Sunday, June 27, 2010

I Tread Sky

"Courage is the fear of being thought a coward."

Horace Smith

The Lamb

Sometimes, I suspect that I am the star of a some sort of bizarre reality sitcom, or at least its resident comic relief character. Just last week, I received a Facebook invitation from my colleague, Jun Mun, to an outing he's organising because we had a weekend of breathing space to kill between clinical postings. He titled the invite "skytrex adventure day out!" and enclosed within was a copypasta-ed description of the activity from the official webspace of SkyTrex which began like so,

"SKYTREX Adventure provides an organized outdoor ‘eco-recreational cum educational’ activity which will take the participants from tree to tree..."

And that's pretty much all I read before I submitted a "Yes" to his répondez s'il vous plaît. What I had in mind was some sort of tame novelty nature walk. I didn't bother visiting the SkyTrex website; I didn't pay attention to the discussion my colleagues were having in that Facebook invite page; and I completely missed warning words like 'aerial obstacles', '22 meters in the air' and 'EXTREEEME CHALLENGE!'

My thought process went something like, "Hey, I like nature! Click yes."

Oh, you can just imagine what sort of deathmatch the left and right lobes of my brain fought with each other when I was confronted with this on site yesterday,

"Holy Sakyamuni on a stick!"

SkyTrex Adventures offered 3 circuits or "challenges" with varying difficulty levels, namely,
  • The Little Adventure
  • The Big Thrill
  • The Extreme Challenge
Jun Mun booked the ten of us who got suckered in into the Extreme Challenge, the highest, most difficult course of the three. Yes, he totally thought that 10 nerdy, sedentary, out-of-shape final year medical students could take on the craziest, hardest technical tree climbing trail on the menu without any experience or training whatsoever.

Then again, he's a bit of a cloudcuckoolander like I am anyway - birds of one feather, we are. "Click yes." Sheesh.

Trex Map
The shallow mass burial site is not marked in this map.

Anyway, to give you an idea of the different difficulty grades, this here is a picture of the Little Adventure,

Kiddy Course
A glorified kiddie playground, if you ask me.

And this one below is a picture of the beginning bit of the vertiginous Extreme Challenge. Be warned because at that height, the trees you are standing on will sway in the wind like a ship in high sea,

And Off He Went
Jun Mun, doing the flying fox on a zip-line.

Hold a sec, readers - I don't think that that snapshot effectively conveys the perspective and dizzying scale of the Tyrolean traverse. Try this one on for size instead,

On The Far Side
Ah, much better. Keep in mind that I took this picture with zoom.

I was the one and only person in my team of ten to bring a camera along with me up into the canopy of the forest because sanity and I had a falling out and we aren't talking to each other anymore. Coming with me was my trusty ol' messenger bag which had a sling I can tighten close around my torso because I had need of it to hold my camera whilst I move between trees 70-feet up in the air. The bag and I do everything together, you know - like that time in Manali when we paraglided off a freaking snow mountain for example.

So, to take the tale back to the beginning, we signed disclaimers saying, um... wait, I don't remember what the papers said now so I'll just assume that they were to waive SkyTrex of any culpability in the event that I lost a limb or get eaten by a tree or something. In the "in case of emergency, contact..." part, I simply jot down Lai Yin's parents names and numbers claiming them to be my godparents.

Man, it would have been hilarious if something did happen to me and SkyTrex contacted them saying, "It's about your god son. There's been an accident..."

"Wait what? What god son?!"

The Beginning
That smiley lass in the tank is Lai Yin, by the way.

See the Caucasian man sporting a black cap in the photo? We were right behind him during the 5-minute how-to-Tarzan tutorial when I was ribbing Joon Keat - the biggest and heaviest member of our party - about his weight. Then I assured him in Cantonese that if the zip-line can hold the white guy's weight, he should have absolutely nothing to worry about. In that exchange, I used the informal Cantonese phrase for white people; 'gwai lo' which literally means 'ghost man'.That was not one of my Better Ideas, and I haven't a clue if white folks actually find it derogatory or not.

Black Capped White Guy overheard me and turned around saying, "Yes, we gwai lo's should stick together," flashing a big grin at us. I was perplexed for a minute before I realised that he had mistakenly thought I was telling Joon Keat that we should let all the white people go first.

Good thing he didn't actually know what I was saying about his heft, eh?

Up Up and Away
That's Abby at the bottom, Lai Yin partway up the ladder and Inn Shan on the platform topside.

Let me be honest with you; the scariest thing about the Extreme Challenge is by far the ladder-climbing, I shit you not. Imagine having to scale several storeys worth of ladder rungs in a dead vertical direction. Every time I come to stand at the foot end of yet another ladder on the course, my calves and shoulders groaned "No fucking way."

That's when I discover that I fear exercise more than death-defying heights.

I also kept forgetting to anchor my carabiners to a safety line after I land on a new platform because I was so completely unintimidated by the whole venture. I only came to realise my carelessness when one of the instructors
yelled at me to secure myself after spotting me nonchalantly swinging both carabiners in my hand as I was talking to Abby on one of the higher platforms. It makes me shudder to think about it now. If a particularly strong breeze just happened to blow by or if a disoriented hornbill flew into my face in that instant, I would have plummeted down to a very messy death.

Forest People
Or down to a fate worse than death.

The most demanding and painful obstacle in the course was the monkey bars, hands down. In the past, I couldn't even finish a playground version of the thing and you can easily imagine my feelings when I was accosted with one strung between two trees as high as a fatal fall from the forest floor. These are the sort of moments when I could only stand agape and just marvel at the complete absurdity of the situation I have somehow gotten myself in.

I know, I know - the monkey bars weren't going to climb themselves.
Gritting my teeth, I decided to man up and get it over with. I am, after all, in the best physical shape I've been in the past 5 years. In just the recent 2 months, I've dropkicked a total of 9.5 kilograms off my fat ass making me a very manageable 66.5 kilo load to ferry across with just the sinew my arms - or so I thought.

Impossible, it ain't - but manageable? Not in this lifetime, mate. I exhausted my reserves halfway through and my fingers were all screaming a chorus for me to let go but I obstinately clung on anyway; mainly because Jun Mun and another white guy (a different one this time) was on the other side watching my every move. I vowed right there and then that I would see myself through all the way even if I have to rip my arms right out of their sockets doing it.

Monkey Bars and Monkey
"Get there to the other side, soldier!" barked Drill Sergeant L. Y. Chow to Pvt. I. S. Ng.

