Monthly Archives: November 2008

I Saw Death

It came for some pussy.

Yesterday night I headed to a nearby mamak. I saw a tiny ginger baby cat, slightly scrawny, but with its ears pointing out in triangles, cross the road to some motorbikes parked there.

A father and son got on one of the motorbikes. It stood behind the exhaust, curious. The father turned around, and he spotted it. He avoided it as he rolled his motorbike out. It had no sense of danger or alertness as it stood there looking curiously.

A man was about to cross the road, when he walked into it, pushing it. It fell and lay there, probably distraught. I have no idea what kind of scale would a human foot’s walking impact would be. I didn’t hear it meow.

A Proton Wira approached. I flinched and turned away! I could not bear to look. I don’t even know if the car stopped or not… but when I turned to look, I saw it lying there and it was in a different position than it was before. Not a good one.

As if fate could not get any worse, a lorry approached.

The next time I turned… I saw something out of Happy Tree Friends.

I obviously didn’t take a picture but the image was stuck in my head, like it was my brain’s wallpaper.

I wondered how the young survive by themselves. Or do they? How do they learn what danger is? How do they know how to become street smart? How do they know of impending doom?

I didn’t even hear it. I don’t know if it was in shock from being walked into.

And then I thought of children. Human children. If they start crying… they stay immobilized in that one place. Even if they were crossing the road and they dropped ice-cream… they’d probably cry there and stand in one place!

At that point I felt annoyed at adults who do that. As in, if they’re in trouble, they get immobilized. They get stuck. They don’t get out of the dangerous situation.

I felt annoyed at Hong Kong dramas. Elderly husband and wife quarrel. Husband crosses road. A van approaches. Wife sees this, runs to his body, and cries. That’s fine really but moving the body out of danger should be in the sequence somewhere!

I felt annoyed that I have friends who are silly like that. Who get themselves deeper in shit. If you have such a friend, tell him or her off.

I wonder if Death was following me. Or, in some twisted Sixth Sense way, I was Death. Well I wouldn’t mind if Death came as Angelina Jolie (no, not Jennifer Aniston). Please don’t take my dad (though, he really does bear a striking malevolent resemblance to Anthony Hopkins.) Yeah that was a Meet Joe Black reference.

The next morning, I wanted to take a cab. It was raining. I saw a gray patch on the curb, just as I was about to open the door. Took a while to realize that it was a dead rat… with all its hair gone. I would not have recognized it it not for a solitary fly on it.

I told the cabbie my destination.

My meter is dead.” The elderly cab driver told me.

Okay, then it’s usually RM3 anyway.

No, where can, RM4 lah.

RM4? CHOI!!! That’s an unlucky number! 4 means death in Cantonese!

No thanks, I told him.

Was the elderly cabbie Death? If so… Was Death trying to cheat me? Instead of me cheating Death?

Then I remembered who else Death could’ve brushed. My paternal grandmother is in the hospital because she got another stroke. I hope she gets well. I hope she wayyy outlives her husband who passed away in the 90’s in his 80’s. I miss him. I deeply regret that his last healthy years were spent bringing me to the KFC in Central Market. He was old and he wanted something strong in flavor; his sense of taste was diminishing already.

So I walked to my RM3 destination, puddles and motorbikes whizzing by. At that point I just had this premonition of limited mortality.

I reached the station anyway. I looked at the life line of my palms, in case it would animatedly erase away like what happened to Marty McFly in Back To The Future (in the movie, it was him disappearing from a picture). What a memorable scene, that was!

The last time I felt like this, I wrote an unofficial will. The feeling is very… inspiring.

Ze Karma Sutra

Once you�ve been tagged, you have to write a note with 16 random things, shortcomings, facts, habits or goals about you. At the end choose 16 people to be tagged, listing their names and why you chose them. You have to tag the person who tagged you.

