 17 years of my life.

It's amazing how it feels like a century since the string masterclass on Wednesday.

It's amazing how I've stayed single for like - ever.

It's amazing how secondary school seems oh so far away.

It's amazing how I'm going to get the chance to play the orchestral part for the Dvorak Cello Concerto in concert, 11 days from now.

It's amazing how the last time I changed one side or both my contact lenses was three years ago.

It's amazing how it's been so fucking long since our last chamber practice, eh Dylan?

It's amazing how I was in Penang a month ago, when it feels just like yesterday.

It's amazing how it's gonna be a week since my first music album review for The Star was published.

It's amazing how I remember my MPYO audition in 2006 so clearly.

It's amazing how it's gonna be two months since I sat for SAT exam.

It's amazing how it's been more than a month since I came close to a music teaching job, before making the right decision to turn it down, unfortunately at the last minute.

It's amazing how I've had backaches in the morning for nearly two weeks.

It's amazing how quickly I've adjusted to my new spectacles, pretty much in a day.

It's amazing how my phone has lasted me more than three years, albeit the problems it has faced.

It's amazing how I've sent in my application materials a week ago, although it feels like a month.

It's amazing.

What is?

This.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Milestones.

Black is beautiful.

It sure is.

In a matter of a few days, two amazing things happened. One in the sporting arena, and the other in the world of politics.

Lewis Hamilton and Barack Obama have created history.

On Sunday afternoon in Sao Paulo, Brazil, home hero Felipe Massa crossed the line to take the chequered flag and to complete the comeback of beating Hamilton to the title in the F1 season finale.

Or did he?

As Massa and everyone in the Ferrari pit were going crazy celebrating the Brazilian winning the championship, Hamilton had managed to pass Timo Glock on the last corner of the final lap to snatch fifth place, and as a result led Massa by a single point in the final drivers standings.

The Ferrari pit went silent.

So the thing is, do you believe in fate? How is it that the result was exactly as how the statisticians had put it: "even if Massa won and Hamilton finishes fifth, Hamilton would win the championship." I mean, how often does it really happen exactly in the reality of things?

Even I, who had already read the result online and was watching the repeat of the ending of the race was shocked. It was as if God had caused Glock's car to malfunction or something which allowed Hamilton to pass him, on the final lap! Drama.

People would question, was Hamilton lucky? Was this victory undeserved? Should Massa have won the championship instead? Well, like it or not, Hamilton's the new world champion, the first black to win it and the youngest ever as well. There's no way Ferrari are going to make an appeal to the FIA against what happened with Glock's car. That would be completely ridiculous.

Yes, maybe Hamilton did get some good fortune when Glock had his problem. But I personally feel that Hamilton fully deserves this victory. After a similar scenario last season when he lost it to Kimi Raikkonen in the final race, it's as if justice has been done. He had done everything right last season, in his first race in the sport, and though things weren't easy this season either, Hamilton prevailed.

I mean, come on, double world champion Fernando Alonso of Renault actually said publicly, "I don't know, but it's good he's punished anyway" when Hamilton was penalised by the stewards earlier in the season. Where's the sportsmanship there? And other drivers who by right should not be criticising other teams or drivers openly admitted that they didn't want Hamilton to win the title. Well, all I can say is, he sure got the last laugh on Sunday.

But as much of a Hamilton supporter I am, I do feel for Massa. It's not everyday you get to win the Formula One world championship, in your home grand prix as well. Massa was clearly shaken after the race. One can understand and empathise with him. True, Massa may have not been perfect all season or anything, but who is? Hamilton didn't have a perfect season either, he made some mistakes along the way too, just like everyone does.

So after the race as Massa stepped out of his car to address the crowd, even I joined in to applaud him.


***
YES WE CAN.

Those three words must have become pretty well known across the globe by now, and the phrase was chanted more than ever on the night of Tuesday at Grant Park in Chicago. More than 200,000 people were there to see and hear the new President of the United States to give his speech.

Barack Obama has been a revelation since he exploded onto the scene. One could already tell that this was a man who was indeed ready to bring change to America. His opponent in the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton eventually endorsed him too after she lost to Obama in the Democratic race.

And as Obama won the electoral votes by roughly 2-1 (I haven't checked whether all the votes have been counted), Republican John McCain, Obama's opponent in the race for the White House was gracious in conceding defeat, and promised to help Obama in the future. I felt that during the last debate between the two, McCain was going to find it very difficult to topple Obama. It was clearly evident that McCain was starting to get desperate, sometimes being too overemotional and always blasting Obama. Well, you can't entirely blame someone who was behind in the polls based on predictions.

It was interesting to note that this election was claimed as the victory of the 'young Americans'. Around two thirds of those young voters had voted Obama, and as the age groups increased, more and more were voting McCain, but even when it reached to around the senior citizens age group, it was somewhat divided, with roughly half voting Obama and the other half voting McCain.

As Obama finished his speech before the huge crowd at Grant Park and when his family along with the family of Joe Biden, his running mate and new vice president-elect, it was a truly emotional moment. I too, was holding back tears. Today was the day that America saw the electing of the first African-American as president. History had just been made.

A few weeks ago I wondered how Anwar Ibrahim could've been only 50 something when he was on the verge of becoming the Prime Minister of our country, 10 years ago.

Well, how old is Barack Obama?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Breathe.

Ever been part of a five-person party at a restaurant which ate up to RM 1000 in a single meal?!

No shit.

Agh, the satisyfing, overwhelming, fun, amazing activity of OVEREATING in a place like Penang has certainly not done my stomach any favours.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Un. Believable.

Those were the two or one or whatever words that instantly came to my mind when my Moral Studies lecturer told me and a friend of mine that we weren't allowed to sit for the final quiz.

The last few hours of today have probably been among the most stressful in my life.

I mean, can you imagine? I've done everything right up to now, but because he fucking doesn't 'get' my letter of absence for some reason or another, I get barred from taking the final exam,

Then he doesn't turn up to let me sit for the quiz myself.

Then he tells me I can do it this Saturday.

And the next thing you know, he says I don't have a fucking valid reason for not doing it last Saturday.

I wouldn't completely rule out the fact that this is someone who won't fucking admit his mistake.

While the appeal against the barring is still up in the air, this new matter which has arisen has caused even more unnecessary anxiety and frustration. What a time for someone like me, who has little interest left in my A-Levels studies. Sigh. And to add insult to injury, letters notifying of my absence from Math lectures are coming through my mailbox, even though I had struck a deal with the department some time ago.

Agh.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Spirit.

When tens of police officers tell you they're having a police 'function' at Dataran Merdeka and that it is closed, in your my mind you tell them, "Yeah sure, don't give me that crap."

When a police officer ridiculously tells you to blow out a candle in five seconds, in your mind you tell him to fuck off.

When 2,000 people march on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, the police are dumbstruck.

The atmosphere along Jalan Tun Perak last night was amazing, with everyone holding up their candles high, chanting non-stop "Mansuhkan ISA", "Bebaskan RPK" and "Hindraf Valga". There was clearly nothing the police could do, despite us all completely blocking traffic on one side of the road. On the other side, there were cars passing by, honking away in support.

We were there for a cause.

We were there for justice.

Even if our attempts and actions were to no avail, at least we were there to let the government know that the people are no longer the people who we used to be.

And they better start thinking twice before putting people in the lockup.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Perched.

Sept 16.

A relatively uneventful day. Well, relative to what most people were anticipating.

As I expected, there was no change of government on that day, Malaysia Day. However, on the eve of the 16th, Anwar Ibrahim told the massive rally at Kelana Jaya stadium that Pakatan Rakyat were ready to form the government, as they had enough crossovers from BN. The atmosphere was frenetic.

Now, Anwar may not be perfect, and I can understand why some people don't trust him. I mean, don't you think it's pretty vague when he says they have the numbers, when he doesn't mention who and from which parties of the coalition they are from?

In actual fact, it's a good thing Anwar did not reveal the names to the general public. After all, if he did, it would possibly cause the MPs to get harassed by BN to assure that they don't crossover to Pakatan, and maybe the usual under-the-table money payment will come into play as usual.

Then again, some people would wonder, did Anwar buy the MPs over? In the past, he did have a reputation of being corrupt as well. He has supposedly changed, but one can never be too sure. However, with the presence of the other two parties in the Pakatan coalition, DAP and PAS, such an act is most likely not conducted, in order to get the numbers.

And there was Zaid Ibrahim, who rightfully resigned as the de facto law minister after protesting against the arrests of Raja Petra, Teresa Kok and Tan Hoon Cheng under the ISA. Since then, Teresa Kok and Tan have been released, with Raja Petra still detained. SAPP also pulled out from BN, leaving Anwar with only 30 BN MPs to agree to crossover.

