Saturday, April 30, 2011

Incurable Romantics

The royal wedding of Prince of Wales to a commoner on 29th April 2011 was not just a huge media event but was billed as being wedding of the century. Cinderella and Prince Charming are real and tangible! The level of attentions paid to this couple was indicative that a large part of humanity are incurable romantics. They like to see a fairy tale come to life; fortunately, it does seems that this couple are rather well adjusted charming individuals that could well pleased the expectations of the many.

Is it naive to wish for happy endings in a world that is full of disappointments and tragedies? It was said that President Franklin Roosevelt will not watch a film if it does not ends on a happy note; we should remember how he had to deal with many decisions that caused many people to suffered and even die during World War II. Perhaps its well that we should look towards the positive while putting up with unhappy events. The orphan Pollyanna shared her philosophy of life with an unhappy and frustrated preacher. She observed that her father who was a preacher had taught her to play the "Glad Game" which was essentially to look at the positive sides; and in his sermons, would concentrated on the "happy texts" in the Bible. Pollyana then quoted from Lincoln who observed that: "When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will."

Humans need to have lofty ideals as models. Alexander took as his model- the godlike Archiles, both Caesar and Napoleon held Alexander the great in turn as their model, and T.E. Lawrence thought of himself as a medieval knight... In the world of fantasy, many girls wanted to be beautiful princesses and many men are dashing princes on white steeds and they would live happily ever after in a fairy tale castle. In the midst of our fantasies, we might well remember the concept of under promise and over deliver. There is a supposed phenomenon known as The Paris Syndrome in which unattached young Japanese ladies would fell prey to the idea of the romantic Paris where they will find the ideal Frenchman of their fantasy; they would saved enough money and then proceed to the city of their dreams only to see their illusions dash to pieces on the rocks of reality.

Yet hopes spring eternal in the human breasts and so to bask in the good cheers generated by this fairy-tale coming to life royal wedding is good for the human spirit; never mind the great expectations and ultimate tragic fable of the Princess Diana, we should let optimism rise again. If something does not turned out as one wish in the past, it does not mean that we are doomed to fail the next time. We should try and try again and then we may yet succeed in the end.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Violin performance

Went to Triang for a charity dinner performance of music and dances; proceeds will go to the Japanese disaster fund. Jia Yin took part along with other students from their music school.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

From Fauna to Flora

From the Galapagos (Sue Anne's observation), let us now go to Kew Garden and see some plants instead of animals.

There is a public park with a large pond several kilometers away where the it is stocked with fishes and turtles. There are also birds and I had even seen hornbills but I am not sure if they roost within this park.

I saw this seed right at the rear of the shop. There was a tree at a nearby primary school attended by Sis, Eking and Eswee that produced such seeds from pods that shape like a boat. The tree had been cut down many years since.

Many years ago, I went to a medicine shop to buy a Chinese medicine known evocatively as Thousand pieces of paper for curing Jia Yin's chicken pox, I think; I was surprised to see that this type of seed was in fact the medicine. So we live and learn. If this seed had floated with the wind to this spot 50 years ago when it was still unpaved clearing, it might have taken root and grew up into a tree; but progress dictates that it would be cut down all the same for development.

A patch of garden growing profusely with sweet potato vegetable plants; its so lush because I used A1 Tok Sai (an ethnic joke) fertilizer (guano)! All I need now is a hungry Peter Rabbit to complete the rustic scene. Since this is the year of the rabbit in the Chinese zodiac calendar; I will bear such sacking by the said Peter Rabbit with indulgence although rabbit pie does sound rather nice!

Same case for these three potted plants. The left hand one is chili plant.

These Prosperity flowers (Fukui Fa) are still blooming; they were planted years ago by mom.

The fencing was replaced as we decided to destroy the hedge plants since they were playing hosts to termites which had again reared their ugly heads. Another round of insecticide were administered to counter this problem beside the destruction of the hedge plants.

Three longan trees for a group photo. The one in pot is same age as its giant sibling in the center; whereas the one at the rear is a grafted plant given by Jeff which can supposedly grow quickly and bear fruits by one year of age even when its still not very tall. Lets hope that it will do so as promised. I had dug out the previous grafted plant I planted and gave it to Eking.

A closer look at the longan tree bought at a nursery located in Tanjung Sepat by Jeff when he had a holiday there. I planted it during the Chinese New Year (Spring festival) back in February.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blasts from the past!

I was going through my personal things kept in boxes yesterday and was surprised to see a letter from Sue Anne that was left unopened since 1996 (25-9-96) which was 15 years ago! We often heard of letters that took ages to finally arrive and this is just one example although it was not the fault of the post office.

Click on photo to see a larger image.

