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25 going on 90


self-portrait in exercise ball

(before i begin and spoil the rest of this post, i’d like to thank my friends and family (and facebook reminders) for their generous outpouring of love and well-wishes on my birthday.)

and so, i was rudely transformed yesterday into a quart-centenarian, silver jubilator, 2 dozener + 1, etc. i think turning 25 is more significant than turning 21, because 21 is an arbitrary figure that begs to be shrugged off, whereas 25 is a nice, round number (alas, not a prime number!) that is more a milestone of mortality (i’d like to see this milestone at least 2 more times, if it’s ok. if not, 3 more also can).

this time last year, i was in the heights of nepal, and high in more ways than one. i remember very clearly the dutch apple pie (warm, not cold) which doubled as my birthday cake – a gift from 3 good friends and fellow travelers – and then freezing our asses off as we left the warm confines of summit hotel, heading home to our swindling landlord and also on to the rest of the mind-blasting internship experience (and the even crazier month in india).

that was the best 6 months of my life, and i have a sneaky suspicion that i might never be that happy again, though i certainly hope otherwise. if there is ever an appropriate time to bandy the tired expression “must try, no regrets!!!”, it is at this point. and though it still pains me a little to say this, i would never have traded it up for anything. no, not even love.

(i hope i don’t end up like one of those people who lives in the past, though retrospection seems to be in my nature, and almost compulsively so. i try hard not to imagine this embittered beast that has taken on a life of its own, growing ever hungrier and larger by the day, though i’m sure it is. so far, i have a handle on things, i’m still on top. who knows for how long though.)

from that back to singapore. safe, sterile singapore. a model of stability and efficiency no doubt, but still one gigantic hospital where people come to give birth and to die (i’ll have proof of that soon enough). back to my 4x4x4 room in my parents’ house, which is increasingly beginning to feel like a jail cell. why not get your own place? you may ask. well, last time i checked, all prices pertaining to property looked unpalatable. this has also, among other things, raised in me a desire for a swift exodus.

all is not bleak though, and there are things to be glad for. for one, my parents have yet to signal their intent in crowbar-ing some grandkids out of me. for that i’m grateful.

so here i am, 25 and at the edge of the chasm. so much uncertainty, too much in fact. when we were kids we used to tremble with sweet anticipation for the future. at 25 one can only quake with fear.

make some resolutions man, you say. strive for solid ground… achieve!!! i’ll tell you now that i hate resolutions. rather, i hate having to face up to the unfulfilled ones 2 times in the first month of the new year. it is the great burden and curse of being a january crybaby.

regardless, i did try for resolutions this year. the list ended at 1 – to get healthier and fitter (which actually makes the photo above a bad joke, haha).

on that note, i’d like to wrap up my yearly allowance for self-indulgent pity mongering. see you guys next year.

and life, see you when i’m 90.


hipstamatic, plastic bullets and such things


the obligatory silhouetted self-portrait, as ET in this case

if the terms above are familiar to you, you must be an aficionado of photography with an iphone like me. i adore my 5dII and all but frankly, lugging it around all day everyday (with all the lenses and accessories) is a real pain. in fact, i find that i only shoot with the dslr when i absolutely have to (for the resolution and image quality).

sometimes, all i want is a little device for capturing whatever i fancy without drawing attention and poking a giant lens into somebody’s face. i guess that something is called a leica or a compact point-and-shoot, but what’s not to love about having your camera, phone, music player, social media center and gaming device all rolled into one? besides, where built-in cameras used to produce barely usable images, that of the iphone 4 is impressive.

there are also dozens of camera apps for the iphone to toy around with. personally, i use hipstamatic (with the john s lens and blackeys supergrain film mostly), plastic bullet (for borders and color effects, randomly generated) and camera plus pro (this one enhances the original camera app). below are some of my images shot with the iphone.

with hipstamatic —










processed with plastic bullet —






the next 5 were shot during a dinner at my auntie’s kampung house in malacca (with a bit of noise reduction and sharpening in adobe lightroom 2) —






not bad considering the low-light condition, i think.

my 2009 jaunt to malacca

i traveled up to malacca for 3 days a couple of weekends ago to visit my relatives there and to just take a break in general. everytime i visit, i wish i could stay a little longer but with all the work i had to clear back home, a short trip was all i could afford.

below are the photos i have selected to share, with the accompanying captions. enjoy.

my second aunt’s beloved kampung house, also my accommodation during my visit. the house was renovated a while ago and the once wooden walls replaced with concrete. for me, a stay here beats any fancy hotel anytime.

the outhouse where you can take a shower with water pumped from a well.

view from my bed.

