Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dances with Sharkmen

Most underwater videographers I know grew up watching JACQUES YVES COUSTEAU's films of the Calypso adventures. I must admit that I haven't watched any of the 115 television films nor the 50 books which Cousteau had produced! In fact, I've only learnt who Cousteau was when I started diving! Shocking isn't it, for an avid videographer? I guess I was too busy playing in the great outdoors, while great men like Cousteau opened up the oceans to millions on earth!

Above : A pod of dolphins entertain us at Monkey Mia while a pelican tries to steal the limelight! Watch out laters for a Monkey Mia blog.

When you think of other men who opened our doors, who else comes to mind?

PETER BENCHLEY, the author of the bestseller "Jaws", was unintentionally responsible for making millions of beachgoers reluctant to take a dip in the water! I just learnt that he left this earth more than a week ago at the age of 65 on 12 Feb 2006.

Many were so deeply traumatized by the movie that they continue to associate sharks with : monster, blood, panic, suffering, and eventually death! can u imagine? More than 20 million copies of the novel were sold! And the Steven Spielberg blockbuster "Jaws" must have reached out to gazillions of households, poisoning their minds!

It certainly scared the living daylights out of many shark-phobics I know, including Maximuzz who recently overcame his fear of sharks as he reluctantly grabs hold of an adult which was fished out by our tour guide at a private beach near Shark Bay. The poor shark was released, but eventually recaught and turned into the "fish" in "fish and chips" the following day! Full pictorial story here.

Above : Baywatch at Shark Bay!

Ironically, Benchley was an avid conservationist. Benchley's interest in sharks began with childhood visits to Nantucket Island in Massachusetts and heightened in the mid-1960s when he read about a fisherman who had caught a 2060 kg great white shark off Long Island. Although Benchley wrote based on his wide knowledge about sharks, he later took great pains to explain that "Jaws" was just a story. For the full story, lookey here.

Benchley writes in his new book, Shark Trouble: "We knew so little back then, and have learned so much since, that I couldn't possibly write the same story today. I know now that the mythic monster I created was largely a fiction. I also know now, however, that the genuine animal is just as—if not even more—fascinating."

But by then, the damage had been done. The world started sharing stories of similar shark attacks, which reinforced the "Sharks are Bad, Bad, Bad" image! I doubt the movie has impacted the sharks fin trade much, except to give mainly Chinese consumers an excuse to retort "Better eat them, otherwise they'll eat you!"

Since writing JAWS, Benchley has done approx 40 TV ocean wildlife shows. Although there were close shaves with sharks, he remakrs that he has never been hurt by any sea creature, except for jellyfish and sea urchins. He says in an interview on his website, "If you're careful, you don't have to worry about being attacked by sea creatures. I have been frightened by sharks and moray eels and killer whales and sperm whales, but never hurt."

So, how to you open the eyes of consumers who have probably never ever crossed paths with a shark save for the occasional visit to the Underwater World or slurping down that bowl of spiced up soup at the wedding banquet? Education is the way to go, and that's what many shark conservation groups like WildAid have resorted to doing. Flip the channel to Discovery, Animal Planet or Discovery, and you're never short of documentaries about underwater creatures, many screened under the banner of conservation groups. WildAid has been working closely to Peter and they have posted a Tribute to Peter Benchley page after his demise. what can an underwater videographer wannabe in Singapore like me do to change the world? I only found out the answers after I joined an underwater video competition organised by Asian Geographic and managed to get an inaugural Environmental Award. What thrilled me more was that they had specially created a new conservation category just for my video. *grin*

What drew me to the competition? David Doubilet and Stan Waterman! They were both icons in the underwater world, one of the world's leading photographers and videographers. The latter was co-director of underwater photography and second unit in the production of The Deep, based on Peter Benchley's best-selling novel. Just meeting them was a real honour and privilege!

And they were going to give a presentation at the Hilton right here in Singapore! Woo hoo! (see brochure above extracted from Asian Geo mag). Heard that they were also judges for the photography and videography competitions. I looked at my Sony TRV 900E, my Stingray housing and my home PC suited with a canopus videocard. How could I possibly hope to draw the attention of these judges? It was such a long shot but I'll give it a try!

But no, as the wise Yoda once said, "Do, or do not, there is no try"! And so the journey began, way before this video competition surfaced...

My friend Alex Lin counselled me many years ago, "Get out there and start shooting! It's as simple as that!" Several years of hesitation and talking later, I finally started walking!

