Monday, June 23, 2008

Dumbo @ Art - Chinese Seal #1: Seal-Carving Basics

This is an article about Chinese Seals (印章). North Sea poachers please go elsewhere. =.=


My seal-carving dream started as early as my primary school days.

In primary school, we learned to make "potato stamps", and I became immediately obsessed with the idea of creating my own stamp/seal. Unhappy with the fact that potato stamps could only last a few days before it became moldy and had to be thrown away (those were work of art being thrown away there!), I started looking for other more permanent materials.

I tried melting candles, then molding it with a flat-bottomed small container to create the necessary flat surface. It could be carved easily, and it did not have an expiry date as the potato stamp, but unfortunately, it could not be inked (how do you ink the waxy surface of a candle? I should have guessed from the beginning). :-(

Then, having observed my elder sister worked on her linocut project (part of the art subject taught in her secondary school), I bought a piece of linoleum, cut it into small pieces, and use them to create various stamps ("Top Secret" and other words that are considered "cool" by a small kid). But the problem with these stamps was that they did not have handles.


I self-learned how to make Chinese seals during the term break between Year 1 and 2 in U. At that time, I simply bought all the necessary tools and a dictionary on ancient Chinese scripts, and just plunged into making my first seal.

Until today, despite having read about the proper techniques, some of my techniques still remain unorthodox.


Yesterday, I decided to make another seal, after a hiatus of at least two years.

And I also decided to take pictures of the various stages for sharing here in this blog.

Here then, is how I go about carving a seal:

Step 1: Decide what words you want to put on the seal.

In this case, I wanted to make a seal that says "基督是主" (Christ is Lord).

Step 2: Find out from the dictionary how to write those words in ancient scripts (usually "jinwen, 金文", "xiaozhuan, 小篆" or "yinzhuan, 印篆"). Don't decide on which yet. Just copy down all the possible choices (except the ones you downright dislike).

Some words can come with lots of choices. Try to go for similar style for all characters. In this case, I chose to use xiaozhuan (小篆).

Step 3: Then choose the stone (印石) you want to carve those words on.

Stone seals (made from soapstones) come in various shapes and sizes. I usually work on those with irregular shapes or rounded rectangular shape. I seldom use the square ones (that neat row of stones on the left, below), unless requested for. In this case, the use of a square seal would be impractical because of the elongated form of the xiaozhuan script.

The picture below shows my 3 "finalists".

And I went for the one on the right. The smallest of the three.

The stone I chose, from another angle (looks like those "R.I.P." headstones, doesn't it?):

Step 4: Sand the seal surface with fine sandpaper on a flat surface. This is to make sure that the surface of the seal is really flat. 

The proper technique is to move the seal slowly in the shape of the number "8".

If you sand it with unidirectional to-and-fro strokes, the sanded surface will end up being convex. If you want to know why, rub your fist on the desk in unidirectional to-and-fro strokes, and with each stroke, try to feel on which part of your fist the most pressure is exerted on.

Only on two sides, right?

If you move slowly in the shape of the number "8", you can ensure that the force is evenly exerted from all sides.

Step 5: Clamp the seal in a special wooden vise.

A really clever device, this.

Some seal-carving masters rely only on their vise-like grip to hold on to the seals. Unimaginable. For one thing, let me tell you that my wooden vise has suffered many accidental jabs from my carving knife. Ouch. Enough said.

Step 6: Draw the border. This gives you a clearer picture of how much space you have left for the actual characters.

Step 7: Write the characters in mirror-reverse. Somehow, I could do that directly, and quite naturally (maybe it's because I am left-handed); if you can't, do this with the help of a mirror.

Real masters do this with real Chinese calligraphy brush. Well, I'm not a good calligrapher, so, I cheat with a fine felt-tip brush. :-p

After writing down the words, use a piece of tissue to remove excessive ink. Don't wipe; you will smear the writing. Just firmly press the tissue down on the surface, then lift.

If you are lucky, you get a "preview" of what the words will look like, on that piece of tissue. (This is the time to spot any mistake you may have made, trying to write in reverse.)