Ze Great (Random) 16 According to Ze Great Albert
1. I have a wah pedal but no electric guitar
2. I can sing 3 solos or riffs from whatever favorite music I list on Facebook (that’s how I quantify if they’re favorite enough or not)
3. I have athletic legs but nobody knows this because I wear long trousers all the time
4. My secret to long, wavy, lustrous hair is to reduce on oil-cleaning substances like shampoo
5. I programmed my own blog system which is in use now, as well as the first incarnation of the Xfresh blog, based on it
6. I was doing AJAX before it was called AJAX and before there was Firefox
7. Gmail never works for me, it tends to fail to load
8. Firefox before 2.0 never worked for me either
9. MSN Messenger stopped working for me and it lags like nothing I’ve ever seen before
10. I practically don’t use the F-word
11. I still have not figured out the right ratio of coffee to creamer to sugar
12. Some people think I’m an artist or deejay
13. The artist bit is true somewhat, I tended to doodle a lot in school and some meetings
14. I miss my old office where we could see chicks walk in and out of the elevator in front of us everyday
15. I don’t watch any contemporary series e.g. Heroes or Lost
16. I often don’t follow the format… for example here, I didn’t tag anybody! I’m even kind enough not to tag Jolin back!

9-11, Moonshine!

Moonshine September 11th 2008, Laundry Bar!

And that was the return of the Qings & Kueens, one of the most melodic hard rock bands out there.

Onto something brilliant and vastly technical – Tokyo Blue!

I would like to hereby declare them “dramatic jazz”. You heard it here first!

They are the shadows of other great bands before them, which each member came from.

Ywenna! I first knew her as one half of Rhapsody. What a classic duo that was.

Poova! Poova-ful voice. She brings the band into verse-chorus-verse sensibility.

So how do you make a post-rock band? First, you place a few pedals on the floor. Don’t bother connecting them, let the static jump between pedals, causing an ad hoc wireless connection. So you don’t have to go through all the trouble to make the white noise – it will all come to you naturally.

Then, you get a diverse drummer.

Oh and a prerequisite is a Fender Jaguar, Mustang or Jagstang. Those switches add to post-rockingness!

But seriously man, I like Furniture.

And then, there was the Stoned Revivals.

Vandal popped by to drop a line.

Netto @ Latte @ 8

The answer to my question as to who is being watched, is of course Andrew Netto!

For some reason, I like this shot of him the most. It’s as if the stars fell into place.

Rewind to when he had shorter hair…

…and the college girl skit.

One staple is of course, the dance skit. Someday when he has all his stuff up on Youtube I’ll be able to reference it.

He is joined by the Ramanados for a song!

This is one of his many politician skits, I’m sure.

This is his rempit skit. Gotta love the voice he puts on for this!

As of late I find I am unable to ‘put on voices’. This saddens me.

Seeing the difference in tie and suit made me realize that I don’t actually have any suits. This also saddens me.

Don’t mind this shot, he’s actually generally acknowledged as Malaysia’s youngest stand-up comedian. (Does that mean that other stand-ups only get into stand-up later in their lives, as a sideline to their thespian activities? Perhaps. But Andrew wasn’t a thespian as far as I knew.)

Sometime 24th October 2008, I caught Latte@8 (you mean they still show this?)

Jason Lo himself does a stand-up routine before his show.

Audience impressions.

Well I laughed! So I must have an advanced sense of humor, as he does. Catch him on Actorlympics and his jokes are some of the sharper ones!

Al Jazeera reporters know how to cycle their face to different cameras every few seconds. I kid you not.

Then it was Mr. Netto’s turn to be on the show, giving a stand-up routine before that.

He uncovers what’s under his jacket…

…before his interview with Jason the Chelsea fan.


Interestingly, in an earlier part of the interview with the reporter, Jason blurted out his radio station affiliation, which is in a competitor company to the company which produces Latte@8… on live TV. I know if he did the reverse, the competitor company would freak out and go all out on damage control.

Eh come back la.

It’s no longer the Tak Nak guy or the Drummer Boy or the Estranged drummer Azwin Andy – it’s now DJ Nas-T, or Abu of KAMI. KAMI was a great movie, by the way…

It had been a long time since I’d seen him. I told him what I thought about the movie. He asked, “Did you cry when I died?

Oh shit, I don’t remember if I did.

Oh shit, I just gave out a spoiler.

