Friday, December 21, 2007

Wicked

Seated on the 8th row from the front at Gershwin Theatre (on Broadway) last night, I was spellbound by Wicked. It was wickedly amazing! True to the producer that I am, I analysed the musical from all production aspects. *lol...

I have been fortunate to see musicals in Singapore and London but none has touched my heart than the plot of Wicked. Wicked explores the concept that Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West was a misunderstood and victimized person whose behavior was merely a reaction against a charlatan wizard's corrupt government. It also shows her relationship with the beautiful and ambitious Galinda, who ultimately becomes Glinda the Good Witch of the North. Through the show their friendship struggles to endure extreme personality conflicts, opposing viewpoints, rivalry over the same love-interest, and Elphaba's eventual fall from grace.

Among others, the musical explores themes ranging from stereotypes to politics to love to human characters. Indeed, we have to look at things from different perspectives...
"Maybe I'm brainless
Maybe I'm wise
But you've got me seeing
Through different eyes..."

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holy Cow! (oops Turkey!)


Thanksgiving (22 November) was spent in Connecticut with Steve's family. Instead of Steve driving us like last year, I 'flew' with my X-wing fighter to Waterbury and Ali remained in Bethlehem to spend Thanksgiving with his family.

New England is as picturesque as ever. How time flies since the last Thanksgiving! Mike (Steve's brother) and Linc (Steve's dad) looked slimmer. Rita (Steve's mum) was as stylish as ever. She even gave me goodies bags :) and Uncle Jaime did not grill me with his harsh political questions... *lol... he said he asked all those questions last year. Dinner at Juniper's (Steve's uncle's posh restaurant) was scrumptious and we had a lovely time. Supper at Beth's new gothic mansion was fun, with little Ava experimenting with the make-up set I gave her. Gosh, I will miss everyone when I leave the USA. It was surprising that I did not shed tears as I bid farewell. God willing, I will meet them again...

I also spent time at Zalman's in Hartford. As it was too cold, we just chilled at home, playing with Nuha, Naqib and baby Rayyan. I told Masyitah (Zalman's wife) how ironic that we would spent hours driving just to see each other but did not do the same in Singapore even though we lived so near... Does distance make the heart grow fonder?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Journey of the Rice Cooker

I must be such a sight, in my black Parisian winter coat, lugging a rice cooker and running across Penn Station to catch the New Jersey Transit one early November 18th morning. I panicked when the screen showed - Trenton: Delayed. Merde! The next available train was hours away at 12.14 pm (if they could fix the faulty wiring). Oh no, Fadzilah, Azan and Nida would be waiting! It would take another 1.5 hours to reach Princeton Junction and then there was also the Dinky ride. What should I do? Give up? Arghhh…

The gentleman beside me looked at the screen in equal exasperation. He was going to Princeton Junction too. What should we do? We decided to be adventurous and take the Path (what the heck was the Path?) and see if there was any alternative transportation. No one knew anything. No one gave us any information about what was going on. How could we all squeeze in the Path train and where would we be heading? The other passengers were just as clueless. But we joked and laughed and that somewhat lifted everyone’s spirit and gave some sort of assurance that things were going to be alright.

Daniel Harray, that gentleman at Penn station (an actor) became my incidental travelling partner who offered me my first Krispy Kreme and with whom I discussed politics and trashy reality shows like 'Shot at love with Tila Tequila' and 'I love New York'.

After what seemed like never-ending train hopping and detours to other places we never knew existed, we finally reached Princeton Junction. A nice old woman at the train station offered to drive me to the Wawa shop (of course the Dinky 'chose' not to run that Sunday of all days!) where Fadzilah would be waiting. Daniel smiled as he looked at my big bag. “Your friend better appreciates that rice cooker!” I laughed, bid farewell and thanked him again for the Krispy Kreme (the donuts my friend Gwen raved about and which I had been longing for).

Fadzilah and I huddled in the rain and walked around Princeton University. We then had a late lunch with a family friend’s son, Azan and his wife Nida. What good food - satay, rendang, sayur pucuk ubi, kuih hari Raya... It felt like we were back home in Singapore! Laughter and conversations in Malay flowed with the evening.
The moral of the story: You have to go through arduous journey (be brave to take alternative routes, be patient, maintain that sense of humour, don't give up, encourage fellow passengers along the way) before you can reach the ivy-covered tower. Just ask the rice cooker who endured the hardship and is now in Fadzilah's Princeton...