Friends like Chak, the Tattoo Master and Rohan generously lent me their underwater video equipment and showed me the ropes on how to take decent underwater footages. My video guru, Ah Bong (a car mechanic turned wedding videographer, who finally ventured off to NZ in search of the life of a car mechanic) taught me all there is to know about video editing. I quit my job and over one year, experienced the joys and privileges of working on a movie ("Talking Cock The Movie"), documentary (Tan Pin Pin's "Moving House") and even made my own short experimental mockumentary, "Somewhere Over The Long White Cloud" which was aired at the Goethe Institute as part of the Singapore International Film Festival.

But then I wanted to go back to the root of my interest in videography, which was to make an underwater video that mattered.

During my year off from my bread and butter job, I joined a SIF Youth Expedition Project which brought me to Cambodia as a dive volunteer for the Koh Kong Marine Conservation project. I helped to spearhead a video production of our work there, which was presented to the Cambodian government to educate them about the marine environment in waters off Koh Kong. Something really good resulted from these visits to Cambodia and other countries which followed - a local marine conservation group called BlueWaterVolunteers was born.

I met some pretty hard-core marine biologists during my Koh Kong trip, who then introduced me to other naturalists and conservationists in Singapore. Tse-Lynn announced to the group back in 2002 that Chek Jawa, a marine haven in our little island of Ubin, was under threat of reclamation. We camped out several nights at the haunted House No. 1 located at the eastern tip of Ubin, and woke up in the wee early hours of the morning to film the marine life before it was all gone.

I remembered my first step on Chek Jawa territory. I was stunned by the wealth of marine life on our local shores! I immediately had flashbacks of my expensive dive trip to Papua New Guinea, touted as a dive haven. I recalled spending a good 15 minutes, waiting behind 3 other photographers, hoping to catch an anemone shrimp posing against a carpet anemone. Who would have thought, right at home in an island a mere 15 minutes away from mainland Singapore, I would be standing in the middle of a field of carpet anemonies with these shrimps sticking out their tongues at me (if they had any)!

Chek Jawa was a turning point for me on many counts. It was when I first met and filmed Siva and some other folks from the Nature Society of Singapore. I found out how passionate they were about our local wildlife, and it was they who dedicated many months of work in an attempt to change the minds of the authorities. Photos and videos (from Eric) were shown at closed door sessions. Eventually, their efforts paid off as the government decided to abandon current reclamation plans, for as long as the land is not needed. I was glad that it all worked out! But deep inside, I felt guilty about not using the footage that I took at Chek Jawa. What's the point of taking rolls of tape when it's going to end up in the storage cabinet?

So, when it came to the crunch of what to submit for a video competition titled "Celebration of the Sea", I decided to redeem myself : "Chek Jawa" was the way to go! It was a funny thought that none of the footages were taken underwater, even though I carried my housing while biking from the jetty to House No 1. To make up for it, I used footage of other marine life shot in Manado, Tioman and Aur for a second video. I submitted both videos, and hoped for the best.

One day, I was woken up by a phonecall from Michael Aw from Asian Geo magazine informing me that I had won a special prize for my Chek Jawa video, and that my other short film was one of the top 5 films chosen for the video competition! *faint*

Not only did I get a plaque and a goody bag for my efforts, I got David to autograph his Water Light Time book and even got a picture taken next to Stan (above)! *smile like a schoolgirl*

The following year, I submitted a short film featuring a whaleshark I shot at Anambas, which was part 1 of a trilogy which I had edited for WildAid, called "Goodwill Hunting". I had to submit the first one since the short film had to be filmed and edited by the filmmaker. I also submitted the WildAid trilogy hoping that the magazine found the material interesting enough to screen for educational purposes. I didn't care if I didn't get a prize, so long as the short film was shown and the message disseminated.

This time round, the exhibition was held in KL, and I had taken a bus all the way up north. I was glad to know that Ria of Wild Singapore fame had received the 2003 conservation prize. Excellent choice and definitely well deserved! The magazine did not show any of the films that I submitted. I did not hear from them this time round. I can't say I was not disappointed since I felt so passionately about the message behind the whaleshark video, but life goes on.

Before I left for Singapore, I was fortunate to have had a short chat with Dr Cardan Wallace, publisher of several books on coralife. In the conversation, she mentioned that she was impressed with a short video that she'd seen in Australia about a special place in Singapore which had so much marine life to offer. No one would have thought that such a place existed in Singapore.

