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Monday, September 24, 2012

reading Return

I hadn't been watching a lot of shows in the last two months, but I did get down to do a bit of reading, which I haven't done in quite a while. For some reason, when I was younger I used to love to read, Enid Blyton's probably one of my favourite childhood authors. Secret seven, famous five, I used to love all that. I probably still do since I still like investigative storylines.

However, over time the invention of the modern PC slowly stole my interest away from reading. Computer games, downloaded sitcoms, anime, movies and game shows were just more than enough to keep me contented. Its not that I stopped liking books and started hating them, but by then I just wasn't that interested anymore. There were probably one or two books I may have read in between, but I don't think I ever finished them.

Then, a couple of years ago while at a used book store, I wondered if I should give reading another go although I was wondering if I could even finish one book.

In the end I decided I could and bought myself one:



It was a seemingly light read and not too thick either, so it wasn't a bad way to get back into the habit right? I even blogged about it sometime ago here. I read it halfway, and then stopped for about a whole year before I picked it up again. Honestly, I  had dropped it in the first place because in spite of the innocent cover, it was all about this guy dealing with the consequences of infidelity and I guess a lot of the themes or values just didn't sit well with me, but I still finished the book, eventually.

I wasn't particularly keen on reading anything after that but a few trips down to Amcorp Mall led me to BookXcess. Once I saw their prices, I couldn't help but leave with a couple of hard covers in hand. I blogged about it too, but since then I hadn't made much progress on any of the books I bought. I guess, its just like when girls go shopping and they see something that's on sale, and they buy it even if they don't need it, hahaha!

That said, a few months ago I finally got down to reading one of the novels I bought. I must say, I think I finally picked out something right for me. Having been saturated with movies of an action packed, or maybe more realistic and psychologically numbing challenging nature over the years, if I was going to plunge into a story that'd take me a a month to finish I couldn't afford to have me in a depressed feel like the last one did.



I already knew this when I was looking around at the bookstore so that’s how I got around to picking that very colourful looking cover with the ironic title, Shades of Grey. I have to say, Jasper Fforde really knows how intrigue people with his writing, its all straightforward, yet because of the fantasy and science fiction-like elements, there’s plenty to discover as you read along. I think it was the perfect choice for me, because it starts out light and bright but gets a lot deeper later on with a fair bit of mystery. I may not read a lot, but I’m pretty certain his writing is something different, loved it and I recommend it to anyone who’s willing to give it a try.

After finishing that, I went straight on to False Impression and it was another choice right on the money since I like stories similar to the stuff you get in Jason Bourne and 007 films. Oh, I didn’t mention but I got a Bourne novel as well, which I’m in the middle of reading, heh.

I think I’ve slowed down a bit lately, but I’m still reading nonetheless. Its always nice to retain a favourite past time, especially if it’s got nothing to do with digital tech. I suppose I should try to finish three more books before the year end. Mmm, sounds like a plan.

Friday, September 21, 2012

inspirationally Right

Adversity, tough choices, tense situations, pain, suffering, tears and moments of truth seem to be the makeup of every inspirational story that we know. Real or fiction, the touching stories that we know always have that recurring theme of overcoming the overwhelming. I guess it goes without saying that it's always inspring to see how people can arrive at a happy ending when they start from a hopeless beginning.

Watching or reading stories like these always slice deep into the heart because you realise how hard some people have it, past or present. It does remind me to be grateful, but it reminds me more about how real adversity is for those who are opressed. From the 'normal' life we may know, it reminds us of the realities that surround us. That's when we remember that although we might not encounter such things every day, things like pride, prejudice, greed, lust and selfishness are very real.

As we go through that story, it invokes a lot of emotions. There's anger at the injustice being done, frustration at the stubbornness of the wicked, grief for the opressed and anguish in those heart wrenching moments. What's funny is that when you're watching an inspirational movie of the sort, you feel all these emotions for perhaps a few seconds at each scene. Perhaps if you're like me, you could still think about it for a couple of days, maybe even a week. The tragic thing is that in real life, its a lot more than that. Unfortunately, people don't go from poor to rich or from slave to free within a two-three hour window that movies afford us.

Anyone can watch an inspirational film and cry a little, talk about how protagonist had great perseverance and how cruel the antagonists were. That's not saying its wrong or shallow to do that and walk out of the cinema saying, "So, what's for lunch?" It is good however, when you take time to focus on yourself a little, finding out what the story really meant to you.

Not too long ago, I was watching 'The Help' with a few friends. It's about an black lady who works as a maid during the time of coloured segregation in America. I guess the racism theme was emphasised even more by the fact that the setting is in Missisipi. As you've figured by now, it's mostly about discrimination and the consequences of challenging the status quo. Although the theme isn't new to me, I guess it was a little shocking to see how blatant racism was during those times. It is surprising to see how one race can treat another as a lesser class of being in the modern era. For all you know, it probably still exists today, just in a more subtle form maybe.

