Archive for March, 2011

Double rainbow weekend

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Great weekend!!!

Friday night I had a jam with my band, we really ROCKED! After that I headed out to Boat Quay to check out my friend Razi’s event Identite, with local electronic types playing weird blasted Nine Inch Nails-like bass-driven weird mixup stuff. It was pretty loud, pretty fun. Hung out with my friend Joe Ng a bit, and then headed home. Got back by midnight and did some computer stuff until late, then went to sleep.

Woke up after a blissful seven hours of rest,  had breakfast, got going on a few things I needed to do. Pooh. Before I knew it, it was time to head off to my gig at the Chocolate Bar at Tanglin Community Centre. It was good fun – I wore my new Electric Wizard t-shirt and my shades and my crazy hair, and rocked out. The beer was cheap, and there were lots of Malay kids around. Some of the bands were pretty rudimentary, and many of them had a certain kind of not-so-great sound that was a bit derivative of recent nu metal genres, but a few of the bands had some great musicians and really rocked out. We were pretty much the only band that had anything significantly different – Chinese and foreign musicians, and that stoned ’70s sound, plus a bit of theatre – but it was a great afternoon. I only saw five of the bands, but there were 18 slated to play, including (maybe) Ricky Hendrix (cousin of Jimi). I swapped stuff with my band – I gave a copy of “Anvil! The Movie” to my guitarist, and a copy of the Led Zeppelin Bio Hammer of the Gods to my drummer. Someone passed the drummer back his copy of I Am Ozzy. Great.

Supertzar live in Singapore, March 26th 2011

Supertzar live in Singapore, March 26th 2011

Supertzar live in Singapore, March 26th 2011

Supertzar live in Singapore, March 26th 2011

After the gig I went off to the Substation to see five bands that would be playing from 5:00 to 11:00, including Abang Guard, a unit that my friend Joe Kidd from KL plays with when he’s not in his usual unit, Carburetor Dung. Nobody was playing yet, but there were a lot of hardcore kids hanging around; I chilled out for a while and talked to Mark, who is setting up a label in Singapore for local avant garde and experimental labels called Ujikaji Records. Nice guy. I bought two of the CDs that he was selling: ARCN TEMPL’s “Emanations of a New World” and “[stones beneath your feet]” by amino acid orchestra. Nice guy, we talked a lot about music and other fun stuff.  I also bought a zine from someone else for $3, Shock and Awe Issue #3, from KL, which has one of Joe’s columns in it, which is about the recording of the MyConstitution support CD, which I reviewed recently. Nice. Nothing was happening, even at 7:00, so I went for a plate of sour and spicy pork salad, Myanmar style, and also a bit of accessory shopping. I need some sort of a prop for my stage act, like a cowboy hat or something. Don’t know what. Cowboy boots?

Got back, the first band had already played (grindcore), so I saw the second band. One drummer, one guitarist, playing great crazy metal noise. Then my colleague Oliver came. We went back for more food, saw Joe, talked for a while, listened to the other bands. The third band was a turntablist and a guitarist and a drummer, very avant guard. Finally, out came Abang Guard, and they really rocked. The first number they did was with Zai Kuning, who had set up a gallery display that was very political – it was basically about his battle in the Substation for the garden that has been leased out to Timbre, a vulpine capitalist outfit of cover band imperialists that wouldn’t consider art. Or so it seems from his letters. Mr Zai came out and did a song with Abang Guard, which was like droney Bob Dylan, and then Abang Guard did their thing, which was about bassist and drummer Joe and Bullet (both from Carburetor Dung) providing the rhythm for the show, while the guitarist layered feedback over the whole show. Marvellous in a very Rallizes Denudes way!!  The show ended, I had a chat with Joe and Oliver, and then I ran off late before 11:26 and managed to get on a bus that deposited me back at Kismis View only around midnight. Wonderful! I did music and picture stuff and got to sleep not-too-late.

Sunday I woke up, did some work, threw the ball with Zen and went swimming; while we were swimming, one family came down and we made friends with the mum and the kids. I think Zen will enjoy playing with those kids from time to time going forward. After lunch we went for a haircut. Here is another before-and-after pic from our haircut:

Before the haircut...

Before the haircut...

... and after the haircut.

... and after the haircut.

After we got back, there was some hanging around, then our friends came over for our poolside potluck. It was good fun. Zen played for most of the time in the pool with the two young boys, and the parents had a great time catching up (two Canadian dads, two Japanese mums – perfect). There were a few moments when it started to rain, but the weather held up. And just as the sun dipped between the low cloud cover and the horizon, we got a blast of dying sun and a perfect rainbow arching from one end to the other (and a double rainbow on the northern edge, perfect). I got a good shot of the whole rainbow, but had to split it up between two photos. Here’s a shot of the northern edge of it:

Double rainbow...

Double rainbow...

