Sunday, 24 December 2017

The war of the worlds

Herbert George Wells, more popularly known as HG Wells, was a prolific English writer of novels, short stories, works of social commentary, satire, biography and autobiography. He is best remembered for his science fiction novels and I remember reading the abridged version of The Invisible Man during my schooldays. Apart from this story orf invisibility, his other science fiction works imagined time travel (The Time Machine), alien invasion and biological engineering (The Island of Dr Moreau). But it was for The War of the Worlds, written in 1898, that Wells is now most famous for.

The War of the Worlds spawned seven films, various radio dramas, comic-book adaptations, video games, a television series and sequels or parallel stories by other authors.

One of the most notorious adaptations of the science fiction was the 1938 radio broadcast that was narrated and directed by George Orson Welles, an American actor, director, writer and producer. The first two-thirds of the 60-minute broadcast was presented as a news bulletin and was often described as having led to widespread panic by some listeners who, not having listened in to the programme from the start, believed that an invasion by extraterrestrial beings was actually taking place. However, there are some sources that claimed these reports of panic were mostly overly exaggerated.

The first The War of the Worlds film was produced in 1953 and it starred Gene Barry. In 2005, Tom Cruise was the leading actor in a Steven Spielberg version of the story.

In 1978, Jeff Wayne was inspired enough to produce a musical version of the story. It was a concept double album with its main format being progressive rock and string orchestra, using narration by Richard Burton and leitmotifs to carry the story. The vocals in the album were provided by Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), David Essex, Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann's Earth Band), Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) and Julie Covington. Wayne himself provided some narration at the end of the album.

I remember first hearing Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (to give the work its full title) in 1980 and, like many other people then, owned a pirated audio cassette version of the album after requesting it taped by the local record store. Later, I "progressed" to owning a copied version of this album on a compact disc. It was only very much later that I managed to lay my hands on an original but second-hand copy of the vinyl record. Having owned all three formats - cassette, compact disc and record - I can assure you that there is nothing comparable to holding the records in your hands and listening to the music loud through the hi-fi system!

By the way, the late Richard Burton's voice is super-superb on this record. His doom-ridden but brilliant reading really brought out the drama and the atmosphere in the recording.

Side One: The eve of the war, Horsell Common and the heat ray
Side Two: The artilleryman and the fighting machine, Forever Autumn, Thunder child
Side Three: The red weed (Part 1), The spirit of Man, The red weed (Part 2)
Side Four: Brave new world, Dead London, Epilogue (Part 1), Epilogue (Part 2) (NASA)

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Remembering David Cassidy

I do remember watching The Partridge Family over local television in the early years of the 1970s at a time when syndicated television programmes took years before reaching the Malaysian audience. The biggest star of the show was, of course, David Cassidy who was the son of actor Jack Cassidy. The younger Cassidy had charisma and girls over here also went ga-ga over him like their counterparts elsewhere. David Cassidy died two weeks ago on 21 Nov, a few days after being admitted to a Florida hospital for liver and kidney failure.

I had been wondering whether I had an album of The Partridge Family music in my collection but apparently not. Then I remembered that I did have a copy of Cassidy's debut solo album called Cherish, that I had bought second-hand from someone about four years ago.

Side One: Being together, I just wanna make you happy, Could it be forever, Blind hope, I lost my chance, My first night alone without you
Side Two: We could never be friends ('Cause we've been lovers too long, Where is the morning, I am a clown, Cherish, Ricky's tune

Friday, 1 December 2017

Li Chun (立春), 2018

After years of flicking through the pages, my copy of Joey Yap's book, The Ten Thousand Year Calendar, is almost coming apart. It has been my most faithful reference companion as I consult it every year to find out the date and time of various cultural festivals such as Tang Chek (冬至) and Cheng Beng (清明).

But it is for the festival of Li Chun (立春) or Lip Chun, which actually heralds the start of the  new year according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar, that I consult this reference book the most and luckily, other than the pages falling off, the book is still more or less intact.

Incidentally, we of the Penang Baba Nyonya community have another name for this festival, which is Jip Chun, where Jip means literally "the entering of" and Chun meaning, of course, Spring. Jip Chun = The Entering of Spring. Get it?

