Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A man and his dream,

…to go on a journey to uncover and rediscover what brings us together, not what keeps us apart. If we want to make a difference, we should get off our butts and do something, like putting them butts on a bicycle seat, for instance!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

He knows his art

You couldn't make this one up!

Reading through old newspapers is like taking a peek at another age, another social climate, another set of values. Yet it all looks so familiar – the towns, the names (even if the spelling is rather quaint), the bits and pieces of clothing. We laugh, we cry, we’re in despair, and sometimes we’re freaking disgusted at what went before and what we’ve become.

But enough of the soap-opera psychology. Let’s roll the tape. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a little snippet from Page 4, The Malay Mail, Wednesday October 17, 1956.

(Full text below pix)

Stripping can be an art – says magistrate

IPOH, Tuesday. STATING that a strip-tease act cannot be indecent merely because it is shocking and objectionable to certain people, the Ipoh Magistrate, Inche Abdul Kadir bin Yusuf, today acquitted three of four strippers who claimed trial to a charge of indecent behaviour during their performance.

The three who were acquitted without their defence being called were Wong Fun, 20, Lee Pui Fong, 30, and Leung Mei 21.

Kong Koh Yum, 20, who appeared with the other girls, was asked to make her defence on the charge that she behaved indecently during her performance at the Hong Kong Au Yong Hoong Revue at the Capitol Theatre here last Thursday night.

The Magistrate, in his long judgement, said that his decision was made difficult because he had to determine what was indecent behaviour. The dictionary was not much help, he said.

The test

Inche Kadir said: “I think that the test of whether certain acts are indecent or not is to find out whether the alleged act as described by the witnesses tend to corrupt the minds of those who saw the act.

“An act cannot be said to be indecent merely because it is shocking or disgusting or is in bad taste or because certain people think it undesirable. The act must have a tendency to corrupt.”

He acquitted Lee and Leung because there were “serious discrepancies: as to which of them took part in the acts that were described in court.

As for Wong and Kong, the magistrate said he was satisfied that they had been identified in connection with their dances.

But he would also acquit Wong without calling on her defence because, he said, he did not consider the lifting and lowering of her G-string indecent as it was part of her strip-tease act.

The Magistrate said: “strip-tease is an art and by a clever actress it can be amusing. It cannot be indecent and it cannot be obscene.”

Kong is defended by Mr. F. C. Arulanandom, who also represented the other three girls.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jungle jive

A couple of months ago, some family and friends spent the weekend camping on the fringes of the Endau-Rompin National Park, run by the Johore state government. The camp, a collection of basic huts situated along the very picturesque Sungai Lemakoh, soothed our weary, urban souls with panoramic views of glistening pools that seemed to shimmer as the first rays of sunlight gently alighted on it. At other times, we could hear the gentle gurgling of the river as it flowed by in no particular rush to go anywhere, except when it rained.

Upstream view (view) from the campsite.
Many pools (below), large and small, can be
found along the river just a few minutes walk away.

The camp is run by Buyin and his wife Ami, with help from their children and nephews. Buyin, an Orang Asli (the indigenous people of Malaysia), is a minor celebrity, and has been featured in some press and online articles on eco-tourism. This particular one showcases Buyin’s original camp that stood before the floods of early 2007 struck Johore and damaged it. Buyin rebuilt his camp and we were one of its first visitors.

The camp itself is made up of a collection of open wooden huts – a large dining/social hall with an attached kitchen; two communal sleeping huts; a shower; three bathrooms and a useful changing room just by the river. One can spend the day following guides on treks along the river or into the jungle; making a day trip to the Orang Asli kampung; swimming in the pools; or just doing nothing…

… except lying on the long benches, contemplating the meaning of life or admiring the sun-lit patterns on the roof of the huts.

Buyin takes care of all the food, and the oohs and aahs during mealtimes is testament to his and Ami’s cooking skills. Apart from our yummy daily three meals Buyin also provided numerous tea breaks: This must be what it's like in the civil service. Elevenses, mmmmm.

One of the treats was the BBQ dinner we had one night – chicken, beef, lamb etc.

You cannot go on a diet here. It’s impossible.

Come night time, Buyin puts up the hurricane lamps. After dinner, with no Astro (satellite TV) to kill all conversation, normally tired worker bees like us actually had long conversations around the dinner table and had some low-tech fun.

No, we were not trainees for the new Singapore casinos (oops, sorry, the Singapore government would like them to be called Integrated Resorts). We were literally playing for peanuts!

On one of our days there, the heavens opened up in the afternoon and subjected us to a typical tropical thunderstorm – a dramatic downpour with appropriate audio and visual accompaniment that lasted all of 20 minutes. It turned dark-ish really quickly, and one of the seven dogs that came with us scurried under the table. We were in awe at the display of nature’s power and quite a few of us just sat quietly and watched the rain.

What better way to spend a weekend.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Royal Treat

Food looms large in my consciousness, but even more so now. When not attending to what I’m supposed to be doing (if you’re reading this and you’re somehow connected to appraising what I’m doing, then I’m doing what I’m doing VERY HARD, sigh), I’m discovering and reacquainting myself with the many wonderful makan joints around.

One spot that I’ve been frequenting is the ikan bakar (grilled fish) stalls behind the Istana, on Jalan Bellamy (“Just let the sambal flow…”). This is a popular KL haunt, and since the roads around the Istana are narrow, go during lunchtime at your own peril. We normally try to get there by 11.30 am. You get the whole range of stuff – different types of fish, prawns, squid etc.

I can't begin to name all the fish they have. During this particular trip, we had catfish as well as ikan terubok.

Catfish (left) and terubok

The latter is a challenge to eat, since it has many small bones, but he who perseveres is likely to be rewarded with a rich-tasting fish (sorry, don’t know it’s English name, lah).

Free to watch Freedom films

Logo from festival website

Caught a bunch of films at the Freedom Film Festival 2007 a couple of nights ago. Fahmi Reza’s film, “Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka” (Ten Years Before Independence), has been getting some publicity of late, and the small hall was crowded with expectant viewers. The documentary seeks to recover some of the forgotten and ignored aspects of Malaysia’s struggle for independence – in Fahmi’s case, the left-leaning multi-racial coalition that sponsored a nation-wide strike in 1947.

In a similar vein, the Friday evening session also showcased “I Love Malaya”, a Singapore-produced documentary on the legal effort by Chin Peng, the leader of the Malayan Communist Party, to gain the state’s permission to return to Malaysia. The filmmakers also travelled to southern Thailand to capture the life of these ex-communists after that party and the Malaysian state signed a peace accord in the late 1980s.

It is encouraging to see the younger generation exploring alternative histories; in effect, challenging the accepted narrative that is written by the winners/states/governments. The energy of the film, the filmmakers and the audience is enough to recharge any old battery that has gone dead through cynicism. And best of all, they were entertaining too. You learn cool stuff like – the Malayan Reds knew how to grill a delicious elephant steak! (Sauce on the side, please!)

The festival moves on to Penang and JB.