Easy on the ice
Article from the Sun daily (posted on 21 June 2016)
CUTTING a fine figure on the rink, Julian Yee glided across the ice before he executed a perfect jump shot.
Much like his earlier pirouette, as well as the other acrobatic stunts he pulled, his smile remained in place.
And this, according to him, is the most challenging aspect of figureskating.
"Although what we do is very tough, we still need to make it look effortless," said the 19-year-old.
Yee is a national figure skater who has made Malaysia proud time and again.
In addition to his various national and international accolades, he secured Malaysia's first ever spot at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics; became the first Malaysian to qualify for the World Figure Skating Championships in Boston, USA; and the only Malaysian to break the 200 mark after scoring 202.94 points (a personal best).
Currently ranked number 52 in the International Skating Union's World Standings,Yee is also one step away from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea – all he needs is a good performance at the
2017 World Figure Skating Championships as that will be the stepping stone for his entry into the Olympics.
How did you get involved in figureskating?
When I was four, my mother wanted to learn skating so she brought my brother and I along to her classes. Whilst it began as a hobby, it eventually developed into my passion.
Is figure-skating similar to ballet and gymnastics?
To an extent, yes. In figureskating, we have to incorporate a lot of different aspects, so I have to take up dancing, ballet, and more. Basically, we have to do everything that a ballerino or gymnast
does but in speed, and while trying to balance on ice. It's really not as simple as people perceive.
When you're on the rink, what usually occupies your mind?
Normally, my pre-practice habit is to set out everything that I have to do, so my focus is always on that. Similarly, during a competition, I take one step at a time. Let's say, in the programme I need to do three jumps so I'll concentrate on each jump individually.I can't think of everything at once, because it'll jumble up my mind and cause confusion.
What is a psychological barrier that figure skaters face?
You need to want it badly. If you only want to do this for fun, then go ahead and adopt it as a hobby, but if your ambition is to be a professional skater, then it's all in the mind – stay focused
and believe in yourself.
Why did you start a GoFundMe campaign to support your 2018 Winter Olympics quest?
Figure-skating is a winter sport, thus it's still new and unknown to many Malaysians. As such, I do not receive sufficient funds from the authorities nor do we have proper facilities and training here. In order to step up my game for the Olympics, I need the guidance and expertise of experienced coaches overseas, and this is beyond my parents' means. I do not want financial constraints to hinder my goal of promoting this sport and putting Malaysia on the figure-skating map, hence I decided to seek support from the public.
You said that you don't have the luxury of proper facilities and guidance. Can you elaborate on this?
In Malaysia, we only have two rinks and a half. So when I train here, I have to practise among the public. Access to limited rinks also means that ice time is scarce – it's either early in the
morning or late at night. And since we only have one Olympic-size rink, which opened last year, it's not really conducive to prep for competitions.
Moreover, I've come to the point where I've surpassed the experience and level of my coach here, so I have to train alone by trial and error.
Biggest fan of: Daisuke Takahashi.
Can't live without: Malaysian food.
Competitions per year: At least eight.
Life principle: "I don't dream, I set goals."
GoFundMe page: www.gofundme.com/x42k55c4
Article from the Sun daily by Michelle Lim (posted on 16 June 2016)
IF there's ever a time when music can be produced without creative limitations, that time is now. One of the many self-producing artistes of the current generation is the two-women band, +2dB.
Despite hailing from the same home state of Penang, Jo Ann Choo, 27, and Jeannie Lee, 26, only met each other in Kuala Lumpur through a mutual friend.
"We formed our band in 2011, and made a few tracks together which we shared on SoundCloud. Soon after we released a few of our tracks, we scored our first gig for Shock Circuit, held at
Black Box, Publika," recalled Choo.
The duo epitomises music makers of the new era – artistes who do not rely on a record label or studio to create music. Indeed, most of +2dB's music is recorded and produced in Lee's living room.
Choo laughed, adding, "At times, we get some external noises like rain, traffic and construction. That's okay though; we think they give a unique touch to our music."
Splitting their time between work and music-making is part and parcel of being an independent artiste. Although Lee works part-time as a barista, and Choo works in advertising, both have learnt to work around each other'sschedules to make time for music.
