Thursday, January 26, 2006

bohtea sings "Holiday"

*photograph of Sipadan Island, Sabah- courtesy of
www.underwaterphotography.com

Unfortunately, you wouldn't find bohtea sunning herself here. Nevertheless, she will have sun (though not the island kind of sun) and she will have fun (though not the island kind of fun). As you are reading this now, she may still be starring dreamily at this picture, just like you.

It is not an intention to spoil your holiday mood for spending it in a place seemingly lesser, rather; it is a loving reminder that however mundane your hometown may seem to be, there is still no place quite like home.

There are indeed some of you, however; that may not be able to go home at all. bohtea says to you, "Then be at home, wherever you are".

Have a good holiday this Chinese New Year.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

All that Jazz @ Bangkok Jazz

If there were one word to describe the showcase, it would be playful. Brilliantly playful. There were no stoic-like choir, no military-band march- even the stiff-necked pianist one would usually see at the hotel lounge was not in sight. Everything was au naturel, from the giggles to the naughty winks to the brilliant musical teases-they were such sheer sight to see, even so; beautiful to hear.

The five talented individuals that performed in Bangkok Jazz Thai Bistro, Chulan Square- Rozhan Razman on bass, Kevin Choo on saxophone, Tok Khon on keyboard, Sudin on drums (although John Thomas was the anticipated drummer) and that ever-lovely Mia Palencia on vocals, whipped rich cream out of plain milk. They obviously had the capacity and energy to do that and beyond- being distinctive on their own, yet none of it being taken away from one another in this understated joint-performance.

The band gave the showcase a kick-start with two numbers, heavily-laden with tricky finger-styles on whatever musical instrument that was in their hands. By the time Mia Palencia took centre stage with her vocals, the show had begun to take flight; and behold, high did they soar!

Mia’s dark-chocolate-y vocals were so lovely, not even Diana Krall could de-lovely her. Interestingly, she started off with a difficult number, Summertime- a classic, originally by Ira Gershwin. Few whom I have heard could conquer it well- the song would usually leave its singer drowning with stretches of minor keys. Yet, one could say she did it, she made it; she pulled it off- magically. I don’t know how she did the song the way she did it, it was like watching a magician pull tricks right in front of your eyes; only in this case, your ears were the fools.

I was especially mesmerized by her rendition of Chega de Saudade, a Jobim composition. Bossa nova must have been too hard to resist, with a voice like that. She began with extra- velvet-like sultry Brazilian, and the band gave a nice, slow tempo to it- not too edgy, not inching towards samba; but just easy-listening for a good winding down-session. How one wished she would have done Triste and Girl from Ipanema as well.

However, the highlight of the showcase had to be none other (not even Mia’s) than the jamming make-up of the “Sensational Trio”- Rozhan Razman on bass, Eric Li on piano and John Thomas on drums. Once on stage, they showed the crowd what it meant to be “a class above the rest”.

Watching Eric Li’s fingers glide across the keyboard was like meeting a good friend after some years- both simply knew where to pick up after what has been left off. Rozhan also had his finest hour then, though I must admit that even in his brilliance; he paled in the shadows of Eric Li and John Thomas. (He came back with a vengeance during his mischievous endeavour with “Fly”, a guest bassist) The show stealer, however; was John Thomas; despite making only a short appearance on the show. His rhythm and tempo were all over the place, but never out of place. Together, they formed a formidable team of Malaysian jazz giants.

The showcase ended with the original band and Mia coming onstage again, belting out a Stevie Wonder medley. It was well past 1 am, but the band did not give one ounce less of when they first started. The crowd were clearly having a lot of fun; jiggling with Rozhan and gang- with drinks or none. One wondered if the climax would ever drop had the bistro not call the night a day. Again, there was a lot of mischief going around the stage. Rozhan even strummed the first bar of Let’s Groove Tonight, just before the band took the number to a final high; much to the band’s chagrin. Good one, Rozhan; and what a show it was!

This was certainly a night worth remembering- the strong coming of young Malaysians from cocoons into beautiful butterflies- of jazz.

Jazz enthusiasts, you’ve been warned.

*For good updates on the Malaysian jazz scene, visit www.alldatjazz.com
*Poster courtesy of www.alldatjazz.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dialogue.

The intimidating downpour last Friday did not deter Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Materialists and perhaps, Marxists (?) from meeting at eye-level to discuss, question and reverberate one another’s concept of God.

As one ought to know by now, presenting a belief system to a pluralistic crowd is most certainly a heavy burden upon one’s relatively small shoulders. There are bound to be skeptics and critics blended in the crowd, with some of the harshest coming from their own camp. One would be most tempted to assert the famous and infamous disclaimer to the crowd that his claims do not necessarily represent his faith, to avoid embarrassment of making mistakes or not knowing.

Naturally, our Christian representative was not spared of such trauma. While he has done a considerably good job in presenting Christianity in some aspects (he pointed out the transcendence and immanence of God), one must point out to him that he was living in a community predominantly in favour of theism. Spending ten minutes affirming the existence of God for a twenty-minute presentation was certainly not a desirable move when more pressing questions on the Trinitarian model and the Divinity of Jesus Christ were left hanging in the open.

This is indeed worth reflecting, pondering and seeking on the part of a Christian, as much as it is, on the part of a genuine seeker. In a highly unpredictable environment like this, one cannot be contented with knowing that the Christian God is a personal God without knowing what one means by ‘personal’, for example. One cannot proclaim that he believes in the Triune God and stop short at explaining what it means to be “Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet one God, not three”. It would be most pitiful for one who believes that Truth can be known because of God’s revelation to man is also at the same time, able to disregard the Trinity as a contradiction or a mystery that can never be known at all and all one needs to response to this is to have a great amount of faith.

