Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Bloggers' dinner

"Let's call it "Eclipse Mee Sua with Tartar's Sauce" I quipped, and Louis nearly choked on his spoon.

No, I was not trying to change the name of the dish, Fried Mee Sua with cangkuk manis, but only the caption of the photo taken by Louis, who used Allen's Canon EOS350 to take a shot of the dish with the flash panning from one side rendering the mee sua with a dark side like an eclipsed moon. (Hey Allen send me the eclipse pic). And the leftover tartar sauce from the fish and chip dish compliment it nicely!

Actually, trying to fry mee sua is a very delicate job, because mee sua is not meant to be fried! Its a soup dish. You soak it in hot water and dunk them in hot piping chicken soup or pig intestine soup or other herbal soup, and they must be consumed within a few minutes or it will turn too soft. Thus over fried mee sua will loose its "sponginess" (somewhat like the sponginess of bee hoon or rice vermicelli).

Caroline (the proprietor of Village Fast Food) had done a great job by not rendering the mee sua too soft. It was still fluffy and pliable, not reduced to a sticky mass of clumped flour. This is called "skill" or "kang hoo"! I love it!

But lets get to the first dish, the Hot and Sour soup. Well, I think the "Hot" here means steaming hot not the fanning-your-sticked-out-tongue and asking for a glass of cold water type of hot. Which was why I had to sprinkle some pepper powder to spice thing up.

I think Caroline was trying to be on the safe side, by not coming on strong with the seasonings, as she used them sparingly to avoid the crowd clutching their throats gasping for cold water, but to a cilipadi muncher like me "Hot" here merely means the temperature of the soup. Well, I guess you can't please everyone all at the same time. I love the soup flavour which was also not too starchy, but can you please pass the pepper again, sorry, and the cut chilli too.

Next, the Nestum Fish Fillet. "It looks like butter prawn, it tastes like butter prawn, but it ain't butter prawn!" Said Allen to Maozi.

"But it says here in the menu it is butter prawn!" insisted Maozi, who promptly dissected it, peered into it and declared: "Oh! Confirm! its not prawn, its fish fillet!"

Indeed, it was Nestum Fish Fillet, as it pre-empted the butter prawn, which was No.2 on the menu, hence the confusion.

I find the Fish Fillet rather plain, maybe because salad fish fillet rice is readily available in most food court in Kuching together with salad chicken rice. A few points taken down here. Hey, don't blame me if I raised our standard a notch or two higher up on occasion like this! However if pitted against the food court fare, it outshines most of what I've tasted.

Nyonya Sweet & Sour Chicken. You know, its funny that whenever the word "nyonya" is prefixed to a dish, I subconsciously raised the bar, and this was no exception. Unfortunately I am not an ardent fan of chicken meat, but I was delighted with the subtle taste of the sauce, especially the crunchy lemongrass and its slightly piquant unmistakable nyonya flavoured sauce spread over cut slivers of steamed chicken meat. Kudos to Caroline. I love this dish and devoured a few morsels before it was "rudely" taken away by the waitress who thought we'd finished. Our mistake was "pretending" to be well-mannered and not to wallop everything in one go. To Naomi and the Boys, learn your lesson. Next time if you like a dish, just grab it! Leave your manner at home!

4 combo vegetable. Ah, at last a dish to keep carnivore Maozi ("I'm a meat-arian") rested for a while. This is a stirred fried smorgasbord of long bean, eggplant, "kui tao" (somebody please give me the correct spelling please?) and ladies finger.

Again, Caroline played the safe card by sprinkling the sambal (or was it sambal?) sparingly. Actually this is a clever ploy. It gives a dish a "mysterious" aftertaste and teases the eaters to guess what's being put into it. An over-spiced with sambal stir-fry vege dish like this is normal fare at most household, but this is a delightful change. I'll try to suggest to my wife to ease up on the sambal next time. Only thing is I have to do it diplomatically or she'll hit me with a spatula and demands "you think you can cook better meh?", and goes on strike.

Fish and chips. Well, what can I say, I never tasted a real Britisher's fish and chips, suffice to say it reminded me of Nestum fish fillet a few dishes ago. But I do admit the deco of the chips is very nicely done up.

I'm sucker for chips really and I have to say I love them no matter what size and shape and length they come in.

Butter prawn! My fave dish! There are two schools of thought here. One, eat the shell too, for that's where the flavour is, and its make the prawn crunchier. Two,eat them without the shell, thus forgo the flavouring. I think the first option makes sense as eating without the shell defeats the whole purpose of eating Butter prawn. However, this dilemma is solved if the butter prawns are done in a "dry" style, that is, done with plenty of flour/nestum/butter crumbs. You take the shell off and eat the "naked" prawn with the fragrant crunchy crumbs that comes generously on the platter. Unfortunately, Caroline's butter prawn was a "wet" version, meaning there was no crumbs to pick up, so to savour the full flavour of the dish, you have to eat the prawn, shell and all.

I personally do not like to munch on prawn shell, but then Francis went around table to table to give a friendly reminder on how to appreciate this dish, i.e. swallow the shell too, I had to follow the crowd too. Frankly, it taste delicious! Pity I had earlier spat out the shell of my first prawn, and picking them up from my plate and putting them into my mouth again would probably make Naomi roll her eyes.

Grilled Beef Steak. Could this be the piece de resistance? as I read the menu. People usually "save the best for last" after all.

Well, I wouldn't not place this dish on the top of the list. But then you can't please everybody like I say. Some like it hot, some like it rare, some swear by spreading mustard on it. For me, I just want it well-done and a generous dollop of extra-spicy black pepper sauce. But I thought the steak was a bit "joon" or rubbery or shall I blame it on my denture? Oh, picky picky! This grumpy old man!

Burp. 'Scuse me! Well, that was really some dinner, and I really enjoy the company I had in my table, even with Fahri kept on blinding us momentarily with his super powerful strobe-light. While the organiser/promoter Francis kept the boisterous crowd in stitches with his antics. And oh, I'd like to add, I really like they way the food here are done without the msg, and the taste is still delicious! Its the first time I came home from a dinner without gulping down my whole container of plain water! I know Caroline must have put in a lot of thought into coming up with this set of menu. Who wouldn't, pandering to a bunch of food bloggers, and so call "food critic" like me, why, she must have gone through scores of recipe books! And I salute her for it! Well done, Caroline, and thank you and to Francis too for the invite. You asked us to call a spade a spade and I just did that.

(For lovers of fine home-style cooking (without the msg!) please head to Caroline's Village Fast Food along Jalan Central, Kuching, right next door after the Shell petrol station. Drive right in, there are plenty of parking spaces! All photos here are courtesy of Francis)

(P/s Some events and descriptions here had been exaggerated to elicit some chuckles, if I offend some, please forgive me for they are not intentional.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Cruise to Nowhere

Star Cruises, the behemoth cruise ship company advertises a “Cruise to nowhere” where passengers are taken to the high seas, on a cruise to Nowhere, just chugging along. Once the liner crosses the imaginary line into international waters where no law of any sovereign nation reigns, they will roll out the crap tables, jiggle the die in their cupped palms and stack up the chips. The passengers, on hearing the “frapping” of a deck of cards, will rush lemming-like to the trap door of the on-board casino to unload their hard-earn (or ill-gotten) dollars. “Never in my life has so much of my money been lost on so devious a game of wager in so short a time.” lamented a crest-fallen punter. Sad.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. A cruise to nowhere? Why, we have it right here in good ol’ Sarawak, Kuching to be precise. Now, I’m not saying it’s as romantic as riding the gondola on a moonlit Venice night or the wet-your-pants roller coaster of white water rafting, and certainly it lacks the creature comfort of being in an ocean liner. But what the heck, it’s good clean, wobbly fun. Welcome to the tambang of Sungai Sarawak.

The flimsy looking sampan, called a tambang locally, is actually a large canoe of varying length from 15 to 20 feet long, and about 4 to 5 feet wide. Originally catering to ferrying the kampung folks living across the Sarawak River to the Main Bazaar and back, nowadays, the cigarette dangling from the frail weather-beaten Malay boatman’s lips wouldn't drop even if hordes of ogling tourists descent upon his vessel, as long as they don’t rock it for fun.