Generally, you should write in thicker strokes than you intent the seal to end up with, because the black color of the ink is the only contrast you have against the powdery white of carved sections, to help you discern the precise border between carved and uncarved sections.

Step 8: Choose a suitable carving knife.

For this job, since the seal is quite small, and I wanted to make a 朱文印 (zhuwen yin; literally "red-character seal") with refined strokes, so I chose the smallest knife.

The choice of knife partly depends on the kind of strokes you want the words on the seal to end up with. If you want "macho" characters with rugged edges, bigger knives may be more advantageous, since you would need to carve in swift strokes (冲刀法). But if you want refined characters with smooth edges, smaller knives may be better for carefully chipping away the unwanted sections slowly (切刀法). Nevertheless, there are those who are able to produce refined characters with bigger knives.

For me, I prefer the small knife, but I have no patience to slowly chip away the unwanted parts, so I do swift strokes even if I wanted refined characters. :-) If I'm lucky, I get what I want. If not, well, there's always the option to start over...

Step 9: Start chipping away the unwanted parts. Sharp eyes and steady hands are tremendous advantages here. And also patience. You can't rush this.

That is, theoretically speaking.

As mentioned earlier, I am the impatient type. So, for the most part, I do it with swift strokes. :-p

Therefore, accidents sometimes happen.

On this occasion, I accidentally chipped away a crucial stroke of the character "是" (but the truth is, it was not because of my swift-stroke technique; in fact, I was unusually patient at that moment and was slowly chipping at the edge of the stroke in question, when suddenly a whole chuck came off. Might have been impurity.)

So, I had to sand away the mistake (using a coarse sandpaper this time) and start all over again (from Step 6).

After another two hours, I finally finished carving the seal (below; sorry, no auto-focus for my phone's camera; but you will see the detailed impression of the seal at the end of this).

Step 10: Try out the seal.

Seal pastes (印泥) are usually red. But if you want, you could also find (from the right shop) blue, green, yellow, and black seal pastes.

Do some minor touch-up on the strokes that you are not happy with, and the job is finished.

Always wipe away (using soft tissue) excessive seal paste after use, lest it hardens and sticks permanently to your seal. Once in a while, wash your seal in warm water, and brush away the residue of the seal paste using relatively soft brush (such as oil-painting brush).

Because some of the seals were eventually given away (or sold; more stories on these later), I keep the impressions of all (almost all anyway) my seals in thread-bound books such as the one shown below:

That really gives it the very "Chinese" feel, doesn't it?

Finally, find a fancy little seal case that fits.

The inside of such cases are lined with sponge to protect the seal. After all, they are not real "stones". Soapstones are quite fragile. That is in fact why it can be carved easily.

Below are the impressions of my new seal. The first one is made with a rather oily seal paste which I do not really like (but easier to find, and very cheap). After some time, the oil will seep around and spoil the look:

This second impression is made right after the first one above without re-inking (or, I should say, re-pasting). It will give you a better picture of the actual thickness of the strokes:

The third one below is made with another brand of seal paste which I much prefer (less oily, and the color is not as dark as the other one). But sadly, I can't seem to find the same brand (万能印泥) any more:

In seal-carving, minor flaws are good. In fact, necessary. It is what makes a seal unique. You can try to carve another seal with the same words, but the stone will be different, the natural flaws in the stone will be different, and the mistakes you make carving it will be different.

As long as you don't chip away an entire stroke from a word, that is. =.=


One final note on where to get seal-carving tools: as far as I know, the best place to go is The Shanghai Book-CNPIEC Co. (K.L.) Sdn. Bhd (上海书局).

The address:

63C, Jalan Sultan, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

If the address doesn't ring a bell, it's near Petaling Street (茨厂街). :-)

The Journey of a Poem

I didn't set out to participate in the contest.

I just wrote a poem (if it can be called a poem), and decided to submit it to, because every poem submitted will be automatically displayed as a webpage, and I have already submitted a number of my previous works to the same website.

What I didn't know was, with that click on the "submit" button, I was embarking my simple poem on a journey of epic proportion.


The poem I wrote is as below:

What was it I have forgotten?
That laid buried in the garden--
Two fallen stars
Three drops of tears
And one page of a diary...

