Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sacred Love

Take off those working clothes
Put on these high heeled shoes
Don't want no preacher on the TV baby
Don't want to hear the news

Shut out the world behind us
Put on your long black dress
No one's ever gonna find us here
Just leave your hair in a mess
I've been searching long enough
I begged the moon and the stars above
For sacred love

I've been up, I've been down
I've been lonesome, in this godless town
You're my religion, you're my church
You're the holy grail at the end of my search
Have I been down on my knees for long enough?
I've been searching the planet to find
Sacred love

The spirit moves on the water
She takes the shape of this heavenly daughter
She's rising up like a river in flood
The word got made into flesh and blood
The sky grew dark, and the earth she shook
Just like a prophecy in the Holy Book
Thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not doubt that this love is real
So I got down on my knees and I prayed to the skies
When I looked up could I trust my eyes?
All the saints and angels and the stars up above
They all bowed down to the flower of creation
Every man every woman
Every race every nation
It all comes down to this
Sacred love

Don't need no doctor, don't need no pills
I got a cure for the country's ills
Here she comes like a river in flood
The word got made into flesh and blood
Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill
But if you don't love her your best friend will

All the saints up in heaven and the stars up above
It all comes down, it all comes down
It all comes down to love,

Take off your working clothes
Put on your long black dress
And your high heeled shoes
Just leave your hair in a mess

I've been thinking 'bout religion
I've been thinking 'bout the things that we believe
I've been thinking 'bout the Bible
I've been thinking 'bout Adam and Eve
I've been thinking 'bout the garden
I've been thinking 'bout the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life
I've been thinking 'bout forbidden fruit
I've been thinking 'bout a man and his wife

I been thinking 'bout, thinking 'bout
Sacred love, sacred love...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Lift Up Your Voices
Bernard Ng, 2005

Lift up your voices, brothers, sing
Your great Redeemer’s praise
Recall your hearts’ first wakening
To love Him all your days

Recall that first bright fledgling light
The cross’s quiet demand
Repledge your heart, your soul, your might
To His strong guiding hand

Sing Praise! Sing Praise!
Lift up your voices, sing!
Sing Praise! Sing Praise!
O let His praises ring!

Lift up your voices, sisters, sing
Of wonders Love has wrought
For His dear cross, let praises ring
For mercies Christ has bought

As far as to the East and West
Our sins, our misdeeds cast
Forgot by Him who knows us best
And loves us to the last

Sing Praise! Sing Praise!
Lift up your voices, sing!
Sing Praise! Sing Praise!
O let His praises ring!

Lift up your voices, heaven and earth
From sea to hill and plain
All creatures laud His matchless worth
Declare the Master’s reign

Join with the songs of starry host
Let swell a gladdening sound!
O ransomed man, now take your post
With grateful heart, resound

Sing Praise! Sing Praise!
Lift up your voices, sing!
Sing Praise! Sing Praise!
O let His praises ring!


Okay so I like hymns. Sue me!

Saturday, March 19, 2005


Well this has been a month of firsts. Saw my first wild boar, saw my first pet monkey, saw my first Orang Asli village... and now I can say I saw my first Malaysian movie at the cinema, 'Sepet'. It was pretty good too! I'm glad Emily (from my cell/small group) asked us to go and watch it. I was a little skeptical at first, because local movies are notorious for sucking big time (a fact that one of Sepet's main characters actually points out). But this time I decided I'd give it a go, since I'd never dished out 9 RM for a local movie at the theater before.

Sepet is a Malaysian movie through and through... it's not exclusively in Malay. Far from it, in fact. The dialogue is a mind-boggling mix of Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese, English, and Manglish. It's set in my parent's hometown of Ipoh, which I thought gave it a nice Not-In-KL feeling. I mean, I live in KL. The less I see of it, the better. The story, a tragic interracial romance, is pretty interesting... to us Malaysians. To the rest of the world it may lose some of it's power, since these sorts of issues have been dealt with over and over in cinemas abroad. We're only just starting to learn to talk about interracial matters locally without getting huge sticks shoved up our nether regions. However, Sepet handles its subject matter extremely well, and should strike a chord with many Malaysians on several levels.

