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Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Business : Babies for Sale

Sibu had a myriad of professions and businesses in the past, mostly traditionally Chinese in nature. As a young girl I was very amazed then by what men and women did. There was one man who only made rattan baskets or cages for chickens and there was another man who made pails and buckets from aluminium sheets. And I remember watching one man making buckets, and water tanks from well seasoned pieces of wood. He could make wooden bath tubs as well. How I wish I could buy one now from him.

But here is a story which paralysed many of us young girls when we heard about it from an older woman who knew the couple personally.

Apparently that was a good for nothing man who gambled most of the time. However he was fortunate enough to marry a hardworking woman. And they lived in a rented room quite near the town. She earned a bit of money by washing clothes for several families. But the man survived by gambling. Sometimes he would end up with big debts and the wife had to help him pay with her meagre earnings.

She became pregnant almost every year, and she had no rest from childbearing.

The story teller told us that one day when she herself was at the maternity home she met the tearful lady. Even before she was discharged, her husband had already sold the new born for one thousand dollars. Her husband had given her some money for her confinement chickens and asked her to get well and start working. According to her, he was also a broker for other families if babies were available for sale.

We were all told later that this man had sold altogether seven of her children. In the end she did keep one boy. Boys fetched 2000 dollars for the gambler.

Of all the stories I heard this is one of the saddest. In one action, a man could cause a lot of heartbreak for his wife and regarded his own flesh and blood as a merchandise.

This was indeed a horrifying and inhumane business. He must have regarded his wife as no better than a mother hen which could lay eggs for sale.

Speed Boat Stories of Sibu

There used to be lots of small speedboats in Sibu,owned by families who lived along the river banks of the Rejang. These little boats were called "a kok kian", or clog like boat, because they looked like little wooden clogs floating in the river.

In engineering terms,a speedboat is a small motorboat designed to move quickly, used in races, for pulling water skiers, as patrol boats, and as fast-moving armed attack vessels by the military. Even inflatable boats with a motor attached which may be serving as a high speed patrol boat or as a plodding pedestrian dinghy providing transport to and from a mooring buoy are motorboats.

Furthermore, there are three popular variations of powerplants: inboard, inboard/outboard, and outboard. If the engine is installed within the boat, it's called a powerplant; if it's a removable module attached to the boat, it's commonly known as an outboard motor.

Sibu shops which sold outboard engines were Ling Hup Choon, Chu Yew General Traders, PanSar (much later), Lee Goh Bin and Heng Ang. The engines would be displayed on racks right in front of the shop. The brands were be Evinrude,and Johnson. Later Yamaha came into the scene. Looking at those engines and actually watching them in action when I rode in the longboats, I learned about horsepower and the power of engines. So it was actually very handson if adults bothered to teach us. I actually enjoyed travelling by river throughout my childhood and young adulthood. The river was such an important part of my life.

When my father started to court my mother in 1948, he had the pleasure of owning a small speedboat and he was "allowed" to visit my mother, after the match maker had been successful in arranging the marriage, a few times before they married in the same year. So each time he came to visit, my grandmother was given ample warning because the speedboat could be seen quite far away with bare eyes. Immediately a chicken would be prepared and slaughtered for a good meal. Father was known to be rather nervous whenever he ate with my mother's family. A historical and memorable moment was when he dropped the entire hardboiled egg from his chopsticks and it went bump bump bump from the table to the floor! To his horror, every one not only learned about it but remembered it for the rest of their lives.

Most business men would own lovely speed boats and they would proudly show off their possessions at the wharf in Sibu. They would come dressed in signature attire - their best white shirt and white trousers. Most of them were timber merchants.

Many people would remember that some speedboats were called to save the lives of many riverine villagers in the 1950's and 1960's. There was a story of how a man brought his hemorrhaging wife from a sawmill and very quickly a generous manager immediately helped him by sending them to the original Lau King Howe Hospital,intelligently built by the river side, which had a jetty for river boats. The woman's life was saved and the baby was born healthily. Perhaps many people were saved by speedboats. But equally, many lives were lost because the patients could not reach the hospital in time.

During regattas the speedboats never failed to attract the largest crowd. And the cheering public would always applaud their splendid display.

And in Sibu many people would not forget that one of the Lau families had a son nicknamed, Ah Bot Kian. As a student, he was cute,humble,cheerful,polite, helpful,sincere,sympathetic and quick to help others - like a speedboat. Those who knew him then had a great time with him. Perhaps today, as an entrepreneur, he might still be helpful, quick in the mind, and very fast across the abacus.

