Monday, 28 June 2010

The next game to watch : Germany vs Argentina

In the previous post, the England team was not on my list of favourites to lift the title. The just completed game against Germany shows us why. Even if we were to count in the clearly legitimate goal by Frank Lampard, it would still not be enough.

The Germans were devastating in their quick and accurate counter-attacks. And they have talented youth in their side. The England defenders were simply too slow.

Germany will next meet the winners of the Mexico - Argentina match. It would most likely be Argentina.

At least for me, Ghana has moved to the last eight. Something for me to continue cheering for..

Update 6.30am : Argentina beat Mexico 3 - 1. The first goal by Tevez is also controversial.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The games are getting interesting...

It is already halfway into the World Cup 2010 campaign and I have yet to post anything about football. How come?

I am somewhat uninterested in following this year’s tournament compared to previous editions. I am not supporting any particular team. I would have supported England as I have done on earlier occasions, except that this time around, I think they have the weakest squad of players ever.

Anyway, what prompted me to post about the World Cup in South Africa is the Italy – Slovakia game last night. I caught the game on big screen at a mamak restaurant in Taman Melawati. I hadn’t intended to do so. On the way back from the office, I stopped by the bank to withdraw money from the ATM. The noise from the nearby restaurant caught my attention and I could not resist going over there and take a seat. As it happens, I had not had my dinner yet. And so, over a plate of mee goreng and a glass of teh tarik kurang manis, I enjoyed a thrilling soccer match in the company of other football fans.

The atmosphere of watching football at a mamak makan place is entirely different from sitting at home and watching it alone on the flat-screen TV. Although I do not know anybody in that small crowd, I can easily exchange remarks with the guys sitting at the other tables around me. The dramatic game itself helped heighten the lively atmosphere.

I was cheering for Slovakia last night… for no particular reason except for the fact that Liverpool’s defender Martin Skrtel is in the Slovakian team (I am an Anfield supporter) and maybe because I like to root for the underdogs. Defending champions Italy were defeated by a tiny European nation playing in the finals for their first time. Skrtel’s goalmouth clearance was one of the key moments of the game that helped Slovakia maintain their lead and finishing as winners by 3 - 2. They are now through to the last 16 knockout stage.

So now, both the holders and runner-up of the 2006 World Cup are packing their bags to go home. Favourites to win the title remain the teams from South America (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay) and those from Europe (Germany, Holland, Spain and Portugal). So which one will I support now? None of them… I think I’ll cheer for Ghana.

The tournament now is sure becoming interesting.


Skrtel blocked an Italian scoring attempt right on the goal line. Pic borrowed from liverpoolfc.tv

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Blogging from Kuantan

If there is such a thing as an adopted hometown, then Kuantan would be mine. Perhaps I'll retire here...

I am in Kuantan now to attend the wedding of a nephew on my wife's side. The nikah ceremony would be held this morning but I don't want to wait after that to post something because I may not have the time. It would be a busy schedule to travel back to KL later today and then rush back to JB on Sunday morning for another wedding invitation there.

So to kill some time before breakfast, here's some pics taken in Kuantan.... what else but my favourite subject of food.

The first night here, we had dinner at The New Horizon Garden Restaurant. It's the second time we are there, the first being in December last year. It is a very cosy restaurant recommended by blogger Mamasita and I'd now probably be patronising the place every time I come to Kuantan. After the dinner, I uploaded one of the pics to my FB wall and immediately got a response from another Kuantan blogger-friend, Versedanggerik. Apparently she was also there at about the same time but she was dining with her friends on the upper floor. So near and yet so far...

Lunch the following day was at Restoran Wak Sofian, located in one of the old row of shophouses at Jalan Besar. This place serves minang food or what I call as nasi padang. Quite tasty. Reminds me of a nasi padang stall in JB I used to frequent for lunch during the early days of being a salaried worker.

The boys were first to dig in, as usual

Deep fried siakap Hongkong style

Sizzling spicy squid

Large squids cooked minang-style

Monday, 14 June 2010

Antan patah, lesung hilang

A friend's status update on Facebook last week caught my eye. He overheard a Malay proverb wrongly quoted by someone and lamented that it's damaging the language.

What he heard was, `Aku ibarat sepah, habis madu aku dibuang.' The original Malay peribahasa is of course, not expressed as such, although the intended meaning is not far off the mark. This twist in the expression seems more personal... the person who said it feels strongly about the situation to equate himself as the sepah, not caring that he has mangled the original saying in the process. The literal translation of sepah is residue or waste by-product... so you can see what the guy was getting at.

I have long been fond of the Malay peribahasa or proverbs, although I'm quite poor at remembering them, what more to apply their use in daily speech. The beauty of the Malay proverb is in the way a point or message is delivered by referring to something else. Call it metaphor or simile or inference or whatever you like. It is the art of saying something without obviously saying it. You just have to marvel at the way our forefathers come up with such literary gems. Some say that such proverbs were created because of the peculiar Malay trait of not being able to say things directly, whatever the reason may be. It is no surprise therefore, a well-placed peribahasa can sometimes have a more potent effect than just stating the obvious. Jika kasihkan padi, buanglah rumput.

There are hundreds of such classic phrases, but what puzzles me is how and when they originate. The books and online sources that I've read about peribahasa Melayu do not offer any clues as to their origin. Who actually first uttered the phrase? When was it said? Was there a particular situation or event that caused it to be said? When was the first time such saying was seen in print?