To be fair, Anwar can't really do much to force the change of government. In fact, he doesn't want to. On Malaysia Day, it was declared that he had sent a letter to the PM to seek an emergency meeting. Obviously, Abdullah did not agree. A few days later, Anwar came out and called for an emergency Parliament sitting, to vote for no-confidence against Abdullah and BN. Again, as expected, Abdullah gave a no.

So what now, then? Will Pakatan ever get to rule the government? Or is all hope going to just vanish into thin air? If that happens, we're screwed. Looks like Anwar may well have to go to the King, and hopefully the King will think rationally and make the right decision.

I've heard stories of Anwar and how power crazy he was in the past. To this day, there are people who still think he is, and to a certain extent, it's true. But guess what?

He's the next best, only thing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Unstable.

If the act of reporting a racist remark stated by an Umno leader is deemed a crime, then what does the act of the Umno leader himself become? This has been the question going around since yesterday evening, when Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng was detained under the ISA.

Along with Tan, Malaysia Today blogger Raja Petra and Seputeh MP Teresa Kok were taken in. But the major talking point has been about Tan.

The laughable thing is when Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar declared that Tan was detained under the ISA 'for her own safety'. Yeah right, bullshit. He said this today, probably after realising the government had made a mistake in detaining Tan. Well, it doesn't take a fool to see through you, mister.

In the first place, it doesn't make sense that Tan was to receive worst punishment than the Umno leader, Ahmad Ismail whose comment, calling the Chinese immigrants, sparked a ruckus amongst Chinese across the nation. Fine, Ahmad was stripped off party posts and rights for three years and suspended from Umno, but isn't being detained under the ISA a worse thing? As Martin Vengadesan of the National Union of Journalists says, this is a case of shooting the messenger.

While all this is going on, Anwar Ibrahim had been keeping pretty quiet, up til today when he suggested aloud that he meet with Pak Lah to discuss national security, linked to the recent ISA holdings. The interesting thing is whether the public will blame Anwar for everything has happened, as he is the one who has been promising to Pakatan Rakyat supporters that they will takeover the government, come September 16th.

Well, that day is coming too soon, and in my opinion, nothing spectacular to the extent of a change in government will happen. After all, so many BN MPs are still off on their 'study trip' in Taiwan. Proof of the government taking all possible measures to counteract Anwar's plan.

Every bit of support is needed for Teresa Kok and Raja Petra who remain under the jaws of the ISA. Heck, Teresa's parents don't even know where the fuck their daughter is!

Depressing, eh? Yeah, and to add insult to injury, Liverpool just added to my misery.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Exhale.

What a rollercoast ride it has been.

Just over two-thirds of the year has gone by just like that. And it has probably been one of the toughest, stressful, and most eventful years of my life so far. For eleven years I had been learning and playing the violin, the most common orchestral instrument you can find. For ten years I was with the same teacher, would you believe it.

But now, everything has changed. It seems as if it all happened in a flash. After more than a decade playing the violin, my conscience told me, it's time.

Viola time.

At the end of last year, I became certain of doing music as a degree. As a result, I knew it was time to switch to a new teacher, one who I hoped would last for at least awhile, while trying to get into music schools. Who was I to know that she wouldn't even last a year.

Then a few months ago, my peers began suggesting switching to the viola. I thought nothing of it, until I decided, maybe give it go. I was loaned two violas, and ended up becoming involved with a chamber group playing a movement from a truly fantastic string quartet. Back then, I thought it was going to be temporary, as I still had my focus set on the violin.

My 'amazing' progress on my major instrument in the first few months were very promising indeed, but in the last few months or so, I slowed down a little. I suppose that is quite normal after a few months with a new teacher. But it was the last MPYO camp that completely changed my mindset. It was after the May camp. I had been asked whether I could help with out the viola section, after admin had seen me play viola for chamber. I gladly agreed, thinking it would be a good experience for me, nothing more.

I was wrong. I came back from the camp, a full length of a week playing the viola in the orchestra, as well as two chamber groups, and I had never felt so mesmerised by the amazing tone and sound of the viola. That was it.

So there you go. See how things can change in such a short time? There I was thinking I would be applying to music schools abroad on the violin, for sure. And now that I am short of time, I finally put my foot down to at least lighten my load in terms of college work. I made a compromise, to drop a subject and defer the other two for this semester.

I'm going all out. I have to. I want to.

Let's go.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stress.

I don't know how many people I've told this.

But if you told me that from today onwards, I wouldn't have to go to college anymore, I'd take it. Right away.

I'm guessing it's very rare for someone like me to be saying this, not too long after finally getting rid of school life which lasted oh so long, but I suppose my case is different, as someone who is aiming to pursue music, which as it seems has absolutely nothing to do with what I'm studying at college. And now that I have LAN as well, college life is really draining my valuable energy which I would rather use for more important (to me, at least) things. For fellow musicians, you would know what I mean. I mean, after an exhausting day of classes non stop from 8 til LAN ends, how do you expect work to be the next thing on my mind?

When I think about it, I wonder why the hell did I start A-Levels anyway? Why didn't I just take a few months off to focus on music and nothing else? Well, the fact remains that A-Levels might still provide me something to fall back on, say if I somehow astonishingly decide not to do music after all. This is where I'm torn between two worlds and have to live up both.

And that time of the year has come, application season. My problem is that if I am to apply to schools in the US, I might require SATs which is another thing to worry about, plus a recording of my playing which I might have to submit. At this rate, I really don't know if I can be prepared in such a short time.

The lines on my forehead thicken.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Turmoil.

Sodomy.

Anwar.

Fabrication.

Najib.

Statutory declarations.

Raja Petra.

Bala.

Conspiracy?

Question remains, who and what can we believe nowadays?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Struck.

I had candlelight dinner last night.

For three hours from around 7 pm, the world was in darkness. I honestly can't recall when was the last time there was a blackout which lasted that long. The whole atmosphere of candlelight dinner had me feeling like a kid again. Back then candlelight dinner was on purpose.

Our PM says we have first world infrastructure, eh? Yeah right. More like first world infrastructure with third world mentality. Nah, we don't even have first world infrastructure.

You know that feeling when a friend of yours is about to leave? Yeah, of course you do.

I feel that now.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Content.

PRAISE THE LORD, for my violin sounds so much better now.

* whichever lord is up there listening to me*

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reduction.

Is it just me, or -

No, I think it's true.

There are fewer cars on the roads nowadays. So maybe, just maybe, the recent petrol price hike is kind of a good thing.

I've always had this perception that to reduce road congestion, the government should like have this quota of number of cars on the road. I know it's easier said than done, but seriously, it would actually help a lot.

41% was a huge increase. I mean, at one go. But as mentioned the good thing that has come out of it is that people have finally realised, it's public transport time.

I, for one take public transport whenever I can and especially if I'm traveling alone, e.g. bus from college, LRT to other places. And I have to say, although our public transport facilities aren't in tip top shape, they're actually underrated. I mean, what's so bad about the LRT, apart from the fact that the lines don't extend into certain parts of the Klang Valley? Trains do come every few minutes, which makes it that bit better than the buses which could come anytime in the next five minutes of fifty.

We can only wonder why the government didn't decide on creating more stations earlier. I mean, the current plan is probably gonna be put into action like, next year, and be completed in four years time. That is far too long. In four years time this country could, or rather will become net importers of petroleum! We have to slow down this economic effect a lot quicker.

Damn, I'm sounding like some environmental activist or something.

The papers actually reported that more people were taking public transport now and that there has been a decrease in number of cars on the roads. It is evident. I can see it with my own eyes, I just hope this will continue for the better.

If I'm not wrong, there have been certain measures taken to 'increase' capacity of the trains, by taking away some of the seats in the trains. That day I was taking the LRT from Kelana Jaya and usually, regardless of the time, when I enter I get to sit down since it is the first stop of the line. This time though, it was so packed right from the start. At KLCC, there were tons of people lining up to get on to the trains.

So if you're alone, and you need to go somewhere near, cycle there. If you're alone, and you need to go somewhere far, and your destination happens to be near an LRT station, take the LRT.

What the hell is this post for.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Trial.

Conductor Kevin Field said to us a few months back, "The violists are endangered species".

According to him, the ideal number of violists in an orchestra should be 12. During the last camp, there were only five at one point.

***


It happened a few months ago, March to be precise. After the first camp of the year, and after all the things that people were telling me (you've got long fingers, a viola looks like a violin on you, etc.), I went home and said to myself, I might actually switch my major to viola.

