"The sharp knife of a short life

I've had just enough time..."

- "If I Die Young" The Band Perry

I see Beauty in many things. And like the ghosts that only speak to you if you notice them, they tell me wondrous tales. With my camera and my thoughts, I captured these as faithfully as I can to share with you. And by doing so, they gave me the reasons. And though the thousand reasons may not all be sweet and some indeed bitter; they are still reasons to live. Come to think about it, that is Life, isn't it?

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Happy Faces of the Octoberfest Parade – Part I.

I've had just enough time to...   capture smiles

My favorite smile of Octoberfest 2012

The Octoberfest is here again. It had been a year since I was last there. When friends and acquaintances learned I went to the festival, they inevitably asked “what are you doing there?” This incredulous reaction is because beyond the first glass on occasion, I don’t drink. When I told them it was accidental, I just happened to be there at that time; they shook their head as if saying it was wasted on me.

A straight line smile

A well-armed smile

Innocent smiles

That is because the Octoberfest is overwhelmingly associated with beer drinking. But it is not only that – though copious amounts of beer does flow. For the 16 days Octoberfest 2012, one source estimated that 7.5 million of the one-litre Mass glasses were consumed! That was a lot of beer and a lot of “beer corpses”. There were a lot of lost and found including 93 children, a French horn, a hearing aid, two wedding rings (someone is getting into BIG trouble) and a pair of trousers. The last item was a really strange one, wonder what he was wearing if any. 

A shy smile

A cheeky smile

A Colgate smile

But there are other sides of Octoberfest and we have explored several themes such as the weather "Fun In October Rain" and even clothing "Why Men Dress UP?" among others. For this post, I just want to make everyone happy. And what better ways than to look at happy people and hope that it will rub off on us and make us smile to see others smile.

A complacent couple smile

A royal smile

Smiles by the dozen

A smile is a very fleeting thing. You got to catch it when it appear. It can disappear before you ready to capture it. So unlike other posts, this is not about good photography. It is about good smiles. Pardon the photography and appreciate the smiles. They are for you :)

A holding-something-back smile

An unstoppable smile

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Beauty From Destruction in Myanmar – Part II. (Arts From Disaster)

I've had just enough time to...   ponder on the irony of Life

The monkey peeking out to see if the storm is over...

Driving along the University Avenue road in Yangon, you will pass by an amazing display of huge wooden sculptures all along it and in front of the Sayasan Plaza. Many of them are carved out of fallen trees toppled by the Cyclone Nargis in 2008. ( See Part I – The Tragedy of Cyclone Nargis). The trees that were brought down by the storm that could not be saved ended up as raw materials for sculptors who used it as a most fitting tribute to the fallen trees.

The tall giraffe cautiously stands on high ground...

The lizard gape in wonder at having survived the storm...

Ironically, these trees also helped the sculptors as they provided them with much needed materials for their carving as they were suffering from a scarcity of woods in recent years. This problem was solved at least for the time being as an indirect consequence of the disaster. It also served to raise the awareness of Myanmese wood carvings. Exhibitions were held both within and outside the country to promote the art and the tragedy was a good platform to do so. This is the irony of Life, what it takes away with one hand, it also gives with another.

The proud peacock could not believe her luck...

The leopard growled remembering the storm...

The most prized wood for carving is the famed teak wood but this has become increasingly difficult to obtain. The trees salvaged after Cyclone Nargis however were Koako, a type of banyan tree and does not fetched as high a price as teak wood. Still, the sculptors were unexpectedly gifted with an abundance of valuable raw materials to work on. Most of the sculptures themselves were carved the traditional styles and the most popular subjects seem to be animals whether real or mythical. These are some examples of the wooden sculptures.

The girl is pleased that peace is again at hand...

Isn't it an irony of Life that such destruction should give birth to such beauty?

The gentle white Rhino lay contently on the grass...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Beauty From Destruction in Myanmar – Part I. (The Tragedy of Cyclone Nargis)

I've had just enough time to...   see wood carved from fallen trees

A typical farmhouse in the Irrawaddy Delta, Myanmar

In the last week of April, 2008, a low pressure system built up in the Bay of Bengal. On April 27, the Indian Meteorological Department declared that it has strengthened to a tropical depression. The depression moved north-northwest and was upgraded to the cyclone, Nargis on April 28. Equivalent to a category 1 hurricane, it picked up speed and intensity to wind of 100 mph making it to a category 2 equivalent on April 29. Cyclone Nargis made landfall on May 2, near the town of Wagon, Myanmar and moved inland but along the coast of the rich and densely populated Irrawaddy Delta. It had by then attained a peak wind of 135 mph (equivalent to a category 4) destroying everything in its path.

The very flat Irrawaddy Delta is especially vulnerable to the destruction coming from the sea

Trees, houses, people, everything living or non-living in its path were swept away. If not by the ferocious wind, then by the storm surge of above 7 meters (21 feet) sweeping up to 50 Kilometer (30 miles) up the delta. There was catastrophic devastation and it has been estimated that 138,000 lost their lives and 2.4 million people were severely affected. Some entire population of villagers was killed and wiped off the surface of the earth. Population and villagers just disappeared, never to be recovered. This was the worst natural disaster of Myanmar and caused untold sufferings long after the storm subsided.

The Cyclone Nargis is like a blind ferocious beast that attack everything in its path

Long after the storm subsided, there were trees were all over the land. The awesome power of Nargis uprooted 75 per cent of the trees in Yangon. It was estimated that more than 10,000 old-aged trees were downed of which 6,000 of them were up-righted and saved. Some of these trees were between 30 to 100 years old. Those trees that could not be saved were turned by sculptors into works of arts. More than 50,000 sculptures have been created, exhibitions were held and even a ‘sculpture village’ was created for the sculptors to work and to house these sculptures. Join me for Part II where I will showcase more examples of the fine sculptures.