It was at that moment that I knew I had made a difference in my smallish way. :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Muse or Mouse

Muse : the source of an artist's inspiration. Have you ever wondered where to look for inspiration?

And they called him Cleopatra Lee....our Cleo the Cat was my muse for "The Cat and the Rat" Chinese New Year special!

Above, one of the Eramanis pets residing in Shelley, Perth, which is instantaneously transformed into a computer mouse. Which made me think : why a mouse? And not say, a rhino or hippo?

According to Wikipedia, there is a fake etymology of the word "mouse", which some claim is an acronym for "Manually Operated User Selection Equipment". But most of us believe this device's name came from its resemblance to a mouse; the cord on early models resembled a rodent's tail, and the motion of the pointer on the screen seem to be mouse-like.

So sometimes one need not look further than the little hole in your house.

I wonder what runs through the head of the artist of this truly amazing blog :

I could just go on for hours.

Monday, February 20, 2006

In memory of a great teammate, Swee Haw

Exactly 2 years ago today, Becks, Swee Haw and I were in high spirits, preparing for our Eco X-Capade race in Sungkai, Malaysia.

Who would have thought that 2 years later, Becks and I would be cycling to pay our respects to our late teammate at the Garden of Rememberance.

Yesterday, team angels (Becks, Rina and myself) was led by our bossley, Chiku through Ulu Pandan park connector-Boon Lay Way-Jln Bahar-past NTU-and eventually, Choa Chu Kang Columbarium.

At the start of the ride, the dark clouds threatened to weep buckets, but they held back their tears, provided us instead sufficient shade cover from the baking sun. The gentle breeze and the peaceful atmosphere of the Choa Chu Kang cemetary made the ride unusually pleasant. When we arrived, we called Viki, Swee Haw's sister, to find out his niche number. It turned out to be number 70, the same year that he was born.

I firt met Swee Haw through his buddy, Mun Yew. We had apparently all met at Kiara when Mun Yew so generously supported my early video career by purchasing a Kiara Video at my make-shift CD stall by the Devi's Corner prata shop! Mun Yew emailed me, complimenting me on me video *grin*. Mun Yew? Who's this biker dude? "Max knows who I am" he replies. In any case he says, "I will be at the upcoming SACA MTB race wearing an embarrasing leopard-print jersey!" We finally met up, and somehow, I was introduced to his friend, Swee Haw, who didn't speak much....but who had a congenial way about him.

One thing led to another, and before long, we were training for an upcoming Bukit Takun Nomad Adventure Race held in July 2002. My teammates, Giddiyap and Shanker, formed team "SLY" (our initials) - even though we should have been called "Team Slack" since that was one word that pretty much described our pace during the race - for poor Giddiyap sprained his ankle 10 minutes into the race, making the journey a little difficult for us.

Swee Haw and Mun Yew's teammate had pulled out, and both had coerced Becks into forming a team with them. They did very well, finishing in a little more than 5 hours. It was from that race that we discovered Swee Haw's extraordinary powers as we heard stories of him having to carry both their bags (and his own) at certain segments of the race! OMG!!! The incredible hulk!

The next race was a real ambitious one. We took on what was promoted as a dusk-to-dawn 12-hour race, only to give up after the 17th hour! Becks, Swee Haw and Colin had formed Team Sixxis 1, and Giddiyap, Ronnie and I formed Team Sixxis 2. Above, a photo of the 6 of us, with Swee Haw donning the cap.

I'm glad I managed to get everyone to write a segment about the Eco-X-Treme Selangor 2002 and compile it into the longest race report ever. It was meant to be one of those reports you would show your buddies when you reach the ripe old age of 80, and reminisce about the good old times. Who would have thought I'd be doing it 2 years down the road, reading about a teammate who had passed on.

Swee Haw didn't utter a word in this account. He later explained that he was a maths teacher, good only for numbers. Since he didn't write well, he would gladly refrain from even trying.

Swee Haw, Becks and I later formed a team for the Hulu Langat Eco-X-Sprint held on 4 May 2003. Originally called Team SARSeeeee (wonder why?), we later agreed it was too un-PC a name, and changed it to Team T-R-Y Athletes. Our motto : TRY lor!

I remembered asking Swee Haw why on earth he would want to buddy 2 slow coaches like us. Being such a strong rider and runner, he could have easily have teamed up with other faster athletes and stood a chance at clinching top positions. He laughed it off and attributed it to his still being green in the ways of adventure racing, and may consider that bold step in future.