The plot is pretty simple: An Ah Beng named 'Jason' Lei Siew Loong (the definition of 'Ah Beng' has been handled on this blog previously) meets a Malay girl named Orked, and they fall in love. Said love ends in tragedy. Sounds very done-before... but this movie manages to avoid most of the easy cliches associated with such tales. Instead, it delivers something far more poignant and insightful.

This movie is a really good showcase of the hodge-podge of cultures that makes Malaysia what it is. A bunch of racial and cultural stereotypes are laid bare, with hilarious results. Sepet doesn't stop at the surface, though, and digs deeper into its characters motives and desires. Along the way it kinda makes the point that while the stereotypes may be true in a lot of cases, that doesn't make the targets of those stereotypes any less human and worthy of esteem.

Sepet doesn't get preachy, however, and there's plenty of humor and joy to be had along the way. This movie is genuinely funny, and it's pure gold when the stereotypes come out and give you the full monty. The romantic interludes between its ill-fated lovebirds do tend to get really bad... but that's understandable in a way. Chinese folk can get pretty corny and melodramatic when they're in love. But that still doesn't stop the movie from grinding to a screeching halt when Jason drops stuff like "I've been waiting for you all my life". ACK. That said, I couldn't think of a better way to portray an Ah Beng in love. Another thing I found distracting was the stoner look that Loong had on his face the whole time... but yet again that's classic Ah Bengness right there. At the very least I cannot fault the movie for realism!

In an intellgent twist, the parents of said lovebirds are not stumbling blocks to the relationship. The movie forgoes that cliche for something a little more complex and fulfilling. Orked's dad does voice his hangups, but mostly towards the end, and even that is used as a setup for a poignant and heart-wrenching response from Orked's mother. Apart from that, Orkid's parents are just plain fun to watch, as they play out the their old-folks-who-love-each-other-and-their-daughter roles with aplomb. Jason's family life is much darker; his father, before he was crippled in an accident, was abusive and adulterous. In the few moments in which you see Jason's mother, you get a sobering sense of the cycle of anger and tragedy her life has become.

Jason's and Orked's friends also get some screentime along the way, and that time is well spent. Characters are just solid all round... it didn't feel like anyone was given the shaft (save for a few perfunctory characters whom I certainly didn't feel the need to know more about).

When all is said and done, this has been one of the more pleasant surpises of the week. Kudos to Yasmin Ahmad (who's blog can be found here, FYI) for making a great movie. Nevermind that it's Malaysian. We really need to get over that Boleh-land hump. We can do great things... this movie proves it. For crying out loud, can we stop reminding ourselves of that, as though we aren't sure?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Finger-pickin'/Wild Boar/Mafia

To everyone who reads this blog, yup I've been a slacker. However, I've not been completely unproductive. I've finally updated my music page with a couple new songs. The second submission is still under review (it takes a couple of working days I think), but it should up soon. I mean, I didn't cuss or anything on it. The page is here. The music was recorded in my own bedroom, and the mixing was done using my friend Jason's pirated copy of *AHEM* *AHEM* *AHEM* well, I can't say now can I? Hey, I would've bought in in the states if I knew there was a piece of recording software this good. Considering all I have is a cheap karaoke mike, my laptop, and my bedroom as a studio, I thought the results were pretty sweet (if somewhat lo-fi). To add to the randomness, I noticed the other day I'm actually on the list of's editors' picks under the Folk category. If you bother to download any of the other songs from artistes on that list, you'd understand my confusion :p. I really don't compare very well.

Over the past weekend, I've been roughing it out in the jungle with the SIB young adults. This was a mission trip to an Orang Asli village. 'Orang Asli' refers to the indigenous folk who've been living in this land right from the start. Well they called it a mission trip, but we didn't really do any hard labor... just made friends with the locals and saw what life was like for them. I guess you could call it a practice trip.

