Category Archives: lifestyle

A Statement In Black And White

In the 60s and 70s, when Adidas was mistaken for a mosquito breed, and before other so-called sports shoes stepped into the footwear scene, men took great pride in wearing leather shoes.  Of these came a fashion – an essentially white-bodied leather ornamented with shiny black patches in strategic places.

In fact, as a kid and in my youth, I had worn through several such pairs.  (My parents must have skipped many lunches to buy them).

Oh yes, one of my school principals was a dyed-in-the-leather fan of these shoes. Without fail, he would strut up and down outside the classrooms daily, making an unmistakeable B&W statement that he was serious with discipline in the school.

Of course views are different today – people prefer 50 shades of gray (or more), interspersed with a revolt of colours.

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The Gold Diggers

In the finest of tradition, they were slim and slender and ready to fall into the hands (not arms) of folks whose ears were itching for an excavation.

Enter the venerable Ear Wax Digger.  In my kiddy days, we had a couple of these implements at home.  I used to enjoy lying down with head on my late mum’s lap while she gently scraped  the walls of my ear canals.

My ears did not yield much.  However, I have seen cases of other folks whereby the diggers often struck the mother lode, with nuggets as big as half the size of a full-grown cockroach.

In those days, barbers also rendered this extraction service, but I never trusted their hands or eyesight.  I think this practice has probably died out, as this form of mining has become unglamorous

Royal Soap Opera

My first encounter with this rather “upmarket” soap was probably in the 1970s.  I vaguely remember that it had a unique fragrance that was unlike those from the other contemporary plebeian types like Lux or Palmolive.

Looking at the name, my initial reaction was “Hah!, someone spelled ‘Lather’ wrongly”.  This was soap, wasn’t it?  And “soap = bubbles = lather”.  How can it be leather?  Perhaps the maker was some thick-skinned member of aristocratic descent who did not know his spelling.

Quirky thoughts aside, I have not used this sabun for a long time. I hardly see any modern specimen on the shelves of supermarkets or kedai-kedai runcit or convenient stores.

Maybe the name is plainly too out of touch with modern aspirations, or other more attractive soapy enticements have lured away present day consumers.

A Cock-and-Bowl Story

Once upon a time, when I was not so old yet, I remember that bowls with a picture of a cockerel imprinted on the outside were immensely popular.  There were a number of varieties of that rooster, nevertheless it was unmistakeably an ayam jantan.

These rooster-decorated bowls could be found at almost every food stall in coffeeshops, markets, mobile carts, etc.  I recall there were also a number of these in my old kampong home in Butterworth.

Why was this design so popular?  I do not know.  On the same note, why has its popularity waned in more modern times?

Perhaps, it is simply too old-school, or maybe it was a victim of some kind of anti-sexual-discrimination movement.  Some plausible explanatory stories would be much welcomed.

‘Twas So Good — Back Then

In 2011, Kentucky Fried Chicken introduced a new slogan “sogood” in an attempt to upgrade its fowl image.

In reality, it was really So Good many years ago, when going to KFC was kinda classy thing, where one was served in genteel fashion, big and yummy pieces of chicken on elegant crockery and with stainless steel cutlery, at reasonable prices.

These days, one has to queue up in crowded outlets, and be served refugee-camp-like manner – with paper boxes, plastic disposable forks, paper cups, etc.  That is, after one has handed over an arm and a leg in exchange for a chicken wing and a drumstick.

BTW, I had my first taste of KFC only in 1983, some where in Petaling Jaya, in a location called “State”.  I have no idea where that place is now.

Heritage-class Basket Cases

I remember two kinds of Peranakan legacy “baskets” that my family used to possess, but have lost them through unredeemable, basket case ignorance. 

There was a black-and-red type, with lacquered finish. They called it “sia nah” or “bakul sia” – (谢篮) meaning “thanksgiving basket”. We used it to carry nonya kueh and other goodies as gifts when visiting friends and relatives.

The other type was made probably from some kind of rattan, and had pictures of birds and flowers painted on the sides. I think it was called “hua nah” (花篮) meaning “flower basket”.  It was used mainly to carry pre-wedding goodies from the groom’s side to the bride’s home.

Both types were available in single-tier or multi-tier configurations.  Alas, we do not see them in use anymore.  

The Net Effect

In the kampong where I lived till 1973, nightfall meant that high-flying females of the insect kind would be coming out in swarms looking for an easy meal.  

Thus, a mosquito net or kelambu over the bed was mandatory, if one was to survive the bloodshed that would have otherwise ensued, with the endless scratching, and possibility of an infection.  The net effect had desperate mozzies buzzing helplessly with envy, as their dinner and supper slept peacefully beyond their reach.

Well, some folks preferred to use mosquito incense coils, but an overnight long exposure to those toxic fumes left them half dead by daybreak. 

I have not used a kelambu for decades now – thanks to the clean environment.

But these days, China-based manufacturers have rejuventated mosquito nets with many exotic designs.  The new Net Effect  –  Romanticism by Capitalism?