Panting out oaths on every transition, I actually made it to the other side! Un-fucking-believable! Of course, after I have made it across I became unbearably puffed-up. I started taunting all the fellas when they chose to simply pulled themselves across using the harness and pulley. And I targeted Joon Keat in particular because I'm an asshole that way.

"Your manhood is at stake!" I jeered at him when he was standing right before the monkey bars. When he chickened out eventually, I went "You're a disgrace to your Y chromosome! Better donate it to science!'

Of course, Joon Keat eventually redeemed himself here on the rope-swing challenge,

Smug Heavyweight
Look at him, all smug-like.

Li Lian navigating through a jumble of hollow plastic tubes suspended by ropes.

Li Lian's Scared Shitless Face
Li Lian's scared shit-less face. She have forbidden me to post this on Facebook so I posted it here in my blog instead.

After the initial few challenges, I quickly got the hang of things and started treating the rest of the obstacles with sedated irreverence. I started chatting while I was doing them and Abby asked me how I could talk and still concentrate on all the balancing acts.

The answer is simple: I wasn't concentrating. Boo-yah!

Lai Yin was ahead of me most of the way and she would usually shout tips back at the rest of us on how to approach each obstacle.

"Slide your feet across the rope! Don't lift your feet up!" she helpfully offered at one of the tightrope-walking challenges.

I responded by mockingly taking huge exaggerated steps, making the wire wobble all the way shouting "TOO EASY! TOO EASY!" the whole time just to annoy her. But it was true though; once you've found your balance, everything becomes far too easy for words. At some point, I got so bored that I decided to race everyone to the final platform. I was the first to get there and I did it without "falling" even once. How do you like them apples?

Hey, what's the point of winning bragging rights if you're not going to rub it in everyone's face every chance you get, right?

On The Wire
Randeep on the wire looking prosh.

Since I was the sole photographer of the team, there isn't any pictures of me up in the forest canopy. But just as a keepsake, here's one of me post-adventure with my climbing harness still strapped on,

The Champ
Just to prove I was there. I seemed to be a bit shrivelled up from dehydration here.

And here's one of the few pictures containing all ten of us and we looked like we are in a photo-op promoting the rehydrative and electrolyte-restorative virtues of 100 Plus. It's a shame it's kind of blurry though,

100 Plus Ad
That's Randeep on the ladder. As for the rest, from left to right: Inn Shan, Li Lian, me in a girly pose,
Lai Yin, Abby, Jun Mun, Soo Hong and Joon Keat (they are an item, by the way), and Prakash.

The Yellow Bus
The yellow bus which took us in and out again. See how much clearer the picture is when I'm taking it?

I guess Jun Mun knew best after all when he booked the lot of us into the Extreme Challenge. Everyone defeated the course and made it to the salty end - all 21 stunts of it - without ducking out through the chicken exit midway through. It might not appear to be much to you but that's quite a stellar achievement for a bunch of pampered academic pansies like us who have left the ghost of our physical primes behind years ago.

If I have to briefly review SkyTrex's Extreme Challenge, I'd say it's far too tame for my taste considering that I've always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie (no, really) - but it does make for a pretty demanding endurance test, I'd give it that much. I suspect that most people would feel too washed out to experience any sort of fear whatsoever after the first or second ladder. Also, they might want to look into the traffic problem; I spent most of my time sitting on platforms just waiting for my turn. And if it's not too much to ask, hoist a vending machine up there or something, please. My hypoglycaemia struck halfway through and my shaking fingers made it really hard for me to hold my camera steady.

And here's a big thank you to Jun Mun who organised the whole event and bought everyone drinks at the end! It was a great trip and I honestly can't wait to go on another one soon!

Mein Fuhrer
A jolly good fellow, he is.

In case you're wondering, I didn't exactly escape the ordeal unscathed,

Grievous Wound
It was a wound most grievous.

I picked up a blister on the palm of my right hand - I think it was the monkey bars which did this to me. It seems that I quite literally wouldn't let go even when the skin of my hand was being scraped off. Well, I knew that if I let go, the harness would have kept me afloat anyway but there's just something about being suspended like a mile off the ground which just makes you want to hold on for your dear life.

And this was how the RM 3 gloves I bought there fared,

Use Protection Please
A young white guy with his Chinese girlfriend actually ran the course sans glove. I guess this is how their hands look like now.

I actually packed a thicker pair of gloves with me on this trip but I eschewed them in favour of the fingerless ones because it was awkward to work the camera wearing my bulky mitts.


After Inn Shan and I have freshened up at Jun Mun's place, the man took the four of us - Li Lian and Lai Yin included - to a fantastic Japanese restaurant called Hanazen at Jaya One,

Sushi Guy
Somehow, I prefer not to watch how sushis are made before eating them.

I think the unagi or grilled freshwater eel there was done close to perfection and it was one of the best I've ever had the pleasure of sampling. It was incredibly tender and flavourful, and I had a lot of love for the thin, crisp, ever-so-slightly burnt exterior. Carcinogens are yummy things.

More Unakyu
I mean, just check out the glaze on this baby right here.

We also shared an unakyu uramaki between the five of us which wasn't too shabby in the taste department either,

That's avocado there in the middle.

And I topped it all off with the best damn ice-cream I have ever eaten in my life. That was not a hyperbole, by the way - I really did mean every word I said,

Kurogoma Aisu Kurimu
Kurogoma aisu kurimu!

If you couldn't already tell from the picture (or the Japanese caption), it's a single scoop of the most delicious black sesame ice-cream this side of the equator. It was so amazingly creamy, rich and fragrant that you won't believe it - and I seriously dug the lovely texture of finely-powdered sesame seeds on my tongue. I have no idea if they made it according to a house recipe or if it was imported, but I don't fucking care so long as I get to have more, more, more of it!

Sigh, so this is how an explosive orgasm in the mouth tastes like. What a satisfying end to a great day out. The next time I'm in the vicinity, I'm going to give their wasabi flavoured ice-cream a taste test. I love wasabi and I love ice-cream; what can possibly go wrong?

P.S. Guys and girls, if you want all of the high-resolution, un-watermarked SkyTrex pictures, pass me your thumb drives, memory cards, external hard disks whenever. There's almost 450 MB's worth of them here so be sure you have enough space to accommodate the lot.

P.P.S. I don't care that I'm the last to touch terra firma, Lai Yin. I only stayed back to take pictures of everyone as they arrive at the finale. Recognise my supremacy or none of you will ever get the rest of the outing's photos from me!

