Sunday, 28 June 2009

A second chance at love

Once in a while, we come across an obscure movie that's played by top-rate actors... and it makes us wonder why the movie is not that well-known. I watched one such movie last night and it is a gem.

Last Chance Harvey stars two Oscar-winning actors in the lead roles, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. It tells the story of a jingle-writing musician, Harvey Shine (played by Hoffman) facing a crisis in his career. He reluctantly goes to London to attend the wedding of his estranged daughter but his mind is constantly on his work because of the fear that he might lose his job to other younger guys.

Thompson plays Kate Walker, a single woman who works for the British Public Statistics Agency. Her boring job involves handling questionnaires to arriving passengers at Heathrow Airport. On one such occasion, she approaches Harvey who has just got off the plane from New York but he rudely brushes her off. After work, Kate goes to a blind date that was arranged by a colleague but the date turned out to be a spoiler.

Harvey attends the pre-wedding dinner at a restaurant but his presence was awkwardly received. Things did not get any better when after dinner, his daughter Susan tells him that she wants her step-father to give her away at the wedding tomorrow.

Harvey attends the wedding ceremony the next morning but leaves immediately after the vows were exchanged. He wants to hurry back to the US to close a business contract but gets caught in the London traffic jam that caused him to miss his flight. He calls his boss in New York only to be told that the account is being handled by someone else and that Harvey is now no longer needed.

Harvey walks to the airport bar and has a few shots of whisky to drown his sorrows. He notices a lone woman reading a book at a nearby table and realized that it is the same questionnaire lady that he avoided earlier. He strikes up a conversation by first apologizing for his rude manner. Kate does not recognize him but accepts his apology anyway just to cut the conversation short. The first few exchanges of lines were testy but it turned to be more cordial when Harvey's answer of how shitty his day has been convinced Kate that his day was worse than hers. The casual conversation continued over lunch and included a short but interesting discussion on the British phrase of `stiff upper lip'.

The friendship continues with a walk along the Thames River in London. Kate convinces Harvey to go to his daughter's wedding reception but Harvey will only go if Kate agrees to come along. At the reception, Harvey redeems himself by delivering a short but moving speech as the father-of-the-bride. The movie then continues with events that unfold as the friendship between Harvey and Kate develops.

Last Chance Harvey is a romantic movie that succeeds purely on the acting strength of the two lead characters. There is no action scene whatsoever... just dialogue, facial expressions and gestures. It would be a boring movie for some but I loved it. It is a story of having the chance to fall in love again. No matter how old you are. Yes... I am a sentimental old fool sometimes.

If you need a good pick-me-up sort of movie to get over any disappointment or despair, do watch this one. Get the DVD or catch it when it makes its appearance on Astro.

Last Chance Harvey (December 2008)
Written and Directed by Joel Hopkins
Duration : 1 hr 28 min.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

If all else fails, then just direct-translate

Language is a wonderful living thing. Everyday new words come into existence while some existing words evolve new meanings.

The bulk of new words of course, comes from the area of technology. When I was a student, the words `cyberspace', `blogosphere' or even` email' did not exist. Hardware would refer to tools and building materials. There wasn't anything called software yet. Those days, they were called computer programs... the set of instructions written in code that tell the computer exactly what to do.

The rapid development of information technology gave birth to so many new words and terminologies. The speed of such advancement made it hard for the Malay language to keep up. Translators of English technical terms into Malay had a tough time. It is more often easier to make direct translations rather than create new Malay words. Words like disket and e-mel are immediately understood as compared to translations that use existing Malay words.

I remember some years ago reading in the daily Singapore Malay newspaper, the Malay word `softwe'. The proper translation of this word is now `perisian'. I can understand why this translation is chosen because the root word of `perisian' is `isi', meaning `content'. The logic of this being that software is the thing inside the computer that makes it run. Close enough.

`Hardware' is translated as `perkakasan'. Acceptable, I guess... unless you prefer `alatan keras'.

A word that I frequently use nowadays is `softcopy' (or perhaps, more correctly spelt as `soft-copy'). I don't think there's a Malay translation yet.

The world of IT is not the only contributor to new Malay words. There are many words being used by today's younger generation that I never heard when I was a child. When I heard my son first use the word `poyo', I asked him what he meant.

`Poyo tu poyo lah abah... takkan tu pun abah tak tahu,' he replied. I can guess what it means but the word is not in any Malay dictionary. Other new and interesting Malay words that I hear nowadays are `otai' and (my personal favourite) `skodeng'.