This endearing icon of “life in the slow lane” can actually be a therapeutic break for the high-strung stress-pressed corporate ladder climbers, if only for a brief duration of half-hour return trip and costing literally a cup of coffee without milk.

These ferries usually berth at the many landing points along the Kuching Waterfront. Thus if you are going to the Astana or its vicinity, choose the landing point right opposite to it, or if you’re visiting the kampung further down stream, go further down the Waterfront where there is another berthing place. There are many of these tambangs plying the river day and night.

By the way, don’t bother asking for the schedule or timetable. As long as the boat is reasonably filled up, he sets sail. But “reasonably” filled up can also mean just one passenger which could be the boatman’s kampung neighbour who’s in labour, and she probably doesn't have to pay a single cent. Thus, I suspect for a fistful of red-colour Malaysian banknotes, he may be willing break his routine and take you for a ride, I mean, to unscheduled stops, (farther downstream, upstream) if its not “rush hour”. But do check this out yourself.

As you hop on to the platform of the boat, you may unwittingly step on a cluster of coins of various denomination lying on it. Don’t be a busy body by scooping them up and smilingly ask who’d drop some coins. These are the fare that all passengers drop as they step off the boat on arriving at their destination. The fare is usually 30 sen, but some generous hearts give more. If you don't have change and have to drop a ringgit note, you may help yourself to some change, but hey, what’s a few cents donation to the poor guy and making our economy stronger?

As the “roof” is only 4 feet high, going inside this boat is like lowering yourself to enter a tunnel. Besides, the vessel is configured to accommodate the small frame of the local denizens, many a tall guy and Caucasians passengers have been seen to actually crawl in! When you are comfortably seated in the bobbing cabin, you will notice that a minuscule porthole the size of your paperback behind you. Not a very great way to see the scenery panoramic style, but wait! Say “hi” first to the makcik (elderly Malay lady) clutching a basketful of grocery sitting next to you, and smile at the shy school boy sitting opposite you, then only rest your two feet long telephoto lens on the window sill to start shooting.

Nowadays, the tambang are usually motorized and very few are manually rowed. The boatman is at the front throttling the outboard engine, and it usually takes less than 5 minutes to cross the languid flowing river. Personally I prefer a muscle powered ride, as it takes a longer while to cross, while I can chat with the makcik on how best to cook kangkong with sambal. Besides, whoever heard of motorized Venice gondola? (Maybe they have it already too). Sigh. It is a sad end for the age of Romance, indeed.

The opposite bank was once the playground of the White Rajahs, the abode of James, Charles and Vyner Brooke. Until 1941, they were masters of all they surveyed from the rampart of Fort Margarita. Alas, WW II put paid to what could have been another generation of white rule, for better or worse, nobody knows. Anyway, a brisk walk will take you to the Astana, where the present Governor calls home. Visitors are only allowed in on festive occasions like His Excellency’s birthday or the once-a-year Hari Raya open house. If you synchronise your visit to coincide with the latter, you may queue up with the horde of well-wishers to shake His Excellency’s hand and help yourself to a scrumptious buffet after that.

Since there’s nothing else to see as the gate of the Astana is closed, you may adjourn to the few food stalls near the jetty. The menu may not be inspiring here, but the ubiquitous teh tarik is available to quench your thirst until your sampan arrives.

Finally with a heave-ho the boatman bumps up his boat to the jetty and unload his passengers again and ready to take you in for the trip back. As you step into the boat, you just remember! You forgot to pay your fare when you got off half an hour ago! How cruel! But fret not, its payback time, as you rummage your pocket all the coins you can get, you come up triumphantly with a handful, and dutifully plonk them down on the deck while all the makciks and adik adik (school kids) smiled and nodded approvingly. You raise your bottle of mineral water high up, and, facing them, declare: “To Sarawak’s economy” and drink it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Laksa Hunters

Tracking down the best laksa in town is one of the favourite pursuits for me, being a sucker for this most beloved of Sarawak’s cuisine. So after reading a glowing report in a local newspaper about a certain Barrett Tan’s laksa, I decided to check it out with my friends Justin and Francis, two equally die-hard laksa fanatics.

It was already ten o’clock in the morning and the weather was hot, just perfect for a bowl of laksa to purge all our body’s impurities out via sweating! The coffee shop is located in the Bormill area behind Jln Keretapi. We were lucky, Barrett was there manning the stall doing his stuff.

When the three bowls of laksa were brought before us, Francis gave an incredulous cry, “Where’s the wansui (coriander)?” For hard-core laksa purists like us, chowing down laksa without coriander is like munching hot dog without mustard.

“It’s difficult to get them, not that we don’t want to give any.” the lady explained, sounding very apologetic.

Francis groaned, “Well, that’s one star taken off the rating already!” as Justin and I nodded in unison. Even the extra scoops of cut parsley given to us could not placate our disappointment, for absolutely nothing can replace the ghastly smell of coriander so vital to a bowl of wholesome Sarawak laksa. But in a generous mood that morning, we decided to adopt an open mind and reserved our verdict at the end.

The soup stock was fragrant, but its brownish colour was not appealing enough as it lacked the bright orangey tinge of chili oil. Except for the lack of coriander, garnishing got pretty high marks with the prawns, fish cake and chicken shreddings.

However, a simple ritual has to be performed before a real laksa connoisseur commence eating, and that is to hold the lime with the cut opened side against the spoon while holding the latter above the sambal, then squeeze until the lime juice drip on to the mini sambal saucer without the seeds dropping. This way it eliminates the hassle (however frivolous. Hey, I told you this is a ritual, right?) of picking up the seeds from from the sambal. Next, gently stir the mixture (the juice and the sambal) in the little saucer until it asssumes a watery paste. While you struggle to contain your drooling saliva, quicky pour the whole mixture into the laksa and start stirring until they are evenly mixed with the soup. Some like to order an extra sambal for dipping the prawns and chicken shreddings in to.

Sorry, another digression. Scoop up the beehoon, it should be so piping hot that the steam clouds your glasses, another hallmark of a good bowl of laksa. You see, you can have great taste, brilliant presentation, tons of garnishing and heaps of coriander, and I don’t care it’s as hot as noon time in the Sahara Desert without an umbrella, if the soup is not searing my tongue or heavens forbid, lukewarm, wham! My chopsticks will come crashing down as I summon the waiter to redo the dish. Excuse me for the outburst, but that’s how passionate we Sarawakians are about our laksa.

Back to Barrett’s soup. I find it piquant and rich enough to send the tastebuds in my tongue go dancing with joy. Yes, it has the full-bodied you-cant-express-in-words taste of the real Laksa Sarawak. And my two laksamigos seemed to concur.

“How is it?” I asked prodding for a response from both of them, after we wiped traces of the soup from our mouths when we finished.

“Hmmm… good, very good, will come again definitely”, said Francis, apparently he had forgiven Barrett the missing coriander and the off-colour soup.

“Very good! Look at my sweat and my running nose!” Justin enthused as he quickly wiped them away.

My verdict? Burp! Excuse me. I love it! Barrett makes me proud to be a Sarawakian! Enough said.

Just then Barrett happened to walked by and as the crowd had thinned somewhat, Justin stopped him asked a very interesting question. “Who invented Sarawak Laksa?”. Little did we knew that we were talking to the custodian of the most sought after secret recipe of the most popular food of Sarawak, the son of the inventor himself!

We listened in fascination as Barrett related how his late father, Mr Tan Yong Him, who ran a canteen in a school in the late 1950s, concocted a soup stock to go with the beehoon, and through many years of experiments finally came up with the winning recipe, which until today is still the trade secret of the Tan family.

“So in other words, before your father came up with this recipe, there was no such thing as Sarawak Laksa?” I cheekily asked. “Nope!” was the reply. There you have it! Now you know who is the real McCoy of Sarawak Laksa! It’s Mr Barrett Tan!

Barrett even have a factory manufacturing packets of laksa paste for sale, and he also exports them to overseas market for nostalgic Malaysians there. We were shown a showcase of the products complete with jars of sambal balachan. Barrett even gave us a lecture on how to make the perfect Sarawak Laksa by divulging certain “secrets” to us. Yes! I do know the secret already! No, I’m not disclosing them here. If you are interested do go to his cafe and entice him to reveal it! Or visit his website.