A walker of skies,
k0k s3n w4i

Friday, June 25, 2010

Philia Schmilia

Owing to the imperfections of the human memory - and mine being more fallible than most - I find it difficult to remember most conversations I shared with Phoebe. Like last week. I was on one of my half-hour walks to the new Jusco in Malacca, and the girlfriend and I were talking about something interesting on the phone. And I know it was interesting because the only bit I can recall from it is this orphaned snippet which began with a playful accusation from her side,

"That's because you’re a paedophile!" she said with a mock-dramatic emphasis on the P-word.

"No, I’m not." I said. "I'm technically an ephebophile."

Phoebe gave me one of her trademarked surprised sharp intakes of breath over the line.

"You are a... Phoebe-phile!" she pronounced slowly and deliberately.

"Ephebophile! I said ee-phee-bo-phile!"

"A Phoebe-phile!" she repeated, completely ignoring my protestations. "So you DO love me after all!"

I swear I could feel her eyes going all wide and shiny on the other side of the phone. That's kind of my fault because I rarely ever say that three words to her, so she has to take what she gets. Poor affection-starved Phoebe, haha.

A rare recent photograph of Phoebe sans makeup and with glasses - she's not going to be happy I posted this up.
How old do you think she looks?

P.S. Ephebophilia refers to a sexual preference for mid-to-late teens (14-16 years old) and is not considered to be a deviancy or mental illness in that Damn Stupid Manual (fourth edition) or ICD-10; the two Holy Bibles of the psychiatric profession. And yes, I fully realise how creepy that exchange with the girlfriend made me sound taken out of context.

P.P.S. Hebephilia actually sounds even more like Phoebe-philia - and way creepier too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Toy Story 3 is About the Afterlife

"Reach for the sky."


Couldn't be more appropriate for what I am writing about.

Toy Story 3 Poster
It got bigger. And better. Introducing Toy Story: Prison Break!

THIS IS NOT A REVIEW, but just to get it out of the way; Toy Story 3 is Pixar's first threequel just as Toy Story 2 was Pixar's maiden voyage into sequel territory - and like Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 proved to be better movie than its predecessor both in terms of storytelling and animation (I've seen it in 3D, but like Up, I feel the extra dimension adds little to the already 3-dimensional characters, so if you want to save a buck, seeing it in normal-D detracts nothing from the viewing experience). It is probably the best film you can see in theatres for the time being until Inception premieres in July, and I am not ashamed to admit that the ending moved me to manly tears. Both Toy Story films dealt with the themes of attachment and abandonment, but Toy Story 3 took it to its logical conclusion... and beyond.

"Beyond" is the operative word here. When I was watching Toy Story 3, I was positively bombarded with religious allegories and post-life metaphors - or maybe I'm just susceptible to to interpreting it that way, my being an amateur theology buff and everything. The central plot of the film essentially talks about the toys' fate when their relationship with Andy, their child (now a teen and too old for toys), comes to an end. As "being there for Andy" is pretty much their raison d'être, not being needed by Andy, by extension and for all practical purposes, represents the termination of their lives.

The movie then show us - to my eyes, at least - the different possible fates of life after death; some of which Andy's toys actually experienced for realsies while some were only described peripherally.

This is best read by people who have already seen Toy Story 3. Hereafter there be spoilers, yarr!

The Attic: Limbo

Limbo is a Catholic concept necessitated by the exclusive method of salvation in Christendom; which is to be forgiven and brought back into a personal relationship with God by receiving Jesus' sacrifice. There's simply no other way to get into Heaven. What then of Abraham, Moses and the other patriarchs who lived before Jesus' time but had died in the friendship of God? Must they burn in Hell because the taint of their Original Sin was not removed through the acceptance of Christ?

That's what Limbo is for - a place at the edge of Hell which kind of like a departure terminal for all the Old Testamental saints and prophets to hang around in while waiting for Jesus to get born, get executed and get the Heaven doors opened. In that respect, the Attic is a bit like that. There, the toys will have the pleasure of each other's company and could indulge in fun diversions like games and television, sans the bliss of being played with - and there's that hope that "Andy might have kids of his own one day" said Woody. Considering that Andy is almost like God to the toys (who are all religiously loyal to him), his firstborn is technically the Christ, the Messiah. He will inherit them and free them from the Attic to be played with again. And being played with is certainly considered heavenly by the toys.

The meh-ness of the dark Attic where the toys will neither be ecstatically happy nor experience pain also brings to mind the Greek Asphodel Meadows or the Hel of the Norse mythos: two retirement home-type afterlife worlds that are similarly neutral in nature and sound boring as heck.

College: Immortality

Whoops! Seems like Pixar haven't climbed completely out of the uncanny valley yet.

In a rather poignant scene where Andy was deciding which one toy he wanted to take to College with him as a memento of his childhood, he chose Woody over Buzz. Woody's fate from that point onwards would be in a continuous existence and relationship with Andy, leaving all his friends behind to live in the Attic. This mirrors how immortal characters are depicted in fiction where they eventually outlive everyone they know or love. As we learnt in Toy Story 2, Woody is something of a collectible antique more than half a century old and is probably a hand-me-down from his conspicuously missing Dad (which explains Andy's fierce attachment to him) who in turn might have gotten Woody from his parents; making the cowboy a sort of heirloom. "It's an old family toy," Andy's Mom said as much to Al who wanted to buy Woody in a yard sale in the second movie. It's probably safe to say that Woody will continuously be passed down the line and will never outlive his purpose.

I'll admit that immortality isn't so much a life after death possibility as it is an existential state of being.

Sunnyside Daycare: Heaven and Purgatory

Sunnyside Daycare
God and the Devil is the same bloke! I knew it!

Imagine to be played with everyday in perpetuity, never to be abandoned or outgrown ever because there are always new kids coming in all the time! Being donated to the Sunnyside Daycare is like going to Toy Heaven, or so thought Buzz et al.

The Butterfly Room is indeed like that while the Caterpillar Room housing younger children is more representative of Purgatory, another Catholic doctrine which the sola scriptura, sola fide Protestants don't buy into at all. The Catholics believe that there exists a halfway house for souls which have screwed up in life a little (but not too much) where they will undergo painful temporary punishment to cleanse themselves of sin before entering into the squeaky cleanness Heaven. Some believe that prayers from the living, from outside of Purgatory, can help expedite the purification process and hasten their entrance into Heaven.

Andy's toys must have had a nasty surprise when their ticket to Heaven dropped them in the purgatorial Caterpillar Room where they were roughhoused, thrown about and had their parts stuffed into orifices by toddlers who are not "age-appropriate" to play with them. Lotso, the amiable de facto tyrant of the toys in Sunnyside, deemed them unworthy but was willing to offer Buzz a place in the paradisaical Butterfly Room because he showed "initiative" by breaking out of the hellhole to negotiate a transfer of his friends - so there's a chance of getting out through merit after all.