What actually prompted me to put up this post is something I saw at Tesco Hypermarket last Sunday. We were having lunch at the foodcourt before doing our shopping. As I collected my plate of fried rice from one of the foodstalls, I noted that the girl did not give me any spoon. When I asked her for it, she pointed to another section of the foodcourt marked `Kutleri'. This word is of course, a direct translation from the English `cutlery', meaning the implements that we use in having our meal... namely forks, spoons and knives. There is no equivalent of this collective noun in Malay... so I guess `kutleri' would have to do.

I have checked both my Kamus Dewan and its online version... `kutleri' does not officially exist yet. I have no doubt most Malaysians would know what the word means although I'm sure there are those of the older generation who would be puzzled. Nonetheless, as the norm goes for all new words, frequent and popular use would soon make it acceptable.

Perhaps one day, it would not sound awkward when I mention to a colleague that, `aku dah e-mel salinan lembut artikel blog itu kepada kau semalam.'

Friday, 19 June 2009

My first attempt at creating a video

My nephew who got married a few weeks ago, hired a professional photographer to take pictures of the event. I had a look at the photographer's website where he has uploaded a video montage of the wedding. I have to say that the guy is quite good... the photos are beautiful.

Since I have my own collection of pics of the event, I thought that I might try making a video of my own. The Windows Movie Maker program has been sitting in my laptop all this while and it is about time that I experiment with it.

So here's my first attempt at video making... it is nowhere as good as the pro's, but we all have to start somewhere. Bear in mind that the pro-photographer used a dSLR. Where I lose out are the zoom shots, close-up potraits, depth-of-field control and of course, sharpness. In other words, everything *sigh*

I really need to get my hands on a Nikon dSLR soon...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Another bridge for whose benefit?

I have tried to refrain from posting about the proposed Third Bridge linking us to Singapore, ever since PM Najib made the surprising announcement a few weeks back. It has become a kedai kopi topic amongst us citizens of Johor Bahru.

I can come up with a string of reasons why I find this new idea perplexing but in the end, I think it is sufficient for me to repeat the comment I left at Fauziah Ismail's blog... that the PM is not telling us everything. So much for his `People First' approach...

And today, I read in The Star Online that the Sultan of Johor does not agree that this third link be built. Thank you, Tuanku!

Let's see how the politicians wiggle out of this one.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Weekend at home

For the past four consecutive weekends, I have been away on the road. This meant that the normal chores that I do on weekends have been neglected. The plants in my compound have overgrown and my garden is an embarassment.

This weekend therefore, shall be spent at home and catching up on tasks that are long overdue. It started this afternoon with cleaning of the fish tanks. Work will continue tomorrow with some trimming and re-potting of plants. No posts about weddings or makan angin. Instead I'll leave you with an interlude that came to mind after I read blogger Andrea's entry that contained the `F' word...

Mencarut dalam kelas

Dalam sebuah sekolah rendah, terdapat seorang budak darjah 3 bernama Dollah. Dia dimarahi oleh gurunya (Cikgu Saodah) kerana mencarut di dalam kelas dengan menyebut f**k. Lalu Cikgu Saodah pun mendenda Dollah dengan berdiri di atas meja.

"Dollah!! Kenapa kamu mencarut tadi?" tanya Cikgu Saodah.

Dengan perasaan hairan Dollah pun jawap, "Erk, saya mencarut ke Cikgu? Saya ikut bapak saya cakap je…"

"Kamu tau ke apa maksud perkataan yang kamu sebut tadi?" tanya Cikgu Saodah lagi.

"Tahu Cikgu," jawap Dollah dengan yakin. "F**k tu maksudnya enjin kereta tokleh start Cikgu.."

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Baby pics!

Our nephew and his wife came to visit earlier today. They brought along their two daughters, the younger of whom I last saw a few months ago and posted about it here -> A grand old man.

Nurul Aqilah is now just over four months old and is growing up to be a cute and chubby young lady.

Oldstock with his two grandnieces, Nurul Aishah and Nurul Aqilah

Aqilah in the arms of her grandaunt, Mrs Oldstock

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Baik membawa resmi padi

The past weekend was spent at the wedding reception of my nephew held at his parent's home in Rawang, Selangor. Rather than post more wedding photos, I thought it would be better if I upload pictures taken while we were at Kedah and Perlis the week before.

While the groom and his family headed back to Rawang after the ceremony at the bride's place in Alor Star, we decided to drive a bit further north to Kangar in Perlis to stay at another brother-in-law's place.