Ended up Justin and Francis each bought several packets and some sambal. Me? I’m the lazy one! The what they call culinary ignoramus on the cooking side. I prefer to take the easy way out - eat out! The last time I hold a frying pan and a spatula in my kitchen, I dropped the frying pan when my handphone rang in my pocket. Butterfingers. Cooking don’t run in my family.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Some more caricatures to make you puke!

Well, I do admit at this point in time, my caricature sucks, but then I did warn you that I was going to make you sick did'nt I? So here goes:-

Anwar Ibrahim To a caricaturist, Anwar is easy meat. But I have to admit this is one Anwar that has an aloof look Lisa? (You puke! Hooray!). But seriously, this is one of the earliest caricature that I did, so it kind of sucks I know. But I got another one done and stashed up for some finishing touch. Just remind me later on, kay?

Hishamuddin. Now this is one dude I had a lot of trouble in the beginning. Don't by fooled by his prominent feature like moustache and big nose, it can be quite tricky because I neglected to shape his head till I almost gave up after doodling umpteen times.Go try yourself if you don't believe me.

Taib Mahmud Another tricky subject if you can't see any strong physical features, you have to capture what I call "the essence" of the subject's character ( if I know a lot!). That this guy has aged from his cherubic youth is without question, and looking at him now strike us how he has aged, hence the gaunt look, which might be missed by an objective artist. Shoot! I forgot his glasses, will come back later...okay?

Nor Mohamad Yakup Another piece of cake. This guy reminds me of the lovable panda because of his lack-of-sleep dark rings around his eyes. But it seems thats a permanent feature of his face. Poor guys, forever not having enough sleeps. Who told him to be a Finance Minister?

Muhyddin Yassin With his puffy face and a gargantuan neck, this up-and-comming leader is another easy prey for me. Look at his bed-room eyes! His carefully tousled moustache! Sheer delight!

Will you promise to pluck the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth? OR "Wait a second, SHE'S the dentist?"

You know life is poking fun at you when you expect the worst scenario, it turns out to be a non event. But when you least expect things to happen, it pours buckets. Take for instance my secondary schooldays. Mr. Gopinath aka “Kopi”, our Indian Math teacher, whose diminutive size was made up by his legendary temper and discipline. On hindsight, We should have nickname him as “The Hair Dryer”. What happened was when “Kopi” wanted to pulverize a student (with a good reason of course), he would stride up to the victim until their bellies touched, then with his nose just 0.1 cm from the boy’s, (or his chin, if he’s taller) hollered till the poor boy’s hair straightened like he’d ridden a motorbike at 150 mph without a helmet.

So imagine my trepidation one day, when I forgot to finish my math homework. To say I was a bundle of jellyfish is a total understatement. I was a total wreck, and even considered truanting. But when his class came, he continued until the bell rang forgetting to get us to pass up our work! Talk about being saved by the bell. My body went limp with relief until the duty-bound monitor stood up to remind him of the homework! My body stiffen again. Die! If there’s one thing Suffer-no-fool “Kopi” detested was students not completing their homework and he could check that out easily just by counting the number of our exercise books. Just when I was hoping that my guardian angel would wave a magic wand and finish my homework, “Kopi” said benevolently “Pass up tomorrow”! I tell you I could have hug my next table classmate with a “whoopee!!!”

Somehow, sometimes, one day, most man would have to face the prospect of having to make a decision to visit the dentist or not. What I am saying is that there are many options when it comes to visiting the dentist:-

One. You succumb to your wife’s taunting (that you are a wimp), swallow hard and go just to prove her wrong.

Two. You can feint “too busy” and let your teeth rot and stink to high heavens then when the pain gets so unbearable, you swallow hard again and succumb to your wife’s second taunting and go.

Three. You can mint-spray your mouth when you need to speak, and let the teeth rot and stink to high heaven….

Four. You can use it to fend off kid encyclopedia salesmen who pop up so often nowadays….

Five. You can shop for shampoo in peace at the local supermarket….

Heck, I can easily go up to ten, but then David Lettermen may plagiarize them for his Top Ten without giving me credit. Besides, there is the question of the welfare of the teeming millions of bacteria living in my tooth at my generosity. Never mind, she wouldn’t understand.

Actually, whatever taunting my wife threw at me, I can toss them aside nonchalantly and magnanimously in the spirit of marital harmony. But what touched my raw nerve (how apt), was the fact that she had a set of perfect teeth, which she flaunted so mercilessly at me, knowing that all my upper front teeth and molars are gone except for a half rotten canine tooth, or what was left of it.

Coupled that with the unfortunate fact that God had bestowed on my wife a sense of smell keener than a pack of bloodhounds combined, you can imagine the family discord generated by my putrid mouth as a result of my going for the second and subsequent options. It would come a day when I ran out of options and that day was last week. For my final defense, I wanted to plead insanity, but knowing she could definitely smell something fishy, so I use the timeless “financial” reason. Alas, that was my undoing.

“Go to the government clinic!” she said, “It costs only two ringgit”.

Two miserable ringgit to extract a tooth! No wonder the Minister of Finance always reported a deficit on Budget Day and Barisan National always won elections. In fact, truth be told, Malaysian enjoy an incredible high standard when it comes to medical care of its people and I (me and my big mouth) am a testimony to that.

In fact I was quite skeptical of the level of service by government doctors/dentists. I mean if it costs only RM2 to extract a tooth, or getting an injection for common cold, and a lot more, why do people still queue up and cough up easily RM50 for a treatment at the private clinics? Or when it cost only in the hundreds for surgery, private hospitals still charge in the thousands, and want you to pay upfront before they even want to take a peek into your anatomy. Watch out for my verdict at the end about their professionalism (or the lack of it)in my adventure into the government dental clinic at Jalan Masjid, Kuching.

So the die was cast, as my wife triumphantly flipped the calendar and jabbed at a date - 4th November, 2008, the day Americans went to vote for a new president. Talk about making history. Or a milestone in one’s life. For in the next few days, I was to face the date like the three Bali bombers faced their execution, not so much with relish or eagerness that Amrozi felt welling in his gut being a martyr for his religion, but being martyr for my wife’s supposed sanity and sanitary disposition, my oral health not withstanding.

November is usually a rainy month and that gloomy morning when we (yes she came too, quietly gleeful, I suspect) stepped into the waiting room with scores of youngsters, oldsters, uncles, aunties and all who had regretted giving in to their sweet tooth or for one reason or another, forgot to brush their teeth, sat glumly like waiting for their turn at the guillotine.

As for me, I was more fidgety than a chain-smoking first time father-to-be outside the maternity ward, in fact if they allow smoking while I wait, I think I would, for that would make me cough so bad the dentist might postpone the extraction.

At last my name was shrilly called and I trudged to the dental room. The moment of tooth! I mean truth! I mean if women giving birth can have their husbands by their bedside, holding hands and encouraging “breathe in... breathe out… push!” How come they don’t allow dental patient like me to have my spouse besides me holding my jaw down saying “Relax! This is not an electric chair!” Whatever. I climbed into the Electric Chair and sat down, I mean inclined down, with four round powerful industrial strength light bulbs shining into my face. I grimaced at the light and shut my eye tight.

Enter the nurses.

“Say ahh” A voice spoke.

“mmmm?” I hmmmed



“Aaarr……..” I heard a sweet lady’s voice and a very patient one at that.

I slowly opened my tightly shut eyes.

A waif-like fragile lady with face half-hidden by a surgical mask, a pair of beautiful eyes underneath a tudong*, appeared out of nowhere. (*tudong = Malaysian version of the Muslim hijab)

Wait a second, SHE’S a dentist?

Too late to protest I suppose, as I thought all dentists were bespectacled middle aged men
with massive strong hands from years of yanking stubborn teeth.

As my both hands gripped the chair’s handle. I could swear sweats of fear dripped from my brow, as my body tightened.

“Uncle, badan lembut, okay?” She sang cheerily.

“Soften your body”? I am the one who’s getting my tooth plucked with a stainless steel plier and by a lady, and you are telling me to “soften your body”? It’s a cruel world!

So I said “Ahhh” with a not-so-subtle gusto, emitting whatever toxic I could summon out from my mouth directly at her, hoping that she’d faint or at least back off and abort the operation.

“Uncle! Take off your denture!”

Damn! Now this sweet young thing can see me toothless!

