Thursday, March 12, 2015

CARAN D'ACHE

When I was in college, I took quite a number of art classes for my elective courses (unlike my other college mates who preferred to take more academically-related subjects). I took drawing, lithography, ceramics and even jewelry-making. There was also a time when I wanted to enrol in an oil-painting class but I had to drop that class after seeing the list of what to buy. For my drawing class, my professor had insisted that we use Strathmore drawing paper of certain texture and weight. He also asked us to use only certain types of pencils and charcoal to produce our artwork. So I could not imagine how on earth I could afford to buy the paints, brushes and canvasses if I were to take up oil painting. Unlike other Fine Arts students who proudly walked around campus carrying their professional-looking folios (some were leather, let me tell you), I was quite content clutching my cheap black hardboard folio and art box on my way to class. I would spend a lot of time in the art studio especially for my ceramics and lithography classes since the projects could only be completed there and not at home. By the way, I found out that I was extremely hopeless at 'throwing'. My free-form projects were so much better but they also lacked any consistent concept or idea. I had never had any formal art lesson in school so to be able to do what my heart desired was definitely a dream come true. Since taking the oil painting class was out of the question, I began to look for other alternatives which would enable me to use colours. Water colour was not an option since no water colour courses were offered (and even if they were, I knew that I would be terribly bad at it). My 'big sistah', Dana, had a set of coloured pencils which was quite expensive. The coloured pencils were special since they were water-soluble and could also be used as water colour. I had never seen any coloured pencils which could do that and to me, that was truly amazing. The coloured pencils were Caran D'Ache, a Swiss product. Those Caran D'Ache coloured pencils belong to me now although I rarely use them anymore. The company was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1915 and that means this year is its 100th anniversary. Caran D'Ache has quite a number of products ranging from pastels and coloured pencils to fibre-tipped pens and acrylic paints to high-quality writing equipment and exquisite pens  (all of them expensive, let me tell you). If anyone is interested, feel free to surf their official website. Unfortunately, they do not ship to Malaysia. Caran D'Ache has a few boutiques in Kuala Lumpur and I think the company wants to retain its exclusive market among the more affluent, hence no shipping to Malaysia. For their coloured pencils, there are many different ranges to suit different budgets, techniques and users. There are Supracolor, Swisscolor, Neocolor, Pablo, Prismalo, Luminance, Museum, Fancolor and Tootuff. Now, let me get back to my Caran D'Ache story before I keep on rambling endlessly and unnecessarily. A friend of my younger brother (who is a Swiss) was planning his annual visit to Malaysia and I immediately asked my brother to ask him to buy for me a set of Caran D'Ache coloured pencils. I wanted to try to do something related to arts again and drawing using coloured pencils, in my opinion, would be most convenient and less time-consuming compared to using any other medium. I could have bought other brands such as Faber-Castell and Staedtler (which are available locally in most stores) but I wanted something not owned by a lot of people (my vanity took over for a while, okay?). I told my brother that a basic set (with 12 colours) would do since I did not want to pay through my nose for a luxury product that I might not even use at all. Anyway, the colour pencil set that I received was more than I had expected. It is from the Swisscolor range and there are 30 vibrant colours altogether and of course, they are water-soluble. This range is actually more suitable for students and beginners since it is harder (which makes the pencils less prone to breakage) but who is complaining when it is Caran D'Ache? I still have not taken the plastic wrapper off the tin box since I haven't done any colouring or even drawing for quite a while now. I hope that I can find the time to start doing something on a small scale, at least. And I know I will need lots and lots of practice before I can even produce something that is equivalent to a kindergarten colouring project. To Eddie, thank you so much for the Caran D'Ache set. It will be put into good use but I can't promise how soon that will be.

The Caran D'Ache colour pencil set from my college days.