"We tend to take it easy. It's only when we have an upcoming gig that we'd rehearse more often, just so we don't make a fool of ourselves onstage," Lee confessed.
So, why the name +2dB?
We started off without a name and needed one urgently after we scored our first gig. We wrote down a few names and told our friends to pick one, and they picked +2dB for us.
We think it's because this name has the most electronic feel to it since 'dB' technically stands for decibel.
What would you say your genre is?
Experimental. We have all kinds of sounds in the mix – electronic, down tempo, pop ambient, house and so on. We try to play with as many different sounds as possible.
Tell us about your creation process.
We start by creating the beats first. Once we have that, we'll add in the melody, before finally fitting in the lyrics. Our workflow is sort of backwards, but we prefer to craft the sound first and then wrap the experience around it.
Who does what?
Jo Ann taught herself to use the musicediting software, and she has also done a course in sound engineering. Jeannie was classically trained on the piano so she's able to work with the melody.
We each have our own specific talents, but we take our turns in doing everything.
What's your take on online music downloads and streaming?
Most artistes hate it because they don't make money out of it, but our strategy is to make money out of our shows rather than our songs.
Providing free downloads and streams to our fans helps create a buzz, and honestly, it's a give and take situation.
Last year you went on your first international tour to South Korea. Tell us about that.
It was so unexpected; we got an invitation from Merit & Wave, the organiser. We played in three major cities: Daegu, Busan and Seoul – it was a great experience. Everything was amazing; the vibe, culture, setting and the people.
That sounds super fun. What about the least fun moments in your career?
Oh man, that was in 2014 when the Future Music Festival (FMFA) was cancelled. We were backstage and ready to go, but found out that it was cancelled at the last minute. It was a lot of wasted time and effort for us and all the other artistes who were performing that night. That same
year, the Good Vibes Festival didn't happen either, which was a bummer.
What's +2db's dress code?
All black! We try to play with different pieces – flowy skirts, long maxi dresses, kickass black boots – but everything's black.
What is the next big thing for +2db?
There is a music video in the works for our song Cheap Perfume featuring Ali Aiman. Also, we hope to do more international tours this year.
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 14 June 2016)
IN a culture where academia takes precedence and most parents want their children to be corporate professionals, it's nice to know that some families let their children take the path less travelled. One of the latter is artist Yeoh Choo Kuan, who recently got into Forbes' 30 Under 30 Asia list under The Arts category.
"My father likes art, but he needed to focus on the business to raise our family. So he feels like I'm realising his dream," Yeoh theorised.
The Kota Bharu lad started out drawing Power Rangers masks for his friends back in primary school and later went on to pursue art in secondary school. But he only, really became exposed to fine art when he furthered his studies in Dasein Academy of Art. The rest, they say, is history.
What does your art focus on?
People are usually not open enough to accept my paintings because they find them quite provocative and dark. My previous works explored eroticism and brutality, but I was not trying to celebrate them. The paintings were really to reveal the behavioural codes and queer cultural norm of paraphilia. It's a psychological syndrome that largely occurs around us but is rarely discussed. The awareness perhaps would be the only message I hope to deliver through my art.
Would you say painting is an outlet for you to release your emotions?
It used to be, in the beginning. It was all about self-expression and emotions. But then it came to the point where I felt like my paintings were almost self-indulgent. It's too much because you cannot continue repeating your emotions and expressions. Emotion is a one-off thing – you do it, understand it, then it's done.
What I'm doing now is more of understanding where all these emotions come from, and how they form. I'm looking at my dark side from a human behavioural study perspective.
How do you want viewers to feel when they look at your art?
There's no particular fixed meaning that I want to deliver to somebody. My works are very much self-confessions, but the point should be the questions that come to the audience's minds when they see my work.
There is no right or wrong answer. Its not about answers – it's about asking questions. That's the crucial and major factor of understanding and appreciating art.
Do you think being in Forbes' 30 Under 30 Asia is a good platform for you to penetrate the international art scene?
I think it benefits the local people. They start to think that maybe it's a good idea to let children do what they like. It changes the mindset of locals about being an artist. People around me also start getting interested in my paintings, which will generate the idea of looking at art, questioning fine art, paintings and artists.
Where does your inspiration derive from?
