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Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Dream of a Lifestyle Involving Many Cocktail Dresses VII: Top Shop's Designer Collaborations

Originally I was going to do a second wrapup post for London Fashion Week, but I feel sort of indifferent towards the shows, even Luella's collection, which I had been looking foward to. With all the young and tredy prom dresses, Luella's S/S08 collection was so cute. The new F/W08 collection is cute too, in a darker way, but I'm just not that into some of the more bohemian-looking dresses.

Yes, I am still obsessed with looking at young, wearable dresses. And one thing that I have been obsessively staring on my computer screen this week has been the Designer collaboration collections with Top Shop Boutique. The designers involved are the 'it' British designers of the moment, including Preen, Peter Jensen, Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab, Todd Lynn, Richard Nicoll, Jonathan Saunders and Louise Goldin. From what I've seen online, some of the collaberations seem to be limited to shoes. But the majority of them have a small, but decent range of clothes available. The thing I like about these Top Shop collections is that the clothes have mostly been very nice -decent quality and designer-level designs at (mostly) reasonable prices.

The collection that I had been looking foward to most was the Richard Nicholl collection. The clothes just seem so simple, nicely cut and practical. Take this ruffle dress and peach blazer for example, it would make a great fancy dinner outfit. It could even pass as a work outfit if your workplace is dressy (but not business formal.)

After seeing this Jonathan Saunders dress in stores and online, I thought it was a good imitation of the original dress from his F/W07 collection (left), but tight jersey dresses don't usually look good on people. However, just a few days ago, I saw a girl wearing this out (without a jacket so she was probably freezing) in Leister Square, and she looked amazing in it! She made it look so young, fun and trendy, and it's really those fashion moments that you love the idea of designer-highstreet collaborations.

Another dress that I saw in store and actually liked is this Louise Goldin dress. The colours and pattern is quite pretty. The problem is, since it is a sleeveless dress, it's clearly much more suited for summer than winter. But it's made of knitted material (50% cotton, 50% viscose,) it felt too thick to wear in summer and not washing machine-friendly. Too bad.

The collection that I wasn't expecting to like but ended up liking the most is Marios Schwab's. Last season when Marios Schwab designed a few things for Top Shop, all I saw were black dresses, so I wasn't quite impressed. But this time, there are some young, casual clothes with unique-but-not-weird-looking designs. Take this block-coloured dress -it would be perfect for a fun night out, and it's colourful without looking tacky.

The Marios Schwab dress that really caught my eye was this knotted dress. I am worried that it would make one look like she was wearing a picnic cloth, but it's hard to tell until I see it in real life. I just really like the knotted detail and the combination of two seemingly-mismatched prints. Sort of fun and funky without me actually putting in the effort to mismatch clothes and end up looking like a mess. Unfortunately, they've run out of this dress online. I wonder if they still have it in stores. What do you think of this dress? Opinion please!

What really irritates me about these collections is that they ALWAYS run out of the smallest sizes within 12 hours of release online. Would it hurt for them to actually stock up on the clearly popular smaller sizes? Seriously. Hmm, I wonder if the actaul shops would still have all the sizes available.

Image credits:,

Friday, February 15, 2008

Foochow Body Language

Many people may find the Foochows difficult to understand. we are interesting people actually. But if you can to study us closely, you may understand us better.

Body language as a form of communoication, has been of great interest to me ever since I was young. And having observed my fellow men for more than half a century, I have made the following conclusions and would like to share with you a little of what I know about Foochow Body Language. However if I have made any mistakes in my observations, the fault is all mine. So please look at them and perhaps you could also provide me with some feedback.

(Please also read Allan Pease' book on Body Language for comparison. It is a wealth of knowledge)

when I refer to "man", I am referring to both genders and I do apologise to all my feminist sisters. Some how I find it difficult to use the word "person".

Sticking out one's tongue means I don't believe you or you are talking nonsense or you are just being silly.

When a man slaps his own face - he is remorseful and is showing that he is very wrong . He is apologising.

When a man spits - he is showing that he is very upset and would not go on reasoning any more. This is a little rare nowadays. But it still happens in extreme or stressful cases.

When a man drops his trousers (very rare indeed but in the past it was quite common when all language failed him and when he was really angry) during an argument especially when he lost his temper(however, it was just an attempt to do so, and he would not go all the way). This shows extreme extreme anger.

when a man shows his bottom or point to his bottom and say "ne, ne, ne"- he is insulting you. This is very coarse among the educated today. But it was often done before. Instead a person may just exclaim, "My buttock lah!!" or " Ku Chiong!"

when a man points with and shakes his walking stick angrily - he is telling you that you must listen to him and that he is very angry with you.

when a man raises a hand and indicates he is to strike - he is giving a very stern warning that he might just want to beat you up.

When a man tries to calm another man down, and the later is still angry, he will shrug his shoulders and push the former away without looking at him. He will then walk away. This man cannot reason any more and would not like to discuss any more. He is very offended. He wants to save his face. Often the former will have to apologize directly or send a delegation to apologize.

When a man lifts a leg on to a chair - he is trying to relax and/or wait and see (sullenly) what you are going to do next. Sometimes this is considered a very rude body language.

When a man shows the middle finger - this is a very rude gesture, equivalent to the F word.

When a man putts his middle finger down your nose - this is the worst of insults he can give to you. You can punch him on the nose.

When a man slaps a friend's back happily - he is showing that he is extremely to meet up with you and that you two are good friends.

When two Foochow men walk arm in arm - they are happy and are best of friends. They are definitely not GAY. A greater gesture is when two men have arms over each others' shoulders to show they are blood brothers and the best of friends.

Foochow men are very warm hearted. When meeting a good friend in the morning he can straight away hold a friend's arm and take him into a coffee shop for breakfast. Very genuine. Or sometimes, when it is in the negative, he may want some help, like borrow some money or asking for a favour.

Shaking hands - politeness. Generally a very warm handshake reveals a warm character, a strong and good shake indicates a sincere person who has a lot of respect for others, a cold limp one indicates that this man does not realise your worth yet. In the past the Foochows loved shaking hands, as a legacy of Rev.Hoover. But today, fewer Foochows want to shake hands because of various reasons.

When a man looks at you and is seen to be closing one eye he is sizing you up or he is not sure who you are. He might be plotting against you.

A very confident Foochow man will have a strong eye contact with you. If a man looks down and starts kicking the floor, he has something on his mind and is not willing to share with you.

When a man gives you a slant look or a side way look, he has been viewing you negatively and might have said bad things about you prior to the meeting.

When two friends wink at each other, which is rather rare, they are passing a secret message telling each other not to mention their secret.

When a man twitches the side of his mouth and looking side ways he is indicating that he does not like you. Or you might have offended him previously.

When a man upturns his eyes he is indicating that you are a hopeless person or what you have just said is ridiculous.

When a man clears his throat he is thinking and is getting ready to say something important. Some people do this very obviously. Clearing the throat is like a speech clutch. It helps the Foochows to think before speaking and at the same time ensure that his voice is clear.

Foochows are fond of saying " Wai Ha!". It means that what he hears or sees is rather surprising.

Foochows are also fond of saying "Ah Siang Noh!" This means that something terrible has happened.

Many men slapping a table (nak toh ming) when they want to make a point, when they are angry or when no one listens to them.

When a man getts up from a chair he is done with the conversation andwould like to go.And if you would like him to stay, you can push him back to his chair. In olden days, the host would do this once or twice to show genuine hospitality.

In the olden days, when a man put his umbrella under his arm he was ready to go off from the group. He might do this angrily and you could see that. Like walking away in a huff and puff because he was not too happy with the discussion.

When a man stamps his foot it shows anger, irritation, frustration, remorse and impatience

Often both Foochow men and women stare at others to indicate curiosity,and sometimes surprise /shock. To many this is considered impolite and it makes people embarrassed,or self- conscious . A fight or two had broken out in during my school days between two racial groups because of this starring.

When a Foochow man says,"Shoo!" he is asking people to keep quiet. Sometimes he will put his forefinger perpendicular to his lips.

Perhap now it is quite rare, adults may pat the head of children to show affection;

For extreme compasion two men may embrace and one man may pat the grieving party's head to give comfort and consolation. It also shows affection. But this is becomeing very rare.

