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Saturday, January 26, 2008

27 Dresses

Ever since I heard about this movie a few months ago, I've been waiting in great anticipation to see it. After all, this is probably one of the few chick flicks coming out... since Knocked Up!
Just the name 27 Dresses is a selling point for me. And this cute poster with mention of "Devil Wears Prada" helps too! The actual plot is about how Jane (Katherine Heigl) is a professional bridesmaid, who has willingly donned on some pretty horrible dresses in order to "be there" for her friends on their special day.
In fact, she has 27 of them. Usually I'm quite envious of people's overflowing wardrobes in movies (think Clueless), but I think I'll make an exception in this case....
The story revolves around how Jane's sister, Tess (Malin Akerman) comes into town and falls in love with Jane's boss George- who Jane happens to be in love with for a loooong time! I thought it was quite amazing how they managed to make Katherine Heigl (whom I always thought looked quite pretty in Grey's Anatomy) look like the "plain Jane" in this movie compared to Tess.
During that time, Jane also meets Kevin (James Marsden!) the wedding journalist for the New York Journal- and the chick flick romance begins.
I've loved James Marsden since his appearance in Ally McBeal many years ago (where he sang Frank Sinatra...sigh!) and his recent Prince charming role in Enchanted was not bad either (if a bit dumbed down). But I LOVE LOVE LOVE his look here. While in his other roles, he'd always had that clean, preppy pretty boy look, his role in this movie as a journalist is ruggedly handsome and charming...sigh............ :)

Over all I liked the movie. I love weddings. I love chick flick happy endings. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE James Marsden. It was just the light hearted fun movie I was looking for. I know that many reviews have found this movie to be sexist because it portrays getting married as the life goal of women, but personally I think that is just the opinion of the female lead here and everyone is entitled to their own opinions and so its not reflective of a whole gender. What did everyone else think?

Image Source: Yahoo Movies

Friday, January 25, 2008

Engkabang and Chop Ching Chiong

A very lucrative crop of the 50's and 60's was engkabang or ellipe nuts. When the engkabang started to drop from the trees in upper Rejang, almost all the the Ibans and able bodied, adventurous Foochows became wild with anticipation. The motor launches from Kapit, Kanowit, Julau, Durin and Song became heavy with the wild jungle harvest and one shop in Sibu, Chop Ching Chiong, owned by Mr.Sia Tiew Kie and his only son Mr. Sia Kie Ming, became full with gunny sacks of engkabang which is called just tree seed or chiew ji in Foochow. Chop Ching Chiong was the best sole exporter of engkabang as it had branch offices in Sngapore.

The actual, or real Illipe nuts come from a genus with about eighty-five members, including the mamey sapote and other delicious fruits. There are two crops of nuts per year, one large and the other smaller. Native to India, the tree produces a nut that is long, oval, and smooth, covering coffee-coloured seeds. The nut contains saponin, which has a destructive action on the blood. The oil extracted is similar to lard. Madhuca is certainly the most important genus as the fat produced from the seeds is often used to extend ghee and coconut butter.

What is known as False Illipe nut, Engkebang nuts (Shorea macrophylla -- Family Dipterocarpaceae)were the ones harvested by the Ibans and Chinese in Sarawak.These false illipe nut comes from another group of trees in a genus that has about 180 members, from Ceylon to Malaysia and south China. Many of them are valued for their timber. The species found in Malaysia and three others in Borneo supply the nuts often mistaken for the illipe nut, and thus its name. From these nuts comes a substitute for cocoa butter in the manufacture of chocolates.

The late Mr. Sia Kie Ming was a student of the old Methodist School and at a very young age, he was already the classmate of my seventh aunt, Tiong Chiew Sieng. It was match made in heaven. Both were fair and good looking. Upon graduation, she went to Singapore to study and he too went for further education. He was very good in business and more than tripled his father's fortunes.

when they got married in the modern style, in western costumes in Singapore, my grandfather was exceptionally happy and proud. Bride and groom could not be happier. Their first two children, Pick Sing and Belinda were born in Singapore. And I remember when they had to move back to Sibu to carry on old towkay Sia's business, the two kids complained of the heat as there was no air conditioning in the shop house. Their grandmother loved them as if they were precious diamonds . Later a younger son, David Sia, was born in Sibu.

Uncle Sia Kie Ming was a very unusual but astute businessman. He would ride his tall 22inch bicycle to his old shop in Island Road from his High Street shop. He liked to wear slippers as far as I could remember.

His office from which thousands of dollars of business would be transacted was very simple and it was typical of a Chinese shophouse office. It was what we called in the "stomach" of the ground floor of the shop. One Chai Koo or clerk helped to do the accounts. And Uncle was the manager who sat in front of the old fashion wrought iron safe, which at almost any time contained a few thousand dollars of hard cash. almost all Foochow businessmen operated like this. Hard cash was a sign of good business sense and calibre.