For 2018, Li Chun will occur before the start of the popularly known Chinese New Year festivities. To be exact, the date for Li Chun is 4 February 2018 which corresponds to the 19th day of the 12th Chinese lunar month. So, if you are like me and have to paste a new Chun (春) character on the rice bucket, please do so shortly after 5.30 in the morning.

I've been writing about Li Chun in this blog since Year 2007 and you can still read them here:
Li Chun, 2017
Li Chun, 2016
Li Chun, 2015
Li Chun, 2014
Li Chun, 2013
Li Chun, 2012
Li Chun, 2011
Li Chun, 2010
Li Chun, 2009
Li Chun, 2008
Li Chun, 2007

Monday, 27 November 2017

Visitors from Xiamen China

It took us about a day to prepare for the visit of four representatives from the Xiamen Haicang Songyu Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese and other related associations to the Penang Swee Cheok Tong Quah Kongsi (檳城瑞鵲堂柯公司) but there we were, the four of us waiting to greet the four of them on their arrival at our humble Kongsi this afternoon.

Led by their president, Mr Lin GuoBao, the four delegates were taken on a quick tour of our Kongsi's premises and given a brief rundown on our 171-year-old history. But of course, we had already hosted them for lunch and exchanged quite a lot of information and pleasantries earlier.

Nevertheless, it was only appropriate that at our Kongsi's premises, we partook the official exchange of souvenirs and the mandatory photographs. The four delegates from China were Mr Lin GuoBao (林国宝), Mr Xie Fu Kun (谢福坤), Mr Yan Di (颜笛) and Mr Jiang ZhiMin (江志民).

Myself receiving a scroll from Mr Lin GuoBao. Others in the picture are Quah Cho Pin, Keo Soo Liang, Mr Yan Di, Mr Xie Fu kun, Quah Chin Sun and Mr Jiang ZhiMin.

And my turn to present a souvenir from the Swee Cheok Tong to Mr Lin GuoBao

Thursday, 23 November 2017

John Kongos

I almost bought another copy of this album recently until I remembered that I already had it in my possession. One of the songs on this album is a piece of pulsating music, mesmerising, full of incessant drumming - African drums, I am told - and someone playing an aggressive riff repeatedly on the guitar. Well, this is John Kongos' original version of He's Gonna Step On You Again which was covered later by Australia's The Party Boys and some others.

Side One: Tokoloshe man, Jubilee cloud, Gold, Lift me from the ground, Come on down Jesus
Side Two: I would have had a good time, Try to touch just one, Tomorrow I'll go, He's gonna step on you again

Monday, 20 November 2017

Penang's great floods, part 2

It just came to my mind that I should perhaps separate my original post on Penang's great floods into two stories; the first one several days ago to describe my own experience with the flood that I missed and the second one here to show some rather disturbing pictures that emerged from the floods and the aftermath.

I was at a friend's hair salon yesterday and he related that the flood waters had risen about six inches into his shop at the Anson Road end of Seang Tek Road during that fateful weekend. But the floods had also affected his own single-storey home in Caunter Hall as he was chest deep in water. Together with his cousin who was staying with him, they had to make sure that his mother was safely perched on a table throughout the night. His car was submerged and he is now debating whether to get it repaired - an estimated cost is something in the region of RM20,000-plus with no guarantee that nothing else could go wrong with the engine in the next year or so - or scrap it off and buy another one.

If his end of Seang Tek Road could be so badly affected, I'm sure the other end of the road, where I stayed during my childhood, would have been severely flooded too. The Dato Kramat Road end of Seang Tek Road is basically a basin and I do recollect that the road outside the house my grandparents rented could flood after huge storms. There were at least four or five occasions when the flood waters then had even swept into the house. It seemed that the monsoon drain at Dato Kramat Road, huge and deep though it was, could simply not cope with the gush of water. My friend told me that even Dato Kramat Road itself was flooded.

This is Malacca Street.

Even the roofs had been blown off in the storm.

The beached ferry at the Butterworth terminal.