If there is one thing most deliriously hilarious (or disgusting, depending on who sees it) about my look, it’s my smile without the denture: the lone upper canine tooth jutting out from my totally toothless upper gum, a look I only reserve for babies and toddlers when I want to pacify them, you know, making faces at them. I swear they’d stop whatever they do and gawk with glorious wonder at my glistering gum with a single fang and a snapping denture moving up and down. It’s a spectacular sight all babies and toddlers never get tired of. Of course I make sure their mothers don’t see me from the front lest I get a frying pan crashing down on my head. But I don’t expose this act to teenagers, it is most likely they’d puke. It’s worse than flashing.

Where was I? Ah yes, this sweet young thing then poked a cold stainless steel rod with a small round mirror at one end into my mouth and lifted my upper lip with her gloved fingers and looked disgustingly ( I think) at my glistering gum and tapping at my rotting canine, asked if this was the tooth to pluck.

I nearly choked.

No no no, pluck my nostril hair!

I puckered and stifled my chortling, causing my head to nod which she took to be “yes” to her question.

She then swung into action and I heard some heavy metal clanging on a ceramic plate, like she put the stainless steel mirror down and picking something that looked like a cylinder with a pump at one end and a needle at the other end.

She turned back at me again, and Horror of Horrors! This female Darth Vader in white frock had a syringe the size of a bicycle pump in her right hand, and she had a wicked glint in her evil eyes and she was heading towards my open mouth! I froze.

She’s going to poke, no JAB, that needle into my poor soft gum!!! What wrong had I done to deserve this? I am innocent!

For a moment, I saw a white blinding light and my whole life flashed across me and I experienced an out-of-the-body feeling…….okay, I lied. But was I terrified. Who said the Iraqi suicide bombers are terrorists? Its sweet young thing like this dentist that make life a living hell for innocent people like us.

Finally the needle zeroed in and penetrated my gum….I tightened again gripping the nearest hard object to my both hands which happened to be a pair of chair handles solidly constructed for the purpose…..and hold my breath…. muscles taut….but surprisingly it felt just like an slight insect bite, uncomfortable but bearable. Then a second jab, this time slightly more painful, but still bearable….and….

“Okay, uncle wait outside” Angel of Death chirped merrily.

I sheepishly got down and walked out of the room, muttering “you’ll pay for this....”

As I sat down in the waiting room again, the numbness in my gum started to take effect, I felt my cheek puffed up. I pinched my lip. No feeling. Hey, cool! I even gave my wife across the room a pained grin, to which she responded by rolling her eyes towards the ceiling.

Five minutes later, my name was called again. This time for the extraction.

As I settled into the Electric Chair again, with the light shining at my face. This time Sweet Young Thing had a chainsaw in her hand ready, I mean a plier in her hand ready.

I opened my mouth again and wanted to tell her my favourite joke in a trembling voice:-

Will you promise to pluck the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth?

But she would not listen, instead she charged at my remaining enamel, gripping it with such vicious force like she’s going to yank it out in one huge tug.

She tugged and she puffed, tugged and puffed. My head followed her movement up and down, up and down like a puppet’s head manipulated by its master. But nothing happened.

She failed. Me – One, Sweet Young Thing – zero.

She turned to change her weapon, a sadistic-looking plier with its pincers bend at an awkward angle (through its years of constant usage, needless to say). A few clanging sounds and she was charging back.

“Hold his head” I heard the sadistic dentist cried to her assistant.

Playing rough, are we? Well two can play the game!

Actually by now I was not scared already as my gum was all numb and I wasn’t feeling the any pain, heck, I was enjoying it!

The second wave of assault on my tooth began. There was a titanic struggle and tugging and yanking.

“Relax your body, uncle don’t stiffen! Relax!”

Okay, okay!
The tugging continued and my head was bobbing up and down again like the said puppet. Dont quote me, I thought I heard some cursings from the two struggling ladies. But give them the benefit of doubt, shall we?

Suddenly I heard a crunching sound like a wall crashing down... and whoosh! It was out! That little piece of s—t that had been a pain in my ass and a bone of discontent between me and my wife was now lying spread eagle, helpless, on the ceramic plate beside me, bloodied and lifeless.

Phew! Over at last. The nightmare that I had prepared myself to face, that I dreaded so morbidly for the past few month was finally over. And it wasn’t even very painful. That’s the irony of life I was yakking about in the beginning. You expect all hell to break loose, it shine beautiful sunshine, blue sky and everything nice. Its one hell of an exhilarating anti-climax!

Inside the car, my wife looked intriquely at me:-

“Was it painful?”

“Nah! It was nothing……….’

“Oh yeah? I bet you almost wet your pant!” she sniggered

“No really, it was not painful at all…….”

“Give me a break, just admit it”

“No …..”

We started arguing again.

P/s I almost forgot, my verdict? Two thumbs up to plier-happy Lady Darth Vader and her plucky assistant.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Oh Obama

A buddy of mine called me up a few hours only after learning of the victory of Obama, being an armchair political critics, he gushed enthusiasm I seldom found in his usual dour demeanour. As usual, being his political sparring partner, I proceed to douse his babbling, but he wont listen, instead he contuinued pouring: Do you know wthat this mean? It mean America, a country that is percieved to be populated by white supremists and racists can now even accept a black president, and Malaysian especially the Malay bumiputra must take cognizance of this. This augurs well for a fair multiracial Malaysia, there is hope yet! Or something to that effect.

Fair Dinkum. Big Deal. Barack Obama is elected the first black president of America. What is in it for Malaysian. This of course has a tremendous implication, ramifications, indications, whatever, for Malaysia. It means Malaysian must think like American and to be blunt, Chinese, Indian, Dayak and Kadazan can also be Prime Minister. I say go on dreaming.

The fact that the Malay and gotten the message is without doubt. But whether they subscribe and embrace it is a totally different matter. Its like a fat person who is told he has to control his diet in order to stay healthy, he knows it, but he cant control himself and continues to gorge on whatever food his plucky fingers can lay on. Later, I can diet later, there is still time.

The facts of the US election must also be scritinzed to form a more realistic picture of the situation at hand. It was reported that a record turnout to vote in this latest election, which came to 131 million people representing 64% of the elegible voters. 64%! and this is a historical record! What happen to the remaining 36% or slightly more than one in three American?

Very important to note is that the popular vote was quite close. It is the "winner takes all" system of the election that put McCain at a disadvantage. Big state like New York and California command among them a whopping 80 electoral college, and Democrats traditionally hold sway in them and this election is no exception. When early in the vote count when Obana wa leading 200 to McCaine's 104 (?), with California and the pacific states still unaccounted for, it was foregone conclusion Obama was going to win. In other words, McCain's clout in California and other big states count for nought. In fact it can be that a candidate's popular vote may exceed his opponents and still lose the election. In fact this had happen just 8 years ago. Al Gore's popular vote was more than Bush yet the latter won.

Bear in mind that about 25% of American are non-whites (Black and Hispanic), and they are the most enthusiatic voters, which is understandable, and I can say without so much of an indepth analysis that a whopping majority of them voted Obama. Which brings me to the question: How many whites voted Obama?

Sure, you see a sea of white faces at Obama's rallies, and television interview white voters (especially ladies) gushing enthusiasm at the prospect of a black president. Mark Twain said: Better to keep quiet and be thought you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Same thing here. In politically correct America, better to hide your feeling of racism than to openly display them, (smack of hypocriticy?, that's America for you!) Thus you dont see whites surging in crowd of 100,000 strong in McCain's rally, and those that you see at Obama's are just flaunting their PCness.

Now lets get down to to nitty gritty:-

1.131 million American voted.

2.Very close popular votes.(give or take a million or two)

Means 66 million voted for Obama

and 65 million voted McCain

3. 25% of voters non-whites. A larger portion of non-white voters turn up to vote. Almost all non-white voted for Obama.

Means at least 32.75 million non-whites voted for Obama

and that of Obama's 66 million who voted for Obama, only 37.25 million are whites.

Means of the 65 million who voted of McCain, probably 0.1% of the black voted for him, These are probably 100-year-old unaccompanied wheelchair-bound grandmas who ticked the wrong wrong box with her trembling hand, or an over enthusiatic hip-hop dude who wore sunglasses into the booth and also ticked the wrong box.

Meaning of the 98.25 million white voters, 65.5 million whites voters DID'NT voted Obama.