What was it I have forgotten?
That had fallen from heaven--
Two fair maidens
Three words unspoken
And one burden to carry...

What was it I have forgotten?
With which the heart was laden--
Two misty eyes
Three long farewells
And one broken heart to bury--

--In the garden
and in my scrambled memory...

I called it "Emorym", as in "scrambled memory". You know. And don't over-analyze it. Less than 10% of it is based on real personal experience. In most part, the words were chosen because they rhyme, and the number game was fun to play with. It does seem very broken-hearted, but like I said, words lie.

After submitting it, I received the following e-mail within the next couple of days.

It wasn't the first time I received such a thing; but previously, with the other works I submitted, I had received actual snail mails. Perhaps they sent e-mail, too, but for the previous works, I had submitted the poems under an old e-mail address that I had stopped using a couple of years back. So I have not realized what they could do - and probably had been doing - with e-mails.

Boy, was I in for a great annoyance.


What came next was something "exhilarating". It appeared that those o-so-mighty editors have found my poem worth publishing!

Wow. My poem. To be published in a real hard-cover tome. Man. How cool is that?

A-ha. If that is what you think, then you have fallen into their trap.

In fact, I did fall for it the first time, with the first poem I submitted to them: "Then and Now".

When I first saw the snail mail informing me that "Then and Now" was going to be published in a hardcover anthology, I was thrilled beyond measure.

That is, until I read further down and came to that part about "you are not obligated to make a purchase, but if you wish to keep this beautiful tome as a treasured personal collection, you can enjoy a pre-publication discount of...".

Man, the same old ploy that I had seen Reader's Digest used ever since I was a young boy.

The world-famous digest would come with a subscription form and a scratchcard that said something like "scratch to see how many stars you get; you will receive one mystery gift with every star!"

And if you really did scratch the card, you would find three stars (or whatever number was the highest), and you would think to yourself, Wow, how lucky I am! I have got to make a subscription so I don't miss out on the three mystery gifts I'm entitled to get!

But of course every scratchcard came with the maximum number of stars.

The same case with this poetry thingy. I'm sure every poem that does not belong to the "complete rubbish" category will be published. No sense getting too excited about that. It does not mean your poem is good. It simply means your language is passable.


Needless to say, I did not make a purchase.

But they are not one to give up easily. Next came a notification that my poem was certified as a semi-finalist in their USD 10,000 contest (I think that's the sum; can't remember exactly).

Boy. Wasn't that exciting.

But of course they would remind you about your having no obligation to make a purchase (now, if I am not obligated to make a purchase, why do you keep reminding me?), except if you want the book as a prized collection, blah-blah-blah.

I ignored the e-mail again.


Then the onslaught was raised a notch higher:

Wow. Editor's Choice Award. How many people will actually get that, right?

Wrong. I'll bet everybody gets that. =.=

Because, the bottom-line is, they still wish to remind you about your having no obligations blah-blah-blah:

But that's not all. After all, those poetic types have got very good imagination.

They figured that if you don't want a book with hundreds of pages of other people's poems outshining your poem, you would probably want a plaque with only your poem on it:

Imagine hanging your poem on the wall of your living room, for all visitors to see.

Ah... What better way to satisfy your vanity.

But the plaque ain't cheap, brother.

I could probably get a local trophy-maker to make one for me at a fraction of their price.

So it didn't really appeal to me.

But, again, that was not the end of it yet.

So, you don't want a wall display. Fine. How about a CD reciting your poem to your guests?

Yep. They have thought of everything.

And honestly, I was a bit tempted here. :-p


Nevertheless, I kept my head on and resisted the temptation. Come on, you can't really believe that your poem is among the 33 best poems submitted in that season. If you say no, they will just ask the next-in-line.

And I'm sure they did turn to the next-in-line.


First, it was the book, and then it was the plaque and the CDs; and to top it all, a USD 10,000 contest. You would think they will let you off after failing to hook you with all these temptations.

But that's where you are wrong!

If you have resisted vanity and greed for big prize money, it means you are the rational type who knows when something is too good to be true. Then they have another strategy for you: something good that is not too good to be true. Say, for example, winning an iPod.