And it took outside help (Woody's) to eventually break them out of
the Caterpillar Room.

Toy Story Prison Break
"Fuck Purgatory, we are bustin' out of here, boys!"

The Dump: Hell or Extinction

The dump, the shredder and the incinerator were imageries that were all very powerfully evocative of a fire and brimstone Hell where the toys could be put through terrible torture and melted down in what looked all in the world like Satan's barbecue. And what d'you know, it was Lotso (our God slash Devil teddy bear from Sunnyside) who psychopathically consigned them to that fiery fate despite the fact that they are good toys, as evidenced by Woody and Buzz's rescue of his strawberry-scented ass from the shredder even after everything he's done to their company of toys. All they did was refuse to bow to his dictatorial whims and off they were sent to damnation. Sounds like the Christian Hell alright.

In essence however, the whole sequence at the dump more closely parallels the atheistic belief that there is just simply extinction or annihilation of the consciousness after death (what I personally believe in and am most comfortable with). As they were slowly slipping into the incinerator, the toys linked hands in the face of their inevitable end, having spent a full and happy life being Andy's toys. There was no longer fear or apprehension - simply quiet, dignified acceptance. They were ready. It's going to be like falling into a deep sleep after the longest day ever.

Of course, then there's that deus ex machina moment involving an actual deus ex machina - but it was sufficiently foreshadowed by the 3 little green Pizza Planet aliens' worshipful reverence towards anything resembling a claw so it did not seem too contrived a plot device.

At the vergejpg
At the verge of the garbage chute, looking down into the abyss of a dumpster.

So, a god-like being plucked Andy's toys from certain doom - what's next?

Bonnie's House: Reincarnation

In perhaps one of the most touching and satisfying ending in cinematic history to a franchise of movies, the toys were given to a shy little girl called Bonnie. She only ever opened up to her toys, and it was a truly heartwarming moment when she slowly blossomed as Andy hands her his toys one by one, introducing each of them to her as if they are real people. The sight of Bonnie and a teenage Andy playing together with their toys at the bottom of the garden just made me grin stupidly the whole time. It brought the shapeless fond memories of my own childhood back to me - memories which I may or may not have. When Bonnie raised Woody's hand in a wave goodbye to Andy as he was leaving for college, I could just feel the emotions welling out from the toy cowboy's frozen expression. It's a testament to how well-realised Woody is as a character.

Being passed down to Bonnie represents their rebirth or reincarnation; a metaphysical concept common in Eastern faiths like Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism. Their life with Andy had ended and now, they are at the threshold of a new one with a lovely little girl who loves her toys dearly and takes care of them as well as Andy did.

I cannot imagine an ending sweeter.

"And as the years go by
Our friendship will never die
You're gonna' see, it's our destiny
You got a friend in me."

P.S. So, what do you think of my interpretation of Toy Story 3 as a complex life after death allegory? Is there really something to it or am I just overanalysing a computer-animated film for kids?

You got a friend in him,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, June 20, 2010

God Smote Jesus

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."

Exodus 20:4

It's either part of the 1st commandment (if you're Catholic or Lutheran)
or the 2nd (if you're Anglican, Reformed or from another denomination).

Today is Sunday and I'm in the mood for blasphemy - so let's do this, shall we?

Have you ever heard of the Touchdown Jesus?

Touchdown Jesus
"Our Father who art in heaven, save me for I am drowning!"

Well, it's a 6 storeys high Styrofoam-and-fibreglass affront to good taste in Monroe, Ohio, in the US of A and it's set on an island at the head of the baptismal pool of the Solid Rock Church which commissioned its construction in 2004, costing them about a quarter million US dollars in donations - money which could buy McDonald's Happy Meals for 62,500 orphans (or buy one orphan 62,500 Happy Meals, whatever). And it's not just me who thought it's an eyesore; three-fourths of Monroe's inhabitants thought the same in a poll and most of them are Christians.

Touchdown Referee
This is how American football referees signal a touchdown, by the way.

It's properly called the King of Kings statue but I think the moniker Touchdown Jesus has a better ring to it. Local residents and travellers to the area also refers to it affectionately as Super Jesus, Swamp Jesus or my personal favourite, Drowning Jesus. I guess walking on water is not such an easy stunt when you weigh 7000 kilograms, eh Joshua?

Anyway, on the 14th earlier this month of June, Jesus' right hand was struck by a bolt of lightning from his heavenly father, setting it ablaze. You can watch the big guy being reduced to cinders here,

This needs to be set to Usher's Burn.

My immediate thought was, "I'd love to see how they explain this one!" but I've yet to uncover anything of that nature yet. The reactions of some Christians were absolutely precious though,

Also gathered along Union Road were Franklin twins and storm chasers Levi and Seth Walsh, who said they were out in the thunderstorm when they heard about the fire through a Facebook update.

"It sent goosebumps through my whole body because I am a believer," said Levi Walsh, 29. "Of all the things that could have been struck, I just think that that would be protected... It’s something that’s not supposed to happen, Jesus burning," he said. "I had to see it with my own eyes."

"I can’t believe Jesus was struck," said his brother, who noted the giant Hustler Hollywood sign for the adult store across the street was untouched. "It’s the last thing I expected to happen."

If you ask me, the message from Upstairs is quite unambiguously clear in this case (other than that God approves of porn). If you would allow me to play prophet here, I'd say that this was a not-so-gentle reminder to the Solid Rock Church to keep the
"No idols period, biatches!" commandment, which I've conveniently placed way up there as the quote-of-the-post. I mean, when your LORD thy God said in his official holy handbook that he ain't down with the idea of any statues or images whatsoever - and when he even took the trouble to punctuate his point with a bona fide Act of God™ by burning down your ugly 19-metre effigy of His Only Begotten Son™ - you'd smarten up and fly right, wouldn't you?

But no, the Solid Rock Church decided to give God a big fat middle finger instead. Darlene Bishop, the co-pastor of the church, said that they are planning to rebuild the buttery monstrosity - but out of something fireproof this time, presumably so that God can't set it on fire again. Is it me or is there just something absurdly funny about this whole debacle?

I for one would like to see how Yahweh deals with the next one. Tornadoes? A giant sinkhole like the Guatemalan one? A freaking meteor strike? Can't wait.

Or perhaps, the parishioners of the Solid Rock Church might want to explore the possibility that the One True God™ might be Zeus after all,

Now, this I'd gladly worship! Look how ripped the Father of the Gods is! Picture courtesy of GENZOMAN.