CD reviews

AAO

AAO

amino acid orchestra, “[stones beneath your feet]“ – An “experimental” release, amino acid orchestra starts off with ambient sounds and acoustic guitars playing sitar-like, in “Clouds Gathering For Rain.”  ”Construction Worker Rock” has more ambient sounds, and moaning and groaning and some funky drumming, and later on some loud buzzing feedback.  It just builds in intensity and is really fun. At just over eight minutes in length, this is just a bit short of being the longest song on the record. Wow. “Dirty Floor” starts out with weird scratchy/buzzing noises that sound like an electrical fire in the making, and there’s other noise coming in too. “Hunting for the Oily Man” is all percussion, and a bit of ambient drone, very soft and mellow. It plays, it fades. “SolarRape” sounds nutty, and it’s a melange of spacy guitar strummings with hard percussive noises. “Swim Molasses” starts off, again, with folk guitar mutterings, it plinks and plonks along. “The Coming of Null” is noise and scratchings. Is it about KK Null? It has groovy buzzings and other minimalist sono-storms, perched somehow between radio stations.  Yee-haw. “These Shores Are Damned” showcases cool distorted guitar, ambient noise, and weird percussion.  It’s trippy, and it’s the longest track on the release! “Watch Out For That Fire” is the shortest track on the CD, at less than two minutes, and it’s largely about percussion, with a bit of ambient noise thrown in. At the end we hear the first real spoken words on the album – “it’s almost five.”  What does this mean?  What?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?

The cover has a picture that seems to be the Malaysia train line, who knows whether it was taken in Singapore or Malaysia. Not much information on the back, and the disc itself is blank except for a circle with two drops icon that reminds of the marks on the Boredoms’ “Vision Creation Newsun” project.

ARKN TEMPL

ARKN TEMPL

ARCN TEMPL, “Emanations of a New World” – This is something that Leslie Low and Vivian Wang of The Observatory have cooked up. It was released in May 2010 on this drone and noise label Utech from the US. There was very little press on it at the time in Singapore, where The Observatory probably has its biggest fan base, but it seems like it’s been quietly winning people over. The cover is a photo of military brass from the army of the Monkey King, as part of an exhibit at Tiger Balm Gardens (Haw Par Villa) in Singapore, and the essay inside is about the beauty, malaise, and nostalgia of Singapore’s hidden tourist attraction. There are two very nice pictures of a young Leslie and a young Vivian, both around four years old, with their moms at the place. Leslie is especially precious with a t-shirt that says “Leslie” across the chest, with a picture of a bunny (or something). How amazing; it makes me want to dig up my own pictures of my first visit to Singapore in 1985 when I was 16 (I grew up in Canada, so I wasn’t able to visit this wonderful place as a four-year-old on an outing with my mom). The CD seems very “Chinese”, with its cover full of ideograms, and its titles dragging up concepts from Chinese mythology and spiritualism, which is a bit different from other Leslie Low/Observatory stuff. One enthusiastic friend told me that “The songs remind me of Debussy actually. The sheerness of texture matched with very oriental-ness.”

The first song, “Innocence and Ignorance” is like a lost track from the Betty Blue soundtrack, with seashore sounds, guitar arpeggios and some xylophone-like sounds, thumb cymbals, and accordion-like sounds. Pure meditation. I love music like this so much. The second track, “Three Realms” is weird and spooky, lush and layered, with  freaky atmospherics, as well as a later passage of bright and bold accordion sounds. There are ambient sounds at the end of the track. “Wandering in an Empty Forest” starts off with Tangerine Dream-like keyboard swirls, adding in a repetitive acoustic theme. The guitar drones on and changes subtly, and then the keyboard shifts too; every sound is shifty, the keyboard more so. It’s an interplay. The guitar phases out, and the Tangerine Dream keyboards stay behind to build a strong mood and gorgeous zone-out. Wow. “Four Rivers of Melancholy”, the longest track on the CD, starts off with frantic flamenco guitar that is eternally groovy, which becomes bizarrely ambient, before breaking into wistful Leslie Low vocal atmospherics. The flamenco continues endless, but with added weirdo noises. Then there’s a carnival bit that goes crazy. “Eighteen Steps of Evil”  is spooky and industrial, with a freaky electronic vibe, sauntering percussion, and then also some freaked-out guitar plonkings. There’s a lot happening here, and it’s all good, even the weird freaky ambient sounds at the end that raise tension tremendously. “The Looming of Nothing” is sombre and quiet, with bells and guitar. It’s the shortest track on the release. “Dread Mountain” starts off with spooky organ, then gets into scratchy, slow guitar chipping and odd little percussion bits (tambourine). Throw in the odd horn blast and ambient noise, and it’s a song that dredges up the deepest parts of Mark Hollis’ psyche as it dissolves momentarily into chaos, then recovers its step with some nice flute. “A Thousand Arms of Mercy” starts off with a man rambling in Cantonese, then gets into spacey organ and spare acoustic guitar plonking, which then picks up into a real song, with piano repetitions and cool guitar interplay.

