Monday, February 28, 2011

The 83rd Academy Awards 2011

The 83rd Academy Awards 2011 is currently in progress. It will be nail-biting moment around the world where movie buffs are concerned. I do feel the same, as this year one of the movies I have been raving about is up for five nominations - Actress In A Leading Role, Cinematography, Directing, Film Editing, and Best Picture; the movie in question is Black Swan, starring the ever so gorgeous Natalie Portman.

I'm REALLY hoping that Black Swan will win at least two to three out of five nominations. I have yet to watch it but I hope it has all the stuff I have come to expect from a ballet movie and more, as it has been categorised as a psychosexual thriller, thus, I would think Black Swan would not the regular run-of-the-mill ballet movie. Good to know that where Hollywood's concerned it's really moving it with the current times.

Having said that, I also hope that some of the movies nominated in the same categories as Black Swan such as The Social Network and Toy Story 3 will also have a fair chance to win as well. All great movies nominated for this year's Oscars should at least given some due recognition even if they may not win any awards, as they really do have a positive impact to the global movie box office collection.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

If I were to be reborn...

Being human in this day of age is extremely tough. If I were to be reborn, I would choose to be an animal rather than be a human. A water mammal to be exact, an Australian sea lion to be precise. The reason being I think water is the element that suits my personality and temperament. I actually LOVE to be in water because I enjoy the feeling of being in the water as it supports my body when I'm swimming in it.

The Australian sea lion is somewhat similar to a seal, the only difference the mommy nurses its pups for 18 months before she completely lets them to be totally independent. During this time, the mommy sea lion would teach all the necessary survival knowledge to her pups. Thus, the Australian sea lion has been nicknamed by the National Geographic as Ocean's Supermom.

Swimming in the ocean as an Australian sea lion would probably feels like I'm in heaven; the only concern would be that the great white shark is my ultimate enemy. I guess I would have to outsmart the great whites in order to survive to be able to reproduce and raise my pups well. And yes, I can be one fierce mommy Australian sea lion in order to fight for my pups' and that of my own right to live.

The Australian sea lions are generally playful, affectionate and loving mammals. However, they often can be quite ferocious and temperamental during mating season, especially the males. The same happens when the mommy is trying to protect her pups from harm. Yup, that seems to be very much like how I would behave.    

I think being an animal, in this case being an Australian sea lion is more straight forward than being a human. First and foremost, I don't have to deal with the kind of politics humans would usually get themselves involved in. The only politics I have to get myself involved in would be the politics of hierarchy, I suppose this is necessary to determine my position within the herd. And yeah, I realise that the Australian sea lion is a very beautiful and graceful sea mammal, and not forgetting being able to live on both land and in the ocean to me is a GREAT BONUS!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Koon and Amin - I salute the both of you!

Souvenir from USA - courtesy of Koon

I was invited to a presentation of a student whom I have helped to ensure his application to participate in his university's outbound student exchange programme was approved to the USA on Thursday, February 24 2011. That happened three years ago, when I was then the officer-in-charge of student exchange programme at the international office. I was very strict with the students who came to see me when they were applying to participate in the outbound student exchange programme. Yes, to the extent some students were extremely scared of me and/or hated me for behaving this way.

I have my reasons for doing so, and the main reason was that I wanted the best for students who had walked into my office stating their intention to want to participate in the university's outbound student exchange programme. They were requested to do the required "homework" first, as I don't believe in spoonfeeding these students. Many students were dumbfounded, as they had expected me to lay out all the information for them to just breeze through the application. All I wanted was for the students to learn to be independent learners.

Tough luck for the students who were expected to be spoonfed. However, there were two students who had made my life so much easier when they came to see me about the application to participate in the outbound student exchange programme. These two students actually did all the "homework" required of them and they managed to get the approval from the university for them to realise their aims to be part of the outbound student exchange programme. One went to USA, Iowa State University to be exact, and the other did his internship (as per his study requirement) in Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in the UK.