An older Foochow man may extend his hand towards a child or a girl,open palm,palm down, with all fingers crooked in a beckoning motion : beckoning some to come

"Shame on you!" (semi-joking gesture) Foochow is "Siew Leh"
Forefinger of one hand extended, tip touches one's own face several times quickly, going downwards; similar to scratching, but with the forefinger straight (usually with the remark "Shame on you!")

"I'm very full" (after a meal) This can be followed by belching too.
One hand open, lightly patting one's own stomach
Hand raised to throat, fingers extended, palm down (often with the remark "I'm full up to here")

Biting of one's fingernails (usually done by women but some men do it too)
Emotional stress, worried, doesn't know what to do

Wagging one's finger (forefinger of one hand raised, other fingers clasped, the raised forefinger is wagged from side to side)
Warning not to do something; indicating that what the other person is doing wrong

Shaking of head together with waving of both hands above the head
Very emphatic rejection of a proposal, idea, person; nonverbal way of saying a strong "No"

Positive : Winking (quick closing of one eye, generally with a smile and slight nod)
May show several feelings: understanding, approval, encouragement, trying to get across a message, solidarity

Touching or pointing to tip of one's own nose with raised forefinger
"It's me" "I'm the one" (To Westerners, the gesture would seem slightly funny) This is usually done when the people are known to each other well.

Using an open hand to cover one's mouth while speaking (generally used by older people) , sometimes even turning the back to others.
To show confidentiality and secrecy; sometimes no meaning

Using both hands (when one would be enough) in offering something to a visitor or another person - Respect

(When one's tea cup is being refilled by the host or hostess) putting one or both hands upright, palm open, beside the cup - "Thank you" When the visitor takes the cup away, he is genuine and does not want another cup.

Some people also indicates that they are about to leave when they finish drinking their tea. And they would say."Have to do definitely/"

When offering to pay for the bill, watch out for your friends' body language. A person who is very sincere in paying, would quickly push your money away and his wallet would be out in no time before the cashier. A person who is not sincere would hesitate and his hand would be easily pushed away by you. Sometimes everyone would want to pay the bill. The bill is usually settled by the person who most successfully pushes other hands away. A very sincere Foochow man would say he would pay the bill from the beginning of the gathering. He would say, " I will foot the bill today. Or today, you will all eat on my account."

Family Lessons from Lau Pang Sing, My Third Uncle

Whenever it rains, and the temperatures lower to less than the equatorial cool, and we shiver in our cotton shirts, I would think of the days spent with my maternal third uncle in the old house which my grandparents built before the war. That house was the symbol of Foochow hardwork, rubber money and blood and sweat since their arrival in Sibu in 1903.

My maternal grandparents had 4 sons and 5 daughters. The children were born during the time of pioneering poverty, extreme and unimaginable hard work, initial failures and consequent successes.

10 family lessons from my Third Uncle.

1. Reflection - Very often my shy and timid uncle, whom some people even called " no gall bladder type" would sit down with my grandmother and reflect on an act or a conversation. They would go over the incident and reflect very humourously. I really liked the way the mother and son discussed things with each other. The whole evening would be spent "thinking" and talking with them. Mothers and sons should always carry on their relationship like this.

2. Negotiation - My uncle was a very negotiable kind of person. He would never quarrel with any one, or shout at any one unnecessarily. His mind was an absolutely mature one. Even though he had only about 3 years of primary school, as the Japanese occupied Sarawak and his education was sadly curtailed, he had a beautiful mind.

3. Consultation - One of the most vivid memories I have of my dear uncle Pang Sing was his fondness and filial piety for my grandmother. Whenever he was approached to do some important work, he would always say that that he had to consult "Neh", the old way of addressing mother. All his siblings called my grandmother "Neh" very respectfully. This kind of consultation with mother was both respectful and endearing. In a way, my grandmother could only have love for her children because they consulted often with her as the matriarch of the family. There was so much respect and love in the family. At times when I had my own administrative issues I just wished that all my colleagues would behave in this way. So much could be done with so much love.

4. Humility - My uncle was a man of humility because he considered himself uneducated, through no fault of his own. However, by being very humble, he was not at all stepped on by people around him. In fact, no relative would laugh at him towards the later part of his life. They all considered him wise, kind, extremely helpful and loving, even though he was not wealthy like the other Foochow men. My uncle was the genuine "second mile" person.

5. Fear and caution - The Japanese Occupation traumatised my uncle and he was often intimidated by uniforms in the later part of his life. Once a school mate of mine who became a Police ASP brought a huge group of police to patrol the Sg. Maaw area or Lower Nan Chong Village during the RASCOM era, he was petrified!! He told us that he was literally shivering! But when my classmate pointed to my photo in the living room, and explained to him that I was his classmate, my uncle immediately started to cook a meal for them and they had a wonderful time. Besides, my classmate could speak Foochow like a Foochow. A photo and a common language sealed a cross-cultural friendship. We have many other stories about uncle and his fears actually. But he always had a good laugh about them.

6. Timidity - My uncle was not a conniving and greedy kind of person. He was very timid indeed. We would often tell that to be careful in everything we did. He would not say "Cannot do" but he would say, "May be we have to wait and see." or "Consider all factors". In a way, sometimes I would think that he was ahead of de Bono!!

7. Brute strength - His size, his strength (he could carry one whole gunny sack of rice on his bare shoulders), his muscles were often valued whenever heavy things needed to be carried. Once he carried my family's marble table all on his own, from the house to the jetty when we moved from Hua Hong to Sibu town. He was always Mr.Universe to us. He told us that lifting a heavy thing was just confidence and lots of practice.

8. Support - My uncle was ever ready to help any one in trouble, for example, lifting a car out of a muddy pot hole, carrying a sick man from the boat to the waiting taxi. Physically, I had seen my uncle carrying sick people on his back many times. And one of the last time I saw him doing that was the time he carried my grandmother on his back. Whenever I watch Korean movies today, any such scene would choke me up and I would just miss him so much. He always had a good word for people. And he would visit people who were sick, people who were in trouble. Many fellow villagers would come to visit him at grandmother's house and asked for his advice.

9. Child Like Wonder and love - He was a wonderful father, uncle and friend. Because of all his good traits all of us around him loved him and valued him greatly. He was walking in our shoes, and he could talk our language because he had this child like sense of wonder and love. He was a cool guy, and was one of us. He would never do the "distant" act with us.

10. Skills - Third Uncle had my grandmother's philosophy " One's independence is the real worth in life." Or, "Nothing is better than having all the skills yourself." He could do almost every single life skill himself, except type a letter ,speak English or write a book as he said. He could make meat dumplings, cook a ten course dinner, cut a log into planks, raise 100 pigs, carry a ton, drive a motor launch, and nurse a sick child. I like his philosophy. It is not arrogant. It is just extremely humble and sincere. So in a way his family today, and many of us nephews and nieces, all have a part of him. We all tend to do a lot of things on our, and make things from scratch. We can!

And thanks to him, in all his simple ways, our lives have been very much enriched.

Thank you, Kah Tuai (Uncle Big).

Classic Dames

Here's a few 'dames' I did from photo ref...they were actresses from the black & white Hollywood days, though I couldn't tell you who they are. Every once in a while a group of us at work get togther and draw from these old Hollywood just dont see faces like these anymore, truly classics.

A Tribute to Sea Turtles and Turtle Eggs

For hundreds of years Foochows from China love sea food nothing but sea food because they are coastal people and they go to sea for fishing.

I remember relatives buying many turtle eggs from Kuching, Labuan and Sabah and giving them as beloved gifts whenver they came home from travelling. Furthermore, I also saw many shops selling freshly boiled turtle eggs for their customers in the early days of Sibu. But today, turtle eggs are protected commodities and no one is allowed to sell them in the market.

Sea turtles are so endangered!!

But taking a look at the sea turtles of Malaysia one can see how rich Malaysians can be in terms of food from just this group of marine life.

Because so many turtle eggs have been consumed by Malaysians, we should now start conserving sea turtles for very obvious reasons.