I still recall the last 400 metres of that race when I was almost on all fours when we hit the tarmac. Can't......keep....up.....maybe I should...crawl to....finish line? Oh, but I couldn't give up, so long as Swee Haw was there to give me a mental and physical boost! Like a coach, he ran alongside me and pushed me mentally to the finish line! The only difference - coaches do not carry your bag for you. Swee Haw gently lifted my bag off me, like he did during the Eco-X-Treme race, without my asking him! The other guys from Team Sixxis were complaining after that he really "spoil market"....

The following year, the 3 of us signed up for the Eco X-Capade at Sungkai. On that fateful day on 22 February 2004, we had just finished the bulk of our skills test and while heading to our kayaking station, we took a wrong turn, that led us down the path of hell. It was the first time I ever had a friend slowly fade away in my arms while waiting helplessly for the medics to arrive. As Becks put it, it was so "surreal and sudden", I can't even begin to describe what happened that day. There were many newpaper reports on this incident, but I thought the tragedy was most accurately captured in the Race Director's memorial page.

I'm glad we had good friends who saw us through the ordeal. Geoff and gang, who after a phonecall from Maximuzz, dropped everything in KL to meet us in Ipoh. Maximuzz, who was consoling us over the phone til we arrived in Singapore driving Swee Haw's car. The team of doctors and organising members who did all they could and broke the news gently to us when we arrived at the hospital. The race director's lawyer friend, who offered us the use of his house as refuge while waiting for the family members to arrive in Ipoh. And last but not least, Yuen Li, the race director, who made sure that Becks and I were taken care of emotionally and physically, as well as ensuring that Swee Haw's family was looked after. Yuen Li even took the time and effort to attend Swee Haw's wake in Singapore.

In memory of Swee Haw, several urls have been posted :-
SACA's Page (designed by yours truly)
Sehsuan's Page
Siva's Page

The one that touched me was the Race Director's message. The evening that never seemed to end, Yuen Li shared with us her thoughts about why we take big risks doing the things we love....questions which had been tossing around in her head like a washing machine .....

"I thought about the fruitless hours we spend exercising our bodies, trying to make it strong, and in actual fact, how frail life really is. I thought about all the things we do in celebration of our individuality. How we pursue our sport with such single-mindedness, such stubbornness, not thinking too much about the consequences, nor about the people in our lives."

I'm glad we all had a part to play in making the answers come to light....

"Then sometime that long dreadful night, a moment of understanding came to me. I was talking to Rebecca and Ling about what it meant to them to take part in a race. We were reminiscing about the Eco X-Treme when they were trudging up a mountain in the middle of the night; cold, hungry, footsore in the pouring rain. How freezing cold it was. How tired and muddy they were.

How do you describe that lilt in someone’s voice when they tell you how miserable it was, and yet you know there is a hint of – what is it? – pride in their achievement? Wry amusement at themselves? And I suppose, ultimately, a sense of happiness in the way they have chosen to live.

Swee Haw’s death was an awful tragedy. But his life was a celebration that we will not forget."

I couldn't have penned it any better, and in concurrence.

Becks and I had a little quiet moment in front of cubicle No 70. We looked at Swee Haw's photo and the miniature hand-sized red bicycle constructed out of plastic and wire placed beside it. We then looked at each other and there was no doubt in our minds that Swee Haw would be celebrating life, whereever he may be. And hopefully, he would be doing it on his dream red bike!

Friday, February 17, 2006

"Lost World" discovered right in our own backyard!

How can you resist cuddling and kissing a creature like this? It's got "love me, love me" written all over it's face! And no, it's not a big rat, but a quokka, a mammal which greeted us during our recent visit to Rottnest Island in Perth!

Here's one of Maximuzz harnessing his maternal instincts as he sings a wallabi a lullaby! This little fella lost its parents and the owners have become its surrogate parent til it's big enough to fend for itself!

When it grows up, it'll transform itself into a giant Grey Western Kangaroo - or "skippy", as we have come to know it. In reality, these marsupials are considered pests in the land downunder.

Below, these fellas hang out at the cemetary at Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park, knawing at the graves of those buried in this tranquil setting! That's his "kuah si mi, bo song ah?" look! Don't mess around with these fellas....they can beat the crap outta ya!

But this is what you'd expect to see in brochures, TV, promotional pamphlets...animals marketed as endemic only to Australia and..... Indonesia?

Being a geography-bimbo, I recently found out that Indonesia is the result of the collision of 2 massive pieces of the Earth’s crust, created when the Asian and Australia continents ground together and tore apart - to create an island nation called Indonesia. That was how Indonesia’s natural destiny was apparently shaped!