Originals versions of the songs that appear on “Raising Sand”

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss made an amazing cover album. It is interesting to listen to the originals of the song. Although not all of them can be found, here are the ones that I did manage to locate:

1. “Rich Woman” Dorothy LaBostrie, McKinley Millet

2. “Killing the Blues” by Roly Jon Salley

3. “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” by Sam Phillips

4. “Polly Come Home” by Gene Clark

5. “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” by Don Everly, Phil Everly

6. “Through the Morning, Through the Night” by Gene Clark

7. “Please Read the Letter” by Charlie Jones, Michael Lee, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant

8. “Trampled Rose”, by Kathleen Brennan, Tom Wait

9. “Fortune Teller”, by Naomi Neville

10. “Stick With Me Baby” by Mel Tillis

11. “Nothin’” by Townes Van Zandt

12. “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson”, by Milton Campbell

13. “Your Long Journey” by Doc Watson, Rosa Lee Watson

Rockin’ Malaysia

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

While I was in Kuala Lumpur at the end of a long day on a work trip, I met up with my friend Joe Kidd for beers. I had first met Joe many years ago, through the zine thing I did at the turn of the century, and we meet up when we get the opportunity. Joe is the guitarist for Carburetor Dung, a longstanding DIY punk band and one of the godfathers of the scene. They’ve got a great website, and the band has made a compilation “Still Pissed Off After All These Years” free to download (oddly enough, a band called the Kodgers have put a CD with the same name). Yes, the band is named after the famous Lester Bangs book, although I didn’t clue in to this right away. Talking to Joe, I realised that I hadn’t even listened to the album, even though I downloaded it many months ago, so I made a mental note to check it out as soon as I got back to Singapore (and I did). Some fanboy I am…

While I was in KL, I visited Joe’s record shop Ricecooker and picked up two CDs, one by folkers the Pips, and the compilation “Radio Demokratika” to support political awareness about Malaysia’s constitution. Here are some thoughts on those albumes.

CD reviews:

Carburetor Dung Still Pissed Off After All These Years.

Carburetor Dung "Still Pissed Off After All These Years".

Carburetor Dung, “Still Pissed Off After All These Years” – A great compilation from the band that they put together in 2007 for their tour of the Philippines, carrying them from 1992 to 2007. The songs appear on the album in reverse chronological order: the first two are for an unreleased album called “Ingin Ku Rejam Raksasa Kejam”, which means “I Wanna Destroy the Heartless Leviathan”; there is one song from the “Radio Malaya” compilation of 2006, one song from “The Dude Puked On My Lap” compilation of 2005, five songs from the 1999 mini-album “The Allure of Manure”, three songs from the 1998 soundtrack for “Dari Jemapoh Ke Manchestee“, and six songs from the 1993 album “Songs For Friends.” The band has a very heavy frantic screaming sound that, in my mind, makes them more similar to Corrosion of Conformity than anyone else I’m familiar with. They play around with their sound – “Mari Mtyanyi Menjilit” has some funky sax in it, and “Johnny” has some spoken lyrics before all of the screaming begins. Songs from “The Allure of Manure” are a bit more singalong, in particular “Our Voice”, “The Line” and “Payday.” Buzzing. “Wide Awake” has a chilling intro, then gets hot, while “Do Nothing” is a pretty anthemic tune. “Happy” sounds a bit thin, but “Oppression”, with its metallic opening, is good fun and buzzes along. “Boo Hoo Clapping Song” is a scratchy, squeak anthem that is probably the band’s best-loved song, given the number of YouTube videos of it that are available. “Don’t Know” has, at the same time, a surf rock riff as well as the unrelenting drive of a Suicidal Tendencies song. I like this track. “Carburetor Dance” is similarly heavy, but the vocals are also a bit thin. “Song For A Friend” is short, hyper and snotty, a great little punk number full of hope and spirit. “Liar” is melodic and snotty, and is a long, loud complaint about a liar. “I’ve had enough of you, my friend.” “Labour of Hate” is an acoustic song; acoustic songs don’t seem to be Carburetor Dung’s forte, but it’s nice of them to include one here. It has a slow electric solo, and in some ways sounds like a Spitz song, kinda… sorta… “Farewell” is a rambling rocker with a noodly, bleating guitar ramble.

Here’s a video from a recent Carburator Dung show in Manila:

carburetor dung – do nothing from sannee crapsalad on Vimeo.

