Monday, 30 December 2013

A Favourite Photograph: Pink Jellyfish

To close the year, here is my favourite picture (among thousands I have taken) in my last post of 2013. The picture was taken in an aquarium while travelling in a neighbouring country some years ago. Pretty pink jellyfish in bright blue waters ... beautiful and surreal.

Jellyfish notes:
1. Jellyfish is more than 90% water. Most of their umbrella mass is a gelatinous material (the jelly) called mesoglea, which is surrounded by two layers of cells and forms the umbrella (top surface). The subumbrella (bottom surface) of the body is known as the bell - Socialphy
2. Jellyfish are found in every ocean, from the surface to the deep sea. A few jellyfish inhabit fresh water. Large, often colourful, jellyfish are common in coastal zones worldwide. Jellyfish have roamed the seas for at least 500 million years, and possibly 700 million years or more, making them the oldest multi-organ animal - Wikipedia.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry X'mas 2013 & Happy New Year 2014

Wishing all who celebrate it, a Merry Christmas 2013, and everyone wherever you are, a Happy New Year 2014.

Note: The very 'Christmassy' Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) above, I bought at a garden centre a couple of years ago and tried to grow it in my garden. Unfortunately it did not thrive. I understand that to produce the beautiful colourful bracts, the plant has to be in about 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness! Definitely a plant for the short days and long nights of winter.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

SA Garden Catalogue: Euphorbia Lactea & E. Trigona

I started growing Euphorbia lactea and E. trigona when I got some cuttings from my sister CY's garden. I thought they were cacti that do not need too much watering, and so very easy to maintain. (Kira malas nak siram pokok-lah!). But later I found out that they are really not cacti after all.

These Euphorbia may look a lot like cacti, but are not because these plants bleed white latex rather than water. This shrub has a profusion of crowded vertical shoots bearing tiny leaves at the growing tips. The leaves are usually shed early leaving behind persistant thorns. In Euphorbia lactea 'Cristata' the stems are expanded into combs. They love to grow in full sun and propagation is by cuttings. Their origin is probably India for E. lactea and West Africa for E. trigona.

(Pic E. Lactea 'Cristata')
Although these Euphorbia have small flowers, I have yet to see any in my garden. I have seen the yellow flowers on big specimens of the E. lactea grown on the ground at some gardens. I grow mine in containers to curtail their growth, maybe at the expense of flowers?

Weather-wise, December is still a very wet month. Most plants are doing well, but some like the Frangipani, have very 'unhealthy' looking leaves. I have done as much pruning as possible.

Note: With about 2000 species, Euphorbia is perhaps the biggest genus of flowering plants. Another species I have in the garden is Euphorbia milii (see my post SA Garden Catalogue: Crown of Thorns, 16 February 2013).

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Tomatoes: Vegetable or Fruit?

Tomatoes are my favourite food (fruit? vegetable?), and I try to ensure I have them in my fridge always. After all, they are touted as the 'happy' food, and a super food to boot!

The best thing to do with tomatoes is to eat them raw, especially in salads. So easy to prepare - just slice them up and mix with lettuce and cucumber. Add whatever else takes your fancy and dress with just salt and pepper or add any fancy thingamagic dressing you like - French, Thousand island, etc. Comprende?

My earliest memory of tomatoes was in Alor Star in the early 50s. A neighbour's young daughter used to pilfer this fruit from the vegetable seller that plied his ware in the railway neighbourhood we lived in. No wonder this girl had pretty pink cheeks. Its from all those tomatoes she stole ate!

Although I do not grow tomatoes in my garden now because they are so cheap anyway in the markets, I did grow one tree in a container in my kitchen at Chorlton-cum-Hardy in the late 70s. It did produce some small fruits, hardly enough to make a decent bowl of salad. So that put paid to my ever growing tomatoes again.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Retro: Raya Open House at Janda Baik (2008)

TKC 64-70 girls with the host at Janda Baik (2008)

Venison on the spit (CNB 2008)
Every year without fail, a friend Rod, who lives in Janda Baik, Pahang never fails to have an open house do at her property there, especially during the aidil fitri celebrations.