My new Caran D'Ache colour pencil set.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

AL-FATIHAH : KAK INA (ZARINA MOHD HASIN)

It was after Maghrib this evening when I received a phone call from a colleague informing that one of the administrative assistants at my workplace was involved in a car accident on her way back home. She was said to be injured but nobody knew whether it was serious or not. I tried to call her number but there was no answer so I tried her brother-in-law's number. I was numb for a while when he told me that Kak Ina (that was what I called her although she was younger than I) had just passed away. It was only yesterday evening when I last saw her after fetching my Mum from the dialysis centre. Kak Ina was the one who handled my monthly claims for my Mum's dialysis treatment. For the past few days, she had kept on asking me about the receipts that I should give her so she could settle her work. On Thursday, I gave all the receipts to her and on Friday, she called me to the office to tell me that the dialysis centre had left out one receipt. She had insisted that I go and get the receipt from the centre that Friday evening. I stopped by at the office to give her the receipt on Friday evening and she pointed out that there was a mistake in one of the forms from the dialysis centre. She asked me whether I could get another form but since I did not want to delay her work, I simply asked her to correct the form since the error was very minor (it was my identity card number). That was the last time I talked to her. After I received the news from her brother-in-law, I immediately called Kak Minah, my mommy-sitter, to come over to my house since I wanted to go to the hospital. When I reached the hospital, some of my colleagues were already there wait6ing for her to be taken for the post-mortem. Now that she is gone, I began to notice some of the subtle changes in her before her passing. Kak Ina, you will be missed and I cannot thank you enough for all the things that you had done for me. Al-Fatihah and may Allah bless your soul and place you in jannah. آمين

Saturday, February 28, 2015

PIECES OF MALAYSIAN NOSTALGIA : YOU ARE ALREADY MIDDLE-AGED IF...

Growing old can be a pain in the ass (and other parts of the body as well) and it's not something that we can easily avoid no matter hard we try. No amount of ointments, lotions and rubs can restore that vitality and strength that we once possessed. The physical aches that we suffer are somehow incomparable to the longing that some of us have when we reflect on our youth and the carefree times that we had. Sometimes, that longing can be more piercing than the sharpest of blades and more. Many people have discussed in blogs and forums how simpler life was when they were younger and I couldn't agree more. We did not have a lot of money back then but we were okay. We did not have a lot of facilities to make our life easier but we managed to get by. Most of us did not have university-educated parents but they made sure that we got proper education. We had to help our parents before or after school yet we never complained. We only got hand-me-down clothes yet they were clean and mended. Reading those entries and comments sometimes makes me want to go back in time at least for a while just for old time's sake. If you grew up in Malaysia in the 70s and 80s, I'm quite sure you will be familiar with most of the things I've listed below. Generally you can be considered almost (with the emphasis on the word 'almost') middle-aged if :

1. bas mini (the most famous was Bas Mini Wilayah @ BMW) or 'bas loncat' was your choice mode of transportation.

2. you know what a 'basikal Chopper' or a 'Pasola' is.

3. you envied the guys who rode their Yamaha RX-S and got all the girls.

4. the first novel that introduced you to the concept of the birds and the bees was 'Mona Gersang' or something similar to it (I wonder if anybody still keeps a copy).

5. Syed Sobrie, Razis Ismail, Ogy Ahmad Daud or Mazuin Hamzah was your teenage crush.

6. Mimaland was the choice theme park to have fun with your family and friends (it was the only one that was family-oriented).

7. Aliph was your favourite brand of shoes (if you were a Mat Rock).

8. your favourite local sitcoms were 2+1 and Pi Mai, Pi Mai Tang Tu.

9. you were inspired to become an athlete by Marina Chin, Zaiton Othman, Rabuan Pit, Istiaq Mubaraq and Nurherman Majid.

10. Mum 21, Cuticura and Amami were the talcum powders in your household.

11. you went to ITM and not uITM.

12. you often refer to UPM as Universiti Pertanian Malaysia.

13. you know what 'tudung dakwah' means.

14. you went home early because you were afraid of 'Hantu Kum Kum' and 'Hantu Kepala Anjing'.

15. you attended 'usrah' during weekends with your 'brothers' and 'sisters'.