The Pips, Tug of War

The Pips, "Tug of War"

The Pips, “Tug of War” – When I was in the Rice Cooker shop, the clerk asked me dozens of seemingly random questions, including “do you like folk music?” I said yes, thinking of Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, etc. So he recommended the Pips, a side project of punk band Pusher’s lead singer Alak. The Pips sing twee sweet acoustic-inspired songs a la all those hundreds of Japanese girl bands, but they sing in English and Bahasa Malaya. The album is short, eight songs over only 22 minutes, meaning that songs are only two or three minutes long. “Dungeon” is a sassy rant against hypocrites, that just sort of floats along in a melodic way. “Blasphemous” is dark and a bit jazzy. “Ashes in the Wind” is a song to Altantuya, a beautiful Mongolian woman who was savagely murdered in Malaysia in 2006. “Getaway” is a lazy sentimental tune that sort of drifts around, beautifully, in the air. “Hukum Rimba” is rather electric, and moves along at a nice, fast pace. It is sung in Bahasa Malaya and sounds quite edgy. I like it. “Change” is a simple song, and sounds like someone conjugating verbs, it has a slight Violent Femmes vibe to it. But for all of its simplicity, the political anger is profound: “Time we change insincere bastards/ that lie, depress and oppress.” The booklet leaves out the lyrics to “Introvert Whore”, but that’s okay – it’s easy to follow along this funky little number that has a lot of sass. The final track “Perempuan Merdeka” means… I don’t know what it means. But it’s a cool, edgy song with nice melodies, and cool acoustic pairings.

Radio Demokratika

Radio Demokratika

“Radio Demokratika”, by Various Artists – “Radio Demokratika” is a fund- and awareness-raising CD by various artists that support the MyConstitution Campaign to raise awareness of the Malaysian Federal Constitution by the Constitutional Law Committee of the Bar Council, which comprises lawyers, academics, students, media personnel, and civil society activists. Whew! Joe Kidd and Bullet from Carburetor Dung recorded and produced the album, and Joe did the album inlay and CD design. Good one, guys.

The booklet lays out the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Malaysian constitution over three pages, with links to more information about the constitution. Then, each of the 12 bands gets a page with their song’s lyrics, a picture, and a bit of bio. It’s interesting to read through this sort of a booklet and get a sense of what each band is about, and the different ways that they introduce themselves. It’s also cool to read the lyrics and see which songs are political or issues-based and which ones aren’t.

Opening song “MyConstitution”, by barcode, has a weird “Hotel California” vibe the way it opens with its cheezy keyboard, there are wimpy vocals and a catchy rhythm, with a cool children’s choir-sounding backup vocals; the lyrics are political and righteous, it’s a good song. The members of the band include lawyers, not really a rockin’ bunch, but they do a good job here. “Shine a Light” by Thin Izzy is a bit more of a classic rocker that has a slight Tom Petty vibe to it as it moves breathlessly along. It’s pretty conventional, but the lyrics are meaningful. “Low of the Land” is an acoustic song by Azmyl Yunor that sounds a bit like Steve Earle or Townes van Zandt, maybe a wee bit of Crash Test Dummies. Great song, great picking, great melody. He sings with such a confident voice that you can imagine he writes two or three songs like this a day.

According to the liner notes, Temporary is a band that was only supposed to be temporary, but now they want to be permanent. Right. Anyway, “Shrugs All Around” is a low-energy rock with sandy vocals. I don’t think that is a very descriptive word, but somehow “sandy” is the only one that comes to mind. “Better Than This” by Lord Bobo’s Minions (minions… I love that word) is more “music by lawyers”; it starts off with weird electronics, but eventually goes into full drive and sounds just like a Bob Mould song. The band members run a blog called Loyar Burok that’s full of legal information. “Lip Service” by the Sounders is rocky with female vocals, pretty intense.

An Honest Mistake is the only band in the booklet that had a longer bio than a lyric reprint. They take themselves very seriously, and give plenty of options for the casual listener to find out more about them: three URLs and two email addresses. The descriptive blurb makes a lot of big claims, has a lot of big ideas, and in general is just very BIG! “No other band is as representative of Malaysia’s rising indie scene as An Honest Mistake – inventive, energetic, enthusiastic and colorful,” we learn from this write-up, which is quite hilarious, through mentions that the band is “making waves”, with its brand of “addictive pop-punk with swirls of frenetic screamo”, “they’re here to stay”, with a debut album that “showcases gems” and features “signature sing-alongs that are instantly recognizable” for a band that’s “here to prove the sky’s the limit for Malaysian Music.” According to them, “An Honest Mistake are leading the pack.” I don’t know what the honest mistake was, but I think it was probably getting into music instead of religion or politics; where else do people with God complexes belong? The song is technically not too bad, but it sure sounds like someone in the band is a fan of Evanesence. Apparently, in the studio they made requests to Autotune everything.  Everything! Nice otaku t-shirts, guys – you’ve got the attitude, you’ve got the media pack, now you need to work on the look.

“Moral Bankruptcy” by MC Stiff is okay, if you like hip hop, and the lyrics are political and righteous. “Ugly Ugly, Ugly (So Ugly, We Had To Say It Three Times)” is the Carburetor Dung offering, and it’s an old Shitworkers song (the Shitworkers were Joe, Fendi and Bullet, three of the five current members of Carburetor Dung). The band has a great build up, funky drums, big chords, and slammin’ melodies. It’s a diss, although I’m not sure who’s being dissed. The band get into the spirit of “dung”, presenting themselves as Merde, Excreta, Poo, Manure and Turd, ha ha, are those like mock-Scandinavian black metal stage names? the maharajah commission sings weird droning chanting Jello Biafra/Mike Patton weirdness, with strange bass sounds and guitar shards. Nice. Rules of Rock are, again, a group of rockin’ lawyers, and MyConstitution is a theme song for the disc. The song sounds like a duet between Tom Petty and Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, the political rocker has some funky country tinges.