Life can be fleeting, like a speed boat.

Chew Peng Ang and Benevolent Acts in Sibu

There were many benevolent acts in Sibu from the beginning of its historical establishment.

One of the most remarkable acts of benevolence was the establishment of the Sibu Benevolent Home for the Aged in Bukit Lima Road, off Lanang Road.

Historical Background:

If you had visited the Benevolent Society Home for the Aged in the 1970's, you would have seen many old black and white photos displayed on the walls. And you would realise that the forefathers of the people of Sibu were kind hearted and willing to help.

The BSH was founded by the early Chinese forefathers of Sibu . These leaders were from all the different dialectic groups, Foochow, Hokkien, Heng Hua, Cantonese. They bought a very small piece of cheap land, which was actually quite inundated in what we call the Bukit Lima Road. They constructed a small wooden hut for the truly poor without children to support them.


Originally,the management of the Sibu Benevolent Society was in the hands of a committee of businessmen ,some Civil Servants and the Chairperson of the Sibu District Council. It was a very loose kind of set up but it was rather honest, ethical and perhaps truly benevolent, without any political agenda.

Implementation / Daily Chores

A Catholic nun was sent there every day to be the nurse of the home. She was assisted by two helpers, also abandoned girls whom the Catholic church was willing to raise. Thus running of the home was a very eccletic set up - donations, funds, free Christian voluntary service and women's association activities.

Donations of Coffins

Sibu being a very cultural town was full of willing hands and warmed hearts. Many rich men were willing to donate coffins. And a few men who had bad dreams were known to have sent a coffin or two to the home. Generally s

Once during the great flood of 1963, the coffins stored under the home,floated away and the nun and her assistants tried to rescue them. It was quite a morbid sight yet humourous to some extent,according to some of my friends who lived in Upper Lanang Road. A friend said that she could never forget that in her life. Now this friend of mine is about 58 years old. And I am wondering if she could still remember it. But I still remember the incident. I am also wondering if the Sister is still alive today.

Students' Social Visitation:

As a student I would always be in the group to make the school-arranged social visits to the Home of the Aged. Teachers and students alike would cycle all the way to the Home and we would entertain the old folks with singing while some would just have simple conversations with them. Usually we would bring along a sumptuous dinner for the inmates.

I remember that this became a tradition of my school. the Methodist Secondary School.
Every year most Sixth Formers would make arrangements to visit the Home. And out of these visits, a few students were inspired to become social workers, and doctors and other socially related professions. Most promised themselves that they would never treat their parents shamefully.

The One and Only Chew Peng Ang:

There was a very unique Sunday happening in Sibu for many years. On Sundays in those bygone days in Sibu, a middle aged man would be ringing a hand bell very loudly and vegetable sellers would rush to fill his basket with vegetables.

He was someone who never failed to do his duty to the old folks' home in Sibu for more than 30 years,come rain or shine. In fact he had continued what his father , the well known banker Chew Geok Lin,started - to collect free vegetables , meat, fish, from the central market of Sibu. This was indeed a very unique act. Chew Geok Lin passed away in 1967. With his passing Sibu lost a very honest and compassionate banker as well as benevolent leader.

The baskets Penghulu Chew and his helpers carried would be full to the brim. Fish and meat could be seen from the holes in the baskets. And I often had wished that the donors would give better fish and better cuts. But my parents would remind me that donations would seldom be the best of stuff. But any amount given as a donation must be appreciated.

When Penghulu Chew stopped doing his benevolent act, his Sunday activity now has been carried on by his son, Robert Chew.

On Sundays, if you happen to be in Sibu, get ready some kangkong to put into a Benevolent Society basket and follow the man with the bell. It is good for your soul!!

This is something the people of Sibu should be very proud of.

New York F/W 08 Fashion Week Wrap Up III

Marc Jacobs
The only word that comes to mind when I saw the Marc Jacobs collection was, interesting....... I don't quite know what to make of it.
Most of the collection consisted of oversized bags of cloth that he's trying to pass off as coats (above). Ok that was a bit harsh. Admittedly, if you look closely there are some designs and thoughts put into the coats (esp the collar of the white coat: left). But in all honestly, if given the choice between spending over $1000USD on these coats or some other coats, I'd opt for something that will at least look a bit more flattering on me.
Some of the more distinctive pieces in the collection. I thought the scarf thing on the white shirt (right) is quite interesting.
And these dresses look quite demure and ladylike (which if you've been reading this blog for a while, is more my cup of tea). Though the oversized shoulder pads (right) is a big turn off, it just seems incongruous with the rest of the outfit!
The evening wear was... ok. Its not wow, but its not flat ugly or anything either. Just ok. I thought these two were the best of the bunch. Even Jacobs himself said that he "wasn't very inspired this season," - one can totally see that from this collection.