The internet, but there's too much information nowadays. Inspiration really depends on the technique of critical thinking or organising information. I used to blindly take in a lot of info – it's dangerous for artists. Absorbing everything you can get from the internet becomes a habit because it's too convenient; and it becomes greed without a second layer of thought.
But I got out from it and started writing a lot – it helps me organise my Fervent. thoughts. But inspiration from the internet comes with varied possibilities. For instance, Instagram browsing exposes you to the diversities of what interests other people and what they choose to show. I find the connection between random images surprising and inspiring, almost like making a sketch with instant ideas and juxtaposed elements.
Putting herself on the map
Article from the Sun daily by Rachel Law (posted on 9 June 2016)
GROWING up with a diplomat for a mother, Luwita Hana Randhawa got to experience her childhood and teens (literally) off the beaten track. She has called South Africa and Brazil her home, pursued her studies in film and theatre in New Zealand, before taking up improv (comedy) in New York.
"My first ambition was to be a screen actor; to make and be in films. But then I realised I'm not a traditional actor, in the sense that I wouldn't want to live my life going for auditions, presenting monologues and waiting for people to select me. That's why I went for comedy, because then I can just make my own stuff," revealed the 27-year-old.
Although she's established herself in the local comedy scene for four years now - being shortlisted in UK's Funny Women Awards and presenting two sold-out shows along the way - the England-made, Seremban-born is not limiting herself to delivering punchlines, nor is she retiring from nomadic life.
"My end goal is actually television. I'm working to base myself overseas, so I need to keep performing as much as I can and keep writing. I want to be on a show or sitcom," shared Luwita.
Where do you think you got your funny bone from?
From my mama. I'm kidding. That's an interesting question. My dad. He's not funny like in telling jokes, but in a social situation he likes to be a performer a little bit, saying things that people would laugh at.
You've performed in so many countries. How different is it for you to perform overseas and at home?
For me the biggest struggle has been operating as a third culture Malaysian in a Malaysian scene that favours local flavour. It's hard for me to have a 10/10 show here - the laughs I get tend to be tepid.
There's always a slight disconnect with the Malaysian audience which is difficult because as a performer, audiences like you more if you're relatable.
It's partly my fault, because as a writer I haven't figured out how to connect with them. I might be a little too white because I talk about things like Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey, but Malaysians like to hear about what's around them. That's not their fault, and it's not mine either. But the disconnect keeps me behind, I would say.
Where do you think you shine brightest, then?
I did a show in New York last year at the Greenwich Village Comedy Club. A lot of my set was new stuff, and I touched on a lot of things that had to do with popular culture. The crowd really liked it. It was good to know that somewhere, my set would resonate. So that felt really good.
Speaking of New York, we know you adore (actress, comedienne and writer) Mindy Kaling and met her there! What do you love about her?
I met her at the 2014 New Yorker Festival, it was really amazing. At that point in my life, Mindy meant a lot to me because I started to cut down on socialising that year and the year before. I spent more time on my own, and a lot of what I did was to watch TV. One of the shows that I really liked was The Mindy Project, which she created and starred in. In some ways, Mindy was like my spirit animal.
Tell us about District Lumper and what can we look forward to next?
My end goal is the screen, so a good way to work towards that is to make sketches. District Lumper is an online video collective I started last November with two other comedians to make little sketches. Sketches are the next phase for me, in terms of comedy.
Gaming for a living
Article from the Sun daily by Yeevon Ong (posted on 7 June 2016)
CAPTAIN of the Fnatic Dota 2 team, Chai Yee Fung is undoubtedly the Malaysian Dota 2 icon. The 26-year-old has been playing the online video game for more than 10 years, having participated in hundreds of tournaments both small and major, and taken home more than US$400,000 (RM1.6 million) of prize money to date.
Chai is known for his long-standing title as the best player in Malaysia as well as his vast experience in the multiplayer game of action and strategy. His biggest strength is his years of dedication to the game, upon which he relies on when "drafting" (selecting and banning of hero characters), planning strategies, predicting opponents' ingame movements, and ultimately steering the team to success.
But the "tai kor" (big brother) of the team humbly reminds us that Dota 2 is a team game and his achievements are only as good as his teammates. Currently on a short break from playing competitively, Chai found time to speak to us about putting Malaysia on the global map of Dota 2.