*Sigh*. They will do anything for the sake of marketing. In this case, they are trying to get more hits at their website, so they can sell advertisements.


Meanwhile, their "Editor's Choice" story-line obviously had not come to the end yet.

After a while, I received another e-mail informing me that my poem had won the "Editor's Choice Award" (Thrilled, I'm sure. But you have already told me this).

What is different this time, is that they are actually going to give out "awards", in the form of a watch, a pin, or a commemorative coin.

But you have to buy them to award yourself. =.=


What is more annoying is the fact that each e-mail mentioned above had been sent more than once. Some more than three times.

And just when you thought you have seen everything, they sent you an e-mail with a blue mouse skipping left and right in front of you asking you to catch it if you can.

Whoever it was must have a PhD in the Science of Annoyance.

Dumbo: Gourmet Extraordinaire - #7: "Carboed" Salad

Now, if you are one of those people who must have "carb" in your salad, you are probably very familiar with "potato salad" (is it even salad?), "pasta salad" and so on.

Very delicious, they are; no doubt.

But of course they are not as easy to prepare as the plain old vegetable salad.

I mean, all you have to do is just rinse the vegetables, cut them up, then dress. (No, not yourself. The salad.)

But with potato salad and pasta salad, you have to actually COOK the potato or pasta. Ugh. Usually, we eat salad to avoid cooking. So, potato salad and pasta salad will really defeat the purpose.


The other day, we were having salad again, one for wanting to make up for the lack of greens in our diet for the past few days, and two for feeling lazy to lit the stove.

We bought a great bunch of vegetables for that: two varieties of lettuce, carrot, Japanese cucumber, and lots of cherry tomatoes.

We only dressed it with a little bit of mayonnaise, so you could really taste the vegetables. And that was very refreshing at first. But after the second bowl (my wife practically stopped after one bowl; she wasn't really hungry, she said), it started to feel a little bland, and my taste buds were crying out for some variation. Preferably some carb.

But we had neither potato nor pasta at hand. Besides, I wasn't going to start cooking.

Then an idea struck me. Jacob's.


I meant Jacob's "Hi-Fibre" Wholemeal Wheat Crackers. My favorite crackers. I could eat a whole bunch of them just like that. And even more if you give me a glass of milk to dunk them.

Jacob's Hi-Fibre is not as creamy (translate: oily) as ordinary cream crackers, and you can really taste the wholemeal-ness. Its wheaty fragrance is unparalleled by other crackers I have tasted so far.

So, I took out several pieces of Jacob's Hi-Fibre to put the carb into my salad.

Now, if you are going to try this, don't break the crackers and mix them into the salad. They will just get soggy.

Instead, take a bite of the wheat cracker with every bite of salad.

It turned out to be surprisingly delicious. The juiciness and coolness of the greens are perfectly complemented by the warm texture of the crackers, and the wheaty fragrance of the crackers greatly enhances the richness of the blended tastes of the various vegetables.

It's like vegetable sandwich. Only much richer in taste (unless you are talking about using wholemeal bread for the sandwich).

So, next time you need some carb in your salad, don't bother with boiling the potatoes or pastas. Just reach for a tin of Jacob's Hi-Fibre.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dumbo: Gourmet Extraordinaire - #6: Simple Pleasure

Ever since I learned about the existence - and goodness - of muesli from an issue of Reader's Digest many years ago, I have always loved this simple, delicious and wholesome food.


My first box of muesli was Alpen Swiss-style Muesli. IMHO, it is still among the best muesli available on Malaysian shelves. But it was my first muesli simply because at that time, there weren't as many brands as we can find these days. Or I should say, not many brands have come to Malaysian shore at that time.

But Alpen is expensive. After a couple of box of Alpen, I switched to other cheaper alternatives.


Then, for a time, I stopped eating muesli, because I have sort of lost my sweet tooth.

The trend with muesli these days is to boast about how many percents of fruits and nuts it contains. "40% fruits and nuts", "45% fruits, seeds and nuts", "DELUXE! 50% fruits, seeds and nuts" and so on.