Bill Blass
I've never given the brand Bill Blass much thought, but surprisingly clicking through the pictures I found that this was one of my favourite collections from NY fashion week this season (besides Proenza Schouler, which I thought was brilliant). Turns out that this is Peter Som's debut at Blass, where he played with a "mix of luxurious opposites." And the result just gorgeous! I want it all!
I love the feminine and masculine contrast here. I especially adore the extravagant bow tie detail. It is definitely one of those little things that we can all easily emulate in street fashion to give our outfits a bit more oomph.
The mix of vibrant colors with winter greys is just brilliant. Plus, I just LOVE these purples and blues that he chose.
The dress is simple, clean cut yet feminine with the floral pattern and purple belt. In contrast, the frilly top is feminine yet the cutting is sharp and clean as well. Both outfit strikes the perfect balance.
The dresses were also divine. Simply styled and tailored, the vibrant bold colors and soft flowing materials created the perfect juxtaposition.
This purple dress is my favourite of the evening wear. I think the vibrant purple hue and the flowing skirts speaks for itself. And I thought the last silver dress was great too. She had feathers/frills coming out everywhere and yet she didn't look like a bird.

Definitely if I were to spend $1000USD and above for an item between these two collections, it will be on Bill Blass.

Image Source:

Friday, February 8, 2008

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Illustrated Lyrics: Lunchbox


New York F/W08 Fashion Week Wrapup II

More New York. Nothing I love from the past two days, but just thoughts on the shows I usually notice:
Narciso Rodriguez
After liking his designs for the past few seasons, I finally know how to spell his name without referring to! I know, not relevant. Anyways, Narciso's collection is cut gorgeously with a minimalism tone as usual:
I always imagine Narciso's clothes would look so amazing for work. The cutting of the pencil skirts look perfect -not tight and sticky.
There were a lot of criss-crosses of fabric strips in black, especially at the back of the dresses. And notice how even though the colours all look similar, many different types of winter fabric are used, adding so much texture to the clothes.
I really like the dress in the middle -it's one of the few dresses here that doesn't look business style, but more pretty-girly style. If only I can afford Narciso's clothes...
3.1 Phillip Lim
I was kind of looking foward to Phillip Lim's show because even though I can't afford his clothes, they're always just so pretty and wearable to look at, online and in stores. But this collection looks a bit... old in an old-woman-ly way.
Such as these outfits. Take the first outfit, it would probably look more modern if the length of the skirt was a bit shorter. And what is with that tan, suede jacket? It just seems too bohemian for that outfit. They even make the models look wider than they are.
These three were the only outfits I thought were the only nice-3.1 outfits I was expecting. Hopefully we'll see a socialite or celebritiy in photos wearing that white dress (with the white flap lower so her face can be seen properly,) next season.
Like BCBG, I thought I wasn't going to write about Marchesa this time because the clothes are just too far off my reality radar, and I didn't quite love their last collection. But this collection is simply too exquisite to ignore.
I love the first outfit. It's top is so cool -a tuxedo-top. And the mini-dresses! Gosh, look at all those intricate ruffles and rolled up fabric flowers!
These dresses are more structured. The red one reminds me a bit of Balenciaga, but looks more feminine. The first two -all the feathers and flowers are simply too pretty and delicate. I wonder where people wear these to.
And of course, Marchesa isn't Marchesa without long gowns. Maybe I liked this collection more because there was less long gowns. It's not that I don't like long gowns -I do, because they are beautiful, but they're more red-carpet and too far off reality for me. All we can do is ooh and ahh at Marchesa's creations.
Thoughts on the NY collections so far?
Image credit:

Craft Club: customize your Munny

These lovely munny's were made by Mychau, Candice, John P. & Bob W.- can you guess who made which Munny?

More to come soon!

laksa and other stories

Foochow women compete brilliantly. We also try our very best in everything we do. Furthermore we make a lot of things from scratch to cut down operational costs. Thus the "kiasu" spirit is well and alive amongst us. However I prefer to call it the "Can Do" spirit, long before our famous "Malaysia Boleh" came into being.

A friend of mine told me this story of how a very enterprising young Foochow lady learned how to make clothes by talking apart a dress and sewing it back when she was only ten, because her adopted mother did not allow her to learn dress making. She made two dresses using this method. By 14 she was already a part time dress maker for a local towkay-tailor. She did not complete her Primary Six,having found learning in a school too difficult. When she saved enough money, she went to Singapore, this time with the blessing of her family, for a tailoring course. She is now in Kuala Lumpur, well married and happy . Yes, still making clothes.