Not forgetting my then clerical staff who did the mountainous paperwork and my then boss' personal assistant who did all the negotiations with the relevant DVC's office for the approval. Without these two dedicated people, it would have been a futile task to have been undertaken. The seemingly impossible mammoth task was being tackled as a cohesive team, the two students included.

After what seemed to be endless frustration running into dead ends, the students finally got the nod to go and they really made the most out of their times there. And they return with the kind positive outlook in which I could find no words to describe. They are young adults brimming with overflowing confidence, ready to take the world as if it were the horns of a very aggressive bull. Where their career paths are concerned, from what I could gather, these two students will be going for the moon and beyond to reach the goals they have set for themselves.

I take pride and I also feel extremely happy in seeing that they have done really well, thus far, and they should be able to make it in their respective lives in an excellent manner. Thus, to Koon and Amin well done, and keep up the excellent work and for putting up with me during those trying times. I just wanted the best for you two, and am sooo ecstatic you have what it takes to be great leaders in the future.     

Souvenir from Royal Botanic
Gardens Kew - courtesy of Amin

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review - Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin

Mao's Last Dancer (Movie Tie-In)

Title: Mao's Last Dancer
Author: Li Cunxin
Year: 2009
ISBN: 978-0-425-24030-4 

Mao's Last Dancer was actually first written in 2003 by Li Cunxin (pronounced as Schwin Sing), former principal dancer of Houston Ballet and the Australian Ballet. Li has retired from dancing to be a full-time stock broker in 1999. This book is an autobiography in which Li has chronicled his life as a ballet student chosen by Mao Zedong's communist regime to study in Beijing Dance Academy at the tender age of 11.

Li Cunxin was born into bitter poverty in a rural village in the province of Qingdao, China into a family of six brothers and parents who were peasants at the height of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. Li is the sixth son in the family. There was hardly food to go around, let alone money in Li's family then. He remembered in many ways than one how he had fervently wished he could help to alleviate the extreme poverty his family had to endure.

One day when Li was 11, a group of officers from Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy came to his village school to select a small group of students to be auditioned for the Academy. Li was one of the students selected for this audition. He then spent seven years studying ballet in Beijing Dance Academy, during which it was a period when Li had to fight against extreme feeling of loneliness and homesickness.

Being a ballet student of Beijing Dance Academy gave Li access to some privilleges many people did not have as well the opportunity to make it in life during Mao's Cultural Revolution. Being a very filial son to his parents, he worked very hard to achieve his aim to be a successful ballet dancer. However, this only happened when he defected to the United States, while dancing for Houston Ballet, helmed by Ben Stevenson OBE then, in April 1981. Li's defection only created more anxiety and problems not only to himself but also to his friends in the United States especially in Houston, and his family he had left back in China. 

Li Cunxin perservered during the times of adversity after defecting to the United States and this proved to be a worthwhile sacrifice as he became one of the best male dancer the ballet world has come to known. Li's story is a remarkable story describing the determination, perseverance and triumph of the human spirit in face of adversities in life. This inspiring story has been made into a movie in 2009 and has since been reviewed favourably by many critics and has won numerous international film awards.

Li Cunxin has won my affection for him through this remarkable story. I never got to see him dance in person but through his book, I could actually picture him into being in my mind's eye the wonderful and great ballet dancer he had been. I have the first edition of this book and have read and re-read it countless of times until its pages were about to be detached from its cover. That showed how much I LOVE Li's story. I have even bought this new edition as there were new chapters added to the story. 

To cap the feathers Li already has on his hat, he was awarded Shepherd Centre's 2009 Australian Father of the Year Award and has also been honoured a Doctorate for his contribution to Arts and Literature by the Australian Catholic University.  Li Cunxin lives with his wife, Mary McKendry and their three children, Sophie, Thomas and Bridie in Melbourne, Australia.  