Faith, indeed we must have, as Augustine had once asserted- “Faith in seeking understanding”. For instance, I have faith that the Bible is God-breathed (c/f 2 Timothy 3:16) and therefore, I can believe in every doctrine in the Bible to be true. Hence, I can, to a certain extent; know how Trinity can be known to be true by using my logical deductions; with effect of having first, faith that the Trinity is true. My faith does not at all, contradicts my human reason.

Exercising one’s faith needs not rationalistic thinking, in which everything is built upon the foundation of rationale only. Christianity would only appear to be a philosophy founded upon human wisdom if we rely solely upon empirical evidences and human reason to quantify our faith. Yet, our faith does not, in any manner, deny human reason to explain in quality what God has revealed Himself to man in history, the present and future. What we need, are inquisitive minds and prayerful hearts to enable us to study the Word of God carefully and diligently. All these are done duly as an act of worship to Him who is Truth.

A more comprehensive read-up on the interfaith dialogue here.

Other interesting questions that were commonly raised during interfaith dialogues-

1) How can Jesus possess the duality of nature- God and man?

2) How can Jesus be God when He has the bodily needs of a man and not all-knowing?

3) Was Jesus ‘promoted’ to become God only after the work on the Cross?

Go figure.

Friday, January 06, 2006

For Religious Freedom.

The turnout is certainly not impressive. It didn’t even attract the police’s coming. Nevertheless, these are the people whom, night after night; sometimes even battling in the heavy downpour, stood on symbolic grounds of justice so that what may have been perceived as abstract and symbolic may now be known as real and true in the lives of a nation.





This is the real Malaysia.



Will you therefore clasp your hands in prayers, join their hearts in compassion and unite with their minds in conviction? Will you lend a hand in holding a candle, helping to light others and being willing to let others light yours?


Nightly vigil
Venue: High Court, Jalan Raja
Time: 8-9pm

Postings on this issue by dynamic Malaysians
Soo-Inn Ps Sivin Jacksaid

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Constitution who?

It is almost certain that one who lives in a pluralistic society must expect occurrences of religious confrontations. While most if not all, will agree with the notion that religion ought to promote peace and love, not war and division; one can almost smell the irony that to a certain extent of agreement in love, peace and compassion to one another regardless of race, gender and religion; there are bound to be differences in beliefs- in means of performance (merit vs. grace), if not in ends as well (God vs. no God), all of which; are fundamental in determining how a person conducts his way of life and the lives of his loved ones.

Our country is one, which has been, and still is; confronted by religious friction every now and then. Such tension must not come as a surprise; and even if it were, one must commend the nation for rarely resorting to violence and bloodshed in the name of religion. However, one must also understand that room for rare occurrences of friction must be allowed if significant and meaningful religious freedom were to be allowed, for one must be reminded, if not enlightened that the Federal Constitution that governs the country; is a secular one. Malaysia is not, as many would have believed; an Islamic state.

The case of M. Moorthy- a man, previously a Hindu who has allegedly converted to become a Muslim a year before he slipped into a coma and died recently, sparked legal interest especially among the non-Muslim community; as the non-Muslim community is once again thrown into confusion and insecurities that the impact of the conversion of their loved ones have on them; both spiritually and physically. While his wife adamantly insisted that he was a practicing Hindu even to the time just before he slipped into a coma, the Islamic Council seemed to have differing views. The conversion, as so claimed by the Islamic authorities gave them all the rights to claim his body and his possessions. All these only added more grief to the already grieving wife, who had no knowledge of her husband’s apparent secret conversion. The High Court, her most important place of addressing her pleas to; turned her down, if not turned her down simply; under the banner “Out of our powers”.

What we can see here is a repeated case of helplessness. A case of conflicting powers between the Syariah Court and the Civil Court, in which; the trend seems to suggest that the Syariah Court is now mightier than the Civil Court, even though the Federal Constitution is purportedly the highest law of the country, and therefore possesses rights to set precedence in unique cases as these.

This begs the questions for clarification and confirmation- Can one who is not a Muslim brings a case, laced with Muslim sentiments to the Civil Court for justice and remedy? If one says ‘no’, then clearly, the Law has lost its credibility as being the highest law of governance and protection for the people. If one says ‘yes’, then let that case be a testimony of the functions of the Court. Our minds can only ring the hurtful memories of Lina Joy, a Christian convert from Islam; whose plea for the acknowledgement of her conversion was denied by the Court of Appeal (thanks, Jacksaid for the rectification) under similar grounds.

Such cases ought not to be singled out as a Hindu-Muslim problem or a Christian-Muslim problem. It is a Malaysian problem, simply because there is an infringement of human rights to embrace a religion of one’s choice. A Christian should not view this clash with folded arms in any manner that a Buddhist should. While all of us must treat the rituals of the Muslim religion with utmost respect, we must not compromise the supremacy of the Federal Constitution in which, its primary inception is to sustain a religiously harmonious country.

We are facing an either- or- situation If the Law does not offer the assurance of protection for the people under it, then it must be that lawlessness reigns, in which; one cannot even imagine what monsters it will unleash.

Read about the case here

Interfaith Dialogue at University of Malaya
Topic: Concept of God
Date: 6 January 2006
Time: 8 pm
Venue: DP1, Kompleks Perdanasiswa, University of Malaya.