But more often than not, it simply means the product contains over 30% of raisins and sultanas. And that means SWEET, even with no added sugar.

After half a bowl, the sweetness starts to get to you, and you have to brace yourself for another half bowl of the onslaught of cavity-inducing sweetness.

Therefore, I quit muesli.


A few weeks ago, my wife went for a two-week training, and on one of those days, I decided to take a break from cooking and eat three meals of muesli on the next day. So, I went to Tesco to shop for a box of muesli.

Not wishing to go for those "40%", "45%", "50%" sweet-bombs, I bought Tesco's Swiss-style muesli. And a 900ml (what happened to the 1-liter pack?) bottle of Dutch Lady Full Cream Milk.

Surprisingly, the two proved to be a very delightful combination.

Tesco's Swiss-style muesli does not boast of 40%++ fruits and nuts and seeds, which, to me, is a good thing. And although it came with certain percentage of brown sugar in it, it turned out not overly sweet as the other brands.

Add to it the creaminess of the milk, the taste was simply wonderful.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dumbo's Motivational Wallpapers: Part 4

I should laud our government's recent move to take away our fuel subsidy.

I mean, we Malaysians have always lived life too comfortably, like fish in its water, to the point that we are spoilt and pampered, haven't we?

So, it is about time we get out of our comfort zone!

I mean, as the evolutionists have taught us, if we the fish do not get out of our water, how are we supposed to evolve into more intelligent land-dwelling creatures, like the pigs? (Pigs are more intelligent than dogs, mind you.)

So, bravo to our government! Great move! Now that we are out of our comfort zone - our water - we, the little fish, will soon evolve into a much greater people!


To be more specific: a much greater people who have learned how to topple corrupt and ineffective governments.

Yeah. I really laud the government's move.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Step On It!

My wife is very, um, "straight".

No, I do not mean "straight" as in the opposite of "gay" (but she is "straight" as in the opposite of "gay", nonetheless).

And no, I also do not mean "straight" as in the opposite of "dishonest" (again, she is also "straight" as in the opposite of "dishonest", of course).

But what I mean is, well, she is very, er, "straight". I can't think of another word. Allow me to illustrate instead:

This afternoon, she was inflating a limp basketball with a foot pump. Wanting to hold the ball steady while inflating it, she squatted down and worked on the foot pump with her hand.

After a while, she got up and tested the ball by letting it fall and bounce off the floor.

"It's better now, but still not bouncy enough. I think it needs more air," she said.

Wanting to tell her to work on the foot pump with her foot, which should be faster, easier and more effective than using her hand, I simply said, "Step on it with your foot." (Actually, I said in Mandarin: 用脚踏. I am a man of few words, if you would believe me.)

And she obediently placed the ball on the floor and stepped on it with her right foot.

I practically rolled on the floor laughing my ass off.


Conclusion: my wife is very, very "straight" (直) (Penang's Hokkien people should understand this expression perfectly).

Dumbo: Gourmet Extraordinaire - #5: Wild Meat

Ah, wild meat. Now that the price of everything is going up, perhaps we should check out this alternative? ;-p


I came from a small subrural town, so I am no stranger to wild meat. I grew up amidst stories of how my classmates hunted for monitor lizards (which would end up as a curry dish at the end of the hunt; more on this later), how someone had been gutting cats by first hanging them on the fence (and purportedly the fence of our school, no less!), or how several people had gathered around a pot of dog stew on such and such day.

Well, I was no stranger, that is, to the stories; but not the tastes.

Yeap. I grew up hearing all about different types of wild meat, from the not-so-wild (pigeons, rabbits, cats, dogs, etc.) to the as-wild-as-it-gets (squirrels, monitor lizards, snakes, etc.), but I have never tasted them.

OK, maybe I have tasted wild boar meat on countless occasions (quite easy to get from the regular wet market; when one was available, they just sold it alongside the usual pork), but frankly, it didn't feel like wild meat. A bit harder than your friendly domesticated pork, but not at all that different.


Therefore, a recent trip I took with my wife back to her hometown in Bintulu, Sarawak had been quite rewarding in the sense that, during that trip, I had tasted a couple of wild meats that had eluded me thus far.