“Joget Melayu Liberal” by Panda Head Curry? starts off with what sounds like the Butthole Surfers’ intro to “Sweat Loaf”, but in this case spoken in Behasa Malayu. In case you’re wondering what that looks like, it goes something like this:

Anak: Ayah?
Ayah: Ya, anakku.
Anak: Apakah makna “perlembagaan”?
Ayah: Hmm. Soalan yang amat bagus. Perihal perlembagaan, sebenarnya, anakku, lebih baik kita ADA PERLEMBAGAAN, daripada kita dikejar LEMBEGA yang seram.

Oh ya, bila jumpa ibu kamu hujung minggu ini, jangan lupa beritahu dia, “Syaitan! Syaitan! Syaitan!”.

I’ll have to ask Joe if it’s a faithful translation, or if they mess with it a bit, but it’s definitely a tribute.

The song is sheer goofiness, lots of yummy chanting and barking jungle drums, squealing guitars, and other noodly grooviness, and plenty of backtracking. I love it. The band is the only one that gets two pages in the booklet, since their lyrics go on for so long. And why not, theirs is the longest song on the CD anyway! On the next page there’s a nutso bio, and a picture of the six of them.

(By the way, I bet An Honest Mistake is pissed off that Panda Head Curry? got two pages in the booklet; AHM were probably expecting three for themselves. But hey – Panda Head Curry? is the real deal anyway, right?)

Malaysia fantasia

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Just got back from our week away in Malaysia. I flew up a day early do some work – interviews in our Kuala Lumpur office on Thursday, and a conference on Friday. Naoko and Zen came up by bus on Friday and checked into the hotel, and on their own went around the Petronas Towers and saw the aquarium there (see photos below). I joined them on Friday night at midnight, and my vacation sort of began. Slowly – Saturday we woke up at the gorgeous Shangri-la Hotel, had a long brunch, hung around, went to the pool, did a bit of stuff on the computer in the business centre, and then off for another walk around the Petronas Towers, some hanging out in the mall there, ate Pizza Hut for our early dinner. Eventually made out way to the train station to catch our sleeper car, departing Kuala Lumpur at 9:30 and heading north through the night to Arau, which is a place near Langkawi so that we could take the morning ferry over to the resort island.

That’s where we had our first stroke of bad luck – due to a booking error on my part, I had tickets for Sunday night, and there we were on Saturday night with no seats in a fully-booked train. Basically, I’d mis-booked our transportation for 24 hours later than we needed it. Eeps!! We were looking at the possibility of spending the whole night camping out in the dining car. Luckily, though, we got three seats together, and we slept in those seats all night. Whew! But it wasn’t good sleep, and we were exhausted when we got to Arau, wishing we could have slept in the sleeper cabin instead of on the regular coach seats, shivering in the blazing air conditioning. After getting oriented, we learned that we needed to take a taxi 30 minutes to the ferry port. We got one for RM24, not a ripoff price at all, and got to the port, bought our tickets for the 9:00 AM ferry, and off we went.

Hanging over the vacation, like an evil spell, was also the earthquake and tsunami tragedy in Japan. While we don’t have any friends or family in the affected prefectures in the Tohoku region, the loss of life and human misery is horrible. We were away from the news and internet for several days, and I was concerned about the hot nuclear power plant in Fukushima – what could happen to Japan if the reactor melted down while we were in Malaysia?

But onward we went. And so, Sunday morning, about 36 hours after I “finished” work in KL, we were on a ferry, and then in Langkawi in a taxi heading to our holiday destination, Sunset Beach Resort on the west coast of the island. We saw the regular port and ferry sights, and our taxi driver deposited us faithfully on the spot at 11:30 or so. Our room was not ready yet, so we went off for lunch, and had our best meal of the trip – food that was probably what we could have ordered in Singapore, but 10 times better. We had to walk about 30 minutes in the noon sun along the main drag to get there, but it was worth it. We also passed the liquor shop and, since Langkawi is a duty-free island, beer and booze all cost what they really should cost – basically 25% of what the prices would be in Singapore. How nice. We bought some beer, went back to the place, checked in, then took a long nap. We were pooped by the long night train journey, as well as the long hot noon walk. Got up at 5:00 and went to the beach, collected shells (including some nice murex shells) and swam around. Went out for dinner, which was a relatively simple affair at a local place. Went back home, slept early.