My own maternal grandmother learned how to tailor her own samfoo by getting one whole bale of cotton and imitated my grandfather's cutting. It is very interesting that she never really used the sewing machine very much. She sewed her samfoo tops and made her own cloth buttons by hand Every one who knew her often admired the stitches she used to sew her black brocade samfoo pants. They looked like machine made. Years later when I went to Cambodia and saw many tailors in their stalls working on clothes by hand, I realised how fine my grandmother's workmanship was. Today most of us have lost that art of hand sewing.

Here is the story of how a Foochow wife made her own laksa having discovered that she liked it and her children liked it too. She used her own ingredients and put a lot of coconut milk into the broth and added a bit of curry powder and belachan. It turned out to be some kind of prawn and chicken curry bee hoon. Well the family liked it so much that every Chinese New Year, she will serve her Foochow coconut milk bee hoon. I had some of it during one charity sale. It was really good. Now this has become her secret recipe.

And as laksa is not part of our Foochow cuisine, we have delightfully included it in our festive menu. And since mixing with many Hokkiens, especially those from Kuching some of us have learned to make our own laksa paste , the less oily type. Here is a very rough recipe. Add a few intelligent pinch here and there of your favourite aromatics.

Home made laksa paste
15 shallots
l clove garlic
4 candle nut
l ringgit pack of sesame seeds (more if you like)
20 dried chili
some salt
1 cup crushed/pounded peanuts
2 pieces of lengkuas
dried shrimps/prawns

2 stalks of lemon grass
1 tbsp pepper
some sugar
some MSG if you like

1/4 cup cooking oil

Blend the above ingredients one at a time. Or use the humble pestle and mortar.

1. Fry the shallots in a little oil until fragrant, Add in the rest of the ingredients.
2. Add in more oil to make a paste. Cook slowly.

By trial and error you will come up with your special edition of laksa paste. (I add some belachan from Bintulu) the Sarawak Laksa Paste is a trade secret, so we need to develop our own. Perhaps yours could be better than the branded Twin Swallow paste!

Would you tell me your laksa recipe when you become successful? Let me know.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New York F/W08 Fashion Week Wrapup I

It's time for fashion week again! First off, the city of modern, contemporary wear, New York.

Proenza Schouler
I'll start off with my favourite collection so far, Proenza Schouler. Now I have to admit, when they first started, I liked but didn't love their clothes. I still remember those tops with bras on them -done prettily but not exactly my style. But this collection is so gorgeous while still being contemporary and wearable. The colours were mostly neatral, but the collection started off with a range of rich, dark colours that are just irristiable.
LOVE the design of the first few dresses. They're short (ie. young), and the folds of the fabric that create bow-like ruffles are so pretty. Plus the mix of two fabric (silk in certain areas) really make the mono-coloured dresses so much more outstanding. Seriously loves it!
Even though this collection is supposed to be the creative collection as opposed to their more commercial collection in the showroom, the coats still look very well cute and wearable-in-real-life to me.
For the people who have to work and go out to fancy dinners and cocktails afterwards.
Cool cocktail and party dresses. Slouchy pants were also a 'thing' in this collection, but I'm not sure everyone would look great in them in real life.

BCBG Max azria
I thought I wasn't going to write about BCBG this time because the runway clothes aren't the dresses that we see in stores anyway, but there were some pretty outfits that I couldn't resist. All the outfits were outfitted with cute, bow-like, brown leather belts.
I can imagine wearing these (the two on the right) out on a relaxed, not-too-cold winter day wondering around stylish shopping malls and stopping for tea. I especially like the outfit on the right: the white, asymmetric top and mini-skirt is totally my taste. (Although I probably wouldn't bother dressing up so much unless it was a really special day out.
More young, fashionable and put-together outfits. The outfit on the left is so adorable. Making the grey, tweed-like dress short and A-line really makes it young and wearable. And that huge silk, cream collar and sleeves add major class to the outfit. The other dresses are so modern too. Seriously, this collection is so much better than the last one (-the lingerie-like collection).

