Friday, February 09, 2018

A quartet of multimedia articles

Here are the first four articles that have video embedded in them.

Magical Turn is about Zlwin Chew, an extraordinarily gifted young magician. Here's the video:

And here's the article in full.

Karen Leong is an "unschooled" cake designer. That doesn't mean she never took formal lessons in cake design (she did). Find out what it means to be "unschooled". You will probably be surprised.

Read her full article here.

Jaymee could have been an engineer. But she chose cheerleading. And now she has a thriving business as the country's leading provider of cheerleading instruction to schools. This is all about following your heart. Very inspiring.

This is her story.

Redza wants to fight food wastage but he's doing it in a commercial way. This is what social entrepreneurship is all about.

Read about how Redza combined idealism with commercialism.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Halftime thoughts

Some of my friends from different walks of life came togetheer for a surprise birthday dinner. While chatting  one of them asked if I had any philosophical thoughts now that I'm officially and clearly "middle-aged".

I shared with them the concept of "Halftime" which another friend (who was not there) had told me about some time back. If life was analogous to a football game, when you're middle aged, you're at the halftime of your life. This is the time to reflect on what to do with the second half of your life.

The first half was spent working your ass off, trying to forge a career and make a name for yourself. You sacrifice a lot of personal time and neglect many things not related to work. Sad but true.

When you reach halftime, you really shouldn't be leading that kind of lifestyle anymore. Instead of chasing fame and fortune, the second half should be focused on doing things that are more significant and meaningful to your life.

This could mean different things to different people. For some it could mean doing charitable work. For others it could mean achieving some personal goal they've set for themselves.

For me, it's clearly judo. I've spent a big portion of my life devoted to judo -- at first competing and later just training for personal fulfillment. It's only in the past half year or so that I've really focused on building up a judo club and training young players to become good competitors. I find a lot of fulfillment in doing this and it's something I want to devote a lot of my time to.

Work-wise, I'm a freelance writer, editor, media/marketing consultant. One regular gig I do is writing a column for NST. On Saturdays I write a personality profile column and on Sundays I write about innovation and the future.

I've written columns since the mid-90s so this is not something new to me but in the past I wrote about politics and IT which were very much driven by what was happening at the time. In that sense I didn't have as much flexibility in what I wanted to write about. If something big happened in the political scene or in the IT world, I had to write about it to stay relevant.

Today, my topics are considerably less time sensitive which gives me more flexibility in what I want to write about. Of course I have to get the approval of my editor but most of the time, my ideas get approved.

My personality profiles allow me to interview some really interesting people doing some out-of-the-box and admirable things. I can't think of a more interesting genre to write about. My Future Proof column forces me to stay on my toes and be up to date with things that will affect our future. I can honestly say the writing I'm doing these days is more fulfilling than what I did in the past.

I'm far from being at a point where I can afford to retire. There are many loans to pay and not to mention recurring bills. Inflation and the high cost of everything doesn't make it likely that I will be able to retire anytime soon. So, I still have to take on more projects to make ends meet. Doesn't everybody? I guess so.

The best we can hope for is to find work that is in some ways meaningful. That can't always be the case and there will be times when we take on something just because it pays the bills. But hopefully we can avoid those things that we really do not enjoy doing. (I've certainly had my fair share of that when I was younger).

So, I guess the right recipe for a significant second half is:
i) take on projects that you find meaningful
ii) do work that you don't hate

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Modern storytelling

It's been a year since I started writing for NST on Sundays. Every weekend, I would do two articles for a two-page spread called Savvy.

On the left page would be Future Proof, my column on technological developments for the future. On the right side would be a Q&A-style profile of interesting and innovative individuals.

There's been a bit of a revamp and now my articles appear on two different days on the weekend. The Future Proof column will stay on Sundays but the profile articles will appear on Saturdays. The profile pieces will also be different. I'm working on making them into full-on profiles and not just Q&A pieces. That means a full-feature with narrative story-telling and more pictures. For the online version I will also create some multimedia content.

This starts next week with a feature on the founder of GrubCycle, a social enterprise that deals with food wastage. It will be an interesting one, I promise you!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Trump has re-energized journalism

Journalism had been in a funk for many years, with many traditional media outlets letting go of staff and in some cases, actually closing shop. Even the venerable New York Times had had to let go of some staff as we seen in the 2011 documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times.

This all changed when Donald Trump unexpectedly became president of the United States. The media became reinvigorated and tons of scoops emerged like never before. And this was true for non-political stories as well. The Harvey Weinstein bombshell and the numerous other sexual harassment stories that came after it are examples of excellent journalism.

What we are seeing with the media in the US right now, in particular the NY Times and Washington Post is journalism at its very best. It's so exciting checking out the news online and watching news clips on YouTube. There's so much good journalism happening in the US.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Write, write, write

There is a movie out in the US now called The Post which is about journalism. It's not out in Malaysia yet and I doubt it'll ever come here because this is not the kind of Jumani-like action movie that would do well in this country. But it's a topic that's immensely interesting to me. For many years, I was a journalist and an editor at various newspapers.

Even when I was an editor, I continued to write feature articles and opinion columns. I felt it was important for me to stay in touch with reporting and writing even though my primary responsibilities had to do with editing and managing journalists. I never wanted to be the kind of editor who lost touch with writing. I don't think that makes for a good editor.

I don't really consider myself a journalist per se anymore although I do write regular columns for NST on Sundays. In addition to that I write my thoughts on running a judo club, which is not an easy endeavor, especially in a place like Malaysia where judo is a very niche sport. I haven't done general blogging in a long, long time but perhaps it's time to return to doing so. The start of a new year is a good time to do this.

When people blog, they tend to write for themselves. It's sort of an online, public diary of their thoughts. For me, as a writer, I've always written for my audience. It doesn't matter what topic I'm writing about, whether it's politics or IT, I would write with the audience in mind. I'm writing for their benefit, for them to better understand an issue and for their reading pleasure. And so it is when I blog as well. Whether it's about judo or about my observations about life or work or human nature, if I bother to write something, it's for the audience. To write for myself would be a classic case of shiok sendiri. If I wanted to do that, I'll do it in my own offline, personal diary not an online, public one.

When I write, I always ask myself questions like: Is this topic of interest to anyone? Have I got some useful insight to share? Is what I'm writing interesting or entertaining? Will it help anyone have a better understanding or grasp of that particular issue? I think it's important, as a writer, to ask such questions of myself. That will keep me on the right track and write something of value to others.

Each of us is born with different talents. Some people are musically-inclined. Some are very artistic. Others can write computer programs and cook really well. We all have gifts. I'm good at judo and I write well. It's important to do something tangible with your gifts, otherwise you are wasting your natural talent.

Judo, I'm already contributing by way of my JudoCrazy blog and Facebook Page which are popular with judokas around the world. Plus I run a judo club in KL.

Writing, well... I have my NST columns. I guess I could (and should) work on some new books since I have the skills and the know-how to do books. And I think I should blog about general topics more often. Over the years, I've had a lot of experiences and I've met a lot of different people (still do). I think I have a lot of useful observations and insights to share. So, I should do it.

When the late great film critic Roger Ebert got cancer, far from slowing down, he increased his writing output. Besides the formal movie reviews that he would do, he would blog extensively. I guess he felt he didn't have a lot of time left in this world and whatever time he had, he would use it to write for the benefit and entertainment of his audience. He was after all a writer. What better way to use his talents than to write, write and write?