What does a professional gamer do in a day?
We stay together and train about eight hours a day – it's a job. We think up strategies, and train to maintain performance to compete. We can wake up anytime we want but by 12pm, we have to be ready at the computer, whether it's to start playing or discuss about our performance in the previous game(s).
How do you sustain yourself?
We play for Fnatic (an international professional eSports organisation), which is our main sponsor. It was very difficult at first because when you're starting out, nobody knows who you are so nobody sponsors you. But now we have a fixed monthly income. When we win prize money, we give them a cut and then we divide the rest among ourselves.
What does it take to be a pro gamer?
First, you would need your parents' support, without which is very difficult to go pro. ESports in Malaysia hasn't really matured yet so it is difficult to start from zero to prove to your family. It doesn't mean much until you achieve something and gain recognition for sponsorships.
In Fnatic Dota, a productive and efficient player should possess these five criteria. One, you need skill; there are many aspects of the game that you need to master. Two, team style; you may have the skills but without teamwork you won't succeed. Three, mentality; you have to always be prepared for the game. The team that plans ahead usually wins. Four, respect; respect your teammates, your team manager, and your opponents. Lastly, responsibility; you should be accountable to your teammates by being in your best physical condition to play.
What do you think about the eSports scene in Malaysia?
It's getting better. Our government has started to recognise it, and on top of that, organised tournaments in the country. But it would still take time and a lot of understanding about the industry for it to gain the kind of recognition it deserves. A lot of parents aren't sure what it is about. We need more exposure of the community.
But it's looking up. Back then, people would have to pay to play but now it's possible to get paid to play. You can actually support yourself if you're good enough.
Name the biggest challenge of being a pro gamer.
You have to learn to accept failure, because I've failed many times. I thought of giving up so many times before but I overcame it by drawing from all the support I have. And I know that if nobody starts something to prove to the world that Malaysia can be good at this, nobody will recognise us for sure.
Article from the Sun daily by Yee Jie Min (posted on 2 June 2016)
SEEMINGLY shy, Melvyn Gnai Zhi Yong's personality radiates the moment a guitar lands in his hands. It was obvious he has a deep connection to the string instrument, as his fingers skilfully pluck a melody at intervals during this interview.
The 15-year-old rose to fame after winning the 2014 American Protégé International Music Talent Competition in the acoustic guitar solo category. His rendition of Kotaro Oshio's "Ready, Go!" impressed the judges, and all the more for me.
As a matter of fact, he also snagged second prize in the ukelele category at last year's competition.
"In competitions, we are not allowed to use speakers, and mistakes take away a lot of marks. A lot of people also tend to play the wrong notes. Everyone wants to win, including myself. So you actually just do your best. No matter where you perform, you should try to produce the best sound," commented Gnai of his performance.
Tell us about the fingerstyle technique.
People mainly play the guitar by strumming or plucking, but you can add percussion and tapping harmonics to it. Using a pick is akin to using one finger to play the song, but with fingerstyle you are using your entire hand. The idea of fingerstyle is to play the whole band with one guitar.
How has performing with renowned guitarists enriched you?
I feel proud being able to play at the international level. Every guitarist has his or her own style; we don't really play the same genre. I like playing what my favourite Japanese guitarist, Kotaro Oshio plays. When you play with someone else, you have to listen to each other. It is all about having fun and sharing ideas.
Could you share your progress as a guitarist since you picked up the instrument three years ago?
I used to not follow musicians such as Sungha Jung and Tommy Emmanuel because Kotaro Oshio has been my biggest influencer. But mid last year, I decided to check out their events and videos.
At that time, Sungha Jung posted some blues solos and I realised that that is what I've always wanted to do. When playing with someone, you have to come out with a solo to feature yourself and I wasn't good at that. Now I am practising a lot and trying solos.
How do you juggle school, friends and performing?
My mum would usually make the most of the holidays for me to fly for performances and competitions. But if there's something big coming up, sometimes you just have to grab the chance.
Most people in school know me, and I have friends who play the guitar but they mostly like computer games. They like listening to people sing and some feel it is not trendy to listen to guitar-playing. I am trying to inspire them, but they are not very receptive.
What do you attribute your success to?