It was in this office that records of how much engkabang was sent to Singapore by ships in the old fashioned way, and money would be remitted via the banks, making the Sia family so wealthy. And only two desks , two abacuses, one telephone , some thick crocodile files were the office equipment to help two men do all the paper work and make that huge fortune. Amazing!!

The front part of the shop was a textile outlet, which was controlled by Uncle Sia's mother. She sat at the cashier compartment and counted every cent and dollar earned from the sale of materials, simple items like scissors,buttons, lace,etc.

What was very interesting was the fact that almost all the employees were surnamed Sia. One was a very old cousin of the grandfather Sia. And two shop assistants were also Sia. So they got on very well with each other.

They treated my family members very well and had a lot of respect for my grandmother Siew whenever she dropped by to do her shopping.

the relationship between in laws in Sibu at that time was always very serious, courteous and respectful. Words were carefully chosen so as not to offend anyone. No jokes were supposed to be told.

Old grandmother Sia was a very serious person who did not smile easily.

So none of us dared to upset her or act in any way impolitely to her. After all, she was a person of authority and wealth.

I remember that my aunt had to ask her for permission even to just go next door to buy some herbs. that was the correct or proper behaviour of a daughter in law.

But any way, I found that if all of us have the courtesy to tell each other where we were going, it would save a lot of trouble later on. I did not like to be interrogated if I came back late for dinner. In Foochow, the word "han" is very valuable in our life style.

What ever one does, or where ever one goes, we have to "han" or tell mother or father first. It was not like asking for permission to go somewhere.

Witnessing a business grow and wane, witnessing a street change, and how life became different,has thus become a very significant part of my life. I really feel that they are worth remembering and passing on to others.

Good Wishes Calligraphy during Chinese New Year



Chinese New Year would always be very meaningful to me . And it would always remind me of many beautiful things of the past.

I have this very special vivid memory of Sibu when it celebrated Chinese New year.

The Chinese New Year season arrived,and every Foochow family would be busy preparing for the festival and a few interesting figures would appear in Sibu, going from office to office, bank to bank and coffee shop to coffee shop. Sometimes they even strolled up to a wedding dinner guest!! They would be promoting their chun lian (or Spring Festival Couplets) for the door posts. These couplets were very auspicious words which will bless the family members, the business and individuals throughout the year. It originates from the ancient days when the Chinese paid very special attention to nature, fate and particularly agricultural fortunes.

Perhaps it was only in Sibu that calligraphers and other enterprising people could earn money from their calligraphy. And upon reflection I thought the Foochows in particular were so kind and generous. After 1980 and especially after moving to Miri I never saw such door to door sales people again.

They would carry a business bag, a brief case, or just a cotton bag containing their special ware : chun lian. These special goods were long red strips of Chinese season's greetings specially calligraphed on paper for sale. Some had very good calligraphy some were just simple ones. Usually they were in this usual traditional red paper made in China, and they stained your clothes and anything that touched it if it got wet.

One person I remember in particular was Lau Mang. His calligraphy was very good and stylish and as far as I remember my father did buy one pair from him. But I cannot remember what those particular couplets were.

Most of the shops would buy from these artists or calligraphists, probably three or four pairs, and they would chase away those they did not like. Yes, sometimes, even shooed them away impolitely, commenting that they were very obnoxious.

I am glad, in those days, no stickers like NO SALESPERSON ALLOWED were stuck on the doors of the shops.

I was very sorry for one particular Foochow lady who came around to sell a few. I wondered if she herself had written them. Most probably she asked her son, or someone else to help write them. She would take out a bundle of red long strips from her rotan basket and showed them to my uncle Lau Pang Kwong in his office in 26 Central Road.

Some were not really in good condition, as not all goods come in good condition.

And furthermore those red script paper in those days were actually of quite poor quality.

So my uncle Lau Pang Kwong would look at them and grumble. But he would sort of pay one or two dollars for them only.

I believe Lau Mang's writing fetched more. My father used to say that artists did not have much money and so it was good for the society to support them in different ways. But when people came around to cheat their own community for their own dubious ulterior motives we just had to be careful and must not be cheated.

Today, you can buy these strips of season's greetings in the supermarket - plastic ones, velvet ones, and even metal ones to hang on the door posts, or across the huge main hall mirror.

But these Sibu calligraphers are forever gone from our community now. In their place we have people who sell homemade biscuits, and the sticky red sugar glutinous cake or nien kao, all nicely wrapped up in plastic paper with a red square piece of paper for good luck or "ee lick".

It is difficult to tell who is in need of extra money or who is just a business person trying to cash in during the season. My money still goes to the poor lady who needs to buy a chicken for her New Year Eve dinner.

Chinese New Year Reflections

A Tale of Six Fishes





River fish has always been a source of free food for the Foochows and the Ibans of Third Division. For just home consumption, a Foochow man like any Iban man would just put down a line and a fish could be caught. This was very common in the early 50's when I lived across the river at the Hua Hong Ice Factory. My father would happily come home with one fish. He would not continue to fish until he had two or three. One fish was good enough for the family's evening meal.

