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Friday, May 30, 2008

The Struggle

Sometimes you feel alone and it just feels like you're in a dark place by yourself.

It has been a while since I've personally written something on this blog that's personal to me. I've never really had the chance to share, or maybe I never found what I thought was an appropriate time to talk about it. You know, like instances where you don't exactly express your struggles to your friend at his birthday party, something like that. I definitely prefer talking to someone rather than blog, but I guess at this point in time, it doesn't seem so bad to. It's not too personal to blog about I suppose.

Well, what I'm about to say isn't something that I've only thought of yesterday and I'm writing today but it's an issue that's plagued me over the last few months or so. I remember once, answering a tag back in early April, answering '8 Random Facts About Yourself' and the last answer I put there was that people matter to me.

Throughout my entire lifetime, which will be 20 years before this year is over, I have moved around quite a fair bit. People who meet me for the first time and ask where I'm from will get to hear the short story of how I'm born in Kota Kinabalu, moved to Miri, to Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur and temporarily Tronoh. In those places I've met a few new friends and have gained some experience from there. On the other hand, every time I leave one place for another, I always seem to lose friends.

The one thing I've disliked through life is the fact that whenever you move through certain stages of your life, you'll lose close ties with friends that you've put a lot of effort into knowing. I didn't like it when I lost contact with my closest friend in Vietnam, Sebastien Ferriere and I still wish I could meet him at least once today. I didn't like it either when Wei Yang left after form 3 to Sri KDU, he too was another I'd built close rapport with. I can tell you I seriously felt quite lonely during form 4 and form 5.

It got slightly better in college, although again, I just somehow wasn't able to click with anybody that much, perhaps a bit with Praveena and Rachel.Of course at that time, Khye Shin and I became good friends to, but that was cut short when I quite Taylors College in the middle of the year. When I moved to UTP, some of you would know that my first week there was pretty tough for me on a social basis. Thankfully though, I met Jialin, Renae, Vern, Wei Shin and Hun Pin. That really brought me through at the end of the week.

Quite some time has passed since then and I'm a little more settled in now than I was one and a half years ago. Still, sometimes I do feel just.......... alone. I do get the feeling that in spite of the friends I've managed to find in UTP, I can somehow still feel lonely. Perhaps it's because sometimes I feel that people may just not be able to resonate with me. Sometimes, it's not about myself but other people, sometimes I feel that I can't resonate with them, I just cannot get that click that gives the extra magic in my friendships with people. In a way, I do feel left out.

That's when the inside of my mind goes ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH, WHYY?? I'll be honest, I don't like feeling that way, because it just triggers some sort of depression time and I linger in it for quite a while. I feel disappointed with myself, wondering what's wrong with me, why can't I understand people as much as I try (key word is TRY, successes not guarenteed). At other times, I just wonder, what else can I possibly do?

Sometimes I wonder, if I do any good at being a simple friend and I rely on people to let me know. With some people, it's easy. Some of them speak, some just kind of let you know. I don't know how they do it, perhaps its the body language but you just sense they appreciate what you're doing or letting you know you're doing it right. With some, it's more difficult because you really can't tell, sometimes it could be because what you do is 'expected' from you. That's when you try and look for signals that let you know you're doing your part fine.

As you can see from that last paragraph, I suppose I'm the kind of person that needs affirmation. I need to know I'm doing ok. I am not trying to ask for a goody basket full of statements saying 'thank you' and 'you're a good friend' as nice as that is. I just need to know if I am or am not doing you a good favour as your friend.

I don't know, I don't know why I'm really writing this. It's ranged from loneliness to not being able to understand people. Maybe I just need to say this, or I need help, I don't know. Well, I welcome just about anyone who knows me to give a little feedback, if you so happen have this urge to get real personal, just buzz me at freeforchristcommandoblake@gmail.com. Cheers.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Search

Well well, after a long time its finally happened.

The one in the middle is the new addition! (guitar on left belongs to dad, on the right is my classical since 2001)

A number of you would know that over the past year or so, I've been searching around for an acoustic guitar for quite a while now. I've borrowed my father's Maton for over a year now, as he's kindly allowed me to use it since he didn't play so often. However, he did reveal that he wanted to take it back for his own use at one point. It was then that I decided maybe it was time to just go around looking for one. By doing that, I set myself on getting a long term replacement for what I borrowed, not a temporary one.

I had actually begun searching for one last year, just going around trying several guitars. I didn't really have any intention of buying then, but I just wanted to go around to try them out to see what was available. There was even one time I went to this store at Times Square that had a pretty neat collection of Taylors and I even got a chance just to get my hands on a RM 12000 guitar. Crazy! Of course, such a guitar is not within my grasp, and even if it was, I'd rather spend RM 12000 as part of payment for a car, not a musical instrument. After all, I'm not a professional recording artist.