I also found a letter written on pages torn from school exercise book directed to Eswee who was then studying in UK. I have no idea how this letter came back to me or perhaps I had simply made a copy? Anyway, this letter was dated 26-7-1982 and crossed over into the 27th as I only finished writing it by 12:39AM. The letter was 3 and a half page long but I decided to show this section as it contained a snapshot of Sue Anne then ...

Click on photo to see a larger image.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Music rules 2

Music is such an important element of human culture that the best compositions rank as among the pinnacle of human cultural achievements such as the musics of Mozart, Beethoven and other masters. However, popular music and songs had also contributed to the joys of fans and even economics progress of the artists and can be a powerful tourism campaign such as the classic Taiwanese song - Grandmother's Bay which managed to charm its way into the hearts of millions and is now used to attract visitors to the Peng Hu Bay region in Taiwan. The song and lyrics was specially written by a talented artist for a singer on whom the story of his childhood spend with his grandmother at the bay area was based upon. It was reported that the administrator of the region took advantage of this song's fame to exploit it without the singer's consent to the extent of misleading visitors that a certain stretch of the seaside was the area frequented by the singer and his grandmother. The singer told media that he have no complaint about the use of his song's fame to popularize the region but to do so without his consent and his input and especially misleading people is not acceptable to him; he also said that he tried to get in touch with the officialdom but was constantly rebuffed. I dig up this song as I remember sis said she love it; and its really a sweet and nostalgic classic folk song. This popular song were sung by many singers but here below is the song as sung by the original singer:

I also remember turning on the radio as I drove home one dreary Sunday several years ago. I chanced upon The Yellow Rose of Texas which was sung by a choir. My sagging spirit was immediately lifted by this powerful song and only later I did some research on the Internet and understood that it was sung as a marching song by the Confederates during the American Civil War. As one know, war is a morale sapping business as most of the time, soldiers had to bear great amount of hardships such as going hungry, going barefoot, weary from long marches not to mention risking life and limbs during horrendous battles. So such a song to boost morale is very important indeed. Life is sometimes liken to a war with many battles in which you win some and lost some; its good to pick oneself from the defeat of a battle so as to fight again another day. By the way, the lady in the song was supposed to be a Mulatto (one White and one Black parent) and not some White southern belle such as the fictional Scarlet O'Hara.

This song also reminded me of the time when Corazon Aquino addressed the joint house of the US Congress in which she gave a rousing speech thanking America for the support she received during the momentous match against the dictator- Ferdinand Marcos. TIME magazine reported that: "Aquino saved her most impressive performance for a speech before a joint session of Congress, whose members greeted her wearing yellow ties and tossing yellow roses flown in specially from Texas; the color has become Aquino's trademark." The downfall of the Marcos regime was an incredibly stirring historic episode. After listening to that song in the car, I tried to find a free MP3 version on the Internet but was not successful; only later did I discovered that it is available on youtube. By the way, there is a convertor program that can convert the version on youtube into MP3. So if someone is feeling the blues, listening to this song might just offer some badly needed cheers!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Music rules!

Apart from things like maths, drawings and possibly silent movies, music is perhaps the most universal of human expressions. The music and lyrics can help to express strong feelings about various topics especially those dealings with emotions. Music can be so powerful that they are in fact therapeutic and is a form of medicine in the realm of human psychology. Yet there are so many great songs that perhaps Western cultures never came across and vice versa in relation to other cultures. How about Indian songs and Mexican songs, etc? I like many mandarin songs and would like to introduce one song written and sung by a talented Taiwanese song writer and singer: Qi Qing. He wrote many popular and interesting songs and one of the song was sung by a couple of migrant workers in China during the night in a makeshift jamming session but their renditions were good as it expressed their deeply felt angst from years of chasing the Chinese dream in modern day China. Perhaps the Chinese government should set up many such facilities to allow migrant workers to take off some of the pressures in what is now a high pressure cooker (often times crony) capitalist society. I am including the version sung by Qi Qing for comparison:

The Feline Farmer

I saw the appealing scene of a cat amidst some growing vegetable one fine morning and decided to take some photos of the charming beast.

A charming cat sitting cozily at a tiny vegetable garden.

This cat may be a disciple of Voltaire who observed: "We must cultivate our garden."

"I keep the dastardly rats away and contributes fertilizer too."

"Don't I look like a rabbit; well, perhaps I could use a longer pair of ears."

"Perhaps I look a little bit like a fox? Well, I did mentioned just a little bit."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Visiting Fairy Tale: The Toad Prince!