What about the 36% of those who didnt vote, and who in all probabilty are whites?

Meaning two third of America's white are probably still racist!

Now, am I saying that Obama's victory is a fluke? A flash in the pan? or a carefully orchestrated plan of a man destined for greatness? I say its a combination of a both. Obama broke into the scene in the right place at the right time. At a time when America was sick of its Iran war, when big banks are fumbling, when people are sick of establishmentarianism, when the Republicans couldnt come up with a better candidate than an septuagent who went on to pick a nubile running mate with a fetish for lipstick, I could go on and fact I would.....endorsing a black president is one thing, when he is in office sitting at the head of the table presiding over his group of advisors, I can imagine the viewer of such TV live telecast will be squirming in their sofa. Dont believe me? Watch out for Biden's body language next time a Cabinet meeting goes on air. I know its a novelty to have a black president, its even fun. but when he roll up his sleeve, it may be a totally different story. Please dont let me get started on assassination (touch wood).

Now back to Malaysia. Go read our PM on today's Star online who said any one can be PM. Much as I like this to happen, ie minority can become PM one day, I still say, go on dreaming, Malaysia. I say Obama's vicotry counts for zilch for Malaysia, but my buddy would not take no for an answer. Our meeting was adjourned.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Malaysian Caricatures

My first attempts at caricatures were total disasters, not only were they moronically amateurish, they were totally disgusting and unacceptable. I thought you'd give a pencil and paper to a mountain gorilla, he could come up with a better drawing than that! Of course I did not realise that being an "artist" meant you could draw caricatures. Its a totally new ball game, like soccer to rugby. Yeah, you kick a ball to a goal, and you run like a mad man, but that's where the similarity ends. Drawing caricatures requires the drawer to delve into the subjects' psyche, their moods and everything (even psychic, sometimes, I think!)besides their outward physical attributes, and oh, very important, an evil sense of humour! What is a caricature if it is not funny? Its like a joke with a weak punchline. Okay, lets cut the craps and see what I have come up with (after weeks or teeth gnashing and hair tearing and suffering ridicule from my inner self):-

1. Mat Taib.
The subject is easy (start with easy subject!) because he has a face chockful of features, craggy, lines, eyebags, prominent eyelids and thick lips.

2. Ahmad Shabery Cheek.
This must be every caricaturist's dream subject, with his prominet lips, slitty eyes and an overflowing smile!

3. Ong Ka Ting
This subject is fair game too with his prominet lower jaw and typical oriental eyes, a great help to caricature is the subject hair style, besides the shape of his face. Hair style always make or break the likeliness of a caricature, fortunately Ong has a unique hair style that is easy to capture.

4. Shahrir
Another subject with plenty of prominent features. Top being his thick lips and the shock of white hairs, longish face.

5. Teresa Kok
This is a tricky subject. I find trying to caricature women more challenging than men and I think most caricaturists think so too. Maybe its the gender thing, me being a man? Ever wonder why there are few female artists and practically NO famous artists the like of van Gogh, Picasso et al? Anyway, Teresa's features are more subtle even though she has a "remarkable" face, and in this case, I am trying to capture the "essence" of her character, not the likeliness. Sometimes if you draw a caricature following the subject's features, you end up with a grotesquely different person.

6. Chua Jui Meng
Doing caricature in colours present another set of challenge, that is highlighting and shadowing facial nooks and corners and protruding features. Caricatures with colour tend to make the subject more lively and a better perception its 3-dimensions. In this case Chua has a unique hairstyle and prominent moustache (often a caricaturist's lifeline),and a craggy lined face.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

10 Most Preposterous Headlines I'd like to read

1. Sarkozy embraces Islam
Ending months of speculation, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France finally made the announcement with his two burqa-clad wives standing beside him. At the Charles de Gaulle Airport before boarding an official Air France airliner for Mecca to perform the Haj, Sarkozy announced his new found faith and did not hide the fact that he was influenced by his two spouses, believe to be of French-Moroccan descents. He also said that one day, he hope France will become an Islamic Republic as the Muslim population has already exceeded half, a fact that had been kept under wrap by the census board for many years already.

2. Coup: Clinton seizes power, declared herself President
Vice President Hillary Clinton seizes power in a bloodless coup early this morning. President Obama evades arrest and escaped to the Bahamas in a military helicopter. In a move that was to forever change the face of American history, Vice President Hillary Clinton with the help of the US Army top brass swooped in with tanks and elite troops of the 101st Airborne Division surrounding the White House. However bodyguards loyal to President Obama were able to whisk him and his family to a waiting helicopter and escaped into the chill of the early morning. A few gunshots were heard in the compound of the White House, presumably between the rebels and the loyalists but there was no report of casualties. At press time, it is learnt that Obama had flew to the Bahamas to set up a government-in-exile.

3. Secret DNA test proves Angela Merkel is Hitler's daughter
Did Adolf Hitler sire any offspring? This intriguing poser was finally answered when Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to a DNA test to match her genes with a known Hitler's living first cousin, 93 years old Magritte Hopfgardner. The test was to be done on the condition that it must be kept secret and irrespective of the result. As it turned out, the result was positive. However the laboratory technician defied his superior's order and sold the story for 2 million euros to a German tabloid, the Bild.

4. Texas declares independence
The fiercely parochial state of Texas had long been famous for its independent streak, and Texans are perpetually thumbing their noses at Washington for mistreatments, real or perceived. Taking the advantages while the White House faced the turrets of tanks from forces loyal to Hillary Clinton, The Texas governor flew the Lone Star flag from the rostrum of the Houston Astrodome, proudly announced the birth of Republic of Texas, and inspects a guard of honour manned by the newly formed Texas Revolutionary Army. The ceremony ended with shouts of “Remember the Alamo!” At press time, it was learnt that the states of Mississippi, Missouri and Georgia were also contemplating the same move.

5. China wins FIFA 2016 World Cup
Knowing that their country will never win the soccer world's most coveted cup if every game were to be played by the book, the FA of China concocted a plan to snatch the Cup on the sly. A reward of 1 billion dollars was subtly dangled before the 5 top honchos of FIFA, and they took the bait. The five man team swung into action, devising a most complex plan, which includes rigging draws to put China into easy groups, and fixing prequalification matches and even outright bribery. But before the plot could be brought to full hatchery, a disgruntled member, presumably being shortchanged on the payout, blew the whistle and exposed the whole scandal to The Sun for… you guess it… an undisclosed fee rumoured to be in the millions pounds.

6. Ahmadinejad sets condition for abandoning nuclear programme: Hold Olympics in Iran.
In a desperate attempt to shore up his plunging popularity, President Ahmadinejad has done it again. This time, the charismatic leader, who over the years claimed to have built up a yet unconfirmed stockpile of nuclear warheads, decide to play the bluff by demanding that the coming summer Olympics be held in Iran in return for his country's giving up of the nuclear programme. As his country is already wrecked by economic chaos, he was also quick to add that all the cost of staging the Games be borne by all participating nations. "Based on my calculation for the costs of the Game, my demand is very reasonable. It's a small price to pay for world peace."

7. Israel agrees to relocate to northwest corner of Australia.
Wealthy members of the Organization of Islamic Countries, flushed with cash from years of lofty crude oil price of US200 per barrel, pooled together a gigantic fund to buy out Israel, thus ending decades of Middle East conflict. A piece of real estate the size and shape of present day Israel was purchased at a whopping cost of US 1 trillion dollars at the north west corner of Australia. A further 10 trillion US dollars was compensated to the Israel for the buildings, factories and all immovable assets. Each Israel citizen is to receive a further 10 million dollars, thus making the new state of Israel the richest country per capita by far in the world. The new name for the state was unanimously agreed to be Republic of Ausrael. State religion remains Judaism.

8. Queen Elizabeth swims across the English Channel.
Getting tired of people take pot shot at her health, the queen put all rumours to rest by taking the plunge into the cold waters of the English Channel. However she was clothed in a custom-made full swimming suit revealing not a square inch of flesh except her face, palms and ankles, prompting many disappointed paparazzis to turn away without even taking a shot. As a security measure, she used a tethered life-vest and had to be hauled up to her royal yacht every 30 minutes for some rest and tea. Prince Charles was conspicuously absent from the whole event as any exercise to enhance the longevity of the queen was not on his priority list. However the frail Prince Philip was on the side of the yacht to urge her on with a loud hailer held up by his grandson Prince William. The whole swim from Dover to Dunkirk took five days.