Occasionally an enterprising Iban man would row his little sampan to the jetty and he would show us his still wriggling fish at the bottom of his boat. My father would choose one for dinner and our neighbours, the Wong family would choose theirs. Only a small little fee would be charged. Sometimes he would say that he charged a a little higher for his fish because he wanted to see a "doctor bayar" (private doctor) to get an injesyen (injection). My father would gladly parted with his money. And the Iban fisherman would then happily row on.

In this way we children learned to eat really fresh red eyed fish,tapah and patin. We looked forward to fresh fish all the time. And we really loved to see our father getting ready his fishing rod, or his jala, or even his own invented wooden trap to take to his fishing by the river side. We were told that these fish were plentiful in the Rejang River and we would never be short of them. We never predicted then that over population and over fishing would eventually make these three fish almost extinct.

While the people of Sibu valued river fish found in the Rejang at the lower reaches, the timber workers started to enjoy the great fish from Kapit and Belaga. Empurau , semah and tengadak became much sought after in the 60's. Prices were a little low at the beginning but when they were made know to Singapore restaurants, prices of these two fish skyrocketed and the exporters like Sarawak Cold Storage made a huge profit.

In fact as I grew up, I learned that many people would also go to Kapit for a good trip. Kapit was already a local tourist destination then. Going up to Kapit on a double decker motor launch would take two days and a night. And one of the objectives of going to Kapit was to eat good fresh fish.

Unknown to us,the upper reaches of the Rejang was a natural habitat to many indigenous fish species. Empurau is still a highly esteemed fish . Generally this fish lives in swift, clear, rocky-bottomed streams, in the upland zone of a river system. Small individuals may be found in shallow water, but adults live in deeper pools.

Furthermore,in Sarawak, empurau is found in most of the upper major rivers such as Rejang, Baram, Limbang and Batang Ai. In Rejang, three types of empurau are distinguished: empurau burak (white), empurau merah (red) and empurau chelum (black).

Its natural food consists of plant parts like leaves, fruits and flowers. Its natural population is rather small. Its popularity and environmental degradation have further contributed to a drastic decline in its population over the years. Empurau can attain a size of more than 20 kg in weight and fetches a market price of more than RM160 a kilogramme.

"A lot of confusion still exists as to what distinguishes empurau and semah, its close relative. The presence of a long median lobe on the lower lips in empurau and the lack of it in Semah, is a main distinguishing physical feature". Semah is often salted in the native style and is very delicious. When steamed it is even better than ikan duai or white pompfret, a long time favourite sea fish of the Foochows.

The tengadak is rather bony but it is very tasty when deep fried. The New Capitol Restaurant in Sibu used to serve this as its signature dish. And diners would oh and ah for days after eating a two kilo tengadak!!

I will end the description of my fish tale with a real life fish related story.

A very rich man, Mr. Hii had a fish bone stuck to this throat. After several years, he was thought to be stricken with cancer of the throat. He and his family spent a fair bit of their family wealth on helping him to overcome the deadly disease. It was to no avail. And his physician in Singapore gave up.

However, a friendly doctor, from another hospital asked him just one question. Did he ever have a fish bone stuck to his throat? He said yes.

Immediately this doctor suggested a simple operation. The old humourous man decided that it was no harm at all to take such an adventure at the last stage of his life.

During the operation the doctor found an almost fossilized fish bone in the old man's throat lining, had it removed and gave the man a new lease of life.

I was told that this dear old man lived another ten or more years!!

MV Pulau Kijang Tragedy

It was towards the end of the school holidays and families were rushing from Kuching towards home : Sarikei, Sibu, Kanowit,Bintangor, after spending a good holiday away from home. Travelling in Sarawak from town to town was possible only by the more expensive plane, a Twin Otter, or a Fokker, or by the rough, untarred road, or by the more traditional coastal steamer.

Personally I knew what it was like to travel by sea along the coast of Sarawak . In 1968 my Geography teacher Mr.David Watts,and his wife took my sixth Form class for a field trip to Kuchig and Bako National Park. It was a most memorable eye opening trip to study the coastal features and vegetation. I had my first taste of salty sea wind, and my first night experience at sea. there were beautiful stars in the dark sky, and the waves were just too gentle. It was a beautiful trip.

The Kuching-Sibu route was covered by MV Rajah Mas andMV Pulau Kijang, and for a long time, no mishap had happened. Sea vessels had always been very safe and the coastal waters of Sarawak never treacherous: no dangerous waves, no pirates,no dangerous spots. The coastal ship would leave Kuching or Sibu at about noon, and the passengers would spend a lovely night on board. The ship would arrive in Sarikei in the morning, and by noon in Sibu. So wharf labourers would have one whole afternoon to carry all the goods to the waiting lorries or simple trolleys. By evening the ship would be cleared and the next day, the ship would sail again to Kuching if there was nothing to hold it back with its cargo and new load of passengers. The route was so well charted and systematic.

