Category Archives: news

National Costume ……..Reboot


Dear gentle readers, Malaysia is making the news again.  This time it is over our choice for national costume,

You see, the annual meat market …….. er…. I mean, the Miss Universe Pageant is rolling round again and one section of the pageant requires the young ladies who are proudly representing their countries to dress up in their national costume.

Now Malaysia is blessed because we are a multiracial country with a rich heritage and inspiration for a national costume could come easily from any one of our many races and tribes.  So, once upon a time, you might expect something like the following;

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L to R:- Iban, Indian, Malay, Chinese, Kadazan

But apparently, in this the 66th year of the Pageant, traditional national costumes seem to have become a bit stale.  After all, how many variations of the same theme can one do?  There is always the pressure of grabbing attention by doing something new and fresh.

After all, Miss Universe Thailand won best national costume in 2015, not dressed in charming traditional garb but dressed like Bangkok’s ubiquitous Tuk-Tuk.

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So, inspired by Miss Thailand’s success, our very own Miss Malaysia (Samantha Katie James)  decided to get dressed up as Malaysia’s favorite breakfast called Nasi Lemak.

I kid you not.  The key ingredients of this tasty treat are steamed rice in coconut cream, fried anchovies and peanuts, egg, cucumber slices and spicy chilli sambal.  This delicious combination is usually served on banana leaf.  It looks like this…….

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Mmm…..mmmm…….delicious.

And here is the nasi lemak inspired dress……..

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Now isn’t that yummy…… I mean, pretty.  Oh, I don’t know, man, I’m drooling…… I mean, feeling hungry.

And controversy doesn’t end there.  Some netizens are also crying foul.  It seems Singaporeans and Indonesians feel that nasi lemak is theirs and not Malaysia’s.  Well, the dress is certainly getting attention!

The Lone Grey Squirrel only wants to know if the dress smells delicious too.

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Watch Out! Oops! Too Late.


In the last month, we have had severe weather events in the U.S., the Caribbean, South Asia, Europe and Africa.  These include the devastating hurricanes of Harvey and Irma; the massive monsoon floods in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India; and the massive landslide in Sierra Leone.  The death toll has climbed into the thousands,while millions have been displaced and have suffered loss of homes, possessions and livelihoods.

My heart is sorrowful for such great loss and suffering and yet with much sadness, I am not at all surprised by it all.  In fact, I totally expect to see this happen with increasing frequency.  Folks, in all seriousness, it is too late to still be debating about climate change.  It’s effects and it’s impacts which have long been predicted and expected by scientists are already evident in the present.

The flooding experienced by Houston due to Harvey was said to be a 500 year event.  That is to say that based on historical data, statisticians and hydrologists expect that a flood of such level and size would only occur on average once in 500 years.  But in fact, Houston has had two other massive floods making it three such 500 year events in the last three years.  The likelihood of such a string of floods would be once in 250 million years.  While the statistic estimation may be flawed, it cannot be denied that such an event would be expected to be extremely, extremely, extremely rare.  However, climate change models have predicted that what might once have been a 500 year event may now occur as frequently as once every 20 years.

The insurance industry has certainly taken notice as they have been struggling to cope with insurance claims from the increasingly frequent and increasingly costly extreme weather events.  Here are some graphs to illustrate the point.

climate disasters1

In the graph above, we can see that the number of climate related disasters worldwide has increased substantially.   Since 2000, such events have occurred about 14 times more frequently than they did in 1950.  Economic damage in 1950 was negligible but in 2012 peaked at about 370 billion USD.

 

climate disasters 2

This second graph shows the number of extreme weather events that have inflicted more than 1 billion USD worth of damages according to decades.  That’s 72 such costly events in the 1990’s when compared to just 13 in the 1950’s.

climate disasters 3

Finally, this last graph shows the top 10 costliest hurricanes to impact the USA.  9 of these 10 hurricanes have been since the year 2000.  The costliest being Katrina at USD 62.2 billion.  But wait, this table has to be updated because it did not include our most recent hurricanes of Harvey and Irma which have estimated economic costs of USD 180 billion and 100 billion respectively.

Folks…….I think we are all in deep doo-doo.  Depressed and pessimistic squirrel  signing off.

Bear Necessities -Revisited (Unburied Nuts)


Squirrels love to bury their precious nuts so as to uncover them later to enjoy at leisure. In the same way, this blog, from time to time, brings an old post back for another short period in the sun.  But this time, it is EXTRA SPECIAL.  The following post was about a sun bear rescue and rehabilitation centre and when I posted it back in January 2011, it was a very new work and the assistant keeper that I mentioned was still a graduate student.  Well, he is now Dr. Wong Siew Te and this month he was named as a CNN Hero.  Congratulations!

