One More Month

2018 is about to end very soon. Time passes quickly. 

Art posts will return soon. But before that, there are many things that I need to attend to. Mostly to do with writing. 

In the meanwhile, the end is ending with a lot of “conventions” around Malaysia. Wish I could catch a few. Here’s hoping for the opportunity. 

Have a blessed week ahead. 

NaNoWriMo 2018 – Overview (Planning Stage)

The planning stage for any writing endeavour is tedious but rewarding

There are so many angles in which I can take to ‘attack’ this challenge: do I go for a science fiction approach? Or should I go for a more ‘fictional’ approach – that is more grounded to reality? This is certainly some of the problems I seem to encounter so early in the planning stage for the month long writing marathon.

Perhaps I should do a series of short series from this ‘world’ and then try to incorporate them into a greater ‘epic’ storyline? Perhaps, but that demands a lot more planning. What interest me at the moment is cyber-technology in the 21st century – what has been proposed and envisioned in high works like Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell series (manga, anime, movies, TV series, etc.). It is an interesting backdrop of espionage, government intervention, covert operations, ethical dillemmas and all that is common to the ‘cyberpunk’ genre.

But then again, there is an angle that I have not encountered yet – perhaps it is because of my lack of indulgence in the local scene – cyberpunk in my own country; Malaysia. How would that scene look like in the 22nd century? Will we still be a sovereign nation, that is still established on a British governmental system? Would the political scene change? Would the ethnic breakdown in the country be the same? How different would the international scene be? I suspect, for some time now, that there will be a big clash between the two major superpower blocks – which one can argue is led by America and China, or the West against the East. Would that be the time when global issues escalate and ‘correct’ itself in cyberspace? How damaging will it be? With every nook of our economy tied to cyberspace, it is not wrong to make extreme speculation – of mass genocide and displacement of people, especially the identity of people. Imagine, in a time when paper records are nearly extinct, what happens when whole information servers are wiped out? Along with the backups? What about digital money and the function of banks, exchanges in countries? How will this affect individuals and societies? Will anarchy reign? There is another angle as well – religion. In a world that is so fragmented by the issue of religion, how will religion comfort, correct or confront the problems posed in a global cyberwarfare? Is the developed nations prepared for such radical changes? What if the Chinese people that are globally dispersed are coerced somehow to unite against the rest? What if religion unite and seek to overthow the ‘godless’ pagans? Where can we find refuge? Where can we find sanctuary in a world that is physically hostile to a people who had never bothered to care for her?

This is interesting. This requires a lot of research to bring out the issues, and more importantly, the horrible truth of how close we are to such a situation. In the midst of a modern, global warfare (physical and digital), how would a small country that is filled with political, societal and economical problems cope? Will there be liberalisation of the people or a conservative progression? Who will take advantage of the chaos? Who will be the heroes? And if history ever teach humans anything, it is this: heroes are often those who sacrifice what others are unwilling to give up. These are the ones who are forgotten or made into scapegoats after the resolution of the issues. Heroes, true heroes, are never remembered fully for what they have done – but their weaknesses and failings are exploited by the wicked and wolves.

When I posit the context in this way – it is certainly an interesting backdrop for a novel to tackle. I believe pushing the story to the 22nd century makes more sense as the current leaps and development enjoyed by all, can never be sustained, but are confined to certain periods of human history. We have crossed that, after the last half millenium. Things will slow down, and stagnant. What will change is the moral and heart dilemmas – as we have seen in the Renaisance and then the Reformation, so also we will see huge global heart issues that will challenge our very existence, the question of ‘why are we here?’ and ‘what are we here for?’.

Would a ‘budak kampung’, a village boy, survive in a world that is so entrenched in the digital world of the 22nd century? Will this young man in his late teens who has lived his life off-the-grid be able to reclaim his identity that has been stolen by a covert cabal of powerful political individuals to orchestrate the elaborate downfall of the nation’s financial system – and commit political assassination of the top governmental officers. How can this young man fight in a world that is so foreign and alien to him, and not only survive, but thrive against external forces that seek to destroy the last resistance of the newly established empire in the East? Here is an unlikely hero, along with his motley companions, who will learn the pain, trials and failures of fighting against odds in an unknown world; for the sake of a people who will never acknowledge, accept and allign with them.

My tentative title for NaNoWriMo 2018:

“Identity_Unknown: Kamal_Asrin”

Or

“Doxing Cyforce57”

Spider-Man TRAPPED! Injured Web-Crawler in the Next #INKTOBER Post!

