They were built from the finest timber, curved up at both ends, well smoothened and lacquered, and probably weighed half-a-ton. That describes the traditional Chinese coffin, that is so rarely seen these days.
The Chinese have euphemized names for them, viz., “big house” (大屋子), “longevity planks” (寿板), etc. Despite the more cheery aliases, one look at these massive final earthly abodes for departed souls never failed to arouse feelings of sadness and eerie, gloomy beckoning.
Perhaps for these reasons, the traditional coffins have almost been entirely replaced by modern “caskets” – which have a much less depressing appearance, and are much lighter. Many even sport a glass window for loved ones and friends to take one last look at the occupant.
So, has the final nail been driven into the Chinese coffin ?
In the late ‘70s and through the ‘80s when the industrialization process was taking off in Malaysia, motor cars became a telling symbol of “I have arrived”.
This old fogey remembers many young-blooded hotshots would proudly roar in and out of town in saloons that had been “macho-transformed”….with sports rims, extra-wide tyres, throaty-exhausts…and invariably one or several sets of halogen fog lamps in front !
Never mind that a fog in Malaysia is as rare as a blue moon, these lamps emitted a piercing yellow beam that was quite menacing and even hazardous to oncoming traffic. I guess the idea was to tell the lesser beings in the oncoming vehicles, “look, tai kor (大哥, ‘big brother’) is here”.
I believe such lamps might have been outlawed, as in recent years I have hardly seen any vehicle with these mounted.
Going through some old albums, I came across this photograph which showed a digital clock that I hand-crafted circa 1980, and a second one in the process of being built-up.
The first model was made for my own use, while the second model was made as a gift to my GF (now wife) in 1981.
The casings were hand-sawn from pieces of 3mm thick plywood, which was then carefully glued together and finally finished with wood-grain patterned PVC lamination. A piece of brushed aluminium fascia nicely adorned the front in both cases.
At the heart of the clock was an IC from National Semiconductor, while the 7-segment LEDs were from HP. The buzzers were salvaged from some pager rejects in the factory where I was working.
Those were the days when we were brimming with youthful energy, passion and creativity.
It must have been like 10 years ago (as of 2018) when a Korean-made product “Happycall” made its debut onto the local kitchenware scene. Widely touted as the wonder non-stick pan, it promised to keep all flavours in, and cook everything to perfection.
I quickly tried out every Flip and Flop – from antiquity to modernity – to make it happen. Sadly, nothing worked out. (The fish that I was trying to fry turned out half-cooked and looked more like an aircrash victim). Or that I was a culinary catastrophe.
My old faithful old Wok-horse was still the best. Disappointed, I decided to go for Amicable Separation after the Un-Happy Call.
It took one yank from a small screw driver to unhinge everything – and then, voila, I had two non-stick pans, and all parties were a lot happier afterwards.
Never mind the bad English – I just needed to give this post a catchy title, by hook or by crook.
In my young days, I used to see lorries that came by to the shops that lined the two roads in my kampong. Tough, brawny men would off-load goods in wooden crates, bamboo baskets, gunny sacks, etc, using only raw muscle power, and nearly always with the help of a vicious-looking hook.
In local Hokkien dialect, we called it “Dar Gao” … it was only much later that I learned the right English description is “Stevedore’s Hook”
Elsewhere, there were variants known as Baling Hooks (I suppose for picking bales of hay, wool, etc).
Locally, I have not seen such hooks for many decades – thanks to trucks with powered cranes and hoists.
These snappy fasteners had already attained a star-studded status way way before Maggi Mee made its debut as a mainstream staple.
In my baby years and teenage era, when my late mum and many other aunties and kakaks were expert seamstresses, Press-Stud buttons were a common sight, found in the needle boxes and drawers of Singer sewing machines.
They were favoured for their ease of use – just press to close and pull apart (the clothes) to open. I remember all our pyjamas had these fasteners. So were a lot of ladies’ blouses.
I think these days, a lot of these buttons have been superseded by zippers (I could be wrong) – as the latter seem to provide a better insurance against “wardrobe malfunctions” (intended or otherwise). Labour-wise, attaching zippers lends itself much more readily to automation.
* Pun on Maggi Mee’s tagline : “Cepat Dimasak Sedap Dimakan”
Long before the advent of calculators, merchants of Chinese origin depended on this simple yet ingenious machine for doing their math on their day-to-day transactions and business P & L. The “click-clack-click-clack” sounds of the Abacus beads beating against one another was the music of money to their ears
Honestly, it was amazing to see how deftly the experts manipulated the beads up and down each column. I ever tried learning this art of “Finger-Flicking-Good” at an early age, but gave up after a short while. Well, maybe because I was not born to be a bean counter.
I think there are some shops, such as Chinese “medical halls” where these ancient calculating machines are still in use. But I do not think their use is going to outlast me on this planet.