The Guggenheim

Due to the ongoing strike by the Broadway stagehands, my sorority sisters and I could not watch Mamma Mia! on Saturday. Instead we spent the afternoon (after a scrumptious French lunch at Le Rivage) at the Guggenheim. Ah… I simply love Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural style.

“The Guggenheim Museum is an embodiment of Wright's attempts to render the inherent plasticity of organic forms in architecture. His inverted ziggurat (a stepped or winding pyramidal temple of Babylonian origin) dispensed with the conventional approach to museum design, which led visitors through a series of interconnected rooms and forced them to retrace their steps when exiting. Instead, Wright whisked people to the top of the building via elevator, proceeding downward at a leisurely pace on the gentle slope of a continuous ramp.


The galleries were divided like the membranes in citrus fruit, with self-contained yet interdependent sections. The open rotunda afforded viewers the unique possibility of seeing several bays of work on different levels simultaneously. The spiral design recalled a nautilus shell, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another.” - http://www.guggenheim.org/

I remember quoting Wright on my Gedung Kuning’s architecture page – “Noble life demands a noble architecture for noble uses of noble men. Lack of culture means what it has always meant: ignoble civilization and therefore imminent downfall."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Crow Warriors




"Wouter Deruytter: Crow Warriors" is currently being exhibited at the UN New York.

Hidayah Soaring Eagle wished she had met some Indian warriors on the great plains of the United States and learned more about their culture and battle scars but alas...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Land of the Wizard of Oz


Just came back from the Alpha Delta Kappa (ADK) ITE weekend in the Land of the Wizard of Oz. It was so good meeting up fellow sorority sisters from all over the USA and new sisters from Peru, Indonesia and Canada. Everyone is so intelligent, passionate, kind and warm.

Agnes Robertson would be so proud!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cempaka & Melati

Cempaka (Michelia champak)... how beautiful and fragrant! The subtle Cempaka hinted at honour, sacrifice and true love in The Legend of Suriyothai. Whereas the smaller, almost similar Melati (Jasmine) symbolizes purity, eternal love and nobility in Puteri Gunung Ledang.

I remember asking Nenek why she often put Cempaka or Melati on her hair. She smiled and handed me some to smell. Ahh, their beauty goes beyond mere fragrance...


apa namanya bunga melati,
cantik mekar harum setaman;
kenapa ditanya pada hati,
cerdik akal harus dahulukan.

~ Zaleha Ahmat

Monday, October 29, 2007

Autumn musings

My good friend and I caught up recently and exchanged updates about our college mates back home - who got married, who got promoted, who just moved into a swanky apartment etc. It then struck to me that ... I'm actually homeless, jobless (my internship is not paid), a little penniless, swinging single with no kids in tow! My friend got a tad depressed too. Count your blessings! I told her. Perhaps we may not have all the material things others have but we've been blessed in other ways. As I breathed in the fresh mountain air at Lehigh (yes, I went home for the weekend to rejuvenate and escape New York's schizophrenia), I realised how fortunate I have been... to be able to travel the world, study in 3 continents, meet people, experience different cultures and lifestyles, exchange ideas and enrich my world view. Alhamdulillah (Thank God).

"Nak tunggu january tak lama ke. You tak rindu family ke...." Another friend asked why I am only returning in January and whether I miss my family. Ahh... the question of missing. I have been truly blessed to have many people who care and miss me. I have "families" all over the world, in the USA, in Paris, in Nepal, and even in a tiny hamlet in Africa. To have people who encourage me and spur me on to greater heights, to have them comfort me in times of sorrow, to have them love me unconditionally and remember me in their prayers... these are definitely worth more than all the wealth in the world!


"Have you packed?" Wait a minute, isn't it too early to pack? Why can't you just say that you miss me and want me home soon?


I wonder... will my love life have a Wicker Park ending?




Or will it remain as an Anuar Zain's Mungkin?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

... just be ...

Of late, I've been experiencing terrible migraines, an equally weak body (from sudden bouts of vomiting) and interrupted sleep. Could it be the stress from work? living in fast-paced NYC? MCAT? coping with all those heavy reading? thinking about stuff? Perhaps my body is just tired... tired from all those adventures, tired from the 'jet' setting pace, always on the go accomplishing tasks and projects and having insufficient rest. Perhaps, I need to lie on the vast Lehigh field, stare at the autumn sky with the majestic mountains surrounding me, watch the dandelions float by... and ... just be...