16. Minah Karan and Mat Spanar were derogatory terms you used to refer to the factory workers (a big salute to you guys and gals for your economic contributions).

17. you listened to FM Stereo or Rediffusion.

18. you hung out with friends at Pertama Kompleks (KL) or Komtar (Penang) or Yik Foong (Ipoh).

19. you skipped school to play Pacman, Pinball and Space Invaders at video arcades.

20. you once owned a pair of bell-bottoms, carrot-cut jeans or a maxi dress.

21. you competed with your friends to see who could solve the Rubik Cube puzzle first.

22. your favourite reading materials were Gila-Gila, Remaja, Siri Bercakap Dengan Jin and Variasari.

23. typing and shorthand were two favourite courses to take while waiting for SPM results.

24. you learned cursive writing using your fountain pen at least once a week in primary school.

25. you remember fondly watching the latest movies at these cinemas : Lido, Cathay, Odeon, Ruby, Majestic, Rex or Princess.

26. on hot days, you bought 'ice balls' wrapped in newspaper or 'ais krim Malaysia' to quench your thirst.

27. you played marbles, batu seremban or galah panjang and went to catch fighting fish or spiders.

28. your Home Science teacher and Discipline Master were the most feared people in school.

Time has changed and most of the things I've listed above are no longer known to many, especially the younger generation. Some things are better left forgotten but certain things will always be kept fondly within our hearts.

Friday, February 27, 2015

WHITNEY HOUSTON 'MY LOVE IS YOUR LOVE' TOUR BOOK

This is the fourth Whitney Houston's tour book in my collection and in my opinion, not the best. It seemed as if not enough effort was put into producing this book at all. All the pictures in the book can easily be found elsewhere and in fact, some of them are just stills from her video clips. There are no pictures of her band who backed her on this tour and there are also fewer pages compared to her other tour books. Quite disappointing, I would say. Whitney's My Love Is Your Love album was her first studio album after eight years and also the one which reintroduced her to the younger listeners. Unlike her previous albums, her new repertoire was edgier and more up-to-date. Whitney's fashion also took a different turn and direction. She was no longer perceived as the demure pop princess dressed in modest attire. Her dressing was funkier, sexier and trendier. For the tour, she was all dressed up in stylish Dolce & Gabbana from head to toe. By the way, I love those fierce boots and the green fur coat! She also sported a straight bob hairstyle layered and angled to perfection. At the same time, there were some other changes in her that caught both the public and media attention. Her cool and collected demeanor was replaced by rushed and erratic behaviour. The way she talked also suggested that something was amiss. Speculations and rumours about drug and substance abuse began to appear quite frequently in tabloids and on the Internet. Nevertheless, the tour was very successful and became one of the top-grossing tours in 1999. As I mentioned earlier, this tour book is a let down for me. It just looks like a compilation of pictures printed on glossy high-quality paper instead of a piece of memorabilia highlighting Whitney's career and tour.

The My Love Is Your Love Tour Book.

Whitney and her Dolce & Gabbana.

A much slimmer Whitney from the back.

Friday, February 13, 2015

AL-FATIHAH : NIK AZIZ AND HASBULLAH AWANG

Two very prominent figures in Malaysia passed away yesterday. Both had contributed greatly to their callings and will forever leave indelible marks in our lives. Al-Fatihah and may Allah bless their souls and place them in jannah. آمين

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WHITNEY BIOPIC

What a disappointment.