Monday we woke up relatively early, had our breakfast, and then Naoko and I walked along the beach while Zen crapped out and went to the bungalow to do homework and to play my iPhone. The walk was wonderful – not only was the weather gorgeous and the sand and surf scrumptuous, but we also saw a lot of wildlife. When we got to end of the beach, we looked along the rocky shore and saw the silhouette of a wild monkey emerge from the jungle and explore the coast. Wow! Then, on the way back, we spotted a school of sardines – hundreds of them moving en masse, just next to the shore. Naoko wandered out into them, and they broke into two pods. Then we saw some strange tadpoles, and underwater sand crabs, then inquired with a local beach bum about tours and other activities. Chilled out in the room, and I read more of Rick Riordan’s “Heroes of Olympus”, while Zen read his Dorameon books and Naoko read “Parasite Eve.” Later we went out for local pad thai for lunch, and then to Underwater World. It was a nice place, and we saw interesting creatures – a sea dragon, penguins, seals, a pair of alligator snapping turtles, and all sorts of cool shells. There were some big grotesque fish hanging around and drifting back and forth, we also saw some clown fish and other cool creatures. Went back to the resort, chilled out in the room, went to the beach, drank beer, Zen played ball with some local kids, and later a banana boat came by, so Zen and I paid for a spin around, sharing with some other people. Everybody was shy and didn’t grab the front two seats, so I got on in front, with Zen behind me. We went zooming around the lagoon, and I was yelling rock ‘n’ roll stuff. Zen and I were singing “Iron Man” and “Crazy Train”, and screaming “ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!!!” and other silly stuff. Got back to the beach and saw Naoko again. Watched the sunset, booked a mangrove tour for the next day, and then went to eat dinner. Found a nice Malay place that grilled fish, and allowed tourists to bring in beer from nearby convenience stores – I liked that very sensible option. Zen was grumbling that he wanted to eat hamburgers – he’s been on a total western food trip recently, ordering hamburgers three nights, fish and chips two nights, and pizza one night. No problem, we got that one covered. The grilled fish was so awesome, really tasty. Way better than anything we’d had the whole trip. Went back, and had a great sleep.

Tuesday we headed off early on our mangrove tour. The morning was gloomy, and when we got to the park entrance, the sky opened up and it rained buckets. We went off for a tea, and the rain stopped, but soon enough it started up again. Aaargh! There was talk of postponing the tour to the next day, but for us that wasn’t an option – we had plans to leave the next day. But even as heavy rain was falling, I knew it wouldn’t continue forever – the sky was bright, and I knew that if we went back to our resort it would be bright and sunny all afternoon and we’d regret that we hadn’t been more patient with the mangrove tour. So we waited, and after an hour of rain, it thinned to a trickle and off we went. First we saw the batcave, which is in the middle of a mangrove forest, and then we headed out onto the waterway to a floating fish farm where we watched different fish being fed. The highlight was the stingray, which drifts up onto the rim of the pool and flutters about, the feeder has to put a piece of fish into its mouth so that it can swallow it. Pretty tame, but a little creepy as well. Then there were these explosively violent fish – as soon as a fish food hit the water, they’d lurch at it at 500 km/h. Freaky.

The inlets nearby the floating fish farm were full of pleasure craft moored for long periods. Some of them looked in pretty rough shape. On we went through the “crocodile cave” and on to watch eagle feeding, where the boat captain throws chicken tidbits into the water – the eagles gather and swoop down to catch the food. On the way, we also saw a family of monkeys, as well as two monitor lizards. Nice. Later on, on the way to our lunch spot, we found a raft of sea otters. Nicer.

After lunch, we headed off on what I thought was the nicest part of the tour- open water boating, where we zoomed at high speed along the coastline and found a secluded beach to wander around. While there we found some coral pieces a beached jellyfish melting in the sun, and some cuttlefish bones. Headed back into the park, and zoomed back to the resort. Had time to buy beer, chill out on the beach, throw our little yellow Commonwealth Bank of Australia ball around, and gather a few friends to throw ball with, including a Chinese primary school girl, a French bikini babe, and a full family of Malaysians. Fun! For dinner we revisited the same place, and had a smaller meal. Nice.

Wednesday we headed off to our next destination – Penang. That meant getting in a cab and going to the ferry port, and off we went to the mainland. The ferry left 15 minutes late, but it was a nice, smooth ride. We got to Kuala Kedah, on mainland, and realised that the 75-minute ride to Butterworth (the town across the channel from Penang Island and George Town) was affordable by taxi. We got our cab, and he made it in only 60 minutes. We spent the next 45 minutes waiting for the 10-minute ferry across the channel. Once on the other side, we took another taxi, our third of the day, to get to our lodging for the next two nights, the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. We checked in at 1:30, and were taken to our room, the 258 square metre Java Suite – we were supposed to be in the 79 square metre Georgetown Suite, but somebody had deemed us worthy of an “upgrade”. It was just next to the elevator lobby, opened out to a private kitchen, and after we entered it we passed the “guest room”, the lounge, the seating area, and the master bedroom. It was a big cold space that was much bigger than our apartment in Singapore. It looked out onto a haunted mansion, very creepy, not our style at all, with not even the slightest wisp of rock ‘n’ roll (not that a place like the Eastern & Oriental would have a lot of rock ‘n’ roll anyway, but this had even less). We asked for a smaller room, and eventually got the room that we’d booked – a 79 square meter Georgetown Suite that looked out onto the front entrance. That was nice, and we stayed there the first night – it had a sitting room with a TV, a big bedroom with a spare cot for Zen, and a monstrous bathroom. Each room had its own window, so it was well-lit. They installed a DVD player, so we could rock out to Heart (“Barracuda”) and Black Sabbath (“Iron Man”). It was a nice, comfortable space, but we still requested a poolside/ocean view suite for the next night.

