Celebrating Canada

on Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I have said it before and I'll say it again. I believe that Canada is a great country and a great place to live and that Canadians are so darn fortunate. I just love those liberal, ice hockey loving, tree-huggers.

Tomorrow, July 1st, is Canada Day. I used to enjoy going to watch the multi-cultural concerts all over Ottawa when I was there. These concerts showcase the Canadian mosaic of cultures which celebrate the differences of all cultures and the richness it adds to the Canadian social tapestry. Finally, I'd be there on Parliament Hill to watch the fireworks. Some of the most enjoyable experiences of my life and I find it hard not to feel fortunate to have been there.

To a great nation and its peoples, I say "Happy Canada Day!" I was going to get you guys a present but I am a bit swamped by work at the moment. For the same reason, I did not have time to be creative with this post which is why I had to purloined three videos from youtube to make my point.

Video 1 just makes you proud to be Canadian. Video 2 explains the history of Canada, kind of. Sort of. And Video 3 is a very Canadian self-depreciating way of celebrating their country (plus Malaysia is also mentioned). Happy All Things Canadian.

Michael Jackson

on Sunday, June 28, 2009

The last two days, the news of the passing on of Michael Jackson seems to have dominated TV, radio and even the blogosphere. Indeed, everywhere you look, there is a tribute to the King of Pop and rightly so. I am not a fan of MJ's but it is indisputable that he was an extremely talented individual and his impact on the music scene, on culture and on millions of people is quite indisputable.

It is regrettable that towards the latter years, the focus had been more about his idiosyncrasies and problems in his private life. Yet, his positive legacy is what I believe will take central stage again with his passing.

A few of us was at a coffeeshop in Kuala Lumpur and we were wondering who else would have such a global impact and response upon his death besides MJ and we had trouble coming up with a name. MJ's influence really seems to have crossed many divides. He reached out to both blacks and whites and other cultural boundaries. He was huge even behind the previous Communist block nations including Russia and even China.

In Malaysia, one cultural legacy of MJ's is a drink that is named after him. The drink consists of soya bean milk and cincau (a black colored grass jelly that is made from boiling grasses from the mint family; specifically Mesona chinensis). The result is a black and white concoction which in honor of MJ's hit song "Black and White" was named the Michael Jackson.

And so, my small circle of friends raised our glasses of Michael Jackson and toasted the King of Pop, wherever he is.....may he be at peace.

Weapon Escalation

on Thursday, June 25, 2009

It seemed like a peaceful day; slightly overcast and pleasant. I was just 11 years old and while my mother was doing gardening and sweeping out the drain at the back of our home, I was using my imagination to turn my entire backyard into a fantasy world where the grass became vast expanses of rainforest and the concrete porch abutting the drain became a large airstrip for my toy planes.

I was flying my model Douglas A4 Skyhawk over the hostile and mysterious jungles looking for ant hills and other insects to irritate when the quiet of the afternoon was suddenly interrupted by a yell from my mother. A foolish rat had decided to emerge from the drain and run along the concrete porch. My mom reacted quickly, grabbing a broom and using it to try to bean the animal on the head as it ran.

I was jumping with excitement as I witness the contest between my mom and the rat. Down came the broom here with a crash and there with a bang. The rat was clearly regretting his decision to come out and was squealing as he expertly dodged the blows raining down on him. One of my mom's blows with the broom had hit him but perhaps not with much force. He was able to carry on his crazy run even though he appeared at least a little stunned. It seemed like a long time but perhaps barely half a minute had passed when the rat managed to dive into safety into a little crack between the drain and the porch.

There were cracks and holes all along the juncture of the porch and the drainwhere the concrete there was crumbly with age. When the rat made it into that labyrinth under the concrete, I thought that the day's entertainment was over but my mother's blood was up. She used the broom handle and tried to poke it through the hole. What infuriated her was that she could not get at the rat but when she removed the broom, she could make out the rat's shiny beady eyes in the deep recesses of the hole looking at her.

She ran into the kitchen and came back out with some rags and an insecticide aerosol can. She used the rags to stuff some of the holes along the drain to prevent the rat from escaping and then she pumped the aerosol can contents into the first hole. Then we both waited, expecting the rat to emerge gassed.

Nothing happened. My mom then decided to smoke the rat out. She twisted some newspaper, lit it and inserted it into the hole. Now my highly intelligent readers will no doubt have anticipated the consequence of applying a flame to a dense cloud of inflammable aerosol.