But now that I think about it, yes I did cry. And ironically Winamp’s randomizer picked Johnny Cash – Cry Cry Cry.

And then, it was Laila’s Lounge to end the set.

These boys will be up on Fat Boys Records’ annual (well, almost, forgoing 2007) rock festival, Rock The World 8.

Say what?

What: Rock The World 8
When: 12 noon to 12 midnight, 20th December 2008
Where: The Secret Garden, Merdeka Stadium (in other words, the parking lot)
How Much: RM25. Tickets are available at Extreme outlets, Music Valley, Rock Corner, Maju Junction Mall and at the event itself.
Who: Butterfingers, Estranged, One Buck Short, OAG, Koffin Kanser, Pure Vibracions, The Times, Bunkface, Republic Of Brickfields, They Will Kill Us All, Zip Zieller, Upon Arrival, Komplot, Laila’s Lounge, The Otherside Orchestra, Revenge

Yes you’re probably thinking the same thing, haven’t we seen most of these bands before? Heck who cares man, it’s the one festival to bump into all your rocker buddies and have a good headbang!

Oh and then there’s Moonshine: A Homemade Acoustic Show this weekend.

What: Moonshine: A Homemade Acoustic Show
When: 9:30pm to 12:30am, 22nd November 2008
Where: The Apartment Downtown, KLCC
How Much: Free, but buy one of them funky drinks
Who: Mia Palencia (jazz/soul diva!), Melina William, Zalila Lee and Slowjaxx

Melina on acoustic! This is a rare show, where this progressive guitar hero plays tunes meant for an entire band with all the riffs and parts all crammed into one guitar while she sings.

No Tie Guessing

One of many nights at No Black Tie.

The new one, that is… the old one was located nearer to Jalan Nagasari.

Oh, and the old one didn’t have two floors. I think.

I love these photos. Especially the one in the middle, lower row.

Attentive crowd.

Yup, somebody’s got their attention alright.

This makes for easy shots with the Minolta 50mm F1.4.

So, who are they all watching?

Any guesses?

Some of them seem to be… amused.

And some of them seem to be amused all the time.

But anyway, onto more clues…

This band, the Ramanados, play before and after the show. Whose show?

They rock out!

Rock is not a challenge to them. (Well except that one time I expected to hear the solo for School Of Rock when it came, but didn’t.)

Doesn’t Greg look a little bit Memphis?

These guys have outfitted better since the first few times I’d seen them.

These black-and-white shots were of course processed with my
How to make low-contrast black-and-white from digital color photos


I got myself a mint boxed Minolta 24-105mm F3.5-4.5(D). Sweet! Now my Minolta Dynax 7 has its proper, official kit lens. Not the Minolta 28-80mm F3.5-5.6 Silver edition kit lens that Malaysians love because they can’t afford the good kit lenses. Well my Dynax 7 came with such a silver lens anyway.

Ironically, the box is from Japan, but I’m putting it on a Minolta Dynax 7 (in the US they’d call it a Minolta Maxxum 7, and in Japan they’d call it a Minolta Alpha 7). So it’s kinda mismatched.

And so that brings my zooms to a new lineup, from left to right:
Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX, Minolta 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 (D), Cosina 70-210mm F2.8-4 1:2.5x Macro, Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan, Sigma 70-210mm F4-5.6, Tamron 200-400mm F5.6.

And then I have my primes in a new lineup, from left to right:
Peleng 8mm F3.5 circular fisheye with chipped M42 to Alpha mount adapter (reads as a 50mm F1.7), Vivitar 24mm F2.0 DIY tilt-shift, Minolta 50mm F1.4 Original, Kenko Teleplus 1.5x teleconverter, Kenko Teleplus 2x teleconverter.

I wouldn’t mind this lineup for travelling though – the only thing missing is a Minolta 24mm F2.8. Left to right:
Peleng 8mm F3.5 circular fisheye in M42, Minolta 50mm F1.4 Original, Jupiter-9 85mm F2.0 in M42.

I’d pocket 2 primes and put the other on the camera. Or maybe the 8mm would be better a Zenitar 16mm F2.8 diagonal fisheye, on full-frame.