This huge sinkhole formed near the Surin Condominium in Tanjong Bungah affecting a nearly completed housing project.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Unbelievably stupid

This is one of my old postings that never got to see light way back in November 2015 for some obscure reasons that I can no longer remember. It was about my old school pal, Kee Thuan Chye, launching his Unbelievably Stupid books at The Star Pitt Street building in Penang, and Lim Guan Eng was there to do the honours. Remarkably, a host of my other school buddies were also around in Penang at the same time.

Thuan Chye has not written any new book since then, instead reserving his energy to produce an excellent play, Swordfish & Concubine, which had a short run earlier this month at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre and which my wife and I had the benefit of watching.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Rhythm heritage

I've just been watching the first episode of the 2017 reincarnation of that hit television series of the 1970s, namely, S.W.A.T. and I must say that it is terribly interesting. Action-packed and interesting. But I had to wait until the end of the episode for the theme music which appeared before the closing credits. Well worth the long wait, though, because it is such a kick-ass piece of music. It made me decide to dust the old cobwebs from my copy of Rhythm Heritage's Disco-fied album.

Side One: Disco-fied, Caravan, Baretta's theme (Keep your eye on the sparrow), Theme from S.W.A.T.
Side Two: Blockbuster, My cherie amour, (It's time to) Boogie down, Three days of the condor, Disco-fied (reprise)

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Penang's great floods

When the rain came in the afternoon of 4 Nov, courtesy of Typhoon Damrey that had hit Vietnam, I was in Kuala Lumpur attending a seminar. As such, I had no idea at all of the ferocity of the storm nor the havoc it would create in Penang, both on the island and the mainland. It was only much later that night that my wife received a video on her mobile showing a flooded Nandaka Vihara at Bukit Mertajam.

The Nandaka Vihara flooded? Impossible to comprehend that at first because the meditation centre is located at the foothills of the Bukit Mertajam hill at Cherok Tokun. But when we then realised from the video that it was no joke, we grew concerned about the storm. Slowly through facebook and Whatsapp came information and pictures that showed floods everywhere.

The next morning came information that the streets of George Town were well under water. Not just water but murky muddy water as if the city had been drenched with teh tarek. And the rain was still falling.

We became concerned about our relatives in Penang, especially our son who stayed in an apartment off Dato Kramat. Only about a month earlier, the roads around the apartment had been flooded too and he had managed to drive his car into the apartment's compound, sharing a parking space with his landlady. We telephoned him and was told that he was okay. His car too, was dry. Well, that was a relief.

One of my sister-in-laws phoned to ask about us and our house in Bukit Mertajam. We told her that we didn't know. We hadn't been thinking about our house at all because we were staying in a rather elevated piece of land that wasn't flood-prone.

But I recalled that once this year when a particularly heavy rainfall touched home, water almost entered the houses on the opposite side of the back lane. Or maybe it did. At least an inch of water. But our house was about three feet above the back lane and we weren't affect. But just to be certain, my wife called a neighbour and was given the assurance that there weren't any floods in our neighbourhood.

Our thoughts then turned to our relatives. We had an aunt staying in Taman Sri Rambai in Bukit Mertajam. This has traditionally been a flood-prone area although in the past 20 years or so, there had been no floods there, thanks to an earlier flood mitigation programme initiated by the state government.

But in this particular case, because of the huge deluge, water had risen about three to four feet into most of the houses. All her furniture, electrical appliances and cars were damaged. Nothing except clothes and crockery sets could be salvaged once the flood water subsided.

We arrived back from Kuala Lumpur by train very late on 5 Nov night. A taxi driver whom we had contacted earlier at first couldn't commit to pick us up from the station because he said his place at Perda was flooded and he couldn't drive out. But later, we found him waiting for us at the station. The waters had subsided around his house, he grinned.

The next day, I drove to the Land Office in Bukit Mertajam, which had been converted into a flood relief centre, to join an old schoolmate friend in attempting to deliver foodstuff to some displaced Malay kampongs. It was very gratifying to see that the centre was filled with volunteers who were helping out with the distribution of food and other essential items. Even a monk was helping out.