According to the Wild Indonesia website, the Indonesian wildlife originates from two worlds: mainland Asia, with its tigers, elephants and monkeys, and Australia, the land of marsupials, with its kangaroos, wallabies and possums. It's the only country on earth that is home to both tigers and kangaroos! And it's right at our doorstep!

Photo above extracted from :

And it's where the above golden-mantled tree kangaroo was recently first spotted in Indonesia's Foja Mountains! Read this article entitled '"Lost World" Found in Indonesia Is Trove of New Species" in the Nat Geo website! Wonder if they'll discover cousins of the Komodo Dragon, the ones that breathe real fire and can spread its wings and traverse over volcanos. :P I can just see it now, a true-life King Kong story!

My only exposure to the Indonesian islands are purely diving-related! The best dive spots I've ever experienced were in Indonesian waters! On the top of my list are the islands of Derawan, Sangalaki, Manatua and Kakaban in Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo! The strangest creatures I've ever seen were living in the muckfields of Manado.

I'm totally convinced Asia is really "hot" on the biodiversity list!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dragons : A Fantasy Made Sooooo Real

It's Chinese New Year and there's nothing much to watch on TV! Blah! Same ol' programmes! Pass the remote will ya? *channel surf*....CSI....Oprah....CNN.....oh, what's this?

Breathtaking CG images of flying dragons? Must be another one of those "Walking with Dinosaur" documentaries! Before I could hit the next button, something caught my eye.....a plain clothesman discovers a dragon carcass. I noticed the characteristic protruding snout and crocodile-like teeth - it looks.....real? But could this REALLY be real? This was a Discovery Channel programme after all! But there were no reports in the papers about the discovery of "dragons"? Was Discovery keeping mum about the biggest historical discovery of the century...until now? Boy, oh boy! This trailer got me all excited! The teaser programme title flashes across the screen : "Dragons : A Fantasy Made Real"! I MUST catch this programme!

Dragons have always held a special place in my heart! Having grown up on a diet of fantasy books with dragons running amok, it has even crept into my subconcious! The drawing above was conceived while I was on a train running through the gothic lands of the Czech Republic in 1995. I put my ballpoint pen to paper, and let my creative ghost possess me. The dragon showed her pretty head in no time. I scribbled the words "O'ver gothic search of truth" search of truth.....

When the "possibility" of dragons having existed presented itself in the "documentary" channel, I was overwhelmed! My eyes were absolutely glued! Ok, the acting of the main characters was so bad, but it lent me more reason to speculate that the filmmakers may have requested the real-life museum curators to re-enact the scenes leading up to their discovery of the dragon carcass in Romania!

And the scientific theories tossed about didn't sound too incredulous. Of course, they were all theories, but I was in no position to dispute them! What did I know about natural history and evolution? I'm but the girl in the street (but Siva and Airani would have considered me the "very gullible" girl in the street)!

Even after the show was over, I was confused as to whether the experience was real! I was like the hand in the drawing above, grasping onto something, in search of....the truth!

But alas, the internet killed my fire! It was all a wonderful fictional story strewn together by the creatures of 'Walking with Dinosaurs"! Sigh! Even the biology consultant for this documentary, Dr. Peter John Hogarth, believes they are but mythical creatures!

Read this interesting interview with the good, non-believing doctor...

The only consolation from reviewing the Q&A was that there were others, like me, who actually believed that it could have been true! The filmmakers had intentionally kept it ambiguous to draw suckers like me into the programme! :P

Sifting through the Q&A, 2 of them stood out :-

Wes_C__Addle: Why is it conceivable to think that dragons existed simply because of legends from different societies throughout history, when things like pyramids also exist on different continents and were apparently conceived of independently of each other? Isn't it possible that dragons were also conceived of independently by the people of the world?

Dr. Hogarth: Yes, I think it is, when you get dragons as far afield as New Zealand and the Inuit of northern Canada, which had no contact with each other. I think it's conceivable for such diverse societies to imagine vast fearsome monsters. There are similarities — the dragons of classical Islamic legends and dragons found in other cultures — that are so similar in detail, and so many of them are connected up if you can trace back to their ancestries at the source. People are much the same the world over, and if there is a need to come up with a legend of how we exist, then they could have been thought of independently in different societies, although some are connected, and sprang up from a common source, where there is continuity.

draconshe: If dragons never existed, then how do you explain nearly every culture in the world having some form of dragons?