We headed out to our Indian lunch, then spent an afternoon lazing next to the pool and in the suite, before venturing out for a wander round the city. We wandered some roads and lanes near the hotel, found the Town Hall and the old City Hall, in front of which was a big field where kids were playing soccer and people were flying kites. We found some boys that Zen could play soccer with and made sure that they got to know each other, then let them play. Zen kicked the ball for an hour or so, then we went off to eat local food in a hawker centre. It was pretty mediocre, and I met a strange Iranian guy who asked me lots of questions about myself, then tried to explain to me something about Zen Buddhism. Whatever. Headed back, drank gin ‘n’ tonic went to sleep.

Thursday we had the whole day in the city. We lazed around all morning until the room move thing could be settled, then we moved out for our day out-of-doors. Wandered off to the tourist information centre. Zen wanted to see the war museum, which was at the other end of the island, so we found a bus to take and jumped in. It was supposed to take 90 minutes, which seemed a bit long for such a small island. The bus wandered through George Town, giving us a great view of the local shops, it drifted into a mall, it went down streets and up alleys, it breezed past housing estates, it went past a university and several malls, and then up into the hills, making several u-turns (as if, somehow, it were looking for excuses to extend the trip further and further), and then strolled past the airport, and finally it was near the War Museum. Sure enough, the whole trip was 90 minutes. We got out, hiked uphill for 500 metres, and there we were at the entrance of the War Museum. We continued hiking along the trails, seeing gun turrets, old barracks, and strange paintball monuments. It was a weird place. Great historic buildings, but since it needs to turn a profit they’ve gone to strange extremes to turn a buck.

We got a cab back into the city, which I was told should be about forty ringgit (“How much?”, I asked when negotiating with the driver on the phone. “Fifty-five ringgit.” “That’s too much – how about forty?” “Okay. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”). The driver dropped us off in town, and we wandered for a while, shopping for hats for Zen, looking for food, but couldn’t find any – it was strange, because George Town was supposed to be famed for its food. Finally, we found some sort of hawker centre and we had food that was pretty typical of Singapore. No big deal, not so tasty, not worth the trip to Penang either. Headed back and went to sleep.

Friday, our last day in Malaysia, we just did the usual things – slept in, had a late breakfast, then went swimming and read at the poolside. Enjoyed the room, had a late check-out at 1:30, wandered around the city, saw Penang’s first mosque (constructed by Indian muslims) and some other interesting buildings (Zen Tattoo, Love Lane, etc), and then looked for a place to have dinner and a drink. Took a taxi to the airport at 6:30, then killed time in the depressing Penang International Airport, flying back to Singapore and getting a cab back home.

When we arrived home, we got some bad news – all four of our fish had died in the fish tank while we were gone. That was our one clown fish, Nemo, and three blue fish, which we had called the Bluies. Zen was devastated, and instantly blamed the robot feeder that we had. It was difficult – how do we feed our fish when we are away? I think that the feeder dumped a bit too much food, the fish didn’t eat it right away, so it sank; the food festered in the water and bacteria built up, and the fish succumbed to oxygen deprivation, bacteria overload, or starvation. A mystery.

We were very depressed to find out that we’d lost Nemo. But we’ll carry on. It seem shallow to mourn four lost fish when so many thousands died in Japan, or are homeless, with children orphaned. We try so hard to do what we can to improve life, but entropy and chaos make their mark nonetheless and show that they are dominant.

I stayed up until 4:00 AM sorting out the videos and the photos and the other stuff. It’s nice to be back home. Saturday I sorted out the website some more, laid out the DVD of the trip, and Zen and I played catch on the grass and swam in the pool. To bad the weird old lady from downstairs just went on her own merry way around the pool, pretending that we weren’t even there.

What a nice day of getting re-adjusted. And then, there’s also this blog. Spent quite a few hours today getting this together. I uploaded 70 pictures, I’ve also written a few thousand words of description.

Joe Kidd of 'Carburetor Dung', Aidil of 'All These While', and little ol' me in KL.

Joe Kidd of Carburetor Dung, Aidil of All These While, and little ol' me in KL.

Naoko and Zen hanging out with KL cow, 2011

Naoko and Zen hanging out with KL cow, 2011

Trip down memory lane: Peter and Zen hanging out with KL cow, 2005

Trip down memory lane: Peter and Zen hanging out with KL cow, 2005

Zen in front of the Petronas Towers in KL.

Zen in front of the Petronas Towers in KL.

Shark attack!