Seven turtle species have been recognised living in the world's oceans, which are grouped into six genera. Out of this number, four species can be found nesting on Malaysian shores: the olive-ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Unfortunately, these species are currently being listed on the IUCN Red List as endangered.

1. Olive-ridley turtle. Local name Penyu Lipas

The olive-ridley is a small turtle species. Its average clutch size is over 110 eggs, which requires a 52 to 58 day incubation period. This species inhabits tropical and subtropical coastal bays and estuaries. In Malaysia, the nesting status of olive-ridley turtle is fragmentary, with records available only for the states of Terengganu, Kelantan and Penang. Nesting has been recorded in Sabah and Sarawak but the numbers are probably insignificant compared to the major sites.

2. Hawksbill turtle. Local name Penyu Sisik, Penyu Karah

The hawksbill turtle is also one of the smaller sea turtles. Their shells are beautiful, which largely contributes to their endangered status. Humans kill them to get their shells, which are used to make jewellery and other products. Hawksbill turtles nest every three or more years. An average of two to four egg clutches are laid approximately fifteen days apart during nesting season. Each clutch contains an average of 160 eggs, which requires an approximately 60 day incubation period. This species inhabits near coral reefs in tropical oceans. In Malaysia, their nesting sites cover the shores of Terengganu, Johor, Melaka and Sabah, as well as Sarawak, and perhaps Pahang, Kedah and Kelantan.

3. Green turtle. Local name Penyu Agar, Penyu Pulau

The green turtle is the largest of the Cheloniidae family and are easily distinguished from other sea turtles because they have a single pair of scales in front of their eyes rather than two pairs as the other species. Diets of green turtles change significantly during its life. At less than eight inches long, green turtles eat worms, young crustaceans, aquatic insects, grasses and algae. Once green turtles reach eight to ten inches in length, they eat mostly sea grass and algae; the only sea turtle species that is strictly herbivorous as an adult.

Green turtles nest every three or more years. An average of three to five egg clutches are laid approximately twelve days between each nesting. Each clutch contains an average of 115 eggs, which requires an approximately 60 day incubation period. The green turtle can be found on tropical coasts and islands, and is the most widely distributed sea turtle species in Malaysia. In Peninsular Malaysia, major nesting sites include Perhentian and Redang Islands off Terengganu, and mainland beaches of Terengganu at Penarik, Kemaman and Kertih. They can also be found nesting in the states of Pahang (Chendor and Cherating) and Perak (Pantai Remis). In East Malaysia, the green turtle nesting sites are on the shores of Sarawak Turtle Islands, the Turtle Islands in Sabah and Sipadan Island.

4. Leatherback turtle. Local name Penyu Belimbing

The leatherback is the champion of sea turtles. It grows the largest, dives the deepest, and travels the farthest of all sea turtles. The leatherback turtle is the most unusual and distinctive of all sea turtles, as it is the only turtle that lacks a hard shell. Instead, this species has a large, elongate shell which is composed of a layer of thin, tough, rubbery skin, strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates. Seven narrow ridges run down the length of the carapace, and the lower shell is whitish to black, and marked by five ridges. The body of a leatherback is barrel shaped, tapering at the posterior to a blunt point.

With this streamlined body shape and the powerful front flippers, a leatherback can swim thousands of miles across the open ocean and against fast currents. Leatherback turtles nest at intervals of two to three years. An average of six to nine egg clutches are laid approximately ten days between each nesting. Each clutch contains an average of 80 fertilized eggs the size of billiard balls and 30 smaller unfertilized eggs, which requires an approximately 65 days incubation period. The leatherback turtle can be found in tropical oceans, but they migrate to temperate waters to feed. In Malaysia, this species nest largely on the mainland beaches of Terengganu; especially along a 15 km stretch of beach centered at Rantau Abang.

Why are sea turtles declining?

Sea turtles have long played a vital role in the folklore of many world cultures, but this has not stopped them from being exploited by humans for food and income. The earliest known sea turtle fossils are about 150 million years old. However, in the past 100 years increased demand for turtle meat, eggs, skin and shells has lead to a rapid decline in their populations.

Sea turtles are practically exposed to threats at all stages in their life-cycle. In nature, sea turtles nests are predated by monitor lizards, crabs and ants. Once they emerge, hatchlings make bite-sized meals for birds, crabs and a host of predators in the ocean. After reaching adulthood, sea turtles are relatively immune to predation, except for the occasional shark attack. However, it is the pressure of human activities that is threatening the survival of sea turtle around the world. Moreover, the impact of these threats is multiplied by their slow growth and long maturation period.

Artificial lighting

Turtles typically seek dark and undisturbed beaches for nesting. Nesting turtles often avoid lighted areas; therefore strong light and noise from beachfront structures and coastal residents as well as uncontrolled use of torchlight and flash photography by beach visitors can disrupt nesting activity. This too may disturb other nearby turtles from landing or nesting successfully. Also, artificial light can disorientate hatchlings during their seaward crawl and may lead them to wander inland, where they often die of dehydration and predation.

Coastal development

Beachfront development and construction of recreational facilities, walkways and barriers to prevent beach erosion can hinder nesting. Structures such as sea walls and sandbags that are installed in an attempt to protect beachfront property from erosion may block female turtles from reaching suitable nesting habitat. Besides that, removal or replacing of sand or local vegetation cover can alter beach condition that is suitable for nesting. Also, if this activity persists during nesting season, nests may be buried far under the surface or run over by heavy machineries.

Turtle egg harvest

In their lifetime, an adult female turtle can produce thousands of eggs. Each female lays hundreds of egg per nesting season and return to nest only after three to four years. Therefore, the high number of eggs laid per clutch per season is to make up for the high levels of hatchling and juvenile mortalities before reaching adulthood. In Malaysia, turtle eggs are still harvested commercially. This practise of collecting turtle eggs for sale and consumption can seriously threaten turtle populations. Turtle eggs can be ten times more expensive than chicken eggs although their nutritional properties are comparable. Any medicinal property claimed in turtle eggs has never been scientifically confirmed.

Ingestion of debris and plastic

Upon emergence, hatchlings frantically swim to offshore waters, launching their pelagic life searching for edible floating debris or whatever food they can find that accumulate along drift lines. Unfortunately, these drift lines also accumulate non-degradable human litter that is often dumped into the sea. Thousands of sea turtles die from eating or becoming entangled in this debris each year, including packing strip, balloons, pellets, bottles, vinyl films, and styrofoam. Trash, particularly plastic bags thrown overboard from boats or dumped near beaches and swept out to sea, is eaten by turtles and becomes a deadly meal. For example, leatherback turtles feed primarily on jellyfish and their inability to distinguish between a floating plastic bag and a swimming jellyfish in seawater has lead to deaths of many leatherbacks turtles. Therefore, it is important that garbage is disposed of properly and not thrown into the sea or littered on the beach, as tide will carry the rubbish out to sea.


Pollution can have serious impacts on both sea turtles and particularly on the food they eat. Turtle disease such as Fibropapillomas may be linked to pollution in the oceans and in nearshore waters. When pollution kills aquatic plant and animal life, it also removes food for sea turtles to eat. Oil spills, urban runoff of chemicals, fertilizers and petroleum all contribute to water pollution. Besides that, weathered oil slicks form tarballs, which may float on the sea surface for months or years, and are often mistaken by sea turtles for food.

Commercial fishing

The waters of South China Sea are a major habitat for turtles, but are also the main fishing grounds in Malaysia. Each year, during sea turtle migration across the open ocean between their feeding and nesting grounds, many become entangled in fishing nets and drown. Sea turtles are vulnerable to incidental capture in fishing gears. Globally, shrimp trawling probably responsible for the incidental death of more juvenile and adult sea turtles than any other source.

Case study: The leatherback turtle crisis in Rantau Abang.

The beaches of Rantau Abang, located in the state of Terengganu on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, are famed for being the landing sites of the Pacific Giant leatherback turtles. For decades, these marine reptiles come to the Rantau Abang shores biannually to lay eggs between the months of April and September. However, the leatherback turtles are in danger of being forever lost from Rantau Abang due to a significant fall in their population. According to the Department of Fisheries statistics the leatherback population nesting on Malaysian shores has declined to merely 2% of the actual number that arrived 50 years ago.

