Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Cat Named Cleo

There is a cat that's quite fond of my corner of the neighbourhood. I'd take pictures, but since I'm too much of a tightwad to invest in a cheap digital camera, I'll write about it instead.

I have no clue as to the animal's gender. There's no trace of a nut sack, or any indication that it's been fixed. Therefore, being the sexist creature that I am, I'm going to assume it's a female and call it Cleo for the sake of this narrative.

Cleo was part of a litter born of a neighbour's cat. She and a feisty ginger-coloured kitten were left after her other siblings were given away. Unlike many pet owners in the country, this neighbour didn't believe in caging cats, so they were left to wander all over the place, though not too far away from their home. As time went by, only Cleo was left. I never knew what happened to the other one.

For a cat her age (about one year old), Cleo is small and scrawny. She's mostly black; there's a patch of white at the base of her throat. Her green eyes has a piercing gaze and there are times her claws never fully retract. She distinguished herself by sleeping in the most unusual places in our front yard: the empty shrine where the previous house owners burnt joss-sticks and left offerings, the narrow space between the front grill and sliding glass doors, and on top of either gate-post where there would be stone lions if we ever believed in feng shui.

Being a good tenant, she tries to pay the rent. Problem is, cats utilise a different kind of currency, which usually takes the form of dismembered body parts of small animals. On several occasions we've found half-eaten mice, geckoes and lizards on our front yard, which really freaks my younger sisters out. Sister #1 is scared of rats; Sister #2 has gecko phobia. Their unfortunate brother (me) has to assume the role of undertaker when Cleo brings home the bacon (which we respectfully decline).

Once, in broad daylight, we caught Cleo in the process of butchering an iguana-like lizard, thus confirming the identity of our mystery rent-payer. Nature-lover that I am, I knew that she has the right to kill anything she comes across - it's her nature. But nobody commits murder while I'm around, so I chased her away and grabbed the lizard, snake-wrangler style, and deposited it in some vegetation. I didn't think it would make it; a patch of red on one side showed that Cleo had already done some damage.

For weeks afterward, there were no body parts. I'm pretty sure I pissed Cleo off for spoiling her fun. But cats aren't dogs; they don't learn. Upon returning home yesterday, there was a dead lizard, a mouse with a missing midsection and the top half of a gecko.

And she still sleeps in the shrine (proof that cats are condescending to the point of demanding worship), or on either gate post. I don't know about the worship thing, but if it ever came to warding off evil forces, my money's on Cleo. No expensive, overcrafted paperweight endorsed by Lillian Too could ever match Cleo when it comes to personality, attitude and the lethal killing arts.

Duck!

Chicago Says Non! to Foie Gras
Score one for the animal welfare fundamentalists. I was disappointed that the ban had nothing to do with bird flu, although it could have been.

Chicago has banned the sale of foie gras in its restaurants because city officials think the French delicacy is cruel to ducks and geese.

— from Agence France-Presse, via Yahoo! News

Fundamentally, killing and eating animals is a form of cruelty. Snuffing out the life of a creature to consume it, especially when it's not a matter of life and death - what could be more wrong, from a moral standpoint? But we still do it. We encourage others to do it; for some of them it really is a matter of life or death.

Bans like that really won't make a difference. Once a duck's fate is sealed, whatever else done to it before or after it's killed is just procedure.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

MalContent

Some students from the University of California, Santa Cruz, calling themselves Students Against War (SAW), found themselves inundated with death threats after foolishly releasing their contact details via an online press release. They had apparently heckled some recruiters from the military at their varsity's job fair.

There are allegations that right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin was responsible for much of the death-threats by reproducing these contact details on her site for the viewing pleasure of her audience. To rub salt into the students' wounds, she reprinted their details in another post when they asked to have them removed. The students of SAW, she claimed, should pay for that mistake and their "seditious, thuggish behaviour".

The brickbats were soon flying between the US left and right regarding this issue, everybody scrambling for the moral or ethical high ground, regardless of who they trample on the way. It feels heart-warmingly like home.

As a pundit, Malkin is not obliged to be law-abiding, moral or ethical. But if a fire does break out, how much would she - along with all the other highbrowed armchair pundits and Neanderthals with a limited vocabulary who jumped too quickly into the burning bandwagon - get burned: lightly seared, medium or well-done?

Remember: It wasn't too long ago that a 12-year-old Japanese girl had her throat opened by a schoolmate with a box-cutter over a nasty online exchange.

"Ain't gonna happen", you say?

There are a lot of Americans in the US. The odds look pretty good to me.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Serai House, Part 2: Dessert and Digicam

I don't want anybody to think that this restaurant was awful, it's just that the best dishes are steeply priced. You see it in all mid-level restaurants: expensive decór, pretentious food presentation, and terribly helpful floor staff - clues that tell you you're not really paying for your meal.