Or if they are partial towards sons of divine beings born of a virgin, they might want to check out the Aztec god Xolotl. His mother is the virginal Coatlicue who gave birth to him and his twin brother, Quetzalcoatl, after being impregnated by a ball of feathers (who the fuck writes these stuff anyway?). Xolotl is the god of lightning, death, fire and sheer bad luck by the way, and the Touchdown Jesus conflagration totally had his signature all over it.

Granted, Xolotl's is no where as good looking as Jesus.

If you would rather place your bet on something that didn't look like it crawled out of a B-horror movie, can I interest you instead with the Japanese god of thunder and lightning, Raijin?

No wait, he ain't much of a looker either.

Or if you prefer Chinese, there's always the Duke of Thunder, Lei Gong. It's said that he would not enter a house if anyone in it is having sex. So this is one god figure who wouldn't be creepily watching every single thing you do at all times. I'm not too sure what his policy on masturbation is though.

Lei Gong
That's it, I'm getting a Lei Gong for my idol collection next. And yes, I have an collection of idols. Don't you?

If they shop around a little, they'd find that almost every culture in the world has some sort of thunder god which personifies the forces of thunder and lightning. That's what humans have been doing all throughout, and even before civilisation; attributing everything we can't explain to supernatural anthropomorphic beings of miraculous powers. Some cultures like the Norse, the Greeks and the Chinese chose to compartmentalise polytheistically and ascribe all the different forces of the natural world to separate godlings.

On the other hand, there's the monotheistic institutions - particularly the Abrahamic ones - which simply go to the extreme end of the "my god is bigger than yours" boasting game. They have only one god who controls everything because he is omnipotent and omniscient, and all the other puny gods can never beat him ever because he's the awesomest, bestest, most powerfulest God there is! Grovel at his feet or he shall torture you in hell! For eternity! TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!!!

Or that's how it always seemed like to me: a whole mess of ridiculous hyperbole, all of which are completely unsubstantiated. Here's an interesting paradox involving omnipotence: could God create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it?

You might be Christian. You might even agree with me that the Solid Rock Church might be more than a tad thickheaded when it comes to divining God's intentions, even after he sent a sign this clear. But how closely have you followed this particular commandment yourself? Have you never doodled or sketched "any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth?" Have you never sculpted using Play-Doy or built Lego models of animals or human beings? That what adhering to that commandment entails, you know, regardless of which translation you stick to. The corollary verse also says that you shouldn't bow to these replicas, but no where was it also said in the Bible that making carved images or drawing likenesses of anything is okay so long as you don't worship it either. If God really does exist, it's a wonder that the earth have not opened up to swallow the Vatican whole yet.

Anyway, think of this as the k0k bL0k edition of a Sunday school. Today, we took a look-see into the tribulations of a strangely defiant church, briefly discussed a commandment and delved into comparative theology a little, though our foray was barely deep enough to wet our ankles. Have a nice day. Enjoy what's left of it.

P.S. All of the above are my personal opinions. Now they aren't so personal anymore, eh?

P.P.S. Think of the omnipotence paradox as homework.

Gets to sleep in on Sundays,
k0k s3n w4i

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Danger of the Asian Flush

"Bacchus has drowned more men than Neptune."

Giuseppe Garibaldi

Remember this recent post? And this January 2008 one where I experimented with writing like a typical idiotic ah-beng blogger? Both featured the girlfriend after she had imbibed a glass or two of spirit, and I have to say I am liking what alcohol does to her looks. Her eyes takes on a bedroom softness, her mannerisms become ever-so-slightly off and her complexion acquires a healthy rosaceous glow which rivals Pomona's.

But you know what they say about all things good and fun. Being the naturally curious amateur scientist I am, I did some homework on the side... and as it turns out, that healthy blush isn't so healthy after all.

If you turn red easily after drinking alcoholic beverages, read on because this should concern you gravely.

Asian Blush
To quote myself: "...she would light up redder than Chinese New Year if she had so much as a few small sips of an alcopop"

If I may cut to the chase; that redness or "alcohol flushing response" may indicate a significantly increased risk for oesophageal cancer. The oesophagus is that stretch of the gastrointestinal tract which connects your pharynx to your stomach, by the way - and the pharynx is the intermediary between your mouth and your esophagus (and I'm explaining this because I habitually assume that everyone around me are idiots). And cancer of the oesophagus is not one of those feel-good cancers which unites families in triumphant battles against the odds in schlocky, heartwarming Hallmark TV films. It's a bad ass fucker of mothers in the gangster underworld of cancers. At the time of diagnosis, two-thirds of all patients with oesophageal carcinoma would already be incurable. Your chance of making it alive through your first 5 years? Less than 10%.

Oesophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma
"No so bad ass once you're out huh, Mr Scary Cancer of the Oesophagus between the Pharynx and the Stomach?"

For the purpose of this article, I shall employ the colloquial term Asian Flush from this point onwards.

The Asian Flush is very common and I'm sure everyone of us knows someone who would react this way to liquor. Statistically, more than a third of all oriental Asians - a group which includes the Chinese, the Japanese and the Koreans - display these characteristic stigmata of turning red, becoming nauseous and having increased heart rate when drinking alcohol.

And now a biology joke: What does the H in Jesus H. Christ stands for?

Haploid. The H stands for Haploid. If you didn't get the joke, pay close attention hereafter because you might have trouble following my explanation of why only some and not all Asians respond to alcohol this way.

We humans have 46 chromosomes in our genome or rather, 23 pairs. We get 23 from our Moms and 23 from our Dads and thusly, we are diploid. It follows that we also possess a pair of genes each which code for an enzyme called the aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) which gets rid of aldehyde, a product of alcohol breakdown in our bodies which causes the flushing response in the first place. Aldehyde also damages our DNA and promotes cancer growth. In a East Asians who experience the Asian Flush, either one of both copies of this enzyme-coding gene are defective.

Now, let's just denote the working copy of the ALDH2 gene with a big A, and the good-for-nothing fucked up copy with a small a. Below, I've created a simple table representing the 3 groups of people we all categorically belong to,

ALDH2 Genotypes
Which genotype are you?

Paradoxically, the aa people actually has a smaller chance of getting cancer than the Aa folks, believe it or not. That's because their extremely unpleasant reaction towards alcohol actually discourages them from drinking much at all. Disulfiram, the drug which is used to help alcoholics quit drinking works using the same principle: it blocks the action of the ALDH2 enzyme and causes a buildup of aldehyde in a person's body, effectively recreating the noxious effects of a serious case of Asian Flushing or hangover i.e. redness of skin, accelerated heart rate, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, throbbing headache, and mental confusion just to name a dozen.

Why would anyone drink if drinking's no fun, right?