Friday, February 6, 2015

WHITNEY HOUSTON'S DAUGHTER : BOBBI KRISTINA BROWN

The news on Bobbi Kristina Brown or better known as Krissy was all over the Internet last week and still is. It shocked me and many others who have been following her since the death of her mother almost 3 years ago to know that the daughter of the late Whitney Houston was found unconscious lying face-down in a bathtub. She was immediately rushed to the hospital and currently, she is still in a medically-induced coma to stop her brain from swelling. News about her condition was not fully known except to her close family members. Krissy was only 18 years old when her mother died in a tragic bathtub accident in a Beverly Hills hotel on February 11 2012. As the anniversary of Whitney's passing approaches, Krissy's fate still remains unknown. It is sad to see what a young person like her has to go through in life. I can still remember the chubby little girl who accompanied and sang 'My Love Is Your Love' with her mother on stage during Whitney's tour back in 1999. Paying attention and listening to the lyrics of that song, I can't help but notice that they can be interpreted differently. And the interpretation can be quite eerie actually. Who would have thought that everything would end up like this? To us, it looks as if Krissy had everything that her heart desired but did she really? At the same time, my heart goes out to all those who have lost their parent or parents at a very young age. It must be devastating to them and I hope there will always be someone to take care of the welfare of such children without having any other ulterior motives. And once again, I'm reminded how fragile life can be...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WHITNEY HOUSTON 'NOTHING BUT LOVE' TOUR BOOK

Whitney Houston tour book from her Nothing But Love World Tour arrived in my mail a few days ago. This tour book is quite big (12" x 15.5") and the quality is excellent. There are a lot of pictures and information to highlight Whitney's illustrious career and stellar achievements in this 36-page book. Some of the pictures were specifically taken for this tour book and the information is quite detailed. I'm happy that I finally have this book but at the same time, I'm also feeling a tinge of sadness. There will be no more tour books produced, no more albums recorded, no more videos shot, no more interviews conducted, no more pictures taken and no more Whitney Houston. And the saddest and most bitter part is to acknowledge the truth that the end of her career was not as spectacular as the beginning. The success of her final album was partly due to her loyal fan base although there were many who had 'abandoned' her. The foreword for this tour book clearly said it all. How her fans and their love were the factors that kept her going although we knew that her voice was no longer what it used to be. Some of her concerts for this tour were also cancelled and there were news of fans booing her and walking out in the middle of her performance. Whitney's magic was her voice and when she no longer had that, the magic seemed to disappear too. When I attended her 'Live 'N' Loud' show back in 2008, I could notice the deterioration of her vocal quality and I am sure that the audience who attended the show noticed that too. However, they kept on singing along to her songs and as for me, it was difficult to watch her sing without feeling that tight lump in my throat. Though the chances of her old voice coming back were almost impossible, deep down inside I kept on hoping that the situation was only temporary and everything would go back to normal. As a fan, it was absolutely a bitter pill for me to swallow. Her final album ' I Look To You' finally confirmed that Whitney's voice would never be the same again. Still, I did not think less of her talent and gift. I went out and bought the album and tried to find the positive sides of it. The album was special to me indeed. In it, I can almost feel what Whitney was feeling and going through at that time. It wasn't her best album but the most sincere. Everything seemed bright once again and it looked like there was going to be some hope after all. Still, there were issues and demons that Whitney had to fight. It wasn't an easy battle for her. Despite the love and support that Whitney received from her family, friends and fans, she still did not make it. Now, this tour book sits with the rest of her tour books that I own. Reminding me that love can be beautiful and painful at the same time.

The Nothing But Love Tour Book.

The centrefold.

Beautiful Whitney when she was younger.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