I should be happy that I have managed to churn out ANOTHER new Inktober sketch! Inktober is coming to a CLOSE and I have to admit that I am glad for my participation even though the art has been less than stellar. But I vow to improve, and improvement COMES from constant practice, so ART will not stop even though Inktober is coming to an end.

As I was ideating for today’s art, I was surprised that I have not covered my favourite Super-hero, GOOD OLE-Spidey! Peter Parker is someone that is easily relatable. Even though he was conceived in the 60’s, his circumstances is different from the ‘classy’ heroes in publication then. He was no millionaire, nor an alien, or one who is a role model to the disadvantaged. In fact, HE WAS CONSTANTLY disadvantaged. Even his powers is a disadvantage to him, as it gave him an awareneess of responsibility – the burden of caring for others, instead of himself. Whereas his friends were able to do as they like, Peter was constantly late for classes, struggling with finances and worrying for his elderly aunt. His powers failed to give him the comfort and advantage he hoped for – it cost him the life of his uncle. No, Peter Parker’s life is very close to reality. Real power comes with real responsibilities.

His strength is in his determination and his perseverance to overcome his disadvantages and troubles that comes his way. And this is what we will always remember of him. Spider-man fighting ridiculous odds and yet surviving through them, doing what is right even though it will cost him. He has lost many things. His love, his wife, his family, his fortunes, and yet, we have Spider-man month after month plodding through his life.

Keto the Way to Go? All or nothing – Are You Ready to Let Go?

As I am writing this down, I have just downed a cup of Mocha, and am on my way to finishing a can of A&Was that contains 160 calories, and 39.7gm of Carbohydrates. It is obvious that I am NOT on Keto diet or lifestyle at the moment.

Having said that, my weight has improved dramatically over the period of 3 years. From a high of 84kg three years ago, I am now at a comfortable 71kg. My target before the end of this year is 69kg, but that might be tougher since I am also on a regime of adding muscles and to improve my overall strength. That is what happens when you are a confirmed hypertension person, who has been at the desk for the last decade and sedentary. Change cannot be immediate, and it cannot be momentary. The key word is ‘sustainable’.

Which brings me to this excellent article by a professor David Harper, who wonderfully states:

Harper also said many people might confuse going keto with having an excuse to fill up on bacon and eggs every morning, but it isn’t that. A proper keto diet is about 70-80% fat, with no more than 10-15% carbs. That means most people on it try to keep their carbohydrate intake below 50 grams a day and stick to only moderate amounts of protein.

I totally agree. Most people get Ketogenic diet wrong – and it is just a mini-Alkins diet that focuses on protein. This is not protein diet. This is high-fat, low-carb. And I would say that it is better to go down to 30gm a day for carbohydrates. It is a radical shift which I had played with a few times. When combined with fasting and intensive exercise (short duraction – not long ones), it is doable for the short term. But Professor Harper is right when he says – you either commit to it, or you stop.

Frankly, I am not one who can do Keto for a long time. Why? Because I love my bread, noodles, rice and other Asian food that is our STAPLE food. Look at the Japanese people – they are slim! In my two weeks holiday in Tokyo and Kyoto I COULD NOT see an obese or overweight Japanese person. The only ones overweight were foreigners! And their main food consumption? Both rice AND noodles. Besides, biblically (if you are religious) God created human beings as vegetarians. Although after the Flood they became omnivorous, yet remember, we were vegetable eaters! It is a ‘safe default’ for all of us. There is some wisdom there. Of course, if you believe in an Old World theory (evolution), then you would believe that paleo diet is better – but that is another article next time.

But it is tempting to consider Keto for the long term, especially if (like me) you are battling inflammation issues that leads one to major issues like heart problems. In Malaysia, this is a hard option to consider as keto-friendly food is NOT easily available, and you need to be of a certain income level to sustain this type of spending. Besides, you need to spend time preparing it, as you just cannot go into a store to buy keto-friendly food. However, this is something that I have been considering on and off – should I do it for long term.

The full article can be read from: https://www.businessinsider.my/ketogenic-diet-what-a-scientist-eats-2018-10/?r=US&IR=T

Anyone going to try this for the long-term? Do you think it is easier to consider this diet if there is ready and reasonably priced keto-friendly food available for purchase? Maybe I should start a keto-business in Klang Valley! Hahahaha.