There was an almighty explosion. BOOM! Sheets of flame shot out of all the holes and cracks and when the dust settled, parts of the concrete slabs was completely blown up into rubble exposing parts of the underground sanctuary. My mom's hair was slightly singed.

Both my mom and I was stunned by the explosion. I looked at her slightly soot-dusted face and we laughed away the tension of the moment. After she recovered her composure, she rooted through the rubble with the broom handle but found no evidence of the rat. No body or even gross body parts.

I'd like to think that the rat got out alive. Perhaps he was already on his way out one of the escape routes when he was catapulted out by the explosion. There he lay, slightly singed and dazed but alive! While my mom searched the debris, he would make his escape to his nest where he would tell his astonished and rapt rodent audience about his adventure and how he cheated death at the hands of this new weapon of terror.

Five by Five

on Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Five by Five is the phrase that Faith (the rival slayer from the series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) uses to indicate that everything is okay. I thought it would make a good title for this meme from Jelica and Ruslan over at Budapest Bits, my new friends and favorite blog from the Balkans and Central Europe. This is because the meme requires 5 answers under 5 topics.

It has been awhile since I did a meme. For some of the older readers, some of my answers will already be familiar but I hope this will be of interest to some of my new friends here. It also falls on me to prod 5 others to take up this meme. Please don't feel obliged or pressured but it would be nice to know a bit more about you. I dub the famous Five to be;
1. Lorac at Ahhh...the Cottage Life.
2. thisrainykitten at my blog.
3. Sally at Sally's World.
4. eastcoastdweller at In Search of Isis.
5. Cabcree at Cabcree.


1. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt, 1991)

Just think this is a great song. Soul wrenching music and lyrics.

2. And So It Goes (Billy Joel, 1989)

I proposed to my wife by singing this song, so it is very precious.

3. Alone Again Naturally (Gilbert O'Sullivan, 1972)

An early melancholic favorite.

4. Anything But Ordinary (Avril Lavigne, 2002)

My current theme song. Great lyrics and outlook to life.

5. Scarborough Fair/Canticle (Traditional Arr.; Simon and Garfunkel, 1966)

Great traditional song and wonderful anti-war anthem.


1. Running on Empty (1988)

This movie is about family, love and sacrifice. Always makes me cry.

2. Blade Runner (1982)

Probably the best Science fiction movie ever. Shows a dark side to the progress of


3. Before Sunrise (1995)

A simple story of a chance encounter on a train but I think one of the most

romantic stories ever.

4. Thunderheart (1992)

A spiritual journey and a story of injustice against native peoples.

5. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Another movie that makes me cry. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks make a great

romantic comedy combination.


1. Ring of Bright Water (Gavin Maxwell, 1960)
This book taught me to love animals
2. Watership Down ( Richard Adams ,1972)
This book also taught me love animals but also to question human systems of governance and beliefs.
3. All Creatures Great and Small (James Herriot, 1972)
This book also taught me to love animals and gave me a better sense of life's hopes, dreams, ups and downs.
4. Rendezvous with Rama (Arthur C. Clarke, 1972)

I love the premise of this story. Very humbling.
5. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever ( Stephen R. Donaldson,
A great fantasy story played out against the lack of faith of the hero.


1. Susan Hampshire
(British actress with large cleavage – what do you expect, this was my adolescence crush.)
2. Sophia Loren
(Italian Screen Sex Goddess – a bit older now but still controlled by raging hormones. I
my women meaty and curvy)
3. Natalie Wood
(American Actress – beginning to see women as people. Natalie remains one of my
She is strong, yet vulnerable. And is she ever so pretty).
4. Gong Li
(Chinese Actress – Even stronger, yet vulnerable. The Asian version of Natalie Wood).
5. Isabella Rossellini
(Italian Actress, daughter of Ingrid Bergman who almost made this list too. What can I say. She’s stunning at 55 years old. Graceful beauty and aging well).

Walking in the rain.
2. Swimming in a jungle stream.

Spending time with my wife.
4. Dinner with friends.

5. Laughter of Children.

Twisted and Crooked

on Saturday, June 20, 2009

Opisthostoma vermiculum (by Reuben Clements)

Malaysia is one of the 12 Mega-Biodiversity Countries as recognised by the Convention of Biological Diversity. 75% of all the species of the Earth can be found in these 12 countries. These countries are therefore particularly rich in the number and uniqueness of the species found there.