Nestled among gentle hills of virgin forests and cultivated orchards, we look forward to the occasion here to meet up with friends from our boarding school days.

Since moving to Selangor in 2008, I have had the wonderful opportunity to make road trips up to Janda Baik to enjoy the good food and good company amidst the verdant green natural surroundings. While there, we never fail to go around the property admiring the fish ponds, fruit orchards, spice gardens and even an aviary. The crystal clear waters of a river flowing through certainly completes the picture. Oh, and the cool clime (23-27 degrees Celsius during the day) is a bonus.

A torch ginger grove (CNB 2008)

In the garden at Janda Baik with Rohani & Siti Ropiah*

*Al-Fatihah. We all miss our good friend Siti Ropiah who passed away earlier this year.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Celebrating a Royal Birthday

The 11th of December is a public holiday in Selangor, to celebrate the official birthday of its Sultan. But various functions are held in the run-up to this date, including one I had the privilege to attend yesterday at the grounds of the Istana Alam Shah in Klang. The function is the Majlis Jamuan Teh DiRaja and I was invited because I have white hair am a civil service pensioner, currently residing in Shah Alam, Selangor. I am all for celebrating life, especially birthdays, royal or otherwise. Thank you for inviting me a second time.

Sultan Sharafuddin meets the pensioners

The orchestra played golden oldies, I like!

Posing in front of the Istana

Guests leaving the function ...

... and posing for lots of pictures in front of the Istana.

Note: All pictures by CNB except the middle one (because its not a selfie, duh!).

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Cinderella; the Malay Movie

At the end of last month, while at the Curve, we had a last minute invitation to the premiere of the Malay movie 'Cinderella'. Although we were eating lunch and still slurping our Vietnamese pho noodles then, we decided, why not? I like free romantic movies anyway, and Cinderella, Malay or otherwise, sounds fine with me.

The Director and actors and the paparazzi (CNB 2013)

Before the movie screening, the director Ahmad Idham explained his film which he'd adapted from the Malay television drama of the same name. I do not remember watching this drama. Anyway, this film is about a couple who are forced to marry (because of the usual case of being set up and caught in close proximity) but they do find love with each other. So all's well that ends well, and (Malay) Cinderella gets her prince charming. Oops! I have given away the (expected) ending. My most non-professional review of this movie? Okay-lah! I especially like Fawziah Nawi in her supporting actress role. Note: The movie will be shown in cinemas from 19.12.13

Friday, 6 December 2013

Still the Tallest TWIN Towers

Malaysia's most famous landmark is no doubt the Petronas Towers at KLCC, Kuala Lumpur. As superlatives go, this (1,843 ft/452 m) landmark has been superseded by other taller buildings around the globe. Although no longer the tallest (building) anymore, but still, as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammed proudly concedes, and I concur, the tallest TWIN towers in the world.

Here are some rudimentary facts about these 'soaring into the sky rockets' that were built between 1993-1998. The winning design was by Argentinian-born US architect Cesar Pelli (b.1926). The twin towers are 88 storeys each, joined midway by a 'sky bridge', and each has an attached cylindrical tower of 44 storeys. The star-shaped plan of the main towers reflects an Islamic motif. In 2004, this 'high-profile landmark building' won the Aga Khan Architectural Award.

The Twins on a recent misty evening (CNB 2013)

Even if my preference is for old, classical architecture, these very modern towers are quite my favourite buildings to gawk at, whenever I drive through Jalan Ampang. I have taken photos almost every time I pass them by them, in sunshine or at night, and even in the rain. In the evenings, the upper storeys of the buildings shine like diamonds in the sky. From where we live in Ampang, we can just about see the 'diamonds' which, come midnight, are 'switched off' signalling the bewitching hour.