On that fateful December day, hundreds of passengers bought tickets from Kuching and some had return tickets in their hands. Most were travelling as families, parents and their school going age children of different races - Chinese, Malay, Melanau,and Iban.

The MV Pulau Kijang was a handsome coastal boat which was built in the fifties and had plied the waters for sometime, carrying both cargoes and humans. The deck was usually full of passengers, and the cargo down below in the hull. There were a few cabins for the first class passengers and second class passengers. The ordinary passengers slept everywhere possible, and many just on top of the gunny sacks of rice, corn or boxes of tinned food in the hull. People were very simple and they were happy just to have a ticket and a place to lay their head for a night. They had brought their own food in a basket, some buns, some bottled water, and perhpas even a flask of hot water.


A relative who had already bought tickets for the fateful trip found his son to have very high fever and decided not to travel that day. He rushed his wife and child to the General Hospital in Kuching. He also told us that he felt that there were just too many passengers and that his child might be too sick on the sea journey. But again no one really paid any attention to sea safety then.

I heard another story that a woman had a bad dream and she decided to stay on in Kuching for the next ship or take the aeroplane. She sold her ticket at the wharf . She could not get any air ticket that day as it was the end of December and so she took a plane out of Kuching the next day, arriving in Sibu just to know there had been a terrible tragedy.

According to the newspaper report, a buoy marking the shifting and dangerous sandbars off Sarikei towards the sea had become adrift and in the darkness of the early morning the Captain could not see the direction. So when the ship went aground, chaos broke out. Then were huge waves coming upon them as the winds suddenly changed and Pulau Kijang started to sink.

So in the darkness, before dawn broke, a few hundred souls were lost.

The Police Personnel, the Navy and the Army came on hand to help but it was too late. The helicopters air lifted the dead bodies to Sarikei and the pilots said that they could sea bodies floating in every direction on the water. They made so many trips that they lost count. The Navy was called to help but they could only find dead bodies. They worked non stop for two days, and for a week they were still looking for dead bodies and survivors. the people of Sarikei had never seen such activity before. So many stayed at the wharf to wait for good news but they were disappointed.

The Sarikei hospital was extremely busy and a radiologist, Daisy Harry , from Sibu Lau King Howe Hospital was directed to Sarikei to x-ray dental identification. She must have had a terrible time during this exceptional call of servie. I learn from a friend that she is now in Gold Coast Australia. Many doctors, nurses and hospital staff had related horror stories of this tragedy. It was a horrific and unforgetable event.

this was the worst sea tragedy ever in Sarawak and that day, 26 December 1973 was indeed a dark day. So many kampongs, longhouses, and towns mourned their dead. Some said that there were more than 200 victims.Some families were completely wiped out leaving no descendants. Some said there were 150. But we would probably never know the real figure. How many actually did the Pulau Kikang carry on board on that fateful trip?

All the dead were buried together in a mass grave and later the government build a small memorial in Sarikei for the tragic victims.

Sea travel was never the same after this tragedy.

Rambo Week!!! Review #3: Rambo III

Rambo III

Directed by Peter MacDonald

Written by Sylvester Stallone

Tagline: God would have mercy, John Rambo won't!


So last time we left John J. Rambo he was raging against the machine and left wondering why his country doesn't respect him. Well luckily for us he must have heard about how much success Jean Claude Van Damme was having fighting in Thailand in underground betting rings on shipping docks. Rambo has turned from a killing machine into a stick fighting machine! Woo Hoo.

This movie is so bad. So incredibly bad. Horrible at every moment. I originally thought the film was about Rambo taking on Afghanistan (it has been years since I have seen the film) but when I watched it this afternoon I realized that he is actually taking on Russia and helping out the Afghanistan rebels.

The plot is fairly simple. Rambo's superior officer and only friend, Trautman (played by Richard Crenna) asks him to go one more mission, to help with the aide of an Afghanistan village who is being slaughtered by Russian's. Rambo declines, even after a brief conversation with the head of the US embassy in Thailand played by Kurtwood Smith!!! Better known to action junkies everywhere as Boddinger from RoboCop (and known to other junkies everywhere as the dad from That 70's Show). Crenna tries to hard sell him on the idea that this mission will do some good, but Rambo isn't buying it as he tells Trautman: "My war is over."


Uh Oh. You know what happens now. Trautman is captured by the Russian's and Rambo must go over to Afghanistan and rescue him, in the process he grows to love the Afghanistan family he stays with and even gives a little boy the good luck necklace from his slain lover from the last movie (continuity!). Rambo then proceeds to fight two wars and learns that the Afghani people are not so bad. He helps them blow up Russian's, stab them, and shoot them all for their freedom. I mean after all, the film is dedicated to "The gallant people of Afghanistan." The film should be shown in as a means of diplomacy.