Marc by Marc Jacobs
Marc's collection is always one I look foward to in New York because it is the most accessible. There's so much stuff in one collection it always takes me a long time (usually until the collection starts arriving in store,) to appreciate the designs. So at first glance, everything's just a bit messy and grungy. Here are some I'm already starting to think look cute:
Shift dresses has been such an essential in the past few seasons. These two (the right and left ones) are great for daytime, but not so much for parties at night. And note the slouchy pants. They're starting to be the trend of F/W08.
And more 80's style streetwear. Some of the stuff remind me of Luella.
Mini-skirts continue to be a trend here, as are sequins. Hmm, still not sure what to think about the Marc collection, but moving on.

You will notice that our wrapups are usually pretty late, (which is very late in fashion time now,) but our wrapups are not professional reviews (see,, etc for those.) We're merely jotting down a few thoughts we have about the collections that we're interested in. However, DO tell us what you think about them too! It's always fun to see what everyone else thinks.

Image credits:,

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I have nothing really to say about this film that Matt over at The House Next Door hasn't already said. So I will just link you to his article.

I will only add that the movie is a full blown catastrophe. Not until the final 15-20 minutes can you really be "exhilarated" by the action going on. The film is so bloody, so gruesome and gory that it's hard to be entertained by it.

I laughed out loud at a lot of the violence at the end. Once Rambo gets a hold of a giant gun he begins to mow people down and shred their bodies with bullets. The scene is so lazy (Rambo doesn't do anything, he just sits there and shoots action, yet this is an action movie) and it's also hilarious because it goes on for so long.

Now the bad...I mean really bad, is that Stallone wanted to have it both ways with this film. Much like I mentioned in my other Rambo reviews, Stallone was trying to make a serious film about how post Vietnam vets deal with life after the war. However in this installment of Rambo, Stallone wishes to make into Schindler's List, showing gruesome stock footage and recreated scenes of Burmese women and children being stabbed, shot, raped, and forced to run through mine infested rice patties. Ugh. It's so ugly it made me feel uncomfortable watching it, because I know that the film didn't have a serious bone in its body. All of this stock footage and gory footage just serves as fodder so that Stallone can establish that these people are bad, and Rambo is good, and the only thing to do in order to change anything is to kill them all and show it in an even more gruesome way.

Also, it seems that Mr. Woo's flesh eating hogs from Deadwood also make an appearance.

Also, I love how at the end Rambo just looks at the missionaries (after some of the missionaries had been killed, and one even turned into a killer) with a "I told you so" glare that sends a clear and obvious message to the viewer.

The parallels between Iraq II and the tyrannical Burmanese General and how he is dealt with are apparent. But read Matt's blog about it over at The House Next Door, because he does a great job (much better than I could ever hope) of explaining why the film is so atrocious and ugly in its politics.

Light Show

Thanks to Philo and!

The colorful pics taken by Masao on Friday night at Stitch also caught the eye of Funkbuilders. A style packed blog that goes by the motto "Create Anything I Want"

Monday, February 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Harrods Girl!

Happy Birthday darling! This year, HG is going to spend her birthday watching the Les Miserable musicale and then spend the weekend in Venice! How exciting! I wish I can be there to celebrate with you. But since I can't, here are some virtual presents for you. The classic beige/black BCBG dress you've been wanting all season. This Prada satin clutch is the perfect match for this dress too. And don't you just LOVE the rosettes on that clutch???
More classics, we have this pair of black Louboutin pumps (which will also look fab with that dress). Every girl deserves a pair of black Louboutin pumps! And then there is the Tom Ford shades that you've been craving for- is this the right pair?In preparation for the coming Spring/Summer season, there is this beige Miu Miu Nappa patch tote (which I simply ADORE) and this pair of nude Louboutin slingbacks. I know how much you've been admiring nude Louboutins!
To put some color to your SS08 wardrobe, we have these simply to-die-for Prada sandals! They'd go perfectly with this Marc by MJ dress.
Skincare wise, I thought you might like to try this ZENO acne treatment to see if it really works to instantly zap away the pimples.
And last but not least, a luxe holiday to the Greek islands with your friends. Doesn't the scene look absolutely breathtaking? Sigh.

Anyways, HAPPY BIRTHDAY again and I hope you have a fabulous time at the musicale and in Venice!

Image Source: Sephora, Shopbop and Saks

Laundry Soap

The smell of soap in the morning is to me the smell of comfort and mother's love.

This lovely smell came to me when I was just a child. Mother loved washing clothes when the tide came up to our landing on the staircase to our house in Hua Hong Facotry. And she would swish and swash, push and pat the clothes on the wooden washing board. She would have the oval metal washing basin (those memorable ones which doubled as baby baths) filled with water and clothes already soaped with Causeway soap.