*photo credit: Firdaus Omar, stranger in moskva

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Welcoming Syawal


Today is the last day of fasting. I can't believe the month of Ramadan is gone. When I called Emak (Mum) in Singapore, she said, "Where are you? I need you to cut the vegetables and make sambal goreng." 

Aww... I miss Eid preparations back home where I would help Emak with the cooking and Hadi would be busy cleaning the house. As much as I look forward to going home, I will miss my beloved friends & families in the USA (Kak Alo & Philip, Kak Waty and my roomie, Devi). During our last Terawih prayers at Al-Hikmah mosque, Kak Waty said, "Hidayah, I won't get to pray with you when you leave..." I felt so sad. I told her, "God willing, I'll be back..."

Some touching Petronas' Eid advertisement clips:
Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3, Clip 4, Clip 5, Clip 6

Sunday, October 07, 2007

@ Directors' Guild Theatre


Raya & I attended The New Yorker Festival last Friday. The evening started with low expectations (who the heck is Errol Morris!? Shame on me considering that I too am a producer!) but at the end of the evening, I was thanking Raya for "persuading" me to come along. I had learned some valuable tips for my next documentary film.

Errol Morris is an American Academy Award winning documentary film director. In 2003, The Guardian listed him as number seven in their list of the world's 40 best directors. His unconventional style of documentary film-making is indeed inspiring. Having been rejected from Oxford & Harvard (sounds familiar!), and dropping out from Princeton & Berkeley, and with no film production background; Errol embarked on film-making and produced (among others) 'Gates of Heaven', 'The Thin Blue Line' and 'The Fog of War'.

Errol invented the "Interrotron", a device similar to a teleprompter: Errol and his subject each sit facing a camera. The image of each person's face is then projected onto the lens of the other's camera. Instead of looking at a blank lens, both Morris and his subject are looking directly at a human face. The feeling of the monologues that Errol captures on film is human and conversational in a way that is usually impossible when a person is talking directly to a camera. Ted Bafaloukos said of the Interrotron, "...the beauty of it is that it lets people do what they do best, namely watch TV."

We also saw some snippets from the soon-to-be-released film - 'S.O.P: Standard Operating Procedure' (about Abu Ghraib). It was simply..... Raya & I can't wait for its release.

Just like Errol who faced rejections and criticisms... well, to all fellow underdogs & the downtrodden, pls remember that people can criticise and belittle us but as long as we stay focused on our goals, we will definitely reach that next star...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Thierry Amiel

I'm developing a little crush on Thierry Amiel (*blush...)
Thierry Amiel is a French singer and songwriter from Marseilles, France. He rose to fame after coming in second place on the first edition of "A La Recherche De La Nouvelle Star" (the French 'Pop Idol'). Quel si beau! Quel voix!

His duet with Lara Fabian is just superb:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lg2gq_lKEO4

[the song is about breaking up; but in the clip, Thierry & Lara sang as though they were not calling it quits but were much in love...]

- Tout, tout, tout est fini entre nous. Mais je garde l'espoir fou qu'un jour on redira Nous...

He is like a younger Jean-Jacques Goldman:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqQvmcmWWhE

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tjoet Nja Dhien

I recently watched the 1988 Indonesian film "Tjoet Nja Dhien". Tjoet Nja Dhien or Cut Nyak Dhien (1848 – 1908) was the famous Heroine of Aceh Province. She had fought the Dutch from the jungle for 25 years.
I was filled with emotions when I watched how the determined Dhien led her people to fight the Dutch. Even though she became blind, she gave them inspiration to fight for independence. I remember writing about Panglima Salleh Selempang Merah who led the villagers to fight the communists in Muar, Malaysia and about Hajah Aisah, my maternal great-grandmother. 

"Hajah Aisah’s grandfather was a Temenggong (Minister of Justice) in Muntok, Bangka Island situated east of Sumatra in Indonesia. He was “bangsa Radén” (a race of Princes/royal blood). He fought the Dutch. As he did not want to live under the harsh Dutch’s rule, he escaped to Karimun Island in the Riau Archipelago with his family. To avoid detection, he did not use his Temenggong title and name. No one in Karimun Island knew that Hajah Aisah’s family was royalty. They lived their life as commoners..."

How I admire these unsung heroes with their unwavering spirit and a common aim: "Untukmu, jiwa ragaku!"