And in a matter of days, I was loaned a viola by my ex-teacher's student, who also happens to be my current teacher's friend. I began playing it, getting the hang of reading the alto clef, while still focusing on the violin.

Then I was loaned another one. And at around the same time, I was asked to participate in a chamber group, merely as a replacement for a friend of mine who was busy. Only after a couple of practices, I was made the violist of that group. So I went to the last camp, playing violin in the orchestra, and viola for chamber rehearsals. In the middle of the camp I actually was called upon to replace my friend again in another chamber group, because of some difficulties that arose.

It was inevitable. Before the chamber concert, one of the administrators spoke to me about joining the viola section for the next camp in August. I was given the time to think about it and to eventually respond. For the past two weeks or so, I had been thinking about whether to join the section, as a favour to the orchestra, or not. A few days ago, a message for all the orchestra members, sent from Kevin Field himself actually had special mention of me in it, regarding the same matter.

Last night, it was decided. I am going to join them.

For the mean time, I suppose I will be missing the splendour of that glorious E string, and missing the chances to play those beautiful melodies on the violin in the orchestra. But I do look at this as a part win-win situation. I help the orchestra, I get the opportunity and experience to play another instrument in an orchestra. How many people can say that?

Til today I still wonder how it all actually, and exactly happened. Things fell into place, I suppose. This doesn't mean though, that I will be in the viola section until I quit the orchestra. I do aim to return to the violins sections in the future. After all, it is still my major.

Endangered species?

Looks like it's time for some environmental saving.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

Dead.

Happiness has fled. The feeling of emptiness fills my soul.

Yesterday was my birthday. And it really was a very strange one. It seems my last two birthdays have been spent away from home. Last year I was at the pretty forgettable LEO Forum, and this year it was the last day of MPYO Camp.

To all Tribal members and others, thanks for all the wishes, the presents and cake, and everything else in between. I had never felt that previliged in some time.

Last night going back on the LRT, I just felt so emo. Reminiscing about the good times we had over the last week or so, things fell apart.

Things just weren't the same when I arrived home. While I was unpacking my stuff, I could imagine you guys having fun on the 'infamous' last night, and the thought simply killed me inside. Even now as I post this, it seems as if my sigh is deep and my shoulders are weak.

This camp has got to be the best camp ever since Tronoh. I think about it now and still wonder, which one topped which. I mean, there were so many facilities available. Pool, karaoke, badminton, squash, internet, computers. All FREE. Whatever it is, there is no doubt that this was one of the best camps since the MPYO started.

But now, it's all over.

August is simply TOO far away for my liking.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Victory.

May the best man win, they say.

And how fucking glad I was when it was announced that David Cook was the next American Idol.

On the other side of the world, Manchester United beat Chelsea in a penalty shootout to clinch the UEFA Champions League title.


***

But first, to Idol.

Cook's win was totally unexpected, really. I thought that it was David Archuleta who performed better the night before, and who had the largest fan base right from the beginning.

FINALLY AMERICA DOES SOMETHING RIGHT OH MY GOD.

Ryan Seacrest announced at the beginning of the show that one of the Davids (the winner) had claimed 56% of the votes, while the other had the remaining 44%. And there I was thinking, yeah yeah, that 56% is Archie's.

David Cook has arguably been the most interesting, original contestant this season. Damn, how many times have I said that. It's the truth though, and finally Cook fans and I have been vindicated. Ah, contentment.

But if you think about it, there really isn't THAT big a difference. Regardless of whether Archuleta had won it or not, the young man is gonna become a star anyway. And so will the other top 12 finalists.

For now though, I'm savouring Cook's victory.


***
Complacency and poor luck.

I was absolutely incensed when Frank Lampard scored Chelsea's equaliser close to half time. A while earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo had scored with a brilliant header to put the Devils ahead, but yet again, complacency crept in.

No surprise, really. Carlos Tevez missed two great opportunities, as United dominated in possession and in terms of clear-cut chances. I began to feel nervous, as Chelsea did gain some confidence getting forward.

Things continued in Chelsea's favour from the second half onwards, with Drogba hitting the post, and the Blues the better side in general. In extra-time, Lampard could have got the second, as he hit the bar with an instinctive shot, but then silly old Didier Drogba got himself involved in something so meaningless, giving Nemanja Vidic a little slap on the face, and inevitably getting sent off.

Drogba would definitely have been a clear penalty taker, but even without him,
Chelsea still looked strong.

And after the first four penalties put in by both sides, at 2-2, the 'best player in the world' Ronaldo stepped up to take his pen. And I was very unsurprised he had it saved. Ronaldo had finally stepped up to such a huge occasion as this one by scoring the opening goal, but that penalty miss will surely leave the pundits wondering whether he really is worthy of being the best player in the world. I still think he is, though.

Chelsea looked set to clinch victory. Captain John Terry strode forward, and somehow missed. I was elated, but to be honest, after the shootout, just watching Terry in tears on the ground made me feel sorry for him. I mean, let's salute Terry, he got injured only like 10 days ago, and yet he did his best to make sure he was fit for the final. That indicates such dedication from the captain to his club.

Mr. Milestone Ryan Giggs scored the pen which ultimately sealed the win, before Nicolas Anelka saw his penalty saved by United keeper Edwin Van der Sar.

Champions of England.

Champions of Europe.

The best team in the world.

GLORY.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Indifferent.

So even without even knowing for sure, I conclude that the next American Idol is David Archuleta.

Simon said it himself. It was a knockout. Unfortunately, David Cook didn't quite stand up to the challenge. Not quite the right song choices. And plus, Archuleta performed his favourite song Imagine as his last of three, which was practically his 'winning' song. Cook on the other hand decided not to sing a song he had done before. Pity, cause if he had done say Billie Jean, round 3 could well have been tighter.

But it wasn't to be. All rounds quite obviously went to the 17 year-old, and it would really take a great deal to stop him from being crowned the next Idol.

Don't get me wrong. I am not against and do not despise Archuleta. I am a Cook supporter, but I firmly believe that this was a perfectly fitting final with the two best, most consistent contestants throughout this year's installment.

Maybe this proves something, that when one dares to be different, when one dares to reach beyond the boundaries, when one dares to be original, it doesn't always pay off. This pretty much sums up David Cook. In my opinion which was similar to all three judges', Cook was possibly the most original contestant Idol has ever seen. I was sorely disappointed, watching him belt out those three songs, and not quite stamping his mark on them ultimately with his own version.

Someone who wrote in The Star last week said David Cook's version of Billie Jean was 'copied' from Chris Cornell's version. I would have to disagree with this, because from what I listened to, the two versions weren't close enough to be called 'carbon-copies' of each other. I would say David Cook's version was 'inspired' by Chris Cornell's, not 'copied'.

But Cook didn't live up to the hype surrounding him. He didn't choose Billie Jean for his last song, when he should have. But there you go, how did he respond to it? "I wanted to do something I hadn't done before" (or something along those lines, at least). A true mark of a true artist who dares to take risks.

And for the young Archuleta, I still think that Imagine is possibly the only song in his repertoire that he actually managed to significantly play around with to call it his own. He's a really good voice, no doubt, plus he's really heart-felt and earnest, but apart from Imagine, I don't think he does much to the songs he performs, week in week out. Sorry, Archie.

After considering this case again, maybe it is better for David Cook not to win Idol. Why? Well, simply because there is a chance that he may just become one of those, singing songs he doesn't really want to. Cause that's what happens when you win a competition like this. You are under pressure from producers to come up with something that suits the market more than yourself. Just look at past winners. Then look at past runners-up or simply non-winners.

So it seems Archuleta has it made.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Something.

Have you ever felt paranoid as if you have done something wrong which turned out to jeopardise yourself?

Have you ever felt like you want and need to do something sooo badly, but you just CAN'T fucking do it for some reason or another?

Have you ever felt you just don't understand why a certain something happened to you?

Have you ever felt like you miss something so much, yet you're so glad you've thrown it all away with the intention to forget it?

Have you ever felt as if something you never expected to happen on the outside, but something you half expected to happen in your mind really actually happened?

No, these questions are not merely meant to be rhetorical. No, these questions are not meant to bore you.

I'm losing this race. Should I pull out from it before it's too late?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Red.

Finally.

After weeks of underperforming, Ryan Giggs does something right at last.

Chelsea two years in a row?

What about 10 times in 16 seasons?

Glory.

GLORY.

For justice is done.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Finality.

So it all has come down to this.

Arguably the tightest fight for the Premier League title in ages.

Mind games.

Partying.

Distractions?

All Man United need to do is match Chelsea's result.

After last week's defeat of Newcastle, Chelsea lived to fight another day.