So the movie isn't serious at all. It marks the time when Stallone officially lost it. He turned Rambo, a pseudo-serious figure scarred by the Vietnam war and the war at home, into a one-liner toting, grimacing, 80's action star. The film, made in 1988, is also obviously influenced by the success of Lethal Weapon and the buddy cop genre. For the last 30 minutes of the film, Crenna and Stallone shoot people, blow things up, and spout horrible one-liners and jokey dialogue in the process. Ugh. Everything Stallone did to try and make this character deep and serious and someone who dealt with the issues of post war syndrome, he blows it all up (literally) with this film.


There are scenes where Rambo (as usual) is running from, into, and through fire. Once again there is fire all around Rambo in this film. As he runs through the flames and dives into a cave, Trautman is waiting for him, this is their exchange:

Trautman: How do you feel?

Rambo: Well done.

Yeah, it's lines like that as well as cheesy 80's action lines like when Rambo appears to be doomed and has a gun pointed at him, but Trautman shoots the guy from behind:

Rambo: Nice timing.

Trautman: What are friends for.

Damn you Stallone! I hate that producers gave you the green light on this movie and I hate even more that you think you are a good writer because the idiots at the Oscars decided to give you the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture for Rocky.

So he turned the film into a full blooded 80's action movie with all of the cliches. See, even the first two films of the series weren't this cheesy and this blatantly formulaic. The sole purpose of this film was the suck the Rambo well dry for the last time. They had a decent budget (it seems like it at least) but nothing much happens. The last hour of the film, most of the action involves Stallone on horseback out riding missiles from a big helicopter. And about that helicopter, you could tell they spent a lot of money on it because it has a bigger role than Stallone does. At the end of the film, the credit list for helicopter operators is longer than the entire cast.


Well...Stallone did dedicate this film to "the gallant people of Afghanistan" and even has a weird soul version of He Aint Heavy He's My Brother play over the credits...God bless you Stallone. But that doesn't mean he is done yet...because released, just this weekend...Rambo (aka Rambo IV) which grossed just 18 million, getting beat out by (yikes) Meet the Spartans.

I was hoping to write more on the movie, but there is really nothing else to write about Rambo III. It's just like any other generic 80's action movie, it doesn't even have moments that are so bad they are funny (with the exception of the horrible delivery of Stallone's one-liners). I was also hoping to see Rambo this weekend, but instead opted to see There Will Be Blood with Troy. So I will do a write up of Rambo next weekend when I see it.

Rambo week will continue through next week with a review of the new Rambo.

Haute Couture S/S08 III

Starting with Armani's tribute to Valentino:
This post, like all of the other recent haute couture posts, is all about Valentino's final show. The old-school king of romance is retiring after more than 40 years of designing flowery and lacey dresses. Personally, I've always been neutral about Valentino. To me, Valentino is a well-respected designer who has been around for a very long time. I don't exactly love or hate his designs because I wasn't even born yet during some of his more memorable designer years and because such fancy clothes isn't exactly studentwear. But this is the very final Valentino show, so let's take some time to admire the final work of a master:
Take note of the Phillip Tracey hats -they're so pretty! Isn't the bow on Natalia V.'s head SO adorable? I could totally imagine a red one on Blair (Gossip Girl)!
OK, so I admit I can't tell the difference between this collection and Valentino's RTW line. They just all look very lady-like to me.
The gold, 20's dress on the left is one of my favourite from this collection. It's modern but still very classic-looking.
Flowers in many different forms -a signature of Valentino's.
Chic and elegant.
Gorgeous! Don't the purple/ pink flowers just look like they're growing on a vine on these dresses?
These dresses look so big and puffy, yet still so light and floaty. Just what certain romantic dresses are supposed to look like.
The silver (or is it white?) dress on Vlada (right) is another one of my favourite dresses in this collection. It's SO gorgeous!
Farewell Valentino!
Image credit: www.vogue.co.uk

Caricatures: Brandon and Dita

Brandon
Dita

Book Covers: Goldilocks and the Witch Doctors

Linocut on rice paper
Goldilocks on Management
The Witch Doctors: Making Sense of the Management Gurus

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rambo Week!!! Review #2: Rambo: First Blood II

Rambo: First Blood II

Directed by George P. Cosmatos

Written by Sly Stallone and James Cameron

Tagline: What most people call home, he calls hell.

Well, John J. Rambo is back as the film opens with what seems like a Cool Hand Luke deleted scene. Rambo is hammering rock when Crenna comes back to him with a proposition. Rambo takes the deal and is pardoned from prison in order to save some POW's that were left behind during the war. And we're off and running in one of the worst (yet most popular, more on that later) action films of the 80's.

Of course we come to find out that the bureaucrats that have assigned Rambo to the mission are in it for something else and everyone is expendable. But Rambo has other plans and this time he wants to know if they "get to win." But of course he does...but Richard Crenna reminds him that "it's up to him." Oh good...all we need is an unstable vigilante fighting our international battles.