It was plenty hard though. The village was located up in the hills somewhere in the state of Pahang, and several kilometres into the jungle. We first had to get to the base camp which was accessible only by hilly dirt roads. City vehicles couldn't make the trip so about 40 of us had to pile into the backs of four 4x4s and hang on for dear life for about 45 minutes before we got to base camp. We had to be dusted at the end of the trip!

After resting at base camp for a bit, we had to leave a bunch of luggage behind and take only what was necessary for one night. Another 20 minutes in the 4x4s and we reached the start of the trail that went up through the hills and the jungle. As one other fella put it, we used up what we ate for lunch that day, what we ate for dinner the day before, and what we ate for lunch the day before just hiking through the hills. That was almost as tough as the time Brent and Matt took me to Cameroon Mountain (not sure if i spelled that right) and didn't tell me it was a 14-mile hike.

When we finally did get there, though, it was absolutely worth it. The Orang Asli village was next to an ice-cold unpolluted river. Jumping in for a bath after three gruelling hours of trucking and hiking was a different feeling for me altogether... it'd never felt so good to be freezing to death!

Living with the Orang Asli, even for a night, was another revelation for me, and a humbling experience. The houses were all made of rotan and tree trunks (with the exception of the roofs, some of which were zinc). The only electricity they had came from a single generator. I didn't dare look in the outhouse! There were quite a few pet dogs running around, and one home had a monkey tied to a post. One thing I saw for the first time was a female boar, which I was told was also a pet. It had better be... it had free reign of the village of the whole time, and I wouldn't want anything wild that big running around outside my doorstep.

The villagers were friendly, though a few of them were quite shy. I did manage to get a few words in, though my Malay was rusty. I asked one of the penghulus (village elders) to let me call him 'Datuk' (a Malay title... probably the equivalent of 'Lord'). He gave me a half-toothless grin and said 'Boleh!' (Which was an affirmative). They definitely had a sense of humor.

These villagers were all Christians. Watching them worship was pretty special. They didn't have any projectors or transparencies or even cheat sheets to help them with the songs... they learned them all by heart. All... um... thirty or so songs it seemed like. They would sing them in succession, not pausing in between, and the guys with the guitar would basically play all the songs in the same key and they segued from one song to the next. The kids sang the loudest, and never missed a beat! It reminded me of how the Israelites did it in ancient times, memorizing whole books of scripture by heart. Those kids (some of them barely above my knee) had a connection to our spiritual ancestors many of the YAs probably didn't have. This kids didn't have access to cars, air-conditioning, or hot showers, but at that moment, it seemed like they had everything. It was written on their faces and it resounded in their voices.

The next day, we bid the villagers adieu and returned to base camp. From then on it was pretty much fun and games. We had a barbeque under the stars, played Mafia (the Malaysian version is a little different, but still entertaining), and had a service the next morning. In a somewhat knuckleheaded move, I volunteered to be gamemaster for the Mafia game. Only after the game started di I realise a few of the rules were different, which lead to quite a few techinical difficulties. The beauty of mafia, though, is that even if the gamemaster screws up, it's the players who make the game fun. Malaysians are nothing if not eager to accuse others of wrongdoing. They do so with gusto, and the accusees defend themselves with just as much determination :p.

They had communion during the service, for which I was very glad. They also had a time of sharing, and an icebreaker game. Jessy told me before the trip that one of the clandestine purposes of these trips was to pair up single YAs, and I saw this nefarious scheme come to fruition during the icebreaker. Basically pairs of guys and girls were chosen (NOT at random) to ask each other three questions and answer them for all to hear. Not too subtle :p. I was in one of the pairs... and I won't say anything else on the matter.

I guess I'll end with some of the lyrics to one of the songs that the Orang Asli sung during worship... this one kinda resonated with the slacker in me :D.

Dalam kerja Tuhan ada susah ada senang
Walaupun susah hatiku senang...

(In God's work there is difficulty and there is ease
Though there is difficulty, my heart is at ease...)