It's taken me quite a while to find something I like. It's not easy for me to try out guitars because I can only do so during my holidays in between semesters when I can go back to KL to try a wide range of guitars. It's been quite a wait, patiently sifting through the options that are there. It's interesting when you look for a guitar, because it's a very personal thing. It's a little like buying a house for oneself, it bows down to personal choice. It's not something that a friend can choose for you. You must make the choice yourself.

I really went all out this year, trying as many as I could. I remember trying out guitars before my semester started this year, during the mid-semester break and after the semester, which is now. It's kind of crazy because you go all around trying stuff, trying to remember sounds and comparing them with others you've already tried. Even last year when I was in Penang on an unexpected occasion, I still went to try some guitars at several places. It's like making sure you actually get a hands on experience with every single item that's on your consideration catalog. You even try those that are out of your budget, just to see what kind of instrument you're looking for. Even if it's too expensive, you will try and get something that sounds even just a little bit like it. If you take a look at the posts labelled 'Music', there's about three posts that relate to my long term search of a guitar.

After going around several times, I did have a shortlist. Somehow, they only came from two brands, and both start with a 'T' and second letters of their names are 'a'. That means, only Takamine and Taylor. Now, I thought Taylor's were way out of my league, but there is a more affordable Taylor series that caught my eye. The choice also kind of rested in between two outlets, Mahogany and Bentley.

This was my shortlist:

Takamine EG 530 SC

Takamine EF 360 SC

Takamine EF 340 SC

Taylor 110 CE

Taylor 210 CE

The first guitar you saw, EG 530 SC was a model I saw in Mahogany last year. I really had my eye on it, as it did sound very good and was among the most value for money. There were only two available. Back then, the salesperson tried to convince me to buy it because Takamine no longer makes the model, and could be taken up soon. My parents and I resisted the offer to give me more time to look around. One year later, I discovered that fair enough, both the models were no longer around, they must've been bought up.

That left the last four that you see. The condition I had for buying a guitar was that it had to be bright, and it had to bring volume(never in my life will I buy an expensive instrument that cannot be heard clearly 10 metres away without an amplifier). After more trying, the Takamine EF 360 was put out of the equation. The EF 340 seemed to carry volume and so I kept it on my list. It was quite a solid guitar to hold. Both these guitars were tried out at Mahogany.

Now, over to Bentley's where I would try the 110 and 214 series Taylors. On an average day, a Taylor should cost you RM 7000 and above but Taylor has finally come up with a lower range that costs half of its high end models. That's what I was looking at. The 110 was good and very nice for strumming, it was very bright, and I was quite pleased. However, the sound doesn't come out as much when you pluck on it. The 214 was somewhat sweeter, had more bass, bringing more volume and a more wholesome sound. Because of that, 110 was also put out of the equation.

That left these two to compete, Takamine 340 SC and Taylor 214 CE. Now eventually, just two days ago, I did make a purchase. The price difference between the two wasn't great, I can tell you that. So which did I get?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rock What You Got

A long time ago, back in 2002, I was walking along an isle in the music section of MPH bookstore in Mid Valley Megamall. I was looking at a couple of CD titles, and one of it caught my attention.
What caught my attention wasn't the album title, but the name, Superchic[k]. I thought it was kind of cool especially with the brackets closing the letter 'k' in at the end.

My first Superchic[k] album, Last One Picked

I picked the cd up and tried it out, the sound of pop rock filled my ears and it was something my ears liked to hear, the sound of pop rock guitar and a girl wailing on the vocals. I bought the cd, and that started off my relationship with this band I now love very much.

They've released a number of albums between then and now and I did buy their last album, Beauty From Pain. About two years on, they've now come out with a new album which I shall promote on this blog because I think it's worth showcasing. First let me introduce the band to you.

From left: Max, Brandon, Melissa, Dave, Tricia, Matt

Max Hsu: Turntables, Keyboards, Programming
Brandon Estelle: Drums
Melissa Brock: Rythm Guitar, Vocals
Dave Ghazzarian: Lead Guitar
Tricia Brock: Lead Vocals
Matt Dally: Bass Guitar, Vocals

The name of this new record is the title of my post, Rock What You Got and it's a combination of a few things including electropunk, pop-rock with a little bit of ballad. I've had a chance to listen to a few samples of the songs from the new album, you can check it out some samples of the songs (Hey Hey, Hold On, Crawl/Carry Me Through) too at http://www.myspace.com/superchick .