I had the chance to reassess the Jupiter-9, thanks to this dealer of classics…

Soft glowy look wide-open, with nice creamy bokeh in the back.

And this is what happens with a manually-focused 50mm F1.4 when you get too close.

Minolta 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 (D) at 30mm F4 1/20s ISO1600 (the markings said 35mm but what the heck.)

Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX at 35mm F4 1/20s ISO1600. Despite having identical settings, the light transmission of the Sigma is weaker and has less contrast. There’s also a less glowy look in the bokeh.

Initially I wasn’t sure about the 24-105mm but after doing a side-by-side comparison, I am seeing a bit more of the Minolta heritage in it. It doesn’t come close to the look of the beercan or the other classics of that era (28-135mm F4-4.5 tank, 24-50mm F4, 28-85mm F3.5-4.5) but this’ll do.

And this is what reassured me even further. Minolta 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 (D) at 85mm F6.3 1/25s ISO400. With the 100% image you can spot some detail.

What if we brightened up the center part? This is a 100% crop, boosted up (hence the noise.)

Ever tried to count the rain?

Minolta 50mm F1.4 at F1.4 and ISO6400 with noise reduction turned off. This is a JPG, but RAW should give better results.

100% crop. Well, you could count the rain in the tiny plane of focus…

And then, for some lens box spotting! What initially caught my eye was the Sony 500mm F8 Reflex box – it had the new design, with lens design on the box, and white trims.

Older boxes had shiny silver trims. This was deemed not environmentally friendly, so Sony changed their boxes to have white trims. You can see if something is old or unmoved stock by the shiny silver trims!

The second thing that really caught my attention was the Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG for Alpha mount! There was also the venerable Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.5 Macro in A-mount, a great lens that never is too close to the subject. I also spied a Sigma 50mm F2.8 Macro in A-mount!

What an interesting turn of events to see A-mount lenses being stocked, what more the rarer ones.

Testing the Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG’s minimum focus distance of 28cm at 12mm F4.5. Pretty decent, though I think the Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC enlarged the face more because of its minimum focusing distance of 24cm!

Compare this to the Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 at 14mm F2.8 and minimum focus distance of 28cm.

Despite both lenses having a MFD of 28cm, why does the Sigma enlarge more? Possibly due to differing focus mechanisms.

12mm. There’s definitely more around, and above, than the average ultra wideangle lens!

15mm (which is what the Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC gives you on a 1.5x crop body.)

17mm (which is what the Sony 11-18mm F4.5-5.6 DT gives you.) As you can see, framing has changed between shots, so don’t look at it based on framing alone.

Anyway, on to other brands. The Pentax K-m has a nice glow and trims, and it focuses pretty darn fast!

The Canon Powershot SX10IS is big, the size of a small dSLR. It has a whopping 28-560mm equivalent zoom. Amazing! But the buttons and the button layout feels weird compared to its predecessor the S5IS.

Oh, and the Canon 5D MkII. I tried to shoot a video with the tiny CF card they inserted (I was not allowed to put in my own CF card.) After it stopped because it was full, I pressed the Play button.

And that is how I got the famous Err 99, which means “any error that does not have a specific error code“. So it could be anything, really! A common one would be a lens that has sticky aperture blades or a malfunctioning aperture blade actuator.

Oh, of course I compared viewfinders – the A900 was bigger by a large margin. The 100% coverage and 0.74x magnification really helps! I haven’t compared it to a Canon 1Ds MkIII, though, which should beat it at 100% coverage and 0.76x magnification. But the Canon is loads more expensive!

Yep, the Canon 5D MkII and Nikon D700 had about the same viewfinder surface area.

I then compared the A900 to the Nikon FM-2, and found the FM-2 to be bigger – it had 93% coverage and 0.86x magnification. The Olympus OM-1 is even more stellar, at 97% coverage and 0.92x magnification. Of course, both are manual focus SLRs and have dimmer ground glass screens so it’s not as bright, but they sure are large.

Maitani knew what he was doing when he designed the OM-1. Whatever happened to Olympus now, I don’t know really.