One place that we went to was the Kampong Baru Alma. The surprising thing about this kampong, like many of the other urban Malay kampongs in Penang, was that it is located at the fringe of a modern middle-class community. There we were driving along perfectly tarred roads with neatly built double-storeyed houses lining both sides of the roads and suddenly, we turned a corner and entered another world of narrow, winding and uneven roads that led eventually to a haphazard collection of typical Malay kampong houses.

The social divide was so clear: the urban rich and the urban poor living together uneasily side-by-side. How many generation will it take to bridge this divide? Anyway, my friend distributed foodstuff to the affected families, 10 in all, and he came back again the next day with new mattresses for them. All their earthly belongings had been damaged by flood waters that had risen way above their heights.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Boys night out

Amidst all the cleaning up on the island and mainland on account of the unprecedented floods, my old schoolmates decided to continue with our reunion at the OFA Restaurant (aka New Wing Look Restaurant), which we had arranged quite a while back. 

Back row: Sukumaran, Ewe Soon, Hock Thiam, Oon Hup, Michael, Siang Jin, Seng Chye, Kah Thiang, Leng Kooi, Yoong Koy, Andrew and Swee Poh
Middle row: Teik Wah
Front row: Seng Sun, Huan Chiang, Boon Hoe, Wee Lork, Chye Chye, Ewe Leong and Siang Juan

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Hutchings memorial service 2017

Although the school's Speech Day was well and truly over - it was held on 3 Oct 2017 - Penang Free School stuck to tradition by holding its annual Hutchings memorial service on the 21st of October.

This morning, about 50 people had congregated at the gates of the Protestant cemetery in Northam Road to await Revd Ho leading a relaxed but solemn procession of the Penang Free School teachers, Prefects and pupils, Hutchings Secondary School teachers and Prefects, a handful of Old Frees - led by the Old Frees' Association president Billy Yeoh and PFS Board of Governors chairman Rafique Abdul Karim - and several other well-wishers, including the Press and a film crew, to the grave of Robert Sparke Hutchings in the cemetery grounds.

The service was completed in about 30 minutes, during which time, there were readings from the Bible and the school songs of both the Free School and Hutchings School were sang, before the solemnity was broken after the wreaths were laid at the grave.

Local historian Marcus Langdon was present to see the service for himself. I think he was much impressed by the dedication of the Old Frees.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Chinese surnames: where do you rank?

Whether we like it or not, we are all in the minority. Below is the latest ranking of Chinese surnames in China, given to me by someone. And if we tally up all the percentages for the top 10 surnames, it only adds up to 44.1 per cent. Hardly a majority:

01李 (Li) 7.94% 02王 (Wang) 7.41% 03張 (Zhang) 7.07% 04劉 (Liu) 5.38% 05陳 (Chen) 4.53% 06楊 (Yang) 3.08% 07趙 (Zhao) 2.29% 08黃 (Huang) 2.23% 09周 (Zhou) 2.12% 10吳 (Wu) 2.05%

11徐 (Xu) 12孫 (Sun) 13胡 (Hu) 14朱 (Zhu) 15高 (Gao) 16林 (Lin)  17何 (He)  18 郭 (Guo) 19馬 (Ma) 20羅 (Luo) 21梁 (Liang) 22宋 (Song) 23鄭 (Zheng) 24謝 (Xie) 25韓 (Han) 26唐 (Tang) 27馮 (Feng) 28於 (Yu) 29董 (Dong) 30蕭 (Xiao) 31程 (Cheng) 32曹 (Cao) 33袁 (Yuan) 34鄧 (Deng) 35許 (Xu) 36傅 (Fu) 37沈 (Chen) 38曾 (Ceng) 39彭 (Peng) 40呂 (Lu) 41蘇 (Su) 42盧 (Lu) 43蔣 (Jiang) 44蔡 (Cai) 45賈 (Jia) 46丁 (Ding) 47魏 (Wei) 48薛 (Xue) 49葉 (Ye) 50閻 (Yan) 51餘 (Yu) 52潘 (Pan) 53杜 (Du) 54戴 (Dai) 55夏 (Xia) 56鐘 (Zhong) 57汪 (Wang) 58田 (Tian) 59任 (Ren) 60姜 (Jiang) 61範 (Fan) 62方 (Fang) 63石 (Shi) 64姚 (Yao) 65譚 (Tan) 66廖 (Liao) 67鄒 (Zou) 68熊 (Xiong) 69金 (Jin) 70陸 (Lu) 71郝 (Hao) 72孔 (Kong) 73白(Bai) 74崔 (Cui) 75康 (Kang) 76毛 (Mao) 77邱 (Qiu) 78秦 (Qin) 79江 (Jiang) 80史 (Shi) 81顧 (Gu) 82侯 (Hou) 83邵 (Shao) 84孟 (Meng) 85龍 (Long) 86萬 (Wan) 87段 (Duan) 88漕 (Cao) 89錢 (Qian) 90湯 (Tang) 91尹 (Yin) 92黎 (Li) 93易 (Yi) 94常 (Chang) 95武 (Wu) 96喬 (Qiao) 97賀 (He) 98賴 (Lai) 99龔 (Gong) 100文 (Wen)

