Category Archives: culture

Civil Disobedience


I am sure that most of you have by now heard of the song Despacito by Luis Fonsi and featuring Justin Beiber.  This month it became the world’s most streamed song of all time with over 4.6 billion streams.  In fact, you have probably seen the video and heard the song so many times that you are beginning to lose your grip on sanity.  Everywhere you turn, the song or the video is playing for the umpteenth time.

Well, not in Malaysia.  If you need relief, come to Malaysia.  It is a Despacito free zone; at least you will not hear it on any government run radio station or see it on any government run or government related TV channels.  The Malaysian government, at the behest of self appointed religious police, has declared the song lyrics obscene and banned the song.

These are the same people who recently tried to ban the use of names like hot dogs, pretzel dogs, Coney dogs etc because it was offensive to those who considered dogs to be unclean.

Anyway, being a passive aggressive squirrel, I have decided to do an act of civil disobedience by posting this cover version of the song that is being played using the traditional Malay “gamelan” instruments – although it is by a group from  our neighbor, Indonesia.

………..because you just can’t stop the squirrel!  Hope you like it.

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Golden Pavilion (Kyoto)


My very first trip to Japan was many, many years ago.  I was there on work assignment to attend a meeting of conservationists.  It was a great opportunity to discover this singularly unique land and culture.  But at that time, the cost of living in Japan was probably the highest in the world.  Furthermore, I had only been working for a couple of years and I soon found out that I could barely afford more than a meal of instant noodles.  I certainly could not afford to make the train trip from Tokyo to Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto.  It was disappointing to be so close but…….no.

Then in December last year, I finally got to scratch my travel itch by going to Kyoto (only some 20 years late).  Over the next couple of weeks, I would like to share some highlights of my trip.

Let me start it off with the stunningly, radiant vision which is Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

This beautiful site dates from the 14th century but the pavilion had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1950.  There is a saying that “all that glimmers is not gold”.  However, in this case, it is! The structure is covered in a thin layer of gold leaf.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

We went on a cold December day but the sun came out from behind the clouds and the pavilion seemed to be radiating rays of light.  Definitely go when it is sunny for full effect.

I am usually not a fan of ostentatious, gaudy and self indulgent architecture but in this case, it works!  The pavilion seemed to naturally belong amongst the tranquillity of the reflecting pond and zen-like gardens.  The heron seemed to think so too.  Can you see him in the foreground of the picture above?

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

There was of course a whole gaggle of tourists on that day as well as a number of school groups making a nuisance of themselves.  But the magic of the place was still able to give inner peace.  If you do plan to visit though, try going on a weekday and as early as possible to avoid the crowd.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

This was the first time I had ever seen anybody sweeping the moss!  There were a lot of beautiful landscapes in the temple garden with water and moss which as you can see here was lovingly maintained.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

One can follow the trail up the hill behind the Golden Pavilion and look back down on the pavilion, the pond and the gardens.  There you will find a number of viewing points, a shrine and the unavoidable gift shop.  You might also find this charming lady tending to the moss with the pavilion in the background.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

Another gem is this tea garden located in amongst the trees.  A great place to meditate on the wonders of a warm cup of tea on a cold day.  I actually did not stop here for tea but went back to the entrance where we could get Japanese soft serve ice cream.  So on that crisp and brisk winter morning, my wife had black sesame and I had green tea ice cream.  Very ying and yang.

More of Kyoto to come.  Watch this space!

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Monkey Go – Rooster Crow


Image result for monkey rooster zodiac

Chinese New Year is on the 28th of January.  On that day, we say goodbye to the Year of the Monkey and greet the Year of the Rooster.

I am sure that for most of us, last year has been a bit of a shocker. The monkeys have really been up to their monkey business.

One hopes that the Rooster will crow in a better year and so that is my new year wish for all of us.  May it be the break of dawn after a dark night.  May it be a return to sunnier times.

There is an additional point of interest for me this year as my sister-in-law is expecting her first child, a daughter.  Her due date is 26th of January.  If she is on time or early then, the baby would be a Monkey according to the Chinese Zodiac but just a couple of days later and the child will be a Rooster.  With no track record (being her first child), the bookmakers are refusing to offer odds.

