Wednesday, January 26, 2011

American Idol - Living the American Dream?

American Idol Season 10 has dawned upon us again. It's the time of the year when many people around the world would be glued to their idiot boxes every week to watch Americans from all walks of life trying their luck to vie for a spotlight in this reality show. However, the current season of American Idol saw some changes in the panel of judges. Out of the three pioneering judges, only Randy Jackson remained. Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith replaced Simon Cowell and Jennifer Lopez replaced Paula Abdul as judges beginning this season of American Idol.

What I find amusing about American Idol would be auditions held in the various American cities to search for potential singing talents to be shortlisted into the final round of the competition. The past nine seasons of the competition has succeeded in unearthing some of the best singing talents America has ever witnessed. This is what made American Idol one of the most viewed reality shows around the globe. However, Season Nine showed a lacklustre in terms of the vibrancy and excitement the competition was often expected to demonstrate.

However, not all is lost for having Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez joining the judging panel, I think it will make a marked difference as well as bring back the lost vibrancy and excitement American Idol is well known for. Rest assured, contestants with out-of-the-ordinary personality will definitely spice up the audition rounds as always. And yes, American Idol could be seen as one of the best ways to live the American Dream as this reality show has managed to produce some of the best and successful singers America could offer to the world.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The pursuit of happyness


In this life where materialism and rat-race rule the day, many of us are concerned of earning as much money as possible just to fulfill our ambition of "making it in life". This is what many of us would try to define what could be called 'the pursuit of happyness'. I'm spelling happiness with a 'y' instead of an 'í' as I'm maintaining the root word 'happÿ' as it is more unique this way.

What can be defined as the pursuit of happyness? It would be a very individualistic answer. I'm sure many people would have different answer to this question, however, most people might define it as having lots and lots of money to define the pursuit of happyness. It is not very much different for me in my definition of the pursuit of happyness. Yeah, most likely having lots of money would be my definition of the pursuit of happyness, at least for now when I'm struggling to establish myself as a prolific writer.

But this definition will change over time as my view on "money is everything" is different from most people. I do not deny that money is extremely important in this materialistic world we are living in. But is money really that important to the extent some people would do just about anything to make more money? Money, to me is important up to a certain extent in life, however, there are things money just cannot buy. Life is just one of those things money cannot buy.

The shocking and untimely demise of a primary school classmate recently has gotten me thinking very hard on how I should define the pursuit and happyness in relation to my own situation in life at the moment. I still have yet to find the answer, and I neither think it would be that straight forward nor would I find it any time soon.

Ideally I would like to live a life where money is not something I have to worry about all the time and do the things I want to do without always involving money. Not to mention owning my dream cars as well (this unfortunately needs big wads of cash). Sadly it would not happen in this lifetime. I guess I'll just have to slog it out for the time being, and if Lady Luck decides to give me a big break any time soon, I'd be grateful and contented to give credit where it's due and not hog all the limelight for myself.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Gifts of Time by Fred. J. Epstein M.D. and Elaine Fantle Shimberg

Title : Gifts of Time
Author : Fred. J. Epstein M.D. and Elaine Fantle Shimberg
Year : 1994
ISBN : 0-425-144303-8

Gifts of Time by Fred. J. Epstein M.D. and Elaine Fantle Shimberg is a true story about a paediatric neurosurgeon's lifelong mission to offer hope to children who suffer from serious and terminal neurological conditions where other paediatric neurosurgeons refuse to treat. The paediatric neurosurgeon is none other than one of the authors himself, Dr. Fred Epstein.

The late Dr. Epstein was the director of Paediatric Neurosurgery Division of New York University Medical Center and founding director of the Hymen-Newman Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, was also a pioneering surgeon where he had innovated surgical techniques to treat inoperable brain and spinal cord tumours in children in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His determined approach of never giving up hope on his very young patients saw him saving many lives where most other surgeons in the country had given up hope in treating children who were particularly terminally ill with brain and spinal cord tumours.

Dr. Eipstein's own life story was no less remarkable. He struggled with attention deficit disorder as a young boy where his learning ability was compromised. However, Dr. Eipstein never gave up hope in pursuing his ambition to be a doctor. His determination saw him overcoming his attention deficit disorder to enter New York Medical College as a medical student. Initially he thought he would become a psychiatrist like his father, however, his interest changed to neurosurgery during his tenure as medical student, where he found this particular medical field very interesting and challenging.

Gifts of Time was published with the aim to enlighten parents of children suffering from serious and terminal neurological conditions with the necessary information to seek for the appropriate medical treatment. It tells the vast experience of Dr. Eipstein in paediatric neurosurgery, especially in treating children with inoperable brain and spinal cord tumours. His humanistic philosophy in treating his very young patients endeared him to both his patients and their parents; to the extent they still kept in touch with him even when they no longer needed his service. He was a fine example of a medical specialist whose unfailing determination was the reason he became one of the top paediatric neurosurgeons in America.