When I grew older and visited grandmother down river, all my aunts and cousins would be washing their clothes on the jetty in the evenings. The jetty would be full of women washing clothes and children jumping into the river for the evening bath. It was a real riot of happiness and family bonding. It was a wonderful time for us girls and older aunts to gossip and learn of the latest news, the latest songs and even the latest movies.

Soaps came in two forms. The whole block of Causeway Brand soap which my grandmother would cut up and dry on the Foochow stove. These cut up ,handsized pieces of soap would be used for washing of clothes, as well as for bathing. This was of course the time before Lux Soap make its way into the frugal Foochow market of Sibu. The smoked pieces of soap lasted a long time. Whatever clothes which were rubbed with the soap seemed to smell wonderful and clean.

I still remember that lingering smell in my mind. And today, I wish I could buy another crate of these lovely block soaps and distribute them amongst my cousins to remind them of our wonderful childhood by the Rejang River.

And besides the rough block soap, I remember the other brand of soap which was pricier and perhaps used by people in the town of Sibu in the 50's before Unilever started manufacturing soap in the then Malaya.

Here's a short write up on the Fan Soap. Perhaps some of you readers have mothers who used them.

The label shown here is from a bar of translucent, yellowish Fan Laundry Soap. I have discovered that it is still made in Shanghai, China with old-time quality and vintage packaging.

The original primary purpose of Fan Laundry Soap was for washing laundry. In the old days, before the advent of liquid or even powdered detergents, folks kept a bar of laundry soap on hand alongside an old-fashioned grater, and they hand-grated up just the right amount of soap for each load of laundry.

Laundry soaps contain a higher proportion of lye than fine soaps do, which makes them well-suited to getting rid of germs, dirt, and foul odors. To cover their tough, "soapy" scent, they may be (but are not always) strongly perfumed. Fan Laundry Soap comes out of this old-fashioned tradition of soap-making, and the scent used to perfume it is a Lemongrass and lemon fragrance.

After the independence of Malaya in 1958, different kinds of detergents were introduced to Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah. And as Singapore grew in economic power, Sarawak also benefitted in many ways, especially in the availability of household items. Living standards continue to rise and life style improved.

Wong Cheng Ding's Mother and the Fire of Sibu

The Wong family was a pioneering family and Mrs. Wong was quite a formidable woman of means. Her children were very intelligent and more advanced than the other people of that time. After her husband passed away a quite a young age, she not only carried on the family fortunes but added to it through sheer hardwork and Christian fortitude. She was a very well known woman of means and virtues.

A legend about her was famous during my childhood and we were reminded about what a good person she was. I used to visit her lovely house along the Sungei Merah River as one of her grand daughters went to school with me. Now long gone, the huge landed property had been developed for housing estates. The family has migrated overseas too.

Mrs. Wong, small in stature and very sunburnt most of the time, worked extremely hard and was very frugal. A very enterprising woman, she helped her husband clear a lot of land in Sungei Merah for rubber planting. She employed many people to tap her rubber trees. In that way she accumulated quite a fortune.

According to the historical account, Mrs. Wong's savings, especially in gold , was kept in a safe with Wong King Huo's Shop known affectionately as Hock Chu Huo. This was the normal practice as there was no bank yet. Every body knew about this shop and the good and trustworthy Wong family who ran it. However one night in 1826, Mrs. Wong could not sleep well. She did everything to get some sleep and she tossed and turned in her bed. However it was a sleepless night for her.

The next day, she walked all the way from Sungei Merah ( 3 miles), went to Hock Chuo Huo and took back all her savings. It was of course a huge sum, and quite unsafe to keep in a rubber tapper's humble lodge. My uncle told me that she put her savings in a cotton flour sack and carried it all back home, alone,by herself. This was how safe it was along the lonely road at that time, as there was no known snatch thieves. Against all advice, she did just as she decided.

After taking back her money and gold, she had a very good sleep that night. She later told people how much at peace she was. Perhaps it was God who told her to keep her savings safe at home, as she was also a very God fearing woman.

That night, the famous Sibu fire took place and razed the entire block of wooden shops. Most Foochows had their entire fortune wiped out.

How does film make you feel?

There is a great discussion going on right now at Jim Emerson's Scanners blog (the best film blog out there) about how we react to film. Do we react because of how it makes us feel? Or do we react because of how good the film looks? These questions and others are raised by Jim and others in the comments. It's a good discussion for any film buff to read. One of the main points Jim is making is that if he goes to see a movie with someone they may react the same to what is on the screen, but the real reaction, the important one perhaps, is how we react to the film going on in our heads.