I would give many thumbs-up for Mao's Last Dancer. This book has touched me in such a profound way that no words could describe the emotions I experienced after reading and re-reading it countless of times. It is a story worth sharing for many years to come for Li has journeyed very far to come to the life he is enjoying today, after experiencing some of the most emotionally and psychologically horrendous moments in his life one could only imagine. His story is a shining example of nothing is impossible if you dare to dream and go the distance to achieve what you want and desire to be in life.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Black Swan - The ballet movie to watch of this decade

I have always love ballet movies. This year would be great to have another ballet movie added to my collection. It is exactly TEN years since Center Stage was shown in Malaysian cinemas. Mao's Last Dancer wasn't shown even here, so I had to "import" the DVD from Down Under. Thus, when I got the wind that Black Swan will be shown here, I got extra EXCITED!

And for a good reason too, as Black Swan is not your regular run-of-the-mill ballet movie. I think Darren Aronofsky has done justice to make it into a ballet movie with a twist. It is a psycho-sexual thriller. What thrills me is that Aronofsky has chosen Swan Lake to be the ballet featured in this movie, with Benjamin Millepied, principal dancer of the New York City Ballet choreographing the dance scenes for the movie. Millepied's wife is also the lead actress in this movie, i.e. the ever-so-gorgeous Natalie Portman.

Swan Lake is a ballet that has intrigued me for many years as a ballet student, and even now when I'm no longer directly involved in ballet. It is because I am intrigued with the character of Black Swan, which casts an air of mystery where the plot of the ballet is concerned. The Black Swan's costume is another reason why I'm so spellbound by this ballet. For those people who are obsessed about ballet like me, they would be able to understand what I'm raving about.

And Black Swan has done exactly what makes the ballet Swan Lake so darn intriguing - exploring the unexplored realms of the ballet on the silver screen. Watch this space for my review of Black Swan coming soon!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Facebook - a new evolution of friendshipping and social networking

21st century is the millennium that witnessed a drastic evolution in the way we make new friends and network with people around us. It is the era of using the Internet to establish friendships and networks through social networking sites. Among the many social networking sites that could be found on the Internet, Facebook created by Mark Zuckerberg, a 27-year old American computer scientist, software developer and philanthropist, by far, is the most popular social networking site to date. 

Facebook was initially created with the aim to connect students in American colleges and universities. However, its popularity was so overwhelming that it outshone other predecessors of social networking sites such as Friendster and My Space. Facebook has made it possible for many people including myself to connect with many people, especially with friends from my school, college and university days. 

However, this also means users of Facebook have allowed themselves to be subjected to public scrutiny of their lives. It can be interesting to find out what our friends are up to with their lives but it can also provide the opportunity for ill-intentioned people to stalk and disturb their targeted victims. Thus, if most people are being "cyber-wise" users of the Internet, this could actually help to reduce the number of cyber crimes being committed on the Internet.

Having said this, jumping on the Facebook bandwagon proved to be an experience beyond what I have come to expect. It's actually both good and not so good where networking and friendshipping with people from all parts of the world are concerned. Good is that I get to connect with people I have wanted to connect, especially in the entertainment and media publishing industries. Not so good is that I attract perfect strangers, whom I think should be given the benefit of the doubt, for them to prove themselves worthy of being a friend.

To date, these perfect strangers I have befriended on Facebook have been good to me. Only that I wished I'm able to meet them face-to-face. I would still prefer face-to-face contact with all my Facebook friends if circumstances permit. Right now, I have yet to have the privillege to do so, but God willing I hope to meet them face-to-face some time in the near future.

To be able to interact with my friends face-to-face in my opinion would actually enhance the experience of "facebooking". And yeah, nothing beats the real and physical way of friendshipping and networking with all the friends I have made on Facebook.     