What do you think? Monkey or Rooster.  Either way, I pity the child cause we all know Tiger is best, Squirrel is ‘best’-er and Tiger Squirrels are the super ‘best’-est!

For the Technologically Impaired


A friend of mine in Singapore has been involved in an initiative to reach out to senior citizens and improve their quality of life by educating them to the joys of computing and the internet.  This helps to keep them alert and engaged and some even go on to help charities and social programs using their newly learned skills.  A worthy effort.

One obstacle amongst the seniors is an inherent fear of technology and bewilderment brought on by unfamiliarity with the rapidly changing technology and technological jargon.

I confess that I too feel that I am falling behind the technological curve and in the danger of being left behind.  So as a public service, the Lone Grey Squirrel, wishes to share this informative video designed to be able to communicate at the level of senior citizens.

Goodnight Mr. Cohen and Thanks


Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 10, 2016).  A novelist, poet and songwriter.  A beautiful soul has passed ahead of us.  I’m sorry Bob Dylan but for the Nobel Prize for Literature, I would have thought of Leonard Cohen  ahead of you.

Here is a little tribute and remembrance post to this wonderful individual whose words and music can touch our hearts.  I decided not to post some obvious choices like “Suzanne” or “Hallelujah” as I expect they will be cropping up all over.  I had previously posted on two of my favorites “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Villanelle for Our Times”. So here are two more of his stellar songs as sung by two lovely songstress.

 

Striptease


Hi everyone!  I celebrated my birthday last week and I left clues in one of my posts to let you guys know where in the world I was.  Well, I waited and waited but none of you showed up to my birthday party.

What’s wrong?  Couldn’t solve the clues? Got lost? Got mugged in Tokyo and loss your memory?  Got stomped on by Godzilla?

Well anyway, you didn’t show up and it was your loss cause I chose to celebrate my birthday in my birthday suit!  Yes…..au naturel.  Bet you are kicking yourself for not getting on that early flight to Japan.

After decades of thinking about it, I finally got a chance to go to a ryokan and go into an outdoor onsen.  And I took the plunge!  I embraced the whole experience which involves letting it all hang out in a public bath.

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I Mean, …Ten Thousand Monkeys Can’t be Wrong

For the uninitiated, let me walk you through the process.

Step 1: Get Naked. – all you take with you is a tiny towel that is barely big enough to cover your privates.  Now it seems that the native Japanese tend to strut around with the tiny towel folded neatly on top of their heads.  Those less accustomed to public nudity may rather uncomfortably use it to shield the nether regions from prying eyes but it really doesn’t help much.  I tend to subscribe to the strategy of using the towel to cover the face so that no one knows who you are.

Step 2: Soap and wash. – There are washing stations lined up along the side of a wall where you are expected to sit on tiny stools and wash  and clean yourself thoroughly. NOTE:- You Have to be CLEAN before entering the hot spring pool.  Soaping yourself in the hot pool is a major faux pas; nay – a major diplomatic incident; nay reason for going to war.

Step 3:  Enter the hot spring fed pool and soak while enjoying the cold outdoors.  The waters heal all kinds of physical and mental ailments and tiredness.

So here we go …….

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Dressed for the Occasion in a Yukata (which apparently should not be confused with Yakuza)
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To prove your worthiness to enter the waters of the onsen, some torture may have to be endured
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Isn’t this just magical?

Well, that’s pretty much the end of this post.  If you were expecting some nudity, shame on you!   Please remember this is a family oriented blog.

Now, do you really want to see the squirrel disrobed?  I mean, do you really?  Are you sure?  Your final warning.  It’s not too late to turn back.  Last chance to save your eyes.

If you really want to see then follow this link…… I WANT TO SEE!

P.S. when asked about wearing his birthday suit for the occasion, LGS merely told the paparazzi that “it needed ironing”.