One primary factor that contributes to this devastating fact is the presence of humans at their nesting sites. Every landing season, large crowds consist of locals as well as tourists gather at Rantau Abang to witness this unique event. As these beaches are open to the public, it is often difficult to control the number of people present during leatherback nesting. Despite efforts by the government and the mass media to educate the public on turtle landings, there are still groups of people that camp in the area and build bonfires, which disturb the nesting process. Growth of the tourism industry in Rantau Abang also contributes to the decline, as bright lights and loud noises near the beachfront resulting in turtles to shy away.

Besides that, turtle landings in Rantau Abang also catch the attention of many egg poachers. Even with efforts to forbid the collecting of turtle eggs, they are still harvested commercially in some parts of Malaysia and often can be found for sale in local markets. To overcome this threat, an increasing number of turtle sanctuaries are currently being established along the Rantau Abang shores. Turtle eggs laid on the beach are located and replanted by scientists in incubator centres to prevent them from being stolen and eaten. These artificial hatcheries also provide controlled conditions which may help to overcome the problem of uneven sex ratio in the leatherback population, and consequently bring about the recovery of this species in Rantau Abang.

Conservation actions in Malaysia.

The urgent need to save our sea turtles has been realised long ago. In Malaysia, turtle conservation measures were introduced as early as 1927 by the British North Borneo Company in Sabah to protect the Hawksbill turtle species. Current turtle sanctuaries in Malaysia include:

The Turtle Islands

Located about 40 km off Sandakan, the Turtle Islands Park in Sabah is one of the premier green turtle and hawksbill turtle nesting sites in Malaysia. This sanctuary consists of three main nesting islands - Pulau Selingaan, Pulau Bakkungan Kechil and Pulau Gulisaan, covering an area of 1,740 hectares. In August 1966, the state government funded the establishment of the first turtle hatchery on the largest island, Pulau Selingaan. By 1977, all three islands were successfully converted into a marine park by the state government. Current management of the Turtle Islands is overseen by the Department of Fisheries in Sabah.

Ma' Daerah

Located in Terengganu, this turtle and terrapin sanctuary was established in June 1999. This project was undertaken through a partnership between the Department of Fisheries, BP Amoco and WWF Malaysia. Ma' Daerah stations as a turtle hatchery as well as turtle nesting research and management centre. Current conservation projects also include further education of the local communities on sea turtle crisis in Terengganu. Current management of Ma' Daerah is overseen by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia.

© 2008 WILD ASIA
All Rights Reserved

Mobile River Boat Shop - "Mantong Sung"

As the darkness slowly crept up the skies, and the trees on the riverbanks began to take dark sinister shapes, we could hear the small "pep pep pep" of a small boat moving nearer towards our jetty. The smell of burning diesel also became stronger. Accompanied by the swish swash of the river tide, this expectant moment seemed to be an introduction to a great movie.

But it was the homecoming of Huo Ang, my grandmother's tenant whose business was a river boat shop or "mantong sung". It was the early day floating supermarket of the Foochows.

Hwo Ang was about forty years old at that time. He had a wife, two children and one boy who was born a "vegetable". His wife lived a simple life with our extended family. She had her own kitchen, two small rooms and we all shared an outhouse,which was beyong the pigsty.

Each evening whenever Huo Ang came back from his day trip we children would crowd into his small wooden boat and look at his stuff - icecream sticks in the cooler flask,little tubes of blowing bubles, which were our favourite,sweets (called at that time manga tong or caramel),Foochow cup cakes, coconut candies and aerated water. So what ever little money we had, we would buy and run home happily with our treasures. We would always buy our stuff at this time of the day because Huo Ang would move out very early in the morning. And sometimes he would be gone for more than a day.

And then, we would know that his wife would have prepared his simple dinner of salted fish, a bit of soy sauce pork, some slices of salted eggs and a vegetable soup and they would eat in kersene light.

Huo Ang's wife was a very humble and sweet person.And she would seek out my grandmother's counselling all the time. Life with my grandmother was a huge experience because besides having two daughters in law with her, her youngest daughter was also staying in one of the apartments. Huo Ang's family also became part of our extended family.

A very significant part of this period of our life was our experinece of having Huo Ang's severely disabled childin the house. He was about 8 years old, quite a big boy, and he was always in his little cot. Occasionally Mrs. Huo Ang would let us kids have a peep at the seemingly boneless child. And we would often wonder when he would be able to play with us.

In restrospect I remember once she asked a visiting doctor about the length of life of her boy. The doctor replied, " He will live as long as he can live. We cannot tell. So far, he is alright." The doctor advised her to bathe and wash him twice a day and keep him fresh at all times.

Huo Ang's wife made a very thick rice gruel mixed with milk for him. And she would put this in a boat like shaped milk bottle, which was the fasthion of that time.

In the early hours of the morning Huo Ang would sail out to the nearby villages selling his wares and products. He would sometimes gather some wild meat from the longhouses for sale. His best business was around Bawang Assan longhouses where his sugar, salt, salted fish, eggs, and rice would sell very well.

At that age then, we did not understand how difficult it was for Mrs. Huo Ang to live one day at a time. But being mild mannered and having a cheerful personality, she could get along with every one. She did all her housework carefully and waited for her husband to come home in the evenings and would strain her ears to listen to the pep pep pep of the mantong sung.

What I remember was that Huo Ang and his wife always talked together in very soft and loving tones over their kerosene light. AS in the night, every thing was very silent and the wooden walls could not keep small chat in. We seldom saw Huo Ang in the broad day light. The "vegetable" child passed away at the age of 16 one early morning. Every one carried their kerosene lamps to have a last look and I remember my grandmother crying. She comforted Mrs.Huo Ang by saying." It is good too in a way. God's will."

Perhaps it was both sadness that Mrs.Huo Ang wailed loudly. But perhaps it was also gladness that she was relieved of this caring. However, it was perhaps most important that at that time, when death occur, a mother would wail loudly as it was supposed to be her role to do so.

Later when I went to university, I heard that they moved away and his children did very well in life. Lfe's blessings come in strange ways. We only have to believe that God is above us and he will take care of us.

The End of Taste As We Know It?

Once again Jim Emerson has come up with a great post over at his Scanners Blog entitled "The End of Taste." Check it out.

Also, over at Cerebral Mastication, Ali Arkin writes up his thoughts...very good blog, check it out.

As for my thoughts on the topic, I don't quite know yet. I think I need some more time to think about it. But I will ask this: am I any less of a film connoisseur because I may think that RoboCop is on the same level as say...a Truffaut film?

Do you we as moviegoers put too much weight and importance on certain films because critics (or others) classify them as high art? Can I be just as entertained by Lucio Fulci as I could if I were watching a Fellini film? I say yes.

I think that we all evolve as lovers of music, film, art, etc. and in doing so we still carry with us the things we love from our early stages of fandom. I can honestly say I don't know if I would be where I am today as a lover of film without the crappy John Woo action movies that I watched countless times as a 7th grader. Would I have been able to enjoy some of the references and layers of Tarantino's Kill Bill films had not studied the dreck?

I mean Woo has talent, don't get me wrong, but I did watch Hard Target before Hard Boiled, The Killer, and A Better Tomorrow. So before I discovered his good stuff, I thought his most horrible film starring the Muscles from Brussels, was simply awesome. I had never seen action done like that before, and I had never seen slo-mo used so much. Also, I was able to see the origins of the two-people-pointing-guns-at-each-other-at-the-same-time gimmick. When Face/Off came out, I thought I had seen the greatest movie ever, and I went through and watched his film, especially The Killer, about 30 times.

Funny how much our tastes can evolve.

After seeing Face/Off I wanted to know as much about John Woo as I could, so I read interviews he gave. One of the things he mentioned was a great French film that inspired him for The Killer called Le Samourai. I didn't even know who Jean-Pierre Melville was, but I was determined to seek out this film to see what could have possibly inspired my favorite action movie.

I couldn't find the film anywhere, but rather than give up I held out hope, and in the Summer of my 8th grade year, to my complete shock in a tiny little video store in Sunriver, OR I found a copy of Le Samourai.