Yes, Rambo: First Blood II takes all of the good will the first film built (it really did try to be legit) and flushes it right down the pooper. It's amazing how awful this movie really is, how ugly and violent, and hilariously awful it is. I loved every minute.

It's a little slower than I remember (my roommates and I used to watch this every week in college) and the crazy violence doesn't really kick in until about an hour into the film. However, it's all preceded by some wonderful low key (seriously he is trying so hard to look like he is not not acting...sad) moments where we get to know the man, Rambo, not just as a killing machine, but where he grew up. Ooooh great character development. Maybe if James Cameron wasn't spending so much time writing Aliens (his good movie) than Stallone wouldn't have had to pick up the slack.

Oh sorry...the plot (I got distracted): Rambo must save POW's left behind in Eastern Asia, and with the help of his plucky Taiwanese sidekick (that of course he falls in love with in a hilarious scene shot in soft focus...get it, his soft side, so soft focus...yeah) and big ass gatling gun. Which reminds me, when I looked up the film on imdb.com the key words were: Torture, Python, Shot in the Head, Gatling Gun, Shot in the Back. Sadly, his new found love is the one that gets shot in the back. So much for the softer, more gentle Rambo --- he proceeds to grieve for about two seconds and then grabs her necklace (her good luck charm), puts it on, and becomes an unstoppable killing machine. And then we get this scene:


Awesome huh. Well...things don't work out so well for Rambo as he has another meltdown much like in the first film. And we get our obligatory lesson about people STILL don't respect veterans. Okay, that's enough about the plot.

Rambo: First Blood II is astonishing in its badness, yet the film is loved by many. In a recent Entertainment Weekly poll of the greatest action movies ever made, it ranked in the top 40! Yikes. It had a budget of 44 million and grossed over 300 million worldwide. There was even a Sega Genesis game to boot!


The movie is nothing more than an excuse to blow stuff up real good. And it's funny how no matter where Rambo is in the movie, fire is always around him. He plays chicken with a helicopter, takes on not one, but two armies (East Asia and Russia or South Africa, I couldn't tell the accents were that bad), and has to fight the suit and tie bureaucrats who push pencils and take orders rather than kill people. After all as Charles Nappier (the main bad guy ---he wears a tie, that's how you know) says "it's your war, not mine." Not the right way to kick things off with John J Rambo.

By the end Rambo takes his aggression out on the machine by dropping of the wounded POW's and then walking into a hangar filled with machinery and files and begins to shoot them with his big gatling gun. Screaming at the top of his lungs...this shot consists of him shooting the computers, shooting the files, cut to his bicep, cut to shells hitting the floor, cut to him screaming, cut to his pecs, cut to his biceps, cut back to his screaming. Yup, we get the metaphor...Stallone ever the minimalist eh?


The director is the hack-tastic George P. Cosmatos, who made Cobra with Stallone after this, Leviathan, Shadow Conspiracy with Charlie Sheen and Linda Hamilton (a rip off of No Way Out), and somehow got lucky and made Tombstone (although now that I think about it, that film was horribly directed, it just had great performances). He's a horrible director who believes every shot should either be a low angle, birds eye, or be seen through an obstructed POV. It's maddening watching the shots in this movie.

The speech at the end of the film definitely trumps the ending of First Blood. Here, Rambo gives a speech ala Steven Segal's infamous "oil speech" in On Deadly Ground, as he stares into the camera after Crenna has reminded him that "I know the war was wrong, but don't blame it on your country." HUH??? Yes, let's blame it on...the enemy? Certainly with Rambo taking out a whole fortress of East Asians (which is funny, if the war is over, why so heavily guarded? Oh, so things could blow up and catch on fire...gotcha.) they must be to blame. Or is it the stiffs who sit behind a desk and play war from their offices, using people like Rambo as pawns in their game? Yeah...too deep for a movie like this, although once again (like the first film) the film strives to be something bigger and deeper than it really is or is capable of being.

When Stallone...er...Rambo is asked what he wants, he replies: "I want our country to love us."

Ugh.

Didn't we just go through this Rambo?

Oh well...because at the end of the film we get the Frank Stallone masterpiece "Peace in Our Life" which I went ahead and found for you on youtube.

Watch all the way through as they show that final scene with Stallone's awful delivery and clips of the film (and oddly the first film...David Caruso though!) which completely contrast with the song. It's a soft piece of crap pop song that pleads for the listener to understand the struggles of our Vietnam vets...yet all of the clips are of Rambo kicking the crap out of people and blowing them up...hmmmm. God Bless America!





Up next, Rambo takes on Afghanistan. Yeah, it's too good to be true.

Stitch

It's official - New York label, now Tokyo-based, chief & mischief are ready to launch their range and TOKYOMADE are supporting in full force. To celebrate this meeting of creative minds STITCH is the first collaborative event featuring chief & mischief, TOKYOMADE and LADE clothing all mixed up in one lush Tokyo club (Velours) with a dash of Hoop Dance for your viewing pleasure (yes, I will be doing my first club performance in Tokyo!!)