Compared to online sources about English word and phrase origins, there aren't any about the Malay language, at least not that I've discovered anyway. I sure hope the cerdik pandai in our universities make some effort in doing research in Malay word and proverb origins and share the research findings with us. It is not enough for me just to know the meaning of a proverb, I want to know how it came to be as well. I'd also like to know if there any recent or modern proverbs and whether it is possible for me to be the creator of one.

This subject of peribahasa Melayu reminds me of an acquaintance whom I met in 2001 while working on a construction project in Kuala Lumpur. This seasoned gentleman we call Pak Lang (short for Alang) is around 60-years old and was employed as the site supervisor. I loved chatting with him because his stories are freely peppered with lovely phrases. He always seem to have an appropriate peribahasa to fit any particular situation. He would tell me the story of some old relationship and then end it with, `Anak sungai lagikan berubah, inikan pula hati orang.' Or he would sound out a warning to one of the lazy workers by saying,`Kau ni macam pahat, tak ditukul, tak makan.' Or when I see him carry out a heavy task and tell him to take it easy, his reply would be, `Alah bisa, tegal biasa.'

I wonder where Pak Lang is nowadays. Hope you are well, my friend. Tuan adalah ibarat tiram di lautan...

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Heartbreaker

Why do you have to be a heartbreaker
Is it a lesson that I never knew...

The two lines above are part of the lyrics of a 1982 hit song by Dionne Warwick. It was one of my favourite songs during those struggling days studying for a degree. I remember it particularly well, not because I've been through any heartbreaking experience or the like, but rather for the fast catchy tune and the lovely voice of the singer.

A number of years later, I heard the word `heartbreaker' mentioned by a friend in a casual conversation and yesterday, I was reminded of that occasion again.

I married my wife in November 1988. She hails from the town of Mersing on the east coast of Johor. A few of my bachelor friends accompanied me for the wedding ceremony and we stayed at the house of the bride's elder sister (my sister-in-law to be, at that time). We were introduced to the sister's family that included three children, two girls and a boy, who would officially be my nieces and nephew by the next day.

At the time, the youngest daughter was around kindergarten age and was understandably shy to greet us. She was very sweet and pretty, and all my friends were smitten by her looks. One of them softly spoke to me to say, `You have a lovely niece... when she grows up, she's going to be a heartbreaker.'

Over the years, I've watched the girl grow into a very beautiful young lady and see that the prediction of my friend come true... a few times over. This is the same person who is the subject of my earlier post -> The last person to know.

The young lady's parents was at our house yesterday and my sister-in-law took the chance to tell me and my wife on the latest situation about her daughter. She also revealed the events that followed after the day the daughter brought home her Chinese boyfriend. Towards the end of her narration, my sister-in-law broke down in tears... if I do come across my niece in KL, she says, please do look out for her and give her advice.

Well, young lady... I doubt there is much more that I can add to what I'm sure has already been said by your mom. You have already been granted what you wish for, and no doubt you know the huge challenges that you face ahead.

Perhaps if there is one advice that I can give, it is this : work hard to do things that will heal your mother's broken heart. It is not enough to say or promise that you'll do your best. You have to show the effort and commitment. Sure, it will take time, a long time... but it is not something that is impossible. And we are here to support you if you need it.

Just remember, a mother's affection for her child and her capacity for forgiveness is boundless. Her blessings and prayers for us are something that we don't want to do without.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A new taste to savour

Sometimes we think we know everything... or at least we think we know enough just so as not to look stupid. Suddenly we read about something and find out that there still things that we do not know. At times like these, the most apt cliche that comes to mind is : we learn something new everyday.

I was reading the latest book by Malcolm Gladwell last night. It is a bestseller titled `What The Dog Saw, and other adventures'. It is a collection of articles and stories that Gladwell wrote for The New Yorker, an American magazine where he is a staff writer since 1996. It is a work of non-fiction and so far I have just finished reading the 5th story out of 19. Very interesting stories on a diverse range of subjects and I would have continued reading had I not considered the fact that I needed some sleep. The five stories I have read touched on salesmanship, the tomato ketchup, the financial options market, hair dye and the birth-control pill. How do you create interesting pieces out of seemingly mundane topics? This is the particular skill that Gladwell possesses that has made him an award-winning author. He has written three books prior to this and all are bestsellers. I have the first two : The Tipping Point and Blink.

So what was the new thing that I learned last night? Many things actually... but the one that I pick is this : umami.

Apparently, there are five known fundamental tastes in the human palate : sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. I know the first four, of course, as I'm sure all of you do... but umami? Gladwell explains that umami is the proteiny, full-bodied taste of  chicken soup, or cured meat, or fish stock, or aged cheese, or mother's milk, or soy sauce, or mushrooms, or seaweed, or cooked tomato. The word is not in my Longman's Dictionary that I keep on the shelf by my desk so I had to look it up online. The online dictionary further explains that the word is of Japanese origin and describes the meaty taste that is produced by amino acids and nucleotides. Perhaps the best example given is that of monosodium glutamate or more famously known as MSG.

Wow... I certainly know that taste. It is something that I have tried avoiding (or at least minimising) for many years. Only that I'm not sure if I can use the word in everyday speech as yet.

Next time someone asks me how does the chicken soup taste, dare I reply... umami?