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammy Awards 2011

2011 GRAMMY Nominees

The Grammy Awards 2011 is in progress live from Los Angeles at the moment. As my home doesn't subscribe to Astro, I don't get to watch it. However, thanks to the radio breakfast show I listen to daily, they are giving up-to-the-minute commentary of the show, and I'm really grateful for them for doing it.

The Grammy Awards is a music awards show to honour some of to best singing talent has made impressive impact to the global music scene in the past year. Some of the biggest names in the global music scene are in the running for multiple nominations for the songs and/or musical acts they have released this past one year. The young musical talents has made such a positive impact to the global music scene that an "oldie" like me can't help taking notice of them.

Big names like Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber seemed to be doing very well in garnering a large share of their music fans around the world. And yeah, they do release some good songs that makes me wanna groove to them. This oldie here is very hoping that her favourite songs have gotten the recognition they deserve; namely, Bruno Mars' Just The Way You Are, Michael Bublé's Haven't Met You Yet and Train's Hey, Soul Sister.      

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The spirit of neighbourliness - THE WRONG WAY!

This is a fine example when a neighbour can be an extreme nuisance because he has no brains! This incident happened on Thursday night, as some people of the Chinese community celebrated the Jade Emperor's birthday, which fell on the 9th day of CNY:

They have their own house compound to let off fireworks and firecrackers - but NO.... they decided that our house would be a better place so they DON'T have to clean up! 

The liqour bottle used to set of fireworks near the drain in front of the perimeter fencing 

The FINALE of all STUPIDITY - dumping rubbish into the the drain in front of our perimeter fencing 

It's bad enough we had to put up with the extreme loud noise and inconvenience from this IDIOTIC neighbour, but this is way too much! To this neighbour, SHAME ON YOU, this shows how civilised you are, third-class mentality TO THE BOOT ! : p

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mental health - a serious issue not to be brushed aside

The Star, a Malaysian local daily has been highlighting on tragic suicide cases for the last two days. Mental health - a very serious issue but often being brushed aside due to the intense social stigma attached to it. Many of us would rather not acknowledge the fact we when may be suffering from mental illness compared to when we are suffering from some other biological disease. Not to mention, if we know of someone who is suffering from mental illness.

Mental health, like biological health should be taken seriously as brushing it aside, or worse still ignoring or avoiding it altogether could bring about dire consequences of unimaginable levels. As mental illness is often manifested in psychological aspect of one's well-being, it would very difficult for medical professionals to exactly diagnose the precise signs and symptoms of mental illness on just the first few visits by a patient. It would usually be through lengthy consultations over a period of at least three to six months that the diagnosis of mental illness could be identified.

I'm saying this from a lay person's point of view about mental health, from my own experience of knowing people suffering from mental illness. I found that by just being an empathic listener to people who are suffering from mental illness can make a whole world of difference to them. By being open-minded and receptive to the fact that mental illness is just like a biological illness, accepting and acknowledging it will be easier than most people would think. I'm not afraid to say I was initially wary and judgemental towards people suffering from mental illness.

However, I thank God for opening up my mind and allow me to be more receptive to the plight of people suffering from mental illness. It's because of this I now don't have issues to be an empathic listener and a friend to these people. At the end of the day, mental illness or not, all of us are actually created equal by God. Maybe one major difference would be some of us would have to struggle to cope with one or more chronic illnesses than others, but this doesn't mean that for those who have to cope with chronic illnesses especially mental illness, they would be less human than people who are completely free of chronic illnesses.             

I suppose the key to understanding mental health and mental illness would disseminating the right information to the public. In fact, the book shown below is an excellent source of basic information on depression and other related mental disorders/illnesses in lay person's language:

The American Medical Association Essential Guide to Depression (The American Medical Association Essential Guides Series)Title: The American Medical Association Essential Guide to Depression
Author: The American Medical Association
Year: 1998
ISBN: 0-671-01016-6

If the public have the access to the basic information they need to know about mental health and mental illness, hopefully this can change the skewed perception and banish the social stigma often associated with it. This is important to ensure any society for that matter to move in the right direction and treat people suffering from mental illness with more dignity and respect.