First of all, there was this limbless crawly thingy: snake.

That Saturday when we were there, my wife's whole family - she has five brothers: two elder and three younger, all married and with kids except the youngest - gathered together for dinner at the parents' home, where we were staying.

Among the umpteen dishes ordered from a caterer was half a kilo of snake meat which the eldest brother, Peter, bought from a native Iban on his way over from Miri.

Snake cutlets, anyone? These are still raw, though...

The youngest brother, who had worked for a few years as a cook in KL, was charged with the responsibility to prepare this "special" dish. But he, being a professional, was unhappy with the state of the meat. "It's no longer fresh. It is best when it's freshly slaughtered. This won't taste good. Besides, its almost dinner time, and I won't have enough time to really cook it. The texture will be quite rubbery."

He rolled up his sleeves nonetheless and below is what he produced, snake cutlets generously spiced up with lots of lemongrass.

With irrepressible excitement, I took my first bite of snake meat--

--and decided not to touch the rest.

Our cook was right: it was rubbery. Very, very rubbery. Especially the skin.


While I was trying hard to swallow my first bite - and probably my last bite ever - of snake meat, my wife was playing with one of her little nephews, and seemed quite unaware of what I was eating, so I decided to take a piece of the reptilian fare to her.

Now, before I proceed, I must tell you a story about the visit my wife and I took to the Snake Temple in Penang many, many years ago.

First of all, let me remark that it is probably the only temple that demands admission fee. Enough said.

We paid our due, and was stepping into the main hall, where those famous crawly creatures reside, when all of a sudden, I felt a great force tugging at my hand, such that I could not move forward at all. I turned around and found my wife, whose hands were clutching mine, stood absolutely petrified, with an expression of utter horror on her face.

What was remarkable was that I weighed twice as much as she did then, yet in her fear, she was able to put a complete halt to my movement. I guess that's why Medusa was said to be able to petrify anyone who looked at her.

As I got to know my wife more and more, I discovered that even just pictures or documentaries of snakes are enough to send chills down her spine.

So, on this occasion, with a piece of snake meat in my hand, I came to her without telling her what I was trying to feed her, and said without betraying any trace of emotion on my face, "open up."

She obediently - I thought it was obedience - took a bite.

Then I asked her, "Do you know what you have just tasted?"

"Yeah. Snake."

I was dumbfounded. So, it was not obedience. In retrospect, there seemed to have been a look of steely resolution on her face when she took that bite.

I guess I underestimated my wife. I take my hat off to her.


Then there was rabbit.

Those cute, cuddly little rodents.

There had always been a Bah-kut-teh stall in Penang which features rabbit meat rather than pork, but somehow, I never visited the place.

On this same recent trip to Bintulu, I finally tasted the little nibbling critter.

Actually, I didn't set out deliberately to try to eat such a cute animal. But our trip to Bintulu this time was actually to visit my wife's father who was quite ill recently. His weight plummeted to just 43 kg within weeks.

To help him recuperate, someone suggested rabbit stew, and my mother-in-law decided to give it a try.

Now, those little long-eared rodents are not cheap, mind you. The one we bought cost RM50+, and it was considered a small one.

Anyway, cuteness and costliness notwithstanding, off it went into the simmer pot after being chopped up into small pieces ("Poor wittle bunny"), and in a couple of hours, voila, wabbit stew.

I didn't take a picture, so, well, this will do. :-)

At that time, my father-in-law's appetite was still quite weak, so he practically just drank the soup. But someone had got to eat up the flesh, lest it went to waste, right? So, that person was yours truly.

Well, I must say that it tasted nice. The flesh itself is rather like chicken, perhaps a little more tender. The skin is totally different. It is almost gel-like, and will virtually melt in your mouth. Then again, maybe it was because the one I ate was stewed.


Now, actually, the snake and the rabbit are not the first wild meats I tasted.

After I started working, I had had the occasion of tasting venison (deer meat) in Batu Maung, Penang, crocodile meat in Sitiawan, Perak, and on my first ever trip to Sarawak, the meat of a monitor lizard (finally! after hearing all those stories in my childhood).