And that day, is today.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fatigue.

Well, what can I say.

I guess you lied.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

ICONOCLAST (PART 1: THE FINAL RESISTANCE) Review



HEAVEN SHALL BURN
Iconoclast (Part I: The Final Resistance)
Century Media Records

Release date: 28 January 2008

Sometimes, band names can spark controversy. The first time I heard the name of this band, I was wondering to myself if they were satanists, or simply anti-Christ for that matter. Being my inquisitive self, I did some research, and discovered that the word ‘heaven’ was actually used as a metaphor, to depict a fake paradise people create.

Hailing from Germany, many would think that this metalcore (melodic death metal? deathcore?) band would bear great similarities to another metalcore band from the same country, Caliban. After all, they did release split albums with Caliban in 2001 and 2005. But in actual fact, they do not. While their fellow countrymen have a pretty clear cut metalcore sound with some hardcore influences, Heaven Shall Burn are a bit more on the agressive side.

From the musical point of view, Heaven Shall Burn barely ever slow down throughout the album, until before the last two instrumental tracks. But when they do, such as on the interlude of Like A Thousand Suns, they manage to bring about a change in mood, which diverts back to the original in perfect fashion. A Dying Ember’s interlude also displays the band’s ability to write slower, emotive parts. Song structure-wise, this German quintet pretty much stick to the conventional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, while breakdowns and solos are not featured. Repetition does occur though, which at times makes it difficult to differentiate between songs. A particular example would be when all the instruments just stop, with only the lead guitar playing a short riff, before barely two seconds later it picks up again. This seems to be a trademark of Heaven Shall Burn’s, and although it is gut-busting, it occurs too many times throughout the album. Lyrics really play an integral role in this band, as they combine themes such as anti-racism and fighting social injustice, which does great favours for the band by adding to the agression and emotion. During the chorus Like A Thousand Suns, vocalist Marcus Bischoff screams in agony:

Betrayed by their proud leaders,
And executed by atrocious enemies,
So many homes, so many lives,
A silent sense of guilt should rise.


There are some interesting moments, the first which I would point out, the drums on Murderers of All Murderers. About 15 seconds into the song, the drumming pattern shifts to a really unique, electronica disco-type beat, which you would never expect to hear in this genre, yet it fits so perfectly. Another very fitting musical inclusion would be towards the end of A Dying Ember, in which a choir-like ambience is created, within the heaviness of the instrumentation.

As mentioned, Heaven Shall Burn are masters of the trade when it comes to brutality. After the first track Awoken, which is a 90-second intro of piano and strings, Endzeit just screams the word heavy. During these close to 50 minutes of heaviness, the vocals may lack variety, but are extremely powerful and refined. Plenty of pounding double bass, which is one of the many characteristics of the impressive drumming, adds to the whole frenzy of things. The guitars are mostly rhythm-oriented, although when some melodic lead riffs stand out during the choruses, they really do soar. A perfect example would be on Forlorn Skies, and on The Bombs of My Saviours, which happens to be a song about the strong fight against terrorism in this world today. Luckily for the band, they also succeed in making the bass fairly noticeable at times too.

And just when you’re thinking, slightly more than midway through the album, that all the songs are gonna be just heavy, heavy, you’re wrong. Black Tears, which is an Edge of Sanity cover done by the band, acts pretty much as a melodic cyclone to keep you and your ears sane (irony of the pun not intended). Against All Lies is another song which starts off slightly slower, but predictably goes back into classic Heaven Shall Burn roughly about a minute later, though it generally turns out to be a lot slower and more emotional (especially during the chorus) than the other heavy tracks. The final track, the instrumental Atonement, showcases great instrumentation once again and is a great way to end the record. This is where pretty much every instrument can be heard clearly, probably helped by the fact that the drumming isn’t the usual, explosive.

Some may argue that Heaven Shall Burn’s first single off their previous album Deaf to Our Prayers, Counterweight could have easily been a song off Iconoclast (Part I: The Final Resistance). To some extent this is true, but there is definitely an increase in quality of production on this latest album.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Opinion.

Dina once said to me something like, "I like reading your blog, you write about issues based on your opinion, not just about daily life."

Sadly though, I haven't had a post in which I feel opiniated about something in a pretty long time. So, I've decided to write about two issues happening right now in this world.

Okay. Nothing too serious. First up, American Idol.

I only started watching this season seriously, (as in each performance) since last week. Sure, before that, I did watch several key performances on Youtube, such as David Archuleta's Imagine amongst others.

And to be honest, I had never really heard the phenomenon David Cook that much until recently. And this is where I place my bets on him to be the next Idol. The rocker (oh no, not the rocker jinx again) really brings something else to the show. His amazingly original and bold arrangement and rendition of Mariah Carey's Always Be My Baby was experimental to the fore. And the great thing was, it worked. Everyone knows about his Billie Jean, similar to Chris Cornell's version, which he pulled off extremely well too. And for the record, I prefered Cook's version to Cornell's. Last week's Music of the Night was so amazing in its own way. So subtle, yet so powerful. And this week, Cook performed two lesser known songs by legend Neil Diamond. Yet again, superb.

The other David, (eight years his junior, and the youngest contestant), has also been making waves, especially among the girls. In my opinion, the boy isn't quite ready to win the competition. I'm not being biased towards Cook or anything, but I personally feel although Archuleta has a unique voice, he just isn't as accomplished a performer and in general as a musician, for that matter.

I won't elaborate much on the other male contestant, Jason Castro. In fact, I hope he goes out before the next round. The dude seems totally uninspired during his performances of late. Apparently he has a large fan base and all, but so what? His vocals are pretty normal, but his arrangements are plain and dull. I particularly disliked his performance last week of Memory, from the musical CATS. In fact, I would rather have seen a female singer perform it rather than him.

Then we come to the girls. Syesha Mercado and Brooke White are the only remaining ladies, after Carly's exit last week, which I particularly disagreed with. Neither of these two contestants are among the strong ones left. Both are pretty much extreme opposites. Syesha is probably the contestant who has improved in the last two weeks, whereas Brooke has gotten worse since, from what I remember, her great performance of Let It Be weeks ago. Last week, Brooke forgot the lyrics to her song at the beginning. However, the thing about her is that she manages to convey the message of a song really well. Unfortunately, this week wasn't a strong week for her either. Syesha, meanwhile redeemed herself with her version of One Rock & Roll Too Many last week, which saw her very comfortable. And once again this week she proved she was ready to put the past behind her with performances worthy enough of seeing it out to the next round.

Prediction?

Jason and Brooke in the bottom 2 this week.

Cook to win by a mile.

However, if the voters are aiming to vote based on popularity, there is an extremely high chance for Archuleta to win.

My vote goes to Cook though.

Yeah right, if only I could vote.

***

Next, the English Premier League.

Or football concerning Manchester United, for that matter.

For those who know, I have been a Manchester United for nearly ten years. I do have to admit, this club is definitely extremely commercialised across the globe. Heck, there are even Manchester United biscuits in stores!

But I would like to say, I do not support Manchester United because they are winners. In actual fact, the year I started supporting Man Utd was the year Arsenal won the league, though I can't recall exactly which year. Since then, I have never looked back.

And at this very point in time, Man Utd are on Cloud 9. Barely 18 hours ago, Paul Scholes fired them into the UEFA Champions League final for the first time since the 98/99 season in which they won the treble. Scholes' goal against Barcelona has set up an all-English final with either rivals Liverpool or Chelsea, who happen to be hot on Man Utd's heels in the Premier League.

Which brings me to the main topic.

Man Utd play brilliant attacking football. This season, the triangle of footballing genius, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney have struck up a magical formula which has seen Man Utd showcase some amazing football, really. Ronaldo in particular has been in the form of his life. Apart from being voted the PFA Player of the Year, he has scored 28 goals in the league and 38 in all competitions. With six more he would equal Ruud van Nistelrooy's all-time record of 44 in a season.

Nevertheless, equalling or outdoing that record should not and I'm pretty sure will not be the Portugese winger's priority, going into the final two matches. Man Utd only lead the table on goal difference ahead of Chelsea, who taught them a lesson last Saturday, by beating them 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. With the Red Devils' next match against bogey team West Ham, Sir Alex Ferguson's men will have to be on their toes throughout to secure a win.

Arsenal are the team yet again left without a trophy this season. At one point, things were looking so bright for Arsene Wenger's side. Cesc Fabregas was rated as Europe's top midfielder, while Emmanuel Adebayor was doing a good job of filling in the shoes of departed striker Thierry Henry to Barcelona. The Gunners even led the league for the majority of the season, while Man Utd and Chelsea crept up behind them steadily.