MY CD COLLECTION

I wish I had bought more CDs over the years but when I first started buying them, CDs were quite expensive (although they are going out of style, they are still expensive). Only those who had money to spend  would buy CDs (obviously, I did not) and of course, the much more expensive CD player. I wasn't making much at that time (I still am not but I am not complaining either) so I had no other choice but to resort to the much less pricey cassettes most of the time. I had to be quite selective when it came to what CDs to buy since I would be spending around RM 40 to RM 50 for a piece of  CD (that amount of money could feed me for a week!). Sometimes I would go to the music shop a few times to browse through the CDs displayed before I decided what to buy (much to the annoyance of the shopkeeper). I admit that I have bought pirated CDs and downloaded music illegally (I plead guilty, Your Honour) from the Internet (many times actually) but I always make it a point to buy originals CDs from singers that I like and support. I am partial to certain types of music and that will also determine my music purchases. I am not like some people who buy things for the sake of buying and owning something. Certain Malay CDs from the late 80s and early 90s (especially those manufactured overseas) have become highly sought-after items nowadays and can fetch a few hundred ringgit in the current market. A few of months ago, I came across this one seller on mudah.my who was selling his complete Aishah collection for RM 5K and Sheila Majid collection for RM 6K. I wonder if anyone is rich enough (or crazy enough) to part with such an exorbitant amount of money just to complete his or her Aishah and Sheila Majid collection. I know that I won't splurge my money on these CDs although I love Aishah and Sheila Majid very much. There are a few local collectors whose CD collection (and vinyls too) is so extensive (their music collection amounts to thousands!) that they can open their own music station. These collectors are extremely vigilant of their prized collection and sometimes excessively obsessive and possessive as well. They store and classify everything meticulously. As much as I envy them (and I am rarely envious), I realise that I have neither their passion nor their perseverance to become a collector like them (actually I don't have the kind of money that they do). Still, I am happy and grateful with what I have so far (I am very easy to please, actually). I rarely buy any more CDs nowadays and at the rate I'm going, I think I will stop buying them altogether one of these days. Most of the CDs I own are a reminder of my younger days. Current music rarely interests me anymore and most of the time, I feel it's not worth buying any newly released CDs at all. CDs have also seen better days and their time to shine is over. I still go to music stores from time to time in case I see something that I like and I will buy something that will not put a dent in my pocket. I also have this online friend who will inform me of any cheap CDs on sale. He will buy the CDs that I want for me and I will bank in the money into his account. It is much more convenient that way since I can get CDs at very much lower prices and he can make a little bit of profit too. In fact , it can be quite exciting to receive a package by mail especially on days when I am not feeling that enthusiastic about my job. I still listen to my CDs especially on weekends when I don't have much to do (which is very rare). Listening to CDs on a very good stereo system and plugging in your earphones to an MP3 are absolutely worlds apart and that is one of the reasons why I still prefer CDs. My CDs are alphabetically arranged and I do categorise them into singles, full English albums and full Malay albums which make it easier for me to find the CDs that I want or to know if any of the CDs are misplaced or missing. These CDs are displayed in a cupboard and nobody can touch them without my permission (I can be quite obsessive too). I figure if I have spent so much money on them, why let people who don't appreciate them mishandle them?

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015 - LET'S KARAOKE 32 : CAMEO - WORD UP!

Happy 2015, everyone! I can't believe that I actually forgot to usher the new year with a new karaoke. Well, I guess it's never too late to post one right now since we are still in the first week of 2015. So for this year, I've decided to get funky with this 1986 R&B hit 'Word Up!' by Cameo. Back then, the lead singer of the group Larry Blackmon shocked the MTV audience by wearing a red codpiece in the music video. This song has been covered by a number of artists including Melanie B (of Spice Girls) and Korn but this is still the version that I like best. Enjoy the karaoke and HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

The single's cover

video

Ooww!
Yo pretty ladies around the world
Got a weird thing to show you
So tell all the boys and girls
Tell your brother, your sister
And your mama too
Cause we're about to throw down
And you'll know just what to do

Wave your hands in the air

Like you don't care
Glide by the people as they start to look and stare
Do your dance
Do your dance
Do your dance quick, mama
Come on baby tell me what's the word
Word up
Everybody say when you hear they call
You've got to get it underway

Word up, it's the code word
No matter where you say it
You'll know that you'll be heard

Now all you sucker DJs
Who think you're fly
There's got to be a reason
And we know the reason why

You try to put on those airs and act real cool
But you've got to realize
That you're acting like fools
Give us music we can use it
We need to dance
We don't have the time
For psychological romance

No romance, no romance
No romance for me, mama
Come on baby tell me what's the word

Word up
Everybody say when you hear the call
You've got to get it underway

Dial "L" for low...
Come on, all you people say...
W-O-R-D up - W-O-R-D up