So it may not be too surprising that two newly discovered Malaysian species made it into the Top 10 New Species for 2009 list. The first is a new species of stick insect which is now recognised as the biggest in the world.

The second species is Opisthostoma vermiculum which is an unusual snail species which has so far only been recovered from the top of a single limestone outcrop. Apart from its incredibly limited range, it is also unique because its shell forms twist about four coiling axes. Most snails form coils only along a single axis though before this, coils formed about as many as three axes have been known but not 4 axes. (the axes are shown on the photo).

Basically, all that is just a fancy way to say that this is one crooked shell. The scientific name for the snail means 'worm-like". I hope you like this strange creature.

This new species is a very important discovery. Scientists believe that something in the difficult limestone habitat made this creature to develop this unusually crooked shell. Sociologists, in turn, believe that this may be the missing link or key to explain why so many Malaysian politicians are equally convoluted and crooked; it is a natural result of the Malaysian environment!

After pondering this revelation, I was inspired to write this following poem.

"There was a crooked man who cooked up a crooked plan,
To build a crooked bridge so that he could be crooked rich,
He cut down the forest trees for one of his crooked schemes,
And sold out the next generation, for he was a crooked politician."

(I have posted about the crooked bridge before. To read all about it, click HERE!)

One More Click

on Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It is now 6.30 pm local time in the Realm. The work whistle has blown and all work has stopped in the nut mines. I am packing up and will soon be dragging my weary body out for my short commute to my home.

I have clearly stopped working and it is on my own time that I am putting up this post. I just wanted it to be crystal clear that I am not doing this during working hours cause ..........that would be.......wrong.

I am sure that all you dear readers know better than to read blogs, post comments and surf the internet while still at work. If not, may I present this sad tale of my friend Mr. Woof "Pup" Barker who was until recently, still employed.

With many thanks to Eclectech, the creators and managers of the famous squirrel band, "The Nutz".

The Nutter and the Hag

on Sunday, June 14, 2009

This post is entitled "The Nutter and the Hag" but it could also have been called "the Humor and the Horror". Essentially, it is an up-date of two posts which i did earlier this month.

In the post "Read Before Sunset", I commented on the horror movie genre and the recent ascendancy of Asian horror movies and the relative dearth of really scary movies of late from Hollywood. However, I stand corrected. I just watched Sam Raimi's new movie and return to the horror genre in the form of "Drag Me to Hell". The plot was not the best but shall we say that it was sufficient of a platform to allow Mr. Raimi to showcase his directorial skills at filming an extremely creepy and scary movie.

It contains at least three of the five horror techniques which I described in the last post. It had levitation (which was very well done), it did a variation of the image in the back view mirror of the car and it had the old hag (see below).

Scary? And she's just an old woman......we aren't even talking about the evil spirits yet! I am a horror movie buff so it takes quite a lot to actually make me want to cover my eyes during certain times during the movie. In fact, half way through the movie, I felt I had already received more than my ticket's worth of scares.

I think "The Exorcist" is still safely installed as the top honcho of horror movies but "Drag Me to Hell" is surely to become a horror classic with perhaps a placing in the top 5.

Want to see a horror classic in the making? Then go see this movie but be warned, it is not for the faint of heart nor for those already suffering insomnia. The Squirrel has spoken!

In the post "Nuts even Squirrels Can't Love", I posted a picture of a "Swamp-Thing"-type nutter sitting on the subway next to a clearly bemused woman. I then invited blog readers to make fun of the picture by suggesting the possible dialogue between the "Thing" and the woman.

The squirrel has only one thing to say to all of you who participated.........."FLEE!" "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!"

The Thing has relatives and they were not amused!

A Magical Musical Place

on Wednesday, June 10, 2009

There is a wonderful place located behind the National Gallery in Ottawa, Canada. It is called Nepean Point and is essentially a small hill from which there are stunning panoramic views of the Ottawa River and the Canadian Parliament buildings in the distance. Also on Nepean Point is an open-air theater, the Astrolabe Theater, which holds many fond memories for me because I spent many summer days there soaking up the sun's rays and also many warm sultry and magical evenings there listening to enchanting streams of music performed by talented artistes in that intimate setting. With the view, atmosphere and music combined, I feel like I have been given a preview of heaven.