The reason I brought up 'The Help' is because something held my attention and got me thinking, so much so that I didn't really feel like saying anything even after the movie ended. It wasn't one particular scene that gripped me, rather a string of events throughout that made me wonder what I'd do if I were in the same situation.

You see, in 'The Help', the main character Aibileen is a black maid faced with a risk-filled choice of exposing her troubles and grievances working as a maid for white families to a young white journalist seeking to write a book about coloured help. Making a decision to tell the truth wasn't easy and it wasn't something Aibileen chose until things happened that led her to believe telling it was the closest she'd get to justice. On the surface, it seems to be just logical sense, after all, don't crooks tell the truth when they're cornered?

What really got me was the fact that Aibileen would stick to her decision, her conviction, in spite of the consequences and the great risks she was taking. Although the film doesn't show it, in a real situation, she probably would've felt fearful for her work, her life even, everyday she went to work for the white familiy after she agreed to tell her story. She could've been ostracised by her friends for doing something taboo, dangerous, not just to herself but to the entire community.

Not long later, the shooting of a black man by the Ku Klux Klan in this story races to heighten her fears. Suddenly, the consequences were becoming more real and many what-ifs were coming to mind. What if she were found out? Would she become the victim of a shooting just because she couldn't keep shut? Would the entire black community suffer dire consequences for something she'd agreed to? Aibileen got her head down, stuck to her belief, committed herself to doing the right thing although circumstances dictated differently.

That's where this movie had me. I wasn't thinking so much about the racism although that was its major pull. I was thinking about something a lot simpler. Doing the right thing.

It challenged me. Would I have done what she did had I been in her place at that time? It really pricked me at the time because I think many people including myself can quit on something for reasons much lesser. As much as I would like to say, "Yeah, I would've done that too," there's doubt in my mind that suggests the truth probably isn't so. Right now, I'm just not in a position where I can say outright that I'd definitely do the right thing in a time where everything against me is tremendously overwhelming.

Then again, I'm reminded that as a Christian, God doesn't put us into situations we aren't able to overcome. Surely, there are times and moments where our own strength and ideas won't cut it, but His grace and power is sufficient. Those are times and opportunities for Him to shine through us, through our weakness, through our dark moments. I guess all that I need to do is to make sure that I have a solid foundation so that when the wind blows, I'll be able to handle it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

obama Clinton

When he was president up until his scandal, there was hardly a person that could hate this guy. He was one of the few that probably all ethnicities around the globe would be able to embrace. For his time in the mid nineties, Bill Clinton was probably one of the most respected figures around the globe.



Now, I'm not a polititian and neither am I a full-fletched follower of American politics. I am however, quite a fan of a person who can deliver a good speech with great character. He may have been out of the White House for over a decade now, but judging from his speech in support of Barrack Obama, you know he's still got it. It's actually quite amazing to see how many people still look at him as someone with stature despite his past mistakes.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

nancy’s Kitchen

A lot has been said about Nyonya food being a very famous Malaccan attraction, not just to foreign tourists, but even to Malaysians from other states who are known to be very particular when searching for good food. The problem is there are so many small restaurants selling Nyonya food that its difficult to know which are authentic, and even if they are authentic, which ones actually cook a tasty meal?

I’ve had the chance to try a few places along the city centre in Melaka Raya, but have often ended up disappointed for a couple of reasons. One, these restaurants may serve Nyonya style dishes, but the taste is hardly a reason for anyone to drive out of their house for dinner. The food is just edible. If a Malaysian wanted just edible food, a take away meal from a food court will suffice, nobody wants to drive out for just ‘edible’. The other reason is that some of these places may actually have one good dish but the rest are just edible, which makes it incredibly frustrating.

Despite the numerous Nyonya eating places that ought to be rated as ‘mediocre’ only, there are one or two that I think are worth a shot. Surprisingly, one of them is found in the more commercialised touristy area of Jonker Walk.

The reason I say its surprising is that I personally feel there’s a lot of overrated food along that stretch of road. There’s the corner lot famous for chicken rice balls (always with a long line on weekends) and plenty of jam tart and biscuit selling shops that I personally don’t feel deserve much mention in a food magazine. Then again, chicken rice balls are already overrated to begin with, and it wouldn’t matter if you ate it at Jonker Walk or anywhere else.

Moving away from my rant about ‘average’ food along Jonker Walk, a place that’s actually good for a meal is not too far away from the Geographer’s Cafe, which is smack bang in the middle, right in between the two ends of Jonker Walk. 


Geographer’s Cafe

Turning into the smaller lane, you’ll find Nancy’s Kitchen on your right towards the end. It doesn’t look a fancy place from the outside and neither does it look that way on the inside but rest assured, it’s a fine place for lunch.  