Jose Mourinho shocked the world of English football when he left the club (sacked or left on his account, I'm still unsure) after a home draw with Rosenborg in the Champions League group stage, early on in the season. Avram Grant took over the reigns, but Chelsea did not look like potential champions at all. Needless to say, they have all the right in the world to feel proud with the fact that they are very much in contention right now to steal the title away from Man Utd.

One big problem for Man Utd has been consistency. In relation to that as well, complacency. The two C's have really made it difficult for Man Utd over the past few years. There are games when they play so well, score tons of goals, and there are games in which they concede cheap goals and things just don't go their way, and they end up losing. The complacent side of Man Utd has been displayed many a time in the last decade or so as well.

Prediction?

Ronaldo to just about hit the 40 mark.

Liverpool to knock Chelsea out in the Champions League semis tonight, but to lose out to Man Utd in the final.

The race for the EPL is a really tough one. I'm not gonna put my money on Man Utd, but I really hope and believe that they will pull through and retain the title.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Maybe You Stand for Fear.

I used to think just because I don't get red when I drink, I am alcohol-tolerant.

But once again, I was proved wrong.

Hey, at least I'm typing post without any spelling errors. Not bad, isn't it?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Time Waits for No Man, Or Does It?

Time.

An object of subjectivity.

They say time waits for no man.

I say not necessaraly.

How can it be that it only felt like yesterday when I entered primary school 10 years ago, whereas it felt like an age since I went for my NUS audition, which was actually only slightly more than a month ago?

I can't explain that.

This is what has happened when time successfully manipulates you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

AN OCEAN BETWEEN US Review



AN OCEAN BETWEEN US
As I Lay Dying
Metal Blade Records

Release date: 21 August 2007

Perhaps one of the more successful metalcore outfits to emerge onto the scene, As I Lay Dying have been touring relentlessly since the very beginning. They have come a long way since adopting a ‘pure’ metalcore sound according to some (similar to Zao) with their first record Beneath the Encasing of Ashes to this slightly more trash-influenced latest effort.

Some may argue that As I Lay Dying have broken into the mainstream since An Ocean Between Us made its debut at number 8 on the Billboard 200, and number 1 on the Top Rock chart, plus the first single Nothing Left was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Still, it has to be said that this quintet remain firmly on the ground when it comes to making new music for the right reasons.

On their last album Shadows Are Security, As I Lay Dying proved all too well they could make their raw sound a lot more refined than before. However, with this album, they went that one step further. For example, guitar solos became an integral part of song structures, while the clean vocals which were rarely utilised on Shadows Are Security, played a pretty significant role in giving the album a better musical outlook with new bassist and back-up vocalist Josh Gilbert replacing Clint Norris. Also, the band included two instrumental tracks which helped give An Ocean Between Us a great musical shape. Overall, a more diverse sound.

The possible reason for the great musical shape as mentioned could have been because renowned Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz was co-producer of the album. Apart from the inclusion of the two instrumental tracks, one notable comparison which can be made between this record and the last is that on this one, As I Lay Dying seem to have found a way to indirectly slow things down during songs, with ocassional moments which feature the lead guitar keeping the song going. In short, the quieter moments are more obvious, while the heaviness has gone up a notch or two. The lead guitar riffs are also more complex than on Shadows Are Security, where the lead was mainly played simply as a single flat layer with the rhythm underneath. Not to say the lead riffs were terrible or anything, they still kicked ass, but this time, they seem to intertwine more with the sound as a whole, and are much more noticeable and original as a result.

I’m pretty sure very few people will argue with the fact that Confined, off Shadows Are Security, was a mind-blower of a song, and a brilliant song choice for the first single. But yet again, As I Lay Dying prove they could do one better with one of the best metal songs I have ever heard, Nothing Left. Right from the word go, the superb opening guitar riff accompanied by the pounding drums manages to give the listener the impetus to headbang even before the song really gets into the groove. The band also do well to delay to the first chorus, which displays excellent clean vocals. On this first ‘official’ song (with Separation, the first track and the track before being an instrumental one), a solo appears and does really well to keep the mood up. Then before you know it, the album launches into the title track, which simply hardly ever stops. The speed of which the opening guitar riff is being played is just sublime. There are hardly any points in this song to take a breather, as the intensity is maintained throughout and again, clean vocals with much better range than on the previous album really work well for the band.

Shadows Are Security boasted one of the band’s most melodic songs, The Darkest Nights which was a real highlight to many. With a splendid dual guitar melody causing the hairs of the listener to stand on end, it was clear that As I Lay Dying could do amazing things. While that song was one of the best tracks off Shadows Are Security, Forsaken is arguably the best on An Ocean Between Us. The first minute of this one is instrumental, beginning with a solid, medium-paced melodic guitar riff before the drums blend in. Once vocalist Tim Lambesis comes in with one of his famous screams, the song completely changes colour, as if from white to black. Once again, Josh Gilbert’s clean vocals lead the charge during the chorus to great effect. Breakdowns may be aplenty in this genre, but the one at the two-minute mark on this song is one of those which stands out among the rest. A killer lead riff is accompanied by a heavy, chugging rhythm, giving the song an amazing feel.

Prior to the release of An Ocean Between Us, As I Lay Dying utilised clean vocals pretty much only during choruses. The great thing about this album is that clean vocals are used during other parts of songs, such as during the bridges of Forsaken and I Never Wanted, both of which happen to include some really emotionally meaningful and brilliant lyrics. Based on my knowledge of this band, I have never heard them make a key change in their music, but they did so during the bridge of I Never Wanted.

Back to the topic of solos, the band really ace it them this time around. Comfort Betrays, one of the heaviest songs ever done by the band, in particular, sports a great technical 20-second solo. Along with this, Nothing Left as well as second single The Sound of Truth amongst others, As I Lay Dying seemed to have given the lead guitar that bit more work to do in the solo department. Also, the little dabble with the piano on This Is Who We Are to close up the album was a lot better written than on Repeating Yesterday, off Shadows Are Security.

With An Ocean Between Us, As I Lay Dying have every right to be proud of their achievement as they have struck up a formula which seems to work. While continuing to improve in the many aspects of technicality, the atmosphere on this record is definitely a huge plus point. Despite that, I still feel they can do even more, to turn even more heads. So can they fulfill that, and what do they have in store for us in the near future? We’ll see.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Meaning In Tragedy.

This is long overdue.

I never knew Andrew Yap Chun Shen. But the day he passed on, I felt something. Really.

I know it's been more than a week since that day, but every now and then I still think about how surreal all this is.

I have struggled to imagine how it would be like for his friends and family. How they could accept it all.

I take my hat off to his close friends who flew back from wherever they were studying just to see him, in that coma. On that hospital bed.

I was watching the video his brother and his friends made for him in memoriam and felt so deeply sad.

What a great loss of a bright youth.

Moral of the story?

You can never be too careful. Especially in the gym.

Rest in peace Andrew.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

SHROUDED DIVINE Review


SHROUDED DIVINE
In Mourning
Aftermath Music

Release date: 2 Jan 2008

It’s incredibly hard to imagine that Shrouded Divine is In Mourning’s debut full-length. Why? Because they simply have such a refined sound. Sure, prior to this release, they did have the experience of five demos, but for this band from Sweden to come up with something so enticing on their first LP is pretty damn amazing.

So what genre do In Mourning fit in? Progressive? Death metal? I’d say, they’re a mix of both. They aren’t exactly a regular progressive band such as say, Between The Buried And Me or Opeth (who they seem to resemble vocals-wise), and neither are they a flat out death metal band. For one thing, their songs don’t span more than ten minutes long, and the guitar riffs and drumming patterns do not always take influence from death metal. Also, they don’t take influence from jazz and folk as Opeth do.

Vocalist Tobias Netzell is a real highlight on Shrouded Divine. Yes, his vocals do have a certain similarity to that of Opeth’s main man, Mikael Akerfeldt. One slight setback, though is that Tobias doesn’t quite utilise his resources fully. In this case, I am referring his clean vocals. He does so on tracks such as By Others Considered (which boasts a pretty amazing interlude, mainly caused by the great effect of the clean vocals and acoustic guitar with everything else flowing smoothly in between) and The Shrouded Divine, and it is well clear that he has the ability, so why not use it more? On The Black Lodge, which is my personal favourite track, Tobias also features his clean vocal style, although he could have technically touched up on the way it came through for those few moments.