When we see a film it registers with some part of brain; either the emotional or analytical. Of course both can be affected. When I watch Bergman or Fellini, I understand that what I am seeing is a master at work. There are images and film techniques that I will not see from other filmmakers, yet I am also moved by the story. My film professor from Western Oregon always says that, for him, in order for a film to fully succeed it must not just be aesthetically appealing, but it also is in need of a narrative; characters involved in a story where it is worth our time investing in those two hours.

There are a lot of movies I can appreciate for their aesthetics. There is a big movement right now with independent film that is proving this. The likes of Michel Gondry, Julie Taymor, Wes Anderson, David Fincher, etc. are all making movies that are visually alive, stimulating, even original. However I rarely find myself caring for any of the characters in a Wes Anderson film. Gondry's The Science of Sleep is like Fincher's The Game, Fight Club, and Alien 3; a good looking movie that sucks. Taymor made the visually appealing Titus and Across the Universe (which I haven't seen, but what I can gather from critics is that it is visually appealing and nothing more), but where those films fail for is that they lack a narrative that involves me, something that makes me say, it was worth my time investing in these characters and their journey. So I grow weary of the quirky set pieces and odd behavior (another reason why I don't like Terry Gilliam) of recent avant garde cinema because when I am finshied watching one of those films, I find that all I can discuss are the aesthetics of the film. There is no emotion when I talk about or write about the film. However, when I see something like a Bergman film or Fellini's 8 1/2 or Jim Jarmusche's Stranger Than Paradise (a truly independent film, both in style and narrative) I am moved by both aspects of the film: the aesthetic and the narrative. Both remain in my memory for much longer than Fight Club or The Science of Sleep, because there is an emotional reaction to what I have just seen. There is nothing moving about Fight Club, but I will never forget about the images from Stranger Than Paradise, Winter Light, 8 1/2, or Cries and Whispers.

I am not ragging on the directors above; in fact it might be quite unfair of me to place them alongside such giants as Bergman and Fellini (in fact David Fincher claimed the top spot on my top 10 list this year with his Zodiac). I think what I am trying to get at is that there is a certain criteria for film to register both emotionally and aesthetically. Films like Crash and Million Dollar Baby or something like House of Sand and Fog are good films, but they exist solely for the purpose of affecting our emotions; there is hardly anything aesthetically memorable about those films, we remember them because they either touch us deeply, or temporarily are able to prey on our emotions and evoke sadness from how the film unfolds.

Often I react to a film immediately, even though I may be thinking about the film for days afterwards, I will have a pretty confident opinion if what I saw was something that is worth thinking about or not. I sometimes fall into the all-too-easy trap of hyperbole; claiming certain films are the "best" or "worst" of something I have seen in (insert arbitrary number of years here). When I think about a film like Million Dollar Baby or Crash (two films I did like) compared to some of my favorite films that came out this year: No Country For Old Men, Zodiac, Eastern Promises, Into Great Silence, Breach, etc., there is no comparison; the latter films win hands down. They resonate with me still, not just because they freshest in my mind, but because they contain elements that affect both crucial parts of my film-going sub-consciousness. Even though DVD's of Million Dollar Baby and Crash sit on my bookshelf at home, I haven't revisted them in almost two years.

One film I was thinking of that applies here is There Will Be Blood. Having just seen the film I have been asking myself ever since I left the theater: Did I really care about what happened in that film? I don't know if I have an answer yet, although in my review of the film much of it was expository, relaying much of the basic plot points, perhaps in an attempt to try and figure out through writing whether or not I was emotionally involved in that picture.

But every time I wanted to care about There Will Be Blood I felt like Paul Thomas Anderson was slapping me (like Eli slaps Daniel) in the face and saying: No! Look at my movie, don't care about the characters. The ending still has no affect on me whatsoever; the only thing I can say about it is that it strikes the right note in how abrupt and sardonic it is.

I think it is possible for films visuals to speak for themselves and create emotion. Once again I return to Stranger Than Paradise and a scene where they are staring out onto a frozen lake. The visual itself speaks volumes towards their journey, their feelings, and the minimalism of the film. It is a brilliant shot that explains through visual exposition what the characters are feeling, and just like Bergman, it creates genuine emotion through imagery.

I often have conversations with many friends, most of whom claim they just want to be "entertained" by movies. There all different types of moviegoers, and that's what so great about the medium. How the images and words get from the screen into our subconscious and how we unscramble those images and words and but them in place to form an opinion in one of the great things about watching a film and having an opinion on it. Some of my friends just want me to tell them whether or not they would like the movie. That's impossible to do. I may have somewhat of an understanding based on previous movies they have liked, or certain genres they feel akin to, but it is impossible to truly say that you will or will not like a certain movie. It's all about how you decipher the code when it's in your brain, and what you choose to remember about it. And how does it make you feel?