I rented it and watched it...and waited...and waited...for anything, something to happen...and nothing did. What the crap was this? Where was the action? But I did watch the whole thing, and when it was over I couldn't believe that I had found myself completely hypnotized by the story. This wasn't an action movie, and after watching it a second time I finally saw what John Woo saw: an introspective story about an isolated hitman.

I had an epiphany and realized that with music and dialogue, through subdued acting and muted action, a filmmaker could portray his point without the cheesy slo-mo action scenes and Michael Bay-esque camera spins to make actions seem interesting. A film connoisseur had been born.

At this time, speaking of Michael Bay, I went and saw The Rock in the theater. I hated it. Every moment of it's epic two and a half hours. I remember sitting in theater and just waiting for the movie to wasn't anything like Speed which gave the illusion like it was longer than it actually was with its three different short films in one two hour movie. No, The Rock was just excruciating and painful to sit through. For the first time I had begun to feel the effects of Melville and Le Samourai and I started to see the films I loved so much (I was such a huge action nut) through a different, more critical lens. I started to ask myself, there has to be something more to movies besides this?

The funny thing is, now I can look at a film like The Rock and watch numerous times for how awful it is. I can appreciate the film on a whole different, not so critical, level. I think with age I have been able to appreciate not just the campiness of films like The Rock but also that maybe they shouldn't be taken so seriously, and now I see that it's okay for me to like a really bad action movie by Michael Bay, and a serious French Noir film by one of the great filmmakers of all time, Jean-Pierre Melville.

I can think of some movies where I have done the opposite as well...reversing my original feelings of praise towards the film and turning it into a hatred because so many people go through life still thinking that movies like The Professional, The Fifth Element, The Usual Suspects, and American Beauty are still "great" movies. I remember thinking that Luc Besson was the next big thing and I wacthed The Professional and La Femme Nikita as nauseum. Now I cannot even bring myself to watch any of his films. Looking back on those two movies I can see what I saw as a middel school film buff, but today, they leave me feeling empty.

Interesting, no?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Final Sale

Its finally FINAL sales time! And I admit, I've been struggling with the the-sales-are-so-good-I-simply-MUST-buy-something syndrome. Thus, lately I've spent a LOT of time online window shopping desperately looking for something to buy in order to take advantage of the bargains. So here are some of my finds. After seeing on TV this local celeb wearing this Balenciaga-esque blazer (yes, I recognized the whole look as J Crew- and indeed it was) with an argyle sweater looking really cool, I've been wanting this white blazer (and preferably the argyle sweater too). I just LOVE the simple yellow lining of the blazer. I'd never have thought that yellow lining would look nice- but this one works! And the BEST thing is, it is on sale from $250 to $99!!!! I think that is a fair price considering that it is made of wool, but I'm still hesitant to fork out $100 for J Crew, especially when free shipping is not available.
I've also been dying to get a dress from Shopbop since the sales are up to 70% off and there is free delivery. I even narrowed it down to these two above (left: AKA, right: Karen Zambos), each around $120, which I think is a good deal because they ARE silk dresses and both used to be in the $400 price range- but alas, many of my friends disagree. Maybe my sense of value is going wonky? Anyway, I LOVE these two dresses because one is simple, modern and fun (the pink strip is also detachable making it that much more versatile), while the other is classic, ladylike, very pretty and just very me. I struggled between buying the two at the beginning and was leaning towards the AKA one since its more lively, but alas, its hard to imagine whether it'll look nice on me when I haven't tried it. My friends pointed out that the horizontal partings on the AKA dress may make me look shorter. And I worry that the blue dress is too prim and old looking. Sigh,
thats the thing about final sale items- no return!!
Other things that caught my eye. I thought this dress (left) from Joie is the CUTEST thing. At $88.50 down from $295, it sounds pretty good. Though it occurred to me that it might not so good on me in person. I can't quite put a finger as to why though. Then there was this silk dress (right) from Thayer, which can double as a skirt as well. I don't particularly like the style of the strapless dress, but I love the versatility. Down to around $80 as well, it seems like a good buy.
I adore the black dress with the chiffon sleeves (left) from Sweetface, the mixture of material makes the all black that much more interesting. And its only around $70! And the black metallic Mint Jodi Arnold dress (right) looks so much like this black dress I tried on at Barneys by Alice Ritter, which I fell in love with but was waaay too expensive, that I want it. I love the black metallic texture. If only I didn't already have too many black dresses already.
Another dress I was considering was this pink backless dress from T Bags, because I LOVE the print! From the front it looks nice and its only around $50. But I'm not too hot about the back. The cheap jersey material and bright colors in combination with a big backless hole, borders too much on skanky and slutty for my comfort. Besides, I'm not sure that a cheap looking jersey dress should be worth $50 at all!
We mustn't forget about shoes. I think these two from Ernesto Exposito mary janes are so cute. It has the perfect balance of texture, chunkiness and finesse. PLUS, its a bargain at $150, down from the $500's. And yes, I know, I have a thing for tall, chunky heeled, gently rounded pumps. These ones from Joie are exactly the way I like them. Down to $105 from $210, its not bad. These are SHOES after all. But alas, they ran out of my size.

So in the end, after all this over analysis, I finally didn't end up buying anything. So what do you guys think? Did I make the right decision not to get any of this, or am I missing out on some great deals?

Image Source: J Crew and Shopbop

Ta Fong Aerated Water Company

Interestingly one of my favourite drinks during Chinese New Year was Cream Soda made by Ta Fong Aerated Water Company.

This is heavy memory indeed! And my heart just wants to burst to share this memory with any one who would want to listen or read!

The company, Ta Fong, belonged to one of my maternal uncles, Lau Pang Kwong, and had the address of 26 Central Road,Sibu. From half a shop lot, thousands of wooden crates of 72 black bottles each of different aerated water were produced monthly. Girls who worked there were cheerful and helpful. They were very friendly towards the kids who came around to have a look at the production line. I remember the huge black tubes of gas which would be used to pump the gaseous contents into the black and brown bottles. And a group of girls would paste the labels onto the bottles at the end of the assembly line.

The accountant of the company was Mr. Lau Kwok Chiong,another uncle of mine. He also had a remarkable family of smart children, very soft spoken and polite like him. They used to live in Kung Ping Road (now Brooke Drive) where I grew up. Mrs. Lau, our aunty was a good relative who comforted the children when they were scared and shared cheers during festive seasons. Needless to say, they had lots of Cream Soda and Sarsi for us on Chinese New Year Day. Lau Ai King became a caring nurse with a wonderful heart.

Remembering them, meeting them, only bring back wonderful memories of a Sibu childhood.

The flavours were cherry, sarsi,cream soda, banana and orange.

Each Chinese New Year before the advent of Fraser and Neave,7-UP and Coca Cola our parents would buy one whole crate of "mixed flavours" areated water from Ta Fong. Each big crate had 72 bottles. Later Ngo Kiong came into the market to compete with Ta Fong, but being relatives, we continued to buy Ta Fong. I liked another brand, Green Mountain. But perhaps because it was produced in Binatang (later Bintangor) the economics of production did not encourage a large profit so the company folded up. And there went out of our history a very delightful drink .

We kids would be given our share of the drinks, about six bottles each to be fair and we would hide our share here and there. We would try to drink as little as possible of our share, so that after the new year season, we could take out our bottles and drink slowly. I suppose it was very satisfying to be able "to have" a drink and say to a sibling, "I still have one bottle and you can have a little share of it."

It was a real life lesson on future orientation of needs and wants. My mother would say, " Bitter first, sweet later". Perhaps it was also our lesson in life on hoarding. Some of us became real life hoarders, hoarding everything because "these material things could be of importance in later life". Sometimes we do not even realise that we are hoarding junks. Ten sessions of spring cleaning cannot clear our junk. But I do love my junk.

We delighted in drinking them because our tongues would turn into the colour of the flavour. Of course at that time we did not know the dangers of artificial colouring in our food. Sometimes our mother would come and check our tongue. And yucks the tongues were all orange. Sometimes we laughed at each other because we had such purple tongues!! If we had too much of the banana flavour, our tongues would be ghostly green. And we would run after each other, saying, "Ghost, run away, ghost is coming after you!" And there would be shrieks of laughter in the house.