Shark attack!

Zen with his new Nautilus friends

Zen with his new Nautilus friends

Wow - garbage!

Wow - garbage!

Posing for my book dust cover.

Posing for my book dust cover.

Sunrise from the train

Sunrise from the train

Arrival in Arau

Arrival in Arau

Chillin' in front of our bungalow

Chillin' in front of our bungalow

The disgusting tree hugger!

The disgusting tree hugger!

Lizard pots

Lizard pots

Turtle basin

Turtle basin

Langkawi beach

Langkawi beach

Bali musicians three

Bali musicians three

Peter reading Rick Riordan

Peter reading Rick Riordan

Beach babe Naoko

Beach babe Naoko

Beach boy Peter

Beach boy Peter

Banana boat and island

Banana boat and island

The repulsive crocodile turtle

The repulsive crocodile turtle

Look out, there's a giant fish over your shoulder (part 1)

Look out, there's a giant fish over your shoulder (part 1)

Look out, there's a giant fish over your shoulder (part 2)

Look out, there's a giant fish over your shoulder (part 2)

The infamous bignose fish!!

The infamous bignose fish!!

What a sunset!!

What a sunset!!

Rainy tour

Rainy tour

Batcave tour

Batcave tour

Feeding the stingray

Feeding the stingray

On the tourboat

On the tourboat

Monitor lizard among mangrove roots

Monitor lizard among mangrove roots

Mr monkey

Mr monkey

Mangrove monkey family

Mangrove monkey family

Eagle catching food

Eagle catching food

Eagles flying

Eagles flying

Rock monster

Rock monster

Boat people

Boat people

Rocks here are supposedly 5 million years old, the oldest in Southeast Asia

Rocks here are supposedly 5 million years old, the oldest in Southeast Asia

Parasailer

Parasailer

Roof arrow.  What?!?

Roof arrow. What?!?

Naoko's roti kanai

Naoko's roti kanai

Yummy foody!

Yummy foody!

Eastern & Oriental love

Eastern & Oriental love

Neighbour of the Eastern & Oriental

Neighbour of the Eastern & Oriental

Zen playing soccer with his new friends

Zen playing soccer with his new friends

Zen playing soccer with his new friends (Part 2)

Zen playing soccer with his new friends (Part 2)

Cool breakfast

Cool breakfast

Promenade babe

Promenade babe

An R2D2 on the roof of our hotel

An R2D2 on the roof of our hotel

Penang War Museum

Penang War Museum

Penang War Museum

Penang War Museum

Our sea view suite (Part 1)

Our sea view suite (Part 1)

Our sea view suite (Part 2)

Our sea view suite (Part 2)

Eastern & Oriental Hotel (night view)

Eastern & Oriental Hotel (night view)

Eastern & Oriental Hotel (day view)

Eastern & Oriental Hotel (day view)

Funky elevator lobby

Funky elevator lobby

In front of our suite

In front of our suite

Champagne breakfast

Champagne breakfast

Zen, studying in style!

Zen, studying in style!

Our room!

Our room!

Low chairs

Low chairs

Elevator kid

Elevator kid

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

George Town mosque

George Town mosque

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

A tour of old George Town, on Penang

George Town's loneliest hotel.

George Town's loneliest hotel.

Love Lane!

Love Lane!

Book learning

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Zen had an interesting lesson in his study materials: Excretion and Defecation!

E&D1

E&D1


Teacher – Class, our topic of dicussion today is the process of excretion and defecation. Do you know the meaning of excretion?
Candy – Urinating!
Benny – Sweating!

E&D2

E&D2


Student 3 – Defecating!
Student 4 – Breaking wind!
Teacher – Benny and Candy are smart! Urinating and sweating are the process of excretion.
Student 3 – Teacher, why isn’t defecating considered a process of excretion?
Teacher – Defecating is not a process of excretion but a process of discharging faeces from the body.

E&D3

E&D3


Candy – Teacher, Benny is always complaining of stomach aches and wants to defecate.
Benny (alarmed) – When was that?
Teacher – So, do you know the difference between excretion and defecation? Excretion is the expulsion of unwanted substances by the body as it carries out the process of metabolism such as crying or weeping, sweating, urinating, breathing.

E&D4

E&D4


Teacher – Defecation occurs when the body expels faeces which are the solid waste substances of food that the body no longer can absorb.
Benny (making a beeline for the boys’ room) – I’ve a stomach ache.
Teacher – Do you understand?
All – WE DO, TEACHER!

Notable facts:

Excretion is the removal of waste products, such as urine, sweat and carbon dioxide from the body. Excretion takes place through the skin, lungs and special organs called kidneys.

When we defecate, our bodies get rid of undigested food or waste materials called faeces.

Why do we need to defecate? Why must we get rid of these waste materials?

We get rid of those wast materials such as sweat, urine, carbon dioxide and faeces from our body so that the wast materials would not be harmful to our health.

Vocabulary – metabolism: chemical process in humans that changes food into energy and material for growth.