I think 60% goes to hard work, 20% to luck, and 20% to talent. Some of my friends have YouTube channels, but their parents don't help to promote them. I am lucky my mum helps me to do that. I never expected to meet Kotaro Oshio, so I'm lucky my mum knew (Taiwanese guitarist) Huang Chia-Wei, who brought me to watch Oshio's show.
Do you think you'll continue to perform in the future?
I never thought of performing actually. Most people think I'm doing it permanently, and will continue to do it. If I can make a good living by playing the guitar, then I would. Otherwise, I'd go do something normal.
I also plan to write my own songs. Many have asked me for them but I haven't published them yet. I wish to have my own show one day and perform with other guitarists.
Making art out of thin air
Article from the Sun daily by Jeremy Cheong (posted on 31 May 2016)
GRAFFITI has always gotten divisive responses out of Malaysians. The first being "Wow, that's a nice piece of work!" and the second being "Why would someone do this here?" Like any other form of art, graffiti has its fair share of detractors and admirers.
One thing is for sure though, it is a growing culture. More and more Malaysians are viewing these vibrant and creative pieces in a more positive light and as a way to liven up old buildings, tunnels, parking lots and so on.
But for those who feel that graffiti is nothing more than vandalism, perhaps Loo Lok Chern aka Cloakwork can change your mind. The 25-year-old has made a name for himself, having travelled to many parts of the world to showcase his style of art with the help of aerosol paints.
In fact, his love for "vandalising" walls has led this young chap to hold his very own world tour. At the time of writing, he has already been to Japan and Taiwan, and will be heading to Hong Kong and United Kingdom.
"I love being able to travel as I get to make many new friends and learn plenty of techniques and tricks to hone my craft. But the most important thing is for me to share my work and showcase my creativity with those who live in other parts of the world," said Loo.
What drew you to graffiti art?
I've always been quite a rebel, and I'm always going against the mainstream. I also wanted to do something extraordinary; and graffiti allows me to maintain my rebellious nature and create awesome pieces of art that others can admire. I got hooked on it; I love the adrenaline rush throughout my body when I'm doing graffiti on the streets and in public spaces.
Could you share some of the difficulties you faced when you started out?
When I first started out, it took me quite a bit of time to sketch the shapes that I wanted. On top of that, I was worried that someone might mistake my intentions for vandalism. With loads of research and practice, I can now visualise and create shapes much faster than before. It also helps that people recognise my work as art pieces, instead of vandalism.
How are you looking to change the perception of the older generation who typically views graffiti as a form of vandalism?
Graffiti in Malaysia is still stagnant in a grey area, and I hope by sharing my artwork, I can inspire, enlighten and bring joy to everyone despite all the negative events and situations that have been happening over the past months and years. This is why it is also important that we have a steady stream of events and gatherings to keep us in the game.
You're quite active on social media; what are your thoughts on these platforms? What do you dislike about them?
Everyone should never take social media too seriously. In the end, it should be fun! Do what you like and let it grow organically. What I dislike are people who judge others by their number of followers and not the quality of posts in that profile.
Besides creating awesome art, what else do you do?
I am the co-founder of Against Lab and Wallriors. Against Lab is a contemporary fashion label and multidisciplinary creative entity, while Wallriors is a platform that works on art projects in public spaces, to make art accessible to a wider audience by taking it out of the conventional gallery space and embedding it within the cities we live in – making art truly for everyone.
Dog’s best friend
Article from the Sun daily by Denissa Goh (posted on 26 May 2016)
LESTER Hiew Thiam Hock was only eight when he saw a neighbourhood stray being run over by a car. Although he was too young to fully grasp the complexities of life and death, he felt a burning desire to make a difference – even if it means going against his parents wish to adopt the stray's remaining sibling, which he named Pii.
While his parents eventually accepted Pii, they had no clue that Hiew was planning to do much more. He constantly took on more responsibilities; from feeding his neighbourhood strays with leftover food to treating their injuries with yellow lotion. Soon enough, the passionate lad expanded his care over three residential areas around Klang.
"When I was eight, I wasn't sure whether it was a hobby, passion or just something on a whim. But as I grew older, I began to realise and I'd like to believe that it's a calling for me," said the 24-year-old.