What goes around comes around in the end, a little kindness and fairness goes a long way to help these people out... won't you agree with me?     

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

No smoking please!

There are concrete reasons why smoking is extremely BAD for our health:

  • It causes serious diseases and health issues, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases being on top of the list;
  • It reduces the quality of life;
  • It is a HUGE waste of money;
  • It is a serious health hazard especially to non-smokers;
  • It affects economic productivity; and
  • It STINKS and doesn't make you look good and cool!
I hope all my family and friends who smoke should consider quitting smoking for good for the sake of their own health and that of the people around them especially their loved ones who are staying with them. I have seen the negative effects of smoking on a non-smoker, i.e. my aunt who died of lung cancer two years ago. And yeah, the pain of losing her through no fault of her own still pains me tremendously even today. Thus, every day should be a NO SMOKING day.  

Petronas CNY 2011 Ad - Let us not forget to spend time with our loved ones

The Chinese New Year of the Rabbit has dawned upon us for six days already. Many of the people I know, Chinese and all other races, would have enjoyed the festive camaraderie that usually comes with the holidays with their family and friends. We often get caught up with our own plans and agendas that we tend to overlook the importance of spending time with our loved ones, especially our parents.

As usual, Petronas the national oil and gas company of Malaysia has commissioned Leo Burnett Malaysia, an advertising agency to come up with a memorable festive advertisement for this Chinese New Year. Although, the ultimate creative force of Leo Burnett is no longer around, i.e. the late Yasmin Ahmad, however, the creative team there has outdone themselves by creating an advertisement to remind many of us that we should not forget to spend time with our loved ones, especially our aging parents.

I have always like festive advertisements done by Leo Bunett for Petronas. That was how I got to know the late Yasmin Ahmad and her works. Truthfully, I have not seen any of Yasmin Ahmad's movies but I'm absolutely smitten by the advertisements she and her creative team at Leo Burnett have created for Petronas over the years. That is why I often look forward to the major festivals we observe here - Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali and Christmas, also Malaysia's Independence Day, although the latter is not a major festival.

This year was no different for me looking forward to the Petronas festive advertisements although Yasmin Ahmad is no longer around. I guess her legacy still lived on as her husband; Abdullah Tan Yew Leong is also attached to Leo Burnett. I'm sure he is working very hard to keep Yasmin's creative legacy alive there as well as in the hearts of many of us ordinary Malaysians, regardless of the fact if we personally knew the late Yasmin Ahmad.

I think Yasmin Ahmad would have been very proud of this noble effort of imparting the message of unity and harmony to Malaysians through festive advertisements like how Petronas has commissioned Leo Burnett to do every year. And I really salute Yasmin Ahmad to be the true Malaysian she had always been.   

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chinese New Year - it's just any other holiday for me...

It's the time of the year again where Chinese all over the world will be ushering the Year of Metal Rabbit in a few hours' time. I would have looked forward to celebrating Chinese New Year when I was younger as it was the time I would be able to meet up with all my extended family members and also collect as many red packets as possible. Not to mention, the amount of mandarin oranges, cookies and tidbits I pig out during the holiday period.

Now that I'm older with work commitments, Chinese New Year has become another one of the many public holidays we observe in Malaysia, with some differences. First and foremost, I would be looking forward to my brother and his family coming home for a visit, and other family members dropping by the house for a visit. Another would be the foods I get to eat to my heart's content for the next two weeks. And the highlight of it all... the red packets I'll be receiving, yes I'm still eligible to receive them.

Basically Chinese New Year is the same holiday I look forward to when I was younger but this time a major difference would be I would be having my nephew and niece home for a visit. And yeah, being an "auntie" is no walk in the park. Gong Xi Fa Cai and a blessed New Year to all my family and friends who are celebrating.