There is a downside to larger surface areas of viewfinders – you really need to press your eye socket against the camera to see the whole frame.

Thus, the A900 had a pretty good compromise. I like 100% coverage anytime – it makes your lenses look as wide as they should be, and disciplines your framing. The 50mm feels much wider in angle than a 35mm on the A700 with 95% coverage only.

How to make low-contrast black-and-white from digital color photos

First, download this image. This is so you can see the same effect I see when you’re editing.

In Photoshop, go Image – Adjustments – Channel Mixer. I’m using Photoshop 7 so don’t worry, this feature has been around a long time!

Tick Monochrome.

Set the Red to 0.

Now drag each slider to +100 and back to 0, to see which one has the least contrast. In my tungsten-ful shots, it’s always Green. So I leave the Green at +120.

Then, drag Blue down to negative and you will see the highlights fade into grey. I left it at -35.

At this point, you may want to bring the Green up to say +150 (so that the shirt is in the middle) while bringing the Blue down to -70. Adjust as you like.

Finally, add as much Red as you like.

I won’t show you how the final picture ended up, so you can tweak it as you like! The numbers will be different for every picture so please don’t go “oh I need to set this slider to this number and this slider…

You will notice that boosting channels will increase noise. Big deal, it’s black-and-white, it looks better! 😀

This is how I processed the pictures in Netto From The Ghetto, Live From Section Five.

Old Uncle Rant

So me and 4 other colleagues have been sent back to school for this week. In Subang Square, right next to the sights and sounds of Taylors Business School!

My class was to start at 9am, but I got off the Subang Jaya KTM station a bit too early. 7:15am to be exact. However, knowing that I would reward myself to a classic kopitiam breakfast at Uncle Lim’s (teh susu panas and roti bakar dua – hot tea with condensed milk and two pairs of toast with kaya and butter), I looked forward to it, and waltzed in through the doors of Subang Parade.

There were workers there, but it was obvious that they had not opened. So I sat on one of the chairs and closed my eyes for a bit, thinking they’d open soon…

A lady walked by a while later and asked what time they open. 8:30am, they said.

It was 7:30am! What was I to do? I could wait till 8:30am but I wouldn’t know how long the walk to Subang Square would be. It seemed near.

And so, I figured, I’ll see you later Uncle. Walked past the mosque and the McDonalds (which was 24 hours and was open for breakfast.)

Who the heck will get to have their breakfast at 8:30am? The workers who open the shops at Subang Parade at 10am? The rest of us have to work or go to class at 9am yo!

Well, I had class at 9am. Uncle Lim’s Subang Parade, have you hardly any time for the 9-5er? Not quite the reliable place to get a fix in the morning.

And so I walked towards Subang Square. Passed this van which sold yow char quai. I grabbed 2 pairs of that instead. Sizzling in the morning and a market-walking delight. It was brilliant. I would have taken a picture of it, but I ate it already.

Subang is a dirty place in the morning. Fresh falls instead of the black stains that adorn Chow Kit.

I then passed an Old Town Kopitiam in one of those shophouses. It was open! The sign outside said that it opens at 7:30am.

For once, I tip my hat to Old Town Kopitiam, they opened at the right time! Though, I still think their food and drinks are crap and deviant and taste a bit odd compared to what you’d expect if you ordered it from any normal uncommercialized kopitiam. It’s not real.

Their version of teh susu panas does not use condensed milk! Every single kopitiam I’ve been to, commercialized or not, uses condensed milk. That’s just how it is! But no, not them, there is no condensed milk in the teh susu panas at Old Town Kopitiam. Sure it may be healthy. But I say it’s a pussified version of it.

Normally, you get a spoon with teh susu panas so that you can scoop into the layer of (normally) condensed milk at the bottom of the cup, pull it up, and sip some tea while having that (normally) condensed goodness. That is the whole point of teh susu panas! You can then stir it in, or drink only the tea and leave the condensed milk behind (though I doubt you would.)

Don’t let me get started on their strange tasting roti bakar. I try a lot of commercialized kopitiams and to be fair, a lot of them don’t do it very well, often having hardened strips of butter and little kaya and overly hard toast. But Old Town Kopitiam adds to that by having this extra kick of flavor in their bread. Which, really, tastes weird.