From a guitar point of view, the interesting fact to consider is that In Mourning have three guitarists. What really struck me as inventive is during the verse of the track Amnesia, the guitar sounds pretty much like a keyboard, creating a really airy atmosphere as the chugging rhythm is played as the base. Solos don’t appear as much as expected, but when they happen to appear seemingly out of nowhere at times, they really grip you with what I would call, stylistic emotion. They may not be aiming to display brilliant technique or anything, but in my opinion, it’s the emotion in depth, not simply emotion which can be heard immediately on the surface, that counts. The bass also makes its presence pretty clear, such as on the intro of The Art of a Mourning Kind and during that atmospheric interlude on By Others Considered, at least clearer than a typical metal band, which would usually have the bass playing in synch with the rhythm guitar. Drum-wise, In Mourning don’t do anything too showy, just really precise and perfectly fitting along with the rest of the sound. No blast beats, not too much double bass, just lots of great team play within the band. I particularly enjoyed the drumming pattern during one of the breakdowns on The Shrouded Divine, layered with a great progressive guitar melody and splendid transition of vocal style.

So what else makes these guys so engaging on Shrouded Divine? Perhaps the fact that they have a mix of long and short songs (the longest being just past eight minutes and the shortest only three and a half). As a result, the listener barely gets bored throughout.

And even the longest track, The Black Lodge doesn’t even feel like eight minutes. I would have to say the intro on this one has yet again, so much emotion in depth. Not long after though, the song reverts back to pretty much the main feel of the album during the verse. However, the chorus again displays great emotion, with the lead guitar playing in a very subtle manner but at the same time so powerfully in its own way. Tobias’ transition from death growls to screams is really excellent too. Before you know it, the song moves into a really awesome breakdown, which features interesting guitar sounds (that strangely enough gives the song a somewhat Middle Eastern feel, something which I probably exaggerate a bit on). Just don’t get me started on the superbly crafted, yet not draggy bridge which I can’t seem to get enough of. The rest of this awesome song, is well, history.

Shrouded Divine is the type of album which sounds great the first time, but also needs more than just one listen, to pick up the minor details which count for so much, such as the guitar effects during the verse of The Shrouded Divine and during the bridge of In The Failing Hour and the interesting element of repeating the opening riff of The Black Lodge on the final track Past October Skies (The Black Lodge Revisited), which probably explains the song title. The way In Mourning indirectly tease the listener with that slightly muffled riff momentarily appearing once again really had my attention. The closing stages of the final song exhibit the triple guitar play really well, but sadly, it ends all too abruptly, leaving the listener wanting more.

Nevertheless, Shrouded Divine doesn’t fail to disappoint one bit. Then again, were In Mourning ever under pressure to perform to their maximum on this record? I doubt it. After this though, once more people begin to hear of them more, perhaps. For now, just sit back and enjoy great prog –

No, great death metal –

Nah. Great music.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mayhem.

So I didn't get into Yong Siew Toh.

Looks like I'll be stuck in HELP for another year or so.

To be honest, I more than half expected to see the line "We regret to inform you..." in the letter I received via post.

I wasn't prepared enough. I wasn't mentally ready enough. I was rushing to meet the date of my audition. I was too stressed in that period of two months.

I felt as if I had no life.

Now though, it remains to be seen whether I will be trying again next year on viola, or violin again. I still haven't made up my mind. I'm suddenly feeling lost, leading up to a concert I'm playing at next week. After the concert, I could make or break it with one small yet extremely important decision.

To switch, or not to switch? To add, or to switch? To switch now, or to wait another year? These questions ring in my head so very often.

For now, all I can do is wait.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wastage.

I'm lucky.

I can't believe I just said that. I rarely do. But after yesterday, I have to admit, I am lucky, in a way.

The string quartet I'm in was given the opportunity to perform our Haydn again, this time at some school in Putrajaya, for their graduation ceremony.

The school has their own string ensemble, with an addition of guitars, percussions and keyboard to their set up. Now without any elaborated details, one may think that since it's in Putrajaya and all, the ensemble must be pretty impressive, right?

Well, you may not necessaraly be thinking that, and it's sad to say that they aren't of the standard to be called impressive.

Before our performance, we watched the ensemble from backstage. For me, the main issue was with the intonation and technique. The F#s sounded like Fs almost everytime they played. I also noticed some players in the ensemble who obviously hadn't been taught the right technique to hold the bow and what not.

Nevertheless, there were some positives. There was this one double bassist who looked really into the music, which is always very encouraging. Also, there weren't too many problems rhythm-wise.

Too bad the hall was like any other regular school hall. Non air-conditioned, echoey. Because of that, we had to be mic-ed up for our performance.

This was a classic case of money not well spent. The government pumps money into this school for these purposes, which include even buying of instruments, and for tutors to come in and teach the students music. At the end of the day, what happens? The students have little motivation to play. They are not even of an average standard, when it comes to a music ensemble.

So what's the point of all that funding, when it will go down the drain anyway?

On a lighter note, congratulations to the newly A-Levels Student Council. Let's hope Jason Chow and his team can carry out their duties to the fullest. Although very few of the candidates I voted for won for their respective posts, it's still good to see the practice of democracy among the students, plus all the successful candidates are very capable individuals anyway. I'm sure that the chosen line-up will make us A-Levels students proud throughout our time here at HELP.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Add Layers to Reality.

Things are heating up in A-Levels at HELP.

For this past week, the candidates running for the A-Levels Student Council have been busy campaigning for their respective posts.

And by about 4 pm, their hard work would have either paid off or gone to waste.

Well, maybe not totally gone to waste, but only one candidate will come out tops when the votes have been counted, and will then take up that post.

I must say, I have seen some really fun, interesting and innovative ideas going into all the campaigning going on.

You have candidates baking cookies and cupcakes for the students, tagging as many HELP students in their campaign photo on Facebook, and even having a bashed up car out on display outside Wisma HELP to attract people's attention. Comics and poems come in handy too. The list goes on and on.

Then there are those who make designs for shirts with words which are aimed at their fellow students, urging them to vote them. Sandwich boards filled with posters are another innovative idea, with their friends taking turns to have it on them. Badges also help candidates to campaign effectively. Nearly every candidate has his or her poster(s) up on notice boards.

This is simply a gist of what's been happening for the last few days. But, it can't be denied, that it all comes down to tomorrow, when the candidates are to give their 2 minute speech to a huge audience. This is when they will make it, or break it.

For now, kudos to them for their hard work.

For tomorrow, all the best. It's very likely your speech will inspire people.

In a big way.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wear Misery's Crown.

Dec 13th 2007.

The last concert of the week-long MPYO tour, at our beloved DFP. Coincidentally, the night of DJ Prom too, followed by the after party.

I made a brave decision that night.

And I will never look back.

But then again sometimes, I do. I think back and wonder. Would it have been worth it to go for the after party with my DJ friends, so abruptly after the final concert of an exhausting, yet satisfying time with my fellow musicians?

There was no way I was going for prom, but the after party was a different agenda, really. In fact, that morning itself, I was planning to scoot from Hotel Flamingo after returning from DFP, and probably take a cab to Asia Heritage.

Some part at the back of my mind told me not to. I followed my conscience, and it has made all the difference.

14th March 2008.

The MPYO Chamber Recital. At the same time, the A-Levels Fiesta, a much anticipated event in the eyes of the new intake, particularly.

I made another brave decision that night.

It was 7.30 pm. I had already performed in my quartet. I came out of DFP. I waited outside for my dad to arrive. Yu Szen called me. I could tell he was anxious. "Performance very soon. 20 or 30 mins." I assured him I would make it there on time, and told him to try and delay the performance.

By 7.45, my it started raining. I noticed the jam going out from KLCC was atrocious. There was no point. There was no way I was going to make it for the performance. Missed out on the chance to perform in the first real event of the year.

So if you were me, you would've gone anyway, right? I mean, perform or not, you still would've gone for the event, regardless of the fact that you'd be late, and drenched.

But see, I'm not you. I didn't. I put my foot down. I told myself, there are some things which are more important to me. There are some things more important than just witnessing people getting bid on for large sums (large to me) of money. Sure, it's all in good fun, I admit that, but at that very moment in time, that wasn't my priority.

From what I say here, it must be extremely clear as what these camps do to me. I've said this before. It's not just about playing, it's also about the company of friends. It's not just about the experience of playing chamber music, it's also about realising what life is really all about.

I may have missed out on all the happenings in college, leading up to the fiesta. Instead, I got high (not drunk) on vodka for the first time, something perhaps many of you have already experienced.

I may have missed out on most of the post-election news. Instead, I got to gossip with friends about the latest news within the orchestra.

I may have missed out on performing at the fiesta with my buds Yu Szen, Adrian and Nigel. Instead, I managed to perform in a string quartet, in front of packed crowds on both Friday night as well as Saturday afternoon.