Dr. Hogarth: I think nearly every culture in the world has some sort of belief system in how the world is made up and how it works. And if there's something you don't understand, there's an instinct to make it understandable with something you can explain. If you see lightning in the air and you don't understand lightning, you explain it as a monster shooting out fire, throughout the world. So people try to explain things in terms of physical monsters, rather than by how the weather works and how lightning works, which they really don't understand."

Ahhh.......the human imagination and belief are such powerful things!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Click! Snap! Was he even there? Amazing!

If you're looking for a professional wedding photographer who's got the whole package, look no further! Kelvin Koh's numero uno on me list! Check out the photos on his website :

Above photo is one of me favourites - one of many captured by Kelvin in the M&M album and M&M Coffeetable Book. More lovely shots by Kelvin in Ickloriental & Fangio's outdoor pre-wedding album!

As you can see, Kelvin's got a great eye for eye candy and offers excellent album and coffee table book presentations! He's amiable, very helpful, and great with kids (and adults)! Best thing is, if you're camera-shy (like the likes of me), he'll accomodate by camouflaging himself and you wouldn't believe he was there til you view the "candid" evidence!

And he's quit his job and declined other higher pay packages to pursue his passion! I always admire folks who follow their dreams to take on the unconventional creative path to job (and life) satisfaction! *hats off*

Monday, February 06, 2006

Once upon a time to Kulai we rode

My first overseas overnight cycling trip : Kulai, Johor.

When :
In the 1990s, me thinks!

Purpose : Tandem cycling adventure with visually-handicapped bikers

What was moi doing? :
Well, me short legs couldn't reach the tandem bike pedals, so I was cycling solo along with several others equally physically-challenged on a tandem. I did tandem with Mart though on the way back and gotta tell you this : it was a pretty scary experience having to coordinate and depend on the fella in front of you.....literally, blind faith (excuse the pun)! But not as scary an experience as Pillon Ping kara-o-k-ing at the back of Mart!

Fellow bikers : Gene, Mart, Weisin, Ping (can't remember if Ying was there), think Winston and Vivien bro-sis team were with us too and several members from the Visually-Handicapped association, who enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

Real life conversation :
Merciless : Oh, I went tandem-cycling with the visually-handicapped!
Sotong : Oh really? That's great! does it work? Who was riding in front...and who was pillon?

I kid you not!

What do the photos above have to do with tandem-cycling?

Well, while camping in the Kulai forest, we had some free time. Gene, who has since become my brother-in-law, rounded up the bunch of us for some camera action! He started toying around with some groovy night photography techniques which produced pretty awesome images! Wonder if we caught anything or anyone that we weren't supposed to? Spoooo-keeeyyy!

Can't quite remember how this shot (and the others in Ping Space Cadet's Blog by the same name : Once upon a time to Kulai we rode) was choreographed, but I think it's probably the same low-light and/or extended-exposure photography concept explained in this website :

Remember to check out the rest of the photos in Ping's blog :! Makes me wana take up photography!!!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Star Wars Shrine

The Force, in the words of Obiwan, is "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. It appears to be connected to, or responsible for, the destinies of all living beings.

The Force, in the words of Omiwan (as Maximuzz is otherwise known) is responsible for the destinies of all the creatures that inhabit our attic. You will see why when I invite you to a Tour de Attica (our little attic fit for hobbits but inhabited by creatures much smaller than) ... now, watch your head before you enter...

The "dark side of the Force" is the element aligned with fear, hatred, aggression and malevolence. It is touted to be more powerful, so much so that it has brainwashed Omiwan to giving the "Dark Side" troopers and their evil friends centrestage under the spotlight in the rotatable multi-layered display cabinet! Omiwan believes : "Bad people are underrated compared to their goodie2-shoes counterparts!!! They've also got more character!" (Yoddle Hmmm).....disagree, Yoda might!

Oh, I digress....these are definitely "action figures" - coz....they be holding L-shaped machinery in their hands that look like....guns! Digressing even further, Scientists have started producing "chimeras" —a hybrid creature that's part human by fusing human cells with rabbit eggs! Oh, the Curse of the ol' Were Rabbit! Chimera is a term named after a Greek mythology monster - imagine a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail! Not kiddin! Read this article in Nat Geo....
And so, the line between animals and humans is becoming a bit of a sotong. Oh...but not the line between Good vs Evil, Yin and Yang, the Dark Side of the Force vs the Light side of the Force, Chicken Rice vs Fish Porridge...