I had an interesting experience one morning as I was about to drive Jia Yin to school at around 7:00AM. I was just slipping my foot into the slipper when my left feet encountered something! Yuck! I see what it was and discovered that it was a frog; later I saw that it was in fact a toad! I took some pictures and at first wanted to throw it away somewhere but quickly decided that it was less of a shock and more humane to put it under the shade of the longan tree and let it stay there as long as it wants. In the evening as I drove back, I forgot about the toad in the sandal until Meng Lan and Jia Yin came back at around 6 something. I then remember about the toad and recounted the incident to Meng Lan. I then went to check to see if the toad is still inside the slipper. To my surprise, I saw that it was still staying snugly in the slipper. I decided to make it more comfortable and pour water into the slipper and the toad stay still all the while. I took more pictures and told Jia Yin that maybe we should keep it as a pet, who knows, this might just be the proverbial Toad prince! However, the next morning, the Toad prince was gone; it appeared that the Toad prince was something of a vagabond. If the toad had stay, a good name for it would be simply be Prince.

What more could a simple toad ask for? A place far from earthquake, tsunami, failed nuclear reactors, political upheavals, etc. Just a nice, shady quiet neighborhood; with some insects and no snakes, please!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

To a rat!

This rat with no name was caught in the hands of fate.

There is a novel by John Steinbeck entitled Of Mice and Men which I sometimes came across; anyway, its supposed to be a depressing story of two struggling guys who almost but ultimately did not succeed in their endeavor. Thanks to the Internet, it was so easy to find out the origin of the title. Many famous books have titles that came from classic English literature such as Hemmingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls which was from a poetry by John Donne. Anyway, I recently was bothered by rats in the shop and decided to set a cage trap that managed to catch a rat which I sentenced to the rays of the sun. In a way, I was sorry for this rat but such then is the realities of the world in which rats are the enemy of man; this unlucky rodent was caught up in its fate and men too are sometimes caught up in fates which they have no inklings of despite their best efforts to succeed. Therefore, Steinbeck coined his now famous phrase-Of Mice and Men... But actually, that phrase was taken from a poem entitled-To A Mouse by Robert Burns.

To A Mouse.
On turning her up in her nest with the plough, November 1785.

Robert Burns was a poet, but that was not what earned him his living. As with most artists of his time he had to have some means of earning his keep. In Burns' case he earned most of his money, sparse though this was, from farming. This is why he is also known as the "Ploughman Bard". It was while he was ploughing one of his fields that he disturbed a mouse's nest. It was his thoughts on what he had done that led to his poem, "To A Mouse", which contains one of his most often quoted lines from the poem. I am sure that you will recognize it, probably not from the Scottish words, but from the translation, lines 4 and 5 from verse 7.

Burns original Standard English translation
Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.
I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An' fellow mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't.
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.
That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld.
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!
Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With argumentative chatter!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.
I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!
You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.
That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

"All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true story teller who would keep that from you." - Hemingway
Death in the Afternoon

Caught a bird of many colors inside a jar!

A rainbow colored bird that seems almost unbelievable!

Our maid presented us with a surprising thing this evening (24-3-2011) when we came home from work. She caught a beautiful little bird with many colors and placed it into a plastic jar! The story goes that she discovered two similar specie birds in Jia Yin's room during the afternoon and managed to caught one. She then placed the unlucky bird inside a plastic jar which she poked with many small holes for ventilation. She also placed a piece of round hard biscuit for the bird to eat! We were amazed at the dazzling bird but decided that it would be best for the bird to be release to ensure its survival and also that we feel that it deserve to be free even though I still have a bird cage left behind by my beloved uncle-Kwan Kim Thai who loved animals and birds; unfortunately, he died at the young age of 25 due to horrendous politics. I think it might be a kingfisher although its seem a rather odd one and later I think it might just be a humming bird due to its beak but it seemed too large for a humming bird. I had actually seen humming birds near my house several years ago and was amazed at the wondrous sight then.

Faced with this situation. I was reminded of William Blake's remonstration that "A Robin Redbreast in a Cage Puts all Heaven in a Rage." I also thought of Leonardo Da Vinci's gallant act of purchasing caged birds in the market and then set them free. So I explained to the maid that we would not be able to take care of this bird in captivity in a proper fashion and that it would be best if we allow it to live free and that it would be a good thing for her to let it go; so she was given the honor of setting the bird free out in the yard. Finally it also bring to mind the lyric from The Circle Game in which the child "caught a dragonfly inside a jar." I had never ever catch a dragonfly inside a jar but to see the bird inside the jar is almost startling as the bird seemed so surreal; it looked almost like a toy. Here then is the wondrous Joni Mitchell's evergreen song-The Circle Game:

The House of the Rising Sun

I had just send Jia Yin to school one morning when I saw a dazzling blood red sun above the horizon. I decided to take some photos of the beautiful sun after I parked my car but then the sun had transformed into a golden disc. This shot reminded me strongly of that classic song-House of the Rising Sun. If my memory served me correctly, my sister took me to the Federal Hotel's restaurant one evening over two decades ago just before I took a big step into the future; the revolving tower would turned slowly so as to allow patrons to view the different areas of Kuala Lumpur. It was there when I made a request for that song from the live singer. Its a haunting song which told a very sad story. Here then is the music video with lyric from the original singers-The Animals (1964).