9. Stonehenge stolen. Ransom of 100 million pounds demanded.
“Rocknappers” demand 100 million pounds for the return of the massive Stonehenge rocks mysteriously hauled away during the weekend. Police are baffled as to how such massive heist can be perpetrated. Members of the Association of Witches of England were the first to condemn the heinous act and vowed to use all their powers, supernatural or otherwise, to nab the culprits. Said Marion St James, the Grand Witch “We cannot possibly conduct our rituals without the backdrop of the Stonehenge. Hence we will not leave any stone unturned to recover it.”

10. Paris Hilton marries Arab sheikh.
Paris Hilton loved the Burj al Arab so much, that after lengthy discussion and advice from her best pal and confidante, Britney Spears ("anything that sounds like my baby's burp sounds good"), decided to marry its owner Saleem al Salad. Babbling excitedly in her new burqa, Paris checks into her permanent suite at the top floor complete with swimming pool and a phalanx of servant girls. She will be throwing a house warming party soon for gang members like Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Robbie Williams, Motley Crue and anyone with body tattoos. Dress code: Strictly Burqa (Black color only).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why Clarkson oozes dude-ism from every pore of his skin.

Reading Jeremy Clarkson's work is like trying to read the clues of cryptic crosswords as a novel. You don't understand a word he said, but you continue to read to the end and chuckling at every turn and finally felt cheesed off because you suddenly realised that he had just insulted your intelligence and yet you want to give him an round of applause and you actually hate yourself later for doing that.

But you see, Jeremy was a good boy. He grew up trying unsuccessfully trying to be a newspaper editor and never passed his driving test. So, in order to camouflage this twin shortcomings, he reckoned, and rightly, the best course of action was to be a famous car reviewer. and the rest as they say is his story. All the the cops on the British Isles wouldn't dream of stopping this famous man asking for his driving licence and no Brits in their right frame of mind dares to say he writes craps. Of course before he attained this cult status of sorts, the trials he endured warrants another write-up if not a best-seller, but that's another story, really.

Anyway back to his works, you really had to expend unnecessary energy trying to crack the trails of teasing clues he'd left peppered in his piece. Like this opening salvo in Dante's new hell: my work canteen "Where did you buy your ironing board? You didn’t, did you? You were born with it. Everyone is, which is why everyone has one". See? I can hear your gnashing teeth already and this is just for starters. Then there's "...Dante got everything wrong.There are not nine circles of hell. There are 10." And then there is.....oh please do not run away.

And you start wondering if he was barking up some wrong kind of tree. That, or you've just lost your marbles.

Mr. Clarkson doesn't spun out convoluted philosophy much as you think he's totally capable of, since he can cleverly manoeuvre a hairpin bend with a dexterity of an orangutan with an amputated limp in an automatic geared Perodua Kelisa, whom he once famously described as sounding like a disease, and had our Minister of International Trade hopping mad in her baju kurung (Malay dress).

No, I mean, the word "philosophy" is not found in the dictionary of Mr. Clarkson, either he had the word obliterated with indelible ink or the publisher customised a copy for him with many other omissions (as per his instruction of course) as well.

Which come to my next observation, that is the UK is a very dangerous place to be bringing up your kids or to pursue a rewarding career. I mean, here we have a man, basically possessing all the faculties of sight, hearing and so on, but is totally lacking in cohesive thinking, and absolutely lacking the ability to make himself understood in his writing and we have 56 million Britons (with the exception of some disgruntled Scots and Welshmen) fawning over him, and better still or worse still (depending on who's listening), wanting him to sit in 10 Downing Street! Iraq, meet your saviour!

Do you know what kind of bottomless pit Prime Minister Jeremy Clarkson is going to take you to? He's going to campaign for motoring to be a medal event in the London Olympics! It's going to make Adolf Hitler look like Colonel Sanders in apron raining fried chicken wings over London. Its not Dante's Inferno, its not Satan's Hell, it's Jeremy driving a Mini (read economy) and ended up on a cliff hanger ala The Italian Job, then he coolly steps out of the car and it tips over and c-r-a-s-h! And you know what? He doesn't even grimace or cover his ears at the sound of the crash! That's quintessentially Jeremy for you! That's dude to the power of a bazillion. And don't you just love it?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Serikin - A hidden shopping haven

Having heard that the road to Serikin is tar sealed all the way already, I finally decided to drive and see for myself the much talked about shopping haven at the edge of the Indonesian border. My wife was already bugging me to go for ages. Her two unrepentant shopaholic sisters got wind of the trip and booked two seat in my car too.We went on a Saturday as the place only opens up on weekend mornings (Saturday and Sunday).

It was a sunny morning as we started from Kuching at about 8am. We took the new Batu Kawa road which bypasses Bau town. Bau is a very picturesque town and it is advised to detour (only 5km away) into this delightful township on the way back to Kuching The road signs are plentiful and do keep a sharp lookout, even if you are a newcomer, you can find his way. Do appoint one of your in-laws as co-navigator to share the blame in case you take a wrong turn.

After driving leisurely for about an hour, we entered the final junction into Serikin amidst verdant greenery and scenic limestone hills outcrops. In fact we just passed by the junctions to two of Kuching's popular attractions, the Wind Caves and the Fairy Caves less than half an hour drive away (but thats another story altogether).

Finally, we arrived at Serikin town. It was about 9.20 am. We had to queue up for almost 20 minutes just to enter the car parks with touts guarding the entrance, we paid the extortion, RM3.00 to them (just for peace of mind!). There were so many cars, easily in the hundreds and a I counted at least 12 big tour buses, and the place was all filled up haphazardly as there was no lines drawn on the ground, which is nothing more than a huge rough patch of open ground with patches of muddy puddles here and there. But like it or not we had to park here as parking elsewhere may end you up with a puncture tyre or a dented car. Finally we found a nice shade space which the previous occupant just vacated.

It was still considered early in the morning of a Saturday, the crowd was already streaming in. There was a carnival atmosphere as the crowd milled around the town and the "main street", which consist of two rows of wooden sheds/shops facing each other stretching for several hundred metres. The are sides lanes radiating from this "main street" lined with similar sheds or shops thus forming a mazed network of shopping lanes. I must say the ladies were like kids in a candy store.

There must have been several hundred shops and sheds here in all, and selling all manners of goods. Textiles and clothings shops are the majority here. The Indonesian kebayas and sarongs are selling at half the price one would have to pay in Kuching city area. For example, a complete set of kebaya with blouse and sarong and selendang (shawl) of very good quality sell for only about RM50.00! Sarong is about RM10.00 per piece.

There are shops selling curtains, carpets, t-shirt, pants, rattan furnitures, kitchen utensils, trinkets, fake Louis Vuitton handbags, replicas Rolex watches, antiques, fruits, foods, drink, "snake medicine" and I even saw a stall selling live leech ("can cure some skin disorders"). Some shops were so crowded I couldnt even enter! Bargaining is order of the day, and if you do not bargain, the vendors may think you are from another planet.

As the weather was hot and humid, I feel it is better to go earlier in the morning, say, leaving Kuching about 6.30am and arriving about 8.00 am, it would be cooler before the heat of the day make you sweat. Most of the traders there are Indonesians who had crossed over from the border bringing along their merchandise and had to haul back the unsold goods at the end of the day. But over time, I believe they have already rent some "store" here to save the hassle of transportation.

Finally, after an hour or so of shopping, sarongs kebayas, we quickly retreated to the shade of a coffee shop for some drinks. Watching as cars and busload of people continued to arrive. If not for the heat of the day, we would have stayed longer to hunt for more bargains. At 11.00 the ladies couldnt stand the heat anymore and rushed to comfort of our air-con car.

10 minutes out of Serikin is an interesting market stop selling jungles produces, vegetables and fruits. We stopped, as did scores of other cars and buses, for a look-see and tooked heaps of photos too. There was a lady selling live sago worms, wriggling disgustingly (to the ladies) and delightfully (to me), I took some photos and video shoot for all to enjoy!