Note how dejected the "good" characters look (and in the previous picture), relegated to a shelf in an indiscrimate corner! The likes of the really-really- good people like Princess Lea, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker can only hope to smell the cabinet of fame from afar! Papa Stormtrooper stands guard! But, the "light side of the Force" is the facet of that energy field aligned with good, benevolence, and healing. Even though they pale in comparison to their darker counterparts, they would rather die than succumb to manipulative means to steal the limelight.

Tucked away in the other side of Attica is the Alien vs Predator celebrity deathmatch! To the right of GI Joe are more aliens and predators but you'll need an infra-red camera to catcha glimpse of them! Mr Darth Potato Head feels a little out of place there.

Speaking of potatoes, the only war that I condone is the Grocery Store Wars! I am trying hard to learn the ways of the Farm, even though it is a rather costly affair! is....our....destiny!!!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Not just toys, Action Figures!

When I was born, my dad was working overseas. Story goes that my mother didn't trust my brothers' driving skills, so she drove herself to the delivery room of KK hospital!

A few years later, my dad came home and asked "who is that boy standing by the door"? Turns out, it was me.

I grew up in the company of 4 other sisters who were by no means "gu niang". My eldest sister used to arm-wrestle with the boys in RI, and would kick their asses mercilessly! My standard retort to any bully was "Wait til I tell my eldest sister! You die!"

But that didn't mean I didn't play with toys. Designing clothes for paper dolls with my sisters during my childhood days was good practice in churning out our creative juices! But I never really played with barbie dolls, or any other kind of doll, unless it was a voodoo doll.

Maximuzz, on the other hand, has a greater collection of toys than anyone I know put together (except for the Devil, Gan, who actually paints the Gundam ones)!

Some folks decorate the entrance to their home with Van Gogh paintings, others with Renoir sculptures, perhaps the odd waterfall for good feng shui. But Maximuzz's pad is the first which is well-guarded with 7 special forces commandos discreetly tucked away in a corner, so you won't see them til it's too late, then they'll have to kill ya! Oh, did I also mention that I live there too?

So, what's the difference between "Dolls" and 'Action Figures"? The web is a wonderful thing!

I clicked on and discovered a very simple rule :

But then, it doesn't stop there! The url goes on to qualify that according to Michael Crawford, an action figure is a toy designed to allow children to emulate adult actions e.g. GI Joe defending the free world against terrorists, Transformers destroying space robots to conquer the world etc. hence "action" figures.

But then there are action figures targetted at children, and there are those targetted at adults! It depends on the subject matter. I know Maximuzz's action figure collection is no laughing matter. Check out Gary Gordon for example.

He was featured in Black Hawk Down. You may recall that in the movie, the Battle of Mogadishu was fought between US forces against Somalian guerilla fighters on 3 and 4 October 1993 in the Sea district of Mogadishu, Somalia. One scene, at a crash site, two Delta Force snipers, Sgt First Class Randy Shughart and Master Sgt Gary Gordon, were inserted by helicopter (at their own request; permission was denied twice by Command but granted when they persisted and made a third request) to protect the wounded pilot from the approaching mob. Both soldiers were later killed by the mob when the site was overrun by Somali militiamen, and for their actions, they each posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

I wasn't much a fan of war movies. Growing up, I would watch Little House on the Prairie religiously and thought that Donny and Marie were the best singers in the world. The only war TV series was Combat, but then I'd much prefer Battlestar Galatica. I even named my rabbit "Starbuck"!

And then I met Maximuzz...and his hard-earned collection of action figures! He takes much pride in adorning them with all sorts of uniforms and weapons!'s one that I can identify with! A diver! Recognised the fins, but where's the mask and snorkel? Rebreathers, as they are called, are considered to be advanced SCUBA gear, originally developed and typically used by the military, especially the U.S. Navy SEALs. They've since broken into the leisure diving industry and I know a few divers who wouldn't bank on anything else!

Ok, who's Navy Seals Team 6? All I know from this website ( is that the Navy's DEVGRU group, better known as "Seal Team Six", was made famous by their original commander, Richard Marcinko. Who are they? What do they do? Well, it's all classified. All they said is that they are responsible for counterterrorist operations in the maritime environment.

The British SAS or Special Air Service is is widely regarded as one of the finest and best trained special forces units in the world. According to, their functions are to :-
- Gather intelligence behind enemy lines.
- Destroy targets far behind enemy lines.
- Protect senior British dignitaries.
- Execute CRW operations to assist police units such as S019 .
- Operate without official British Government involvement.
- Train special forces of other nationalities.
- Perform counter-terrorism operations at home and abroad
Sounds like an incredibly tall order!