I have been on the 2-level sky-bridge twice before, some years ago while still a Librarian at USM. One visit was with some International Library Conference delegates and another with the Reference Division staff of USM Library. I hope to join the early morning tourist queue to go on the sky-bridge one more time.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Bra Shark and Louise the Brartist

Fatal attraction by Louise Low (CNB 2013)

At the YMA II, contemporary artist Louise Low's art installation/sculpture entitled Fatal Attraction, is a narrative 'of abusive males and the lure of love', 'how victims are lured into believing that man is the protective gender of the weak, ... similar to domestic violence where women still believe in their abusive husbands'. It seems a rather creative way to spread awareness about DV; the shark being made mainly of brassieres, with bra straps for teeth.

We had walked into the Galeri Petronas to catch the remains of the YMA II exhibition and were kindly invited to sit in at a Petronita (tea & talk) event - the prize giving ceremony of their "Rethink Pink Photo Contest" and a talk by Louise Low, artist of  'Fatal Attraction' or more popularly, 'The Bra Shark'.

My 'Rethink Pink' selfie. Note the shark in a bra! (CNB 2013)

Louise talked about her art installation, which Lucien de Guise* wrote, was "the star attraction of this exhibition" (YMA II) and "a miracle of the seamstress' art". Louise explained that during her art school days in Australia, she did a similar project, only her lecturer limited it to a shark's head. So now she has achieved her wish of creating a whole shark with about 300 used pre-loved brassieres. The bras she acquired from donors who knew about her project via Facebook ( The bras have also earned her the moniker 'Brartist'.

Louise explains her art to Petronita members (CNB 2013)

With 'brartist' Louise Low Seok Loo (AB 2013)

A & Louise (CNB 2013)
Louise told us that her 'bra shark Fatal Attraction' will travel to Pulau Pinang and another state in the near future. I wondered where it would finally find a home. Not in the (rubbish) skip I hope, but maybe if there are no local eccentric billionaire art lover who will acquire this bra shark, then someone with a major fetish for brassieres (and art) will. Anyway, Louise is currently working on another bra project. Got any nice bras to donate? It will be your contribution to Malaysian art!

* Lucien de Guise. All about new idioms. New Straits Times, 1 December 2013.

29 November 2013

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Young Malaysian Artists New Object(ion) II

Monsters in my closet by Shaliza Juanna Jeffry (CNB 2013)

"YMA II is an exhibition initiated by Galeri Petronas to celebrate young artists. New Objection is a collective effort to create artwork that are free from any form of restrictions, regulations or barriers. ... This annual event is a thematic exhibition which highlights 20 young Malaysian artists who engage in a 'self-referential' relationship with new technologies to discover the 'self' in making contemporary transformation determined by technological developments - new media. ... These artists will exhibit objects resulting from the reflection of cultural and social events that could be considered as contesting with the traditional media ... despite the opinion that defends the new media art as similar to other contemporary art practices." (Galeri Petronas brochure)

Art of War #12 Attack by fire by Azrin Mohd

The above two mix media art installations were my favourites, but the one that fascinated me (and also it seems, our youthful minister KJ who officiated the opening of this 2-month exhibition in October) was 'Fatal Attraction'. Not the gory, 'scary' movie-lah but ... a bra shark! A what shark? (To be continued ... in my next blog post.)

Note: For a professional/expert review, there is a very interesting write-up on this exhibition by Lucien de Guise entitled, 'All about new idioms', in the New Straits Times, 1 December 2013.

Sunday, 1 December 2013



panas terakhir
meminjam warna dan watak
pada biji bersihnya,
namun watak dipendam
dalam simpanan peti tua.

sehingga pada titik lahir
bayi mungil matahari
dilepaskan ke tanah masa depannya.

maka serpihan api pun
semarak di rumput hujan.

                 muhammad haji salleh

Dipetik dari: Sebutir zamrud di deru selat; sajak-sajak alam USM
Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia, 2006. (Ex Libris CNB 1591)