Gentlemen and Ladies

Why not give all the elected offices to the ladies? It was like a thunderbolt! Out of the blue and it was brilliant theorizing. (Ted probably said that because Jane's face wont even launch a sailing boat) At last, we men can relax after tumultous millinniums of hard work. Please allow me a few minutes while I set up my hammock and concoct a new cocktail call "The New World Order", then with the drink in my hand and with my droopy eyes, I will attempt to review a few scenarios of the world to come. I usually think better when I'm horizontal.

First of all, the First Gentleman has to eat a lot of humble pies, like walking three steps behind Mdm President, and while she may be conferring with other Head of States (her "sisters") in the Great Hall, He is gracing the opening of Kindergarten for the Deaf or recieving mock cheques for the Salvation Army and many other ego-depressing chores.

What about Parliamentary proceedings? Can women fight like men in the hallow halls of Parliament? I mean we men equate throwing shoes, trading punches and hurling abuses as boy scouts on a sunny picnic, can you women do that? I ask this because tossing stilletoes is hazardeous, but bashing each others with LV handbags is just like body massages, which left you with the un-used before options of spitting and yanking each others hairs (or wigs) and biting varicosed ankles. Think about that, ladies.

I suppose Mr Jane Fonda still mean men will hold sway in the business world. Therein lies the problem. How do we grease the well manicured palm of Mdm Presdient? We businessmen network at golf clubs, hobnob in the birthday suits in saunas and other unsavoury locales, would Madame moral be compromised if we need to "discuss things in private"? And heaven forbid, losing golf to the Hon. Minister whose handicap is 40!

Women in power does not mean they are immune to the ravages of nature (SKII or Oil of Ulay not withstanding) especially when they past the half century mark as most Head of State are wont to be. I read somewhere that a woman can plead temporary insanity due to menopausal depression. Now can Madame hit the panic button (not to mention THE BUTTON) when this affliction hits her? Dont get me started on the monthly cycle one!

So there you have it , the above is just an aperitif, I'm not for or against the whole thing and I'm saying this not to confuse you, as I seem to be rambling and giving the "double tracked" signal (whatever that means, i'm confused too. hey, this is blogging, right?).

What I'm saying is, if the missus can operate the mystifying control panel of a washing machine, she can do anything. So, guys, why dont we give the girls a chance for a dry run? If it works out, we'll be beach bums for the rest of our life, now isnt this fun?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

All for the love of dian mian hu, kompia and mangee

I had just finished my cheng beng duty and looked at the crumbled piece of paper with my to-do list:-

-pay visit to my auntie (tuakor), per instruction of Helen Ting-Teo.

-buy as many kompia and mangee (only from chop sing kee's and nobody else's) as my poor limps can carry, per instruction of my wife.

-statutory pilgrimage to angkow's kampua stall.

-any other indigenous food worth sampling.

-visit some childhood haunts

-shoot the famous tapau-ed live chicken at the central wet market as evidence to complain to the SPCA

I still had got half an hours to kill before I board my express boat to kuching. The kompia and mangee were all tapau-ed in two large plastic bags (the type damned by ecologists everywhere) already, and I was wandering aimlessly in the street behind Blacksmith Road.

Suddenly I came across a small lane between two blocks of shophouses, and a familiar sight greeted me: the "dian miang hu" shop! Arguably the oldest eatery in town (try looking for an kopitiam older than 40 yrs in Sibu) and the real McCoy of this native cuisine of Sibu.

Slowly I approached the shop not confident whether I know how to order a bowl or not after all these years. It must have been, I dont know, 20 years (?) since I last set foot into this shop, but somehow, I was drawn to its dark and dank interior set amidst foul-smelling longkau. Yes, it stank, but I sat down anyway and the waiter looked at me for my order, I murmured "dia miang hu" inaudibly and point my index finger at the ceiling (indicating one bowl). She read my lips, message understood.

The place was not very full so I secretly fished out my camera and pretended to be fiddling the dials, while in fact I was pointing it at the electric-power rice-flour grindstone whirring just 5 feet away from me. I took aim and snapped a shot. Not contented with just a still shot, I switched it to video mode and pan the camera right across the shop, the whirring grindstone, the kitchen, the helpers cutting away at the table, the other customers and the boss, yes, the same tall thin guy that you and I knew since our puberty, a bit older but still sprightly in his movement.

Finally my bowl of dianmianhu came. Picking up the broad short china spoon, I scooped up the hot soup and sipped......ahhhh! Still the same great taste! Not wanting to let this moment go unrecorded, I quickly took a shot of my bowl before I continue eating. There were the fishballs, though not springy enough, the black fungus and the tiger lily, my fave. The let-down? No cut strips of cuttlefish (what a pity).

Finally I finished up my last spoonful. Standing up burping and digging into my pocket, I looked at the waiter. "Dua ringgit setengah" understandingly she responsed, I paid and walked out into the sunshine again.

Ooops! Express boat sailing in 15 minutes time! With my arthritis stricken arms flailing with big plastic, transparent bags (the size of what the laundrywomen carry) of kompia and mangee and a backpack on my back, and stomach full of sloshing dianmianhu, my mental GPS computed the straightest route to the wharf while my calf muscles and archilles tendons strained to complete their task of making it in time for the boarding. Just made it!

For a 55-year-old sprinting 500 metres across horrendous traffic and laden with 20 kilograms of cargo in 14 minutes is quite an achievement, no? But when I stepped on the boat's ladder, the juragan pushed his palm just two inches from my nose:

"No more selling kueh! we're sailing now"

"B-b-but, I'm..."

"I know, you're selling kompia..."

"I'M A PASSENGER!" I almost screamed, at the same time stopping a multitude of other passenger scrambling towards me thinking of buying kompia and mangee from me.

"Oh, sorry.........." Still trying to catch my breath, I could see some passengers looking longingly at my two plastic bags swaying clumsily as I clambered up the ladder.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thaipusam in Kuching

The Indian man gingerly unhooked the hooks from a tranced devotee's back, there was not a drop of blood oozing out.

"How come he's not bleeding?" Gregory, my buddy who'd been living in Australia for over 20 years, asked in amazement.

"Dunno," I suggested, "maybe he's in a trance". I looked biting my lip as I tried to take the picture. There was one with a hook so big it could have been used to catch a barracuda or even a shark!

Though the number of Indian population is small, there are at least three Hindu temples in the town, and the one shown here is the Ban Hock Road Temple.

On Thaipusam Day,Hindu devotees carry ornate "kavadi" as their pledge to the gods for granting them their wishes, and each years, scores of devotees carry them along designated routes from the Satok Bridge to the temple here. I was indeed lucky to "bump" into this occation as I was picking up Greg, my old friend and ex-colleague who'd migrated to Australia, and is now visiting Kuching, and staying in the Liwah Hotel, a stone throw from this temple.

Some of the devotees even had ropes tied to their hooks and tethered to a cart laden with pots of milks and other paraphernalia of worship, and pull them with their skin stretched like they'd going to tear away from the body!

Part of the procession entering the courtyard of the temple

Ladies come in drove to give moral support to their kins

Up close with the devotees

Friday, January 18, 2008

Men! Dont read your wife's diary

There's this couple that's been married for 20 years, and she'd kept a diary stashed somewhere in the store feeding the silverfish for so long the cover's gone. One day hubby was looking for his drill bits and chanced on the journal. Blowing the dust of the book, he started reading, it got juicier and juicier. Now, if you think I'm going to give you the details, sorry. You'll just have to use your imagination.

Next thing we know, the wife crept quietly behind him and calmly tap him on the shoulder : "Whaddya think? Do you think it can be made into a blockbuster?". Startled, hubby quickly put down the book and muttered something about a career in carpentry. The conversation that ensued sounds like this:-

Startled hubby: Huh, er......hi...I was looking for my Carpentry for Dummies, what I got was this moth eaten Bible.....

Wife: Nice try. How many chapters have you read?

Hubby: This Bible? I was just about to open it, I hope its King James' Version....

Wife: Give me a break will you? I was watching you from a distance. Dont you ever respect a person's right to privacy?

Hubby: Ow, come off it, I was just pages only.

Wife: You know, you're sick.

From that day onward, the wife farts and pick her nose in his presence, burps at the table and break all the taboos on the list. What I'm trying to say here is a diary is so personal, so sacred that if someone ever reads yours, then you might as well break wind in his presence, for your soul has been already laid bare, spread-eagle for the world to ogled.