[*Both stories will be featured in my upcoming book.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The General Assembly Debates

The 62nd General Assembly debates started this morning! Some of the streets in Manhattan were closed to traffic as about 70 Heads of State and nearly 30 Heads of Government headed to the UN. Security was tight and the General Assembly Hall was packed. However, I was fortunate to be able to hear and see the leaders up close and personal from the gallery [the debates can also be heard via webcast - http://www.un.org/webcast/ga/62/ ]

My favourite speaker in the morning was Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France. He spoke with so much passion and conviction. Au nom de la France!
And George Bush's speech? Ah well...

Got to run now as the Head of States of Iran, Afghanistan and Indonesia are among those speaking this afternoon!

An evening with the Mets

Gwen, Dana, Ben & I watched the New York Mets play against the Nationals at Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens last night. What an experience! Gwen & I who are both baseball illiterates, had to ask Ben and Dana to explain some of the game rules. But the sheer sight of the field, the impressive lights that illuminated the stadium, the crazy fans cheering, the sight of hot dogs and other game food, the cool music and our ultra mad "neighbours" who cheered in Spanish and purposely supported the Nationals, made the outing worth the while. Of course, the night wind was harsh and we left halfway when the Mets was losing to the Nationals 5-1; our neighbours who probably knew about half of the spectators in Gate B seats went wild with joy!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

International Day of Peace

Friday, September 21, 2007 is the International Day of Peace.
As I was walking along the corridor on 10th floor, I turned and saw one of UN's Messengers of Peace Michael Douglas (the actor & Catherine Zeta-Jones' husband) walking beside me! What a pleasant surprise! What a gentleman, and handsome and humourous!



Michael's area of focus is disarmament, and peace and security. Thank you for helping the UN, Michael!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Trade

The world premiere of Trade, a film that sheds light on the underground world of human trafficking, was organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at UNHQ in New York. UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa also introduced UN.GIFT, the United Nations-led Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. The goal of the initiative is to raise understanding and encourage action against human trafficking.

Ah oui, I brushed shoulders with Kevin Kline outside the press conference room. During the press conference, there were comments made about the "disagreements" between himself and Angelina Jolie. *lol... I hope celebrities like Kevin Kline who contribute to humanity will not play up the media (there are some Hollywood artists whose humanitarian works are laced with hidden agendas).

Trade follows the story of a 13-year-old Mexican girl (Paulina Gaitan) and a young Polish woman (Alicja Bachleda) as they are kidnapped by sex traffickers in Mexico and transported for sale in the United States. As they make their brutal journey north, the young girl's older brother (Cesar Ramos) and a Texas cop (Kevin Kline) set off on a desperate and dangerous rescue attempt.

*Mayor Michael Bloomberg, proclaimed September 2007 in the City of New York: "Anti-Trafficking Month"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ramadan in New York


I had stomach flu on the first two days of Ramadan and rested at home. But I dragged myself out of my basement den to go to the Ramadan Bazaar at the Malaysian Mission near the UN.

All the delicious food (laksa, nasi lemak, bubur kacang, rojak, teh tarik etc) and Malay music reminded me of home. Amali, Teresa & of course Sharon who worked at the Mission were there. Poor Gwen was sick and chose to rest at home instead. We shared the table with talented Ummi (http://www.ummi.tv/) from Bangsar (*joke) whose Parson School of Design's classmate Ruth is from Pasir Ris, Singapore! What a small world! Amali told me that he had met Ummi earlier at an anti-fur demonstration!

We chatted and ate (psst, Amali, your bubur kacang tasted better!) and reminisced about Ramadan celebration back home. As we were leaving, Amali whispered to me: "Hey, we have to throw all the dirty paper plates. We can't expect the Malaysians to clean up after us." We burst out laughing. Ahh, the Singapore-Malaysia love-hate political relationship. But, in actual fact, there is nothing but good friendship among fellow Malaysians & Singaporeans :)

Ramadan Mubarak to everyone. Yes, to Firdaus & Faiz in Moscow too. I'm sorry I didn't send my kek lapis prune over for you to taste, lain kali kot... Faiz, I make doa that you will get to see the "star of piercing brightness" in space next month, amin!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Our girl from Gedung Kuning


Our girl from Gedung Kuning, how she has grown!
... and how she never changed! Always busy, always getting involved...