2 of my extremely loving and generous aunts – second and fifth.

hospitality extended. a meal whipped up by my second aunt, who is one hell of a cook.

scenes from the window of my cousin’s car. it rained a lot while i was there.

no trip to malacca would be complete without a stop at a satay celup (a variety of bites on satay sticks cooked in a spicy, peanut-based gravy) outlet, so i had dinner at the best satay celup establishment in malacca, and possibly the known world – ban lee siang.

this is the real deal. satay celup stalls live and die by the taste and the quality of the gravy that the food is cooked in.

the old folks you see in the background are part of the family that owns the place. from day till night, they string bits of meats, vegetables and other food items onto satay sticks in anticipation of the onslaught of customers in the evening.

what was left of my meal.

when it is time to pay the bill, a waitress will come over and count the number of sticks taken. you pay for what you don’t finish too, so waste not.

on the second day i visited my first aunt, who doesn’t get around much these days;

then a stall operated by of one of my aunts for lunch. i spent an entire afternoon there because it started to rain very heavily and i could not get to town. so i sat, i ate, i drank, and i made some pictures.

when the rain finally subsided, i went shopping at dataran pahlawan and mahkota parade, 2 of the malls in the middle of town.

faux snow with foam pellets. choking hazard, no?

santa fail.

the bus repair workshop/graveyard behind my aunt’s house;

more pictures of the area at dusk;

and my uncle’s obsession with the brick game.

for more posts on photography, click here.

sarah’s twenteenth

last friday a few of us were at sarah’s place to celebrate her birthday a day in advance. she is 20 this year but she keeps insisting that she is twenteen. nice.

sarah’s mom whipped up quite a dinner for us. there were lamp chops and steaks hot off the grill (ooh, the lard!). add ceasar salad, asparagus wrapped in streaky bacon and vienna sausages and you have a meal fit for a king.

look at them just begging to be eaten.

embellishing the dine with some wine.

one happy eater.

after dinner we went down to the basement to hang out. i have to say, it is one hell of a basement, with the wood panels, heavy drapes and ornate furnishings. the photo above looks much brighter than the scene actually was because i bounced my flash off the ceiling.

i never thought playing “polar bear” (a cuter variation of the game “murderer”) could be so exciting – the mock accusations and the blatant denials. besides, the low-key, almost noir-like setting added to the mis-en-scene (take that, com227!)

to give you an idea of how dark the basement actually was, the next series of photos were shot at iso 3200 wide open at f1.4 with my 50mm prime. i managed to yield only a shutter speed of 1/40 – 1/50. did not want to use the flash as i felt it destroyed the mood and the feel of the scene. for the non-photographers, well, you just have to take my word for it.

sarah’s cousin, etienne, got this shot. great timing i say.

sarah’s shot of me trying to make her sister’s prosumer work in the extremely low-light situation. some things are not meant to be.

austen, the resident dog. his bark is surely bigger than his bite. shot by rachel.

instead of trying to fight the noise generated by the use of high iso, i decided to process the above photos to black and white, ramping up the contrast. they worked together with the grain-like noise to produce the fast film kind of look.

after a while in the basement, we went upstairs for cake and presents. etienne had  to do the birthday song for sarah in french because he is half-french after all.

lide and the girls got sarah a pair of heels from guess. it was rather amusing how they tried to disguised the gift as something cheap. they stashed the shoes in a box from mondo.

a couple more obligatory group photos to end off the evening.

sarah and family.

was a really enjoyable evening on the whole. great food, great company, what more can you ask for?

for more posts on photography, click here.


you can only turn 23 once in your life, and i thank God for seeing me through thus far. having said that, you can only turn a particular age once in your life. there’s that for the bad philosophy.

i spent my 23rd birthday in school during the day and then had dinner with sarah in the evening. sarah brought me to this wonderfully quaint and old-worldly russian restaurant called shashlik at far east shopping centre. the waiters and waitresses there were all in their 40s to 50s and they probably have been with the restaurant for a long time. in fact, we were the youngest looking pair in the place.


sarah said that her parents used to bring her there when whe was little, and she thought that it might be a great idea to eat there since she missed the food and she did not want to go to another typical restaurant. perhaps even favourite restaurants can be a kind of family heirloom.


we started off with borshch, which is a tomato-based stew with beef and vegetable. it was served with a dash of sour cream and needless to say, delicious and extremely satisfying. i then had a beef fillet with russian salad while sarah tucked into her steak with mushroom sauce. i think it is a place that we will go back to again in future.

after dinner it was off to botanical gardens for cake and just to have a nice, quiet place to hang out. sarah got me cakes from canele which were some of the best i have ever had in my life. i am not exaggerating. try them yourself.



of course, the birthday celebration is not complete without the present. sarah got me a… HOLGA!!! actually, i already knew beforehand but nevertheless it was a pleasure when i opened the box and held the toy camera in my hand. i am inspired by a certain david burnett, a photojournalist who is so good with a holga that his pictures shot with that have been published in international news magazines, even picking up prestigious awards along the way. time to get some black & white 120 film now!

to end off, i want to thank all for the birthday greetings. sorry if i don’t personally respond to all but i truly appreciate the wishes.

on turning 23, i have come to appreciate a lot of why things are the way they are in my life, and have learned to be more contented.

i have also come to realise that i am truly blessed to have a wonderful girl by my side, driving me on with her love and support. for this i love you sarah.