As for the Aa heterozygotes (ignore this big sciencey H-word if you don't know what it means), they are sometimes capable of building up a tolerance over time to the worst of the Asian Flush symptoms by the sheer stubborn determination of their inner frat boys. Or inner party girls, as the case may be. This group of people can and will drink, and as a result, expose themselves to the worst possible risk of oesophageal cancer. Phoebe, from my own clinical assessment, is most likely an Aa although it's probably fair for me to inform everyone that she drinks very, very infrequently - and even then, drinks little.

Remember that even if you manage to acclimatise your body to the effects of alcohol and you would no longer go red like a lobster in the boil, your heightened likelihood of getting cancer is NOT eliminated - it's merely masked. And how much increased risk are we talking about here? Well, if you are Aa and drinks; you are more than 10 times more likely to strike the big C lottery than an AA who drink as much as you do. In Japanese and Taiwanese studies, it was found that 58% to 69% of all oesophageal cancer cases could be attributed or blamed on drinking by people with the Aa genotype.

Wow, I say to that. Just wow.

Oeso SCC Scope Upper Third
Oesophageal cancer in the upper third of the oesophagus, as seen through an upper gastrointestinal scope.

So, to summarise this post in easy talking points,
  • If you turn red, feel nauseous and experience an increased heart rate after imbibing just a small quantity of an alcoholic beverage, you are experiencing the Asian Flush.
  • If you are an Asian Flusher and still insist on drinking, you are putting yourself at a crazy high risk of getting oesophageal cancer.
  • Oesophageal cancer is one of the worst cancers you can get. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
  • Even if you manage to overcome the Asian flush by simply training your body to get used to the idea of liquor - and even if you no longer turn red - the risk of cancer insidiously remains. Watching you. Biding its time.
  • Quit drinking if you don't want to die a horrible and painful death.

Oeso SCC Scope Lower Third
Oesophageal cancer; this time in the lower third of the oesophagus. No place is safe.

If you are interested, there's also the so-called Flushing Questionnaire to help determine if you are one of those ALDH2 deficient people. It consists of two simple questions,
  1. Do you have a tendency to develop facial flushing immediately after drinking a glass (about 180 ml) of beer?
  2. Did you have a tendency to develop facial flushing immediately after drinking a glass of beer in the first one or two years after you started drinking?
If you answer "Yes" to either one or both questions, you are considered to be ALDH2 deficient and drinking, as a pastime, is not a very good idea for you. If you're not partial to beer, the same questions hold true for either two-thirds of a glass of vino or a single shot of the hard stuff like brandy, vodka, whisky, tequila, gin, rum and many other ecstatic etceteras.

And that concludes my presentation for today. Now I shall go pour myself a stiff one and drink to your health. Cheers, readers.

P.S. The last time I wrote an overtly medical public service announcement about a common health-related issue was back in 2007 and it was a short article titled Let's Talk Shit. I was only a second year med student at the time and the post was about how squatting when you defecate is so much healthier than sitting. Yeah, I've been weird that way for a long, long time.

Dating a chameleon girl,
k0k s3n w4i

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Philanthropical Sony Music Malaysia People

"We talked about music; he was into punk
Told me all the bands that I liked were junk"

Caught in the Crowd (2009) by Kate Miller-Heidke

This post will teach you how to easily get your paws on two free music albums of your choice from Sony Music.
Update: The throat of the giveaway has been cut. If you haven't already submitted your entry, it's already too late.

It recently came to my attention just how ridiculously disconnected I am from the current music scene when I was hanging out with some of my med school colleagues who were discussing the Pitbull concert they attended - and I was like, "You guys were at a concert? Performed by a dog? Freaking A!"

Confused Pit Bull
"I gave a concert? Where?!"

My taste in music is a bit of a curiosity to most people because the vast majority of my playlist is populated by obscure indie artistes, 90's pop punk bands, soundtracks of games and movies, the occasional Brit charter, Russian pop, French R&B and tracks from an eclectic collection of not-very-mainstream genres like folk, anti-folk, electronica, close harmony, Christian ska, Simlish, jazz revivalism and silly theme songs from kid's TV shows, just to name a few. Ages have passed and empires have fallen since I've last turned on the FM radio and tuned into a Malaysian radio station.

The closest brush I got to popular music in recent times was the TV musical Glee (which I've only watched till the Sectionals episode). It enabled me to get in on a "Who is your favourite Glee character and why?" contest hosted on Jen's blog not to long ago where she was giving away 5 Glee plastic folders to the 5 best entries, courtesy of Sony Music Malaysia. I was one of the winners and I gave my prize to the girlfriend, who is a far bigger Gleek than I am. The word "gleek" is also a slang verb meaning: "to build up saliva in the salivary glands using some stimulus, like sour food or yawning, and then pressing the tongue upon the glands, causing the saliva to shoot out, usually at an impressive distance."

You learn new things everyday, eh?

Glee Folder
Please excuse the abysmal quality of this picture. My long distance girlfriend has a shitty camera.

Yesterday, while I was enjoying my post-dinner nap, Jen rang me and woke me up with news of yet more free loot haemorrhaging from Sony Music Malaysia's office at Solaris Dutamas - near the Pink Sage Diner where Phoebs and I double-dated Jen and David three weeks ago. There's a reason why I call Jen the Patron Saint of Bargains and Freebies, you know. This time, they are dishing out not one but TWO music albums to ANY and EVERY blogger who would extend his or her fingers over the keyboard and do a writeup mentioning their Facebook page!

Too easy! My opinion is that the Sony Music Malaysia page is a great source of music and entertainment news and is an excellent place to stick around in case they ever feel that generous itch again to bury people with even more giveaways - and judging from my admittedly limited experience with them so far, that's just another page in the diary for Sony Music Malaysia. Still, for such warm, accessible and benevolent folks, I think it's a shame that they did not put a face (or faces) to their Facebook page. All they have for profile pics are a couple of dispassionate shots of their office space.

There's also the proviso that I have to be a fan of their Facebook page, whatever that means. That posed a rather challenging hurdle for me because I have absolutely no flippin' idea how Facebook works - so I dialed Jen not two hours ago for help.

"So, um, how do I go about being a fan of the Sony Music Malaysia page on this Facebook thing?" I asked sheepishly. I had this vague impression in my mind that I was suppose to stare intently at my computer monitor with the hope that my intention to join their fandom would get across by osmosis.

"You are hopeless," she laughed. "Just click on the 'Like' button!"