Sometime ago I did some research on how we could obtain our own Cream Soda Recipe as of course, the Ta Fong would not be able to spill their secrets.

According an American source, interestingly,this pharmacist's effervescent soda recipe for use in soda fountains is taken from the book "Young's Demonstrative Translation of Scientific Secrets" by Daniel Young, published by Rowsell & Ellis, Toronto, in 1861.

It would require:
Loaf sugar 10 lb, water 3 gills, mix, and warm gradually, so as not to burn; good rich cream 2 quarts, extract vanilla 1-1/2 oz, extract nutmeg 1/4 oz, and tartaric acid 4 oz; just bring to a boiling heat; for if you cook it any length of time it will crystallize. Use 4 or 5 spoonfuls of this syrup instead of 3, as in other syrups; put 1/3 teaspoonful of soda to a glass, if used without fountain. For charged fountains, no acid is used.

One of the flavours that I did not like was Sarsaparrilla. Wow, we did not know that it was some kind of wonder drug then. Sarsaparrilla is indeed the root of a woody vine native to South and Central America and the Caribbean contains the diuretic compounds (saponins) and can help lower high blood pressure, as well as play a role in urinary tract health. It helps prevent dangerous fluid build-up, such as that associated with congestive heart failure.

How did the world, and in particular, Sibu, get into the making of carbonated drinks? In fact there is a lot of history behind it. In the 1770s, scientists had already made important progress in replicating naturally carbonated mineral waters. Englishman Joseph Priestley impregnated distilled water with carbon dioxide. Another Englishman, John Mervin Nooth, improved Priestley's design and sold his apparatus for commercial use in pharmacies. Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman invented a generating apparatus that made carbonated water from chalk by the use of sulfuric acid. Bergman's apparatus allowed imitation mineral water to be produced in large amounts.

Added to this series of scientific discoveries, the bottling industry blossomed by leaps and bounds. Over 1,500 U.S. patents, by the 19th century, were filed for either a cork, cap, or lid for the carbonated drink bottle tops during the early days of the bottling industry. Carbonated drink bottles are under a lot of pressure from the gas. Inventors were trying to find the best way to prevent the carbon dioxide or bubbles from escaping. In 1892, the "Crown Cork Bottle Seal" was patented by William Painter, a Baltimore machine shop operator. It was the first very successful method of keeping the bubbles in the bottle.

So in the 1950's, Sibu had already benefitted from western inventions and a small bottling plant as well as aerated water making company was established to cater for the restaurant business and home use.

Today, we can still buy some of these bottled aerated water from some local supermarkets and in fact they are still in good demand as many children continue to like the sweetness of the formulae. Perhaps my children like these drinks because they have heard so much from older friends and relatives about them.

Get a drink and try to get your tongue coloured. Stick out your tongue in jest!! Be young once again!

Of Wearing Buns and Black Trousers

The women of Sibu in the 50's and 60's wore mainly the samfoo, cheong sam (for festive seasons) and fairly rarely western frocks.

The younger ones would sport lovely floral cottons and the not so young would be wearing darker colours. The wealthier women would purchase more expensive materials imported from Europe or Japan. These women would sometimes be very gay and lively wearing their European style clothes too.

The collar of their every day samfoo was not too high. Most of these collars were not padded with a hard piece of cloth as we know from the Chinese movies or documentaries. I remember watching an aunt using a brush to brush the hard collars of her samfoos when she was doing her laundry.

So in a way these every day clothes could be seen every where in Sibu. And thus Chinese women were easily recogniseble, they were delightfully different from the Malay and European women when they appeared on the streets of Sibu.

However one special memory is very dear to me. I had seen my grandmother and her friends wearing only black brocade trousers. Besides, they all wore their hair in a tight bun just above their nape. And I asked her why.

She said that in China, all young married women would be able to sport colourful and creatively printed sam foos or cheong sams. But according to her when a woman "felt old", she should start wearing black trousers and a simple coloured (usually blue)top. In addition, she said that widows would also wear black trousers and a white samfoo top. The older samfoo top was made in such a way that the wearer did not look very sexy as the breasts were sort of suppressed and nothing much was shown. However, the "older" cut was also very elegant and serene. So by wearing a pair of black trousers and a simple , single coloured samfoo top, the elderly lady was indeed
a distinct class above the rest of the women folk.

By way of calling, those wearing black trousers would be called "Ah Moo" or Old Aunty. A younger married woman would be called "Ah Sing" or Aunty. So we were quite courteous as we could judge by way of the clothes our relatives wore.

Today, a 72 year old woman may be wearing a nice blouse with a pair of LEVI jeans and perhaps it would be most unwise to call her Ah Moo.

Then what about wearing a bun ?

Buns are lovely to look at today. But in those days, buns were only done up in just one or two ways, tied up, and bunned up in a net, or tied up and bunned up under a plastic looking cover, faily similar to what we have today. To make themselves smell wonderful, most of the senior ladies like my grandmother would slip one or two Bai Yu Lan or Ylang Ylang into their bun. Thus the fragrance of this flower would always bring back good memories of my wonderful grandmother.

Some of the older Foochow women had their hair cut rather short after they passed their child bearing age, while most of the others would have their hair permed in the western style.

I have a suspicion that when a Foochow woman passed her child bearing age, she would indicate by her clothes and hair style that she was passed the age of serving her husband in the bedroom. Perhaps this was putting it very delicately in a certain kind of language understood by the people of those days.

A bit of digression here as my thoughts go haywire. Perhaps no sane man would go and rape a woman wearing a pair of black trousers!! If we were to practice this today, I am wondering whether the rape rate would decrease.

Another point of interest I would like to raise is the fact that many of the Chinese women who were brought into Sarawak before the Second World War were actually Chinese nationals and they were given a Red Identity Card by the Sarawak Government.

I remember my Grandmother carrying her IC as if it was the most important part of her life. She kept it in a very neat purse and made sure that it was with her.

When she was in her death bed, she asked for it once or twice. It must have meant a lot to her.

Usually most of these Chinese nationals went on their ordinary lives without being very much bothered because whether they were nationals of Sarawak or not, it did not make any difference. They were mothers of Sarawakian children and they worked as hard as any one if not harder. The law did not go after them either, to chase them back to China.

But there was indeed some distinction between China born and Sarawak born Foochow women. That made it even more interesting and meaningful in our social life then.

Kai Peng Road

There used to be a road between the Methodist School and Brooke Drive and it was called Pak Ke Diurn in Hokkien or Pa Gie Diurn in Foochow. In English it was called Cock Fighting Arena or Court or stadium.

I remember a Chinese family surnamed Kiu living there and they had a son called Kevin. Perhaps one Foochow Chiew family also lived there for some time. Their children were called Edmund and Kee Ping. Methodist School students from the town used to take this road as a short cut if they went to school on foot. There were rubber trees to walk under and one big wooden house to skirt around. The road was later named Kai Peng Road, and today it is no longer in existence.

Kevin Kiu, Edmund Chiew lee Ung and Chiew lee Ping formed a very tight group of friends. It was very obvious when we were in school that they were thick friends, inseparables like the Famous Five, from Enid Blyton's books. So we used to imagine their pranks, their adventures or misadventures .

I also remember that one or two boys from this area had a big fist fight one day after school. Many of the Methodist School boys were in the know about the serious disagreement. It could be something that was very unjust. Fear spread through the hearts of the boys and girls in the school because it was a fight just too near the school for comfort. We even heard that a knife was produced!! And for a few days, many of us girls did not take the short cut to the school.

The Cock Fighting Arena was a loose medley of wooden houses, with no fencing, like any other Malay Kampung. Some of the wooden houses had a eerie look as they were fairly empty in the day time. Some times in our hurry to school we could hear the rubber seeds exploding over our heads. At times we could see the chickens running around freely, without fear of being stolen or captured by the passers - by. As I recollect those days, I am very touched that the people living in that area really offered a very safe passage for students who went to school on foot. Perhaps then life had a very different approach towards the well being of every one.

Of course at night , none of us ever went that way. It was just one of the "short cuts" that we used in our childhood.

But I never saw an organised cock fight there.

Later, when we grew up we went our separate ways. I often wonder if these boys ever got back together for reunions.