Nancy's Kitchen entrance

Now, bear in mind that I don’t have the clearest idea of what constitutes Nyonya food and what doesn’t, but most dishes I’ve tried here are nice, whether they’re pure Nyonya food is up for the historians to debate. I took a few photos of the menu from my several trips there over the last year or so. Most of the dishes seem unique to me, so I’m guessing they’re authentic.

 
You may notice my tendency to take photos mostly of the pork dishes (my one bias I’m afraid, hahahah), but if you look carefully, you’ll see that a lot of the pork dishes are also available with chicken alternatives. Nonetheless, I’m sure by now you know which I’m more inclined to.

One thing about Nancy’s Kitchen is that its great for groups of people. Coming here with family and friends will always make sense. However, the nature of the restaurant's servings and price points aren’t very friendly for individual customers. That’s why I had to limit myself to about two different dishes each time I went so that I wouldn’t overspend. It isn’t the kind of place you can order fried rice if you want an individual meal because you have to order separate dishes and rice. In short, its the same concept as why you’d never go into a Chinese seafood restaurant on your own. 



Although this place is more suited for groups, it hasn’t stopped me from going there on my own because I think the food is seriously worth it (I usually go just as it opens on Saturday before it fills up). Of all the times I’ve been to Nancy’s Kitchen, only once have I been with other people and even that was something unplanned.

Thinking about what is good here, obviously I’m going to tell you that anything with pork here guarantees satisfaction but there are a couple of other dishes that got into my good books. Here’s what I’ve enjoyed eating at Nancy’s:

Pork Rib in Coriander

Pork in Tamarind (sour-ish and sweet, some don’t like it, I do) 

Pork Pongteh (you really can’t go wrong with this) 


Fried Pork with Bean Curd Skin (Ngoh Hiang) 


Fried Egg with Prawns & Chilli 


Otak-otak 


Soft-shell Crab

There are a few others that are pretty good that I don’t have photos of, including pork rib curry and the devil curry chicken. I’m sure there’re plenty more. Like I said before I go to Nancy’s alone mostly so I haven’t really been able to try other things like their seafood dishes among others.

Apart from your lunchtime and dinner type dishes, they also sell something that’s fine for either breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s called Chang. 



It’s one of the unspoken Malaysian favourites, the sticky rice shaped in the form of a pyramid with some sort of filling usually right in the centre. I don’t really know what’s the difference between the three choices, since I’m not the biggest Chang fan, even if I do have it every now and then. It’s still a popular thing nonetheless and they’re sold in limited quantities. Sometimes, certain choices like the ‘Telor Masin’ are unavailable. 



There probably aren’t more than twenty packs hung on the pole each day. Other than the Chang, Nancy’s also sells several types of kuih, cookies and tarts. 



For its tarts, it has even picked up a mention in an article in the travel section of the New York Times, which you can read here (it’s a small mention at the end among places to eat). I find it a little strange that Nancy’s been picked out for its tarts in the article, because I hardly believe that’s its biggest strength. There’s a better store for that barely five shops up.

All in all, Nancy’s Kitchen is a nice place for lunch, and probably not a bad option for dinner on the weekend. There’s a good variety of dishes available and its good food has been enough to attract both foreigners and locals. I definitely recommend this place if you’d like a Nyonya flavour, especially if you’re a little tired of Chinese seafood places all the time.

Friday, September 07, 2012

dinner Talk

A long day came to a close and I finally stepped out of the Tower Two lobby. Walking around KLCC, I bumped into a couple of batch mates from UTP. While it’s been less than two years, I realise it feels as if I haven’t seen them for five! Time sure flies.

Anyway, I met up with my mother later on and she picked out a place for dinner that I haven’t been to before. At first I thought of Madam Kwan’s because I hadn’t had that awesome and very filling Nasi Bojari, particularly for the awesome fried chicken Maryland and beef rendang. She had another idea because she’d heard of this place that’s apparently run by someone who used to be involved with Delicious, so we thought to give it a try, something new after all. 



The place was packed out, but fortunately we were taken to a small section partitioned off from the rest of the place at the back. You never get your money’s worth eating in a nice restaurant if the buzz around isn’t any different from food courts during weekday lunchtimes. 

Poring over the menu, there was plenty to choose from, particularly for spaghetti and sandwiches. There were a few fusion choices too, but I didn’t look at those. 



Ben’s is not the cheapest of choices no doubt, but its still within expectations of eateries like this, whether in KLCC or not. Places like Ben’s are obviously not ‘everyday meal’ choices, but weekends or special occasions probably warrant them on your nice-meal-calendar somewhere. I know it’s frustrating sometimes when you go to an expensive place where the food tastes nothing more than ordinary. I wondered if this place would be any different. The setting was nice, but as far as food is concerned, we know it’s always content over cover in the end.