They've turned from a somewhat lighter pop rock tone, to something deeper. I wouldn't say the change is drastic like the difference between the last two Blink 182 albums. One of the good things about Superchic[k] albums, is that you've got a good band playing behind female vocals that do suit pop/punk (slightly Yellowcard) genre and that doesn't sound like a pop rock tune involving Lindsey Lohan or Hillary Duff. You'll find the vocalist of Superchic[k] is powerful and she does pack a punch, especially during the faster more rocking tunes on this album.

Brandon and Dave tracking in the studio for 'Rock What You Got'

The album features quite a bit of string instruments that do play an influence in a number of tracks on this record, especially on a song, 'Hold On' one ballad that puts together the piano, violin and electric guitars that pull you through. Another would be Crawl(Carry Me Through) that does away with the hard guitar riffs and drums and just lets the strings carry a slow ballad with Tricia patiently singing away.

Dave, Brandon & Matt lay out the basics for the record in Max's Dungeon (his home studio). Can you see how many keyboards are there?

The record doesn't rest on the slower songs, and brings the pace, with the songs 'Alive', 'Rock What You Got', 'So Beautiful' and 'Cross The Line'. There's a free download for the entire song 'Alive'. If you want to download the free song, just go to www.inpop.com/superchicklovesyou , enter your e-mail as part of a mailing list (don't worry, you can easily unsubscribe). Inpop records will send you an e-mail with the link to download the song. You'll find Alive to be one of those that fit into the electro-punk genre and you'll see what I mean by Superchic[k] having a solid female vocalist.

Superchic[k]'s guitar recording gear

There's even one song at the very end which really encapsulates the whole Superchic[k] experience that started off as a garage band, with Brandon on the drums and Dave Ghazzarian just pulling off all his tricks of the trade on the electric guitar, bringing back to our ears what it was like just to jam during high school or college days. They've even called the song, Guitar Hero, haha!

Well, that's all I'll say about the album music-wise. The release date in the USA is on the 24th of June. Hopefully, it'll come here soon enough because I really do want my copy! If you get the chance, do get a copy, from what I've listened to, it'll be their best record yet. This is the first Superchic[k] album I'm recommending neutrals to listen to. So, if any of you are in the USA, do look out for that, it'll certainly be an album worth having. Cheers =)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008



Well, it's about time I did this I suppose. I've been purposefully avoiding this for the past few semester breaks in order to enjoy them, which I have; very much so indeed. Still, I decided since quite a number of friends have experience under their belt, it wouldn't hurt for me to get some. Hence, I've decided to take on a job. I was considering working at Fish&Co at One Utama shopping complex, but I've taken on a different one, helping out at the Christian bookstore, Canaanland.

Canaanland's a small chain of Christian bookstores, just like Gladsounds and Salvation. I'll be working in between two branches, handling a load of different tasks. One's at Damansara Perdana (shown below) and another is the Centrepoint branch.

Canaanland Damansara Perdana

Canaanland Bandar Utama Centrepoint (close to One Utama Shopping Complex)

Tentatively, I'll be working at Damansara Perdana from Mondays to Thursdays and at Centrepoint on Fridays and Saturdays. It should be an interesting experience, looking forward to it. The only thing is, I won't really be that free to hang out with people, except at night. As it is I end at 7 or 8 p.m. I think I'll be pretty tired. Well, at least Sunday's a little free, hehe.

Oh, and I just went to the new Bentley's outlet on top of Courts opposite Tesco near The Curve (Mutiara Damansara) two days ago. That place is absolutely fantastic. We really must go there as a band one day. The guys will love it man, seriously. I'd love to take a friend over there just to go again and try out their stuff. That place totally whoops Yamaha's BeatSpot and the other instrument shop over at Ikano. I foresee a lot of human traffic at that Bentley's outlet over the next few months, or even years perhaps. I bet it's the biggest instrument store in KL, would that make it over Malaysia too? Just wondering, hehe.

I've got a post coming up on acoustic guitar hunting soon. Yes, I am at it again, hehe. Not really 'again', more of a continuation of my long search for a long term instrument. =)

NEXT: On Living thoughts... Simply Loud

Superchic[k] is back..... with a new album..

Monday, May 26, 2008

I cannot believe it

I really, just simply cannot believe it. I cannot believe it. My childhood friend during my Miri days, Matthew Tsen just got married, LOL. I just... cannot believe it. A positive development, just a little shocking for me to find out, hahahaha. Congrats, hehe. =)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some time ago

.... in a land far, far away, lived a young boy who had gone to a school distant from his home. One fine day, this young boy had a test in school in the morning, at 9 o'clock to be precise. This boy woke up early and walked over to the library before his test began, but it wasn't because he wanted to study there. He was walking with a look of panic and worry on his face. Why? Hadn't he studied enough the night before? Let's go back in time and find out why this young boy was so worried.