Naturally, the albums would have to be recorded by artistes or groups signed to their label, so I dropped by Wikipedia to see if any of their talents fall within my eccentric set of musical interest. I lucked out because my favourite electronica and synthpop songstress, Imogen Heap, just happens to be a Sony BMG artiste! Most of you would know her as the "Mmm watcha say" chick which that Auto-Tuned twit Jason Derülo sampled in his debut single, Whatcha Say. Me? I was a fan since her Frou Frou days.

And I would do anything, anything at all for the deluxe or bonus track version of her 2009 album, Ellipse,

She killed a flock of angels and stole their halos? I never did get cover arts for music albums.

Making up my mind for my second choice proved to be a much tougher proposition and no name seemed to leap out at me from the Wiki list of Sony Music artistes. I was deliberating between Lenka's self titled album and something from the Turkish alt-rock, hip hop fusion band maNga (which was the second-placer at Eurovision 2010, justifiably losing out to the awesome Lena Meyer-Landrut) when I finally decided to just randomly pick someone I have never heard of before. A chance click introduced me to Aussie Kate Miller-Heidke who, according to her Wiki page, is a classically trained lead opera vocalist turned alternative popstar. That got my attention alright and a quick YouTube raid showed me what a real class act she is. Besides, I have had nothing but great experiences with most of the Australian female singer-songwriters I've ever listened to - and I'm saying this as a big fan of Lisa Mitchell and Missy Higgins here.

So yeah, I want Kate Miller-Heidke's 2009 live album, Live at The Hi-Fi. Looks to me it has a good mix of tracks from her two studio albums and then some.

Live at the Hi-Fi
She only got my attention because I can't pronounce one of her last names. Hide-key? Head-kay? What?

And you too, dear readers, can also join the grab-fest if you are living in Malaysia, owns a Facebook account and writes a weblog. You can get the details here in either Jen's post or Sony Music Malaysia's facebook note. The short of it is; write something about the Sony Music Malaysia Facebook page, 'Like' it, post the permalink in the comments section of Jen's post along with your real world name and contact details (e-mail address or phone number) and consider yourself the proud new owner of two original Sony music CD's of your choosing. Remember, this is NOT a competition. Everybody who participates WILL win. I'd hurry, if I'm you Oops, it's all over. This is why you should always listen closely to everything I say.

This has been your favourite bringer of good tidings, signing off.

P.S. By the way, did I mention that I use Sony's NWZ-S616F MP3 player unlike all the iPod zombies out there?

Will write for free music,
k0k s3n w4i

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sake Room of Seberang Jaya

"Nouvelle Cuisine, roughly translated, means: I can't believe I paid ninety-six dollars and I'm still hungry."

Mike Kalin

This is suppose to be a review of Sake Room, a Japanese restaurant which I had on my exhaustively researched hit "eat" list back when I was in the Pulau Pinang mainland doing my orthopaedic elective but first, an anecdote! I direct your attention to this photograph,

Phoebe versus inebriation.

This rosy cheeked lass is the result of an alchemical experiment combining the girlfriend with an indeterminate volume of Japanese rice wine. That's my girl, alright; she would light up redder than Chinese New Year if she had so much as a few small sips of an alcopop. It's what we medical types refer to as the alcohol flush reaction or the Asian Flush - because we orientals are total weaksauce lightweights when it comes to liquoring our gills. About a third of all Chinese, Japanese and Koreans displays this syndrome; a club which I am happy to report does not include my membership.

We headed thereafter to the Sunway Carnival Mall which was pretty much just across the road from Sake Room because Phoebs needed to shop for a new pair of glasses. At the optometrist's, a Chinese sales clerk who was so Chinese that he probably just swam here across the South China Sea that very morning came up to Phoebe and went, "You duink be-er arh?" quite loudly

Oh boy, you should have seen how credulous he looked with his eyes magnified several times through his thick spectacles. Phoebs, made even redder by the embarrassment, was like 'No-lah, no-lah' as she tried to escape the clerk and the shop. I nearly cracked a rib laughing.


Right, let's get down to business here.

Sake Room
Welcome to Sake Room, Sushi & Lounge.

I would like to have dined here a couple more times to develop a more well-rounded impression before writing a review, but time and money are luxuries I had in short supply back when I was semi-vacationing in Seberang Perai. Anyway, allow me to introduce to you the cause of Phoebe's little comedic moment with the sales clerk,

Strawberry Infused Sake
Strawberry-infused sake.

It cost a figure somewhere between RM 30 to RM 40 - the memory bank's a little short on specifics right now. It came in this funky glass bottle which has a little hollow bubble projecting into it from the exterior to allow the ice in the bucket to chill the sake quicker without diluting the content (if anyone knows what this species of glassware is called, please give me an education). Phoebs and I actually wanted to try the pineapple-infused version but unfortunately, we only had the choice of having either strawberry or plum that day.

It's great that a waitress came periodically to fill our glasses. Just thought I should mention the great service.

Sake Glass
And they serve it in little clinkers like this one.

My experiences with sake is admittedly infrequent but I thought the infusion was quite drinkable, if a bit cloying (I had my heart set on the pineapple one, you see). It's produced using a super special secret house recipe and it takes about 2 weeks to produce 3 litres of the liquor. The taste is faintly reminiscent of strawberry-flavoured cough syrups so I'm sure this won't go down well with most people. As an apéritif though, it worked great and totally primed my stomach for the main,

Kabayaki Bento
Bento, bento!

You'll find it listed under bento sets section of the menu as "unagi kabayaki & chicken wasabi pepper" and it'll set you back at RM 40. I'm sure what they meant was "wasabi pepper chicken" and the term "unagi kabayaki" always appeared a little redundant to me since kabayaki is already colloquially used to refer to dishes which have unagi in them. And since we're on the subject of redundancy; bento sets. Also, I like menus which give colourful and meaningful descriptions of food items - particularly in specialty restaurants serving food that have weird foreign names - and Sake Room's catalogue is a little short on details. I'm a Japanese food veteran so I already have a working glossary of edible Nipponese words in my head but your everyday diner might find the gibberish somewhat intimidating.

The eel was competently assembled - crisp on the outside, and tender on the inside - and the unagi tare used to flavour it struck what I thought was a good balance between savoury and sweet. It's not the best I've had but after eating nothing but bad incarnations of this dish for months, this was almost a godsend. The peppery wasabi-accented chicken was the more outstanding component of this bento, if you ask me, but I chalk this up to my personal addiction to all things flavoured green and mean. The generous sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds certainly helped too - but you haven't heard the last of them yet.