We spent two days in Kangar. The first night, my BIL took us out for dinner at Kuala Perlis. We had our fill of fresh seafood. The next day, lunch was at this popular makan place called Anjung Keli. While I do not eat ikan keli (freshwater catfish), my sons love them. Later in the day, my BIL took us to Padang Besar where I bought some imitation football jerseys for my sons.

When we left Kangar the following day, I decided to take the old road to Alor Star rather than the highway, just for adventure. This journey took us past beautiful landscape of paddy fields stretching as far as the eye can see. The scenery reminds me of another Malay proverb that I have used as a title for this post.

A few kilometres before reaching the town of Alor Star, I spotted a roadsign showing the way to Kota Kuala Kedah. I decided to make a detour and was pleasantly surprised to come across a site of historical importance.

View from Kota Kuala Kedah towards upstream

Downstream view from Kota Kuala Kedah towards the sea

Kuala Kedah town and fishermen's jetty on the opposite bank

Kota Kuala Kedah is an old fort built in the early 17th century during the reign of Sultan Sulaiman Shah II. It is located on the north bank at the Sungai Kedah rivermouth. The ruins of the fort is now maintained as a tourist attraction.

The old Shahbandar's house has been converted to a tourist information centre. Note the old Portugese gate in the background.

The old Kuala Kedah lighthouse within the fort compound

After making a quick tour of the fort, we went to look for a place to have lunch. I saw a large signboard of a newly-opened eating place called Restoran Bahtera Nelayan. The way to this restaurant took us along small winding roads right on the edge of some paddy fields. When we finally reached the place, we found a new building built next to the river with part of the structure standing on piles by the water's edge. A wooden jetty connects the building to the river, past some mangrove trees. It was quite a peaceful setting.

Wooden jetty connecting the restaurant to the river's edge

View of Sungai Kedah from the wooden jetty

The restaurant is managed by the local Persatuan Nelayan Kawasan Kuala Kedah and of course, serves mainly seafood. Since I was in the adventurous mood, I had the waitress recommend they way the dishes should be cooked. We had ikan jenahak bakar basah, udang sambal thai and ikan sembilang masak gulai asam.

The bakar basah style refers to grilling the sambal-coated fish in a pouch of aluminium foil. This way, the moisture and flavour is kept within the pouch. The prawns were cooked in a spicy hot sauce that I have never tasted before. The ikan sembilang (saltwater catfish) which I also do not eat, was my son's choice. It was cooked in a simple sour soup not unlike tomyam but not quite. Also somewhat similar to asam pedas but not quite too. The soup contained cubes of keledek (sweet potato) to give the dish a hint of sweetness. A truly unique taste of gulai utara.

Udang sambal thai, gulai asam ikan sembilang and kailan ikan masin

All the dishes tasted delicious and the price was reasonable too. It was worth the trouble driving along the winding lanes to search for the place.

The lovely lunch meant that the driving back to Kuala Lumpur would be tough journey. We left Alor Star and entered the North-South Expressway to head south. We safely reached KL, made a brief stop at a sister's house before driving onwards to Johor Bahru. The full stretch from north to south in a single day.

On the whole, it was a very tiring trip but a very memorable one too.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Alang-alang menyeluk pekasam

Seems like I'm in the mood of using part of Malay proverbs as title for my posts. The full peribahasa Melayu reads, `Alang-alang menyeluk pekasam, biar sampai ke pangkal lengan'. It is an advice on not doing things at half-measure.

I've used this proverb so many times and yet I have never fully known what the word `pekasam' means. Until last week, that is. But we will get to that part shortly. I first like to continue with the story of my nephew's wedding from the previous post.

Some of you commented on the poignant moment when the groom cried while hugging his mother after the nikah procedure was over. This touching scene caused all the aunts (and some uncles) to shed tears too. The significance of the moment can be understood by knowing some history. Twenty-seven years ago, Fathhullah Azmie, was born two months premature. When he came out of his mother's womb, he was slightly larger than an adult's palm. The first month of his life was spent in an incubator. It was a touch and go situation. His parents were not sure he would make it. By the grace of Allah, he pulled through and survived. He has grown up to be a fine young man who is now a medical doctor posted in the rural outback somewhere in Pahang and on the way to starting a family of his own.

The nikah ceremony actually started in jovial mood. My wife's siblings are mostly jolly folks. We like to poke fun at each other. As we say in Malay, memang kuat bergurau. The bride, Nur Wahidah, being the newest addition to the family, is not spared either. But she's a good sport and she took all our jests in her stride. The following incident illustrates an example.