Lately, I seem to be spending a lot of time with this lady. While I have a small circle of people you'd call "friend", she seems to be the one with the most free time. On a whim, I extended her an invite to lunch at Serai House. This time the experience was much better. First, I had company. We ordered much more affordable fare. There was conversation. Laughs at each other's expense. All reminiscent of my last dinner appointment.

The durian cheesecake made an encore performance. After waxing lyrical about the dessert in my pseudo-review of the restaurant, I wondered if it was the cake, or just me. It just might be the cake after all, since Irene abandoned her own dessert half-way and began nipping bits off mine. Strangely enough, it was delightful to watch.

She still has that digicam. Oh, grief. Just like Mary's little lamb.

If I take her out to a few more joints she might start a food blog. Look out, world.

On the topic of desserts: There is a cake called Chocolate Indulgence; it's actually Death by Chocolate (or Chocolate Overdrive - take your pick). I should know. I had a slice.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Anthony Bourdain, With Reservations

The Malaysian episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations finally premiered on ASTRO's Discovery Travel and Living, Channel 11. Expect the usual brand of humour and straight-shooting from the swaggering chef with the French-sounding name.

  • Among the local luminaries making an appearance are Chef Wan, and fellow presenter Asha Gill, who still looks anorexic.
  • He does not fumble when pronouncing Malay or Indian words - much.
  • A female member of the production team found a leech hitch-hiking on her butt, so it's Tony to the rescue. Lucky leech.
  • "Torpedo" soup! Tongkat Ali-laced coffee! Beats cobra hearts or duck embryos any day.
  • Watch the lumbering white man stalk the jungle with Sarawakian natives, catch fish (not), spear a captured pig (finally!) and get hammered on tuak (Iban-style sake).
  • It's the second show in this series where a pig is killed. You won't be able to watch it though; the segment has been snipped. Flinking film censorship boards.
  • Foodie destinations like Penang and Malacca are not featured at all. Major letdown.

I'm still not too happy with the censoring of the pig-killing. You wouldn't be happy too if there's no torpedo in your torpedo soup. And no Penang! Not even a pit-stop in Ipoh, where there's more good food, and white coffee! Maybe it's too far north, and too much to cram into a one-hour segment.

Good, but could've been better. Bourdain's definitely starting to show signs of slowing down.

Don't just think about it, Tony. Quit smoking already.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Can't Dance - The Floor Is Shaking

Guess who's being blamed by our Deputy Inspector-General of Police for the increase in difficult cases? Gil Grissom, Horatio Caine, et al of CSI.

"CSI and a few other series teach how to remove traces of crime," said Deputy Inspector General Musa Hassan.

He told the country's Bernama News Agency such television programmes provided insights into how police work and made them more efficient.

...The police officer added the force was now faced with the challenge of how to remain "a step ahead of criminals" because of the success of the TV series in Malaysia.

Oh sure, blame fictional Westerners (when there're no real Westerners handy) for your own sheer incompetence. It must be sobering to know that crooks responsible for the remaining sixty-percent of the crimes you couldn't solve could be getting tips from the CSI series or the crime documentaries on the Discovery Channel.

And what do you mean, "now faced with"? Are you saying that remaining a step ahead of criminals - a common challenge faced by lawmen worldwide for as long as history is documented - is new to the Royal Malaysian Police?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Serai House, TTDI

There's this restaurant that was open for quite some time - I just never had any excuse to visit it. The review in The Star gave me one.

Two words: durian cheesecake.
Serai House
44, Jalan Datuk Sulaiman
Taman Tun Dr Ismail
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-7729 6622

THIS PLACE HAS SINCE CLOSED

Frankly, it was the most pathetic first-meal-in-a-new-restaurant adventure I ever had. I was greeted by a transvestite waitress, who was really helpful when it came to the menu. Price, however, became a major factor when ordering, and I ended up with rice and grilled Aussie sirloin strips marinated with local spices - and no veggies. What I did order was really good, but I just wasn't making the most of my first visit.

If not for the durian cheesecake, I would've ended up feeling hollow inside.

Where was I? Oh yes, the durian cheesecake. A tad too sweet, but tastes really good. The fibres from the durian pulp are there. I spent half my time there nipping small chunks off the terribly expensive RM10 slice. I didn't want to leave. I wished the cheesecake could regenerate so I could spend the rest of the day eating that wonderful dessert.

But alas, I live in the real world, where all good things must come to an end.

Lulled by the atmosphere and the blissful sensations brought on by the magic of durian, I ordered the house coffee. Big mistake. The brew, for a lack of a better word, was rather weak. They serve it in a funky cup, but the small portion and average quality is not worth the RM6 price tag.

Grilled beef, white rice, iced lemon tea (also sweet as heck) cheesecake and coffee set me back about RM68, but I had my first - and best - durian cheesecake ever (durian desserts are evil; damn good durian desserts are diabolical), so I guess everything turned out OK.

So go ahead and knock yourselves out at Serai House and help it stay in business. A place that dishes out such fine food and wicked durian cheesecake deserves its place in the sun. I don't want it to close. I'll be back.

I won't be ordering coffee, though.