BEAR NECESSITIES (January 2011)

Recently I posted about the Orang Utan at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre on Borneo island.  However, I was privileged to have had a peek on he new conservation effort being carried out there – sun bears. Sun bears (Ursus malayanus), also known as honey bears, are found only in South-east Asia and are the smallest bear in the world.  adult bears stand only at about 1.2 metres.  Like the Orang Utan, many sun bears are displaced by forest clearing for development, orphaned by poachers or were kept as pet and later abandoned when they got too big.

I met Mr. X who was the assistant keeper who enthusiastically explained how they were trying to rehabilitate the bears so that they could be successfully returned to the wild.  Before they can be released, the young bears must be re-accustomised to the forest environment, must learn how to dig for food, climb trees and make nests to sleep in.   Mr. X also fondly explained the varied and fascinating character of his charges.

The bears are kept in cages either in small groups or singly.  Those in the cages by themselves are basically too grumpy to share a cage with other bears – there would be fighting.  I suppose it is no surprise that these loners were all male.   There was one cage with 4 young girls who all got on well with each other but even here there was a range of  personalities.  There was one girl who could be called the femme fatale cause she will appear friendly but go too close and she finds delight in ripping your trouser leg with her claws (too bad if you don’t wear trousers).  Mr. X had various scars to demonstrate that he learned all this the hard way.  On the other hand, there is Miss-Happy-go-lucky who seems to have a dumb smile for you in any situation.

Then I was introduced to two males who shared a cage.  These two get long together like best of pals but it is like the Odd Couple.  There is Mas who is quite bold where as Ah Chong is very timid.  Each cage has a door that opens outside into a fenced enclosure.  The door is opened for a few hours each day to encourage the bears to re-acquaint with the outdoors and forest.  Ah Chong was probably abused badly so he feels safe only in his cage.  Mas however, happily goes out as soon as the door opens and digs around for bugs to eat.  When Mas is gone, Ah Chong gets very anxious and hovers near the door to keep an eye out for his cage mate.  Later when Mas returns, Ah Chong gives him a bear hug and pushes Mas away fro the door and tries to keep Mas from going out again.  Interesting, no?

This work is in its infancy.  Hopefully the work will succeed though.  This squirrel would like to thank everyone who works hard to rehabilitate traumatized animals, including squirrels.

Bear Climbing – See the Characteristic White Marking and Those Long Claws
The Teenage Girls
Snooze Time

Alt Bohemian Rhapsody (Fake Song)


Now, despite my views of Mr. Trump, I have been keeping relatively silent about the going-ons in the White House for the last 6 months.  One, because there is already too much coverage on it in the media and on the internet and two, out of respect for those who still support the man.  I may disagree with your views but I felt it would be wrong to deride or ridicule them.

And then, I came across this wonderful gem below on the internet which touched on the recent short 10 day term of Anthony Scaramucci as Trump’s Communications Director and other current news.  It has been reposted so I don’t even know its original source but I thought it was really creative and funny.  So forgive the squirrel for this lapse in said principles above.  But this deserves to be celebrated.  Mago, I think you would particularly enjoy this.

Try singing it to the tune of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and have fun.

Scaramucci rhapsody

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.

Like in the Movies


Most of us like action movies.  The explosions, the guns blazing, the mayhem and usually the good guys win and they look cool doing it.  For a couple of hours we escape into a fantasy world of thrills without any bodily risks or consequences.

But as recent incidents around the world has demonstrated, it is completely awful when it happens in real life and impact real people.

This last couple of weeks, a couple of Hollywood type stories played out on the streets of my city, Kuala Lumpur; stories with drama, action, suspense and intrigue.

Abduction

Pastor Raymond Koh was driving his car on an errand to deliver a food gift to a friend who was about to travel abroad.  At least three black SUVs screeched in,  blocking off  the road and boxing in his car. Men with black balaclava masks poured out.  A couple of them stopped oncoming traffic and another was seen apparently filming the incident.  Pastor Raymond was forced into one of the SUVs and the three vehicles then sped away together.  He has been missing since the 13th of February.

Pastor Raymond is active in a number of Christian charities and was the founder of Harapan Kommuniti (Community Hope) which holds free tuition classes for children and English lessons for adults from low income groups.  In 2011 though, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), in a controversial move, raided a community thanksgiving and fundraising dinner at a church and accused Pastor Raymond’s organisation of proselytising Muslims.

There has been no ransom demand or any communication from the abductors and despite numerous eyewitnesses and CCTV footage, the police have not reported any progress in their investigation.