Remember how she helped Mama (Hajah Maimoon, Nenek's sister-in-law) who had stroke and had difficulty walking? The 4 year old Cik Idah would walk behind Mama to steady her. She would also hand Mama the gayung (small pail) filled with water for Mama to bathe. Poor Mama who didn't have any daughters, was shy to ask her sons to bathe her (although Cik Hamid would help especially when her health deteriorated). But Mama's spirit was strong and she did her best to fight the raging stroke. Mama, may Allah bless your soul!

Ahh, those kind people who lived in Gedung Kuning. Cik Idah will always remember how they taught her to help others albeit in some small ways... http://www3.lehigh.edu/News/V2news_story.asp?iNewsID=2275


Monday, September 03, 2007

"Climate Change" Conference @ UN


"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children." 
- Tribe Unknown


Yes, it is THE Week! Kudos to everyone who worked so hard to plan the conference! Yes to us too, the pro-bono interns who are the unsung heroes @ UN :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We see but we do not see

[Something I wrote 4 years back]

A few colleagues and I went shopping in Kuala Lumpur (KL). It was after all the Malaysia Mega Sale!! We wanted to profit from the strong Singapore dollar. So off we went, shopping, eating and hanging out, enjoying the sights and sounds of KL. I remember one particular night when we were hailing a taxi to go back to our hotel. The taxi drivers drove pass us only stopping to tell us the flat rate for the ride. What? This is obscene! What’s the meter there for? For decorations? We grumbled. Even though we could easily afford the increased rate, we did not want to compromise our principles and hence waited for other taxis to drive by. We spouted all possible comments, from the inefficient transportation system to corruption to issues of international relations. Even though fatigue grew with the night, our might did not waiver.

One of my colleagues ran to an approaching taxi, only to slam the door hard at the taxi driver who was out to make more quick ringgits. I then noticed a teenage boy standing quietly behind my colleague. Gosh, we, polite Singaporeans actually cut in someone else’s path. As I apologised to the boy, I saw a man holding on to his arm. The previously hidden old man wearing a songkok (traditional Malay cap) said to me, “Tak apa, rumah kita dekat” (It’s alright, our house is near). Only then did I realise that the old man was blind!! We actually cut in a blind man’s way! How selfish have we become? Even though our actions were unintentional, we had forgotten (even for a brief moment) that there might be others who wanted to go home too. I felt so bad and apologised to the well-mannered boy and his father. They just smiled and did not even utter any nasty words to us. If the reverse happened, wouldn’t we hurl vulgarities? But no…. the man and his son even apologised for the taxi driver. They told us to go ahead and take the next taxi. They could wait, they say.

At that point, I wanted to give the old man some money. But why? He wasn’t begging. Sure, I pitied his blind state and all. Perhaps I wanted to make him forget our rudeness. Shame on me for even thinking that money could erase ugly impressions! As I crossed the road, I saw the blind man and his son still standing patiently by the roadside. We all see but do we really see? Do we really see the goodness in people? Or do we only pretend to see when we are actually blind?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Postcard from the Edge


Where art thou, o "star of piercing brightness"?
The world needs peace, salam, shalom, paix, мир, 和平

Of MoMa and Prospect Park



I had a good time meeting up with old friends whom I knew from NUS days: Amali is currently pursuing his PhD at NYU & Raihan is teaching in Harlem. It was fun scrutinising the exhibits in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) with them last Friday. At dinner, Amali & I shared our thoughts on youth and poverty and possible projects that we could conduct. I also caught up on the latest updates from Singapore, one of which was about Azizah who just got married to the talented actor Rafaat Hamzah.

The rain almost made me gave up on Regina's Farewell Party; what with the F train not running that Sunday and getting lost in the huge Prospect Park in Brooklyn. But I continued "trekking", lugging Coke cans & cinnamon rolls. But it was wonderful to see Regina and Elizabeth again. Regina, good luck for the PhD in California! Liz, hope you’ll get in Georgetown Law School! Thanks Mark Collins for introducing me to such wonderful sisters. We're going to miss you when you return to Australia.

Alas, I didn't meet Josh Hartnett (in Wicker Park)... but I met some nice brothers in Prospect Park (*lol..) such as Zeeshan who works in the same department at the UN (what a small world!), Arif, Brown Uni grad who manages hedge funds, and Armir, Albanian civil engineer who is always mistaken for a religious Jewish man (so you knew about Bethlehem Steel?!). Hope to see you all in Singapore if you make that hijrah! :)