How did this place get the name I often wonder. Perhaps there is a mysterious story there.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We Are One

The title of this blog has so very many meanings. First and foremost it alludes to the fact that today is officially TOKYOMADE's 1st birthday. February 14 holds a special place in our hearts for reasons other than V Day, although love hearts and big hugs also play a major role in our day of celebration.

This week we celebrated with fancy newness. Swooning over the artistic creations of Tokyo-based illustrator Josh McKible we welcomed his new range, MCKIBILLO to TOKYOMADE. The Nani Bird series is a constant source for a good old grin for us, knowing we are at times in the same boat as these lil birdies. Nani? (What?)


BLITZ Kiss added more vibrantly colored pop to her new accessory range. They are being snapped up, just like we knew they would! The kitschy Japanese toy theme in her latest range is a hot trend with many London hipsters!


chief&mischief keep serving up their superb style of tempting street wear. More tees headed your way.

It has been an enormous year filled with intensity and fulfillment. We launched on this day last year with a few fabulous designers and have grown to now support 40 Japan-based creators. A fabulously international mix of truly talented folks who blow us away daily with their professionalism, kindness and skill.

More than anything, TOKYOMADE has given us and many of the creators on this site the opportunity to connect, build friendships, share ideas and grow. This in itself is a powerful reward for the hard work and effort pumped into making a project like TOKYOMADE float (the parties are pretty superb too, a definite perk!) Thank you to each and every idea sharer, designer, illustrator, creator, maker, builder, producer, mixer you are a constant bubbling spring of pure inspiration for us! Thank you.

We are eternally grateful and connected to you; the supporters, fans, emailers, the shoppers for sharing our love for Japan-based creation and design. It is always a joy to hear from you, receive your messages of support and of course your purchases are telling of your admiration for the ranges on offer here at TOKYOMADE. Thank you.

We plan to celebrate tonight by joining Tokyo's glitterati at Glitterball. Toted as the annual night of pleasure, thrills and chills. Sounds like a spectacular way to top of a thrill-filled year. Thank you once again, we intend to propose many a toast to you all. Looking forward to celebrating a decade of TOKYOMADE action with you!

London Fashion Week F/W08 Wrapup I

It's time to take a look at London Fashion Week. As usual, a lot of the clothes are very artsy in a fashion-school-project way. The clothes aren't entirely practical, but I think these collections are cute:

Christopher Kane
Since he debuted a few seasons ago, Kane's show has possibly been each of London season's most anticipated catwalk to watch. I usually like looking at his collections, even though I really am not a fan of tight clothes. But this season, his clothes are loose, yet this creative-looking.
Lots of big, long, wool sweaters. Finally some clothes that look more like daywear than costume-wear.
Most of the clothes were covered with paillettes, (which I think are basically huge sequins.) As per London's usual style, the pailette-covered clothes did not look simply minimal and sparkly, but had lots of artsy details.
I like the fusion of the pailettes and sheer fabric. I especially like the grey dress in the middle -it actually looks wearable for cocktail functions and parties.

I admit I have no idea how the original Biba (from the 60's) looked like, so when I look at the current collection, I look at it as if they were just any other new collection whose brand has a strong 60's influence. While I'm not sure how practical these clothes are to most of us in real life, I really liked a lot of the individuals pieces. The clothes really give off a cool, girly, glamorous vibe.
As from Biba's origin, there were a lot of mini-dresses. I love these dresses because they look so young and the colours are so vibrant.
Imagine glamorous girls walking in cities in these outfits. Way too cool. I love all those details on the purple dress. (The details are on some of the other dresses, which are just as pretty!)
And for those who don't like colourful clothes, there were a good range of grey and black dresses and skirts. Sigh, if only we had the money and the life to sit around in bars in these gorgeous mini-dresses!

I haven't noticed PPQ until recently. PPQ is apparently a favourite among young British 'socialites'. The dresses are SO cute! Admittedly, many of these dresses are not entirely cocktail-party-cool or the modern effortless-dresses, but they're so darling that I can't help but adore them!
The collection started off with some FW-looking clothes -dark-coloured dresses and coats.
And then the fun began -prom dress time! Usually I hate tie-dyed looking clothes, but I really like the way the colours blend and the cut of the tie-dye dress in the middle. And the bright yellow dress on the right is my favourite dress out of this collection. I think I just really like how the black legnth of chiffon wraps around the dress. Again, cute!
And even more cute, young dresses! The dress on the left would be so fantastic if you have cool events to go to.

It's a pity it's not often I manage to find clothes by Biba and PPQ in stores. I think I have only ever seen a dress (a rather unimpressive one at that,) or two in a department store once. What are your thoughts on London Fashion Week so far?

Image credit:

Aren't you the Hootest?


Some traditional Foochow Food

Xian Cai (salted vegetables): It is made by putting leaf mustard under the sun until it is tender. Then layer crude salt between leaf mustard and press it. Finally, place a stone on the top layer and let the vegetables drain its moisture out for one week. The finished product is usually cooked into a soup with meat (pork, pig stomach, duck) or stir-fried with dried fish or pig blood. It tastes delicious.

Luo Bo Gan (dried radish) : Also named Cai Pu, Luo Bo Gan is made by first cutting fresh radish into small pieces and then preserving them with salt, drying them in the shade, and finally also sun-dried. Today, the Foochows use this preserved vegetables in a stir fry with eggs, in steaming of fish and in stir frying with fresh radish cake.

Luo Bo Si: In the winter, when radish is in season, fresh radish is shredded, air-dried, and sun-dried. It is rich in Vitamin D. It’s usually cooked together with eggs and meat. Sometimes it is used in fillings for steamed buns.

Luo Bo Qian: Luo Bo Qian is the sister product of Luo Bo Gan and Luo Bo Si. Fresh radish is sliced into coin-like shapes and air- and sun-dried. It’s usually used to make soup such as Luo Bo Qian Rou Pian Tang. It tastes delicious.

Dou Fu Pi: Dou Fu Pi is a kind of Tofu product. Before it is made into a dish, it is better to deep-fry it. This way, it tastes better

Large intestine: One of the major incomes in the agricultural society was raising pigs. Sellers could take internal organs away when pigs were sold. Foochow people stir-fry pig intestine with shredded ginger and lots of soy sauce and sugar, creating a delicious dish. Sometimes vinegar is used to cook this dish too.

Fun Chang: Fun Chang is often cooked with lots of ginger and wine. Just a simple stir fry dish but it takes a long time to clean and prepare properly.

Xia mi: This is made by sun-drying tiny shrimps. Sometimes Foochows will pound them to form cincaluk, or shrimp sauce.

Cu or vinegar: The Foochows make their own vinegar by deliberately making their rice wine sour. This is a good kind of vinegar. But today not many people will bother to prepare it.

Black fermented beans: Fermented beans may be juiced to make soy sauce. They are also used to make fermented beans spareribs, fermented beans oysters, and fermented beans dried fish.

Hong Zao (red wine lees): A special material used by Foochows for pickling food, Hong Zao is made by fermenting red yeast and rice, and an indispensable seasoning for Foochow people. It is often used to stir-fry or steam with meat such as Hong Zao Steamed Pork, Hong Zao Chicken, and Hong Zao Pig Tail and especially duck. We also use it to pickle mustard greens, and long beans.

A Pig Tale from Tanjong Kunyit

Tanjong Kunyit is a lovely river bend along the Rejang River where several foochow families started their lives in Sarawak. In due time, they cleared the forest and planted rubber treees. Tanjong Kunyit grew into a very nice riverine settlement where everyone worked hard to develop their land, planting lots of fruit trees, vegetables, and oranges.

This is a tale of a brave, spirited ,illiterate woman, who against all odds raised a large family while her husband was away earning a cash income for the family. That was the norm of those days. Many Foochow women had hard lives as they had to make ends meet and often they really had to depend on their own wits to survive.

In order to have a steady cash income herself, Aunty Wong had a household pig sty in her backyard. She would normally have two mother pigs and a stud. Each year she would have two or three litters of piglets. But what was very lucrative for her was the raising of studs which fetched an enormous sum. One year, she sold one stud and that was enough to buy her a food safe which is still in very good condition in her kitchen today after more than 30 years!! When she gave me the account of herself, she kept pointing to the food safe(hang diu in Foochow), trying to make a point about her past. She had "eaten all the bitterness" in life.