Dr. Fred J. Eipstein died on 9 July 2006 from melanoma, according to his wife of 41 years, Kathy Eipstein. I first came to know of his story from a very old copy of Reader's Digest many years ago. An excerpt of this book was then published in the said magazine. Dr. Epstein's story has been and will always be an immense inspiration to me, and  I believe he had left behind a lasting legacy of knowledge and innovations for the other paediatric neurosurgeons in America, especially the ones Dr. Eipstein had taught and worked with in his lifetime.

This story was told in Dr. Eiptein's very own words, and I found it to be an extremely absorbing and a dramatic read. This is one of those rare books that will keep you glued to your chair until to the very end of it. It is also a story where you would want to read over and over again. The most important lesson to be learned from Dr. Eipstein's story would be when we thought that all hope was lost, however, there would always be a glimmer of hope to be found if we searched for it hard enough.

Monday, January 17, 2011

May you rest in peace Swee Len, I will miss you dearly my friend...

This blog is written to pay tribute to a primary school classmate whom tragically fell to her death on 14 January 2011 at Radisson Hotel, Amsterdam. The late Chin Swee Len was my primary school classmate for six years in Convent Primary School in Kajang, and thereafter we were schoolmates when we went to Convent Secondary School, Kajang. Frankly, I don't really know her very well as we were not very close when we went to school together, however, I can say Swee Len was a very sweet and nice person.

Swee Len's untimely and shocking death has jolted many of us who knew her from our school days to a surreal and brutal reality that in this rat-race and materialism-infested world, quality balance in life could be worth nothing at all. Swee Len, like many of us working-class people often would have to endure many hardships in order to "make it in life".

My heart aches terribly  for her family who has to endure her untimely demise. There are no words I could find to describe this loss as only a friend, I cannot imagine the kind of immense impact it will have on Swee Len's family, especially on her husband and her only child. All I could do is pray and hope that her family will be able to come to accept her death and be at peace with this unprecedented blow of fate.

Swee Len and I found each other on Facebook in 2009, when I was then working as an administrative officer in a Malaysian public university and Swee Len had been working for Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) as a cabin crew. We managed to communicate on Facebook 18 years after we left school to chart our respective career paths. I was actually very happy to have found her and many other friends whom we went to school together.

I'm so lost for words that I really do not know what to say. Swee Len, I really wished we could meet each other face-to-face after such a long time but now it's just only a wishful thinking. May you rest in peace my friend and I know you will take care of your husband and child as how you would when you were alive. And I would like to offer the following prayer to you and your family:

My soul rest in peace in God alone;
    my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
    He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: The Longest Trip Home: a memoir by John Grogan

Title : The Longest Trip Home: a memoir
Author : John Grogan
Year : 2008
ISBN : 978-0-340-97899-3

The Longest Trip Home: a memoir by John Grogan explores the journey of the author's life in an intimate manner. Grogan told a story about his life growing up in a devout Roman Catholic working-class family in a suburb near Detroit, Michigan in a candid manner.

His life although being brought up by his extremely strict and religious parents, however, Grogan's childhood had an interesting and out-of-the-ordinary twist to it. As he grew up during the counter-culture era in America, Grogan managed to chronicled some milestones he had witnessed while growing up that would eventually shaped the country's social and cultural landscapes.

Grogan was also being honest in telling the challenges and problems he faced with his parents while growing up and it was a story many readers who grew up in a similar era to the author would be able to identify and relate to. He has managed to keep readers spellbound as an excellent story teller, a skill Grogan picked up during his high school years of being the school's newspaper editor. Grogan's journalistic pursuits bode well for him as they proved him to be an excellent story teller and great writer of our time.

This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoy reading real life stories about ordinary people and the challenges these people face in their life. Books about real life would often impart some moral and universal values in which readers like me could learn to apply them in life and for a valid reason too.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Title : The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Author : J.K. Rowling
Year : 2008
ISBN : 978-0-7475-9987-6

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling is a collection of wizarding children stories not unlike muggle (non-magical) children stories, which inculcates moral and universal values. This book is actually a spin-off from the Harry Potter series, i.e. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The list of the stories found in the book are:
  • The Wizard and the Hopping Pot
  • The Fountain of Fair Fortune
  • The Warlock's Hairy Heart
  • Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump
  • The Tale of the Three Brothers
Out of the five stories, The Tale of the Three Brothers was told in full in a chapter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The other four stories were only passingly mentioned in the said book. These stories is a refreshing change from the usual muggle children's stories like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears; with equal emphasis on moral and universal values.