I may have been too preoccupied with the camp that when I received my below-par (in my opinion, anyway) results, I didn't shed a tear. Instead, I naturally shed tears while doing something I love most, playing and listening to the music around me (hint hint Jia Rong).

I may have missed out on post-SPM results outings. Instead, I made it back in time for lunch with one of my best pals, a retarded gay (joking, Kit Leong) who had just arrived from Penang for the camp.

No, I'm not here to write an essay about the camp (as Tiki says). Instead, click here for Tiki's post. Ah, the irony.

All in all, it was another one of those, music-driven, staying-up-til-late playing PS2, cards and what not, fun-filled, company-abundance (is this the right term?) camps.

Thing is, I have to be completely honest, I wish I would never grow up. I wish this could be my life everyday. I wish I could live like this forever. I wish I would always be young, with the opportunity to see all my friends this young too.

Okay. That's kinda exaggerating it.

Cheers.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

PM: ‘We’ve lost, we’ve lost’

A new dawn for Malaysia.

Or is it?

With the Oposition denying Barisan Nasional the crucial two-thirds majority in yesterday's General Election, one has to wonder whether this is a good thing or not.

Sure, I have been taking the stand for the Opposition for the last few weeks, leading up to the elections. However, are we ready for change? Are Malaysians up for this?

There is probably no definite answer to that.

Last night and this morning, BN lost control of five states which fell to the opposition - Perak, Kelantan, Selangor, Penang and Kedah. As DAP, PKR and PAS rejoiced, the incumbent leaders were left to ponder on how this could have happened.

But when you think about it, this was the decision of the majority of the people of those states. It was the people who voted. It was the people who decided. It was the people who were fed up. It was people who wanted to teach BN a lesson. It was the people who did their part.

And after all, it is the people who have a right to vote, to decide.

BN's loss in Kelantan was huge, losing 39 parliamentary seats out of 45 which fell by a huge majority to PAS. In Penang, DAP ruled supreme. Selangor was taken over by the three Opposition parties, in fairly tight proportion.

What do these successes/losses (depending on whose point of view it is looked at from) indicate? Oh so much. Still though, BN has managed to retain various other states such as Johor, Terengganu, Perlis and the two East Malaysian states with ease. Now, just imagine if the Opposition had managed to win at least, say 15 more seats throughout those states, the overall majority BN would obtain would be barely anything.

As it is, the Opposition has just managed to deny BN the two-thirds. That is already an achievement in itself. People ask me, what does this mean to us now, since Selangor has been taken over by the Opposition? Honestly, I don't know. I'm just like you. We're all waiting to see what will happen in time to come.

Yesterday, while at my Pondok Panas duty, there were people telling us, "Must win la, we will win," and I could sense at my particular polling station, there was greater support for PKR, compared to BN.

My instincts were vindicated, as R. Sivarasa of PKR beat S. Murugesan of BN for the Subang Parliamentary seat, while Elizabeth Wong, also of PKR trashed Wong Dai Ying with a ratio of 2:1.

There were huge defeats. Chew Mei Fun lost by a whopping 19,000 votes to Tony Phua of DAP at Petaling Jaya Utara. Samy Vellu lost on his 'birthday', in his territory to D. Jeyakumar by a small margin. Shahrizat Abdul Jalil lost in Lembah Pantai to Nurul Izzah of PKR.

So many stories, so many highlights. The Opposition may not have literally won, but what happened last night was enough to give us encouragement for the future, it felt as if we really had won.

So, A new dawn for Malaysia?

Only time will tell.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Glimmer Of Hope, Perhaps?

I feel tired, but good at the same time.

It's not every day you hear of a 16 year-old volunteering to help campaign for an Opposition party for the elections.

I just did that.

To be honest, I wasn't exactly sure, or keen to do it. I mean, I didn't know what to expect, for one thing, and besides that, I thought I would feel kind of uncomfortable, in the presence of politicians.

Little did I know that this was to be a very enriching experience, that taught me a thing or two.

A few days back, I had started on folding of Parti Keadilan Rakyat leaflets to be distributed to the houses around my area. That was barely nothing really, since there was to be no interaction of any sort with strangers.

Today, however, the first thing I started to help with at the Bilik Gerakan (Operation Centre) was the packaging of items, such as caps, flags, stickers and what not, which would be brought to the various polling stations. I also continued with folding of leaflets, before being instructed to go on the walkabout to join the convoy, together with R. Sivarasa, the Parliamentary candidate.

We started by driving around a kampung area somewhere near Sungai Buloh, which had barely anyone in it. Still though, that's where the fun began. We were waving flags from inside the car, whistling to get people's attention, and speaking messages like "Harga petrol dan toll semakin tinggi! Parti Keadilan janji akan menurunkan harga petrol dan toll! Undilah Parti Keadilan!"

On the road, it was great to see support. As the four cars drove in a single file, other cars that passed by were giving us honks, in support. After the first kampung though, it started to rain, so we had to wind up the windows and continue driving, pretty much aimlessly, since we couldn't continue with campaigning.

We decided to make our way to The Store, some sort of shopping complex, not too far from where we were. It was so dreary, and apparently we weren't allowed to go into the complex, so Sivarasa had to make his 'speech' outside the complex, where there were people gathered outside, not to listen to him, but to wait for taxis? It was kinda sad, cause the response from the crowd was very minimal, with some people ignoring us who were walking around giving out the leaflets. After Sivarasa's 'speech', there was no applause, no reception, nothing. Ptooi.

Just when we thought things were getting worse, the rain stopped. We ended up going to another 'taman' area, where we continued or campaigning. This time though, we actually got down from the car to distribute leaflets to inhabitants.

From what I observed, mostly kids were running to us, wanting the leaflets. As I gave them out, I wondered, is there really any point? Kids can't vote anyway. But then there were adults who also showed their support when we gave them the leaflets. They were giving us words of encouragement and said they were supporters.

In my opinion, the best was yet to come. And that happened when we went to a pasar malam, not too far from the Bilik Gerakan. It was a huge thing, and the plan was to go one round around the place slowly, with Sivarasa standing on the back of a Ford Ranger-like vehicle, with us the 'followers' walking behind, holding placards high up in the air, distributing leaflets, car stickers, flags, and other freebies. The great thing was the response from the crowd was overwhelming, from an opposition party's point of view. People crowded around us, taking the freebies and all. Sivarasa made his speeches, and at least this time there were people listening.

The irony of it all was that there were BN flags in nearly every corner of the place. Yet, it felt as if we could reach out to the general public without any restrictions of any sort. There were people who even shook Sivarasa's hand, not just because he was a politician, but more of because they were supporting him and Keadilan.

We continued our good job inside the market itself. Still though, at times I was under the impression as if people were giving us the attention we deserved only because they wanted freebies, and not because they supported Keadilan. There was one guy who went:

RANDOM GUY : Saya nak topi tu! (points at my cap)

ME : Sorry la, ni dah habis dah.

RANDOM GUY : Ala, macam mana boleh macam tu? Macam tu tak boleh support la dah!

Despite that setback, there were real supporters out there. There was a seller who told us:

SELLER : Mesti menang la tahun ni.

From a motorcyclist who yelled "Hidup Keadilan!" while riding his bike, to a dude who had his fist in the air, followed by frantic honking in support of the party, today was simply a great experience, a real eye opener. I feel as if I have done a great deed, no matter the outcome of tomorrow's election. I'll be keeping up the good work at the polling station nearest to my house, being involved in the last part of campaigning for PKR.

BN pays people 300 ringgit a day for this kind of campaigning work.

Opposition parties pay people 0 ringgit for this kind of campaigning work.

In my eyes, I prefer to be willing to do this kind of thing without getting paid a single cent, instead of doing it for the money.

However, we can't deny the fact that BN will win tomorrow. Two-thirds majority or not, they'll manage to pull some strings and grab victory as usual.

Page 12 of The Star reads:

In Rembau, Anwar said he was confident the Opposition would win and "our first duty to the people is to bring down oil prices."

"God willing, we will win on March 8. You tell those Barisan (Nasional) boys we will win," he said.

I really hope so.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dare To Be Different.

Will all of this be worth it?

Will all of this hard work pay off?

No. This is not about my audition. THAT is over and done with.

I was just watching tv last night, and this advertisement started. Too lazy to switch channels, I sat there slouched, half consciously watching the ad. There were the words on the screen: "apa maksud damai" and scenes or pictures of people in some overseas countries starving, by the roadside.

The ad continued with "apa maksud something" which i can't seem to remember now, with more and more shots of the above being shown. I was kinda curious at the objective of this ad. At that moment in time, I guessed it must be to do with some association of peace or something. The questions running around in my head were answered moments later.