From one litter of pigs she could have enough cash for the family for a few months. Her rubber sheets would earn the family a good income for education, travelling expenses, and extra food and medicine in those days. Again she em;hasized that she would get up as early as two a.m. in the morning to tap rubber. Her chores would not complete until about two when she and her older children had completed rolling the rubbers sheets and had them up to dry in the sun.

She also remembered that it was very safe at that time and no one would dare to steal their rubber sheets drying in the sun. They had neighbours but they were far apart from each other, unlike today. People live in terraced houses, in close proximity on 0.4 acres of land. In those days, the rubber tappers' houses were on 6 to 7 acres of land and were scattered all over.

While there was daylight left, she would continue to boil the pig feed, using weeds, wild yam leaves and left overs for the pigs. If she had about 20 pigs in the sty she would be extremely happy and proud. It was lovely to look at the snorting pigs. Seeing them grow very rapidly was a great comfort.

Life was not easy for her to say the least. She had to carry water on her shoulders, wash the sty clean a few times a day. And in a rough way, the little backyard farm was well managed without outside and professional consultation.

To her home pig rearing was a very lucrative profession . Almost everyone according to her had a little backyard pig farm which helped the families to be very self sufficient. In many ways, she was indeed a woman with two professions!! A pig farmer as well as rubber tapper.

What she was most afraid of was swine fever. And luckily, the fever was few and far in between. She never had any help from the government vetrinarian department.

After the decline of the rubber industry and the communist insurgency, her husband decided to move the family elsewhere. Her husband had by then worked in timber camps, in construction sites and had even cleared a sizeable tract of land in Simanggang, now Sri Aman. This land, fairly valuable now, has been inherited by her sons.

By then the family was already a large one and the older children were of marriageable age. It was not too difficult to migrate to another place. The family thus left Tanjong Kunyit, the pig sty and the rubber trees.

She said that the family was like a pupa ready to break out of a cocoon.

Today her butterflies are enjoying a good life and she should be also sitting back and watching her grandchildren grow. But she continues to work very very hard every day. She is used to multi tasking.

According to a reliable source of information,today there are approximately 700 farms operating throughout Malaysia with a standing pig population of over 1.5 million. However,there are only eight slaughterhouses with veterinary inspections. In total they conduct slaughtering of approximately 1.6 million heads a year.

Nevertheless, our country is self-sufficient in production of pork. Prior to the JE outbreak, our country was 133% self-sufficient in pork production with the excess exported to Singapore. Today the self-sufficiency is about 100%.

Thus,we cannot thank Foochow women like Aunty Wong enough for helping the economy of Sarawak grow slowly in the old days through their sheer hardwork and frugal lifestyle. They were the ones who supplied the pork in the market in the olden days. Today more than 50 years later,some changes have been made in the pig rearing sector, but definitely more must be done in order to provide for better quality of pork meat.

Perhaps one must consider the importance of free range pigs and smaller organic farms in the future for better lives and better health. Aunty Wong would be a wise person to consult.

Square Hoot

Douglas Bilian

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


A few things that are pushing me forward right now

"If we truly digest and understand the repercussions of “otherness,” then maybe we can understand the very essence of healing the planet and ourselves." Kris Carr

Sarma's fight. A global shift, imagine it.

Hot Chocolate and Mint - the blog, not the bev.

Finding used books in Tokyo. A might feat.

Sprouting. Our own mini farms. Big fun!

Ashtanga baby!

New projects, new sites to be built and new adventures!


Valentine's for Friends!

Valentine's day is just around the corner! Over the years, I feel like we've quite exhausted the topic of Valentine's, from what to get for her, for him to what to wear. So this year, I've decided to take on a different angle and do Valentine's for friends. As someone reminded me lately, Valentine's day is the day to show people we love that we love them, and that is not exclusive for lovers.
A very good idea is to make personalized Vday cards for all your friends, like the ones above (left) from Shutterfly. Its simple and sweet. Other ideas. I quite like this "All About Me" book from UO where they can fill in their life's tale. What better gift than to give them a perspective on themselves?
Classic pink Vday trinkets like this rose ring and compact heart shaped mirror from UO is also a nice touch. Lovey dovey presents don't always have to come from your lover after all.
But of course, amongst us girls, we know that the true path into our hearts is not through heart shaped trinkets, but through lots of pampering and primping. So might I suggest these darling lip shines from Philosophy (left) or nail varnishes in fun colors (right: OPI)?
You can even throw in some Spa sets (left: Bliss, right: Cosmedicene) and have a girl's night in, giving each other spa treatments and painting each other's nails....
...while watching this season's most girl power tv show, Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle. So far, I like Cashmere Mafia more.
And last but not least, sweets! More specifically, I have a craving for cupcakes. These are from Sprinkle's, but I've never tried them. So my heart is with the Magnolia bakery cupcakes from NYC.....yum! I keep on thinking about them, I fear that I've placed it on a pedestal and it is only in my imagination that they are so good. But yes, these will be the perfect thing to share with your friends and show them you love them (also think of Blair's super sleepover in GG- they had cupcake fountains too!). I know I'd feel loved :)

Happy early Valentine's Day everyone!

Image Source: IMBD, Sephora, Urban Outfitters, Shutterfly and Sprinkles

Pointless Oscar predictions!!!

Short post today:

Best Picture: No Country For Old Men
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Best Actress: Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
Best Screenplay (Original): Diablo Cody (Juno)
Best Screenplay (Adapted): Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy)
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There)
Best Editing: Roderick Jaynes (No Country For Old Men)
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (No Country For Old Men)
Best Animated Feature: Ratatoullie (Brad Bird)
Best Documentary: No End in Sight

All the other technical and music awards I have no idea...I am sure that song from Once will win for best song, and I am sure that No Country For Old Men will some other technical awards...but as far as short films and the like...I have no clue.

There are my predictions, I'll watch just to see how many I got long as the ceremony doesn't take 5 hours. And no Whoopi please...who's hosting this thing anyway?

Who I think will win and who I want to win are two different stories. I would like to see Ellen Page win for Best Actress, and I would like to see (even though Day-Lewis was amazing) George Clooney win for Michael Clayton, one of my very favorite movies of the year.

This really feels like one of those years where they spread the love with the awards. I remember when Steven Soderbergh won Best Director for Traffic, and I was so stoked because I thought maybe it could win Best Picture, too. But it lost out to the giant turd known as Gladiator.

Lucky for us, this year doesn't have a giant turd of a movie like that nominated. It looks like the Academy did a wise thing and nominated some dark and unconventional films. So I think that they reward Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood, much like they rewarded Soderbergh for Traffic. I would have thought that Atonement was a sure thing for the Oscar, but it has little to no buzz going in, and the very opposite and very American, No Country For Old Man has stolen all of its early season thunder. Which is good. It would be too easy for the Academy to give the award to a ready-made picture like Atonement (which I liked quite a bit), which is like The English Patient, circa 2007. When you watch the movie it just screams Best Picture Oscar...but I am glad that the more ambiguous and darker No Country For Old Men seems to be the current front runner.

I want No Country to win all of the technical awards, and I wouldn't be surprised if it does. Although, Atonement or There Will Be Blood could steal some away.

The biggest losers of the night are the Documentary and Animated Feature categories. The people that nominate titles for this category (I have a feeling) don't even watch the movies, but look at box office numbers to decide for them. No End in Sight was a great documentary, and Sicko was average, but to not nominate Into Great Silence! That is a crime. (Although, one doc I haven't seen, Taxi to the Dark Side, is supposed to be amazing...)

And then to the geniuses who nominate the animated features: do you even know what good animation is? I mean, I guess it doesn't matter because whenever Brad Bird has an animated feature up for an award, he'll win every time, but nominate Surf's Up over The Simpson's movie may be one of the biggest blunders I have ever seen from the nomination committee. Surf's Up was an average movie at best with average animation, whereas The Simspon's Movie, looked like a big screen animated feature, not something you could get for free on cable tv.


Oh well...there are my pointless Oscar predictions for 2007!!!
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