Many Malaysians (including me) have been praying daily for his safe return.

Assassination

Our international airport was the ground on which our tale of international intrigue and skullduggery occurred; real James Bond stuff.  A Korean man traveling under the name of Kim Choi was making his way across the airport concourse to catch his flight to Macao when two young women approached him from different directions and appear to reach from behind and cover his face with a chemically laced cloth.  They then left as quickly in opposite directions.  After seeking help,  the man collapses and dies shortly later.

It is now believed that Kim Choi is actually Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.  The two women have been identified and arrested.  One is a Vietnamese national and the other an Indonesian.  The Indonesian woman claims she was approached by some men and paid to carry out what she had been told was a prank for a TV show.  Police have also arrested a Malaysian man and a North Korean man.  Interpol has been asked to help hunt down four other North Korean men who left the country the same day as the incident.   The North Korean government has also objected to the autopsy investigation.
Malaysia continues to be making the news for all the wrong reasons.  Come on 2017, start getting better.
I will keep praying for Pastor Raymond and for Malaysia.  However, I promise to nudge 2017 along in the right direction by having more positive posts in the next couple of weeks.

Yellow and Red and Black and ….


Below is an excerpt from the highly esteemed BBC talking-type wireless show (or so they claimed for themselves), The Goon Show.  Written by the rascally Spike Milligan, the episode entitled “The Affair of the Lone Banana” has our intrepid but dumb hero, Seagoon, going to South America in search of a missing British citizen.  But when he arrives, he finds himself in the midst of much social unrest…………

Seagoon:  Now, now what’s all this about?
Moriarty:  It is the revolution señor – everywhere there is an armed rising.
Seagoon: Are you in it?
Moriarty:  Right in it – you see, you see señor, the united anti-socialist neo-democratic pro-fascist communist party is fighting to overthrow the unilateral democratic united partisan bellicose pacifist cobelligerant tory labour liberal party!
Seagoon: Whose side are you on?
Moriarty:  There are no sides – we are all in this together.

I used to think this was so funny even though I knew that sometimes reality actually sails very close to this.  Unfortunately, it has now even come closer to home, to Malaysia.

On the 19th of November, thousands of Malaysians put on yellow shirts and attended the Bersih 5 rally on the streets of the capitol, Kuala Lumpur.

Aerial view of just one of the rally locations:- How many yellow shirts? (some say 50,000; police say 15,000; one establishment newspaper claimed about 5,000)

But they were not alone.  Just like the Affair of the Lone Banana, there were other parties present too and they were all in it.  I hope to try to give some clarity to the situation.

Yellow Shirts – these are the peaceful, pro-democracy, pro-transparency, pro-electoral reform, anti-corruption, pro-justice, pro-change, anti- current Prime Minister Najib, supported by past Prime Minister Mahathir, non-sectarian, civil society groups and opposition parties.

Red Shirts- these are the thuggish, bullying, sectarian, anti-yellow shirts, anti-free press, pro-government, pro-status quo, pro-establishment, pro-Malay, pro-Prime Minister Najib, ruling party.

Image result for bersih 5
One of several sad incidents involving red shirts attacking a yellow shirt some days before the rally

Black Shirts – anti-rallies, anti yellow shirts, defenders of the law against protests, newly set up party with ties to establishment.

MJMM president Abdul Rani Kulup Abdullah (centre) posing for photographs outside the Dang Wangi police headquarters. — Picture by Melissa Chi
Black Shirts posing outside police station

Orange Shirts – anti-yellow shirts, pro-Prime Minister Najib, pro-Indian, pro-government party launched by the Prime Minister.

Purple Shirts – pro-yellow shirts, pro-protection of yellow shirts from red shirts.

In the end, the yellow shirts far outnumbered the rest.  There were probably more than  50,000 yellow shirts and about 2,500 red shirts.  The red shirts dispersed before long.

The police arrested many yellow shirt leaders and a few red shirt leaders briefly.  However, Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections was jailed and placed in solitary confinement under an Act designed for action against terrorists.  Malaysians of all kinds of color shirts held nightly vigils for her release and she was finally freed after 10 days although the police say they are continuing their investigation of her.

Image result for maria chin vigil
The nightly vigil for Maria’s release from solitary confinement.

If all this was rather confusing, let me just a summarise it for you.  In a nutshell, we are in a lot of trouble in Malaysia and no matter what color shirt, we are all in it.  If we are not careful, we will all sink in it.  What is needed is for us to drape ourselves in the multi colors of our national flag, put down our own selfish interests and fight for a country with justice, equality and opportunity for all Malaysians.