101龐 (Pang) 102樊 (Fan) 103蘭 (Lan) 104殷 (Yin) 105施 (Shi) 106陶 (Tao) 107洪 (Hong) 108翟 (Di) 109安 (An) 110顏 (Yan) 111倪 (Ni) 112嚴 (Yan) 113牛 (Niu) 114溫 (Wen) 115蘆 (Lu) 116季 (Ji) 117俞 (Yu) 118章 (Zhang) 119魯 (Lu) 120葛 (Ge) 121伍 (Wu) 122韋 (Wei) 123申 (Shen) 124尤 (You) 125畢 (Bi) 126聶 (Nie) 127叢 (Cong) 128焦 (Jiao) 129向 (Xiang) 130柳 (Liu) 131邢 (Xing) 132路 (Lu) 133岳 (Yue) 134齊 (Qi) 135沿 (Yan) 136梅 (Mei) 137莫 (Mo) 138莊 (Zhuang) 139辛 (Xin) 140管 (Guan) 141祝 (Zhu) 142左 (Zuo) 143塗 (Tu) 144谷 (Gu) 145祁 (Qi) 146時 (Shi) 147舒 (Shu) 148耿 (Geng) 149牟 (Mou) 150卜 (Bo) 151路 (Lu) 152詹 (Zhan) 153關 (Guan) 154苗 (Miao) 155凌 (Ling) 156費 (Fei) 157紀 (Ji) 158靳 (Jin) 159盛 (Sheng) 160童 (Tong) 161歐 (Ou) 162甄 (Zhen) 163項 (Xiang) 164曲 (Qu) 165成 (Cheng) 166遊 (You) 167陽 (Yang) 168裴 (Pei) 169席 (Xi) 170衛 (Wei) 171查 (Cha) 172屈 (Qu) 173鮑 (Bao) 174位 (Wei) 175覃 (Tan) 176霍 (Huo) 177翁 (Weng) 178隋 (Sui) 179植 (Zhi) 180甘 (Gan) 181景 (Jing) 182薄 (Bao) 183單 (Dan) 184包 (Bao) 185司 (Si) 186柏 (Bai) 187寧 (Ning) 188柯 (Ke) 189阮 (Ruan) 190桂 (Gui) 191閔 (Min) 192歐陽 (Ou Yang) 193解 (Jie) 194強 (Qiang) 195柴 (Chai) 196華 (Hua) 197車 (Che) 198冉 (Ran) 199房 (Fang) 200邊 (Bian)