Oh, and their hot lemon honey tea is horrid compared to their cold lemon honey tea. And traditional dishes are given untraditional touches. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something done differently in each dish. Go ahead mess around with the formula, just don’t label yourself Old Town and imply some form of authencity. Pussy teh susu panas and warped hot chocolate is not authentic!

That said, I did not patronize Old Town Kopitiam this time. (I don’t like Starbucks or Secret Recipe either but social obligations sometimes lead me there.) Yes, I’ve landed in Old Town Kopitiam enough times to try different dishes in hopes of finding something that doesn’t taste funky.

And so, I ended up in Subang Square, at a mamak I’d never been to, where I ordered a teh tarik. It tasted exactly as I had imagined it would be. Because they don’t and won’t screw it up.

Later for lunch I had a teh o ais at a different stall. It tasted exactly as I had imagined it to be. Because they don’t and won’t screw it up.

So what is it with me and Secret Recipe then? I tend to order Iced Lemon Tea whenever I’m at an establishment of such class. And theirs has indeed a secret recipe – liquid sugar, loads of it! You will not get an Iced Lemon Tea sweeter in any other joint. Now when I go there, I drink pussy tea from pussy cups.

Yeah, I like condensed milk, but not liquid sugar.

I like watching college students and their antics too, before I get my cloak and axe. Well no I don’t have a cloak or an axe. So who’s from around there, give me a buzz for lunch yo! I really don’t remember who goes to Taylor’s. I don’t know what degree you’re doing, I never remember these things. I’m a terrible friend, sorry.

1 June Day

So David came down to town and we snapped some shots at a Sony dance competition in Berjaya Times Square!

Yep, Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan goodness. 😀

Judges, my goodness!

Pick me I turned my shirt logo the right way up!

And she looks on. 1.1 meters minimum focus distance, for the win!

The beercan renders me invisible.

I kena crept behind this uncle for this shot.

I did not creep in front of Suzanne Lee for this shot. Wah damn famous now got gallery in KLCC! (Okay, fine, there was another in Avenue K a long time ago…)

I tell you ah, last time ah, I went to eat by the roadside with her ah, she just modelled for an ad ah, and then now I know that money ah, went to buy a camera ah!

Pardon my uncle moment.

Oh, I crept again. Heh heh.

No creeping required for the most photographed building in Malaysia.

Though not so commonly, from the inside, I think.

Twenty Ate

There’s a big gig!

What: Moonshine 3rd Anniversary
Where: Laundry Bar, The Curve, Mutiara Damansara
When: 9:30pm Thursday, 13th November 2008
Who: Tempered Mental, Reza Salleh, Rendra Zawawi, 40 Winks
How Much: Free but hey, buy one of them funky Laundry Bar drinks!

Yes I’m going.

Now on to more gig pictures!

20th August 2008 – Timeout KL: On The Up at No Black Tie!

Touchess, for some smooth R&B.

Silent Scenery, for the exact opposite – spacy interludes and post-rock.

This just looks like the hypnotic, delicate bit before it goes into destructive mayhem. And boy, can these boys go into destructive mayhem!

Sundae, a joyful interlude of acoustica.

Then there was Tokyo Blue. Sorry Ywenna this has to be the best angle I can get which has any light on you!

Haha you guys set me up to do a drum solo again!

But drum solos are only expected of a band full of accomplished virtuosos who have played with local legends like Jerry Felix, the Longest Playing Drummer in the Malaysian music industry. Here’s Hiro!

I knew him only as the bassist of Throne Away. Who’d have known!

Poova was the vocalist after Jaclyn Victor left Jerry’s band.

She has incredible vocal power and stage presence!

Interestingly, Tokyo Blue is kinda… bipolar. On songs with Poova they take on a soulful sound, but during the instrumentals you get dramatic jazz.

So, after which, we took some band shots.

A700 with Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX on tripod, long exposure, and I popped the flash two times for each shot, to expose the front two and the back two band members.

Most of these shots are combined from two or more shots.