I thought of trying something I haven’t had at these kind of places for a while. A sandwich, or more accurately, a big burger (only Americans know why burgers are called sandwiches, something the English probably shake their heads at). With plenty of choice and this being my first time at Ben’s, I was still undecided when the waiter came. He spared me the agony by recommending the house special, Ben’s Cheeseburger, served with fries and a small salad. 



The size of this may have well not been worth its price tag of RM 25.90 but the quality simply was. It’s probably one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while. I know, because I can’t remember the last time a burger MELTED in my mouth! Restaurants usually serve up burgers made of real minced meat and not your average processed patties in fast food outlets, so I expecting its form, but definitely not how tender it was. I thought Wok & Pan down in Malacca had it pretty good with it’s own minced pork burger, but this was another level up. The overlapping slice of cheddar cheese adds a little more too.

The conclusion is, the food is fine. I’ll put it as a safe place to go if you’re willing to fork out the cost of the menu prices. Besides the food, there was something that stood out about Ben’s compared to many places I’ve eaten. You know how a lot of people text or stay glued to their touch screen devices at restaurants right? I personally find it annoying and Ben’s been paying attention.

You see, while waiting for the food, I noticed a square shaped card holder. Inside, I found something I thought was brilliant. 

 



 

Simple, yet novel. I like it. Honestly, it really helps to kick start things, very helpful for people like me! Every restaurant should have this. Stop texting, start talking.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

homely Expression

Some people may like travelling around, but I for one dread having to go up and down between places every so often. Just going up to KL and back down to Malacca twice within the space of the last seven days has got me pretty beat. In a way its actually quite annoying but there’s not much that can be done about it.

However, its always worth it when you arrive to a warm expression of love, especially if it’s in the form of food! 



I guess home cooked food is one of the things we always yearn for when we go back home. You also know it’s an act of love while you’re on the drive back down and you find out she’s rushing home too to make the meal happen. Home is home after all.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

marrying Melody

Another couple that I knew just got married today and that’s why I’m down in KL again for the weekend, to see the two of them finally tie the knot and put on the handcuffs rings that symbolise an eternal imprisonment commitment to love. 

  The venue: KLPAC

This is the first time I went for an outdoor wedding, thank God the good weather held up, especially since it has been raining lately. Its also the first time I’ve had to be at a wedding at 8.30 a.m! Not that I’m complaining, but hey it’s no fun waking up early on a Saturday, hahah.

Knowing Wai Nyan for a while, particularly through Hearts United (my cell group during my CoUZ days), he’s always been a great gentleman with a solid character and a humble heart. That said, if I ever thought of him marrying somebody, that somebody would have to be very special, very unique, almost tailor made to him. When I knew that he was together with Melody, it was definitely very intriguing. I was wondering, “Who’s the girl that got his attention?” It would definitely have to be someone with substance, and someone very Godly.

Admittedly, I had not even talked to Melody before until a few months ago. When I did, it wasn’t long since it was over lunch on a Sunday with Wai Nyan. As short as it was, it was plenty enough for me to nod internally and think to myself, “Yeah, she’s got it.” 


The program and lyric foldout that doubles as a fan.

Arriving on time, the first thing that got my attention at the KLPAC entrance was the fulfilment of her incessant ‘wish’ that used to flood my Facebook status updates page. Ever since they’ve been planning for the wedding, she’s been wishing for a very specific vehicle with a very specific colour. In truth, it’s a very ‘cutesy’ car, so I bet she’s pretty happy about this: 



It was funny too, because when they recited their vows, part of hers went, “… my knight in my yellow beetle …”

Ps. Chew was there to solemnise the wedding and so after Wai Nyan and Melody exchanged vows, he said, “Actually the pastor is not supposed to cry, but what to do?” to a lot of laughter.

Actually, there were a few funny moments, one of them at the end of exchanging of vows. I was sitting next to a fried of mine, whose name I shall not reveal for the sake of his security, hahah. Here’s what happened. Just as either Wai Nyan or Melody answered Ps. Chew's marital commitment question with “I do,” at that exact moment my friend gave a very big “YAWWNNNNN”

“HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” I laughed internally with a huge grin on my face looking at him.

“Ooops, sorry sorry.”

“HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” I still laughed on the inside with my palm to my head. It was really funny because it wasn’t intentional, it was a ‘genuine’ yawn. 



There was one more moment that had my tickle bone going for a bit. At the end of the vows Ps. Chew announced, “You may now kiss your wife.”
They kissed obviously, and immediately right after, Ps. Chew gave his approval.

“That was awesome. That was awesome,” he announced over the microphone. 



I may update this post after the dinner tonight. We’ll see.