Enchanted


You may have noticed that the Squirrel has been missing for awhile.  The excuse truth is that with all the bad stuff happening in the world lately, I was just hiding out in my panic room.  Well, while it is true that the shit  (please excuse my mild Deadpool language) has not stopped flying, the squirrel has decided to surface because there was a spot of light shining.

su lin

I refer to the momentous and happy event of the marriage of two of my young friends. Their combined ages is equivalent to mine.  (Sigh).  In Malaysia, we would call them “young cikus”.  A ciku is a type of fruit – fleshy, sweet and distinctly aromatic.  A “young ciku” has a similar meaning to the phrase “still wet behind the ears”.

Anyway, why has this brought the Squirrel out of his dark hole?  Well, the joy and love from this tying of hearts was truly “uplifting” for all who witnessed it.  I present evidence (see Exhibit A- otherwise known as the photo above) that gravity can truly be conquered by the power of true love.  It was…it was…like a enormous weight had been lifted from us.

But I digress unnecessarily.  I really wanted to share about these two “young cikus”.  Let’s call them Simon and Sue.

Sue is the one in the white gown, in case you hadn’t figured it out.  She is very young; an idealist;  one who believes in fighting for social justice for all and that money holds little value unless it can be used to help others.  And she is an incurable romantic and I mean, of the Disney Princesses’ happily ever after variety.  She has always dreamt of a fairy tale wedding and she wanted to have an enchanted forest theme for her wedding and celebration dinner.

Simon is the one in the grey suit and it is possible there may be a colony on the moon before we see him wear a suit again.  He is a simple man with simple tastes.  Indeed, he seems allergic to many society conventions.  He is his own boss and shows up to work (and indeed to most events) in T-shirt and sandals.  He has learnt to be extremely thrifty; some might even say miserly.  He would rather save money than splash it on a flashy wedding.

And so we witnessed this apparent mismatch; the hopeless romantic dreaming of a fantasy enchanted forest with her Prince Charming and the real world Simple Simon who would like the no-frills package.

Bit by bit we saw Sue’s dream of the enchanted forest slip away.  There would be no big church wedding or wedding dinner at a fancy hotel.  Instead, both would be held at a re-purposed industrial warehouse building. There would be no fancy caterers for the wedding reception but instead cakes and cookies baked by friends.  Decorations, sound system and even photographer were all friends.  Instead of a formal sit-down dinner, there would be a self service buffet.  But if Sue was a little  disappointed, she did not show it.

But Simon really worked hard.  Despite all his cost saving measures, in the end we could all see the thought, effort and love that he put into it.  Sue had wanted a photo booth that was the in-thing for weddings these days but it was deemed too costly to rent.  Well, Simon built a photo booth himself using a camera, a laptop and printer and a wooden box and had the whole thing mounted on a forklift from the warehouse. It was charming in an industrial chic kinda way.

Hats off too for Simon as under his direction, the warehouse was truly transformed into a magical enchanted place for the dinner.  He had done it with just a little budget but with great heart and not a little elbow grease.  It no longer felt like a warehouse but a beer garden in some enchanted woods.

su lin dinner

But there was still more.  Unbeknown to Sue, Simon and his 6 groomsmen had put in long hours of practice.  At the dinner, when Sue thought they were supposed to go round to talk to the guests, Simon took her and sat her in the middle of the room and then he and his backup danced and gyrated for her like court dances performing for the Queen.  It was as risque as a family event would allow and had Sue squealing with glee and the guests cheering.

Then came the speeches.  Sue acknowledged that they had known each other for 8 years and that Simon had been there for her all that time – a rock through thick and thin.  They both thanked their parents.  Simon said that he knew that there would only ever be one person for him and he knew it was Sue from the very beginning.  He then confessed that for him, the whole wedding preparations had been a very difficult experience for him and was so not his scene.  Indeed for someone who has seen his share of difficult times, he said that the whole wedding ceremonies and dinner thing was the hardest thing that he had ever done.  And then he said that he would do it all over again for Sue.

And there was not a dry eye in the house. Even Simon’s eyes were wet but he calmly informed everyone that he had something in his eye.

In the end, Sue had placed her faith in Simon and Simon did his best to live up to that faith.  Spending big money on a wedding isn’t necessary as long as the love is allowed to express itself – the love of the couple for one another and the love of all those gathered there for the newly weds. What a day! What a night! It was enchanted.

And even this cynical old squirrel believes that they had the best start for their life adventure together.