Fans of the Harry Potter series will find The Tales of Beedle the Bard a delightful read and addition to this series. Rowling has managed to weave her unique brand of magic yet again to keep readers spellbound and entertained with this book. What is more, a portion of the sale of The Tales of Beedle the Bard would benefit The Children's High Level Group, a non-governmental organisation in which Rowling had co-set up to help disadvantaged children in Europe.

My verdict of this book is it should be a must-read for children and adults alike. Everyone, including myself would be able to learn at least a value or two from this book; just as how we have learned moral and universal values from reading muggle children's stories as young children.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A flood in which should not have happened

Just four days into the New Year my family and I was greeted by an undesirable incident. An extremely heavy downpour on Tuesday evening saw water in the drains just outside our house rose and inundated the house compound and right into the living area; despite the living area flooring being nine inches higher than the car porch. The flood water also went into one of our cars but thankfully it did not managed to enter its engine.

The housing area we have been staying for almost thirty years is very prone to flash floods as the geographical landscape denoted it to be a low lying area. This reality saw us resigned to the fact we have to put up with flash floods occuring very frequently throughout the year, i.e. at least three times in a year.

The inconvenience and anxiety I felt in facing the latest flash flood proved the relevant parties looking after the cleanliness of our housing area has severely lagged, especially where the common drains and main culverts are concerned. I have not seen anyone from the town council or workers from the cleaning contractor appointed by the town council come regularly to clean up the clogged drains and main culverts for a very long time.

Not really worth the couple of hundred ringgit we have to pay annually for maintenance services of the housing garden to the town council. However, I am thankful there was no major damage inflicted by the flash flood this time around, but we may not be as lucky the next time when another flash flood happens. Thus, I hope the relevant parties involved, in this case the town council and its cleaning contractor are more mindful to ensure the maintenance services of our housing garden are regularly monitored and up to scratch.

Water, water... everywhere!!!

Another half inch rise in flood waters could have entered my car

Flood water began to enter the living area

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Malaysian sports.... there's still hope yet

The recent Malaysia's triumph in the 2010 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup in a two-leg match with Indonesia has brought a ray of hope to Malaysian sports, especially football. The Malaysian football team has been a subject of much discussion and criticism for not performing up to expectation, especially for the last two decades or so. Not to mention, the performance of our football team has been abysmally poor that even many mediocre football teams from other countries have a field day winning many matches and tournaments against the Malaysian team.

Having said this, Malaysia could actually be one of the countries in the world to be able to become a sports powerhouse. We actually have most resources in the right places and a large pool of promising talent. The only flaw to this effort of producing world class athletes is the attitude of the athletes themselves. Malaysian athletes tend to hang up their sports equipment whenever they ran into serious problems, from my observation. However, there some exceptions to this, for example, Datuk Nicol Ann David and Datuk Lee Chong Wei.

Not to say the other national athletes are not able to reach their fullest potential as a world-class athlete, they are able to do so with the opportunity and excellent resources available within their reach, however, our athletes should improve their attitude towards their trainng and pursuit to be a world-class athlete. These athletes could take a leaf out of the book of our country's own success stories in the international sporting scene.

Being a Malaysian also means I'll always be supporting Malaysian athletes competing in the international sporting scene, even though I may criticise them severely for poor performance and lack of the right attitude while in competition. These athletes should improve their attitude when they are in competition as sports is a big business; incentives aside, they should also must remember to strive for the glory of the country as well.

Gone were the days where we can take pride of Malaysia being the powerhouse of sports like badminton, hockey and football. However, all is not lost as currently the country still has athletes who are carving names for themselves and Malaysia in their respective sports in the international sporting scene. These athletes should be an example for budding and promising athletes to follow suit.  

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year 2011... new beginning...

It is the time of the year again where we have wrapped an "old' year and beginning a new one. I am not the kind of person who makes New Year resolutions as things that had happened to me thus far have either never happened or not happened according to plans. Thus, I'm just letting whatever will be, will be, but I DO have some big plans for this coming year, and I just hoped they will come into fruition as the year progresses.

I am not saying what these plans are yet but all who have been following my blog faithfully will get a gist of what I have installed for this year. What I have planned, in time they will reveal that I will be giving acknowledgement and credit to all my family and friends for tirelessly rooting for me in what I am doing, most importantly they have NEVER given hope on me; just as I thought all hope was lost.

And to these family and friends I salute all of you with plenty hugs and kisses for just being there for me, and I know all of you will still be there for me, during the good times as well as the not-so-good ones too. May this New Year 2011 bring you much joy and blessings in the things you plan to do. Happy New Year!