And then, there's the Australian SAS, a special forces regiment modelled on the original British SAS. Read more about them on :

Trivia : Did you know there's a website where you can order special forces gear such as the gasmask that Kent's wearing?
According to the website :-

"In the military there are special elite groups of highly trained, extremely intelligent and physically athletic men, with extraordinary skills and knowledge who perform secret missions and special operations that most people would consider unthinkable.

From parachuting behind enemy lines undetected and infiltrating into countries where peace is threatened, then performing swift strikes in stealth, these men risk their lives constantly to protect and preserve our precious freedom."

So, Major Dave Thomas, the founder of Special Forces Gear, is one of those men who have developed and modified equipment actually used by and for the Special Forces fighting forces, for the civilian in need for these superior designs and improvement on their utility, comfort and appearance. And the action figure manufacturers have done the same for these action figures, only in a much much smaller scale! Absolutely amazing!

Now, for the real can get more info on the Special Forces by clicking onto : - think the Singapore Special Forces is also listed there :

Go check out the blog featured on that website : - Michael Yon, a 41-year old former Army Green Beret who traveled to Iraq last year and whose blog about his experience there is attracting a lot of attention!

So, you see, they're not just toys, but Action Figures! But then, they're not just Action Figures, but men who risk life and limb protecting and preserving our freedom!

Wonder if our joining the Total Defence ExploRally next weekend will bring me a step closer to understanding what it means to be defending one's country....and freedom? Will letchya know several blogs later!

Food and Health Tips

It's that time of the year when only 3 words in the vocabulary survive the test of time - eat, sleep and......errr....make that 2 words! After pangs of hunger come pangs of guilt at having consumed food which would be better spent on a family in need of basic nutrition. Chinese New Year feasting has that effect on ya!

To top that, food has someway of hibernating in the body, and without the daily dosage of exercise like walking 4 flights of steps to the carpark, it threatens to becoming a permanent fixture in places that make you feel and look like......fat bastard!
Trying to clear email at work does good work for the fingers! I came across this email sent to me by a firm believer in alternative health practices. It mademe feel instantaneously much better about what I've been doing the past few weeks....and I'd like to share it with you....


Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolonglife; is this true?

A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you canextend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass(green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out ofthe fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, yourratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!!. Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO ...... Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! Round' is a shape!

That email ended with a final remark :

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had aboutfood and diets.
And remember: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally wornout, and screaming "WOO HOO, What a Ride!"

Wish this were true! :P

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Mischief" by The Cat and the Rat

Presenting "Mischief" by the Cat and Rat
CNY resolution : How to chase the silly Dog away....
Plug in mindphone song : Peelings......nothing more than....peelings...

I'm so a-peeling
It's Mandarin Orange you're dealing
No place in the zodiac
Turned me into a maniac!

A rat? A rat?
It's me you're smelling at
Together with the Conniving Cat
We'll try to chase away the Poochet!

Kapow, kapow
Goes the firecrackers
Weapons of Dog Destruction
Caused by citrus eruption

Alliances, we'll form
A cat-a-ma-rat will be born
Much larger and fiercer than the canine
One look, and it's "Dial 999"

Two oranges for good luck?
Pineapples? Durians? Who gives a *uck!
We'll play fetch with Patch
Who'll choke on the double catch!

Red Rover, Red Rover,
Send that ang pow right over,
Make that an oversized ang pow
That'll crush the poor bow wow

Better still, send over lots of Chrysanthemum tea
So that it'll always have to pee
Little would it suspect
That it was all a fine act

When the doggie's gone
We will rejoice in dance and song
Over a packet of chrysanthemum tea
Next to the toilet, would be we!

We'll celebrate
The end of the dog
No more barking
But sleep like a log

Two heads exchanged
Are better than one
You may think us deranged
But we're just having some fun

This is just our silly way
of welcoming the Year of the Dog!
Hurray, hurray,
It's a cat-a-rat-astrophic day!

The End!

Orange Peel Artist : Maximuzz (and his side-kicks, Merciless and Space Cadet)

Disclaimer : Orange-peel art is not an invention of the above artist.
In fact, it has been circulated in the internet some eons ago.
The artist above and his CNY kakis were inspired to re-created the art of orange-peeling-and-dealing
to while away the afternoon with a full stomach while parents were busy entertaining friends.
Try it! It's quite therapeutic!