Not Quite Literal…

In modern day Evangelicalism, there is much talk and words written on the matter of Christian authority. Most will cite ‘Scriptures alone’ as the Christian’s authority. In fact, they will press that only the ‘grammatical historical’ reading of Scriptures is the basis of all Christian principles and practices. True… to a certain degree.

Is it a wonder that the outcome is the divide over ‘miracles’ in the modern Christian church? Are the apostolic gifts continued to this day? Or have they ceased?

Recently (yesterday), after some discussion with some friends, this video was played, and I had to chuckle, as it clearly tells us the answer whether we should blindly practice and hold all things by a ‘literal’ literal reading of Scriptures.

Please don’t run out claiming the ‘promise’ given in:  

Mark 16:17-18 – “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

I do not think you will be as ‘lucky’ as this guy who recovered from this horrible incident!

Art is a Coping Mechanism for the Soul

These are my tools… I love the Pentel brush, and the 0.05 Pigma Micron pens.

A religious person like me, can be blind-sided by years of indoctrination and conditioning to think that religion is the only way of coping with the innards of the soul. The soul is a complicated concept, that even the most religious person finds difficult to fully define and cover. Yet, our soul affects us in various ways. Difficult conditions and circumstances may seem random, but ultimately, it is not the condition that changes the soul; rather it is the condition that brings out what is within the soul.

When religion fails the person and his soul (in Christianity, often the failure is from human intervention and participation, not because of the system or belief itself), it is foolish to keep the things within. That is where we have the arts. Woe be upon humanity if the intangible, God-given arts are not given to us! Can any definition really capture the whole essence of ‘art’? No… and in this, art really is closely connected to the soul. It is the expression of the soul; if you want more vivid description – the manifestation of the soul’s emotions, thoughts, idea, aspirations and sense – whether it is in visual or sound or even in touch! I would argue that there is art that resonates with the soul – that is beyond visual, sound and touch.

For me, music and visual arts are my coping mechanism when religion fails. In these, there are the small echoes of God’s own graces and order in display, reminding us that there is order and beauty in everything around us, the common graces that we fail to see in times of great despair. The thin lines that are laid down on paper – slowly paralleling each other, may seem almost instinctive individually. But as a whole, the ‘shade’ it gives is evidence that small ordered lines produces a greater effect than the sum of its parts. There is synergy in the little things that echo the big things in life. And it comforts us.

In a time of complexity and connectivity, no wonder ‘modern art’ is gaining ground. Many uninitiated are quick to complain the ambiguity that it gives off (at first glance), but in reality, modern art echoes our strong emotions, the underlining growth of uneasiness, insecurity and frenzy-beneath-the-surface of our generation.

I totally dig Frank Miller’s take on the Dark Knight. What is considered as a work of literature, Frank Miller pushed the envelope of what was ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and disengaged the traditional graphic novel, Western-European-Eastern comic/manga conventions.

These are not the ‘prettiest’ pages in graphic novel history… but, it is all about the emotions. The colour helps, but the style conveys these intangible notions that nothing else, even video cannot.

For me, art, regardless of whether you are the classical, traditional, modern type, is a very expressive means to understand and at least, influence our soul somewhat. Practically, it trains us to not indulge in chaos, but order. It is often in that search and practice of ‘order’ that our soul finds comfort. As the unborn child finds comfort in darkness, by the closeness of the mother, the consistent feeding and order of the womb, so we are reminded of that whenever we engage in something similar.

That is enough philosophical, personal rant on my part. Art beckons me again.

VR, Diving in!

Person with Virtual Reality headset

Hi there… 

Life has been filled with a lot of things lately. No time to continue my daily #inktober postings 🙁 However, the good news is that I am going to be “diving into” certain topics, in depth. And will share what I learn on that journey with you. Top on the list… VIRTUAL REALITY technology. This is a biggee. Many in Malaysia are trying to get the Holy Grail of modern technology into businesses. It is tricky, but the search is still on. 

I am PUMPED for this!

The Two C’s to Successful, Livable Relationships

The word ‘relationship’ is about the connection that exist between two or more persons, that is mutual. Keyword here is ‘mutual’ because a one-sided attempt to greet the other that is not reciprocated is evidence of a non-existent relationship.