That is a question that only the filmgoer can answer. When my friend Mark went and saw The Descent with some of my other friends Kyle, Stacey, and Josh; I could have probably guessed based on the genre that maybe they wouldn't have liked the movie. But a couple days before they went and saw it, Mark heard me raving about it. That was my reaction to it. I personally found the film to be many things; a great horror film that penetrated my fears of entrapment and being enclosed in tight spaces. I also found it to be a touching film about the loss of a child, and how for this woman, the only way she was ever going to get back to her child was to plunge the deep and the dark. Just like the cave, she had to dive down within her own memories and personal demons, but what she finds is that life without her daughter is a life not worth living, so for the entire film she is just finding ways to get back to her daughter. The film ends (you can only see this ending on the DVD, for some reason they cut the real ending out of the American release) with a heartbreaking shot of her facing her daughter with a cake (an image that appears numerous times in the film), they are "looking" at each other (Sarah has now taken on the characteristics of a "crawler") but never in the same frame. As the camera slowly zooms out you see her facing nothing but the darkness. The camera continues to pull out slowly, Sarah is there surrounded by darkness, and the sounds of the creatures lurking above. It's an ambiguous shot as the camera fades to black with noises of the creatures above, is what we just witnessed all a dream? Did it happen the way we think it did? Have those final moments after Sarah fell down even happened yet? Remembering the set up, one of the girls tells Sarah that you begin to see things in the caves, your mind plays tricks on you, and that final shot moved me and frightened me. It was a perfect ending, both aesthetically and emotionally.

But I can understand why Kyle, Josh, Mark, and Stacey didn't like it. Maybe they aren't horror fans, maybe they didn't like the pacing of a British horror film, maybe the ending with all of the creatures was a little too crazy. I don't know, the great thing is only they can understand their reasoning for not liking the film, and all they can do (like me) is react honestly. The way I feel about a film doesn't mean others will react with the same positivity, negativity, or neutrality, that I do. The Descent is a perfect example of this.

Anyways, head over to Emerson's blog and read the discussion. I went a little off topic with what they are discussing over there, but it's a fun discussion, so check it out.

UGGs and UGGs

Last month, on my short trip in Sydney, I noticed a rather interesting little thing that I've never noticed before. Did you know that there are TWO different brands named UGGs over there BOTH selling very similar looking sheepskin boots???? I never paid it much attention before, because I'd never really wanted to buy UGGs before. But apparently the UGG trend has finally filtered into Hong Kong, and my young 13 year old cousin's dearest wish on this trip was to buy UGG boots (since they don't sell it in HK). So we went on a hunt for UGG boots. At first I thought it would be a relatively easy task as I remembered vaguely seeing UGGs everywhere from souvenir shops to even the airport last time I was there! But upon stepping into our first souvenir shop to look at UGGs, we noticed that something was not right........
First of all, while the name "UGG" and the made in Aussie fact is correct, the logo and font is just not the quite right. Definitely not what we're used to seeing. And upon closer examination, while the styles all look the same, the quality of these UGGs were definitely not as good as the ones I've seen in the States. The fur was not as smooth and soft, the soles were shallow and not as intricate and the workmanship was simply not really up to par.
It reeked of fakeness. But then, we rationed that the Aussie government wouldn't allow them to sell fakes all over the place and quite so prominently right? And I mean, they even have this very authentic looking poster plastered all over the place!
With a little research, we finally found 'authentic' UGGs (as we are used to) in this touristy shop on the top floor of the Queen Victoria Building. The lady explained that there are two different UGG brands in Australia and the ones Americans are used to (above) are the better quality ones. They are also double the price of the cheaper brand. While the cheaper UGGs are about $150AUD each, the 'authentic' UGGs are about $300 AUD! And if you think that UGGs in Australia are cheaper than in the US (as I'd thought) then you are wrong. Turns out that while
UGGs in US are about $200USD on average, a pair of tall UGGs in Aussie cost $295AUD= $268USD. How crazy is that? The lady made the point that the 'authentic' UGGs she is selling are actually made in Aussie, as opposed to the identical looking ones we find in the States, which are made in China. I guess that is where the difference is.

So if you happen to be looking for UGGs in Australia, and you want the higher quality ones, pay attention and try to look up the address of their dealers online first, before buying the first pair you see on the streets!

Image Source: UGG Australia
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