I must say that venison tasted good. But the croc meat, well, like the aforementioned snake meat: no seconds, please. The monitor lizard, well, I can't really remember how it tasted now. At that time, I was rather nervous, meeting my future (now present) in-laws for the first time, so I did not realize what I was eating until on this latest visit, my wife's second brother told me that at that time, he had ordered monitor lizard.


During this recent trip back to Bintulu, Sarawak, we flew to (and from) Sibu rather than Bintulu, because of some unforeseen change of events.

Just before we boarded our flight back from Sibu, my wife's uncle who lives in Sibu took us out for breakfast, and we traded stories about wild meats.

Back in my hometown, my schoolmates hunted monitor lizards in pack (trust me, they were a wolfish enough lot to warrant this collective), with the help of a well-trained canine assistant.

As soon as the dog spotted - smelled, rather - a lizard, they would let it loose to chase down the poor reptilian chap whose luck must be down in the dump that day.

More often than not, the chase would end up with the lizard perched high up in a tree and the dog barking furiously at the root. The job of the infantry would then end there. Next came the artillery.

The sharpshooter of the pack would get ready with his slingshot, while another guy - who, with the right opportunities, would have ended up a baseball great - would wait with a club just below where the scared-out-of-its-wit little reptile was perching.

And they always took aim at where it hurts most. And no, I do not mean the head.

If the shot found its target, the little fella would fall from the branch, right into the swinging club. "Whack!" And dinner would be almost ready.


After I finished relating what I knew about lizard-hunt, my wife's uncle (her mother's youngest brother) told of a spectacular sight he had witnessed as a small child.

To sum it all up in 10 words: Tree-top battle between a boa and a monitor lizard.

"I was playing outside the house, when suddenly I noticed a lot of people talking excitedly and heading towards the woods, so I went along to have a look.

"Then and there I saw it: a monitor lizard was being chased by a boa, which was obviously out for a reptilian diet that day.

"The chase started on the ground, but soon the scene shifted to the dense branches just above the small clearing where we, the spectators, were gathered.

"You would never believe it until you have seen it with your own eyes, how agile a big fat boa can be up there on a tree. The lizard was fast, but the boa was not doing any worse. They practically leapt from one branch to another in that spectacular once-in-a-lifetime battle scene."

At that point, I couldn't help visualizing that scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon where Chow Yun-Fat fought with Zhang Ziyi atop the bamboo forest. :-p


Martial-art films aside, how did the battle end, you may ask?

How else? After satisfying their curiosity for a fight between two ferocious reptiles, the villagers first shot down the boa, and then the monitor lizard, and had both for a great feast that night.

It's like an alternative ending for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, where a bunch of cannibals passing by the fighting scene first cheered for the fight, and then shot down both hero and anti-heroine for a sumptuous meal.


There goes my appetite.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Prophet Isaiah is a Penangite?

Sunday school teacher: If Samuel is an Ephraimite, what is Isaiah?

James: I know! I know!

Sunday school teacher: Yes, James?

James: He is a Penangite!

Sunday school teacher: What? James, we are talking about the prophet Isaiah, not one of your friends who also has the name Isaiah.

James: Yes, I was talking about the prophet Isaiah, and I am sure he is a Penangite!

Sunday school teacher: What are you talking about?

James: Isaiah cried out, "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips," (Isaiah 6:5) so, I'm sure he lives in Lip Sin Garden, Sg. Dua, Penang!

Sunday school teacher: .........


My apologies to those living in Lip Sin Garden (立信花园)... :-) Every time I pass by the place, I couldn't help but think of this joke... :-p

I wonder if the person who named the housing area realized at that time the meaning of "lip sin" in English... :-D

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dumbo On The Go - #2: Pulau Betong

It was on the 4th of May, a Sunday. My wife had asked me to go out for a stroll, get some exercise, and all those unpalatable things for a fat, lazy guy. I had refused.

Later, feeling a bit bad about turning her down - after all, sometimes it's not really the walk, and how much exercise you get, but rather, the time you spend together, that matters - I offered that we go visit the beach near Kampung Pulau Betong that we had been hearing so much about.