201辜 (Gu) 202吉(Ji) 203饒 (Rao) 204刁 (Diao) 205瞿 (Qu) 206戚 (Qi) 207丘 (Qiu) 208古 (Gu) 209米 (Mi) 210池 (Chi) 211滕 (Teng) 212晉 (Jin) 213苑 (Yuan) 214鄔 (Wu) 215臧 (Zang) 216暢 (Chang) 217宮(Gong) 218來 (Lai) 219嵺 (Liao) 220苟 (Gou) 221全(Quan) 222褚 (Chu) 223廉 (Lian) 224簡 (Jian) 225婁(Lou) 226蓋 (Gai) 227符 (Fu) 228奚 (Xi) 229木(Mu) 230穆 (Mu) 231黨 (Dang) 232燕 (Yan) 233郎 (Lang) 234邸 (Di) 235冀 (Ji) 236談 (Tan) 237姬 (Ji) 238屠 (Tu) 239連 (Lian) 240郜 (Gao) 241晏 (Yan) 242欒 (Luan) 243鬱 (Yu) 244商 (Shang) 245蒙 (Meng) 246計 (Ji) 247喻 (Yu) 248揭 (Jie) 249竇(Dou) 250遲 (Chi) 251宇 (Yu) 252敖 (Ao) 253糜 (Mi) 254鄢 (Yan) 255冷 (Leng) 256卓 (Zhuo) 257花 (Hua) 258仇 (Chou) 259艾(Ai) 260藍 (Lan) 261都 (Dou) 262鞏 (Gong) 263稽 (Ji) 264井 (Jing) 265練 (Lian) 266仲 (Zhong) 267樂 (Le) 268虞 (Yu) 269卞 (Bian) 270封 (Feng) 271竺 (Zhu) 272冼 (Xian) 273原 (Yuan) 274官 (Guan) 275衣 (Yi) 276楚 (Chu) 277佟 (Tong) 278栗 (Li) 279匡 (Kuang) 280宗 (Zong) 281應 (Ying) 282台 (Tai) 283巫 (Wu) 284鞠 (Ju) 285僧 (Seng) 286桑 (Sang) 287荊 (Jing) 288諶 (Chen) 289銀 (Yin) 290揚 (Yang) 291明 (Ming) 292沙 (Sha) 293薄 (Bao) 294伏 (Fu) 295岑 (Cen) 296習 (Xi) 297胥 (Xu) 298保 (Bao) 299和 (He) 300藺(Lin)

Friday, 6 October 2017

2017's harvest moon

While we Chinese people calls the occasion as the Mid-Autumn Festival on account of the full moon, people in the West are referring to this particular full moon as the harvest moon. According to the almanac, the harvest moon is the full moon nearest the start of the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere which was 23 Sept. Normally, this coincides with the full moon in September but in 2017, the October full moon occurs nearer to the equinox than the September full moon. These two scenes of the harvest moon were viewed at about 5.45am this morning.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The legend of the Moon Goddess

Tonight is the 15th day of the eighth Chinese lunar month which means that we can see the full moon hanging above us and shining bright in its full glory, weather permitting, of course.

The Chinese has it that Chang-Er is the Goddess of the Moon and the story goes, according to wikipedia, that in a very distant past, 10 suns had risen together into the skies and scorched the earth. The archer Yi shot down nine of them, leaving just one sun, and was given the elixir of immortality as a reward. He did not consume it straight away but hid it at home, as he did not want to gain immortality without his beloved wife Chang-Er.

One day while Yi went out hunting, someone named Fengmeng broke into the house and tried to force Chang-Er to give him the elixir. She refused and drank it herself. Chang-Er was transformed and flew upwards towards the heavens, choosing the moon as her residence. When Yi discovered what had transpired and felt sad, he displayed the Fruits and Cakes that Chang-Er had liked and offered them to her in worship.

That is why if you peer hard enough at the full moon in the eighth lunar month, you may see some semblance of the Moon Goddess dancing in the heavens.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Lucky strike

It took between 35 to 40 shots on my mobile camera before I could manage to freeze an image of a lightning strike in Kuala Lumpur about a month ago. When I returned to my room at the Cititel in Midvalley after losing one of my chess games, any thought of frustration was forgotten when I noticed the darkening sky from the room. Soon afterwards, it was a lightning storm blitzing the city. I had a regret that my regular Olympus camera was being serviced but I still had my mobile phone with me. Ah well, better than nothing, I had supposed. So I started clicking away, sometimes at nothing and only in anticipation of a lightning bolt appearing, and was lucky enough to have captured two strikes.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

BBC Radio 1 Vintage

BBC's Radio 1 Vintage brings back some of the best radio programming from 50 years ago. The temporary radio station will be available for the next 30 days. I can't wait to start listening....again and again and again!