View of Parliament Hill from Nepean Point

On one occasion, I had the privilege of watching a young family band from Nova Scotia back in 1991. They had released two albums but was still not widely known yet. Their breakthrough was to come just 2 years later when they won all kinds of awards and became a household name in Canada. I can claim to have also enjoyed free concerts from Alanis Morrisette before she made it big and also Celine Dion while she was still a rocker and before she became Disnesque.

Anyway, this band was called The Rankin Family and consisted of the siblings Jimmy, Raylene, Cookie, Heather and John Morris. This lively group draws inspiration from their Celtic-Scottish roots and their Nova Scotia heritage and delivers both soulful songs as well as live affirming jigs. That night, their music had me enthralled. Later, I waited with the rest of the crowd to buy their CDs and to have them personally autographed. The signed CDs and a friendly kiss on the cheek from Cookie completed my capitulation to their charms (that's my memory of the night and I am a sticking to it!).

They disbanded to pursue their own interests in 1999 and John Morris was tragically killed in a car accident in 2000. The Rankin Family rose again though to have a successful tour in 2006 and are active again this year. May their musical legacy "live on in the faces of their children" (lyrics from their song, We Rise Again) Now, through the wonders of YouTube, I hope to put you under their spell too.

Grey Alert!

on Saturday, June 06, 2009

Grey Squirrels are cute and innocent victims.

Mad dogs and English Princes! I can't believe my ears. It seems bonnie Prince Charles has called for the culling of my Grey Squirrel brethren throughout the British isles. Our crime for which we have been singled out includes;

a) Damaging hardwood trees by peeling their bark and
b) Out-competing the local red squirrels.

This is outrageous! I have always had a soft spot for the Prince seeing as he has had to cope with a lot of public attention while still having been made to wait so long to take his turn as monarch of the realm. But this incident has made me wonder if all that waiting has not in fact resulting in him having a soft spot in his head! What he is proposing is nothing less than racial discrimination against the Greys and the squirrel equivalent of ETHNIC CLEANSING!

First let me deal with the allegation that Greys are a threat to the Hardwood trees. Yes, it is true that Greys sometimes strip the bark off hardwood trees but this is something Reds do as well. Greys should not be singled out for this problem. Getting rid of Greys will not stop damage to these trees unless you also get rid of the Reds. However, one should look at the big picture and realise that Greys deserve a little reward because of the services they provide to the forest overall. It has been conclusively shown in their native habitat, eastern grey squirrels play an important role in forest regeneration. Buried but unretrieved nuts will often germinate, helping with reforestation. So, Greys in fact know more about taking care of forests than you humans! So let us get on with it.

As for outcompeting the Reds, Greys are charged with being larger, more aggresive, reproducing more effectively, nudging the Reds out of their habitats and spreading the Poxvirus which have killed up to 80% of the Red populations in some parts of the country but to which the Greys are immune. And so, the arguement goes, the Greys must be exterminated to save the Reds.

Let's see how this scenario compares with one from human history. I speak specifically of the arrival of the Palefaces in the New World. The Palefaces were larger, more aggressive (guns versus bows and arrows), had larger and larger numbers coming over, made treaties and broke them to push the "Red Indians" or Native americans out of their traditional lands and introduced the Smallpox virus which contributed to the decline of the Red Indian population from about 18 million before the arrival of the Palefaces to just over 500,000 at the start of the twentieth century. Now these same Palefaces from the motherland want to kill Grey Squirrels to protect the native Red Squirrels? What hypocricy!

If only, someone could have organised the culling of the Palefaces back then to protect the Native Americans, it would indeed be a fairer world. But there is one more important distinction. While the Palefaces came to the New World on purpose, the Grey Squirrels did not choose to come to the wet and rainy British Isles but were introduced there last century by the same Palefaces. So don't take it out on us Greys. Go see them forktongued Palefaces.

Now that the Greys are here (through no fault of our own), it is only right to live and let live. Instead of culling and inflicting such pain and suffering, by all means give us Greys contraceptives to control our numbers, set up reserves on islands to protect the wimpy Reds and we will even let you use our genes to help develop immunity for the Reds for the poxvirus.

Finally, do you really want to explain to your kids why you are war criminal for carrying out ethnic cleansing? Especially when us Greys are so cute? Take action now! Write to your MP. Protest in front of the British Embassies. Today, it is the Greys.......tomorrow it could be you!

Since Prince Charles has put his foot in his mouth with this outrageous statement of his, I feel it is only fair to end by having a little laugh at His Royal Highness expense. Enjoy.