Whether it is an acquaintance, or a spouse, the two basic elements is necessary to make that relationship thrive, or to progress further. It is lamentable that we are in a time when ‘effort’ is given in all things except our relationship with one another. We have taken for granted this important aspect of our life, thinking that a relationship can be ‘had’ in an instance. Perhaps our infatuation and obsession over modern technology has strengthened that notion. Is not the satisfaction derived from having over a thousand Facebook friends evidence of this? It frightening that many gauge this concept of ‘relationship’ based upon their ability to ‘accept’ a Facebook friends request.

No.

Every true relationship depends upon ‘commitment’ and ‘communication’. These are two essential components. Christians, of course, would quickly add another ‘c’ and that is ‘Christ’ into the mix, making it a three essential components. But let me be clear – even an atheist can have good, strong relationships. Biblically, relationships predate the fall of man into sin! Thus, to say that only Christians can have meaningful, deep relationships is an actual denial of their authority source.

Communication is the ‘effort’ (terrifying word for some, I know) to convey our heart’s content and to listen to the other person’s heart content. Many, and I really mean many, would immediately groan in derision and irritation, claiming that they have already KNOWN this. But if they had known this, why are they still having problems in their relationship? Why are they hardly speaking to one another? Why are they uttering or doing things to vent out their frustration at one another? Answer: they have not been communicating. Either they have been speaking too much, or they have been listening too little from the other side. Our effort in communicating to one another shows our true concern. To say to the other person: I really want to solve this, I need you and want to help us. Humility is implicit in constant, vibrant and sincere communication between two persons. It seeks not to take the other for granted. It is a wonder why many are not warmed up to this idea of taking time to ‘speak’, to ‘listen’, to put themselves in an environment where they can ‘talk’. Having the screaming kid(s) in front of the parents and then saying, ‘We need to talk’ is not a smart thing to do. The truth is that ‘communication’ needs ‘humility’ and ‘compromise’. Either one of them needs to make a compromise to facilitate communication. Best is when both makes compromises to set a time, a date, to speak. But when both are stubbornly opposed to making such compromises, it is impossible to make progress. I have seen grown men, adults and elderly persons, who only talk without letting the other party speak. Worse, even if the other party speaks, the person will ridicule, oppose, or be defensive. In rare cases, the person may even respond negatively, by ‘shutting up’ – thus, destroying the communication channel that was (up to that point) working. Businesses fail because of the failure to communicate with the partners or workers. Fight for this, if it is your heart’s desire to restore or improve our relationship.

The other is ‘commitment’. Commitment is a hard word to explain. It is better seen and exemplified than to be put in words. Yet, I will try my best. Commitment is the well where effort springs forth to work at the relationship. Commitment is loyalty, born out of time, shared experience, beliefs and other intangible elements that are precious to the parties involved. Commitment barks at everything that seeks to throw doubt or to put down the relationship. This is not something taught, but something experienced. Some may find this offensive, but the genesis, or seed, of commitment shows itself at the start of a relationship. One knows the potential of the relationship based on the show of commitment or its promise at the start. It is not something that can be easily gotten through going through a ‘diploma’ course, or by a pep talk. You CAN actually stoke commitment and grow it through certain experiences or circumstances, but those are based on blind luck. Commitment is dependable, and in some cultures, commitment is emulated, grown and nurtured like a plant. One just need to read the type of commitment that was and still is evidenced in the work conduct of the Japanese (especially after the World War 2)! Whether it is in marriage, or in friendships or in business, commitment must be encouraged. Money is a poor reason to commit, although it is the most convenient and common factor used. Why? Because the value of money changes depending on circumstances. Money is of itself, unstable, and thus, it is troublesome to put too much weight upon it.

Notice that ‘communication’ and ‘commitment’ is not mutually exclusive of each other. They have a symbiotic relationship. The more we communicate, the more we can commit. The more we commit, the more we will communicate. Yet, as in any spirals, it can move upwards (i.e. strengthen the relationship) and it can move downwards! The lack of one, will hasten the descent, as the support for the relationship breaks down slowly, but surely. Those with economic backgrounds will have horrifying pictures of hyper-inflations in mind – and this is fully applicable to human relationships as well. Even though we may ‘facepalm’ when reading extreme cases like this (http://empirenews.net/woman-violently-kills-husband-after-finding-toilet-seat-left-up/) where arguments escalate to murder over a trivial issue of toilet seats, yet we do not need to question over the possibility of these cases, as we know relationships can spiral down suddenly and disastrously!

I wrote this to put a reminder for myself. We easily take things for granted and even for the various relationships that we think we have in this world, it is foolish to forget these two important components that is needed to keep those relationships. Hope you find it helpful as well. 🙂