What I'm trying to portray here is that how time has changed. We write our deepest thought in a blog and invite the whole world to see! With a tremendous help from the electronic world of internet, what we see, feel, think, are all in our blog. And we want everybody in this planet to read and see that. And we like to peep into what other people have written about themselves. See, we are voyeurs and exhibitionists all at the same time, all thanks, or no thanks to blogging, whichever the case maybe for you.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Obama and Osama (part 2)

Obama's phone rang again

Osama: Salaam, brother, peace be upon you...
Obama (body goes limp, eyes roll up): What is it now?
Osama: Did you manage to get Condoleeza?
Obama: Honestly, I dont know what you see in this broad
Osama: It the gap on her front teeth, it makes me soooo horny just to look at her face....mmmuak!
Obama (shuddering with goose pimples): Look, its very dangerous to call me now, can you call after my inauguration?
Osama: Inauguration! That's why I'm calling you now, please can I come? Please?
Obama: C'mon, brother, I cant invite you, you know that!
Osama: I can shave clean, just lend me a tuxedo! I'll leave the AK47 at home.
Obama: Besides the FBI screen all guests, who are you going to pose as? Ambassador of Osamanistan?
Osama: I can slit of the guard's throat and put on his uniform.......
Obama: Okay okay whatever, let me beat Huckleberry...I mean Huckabee first.
Osama: I heard Hilary is going to sabotage you, you want me to fix her up?
Obama: No! Not now! Now don't call me again until I win okay?
Osama: Wait! Please put me sitting next to Condoleeza....
Obama (exasperated now): Geez! I'll put you next to Bush if you dont hang up now!
Osama: Okay okay! Cool it man, you're joking right? hello?
Wow, these American are all the same, black or white.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Osama and Obama

Osama bin Laden on line with Obama. "Brother, as soon as you're elected lets throw a party okay?".
Obama: Are your crazy? This phone might have been tapped!
Osama: Nah, I check already, everything is cool, my men has got the AK47 all ready
Obama: Will you get serious? If Clinton knows I'm talking to you now, I'm history! Kaput! Say goodbye to the Presidency!
Osama: Why, you can always stage a coup....
Obama: Hmmm.. but how do I do that?
Osama: Brother, leave that to me. Thousand of my suicide bombers are at my command. I just create mayhem at the White House and help you seize the CNN....
Obama: I want that broad blown to smithereen!
Osama: What's in it for me?
Obama: Hey, man, we're brothers, remember? We'll talk again later okay?
Osama: Wait, I kind of like Condoleeza, can you do something?
Obama: Look I've got to go.......
(Heavy breathing from Osama)
Obama: Alright! alright! You got her!
Osama (grinning): like, spoils of war, right?
Obama: you dirty old fox! (click)

Friday, January 4, 2008

You can't call yourself a true-blue Siburian unless.... (Part 3 of the Trilogy)

1. You own a motor bike even though you have a 4x4 and a saloon car already.

2. You throw mammoth bashes to celebrate the 50th,60th,68th,70th,80th88th,90th(gasp)100th birthday of your parents/grandparents besides the 30th, 40th 50th ........ 80th.(fill in the blank)... anniversay of their wedding.

3. You consider it is compulsory to put up congratulatory messages/advertisement on all your relatives/friends' auspicious occations, examples (by no means exhausive) are as follows:-

- 70th birthday of your supplier's (who gives you six months credit term) father-in-law, full page.

-Your uncles and aunties' (your godpa and godma) 33rd wedding anniversary..half page.

-Your bank's branch manager (who approved your million dollar loan) got promoted to area manager. full colour double centre-spread.

-You customer (whom you give credit) moves to a new bigger house. half page.

-Your mother-in-law's birthday: 1/8th page.

-Your cousin (still owe you money) opens new shop. the classified section.

4. You consider obituary as essential reading, esp business associates' condolences message, for committing the sin of not publishing condolence msg to him will land you in to his blacklist, and thats not good for your biz.

5. You study other peoples' obits like a college student doing a project on his genealogy, checking whether so-and-so is related to you and how many kids and daughter-in-laws so-and-so has and how many of his kins share your surname.

6.You are always on the lookout for money-making kangtow. Thus you join an average of one MLM per month.

7. You have so much health supplement capsules (from the MLM) you give the expired ones to your mother- in-laws.(okay,okay, I make up this one, just sit down will you?).

8.You tell everybody you have a weekend retreat villa in Sungei Meelook or Aleemah (Your grandfather's dilapidated wooden house).

9. Your kids can repeat your childhood hardship stories with all the intricate details (you know, the rubber estate, pepper farm stories) by heart.

10. When you dont want them (your teenage kids) to disturb you, you simply say "when I was at your age....." they will all scamper off.

11.You belong to 50 associations and organisations like Chinese chamber of commerce, clan asso., dialect asso. surname asso. chess asso., (honorary advisor), wushu asso. (hon. auditor), guilds, and whatever there is to join.

12. You are a member of SUPP, but a closet DAP supporter.

Disclaimer: The above has been meticulously researched and edited for
political correctness (er...except for no. 12). Any disagreement with the above must be registered within 3 days for faster response, as the writer will assume a lapse of memory thereafter.

You can't call yourself a true-blue Siburian unless.... (Part 2)

1. You begin every sentence with "Sah ni koo..."

2. You wear gold necklace and bracelet as thick as "tik lien" (iron
chain)(credit to John for reminding me).

2(a) You wear ten rings on each finger, and each stone on it is as big
as ostrich egg.

3. You wear "Umbrella" brand (Arnold Palmer) collar t-shirt with loud
colour horizontal stripes, and loose fitting "Camel" shorts (or is it
pants?) with two dozen pockets of varying sizes. You bought them at Ngiu
Kee just before Chinese New Year, and will last you till the next CNY,
meaning your buy new apparels once a year only.

4.You file all your documents (4-D slips, photostats copies of land titles,
"555" note book, utilities bills, unpaid invoices, football bets and
passport of your Indonesian maid) in your breast pocket till it bulges
like a gunny sack.

5. Your command of Bahasa sucks like a first class vacuum cleaner yet
you talk to your bumi friends/workers as if its your mother tongue.

-Wa punya boss Latok Lau, lu tidak tahu meh?

-apaaa.. lu olang kuak bising

-wa mau tengok lolok... mah

-saya sudah bayar leh!

-lu ada pee gee sana meh?

-kopi-o satu, jangan kuak manik oh!

6. Your command of Iban? suffice to say you only know one phrase:- "Aku
nak nemu...oh", which is enough to make your listener switch to the next
best avenue of communication ie your atrocious Bahasa

You can't call yourself a true-blue Siburian unless....

1. Your first stop upon arriving back in Sibu is to make a beeline for
Ang kow's kampua mee.

2. You have 60 friends with the names like Ah Nong or Ah Teh.

3. You consider sitting in coffee shop for 4 hours firing cannons with
Ah Nongs and Ah Tehs is not wasting time, but networking.

4. You sit down in a coffee shop and expect the waiter to remember you
order everytime, (it's "mien tai peng").

5. You whip out your tube of nose decongestant and stick it up your hairy
nostril, and leave it hanging there nonchalantly for all the world to see.

6. You sit cross-leg on the chair, picking your toe nails
intermittently, while waiting for your buddies to come.

7. One plate of kampua is not enough to whet your appitite (spelling?),
you have to take two plates.

7(a). For you, the best char mien (fried noodle) is the legendary Ah
Ngie's, unfortunately he'd kicked the bucket already. For you, Ah Ngie's
char mien is benchmark for all Sibu's char mien.

7(b). You can "gaaarg...ptuiiiiiii" anywhere you like, Sibu is a
spitter's paradise.

7(c). When you finish smoking, you flick the butt at a passing dog/cat

7(c) You hate Robert Lau till your gut spilt, yet you shake hand and
smile at him during election campaign.

8. Your car is parked only one spit away, even though it is blocking

9. You consider hairs growing from facial moles as sacred and never to
be trimmed.

10. You know the country phone codes of PNG, Brazil, Solomon Island, Russia and Central Africa but don't know the one for Singapore.

11. You buy "Compact" toilet rolls by the hundreds when its super
duper cheap.

11(a) You surely have one or two relative who is still staying in "sam
pah" (forest) like Sungei Meelook, or Aleemah or whatever.

12. You pack cartons of "kompia" when you go home overseas, (or even
Kuching, like me).