Read before Sunset

on Monday, June 01, 2009

I love horror stories. For some perverse reason, I like to be so scared that I pee in my pants. Coupled with my preference for spicy, hot, tongue scalding chili encrusted meals, that should be enough to label me as a masochist. Anyway, I started on this post late last night but was scaring myself so much I decided it would be better to stop and only continue during daylight hours if only to evade getting nightmares when I slept.

Anyway as I was saying, I love horror stories. It doesn't even have to be a particularly good story. For example, the campy King of B-Grade Horror movies, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" is so bad that it is good. You know what I mean?

However, as much as I like monster movies, I really, really like supernatural stories. When I was 12 years old, my 26 year old brother was supposed to take his girlfriend to watch the special midnight movie but for some reason, they had a tiff. I benefited from the rebound when he offered to sneak me in to see the movie which had an 18 only rating. I was thrilled. The movie was "The Exorcist" which in retrospect gives a clue to the subject of their lover's tiff. Not unexpectedly, I was severely traumatised by the movie and could not sleep for weeks as I awaited an arm to come out of the wall to grab me.

Although Hollywood has come out with many outstanding supernatural horror stories, in recent years the far more scary movies have come forth from the imagination of Asian directors such as "The Ring", "The Grudge", and "One Missed Call".

Below are some of the horror concepts that work well at getting my goosebumps up.

  1. Shining eyes. Eyes that glow in the dark. Imagine looking around in the dark. Everything looks normal. Suddenly you do a double take and you notice two dots of glowing red in a dark corner or at the window looking in. Scary! This effect was used in "Amityville Horror" when two glowing eyes appear in the window.
  2. Mirrors. Often a hint or glimpse of some horror in a mirror or shining surface is far more effective than showing the whole horror. This is probably because when you get to see the whole thing, it looks too much like a guy with makeup on. I used to have to drive along a jungle road at night. All around was dark except for my headlights. Occasionally, out of habit, I would look into the rear-view mirror. Fortunately all I saw was darkness. Can you imagine how I would freak out if something suddenly appeared out of the darkness in my mirror? The urban legend of Bloody Mary uses the concept of the mirror leading into the spirit world.
  3. Images on Photos. Sometimes the horror is scene as blurry images on photos or as images on the negatives. This has an interesting horror factor when the story protagonist and the audience are suddenly aware that the entity had been along side them all the while. In one very scary Thai movie, the hero realises that he has been capturing images of a ghost when he takes pictures of his friends. He figures this out when his friends all die ghastly deaths. Now trying to protect himself, he uses a polaroid camera to try to see the ghost approaching him. He takes photo after photo but despite no image of a ghost, he still senses its presence. Finally he realises something and he points the camera on himself and when the photo comes out, he sees the ghost sitting piggy-back on his shoulder and smiling into the camera. Creepy!
  4. Evil Clown. Take something that kids trust like a clown or a teddy bear and make it evil. Probably because it affects our childhood security blankets, this can be a very effective vehicle for representing horror. The clown, well, clowns around but when he smiles his broad smile, why are his teeth shaped like needles. This concept was famously done in Stephen King's "It".
  5. The Old Hag. One of the scariest effect for me is the Old Hag. This is when someone sleeps and has a nightmare but it doesn't end when he/she awakes. Instead, he wakes, he cannot move, he feels a weight on his chest making it hard to breathe and as the fog of sleep fades, to reveal the old hag's ugly face just inches from his. The Old Hag is an idea that evolved from the idea of witches and/or the incubus/succubus. I think this is scary because we feel vulnerable when we sleep and we are afraid to wake up to such horrors. I know it isn't quite the same but I once went to sleep in a jungle camp and woke up to a dead giant praying mantis right next to my face. I gave a little shreek. If it was an Old Hag, I would have jumped out of my skin. Speaking of skin, Ol' Skinner has an Old Hag experience in the X-Files. In an interesting twist, although the X-Files' Old Hag was darn scary, she turns out to be a benevolent protector.
  6. Levitation. Levitation is a very good horror vehicle if used subtly. It's most effective when you do not realise that there is any levitation to start with at the beginning. When you finally realise it, the horror seems to just roll over you. This was in the closing scene of "The Blair Witch Project" when the last survivor thinks she sees a friend and only realises a little late that his feet does not touch the ground.
What Horror concepts works for you?

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