A Naga (dragon) carved out from one of the fallen trees.

Below is a video of the destruction of the Cyclone Nargis. Please be warned that some of the images of this photo video are very graphic and may be disturbing. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Cactus Rain

I've had just enough time to...   bear the stings of the cactus rain

Cactus and Cactus Rain outside my office one sunny day

Yesterday when the sun was hot
Of a sudden, it rains like needles
Take cover!
It’s the cactus rain, falling down
Like needles from Heaven
Piercing the ants, stabbing slugs
Spearing the fish, drowning cats
What it cannot kill, it hurts
Oh, how it hurts – the cactus rain

I am a cactus,
I hate the cactus rain!

Even the cactus doesn't like the cactus rain

I love the rain, most of the time. I love gentle rain that lasted for hours, like a mist cover. I love cool rain after the heat that brings immediate relief. I love heavy rain that smear the land into indistinctive shapes. I love violent rain that shakes and makes the coconut palm dance like one in trance. I love the rains at night when they raise the frogs’ sound. I love the rain, most of the time. But sometimes, it rains on my parade. Sometimes, it adds insult to injury. Sometimes, it makes me miserable and wet. Sometimes, it hurts like the damn cactus rain.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Thoughts on Dying and Death.

I've had just enough time to...   mourn the passing of a friend

Death in the Cycle of Life in the lotus pond in Taiping Lake 

Last night (this was written before my trip and posted after) I attended the funeral of one of my friend’s mother. We who were a closely knitted group during high school, now meet as a group only on weddings and funerals. I was the youngest and had left the group though some members still meet regularly for badminton and suppers twice a week. Thus, I have not much to add to the free-flowing conversations but listened with interests. They are good friends but I was always sort of an outsider within, then and now. The trouble was and is with me - a loner of thoughts, a dreamer, impractical and more than a little odd. They on the other hand were regular guys out for a good time, uncomplicated.

Our conversation was not a happy one that night. Not because of the passing of our friend’s mother. Most of us in the group treated death quite casually. The aged have lived their life. They died. It is meant to be. There is nothing particularly sad about it. Death is accepted with resignation, more than sorrow. We may recalled some episodes that involved the dead, felt a few tucks at the heart but generally accepted that death is inevitable and that dragging on just create suffering all round. In this, we are surprisingly similar in thoughts and feelings. Thus, there is very little sadness felt in the funerals we attended of the aged.

We were sad that night because our conversation is not about the dead but the dying and it concerned one of our gang. We learned that one of us did not make it that night because he is terminally ill in hospital with pancreatic cancer, last stage.  Four chemos in a month, the unbearable pain, the despair. In the end, it did not make a difference. He is dying. Why are we talking like he is a piece of bad news? Why are we not feeling it like a blow that floored us? Why are we not on the floor?

Many leaves and flowers have fallen leaving the branches bare...

So many memories. More of his idiosyncrasies than his virtues. More of his embarrassing behaviors than the quiet conversations we had. It made me sad that I did not express any of this to my friends. Why didn’t I? Is it because grief is a very private matter and cuts too close to share it honestly without devaluing the purity of the emotion? Maybe my friends are feeling the same but they are not showing it either. I asked his brother-in-law how was his emotional state. The answer pained me and I wonder (not for the first time) how I would feel if it is me.

One friend remarked that if I wanted to see him, I should visit soon. Again, the thought what I would want if I were him circled like vultures over my head. I know I would hope for a dignified death but if I cannot have that, I would not want others (including my friends) seeing me in a pitiful wasted condition suffering from pain from which they are helpless to release me from. I would not want that. I think it will make me feel worse if my friends visit me. But then, that is me. How would he think? What would he think of me as a friend for not even coming to say the last farewell? What would my other friends think, all of whom will do what most will do? Because they are my friends, what they think of me do matters but should I do what is expected of me or do what feels right? There is no right or wrong, that much I know. But do I follow my heart and my thoughts of doing what is best for my friend or what is best for me? I know if I did not see him before my trip to China, I will probably not see him again after my return.

On my first day in China, I received a text message informing me of his passing...

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Statistician’s Dilemma

I've had just enough time to...   throw away my calculations

Taken in a back street of Surabaya, Indonesia where...

The statistician attended a birthday party
The princess got a Barbie and a pony
Everybody was supposed to be happy
The parent looked on anxiously

The statistician took a trip overseas
Wandered through streets that tourists miss
Watched children played in the underbelly
Where no one is supposed to be happy

Crunch his figures, do his maths
Calculate probability
Found no correlativity
Happiness is not measured in toys

It may be measured against something called love
But love itself cannot be measured against anything…

After visiting the Chinese temple in Surabaya in the last two posts, I walked through the back streets adjacent to the temple. I liked walking through the back streets if I perceived it is safe for I can discover many things one will miss in the main streets. This is how the residents of the city actually lived and you get to have a glimpse of the families going about their daily affairs which I always find very interesting.

I came across a few kids sitting on the floor with the eldest in school uniform holding a work book and explaining something to two younger girls while the youngest looked at me with interest. When they realized I’m taking their photos, they reacted by covering their faces with their hands and book. They were incredibly cute and innocent. Unlike mine, their lives look uncomplicated and happy.

these innocents shielded their eyes from a foreign devil... :)

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