In 2014, he set up A Dog's Life shelter, crushing his parents' dreams for him to work in the corporate world after graduating with a degree in business administration. They didn't take his decision very well, but came to realise how serious he was about the cause. Presently, his parents aren't only supportive of A Dog's Life, his mother cooks and feeds for the strays too.
Today, A Dog's Life has grown from an independent rescuer to a registered NGO, comprising 12 committee members and more than 80 canines under its care.
How do you manage to raise funds to sustain the shelter?
We spend about RM6,000 to RM7,000 a month. We started with one or two monthly donors, and we're really grateful that we have 26 now, which cover most of our expenses. For transparency, we send the accounts of our expenses to our donors once every two months.
What were the dark days like?
Late last year, our shelter was hit by a deadly virus called distemper, which took seven lives away from us. Distemper affects the dog's nervous system; usually it begins with a cold, then the dog starts vomiting blood or having bloody diarrhoea, before getting seizures. The worst-case scenario is death.
During that time, we told ourselves that we were going to do whatever or however much it takes to rescue all of our strays. And we totally blew our expenses – that two-week episode cost us about RM13,000.
What keeps you going?
The dogs. It's never easy doing this – it's filled with challenges, tears and a lot of hardships. Getting donations is not easy too. But seeing our rescued strays – how they wag their tails and smile at us in their own ways – really encourages us to do more and go further.
Could you share your biggest achievement?
Residents in the three neighbourhoods are getting more receptive to our work. Now, they try to help us out by putting containers of food and water outside their houses for the strays. When we first started feeding the strays, there was barely any response as such. But now we can see that they are slowly accepting what we do.
Is there a message that you wish to impart to Malaysians?
It is okay that you do not like dogs, just please do not hurt them.
Article from the Sun daily by Yeevon Ong (posted on 24 May 2016)
IF you're a restaurateur, you probably have your plumber on speed dial in the event of blocked grease pipes. But when that happens, we reckon you should first call John-Hans Oei.
Oei is the chief executive officer and one of the two founders of Centenary Million Group which supplies Microbs enzymes that provide better waste management for the food and beverage (F&B) industry. The enzyme, made up of multiple strains of bacteria, comes in powder form and accelerates the breakdown of organic wastes.
The 27-year-old started the company with his eldest brother in 2013, when John-Hans returned from working many years in Bangkok's hospitality industry. Oei reminisces his days in hotel management and although he has plans to revive that passion, he has found "the job that makes sense" in bringing Microbs to shopping malls, food processing farms, restaurants and cafes nationwide.
How does it work?
All F&B outlets have grease traps, which are the first defence before all the sludge goes out into the local sewers. But sometimes some waste don't get pass the traps and end up hardening, curdling and blocking the piping system.
Using Microbs enzymes means you don't have to manually clean the traps. It's essentially organic powder which you activate by mixing it with water then pour into the traps, letting the enzymes quickly break down wastes which will then freely flow down the pipes.
Why do a business of waste?
In a way, we are helping people solve problems and businesses save cost, and in the long run, we help the environment. I wanted to do a business that leaves an impact somewhere or on someone, if not business owners then the environment. A lot of people say it's noble but I think that's the way to do business. If you aim to just make money then after a while I don't think you get satisfaction.
Also, I wanted a business that is long-term. Something that I can pass to my children in 20 years. This is not a business that I build up, turn around and sell.
What inspires you?
We didn't come from a rich family. We struggled financially growing up. I started working when I was 16 doing all sorts of thing – babysitting, selling T-shirts, working at restaurants – anywhere to find money, so my drive has always been to make money to carry the family out of financial difficulty.
Secondly, I'm inspired by my second brother and my mother. John-Son founded Epic Homes, which builds homes for the underprivileged, and my mum has always instilled that kind of compassion. We were brought up that way so it was natural for us to think of a business gives back to the community.
What's the biggest challenge of running this business?
Right now, it's convincing business owners of this new way to manage organic waste. I think people generally don't see the need to spend money on wastes. The most expensive part of our business is the time spent with people, teaching them to embrace this new way of handling wastes. The results speak for themselves but it takes time and procedures like water testing then waiting for lab results and so on, so it's tough trying to convince them initially. But once they are, they stick with us all the way.