Just the night before his test, this young little boy had finished studying and was about to go to sleep. He was packing his things and while he was clearing his table, "Where's my name tag?!" he thought out loud. He looked on his table, under his desk and under his chair but he couldn't find a thing. He began to worry and was very frightened because he knew the teachers wouldn't let him take the test without his name tag. How would they know he was really him? They would be cross and kick him out of the test hall if he didn't have his name tag. He searched through the pockets of his pants and he didn't find it, but as he searched deeper, he pulled out something he didn't know was there. It felt small and tiny, no bigger nor heavier than a stone. It was a tiny key.

Then the young boy realised that just two days ago, he had rented a locker in the school library. In his school, when you rented a locker for a day, you had to give in your name tag and return it before the end of the day to get it back. He must have forgotten to return the key! It was too late to go there now, it was night time, so he would have to wait until the next day.

Now, we come back to the beginning of the story where the young boy is pacing towards the library hoping his name tag is still there. The library opened at 8.30, his test was at 9.00, the tension in his young little mind was running high. It was only 8.08 but the library doors were unlocked and so he went inside. The librarian inside told him, "Dear, the library opens at 8.30"

"But this is an emergency, I need my name tag. I forgot to return the key for the locker the other day. I have a test to go for sir! Please help me, I really do need that name tag." the young boy replied

"All right then, since you do have a test, I shall help you," and the librarian gave the young boy his name tag in exchange for the small key. He left his bag in the library and took out his stationaries, before heading to the test hall. The young boy made haste and went as quickly as he could. As he arrived, he read his notes for a while before the guard outside the hall announced the test was to begin and all students had to enter. The young boy braced himself to enter, but as he did that, he realised something. He'd forgotten his counting machine! The test this young boy was to sit for had some complicated sums and he needed his magic counting machine to help him! There were only fifteen minutes left before the test began, and so he huffed and puffed and ran as fast as he could to the library, rushing to his bag. He then took his magic counting machine and walked as quickly as he could to the test hall. He could not run anymore because he had tired himself running to the library.

The young boy rushed into the test hall and wondered if he was late. If he was late, surely there would be consequences. He went to his place and looked at the big clock on the front stage that said 8.55. You could then see the smile of relief on the boy's face. He even said a little prayer of thanks after his test was over. What a morning that was.

I don't think I need you to guess who that really was, do I?

Thank God, He really got me out of a potential double trouble today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The week of today and tomorrow

Well, just to update everyone on what's happening, right now. I'm in the Information Resource Center (IRC) of UTP, or better known as the library. It's almost eight p.m and I'm blogging away while mostly everyone else is away at dinner. I've been in the IRC this whole week studying, and come Monday will be the beginning of my finals for the semester.

It's been quite a week, being in the IRC everyday from morning until midnight. Sometimes it gets boring, sometimes frustrating and sometimes my dear friends just can't concentrate anymore and start watching movies or award shows on their laptops. Another friend did even better, he brought a little friend with him, that pretty much cheered everyone up. In fact, he's such a hit that some of my friends have been cam-whoring with this little dude, haha! Let me introduce you to 'Lil' Javier'.

He's such an adorable little creature. This cute little soft toy, Little Jave is named after his owner, Javier Teo. He's a good friend of mine, fellow band mate in Seven Sweet Surrender as our rythm guitarist and backup vocalist. Just about everyone in our study room in the IRC loves him, and he's become the focal point of the room everytime, haha!

Little Javier's been an inspiration, so much so that Vern had to put this up on the whiteboard, haha!

The drawing comes from a photo she took of Little Javier reading a Technical Professional Writing textbook Big Javier was studying. You can see it on a blog post entitled 'We Have Another Visitor' at kookymonsta.wordpress.com As you can see, there's a bible verse underneath she took from Phillipians 3:14.

Well, the first two exams I've got next week on Monday and Tuesday respectively are Marketing and Accounting. So I'm studying Marketing tonight and tomorrow, hopefully I'll do all right. Just got to give it to God I suppose.

Well, that's all I've got for now I suppose. I'm going back to study alongside Javier, Yen Pinng and Jasmine's who's kindly come along to the IRC to accompany us although, she doesn't really have to. It's good to have more company in tense times, haha! All the best to whoever out there is having test, exams and so forth. God bless, have a great week ahead of you. =)