Here is the flyer and info...



Come party with chief&mischief as they celebrate their debut on
tokyomade.com! Friends from Lade Clothing are also joining in the fun of
this brand new party that will showcase designers, photographers, artist
and DJs from Tokyo and beyond.

DJ's Miki (Ms. Rock Spirit), James (Jade Media/Robot Rok), Yuk1
(Velours/Womb) Ecco (Ecco Promotions) and Brandon (chief&mischief/Robot
Rok) will be spinning Electro Rock, House and Nu-Rave all nite. Shantell
Martin (On The March) will supply stimulating visuals for your viewing
pleasure, and Deanne from Tokyo Made will demonstrate why she was
nominated
for 2008 Newbie Hooper (Hoop Fusion) of the year!

Free goodies from chief&mischief, Tokyo Made and more! Tables are
available
by contacting Velours (www.velours.jp). RSVP to get discounted entry.

See you there!

rsvp: info@chiefandmischief.com
www.tokyomade.com
www.ladeclothing.com
www.jademedia.net
www.velours.jp

1st year

Drawing I graphite still lives

Standpipes and Kampong

One of the earliest memories of I have of Sibu was a number of very sturdy standpipes which supplied water to the kampong folks and they were placed at significant points along Kampong Nyabor, Kampong Datu, Kampong Hilir, Kampong Baru and Kampong Nangka. The Kampong Nyabor standpipe was the one I most remember because my house was just a few meters away.

There were two occasions during my childhood when water supply in Sibu broke down and the whole town and the nearby kampong had to obtain water from the River Lembangan and the bigger Rejang River. I could still remember my mother struggling with the washing of two alumium-pailfuls of clothes, and bathing all the four of us by the small jetty.

And I remember also that all the women who were also experiencing the shortage of water,were very friendly and kind. A few kids jumped into the darkish water which had lots of water hyacinth floating about. And my sisters and I had a good laugh when one of the women sportingly jumped into the water to wash her hair with the yellow China made soap. This was really before the Sunsilk shampoo came to Sibu.

We had to do this because our supplementary rainwater tank was completely dry and the Sibu Water Board could not supply us with water for about a week.

In those days all Foochows were very frugal. We used pipe water for cooking and we stored rainwater in a cement tank for any washing or cleaning purposes. We had a huge cement tank in our house because my grandfather had intelligently constructed the house in such a way that we had gutters running into this tank and there was a beautiful open space and skylight above the tank. The tank therefore was open at the top and the sun shone on it. In the day time, we had rather warm water. So it was a very energy saving application. Our piped water bill was about 2 dollars.

It was also at about this time cholera broke out and there was a great deal of fear every where. We heard that many children died especially in the surrounding areas of Sibu. How many town people died I would not know.

Thereafter I realised how important it was to have clean water supplied to the house.

Kampong Nyabor was just along the fringe of Sibu town, which in the 50's and 60's were made up of probably twenty row of concrete shop houses. By then there were no more wooden shophouses.

There were about fifty wooden houses in Kampong Nyabor and the best looking one belonged to Tuanku Haji Bujang. Each house was a single detached buildingh and therefore different from any other in the same kampong. The majority of Malay kampong houses were built off the ground, and there were coconut trees and fruit trees surrounding them. At the end of this Malay kampong stood the biggest mosque in Sibu at that time. Next to this mosque is the huge Muslim cemetery, after which is the Methodist School.

The Kampong Nyabor Road was a very straight road, with Malay houses on both sides. The houses on the western side had long plank walks leading up to their door steps. What I liked very much was the way bicycles could be pedalled along them, making a very comforting tut, tut sound. It was quite a skill to negotiate a bike ride along the long plank walk.

There was no fence between the houses and every one kept their own space clean. When the tide came up, the water would give a nice feel to the kampong scene, and the sun set would make red and golden streaks on the water. Some times my father would take us (makin angin or siak hoong)just to watch the sunset and we would sit in the Landrover,mersmerized until the sun set completely and we went home in the dark.

The Kampong Nyabor standpipe was placed right near the Malay Union club, where the Art Friend Studio stands now.

These standpipes were installed by the government so that the residents could have clean water to use there or take back to their homes for their own purposes. In the evenings,people would begin to gather at these standpipes. Typically it stood in the middle of a concrete 3-metre square specially built with a low wall and decent drainage. There would be two taps on each side, much like your own outside garden tap, but with a bracket around it so that you could not attach a hosepipe to it. People would turn up with recycled kerosene tins or cooking oil tins or store bought buckets, fill them up and carry them home on a pole across their shoulders (pian dan). Young children would be bathed by their mothers. Men would wash their bikes there. In the morning, women washed their clothes.

A lot of gossips were exchanged at the standpipes. And I heard that one or two marriages were made there too. The older Malay ladies were very particular about getting their water at the right time. They would usually wait until almost every one had gone home before they came to collect some water.

