Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The Hokkien photographer

I am not sure whether this commercial for the Olympus E500 is Malaysian or Singapore made. But it's a hilarious depiction of the frustration of a Hokkien speaking photographer attempting to snap the perfect picture (clip sent by Alston).

The Hokkien speaking photographer

Monday, 29 October 2007

Chicken River Revisited

We paid another visit to Chicken River fishing village last Sunday, this time to go out to sea and see for ourselves how Ah Poh and his helper pull in the 18 fishing nets that he had set earlier. To a landlubber like myself, it was a learning experience. Guided not by GPS, but by his years of experience, he could navigate his boat in the choppy sea in the late evening to that part of the sea that he has claimed as his own. How did he map out that stretch of the sea as his own territory? Any attempt to get him to explain was drowned by the growl of the engine as we ploughed through the rough water.

It was impossible to see where his nets were laid out in the wide expanse of the sea, but he was able to guide his boat to each of them.

We cooled off with some coconut water before we set off at about 5.30 in the evening. As we left the river mouth, herons were picking off the mudskippers on the exposed mud bank. A short distance from the river mouth were the nets for trapping shrimps. Ah Poh was apologetic for the poor harvest of shrimps. He kept saying if we had come two days ago, we would have seen a better catch and more varieties of fish. The earlier trips he had made had yielded little and he was not so hopeful on this last trip.

As we moved further out to the deeper part of the sea where fish nets could be found, we spotted a couple of ocean liners in the distant skyline and other fishing boats in the vicinity.

Dear readers, the little knowledge that I have of tropical fish may have led me to identify some fish wrongly. I will leave it to the readers to correct me.

The favourite resting place of Oni Kee

Ah Poh splitting coconuts after draining out the coconut water

Coconut flesh

Oni's grand daughter enjoying her coconut flesh

Some happy children

Two brothers taking a dip to cool off

Learning the art of the lion dance

Going out to sea

The river mouth at low tide

Markers to warn boats of shallow sea bed

Floats that mark the position of the fishing net

Pulling in the net

Note the basket in which the catch is put into after opening the neck of the net

The choppy sea

The "dragon tongue" fish as the Chinese call them

Jelly fish entangled in the net

A close-up shot of a jelly fish

The electric ray

The only prawn caught from the deeper part of the sea

A cow fish?

Note the huge teeth

The catch Ah Poh is happiest with

A giant eel? But it has got a "beak" for a mouth.

The locals call this fish "tongkang"

Coming back from the sea

Shots of the skyline in fading light

Sorting out shrimps from trash fish

Sting rays

Sorted shrimps


A side view of the catfish

Sorted white pomfrets

It was, from Ah Poh's point of view, a poor outing. At a government subsidised price of one ringgit per litre of diesel for fishermen, a trip to and from the sea would set him back by about RM 35.00 in diesel cost, excluding payment to his helper.

It was an exhilarating experience with the wind whipping our faces and the salt sprays peppering us as the boat sliced through the choppy water. The only problem was the jarring of bones from the constant vibration caused by the enjine and the ache in the buttocks from the hard planks.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi addressing the Indian National Congress

Suffering from an attack of nostalgia, I went searching for old movies that meant a lot to me. And it came to mind that one of the most moving movies that I have seen was Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi" with Ben Kingsley playing the role of Gandhi. The other was Robert Mulligan's 1962 movie, "To Kill A Mocking Bird" with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the white lawyer who dared to defend a black man in an era when racist sentiments against black people were prevalent. However, the movie file for Mocking Bird is too big to be included here. Instead I have posted the one on "Gandhi" which shows one of those defining moments in the movie.


Gandhi: Since I returned from South Africa, I have traveled over much of India. And I know that I could travel for many more years and still only see a small part of her. And yet, I already know that what we say here means nothing to the masses of our country. Here, we make speeches for each other, and those English liberal magazines that may grant us a few lines.

But the people of India are untouched. Their politics are confined to bread and salt. Illiterate they may be, but they're not blind. They see no reason to give their loyalty to rich and powerful men who simply want to take over the role of the British in the name of "freedom."

This Congress tells the world it represents India. My brothers, India is 700,000 villages, not a few hundred lawyers in Delhi and Bombay.

Until we stand in the fields with the millions that toil each day under the hot sun, we will not represent India -- nor will we ever be able to challenge the British as one nation.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Toilets to inspire or fear

A common Malaysian toilet

The Malaysian government is at its wit’s end to ensure that public toilets and those of commercial establishments, particularly eating places are kept clean. Malaysians in general are embarrassingly incapable of using public toilets as they should be used. To counter negative impressions of foreign tourists, state-of-art toilets, costing RM 400,000 a piece were introduced in tourist hot-spots in Kuala Lumpur. But many KL residents were upset by the extravagance, protesting that the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Launching of the state-of-art toilet in Kuala Lumpur recently

The interior

Air conditioning to provide comfort in tropical heat

Foreign tourists have complained of footprints on toilet seats, and wet floors. They perceive that many Malaysians have not quite got used to sitting while doing their business. However, it is more of fear of contracting infectious diseases from the seats that are used by so many people. Hence, the footprints.

Foreigners’ comments on Malaysians’ use of toilets:

  • WE westerners must be a bit gross: They do squat (over a “hole in the ground), and they wash instead of using toilet paper. That’s easier if you squat. Forcing them to climb toilet seats makes life difficult for them. Hence the “water everywhere”.
  • I encountered the “footprints on the seat” scenario when I was in Iraq with the US Army. Iraqis (and Malaysians, apparently) aren’t accustomed to sitting, and so squat with their feet firmly planted on the seat.
  • I understand that there are different ways to use the toilet… However, when I go into the lady’s restroom and find yellow sprinkles and brown smudges on the toilet seat, I feel ill. Why should I have to clean up after others just to relieve myself?

Still on the subject of toilets, there are some toilets in other parts of the world that apparently evoke emotions known only to those who use them.

Toilet bowls with flower motifs to inspire love of nature

Receptacle to inspire users to sing or whistle while evacuating liquid waste

Trust the Japanese to come up with an innovative design for use in our private moments

This Japanese high tech contraption would have frightened off many a potential user

A warning, particularly to boys to aim correctly

Wouldn't want to be looking over my shoulder constantly while doing it

Those with artistic inclinations would remain here longer than usual

Promoting togetherness

Pampering the ladies

Lovers of marine life would be pleased with the bowl on the left

Those with height disability would enjoy this

But the most expensive toilet in the world? The US 19 million space latrine that will be installed in the International Space Station in 2008. It’s a pity the Malaysian cosmonaut never got to use it.

Back to earth, how about Japan's smallest sub-atomic toilet in the world? Presumably only dust mites would appreciate the convenience.

Magnified 15,000 times its original size

And how would you like to live in a toilet-shaped house in south of Seoul? Built by the founding member of the World Toilet Association, Sim Jae-duck of South Korea, to commemorate their inaugural general assembly.