The bento also included a good half-cup serving of yasai itame (essentially sauteed cabbage), a gyoza, some appetising tsukemono (mostly gari), lots of edamame, a hearty bowl of miso soup and a serving of sticky Japanese short-grain rice. Supposedly, the set also comes with some tamago but it was strangely absent from mine. I did not pursue the matter because I'm not that big a fan of the sweetened omelette (plus, I was already feeling kind of stuffed). Heck, I'm not even that big a fan of eggs in general. Aside from that, they also seemed to have completely forgotten about my dessert which was part of the deal. This, I could not let slip. More on this later.

It is a pretty filling combo and is worth every penny I paid, I can tell you. Folks who constantly complain that Japanese food portions are too small take note.

Udon, udon!

Phoebs ordered "tempura udon" from their noodle menu and thankfully, it wasn't what I thought it meant (battered and deep fried Japanese wheat noodle, anyone?). It actually consists two separate dishes. The first, in the above photograph, is a bowl of udon garnished with katsuobushi (bonito flakes), nori, a cap of mushroom and a pair of naruto kamaboko slices (those white fishcakes with pink spirals on them). It wasn't bad but it won't exactly blow your mind either.

The second is this; all of five glorious, golden ebi tempura,

Ebi Tempura
They feel the need to throw a dash of sesame seeds on this too, for some reason.

Say what you will about Sake Room but they aren't the stingy fucks most Japanese restaurateurs are. What their shrimps lacked in girth and length they made up with sheer number. However, they do not have that light, unique fluffiness which characterises your regular tempura dishes - not that that's a bad thing because the prawn to batter ratio here is definitely higher. As a rule, I rarely order tempura stuff anyway when I go to Japanese restaurants because I consider the process to be ruinous to the original flavour of whatever food it is that's involved. And most of the time, all one can taste is the batter anyway.

The udon bowl and the ebi tempura totalled RM 20.

Phoebs and I also shared this weird looking makizushi,

As you can probably tell, the pieces are ginormous.

This form of rolled and cut sushi is also called makimono, a term which Sake Room favoured. Simply called the "crispy roll", it's part of the restaurant's designer makimono line and it'll will cost you RM 18. It is also delicious - if you're an idiot.

Oh, it was probably enough to fill a guy like me up on its own and if you're not a fusspot, you'd probably consider it a pretty decent, righteous, churchgoing and god-fearing sushi. Its blurb claims that it contains unagi, asparagus, avocado and cream cheese (and if you look at the picture, there's also all that tobiko - flying fish roe - which they have neglected to mention in their menu) and the whole roll was deep fried tempura-style. It's just one of those things which sounds good on paper but when executed...

My assessment of it is this: you're not going to taste much more than the cream cheese, the batter and the copious amount of rice in it. The cream cheese in particular was overpowering, as much as I love the stuff under different circumstances. The unagi and the tobiko? I swear you won't even know they are there.

I notice that a unwarrantably large proportion of their designer makizushis also contain cream cheese in them, no doubt pandering to the majority of people's partiality to it. While I can't say outright that the rest also sucked testicles, I would advice people to stay clear of them - or at least tell them to ease up on the dairy and rice.

On the plus side, the maki came with a side of gari (that pink pickled ginger thing) which I love. In Japanese restaurants which allow their customers a bottomless unrestricted supply, I can literally just sit there and munch disturbingly large quantities of it while I am between orders. The quality of their wasabi was also good, and the accompanying hot sauce was top notch; prudently spicy, faintly sour and fragrant because of the sesame seeds - which also peppered the plate, if you notice.

What's up with this place's obsession with sesame seeds anyway? There's such thing as too much of a good thing, you know. Case in point,

Green Tea Ice Cream
At this point I was like "Not again!"

This is the dessert which was suppose to come with my bento set meal that totally slipped their minds. It's hard to tell but it's apparently green tea ice-cream, served tastefully in a cocktail glass. I was informed that it was homemade and that they ground premium green tea leaves in their blend. I'm no expert on the art of ice-cream making, but I presume that it's probably easier to fine-tune the flavour if one uses matcha (finely-milled Japanese green tea) to make it. That's what Starbucks use in their Green Tea Frappuccinos, if I'm not mistaken.

I bring this up because the Sake Room's green tea ice-cream is tasteless. That inherent blandness is compounded by the obnoxious presence of yet more sesame seeds dumped onto it like it's going out of fashion. Come to think of it, it makes for a pretty decent sesame ice-cream because that's the only damn thing I could taste. However, as a green tea ice-cream, it's an utter and complete failure. Looks outstanding though.

By the way, I absolutely love kurogoma (black sesame) ice-cream and I inquire about its availability in every Japanese restaurant I visit, but I'm afraid it's none too common in Malaysia.

Sake Room Outside
How it looks like on the outside.

I won't say that this review is my definitive word on Sake Room since I've visited it only once. My overall impression is that this place was slightly overrated by some blogs (and grossly overrated by others) but it's still better than either Sushi King or Sakae Sushi. Price-wise, it won't break you and their servings are very generous. I personally like the sombre and laid back lighting they employ since it also doubles up as a lounge. It's a great place for conversations over a drink with one's friends or a lover. As for the taste, they generally float above the average depth of the pool but the kitchen crew seems to have a tendency to go overboard with the sesame seeds and cream cheese. It makes me think that they are trying to conceal or make up for some shortcomings in either their ingredients or cooking skills - not that that's necessarily the case, of course.

Also, free Wi-Fi.

I'd definitely return if I have the chance, if only to give it a fairer shake of an appraisal. And to get my hands on some pineapple-infused sake if it's the last thing I do!

Sake Bottles
Namesakes. Now don't any of you come and ask me what a na-me-sa-ke is.

You can find Sake Room in a southerly direction from the Sunway Carnival Mall in Seberang Jaya, just opposite the road from a Billion Supermarket and two doors away from the Roxbury Bistro & Pub. And if that's not specific enough for you,

No 17, Jalan Todak 3,
Pusat Seberang Jaya,
Seberang Jaya,
13700 Penang

The not terribly precise GPS coordinates as determined using Google Earth are 5°23'47.12"N, 100°23'49.69"E. To contact them, dial +604-3992717 or +6012-5201212 (ask for a Melissa Liew, who is also the creative force behind the establishment). They are open for business from 11:00 am till late from Tuesday to Saturday. They switch to a more bar-like or cocktail lounge atmosphere after 10:00 pm on these days, whatever that means. On Sundays, it's 3:00 pm to midnight. They are presumably closed on Monday, since I can't get any info on their hours for that day 4:00 pm till late every day of the week. While they probably have no chance at a halal license since they serve alcoholic beverages, it is useful to know that they don't use any pork products whatsoever in the premises.


For the sake of sake,
k0k s3n w4i