Later when every family had their own government supply water, the standpipes lost their attraction. And somehow people just forgot how helpful they were.

Haute Couture S/S08 II

Chanel
To be honest, the last few seasons of Chanel have not been too impressive for me. It was either uninspiring or so artistic that it was beyond my comprehension. But in this season's haute couture show, the Chanel I know is finally back. The collection was simply AMAZING and I loved everything on the runway. Inspired by spiraling forms and delicate colors of shells, the models resembled youthful nymphs flowing down the runway. According to the reviews, there was also a giant Chanel jacket made of concrete in the room, that reminds one of the Tristan throne in the Little Mermaid, further alluding to the sea theme.
By pairing the classic Chanel suit jackets with these short draping and pleated skirts, Karl cleverly adds a flirty fun touch to the whole outfit.
The collar of the long coat (left) adds a modern touch to a classic piece. And the exaggerated style of the white blouse (right) is elegantly distinctive and not clownish at all (as over exaggerated pieces tend to be).
The evening/cocktail dresses were the best. Karl had beautiful romantic pieces (like above), exquisitely made with frills and details, that were pretty, girly and very very feminine.
He also had more modern youthful fun pieces that were totally adorable and cute.
He then had modern yet more sophisticatedly designed pieces that were elegant and simply stunning. The workmanship of that silver long dress is simply genius. The frills, the different materials and those two pockets- genius!
And of course there were black dresses (wouldn't be a Chanel runway without black dresses!). These are definitely more creative and different from the black Chanel dresses we're all used to. In fact, the black dress on the left reminds me a teensy bit of Armani......
And I love love love the last silver dress (right). She looks exactly what I imagine a fairy/nymph would look like. I especially like the fact that it is more loosely cut and not like all those super fitted evening wears out there we're so used to seeing.
Another thing I love about this show are the mary jane the flats throughout. All the models wore flats with outfit, which gave an extra youthful touch to all the outfits- even the evening wear. It totally made me rethink the role of flats. That sit, after I write this I am going to go dig out my mary jane flats!
Oooh and the hair. I LOVE the hairstyle, they made them look like fairies even more. I wonder how I can make this look more wearable..... perhaps a neat bun with gorgeous sparkly hair accessories?

Christian Lacroix
The theme of the Christian Lacriox show was, An Angel Passing By. I don't really see how that is from the outfits, but maybe it is something one feels when one is there? Anyway, despite that, I thought the collection was quite marvelous. It was everything I expected from a Christian Lacroix haute couture show. As the reviewer on style.com said, "...Lacroix is doing nothing new. The ideas that went into this incredible collection are the ones he's always worked at: influences from the eighteeth century, fin de si├Ęcle Paris, and gypsy costume." And I totally agree. What is really marvelous about his collection is the genius way he throws the most unlikely fabrics and colors together and makes it work in the most stunning way visually. His intricate and exquisite workmanship is also unparalleled.
An excellent example of his mastery with mixing. Who would've thought that red plaid, blue brocade and leopard print and blue/black strips, red plaid and leopard print would go so well together?
Admittedly a lot of times, his outfits are more costume like than ever, but that IS the point of haute couture. Just LOOK at the workmanship! How does the sleeves (and the dress for that matter) hold up (left)??? How does the drapes and shape of the skirts stay that way?
My personal favourite outfits were his blue ones. I'm not sure if it is simply a personal obsessions with blue for me or not, but the blue outfits just looks STUNNING. He had these two that were distinctively Victorian with a bit of an equestrian feel.
And these two blue creations are also brilliant in a more "modern" style that is both vibrant and youthful.
I am still trying to decide whether these two would make vividly gorgeous wedding dresses in reality (minus all that heavy headgear etc) or would just make a bad memory.

Regardless of its practicality in real life, the Lacroix collection was a visual feast for those of us who love beautiful things.

Givenchy
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Givenchy collection that is the antithesis to Lacroix's style. While Lacroix had vibrant hues and an array of different patterns and flowing textures, Riccardo Tisci had subdued colors and a structured style that is distinctively minimalist. Yet they both equally make us salivate with lust just looking at them. Inspired by the gothic ballerina, the shape of the skirts were both flowing and structured all at once. How does he DO it??? With a lot of starch? And the tailoring of the jacket (left) and the ruffles (right) on the top is just genius.
The outfit on the left is the definition of minimalism. And the white dress is a beeeeeautiful work of art.
Besides black and white, Tisci also experimented with metallic fabrics and other bold colors (he also had a really really all red dress!). I love the shape and tailoring of the metallic dress (left) and how he mixed the fabrics in the green/white dress (right).
I absolutely LOVE these two dresses. You know how in Project Runway they talk about how a collection needs to be coherent yet not repetitive? Well I think these two are the definition of that. They are obviously from the same collection, yet one is feminine and girly (left) and one is styled and sophisticated.

Image Source: Elle.com
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