The day after the akad nikah is the reception at the bride's home and it includes the bersanding ceremony. Our entourage arrived at the reception right on time and assembled at the road junction a few metres from the house. The bride was supposed to come out and meet her groom outside, after which both of them would walk together side-by-side towards the wedding dais.

All of us from the groom's family waited in line for Wahidah to come out. When she arrived, she stood in front of us expecting to be paired with her groom but Fathhullah was nowhere to be seen. We were all mischievously grinning when one of the groom's sister jokingly said, `Alamak! Kita lupa bawa suami awak la... Nampaknya tak boleh nak bersanding hari ni.'

Wahidah nonchalantly replied, `Takpe... bersanding dengan Ucu pun boleh.' Ucu in this case, refers to the groom's uncle who is also my wife's youngest brother (he's the guy holding the mike for the groom in one of the pics in the earlier post). As it happens, Ucu is still single.

We all had a good laugh.... way to go, young lady. You'll fit right in with our family.

The groom's entourage upon arrival at the bride's house for the bersanding ceremony

The bride wondering where her husband is. The groom is quietly sitting in the Camry behind her.

Jangan lah masam muka... kitaorang gurau je!

Upon arrival at the house, we heard two loud bangs. This young man fired the shots into the air, apparently as a form of greeting to the newly-weds. I had him pose proudly with his gun for this pic. Talk about a shotgun wedding!

Indahnya pengantin bersanding atas pelamin

The groom's family. My three nieces in this pic are all still available

Right... now back to the story of pekasam. Before the bersanding ceremony that morning, we went to the Pekan Rabu in Alor Star to look for some breakfast. At a foodstall on the ground floor, the wife and I had some mee hoon sup utara while our son had something called nasi goreng brazil (see pic above). How's that for being creative in naming a dish!

After breakfast, we browsed the other floors of the Pekan Rabu and came across some stalls selling ikan pekasam. It is the first time I've seen the pickled fish as they are not available in Johor. I later found out the the pekasam process involves fermenting the fish (generally the fresh water variety) in dry-roasted ground rice plus some salt. The two main ingredients of pekasam, namely fresh-water fish and rice, are widely available in the northern states as compared to the south. That is why I never came across pekasam before, except in a Malay proverb.

The array of ikan pekasam sold at Pekan Rabu includes ikan puyu, ikan sepat and ikan lampam

There's something new to be learnt everyday. Now if only someone can explain to me the `menyeluk sampai ke pangkal lengan' part...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Ikan di laut, asam di darat

It has been a very busy weekend. My nephew who is originally from Johor Bahru, got married to a sweet young lass from Alor Star in Kedah. On Saturday, we made the long travel up north as part of the rombongan pengantin lelaki (groom's entourage).

After the bernikah (wedding vows) ceremony, we took the opportunity to visit a brother-in-law of mine in Kangar, Perlis. We have just now returned back to JB from Kangar, a drive of around 750km. I have now driven the full length of the North-South Expressway.

The groom's father now lives in Rawang, Selangor. Next weekend is the reception at his place. It means that, for three consecutive weekends, I'll be doing some long-distance driving and becoming a loyal customer of Plus Expressways Bhd. Thank god for energy drinks.

So please pardon me if this post contains more pictures than text. I'll write about the wedding and the trip up north in upcoming entries.

My congratulations to Dr. Fathhullah Azmie Bin Nawawi and Nur Wahidah Binti Abidin. May the coming years be filled with warmth, joy and understanding.

Selamat Pengantin Baru. Semuga kekal hingga ke anak cucu.

The groom showing his array of gifts to the bride

The groom with his three sisters

Nine trays of hadiah hantaran

In the mosque with the Tok Qadi reading out the khutbah nikah

The Tok Qadi cracking a joke to relieve the groom's nervousness

The groom reading out his lafaz takliq

All clear... time to put pen on paper

The bride signing her agreement to be a wife

The groom is all-smiles even before the ink on the paper has dried

Handing over of the dowry from husband to wife

Part of the bride's gifts in return include a Sony Playstation 3. Now that's new!

The groom in an emotional embrace with his mother when it is all over and done

Footnote : The title of this post refers to a Malay proverb which in whole, reads : Ikan di laut, asam di darat. Dalam belanga bertemu jua. I do not know of an English equivalent but the approximate meaning is that though two hearts may be far apart (figuratively, of different worlds), it is destiny that they would meet one day and be joined in matrimony.