VOTE FOR PEACE. If I recall correctly these were the words I saw across the tv screen. Below it, the logo of Barisan Nasional.

And that's what this post about.

Related to this ad which I just saw, Raja Petra, a very popular name amongst Malaysians for running Malaysia Today the website, said recently that the government is comparing Malaysia to Nigeria. Or something along those lines at least. What Raja Petra said was, we're nowhere near as bad as Nigeria in many ways, but if we continue this way, we will even become like Nigeria!

And this brings me to another segment which has more to do with the polling processeso of this huge, drawn out, political topic. Apparently there are people registered to vote who are born in the year such as 1888. Yes. 1888. Not 1988. And the thing is, these 'people' have the new 10-digit IC numbers, something which was only introduced some 10 years ago. How is this possible? 120 year old people voting? With new IC numbers? Just proves what some people would do just to secure a two-thirds majority.

Just yesterday, the Elections Commission called off the plan to use indelible ink on polling day. Indelible ink would have been used after a person votes. That person's fingernail would be marked with the indelible ink, which signifies that that particular person has already voted. However, with the abolition of this plan, we all pretty much know what the dominating party in this country are capable of doing. The most relevant guess would be that their people would have their names registered at numerous polling stations, and since there will be no more use of indelible ink, this would mean those people can vote more than once.

I randomly went up to four of my friends today. I asked them, Opposition or Barisan? All four told me, Opposition. Just awhile ago, I was wondering, if all eight of their parents voted Opposition, there might not be much point anyway. After all, one person could potentially vote Barisan nine times. Sigh.

Yesterday, Dr Chandra Muzaffar slammed Anwar, saying it would be a disaster if he were PM. Today, it's Nalla, an old tennis buddy of Anwar's. Not just that, i turned to the first few pages of The Star today and saw these headlines:

"Abdullah slams Anwar"

"Ong: Don't fall for Opposition"

"BN: Don't be taken in by Anwar"

"MCA: Opposition behind offending SMS"

"PAS' Controversial Statements"

Five headlines. All to do with opposition. All five are negative. And the fact is, Anwar isn't even standing since he has yet to receive exemption after his jail sentence. The media is only publicising stories that benefit Barisan, and kutuk-ing the Opposition. Like even on the page where they have various photos taken by random people who submit their photos, practically all the photos are filled with Barisan flags. In some way or another.

And in yesterday's Metro, the front page had a photo of the Ryan Giggs and John Terry Celcom billboard along with other models with Barisan flags 'strategically planted' above the heads of the people on the billboard. Plus, the insanely stupid thing was they said "It seems like even EPL stars like John Terry of Chelsea and Ryan Giggs of Manchester United have made their preference on which party they are vouching for in the 12th General election." It's so not funny, it's shameful.

So, WILL all of this be worth it?

WILL all of this hard work pay off?

Well, I suppose I wasted my time distributing PKR leaflets to so many houses yesterday.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

As Your Eyes Rest In.

Will all of this be worth it?

Will all of this hard work pay off?

Will the future bring relief to the soul?

Will this life be better?

That is what remains to be seen.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Seven.

Seven days and counting.

Which probably explains the seven hours of practice today.

The price I have to pay?

A new fear for something.

My left index finger.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Save Us From Ourselves.

Sometimes, I really think the Grammys is a whole sham.

I mean sure, yeah, it's the night of honouring artists for their hard work and dedication to their careers. But let's think about this.

How many artists are there in this world?!

And how many of them are signed to a major record label?!

Truth is, there are plenty. And plenty who are deserving of rewards.

Some of you may think what's this guy's motive now? Hasn't he been the one supporting the whole indie/underground scene and scoffing at mainstream artists?

Well, this is not entirely true. I do not scoff at the whole mainstream thing, but the reality behind it is, there have been artists who have been 'destroyed' by the mainstream market.

I'm going to take the nominees for 'Best Metal Performance' as my first example. This year, Slayer won. Again. Out of the five nominees for this award, which were Slayer, As I Lay Dying, Shadows Fall, King Diamond and Machine Head, an average Malaysian would probably have heard of only Slayer, and MAYBE Shadows Fall, who were pretty much unknown until some lucky fella reviewed 'Threads of Life' in The Star, listing the album under 'rock', which is plain stupid.

Slayer have been nominated for two years in a row now, winning both times. When you ask someone what their idea of metal is, bands such as Slipknot, Korn and Metallica would start spilling out of their mouths. Point is, these bands are just a mere type of mainstreamed-generalised type of metal. What the general public don't know is, there are probably other bands worthy of this award. And I state my case, it's dead true.

I'm listening to Slayer's Eyes of the Insane (which won last year) right now and to be honest, this is plain rubbish. There is no substance to it. There is no clear melody. Tom Araya's vocals suck big time. The only highlight is probably the solo. Yet, this is not a song that deserves a Grammy. Bands such as Lamb of God or Mastodon would have easily deserved it more than Araya and co.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't just about metal. I now move on to the awards of 'Best Hard Rock Performance' and 'Best Rock Album'. Winner? Foo Fighters. Now someone please tell me whether they're hard rock. Can't they think of any other bands who deserve these awards just as much as Foo Fighters, if not more?

NO. At most, rock.

Hard rock? NO WAY.

Another band which is so overrated is The White Stripes. They won for 'Best Alternative Music Album' for 'Icky Thump', and Wikipedia states they hold the record for most wins in this category. But think about it, how many thousand alternative bands are there in this world? I was so disappointed that The Arcade Fire or The Shins didn't win for their respective albums. What's the whole fuss about The White Stripes anyway? When they appeared onto the scene several years back, everyone was so excited about the fact that they had been married. SO?

Then there's Amy Winehouse. She won five out of six nominations this year. What for? Out of sympathy after going into rehab? And another HUGE sham is when I found out one of the awards she won was for 'Best New Artist.'

Amy Winehouse has been around for FIVE years now. Yes. FIVE. FIVE.

FIVE!!

I mean if you gave the award to someone like say, Blake Lewis or Jordin Sparxx (regardless of whether they deserved it), it would mean something at least.

So how can one consider Amy to be a new artist? Well, that's probably because she only recently became known with 'Back to Black', which won 'Best Pop Vocal Album'. Strange thing is, Back to Black was released in 2006, and it just won the award in 2008. I'm just glad jazzman Herbie Hancock won the 'Album of the Year' award, instead of Amy's 'Black to Black.' Just proves the fact that the people at the top just wouldn't move out of their comfort zone to look for pop albums which were released in 2007. Besides, she's not even pop to begin with.

Still regarding this award, the artist Feist was also nominated. I personally hadn't heard of her only until last year, so I researched and found out she's been active as an artist since 1991. Good God.

Just don't get me started on Ledisi and Paramore, who were also nominees.
Going back to the award of 'Best Metal Performance'. I was just reading Michael Cheang's report in The Star about his experience in LA watching and meeting stars during that night, and I stumbled upon this line where he refers to Tom Araya of Slayer:

... and that even the most hardcore rock gods can have sweet little families.

WHAT THE FUCK IS HIS NOTION?!

Is he trying to imply that metal/hardcore artists have to be all evil and unpleasant just because of a selected few who really are? That is totally not true.

In this world, there is such a genre called black metal. And sadly, I have the impression that people associate 'metal' with 'black metal' a lot and saying things like it's evil and all that.

In actual fact, metal has so many different sub-genres. I admit black metal is mostly evil, and the lyrics of black metal bands tend to touch on satanism, anti-Christ themes, morbidity and what not. Take Dimmu Borgir's Satan My Master as a great example:

Satan My Master
I slit my wrists to drain me of my blood
Satan My Master
Up side down I turn the cross of God

WOAH evil, eh? Well yes, I totally agree. I'm not a Christian, but I am definitely against what people like Dimmu Borgir believe.

So, is all metal all evil?

Think again, after taking a look at lyrics from metalcore band All That Remains' The Air That I Breathe:


I have suffered defeat, pain, loss
Still I push to the edge, never falter
For this cement my beliefs
I'll will not choke on failure

There's the proof. There are bands which write lyrics based on positivity, such as the example above, relationships and even ANIMAL LIBERATION!

Wow, I really did get carried away. From the Grammys to metal music.

At the end of the day though, it all boils down to awareness. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States should really be helping the situation, instead of sitting on their fat arses and just giving awards to artists who have either won before or only who they are familiar with.

This is my indictment. Sue me, will you?

Monday, February 18, 2008

This Is A Call To the Faithful.

I begin to feel it now.

AS THE TENSION MOUNTS.