So, at around 5 in the afternoon (or is it considered evening already?) we packed some ice and a few canned drinks in a cooler bucket, and headed for the beach. Hoping to find the beach, that is.

A friend had told us it is very easy to get there. "Go south from here. The first major T-junction on your right, take it. At the next junction, turn left and go all the way."

Well, different people have different ideas about what "going all the way" means.

Besides, we decided to take a different route, the Kampung Jalan Baru route, since we were coming from Pantai Acheh. "No point taking the detour through the Balik Pulau town centre." I said confidently. Or, pretending to say confidently.


Well, as I had feared, different people have different ideas about "going all the way". My idea was, as soon as you begin to see the sign of the last trace of civilization fading before your eyes, turn tail and head home. For my wife, it meant "to boldly go where no one has gone before".

This picture above was taken a little way after we saw what appeared to be the last trace of civilization (to be precise, Kampung Pulau Betong, a fishing village built on what appears to be a swamp area).

"That must be Pulau Betong. OK. We've seen it. Let turn around and go home." I said hopefully. But obviously, I had not known my wife well enough.

She said, "Drive on. Let's go to the end of this road."


I must point out that, after that, the road became a trail. Tarred, no doubt. But still just a trail. And there are a couple of very dangerous turns, around which you must provide ample signs (horns blaring, high headlights flaring, no less) that you are coming around the corners, lest someone else from the other direction runs headlong into you.


At the end of the trail, we came to a National Service Training Centre.

"Where's the beach?"

Right then we noticed some people going down and coming up what appeared to be a flight of cement steps by the roadside, just beside the training centre.

So, we found a spot by the roadside to park our car (not sure if that was illegal parking, but you can't see any legal parking lot anywhere nearby, that's for sure), and went down those steps.

Half way down those steps, we saw the following sight on our right:

The sun was just setting. Reflected on the waves and filtered through the branches, it was a magnificent sight.


The beach, well, some people call it Pantai Pasir Panjang (or "Long Beach"; but not to be mistaken with that on Pulau Redang), and it was indeed LONG. We walked for about 100 meters, and there still appeared to be and endless stretch of it right before our eyes:

At that point, we turned to look behind us, and below is what we saw.

It is indeed a long stretch of powdery sand. Very powdery. Your every step will make very deep impression on the sand. Or maybe it was just me, and my 115kg heft.

The sea water and the beach was generally clean, except for a stretch some 300 meters from our starting point, where there appeared to be some flotsam and jetsam on the sea near the beach. That particular stretch did not seem very inviting.


Anyway, I wasn't trying to say that it was not a nice beach. After all, it was relatively clean, and not many people (even Penangites I'm sure) know about it, let alone frequent it. Visit this site I found on the internet with some better pictures taken by a certain Y-Choong. I think he visited the fishing village and its surrounding area, while my pictures are from the beach beside the training centre which is several kilometers away from the village.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Dumbo: Still On His Way Back With A Vengeance...

I was so raring to come back to blogging.

But, Streamyx down.

Maybe it's my modem. Maybe it's the port (according to the TM people; whatever it is...). I don't know. But the fact remains that at times, it takes up to 30 minutes (30 MINUTES!) just to get into Gmail. Just GMAIL! I wasn't even trying to download huge files!

Anyway, I wasn't at home most of the time last week, so I didn't call up the maintenance people. Then I called them up last Friday. They promised to look into it within the next two working days. It sounded fine with me (after all, it's much better than the Celcom people who wouldn't even bother to log a report when we had a transceiver problem in our area some time ago, but kept saying it must have been our phones having problem. We were vindicated in the end).

On the next day - I say this to the credit of the TM people - which is a Saturday, we were to go to the airport to pick up a friend. On our way out of our remote little fishing village, a Kancil with the TM logo sped by us, going in the direction of our village. I said to myself, "Uh oh."

Sure enough, when we came back, there was this job sheet stuck to our door informing us that the TM maintenance people had come around but didn't find anyone home. I was to call them on Monday and make another appointment.

I must say I was impressed with their efficiency. However, I still have one complaint: why o why haven't these TELECOMMUNICATION people learned to call ahead to make sure we are home? =.=