Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We're off to see the Zoo!

Hey ya'll

Cy and Ray off to the zoo!!!
I've had so much free time on my hands lately it's absolutely sinful!!! It was a pity, however that despite all the time off I've been having, Ray is about to sit for his exam soon which means that there's not a whole lot of things we can do together either since (right at the moment when I've got absolutely nothing to do) he's so busy reading up on his psychology textbooks. Talk about bad timing! Regardless, it was quite fortunate that Ray decided  to take a break from the books yesterday and we decided to make a trip to the zoo. The national zoo of Malaysia, or Zoo Negara, is a place I haven't been to in such a long time. The last time I recall making a trip was when I was seven or eight so... pretty much over a decade ago. For Ray, this would be his first time going so I suppose it was only predictable that we got lost a couple of times, made a few wrong turns along the way and although we left my house at about 10am, we only got there at about 11.30. It was worth it, though, and from what I recall from about ten years back, I really believe that they have beautifully upgraded the place. Some of the additions include IUCN information on endangered species and various new exhibits like the flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) aviary and the insectarium and butterfly house.

At the entrance to the insect zoo
The insect zoo would have cost us an additional RM5 to enter, but thank god Ray and I bought the full package with our entry tickets so we didn't have to pay that extra. The exhibits were quite interesting I suppose with an indoor insect museum not unlike the ones present at many butterfly parks, followed by a modest sized butterfly aviary which housed rather common, but equally beautiful local butterflies. The most interesting exhibit I would say were the leaf insects, and as always the chrysalis house, where Ray and I saw butterflies eclosing from their pupae which came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from leaf green to brilliant gold.

Clipper butterfly (Parthenos sylvia) sipping nectar off a hibiscus flower on one of the butterfly feeders.
Although there were not much rare butterflies to ogle at, the butterfly aviary still provided plenty of photographing opportunities. 
Our next stop was to see the penguins. Having already watched Happy Feet 2 (mostly out of desperation) last week, Ray (who is rather obsessed with the semi-aquatic birds) really wanted to see how penguins looked like in real life and it was such luck that the zoo housed a handful of African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) which amused us for awhile as they would keep following our movements as we paced from one view port of the enclosure to another.

Ray and the penguins
We saw a lot of other animals as well, on the way to the penguin enclosure, such as the Orang utans, bonobo
monkeys and camels, which I was rather wary of because of their tendency to spit and unwary passersby. Ray, however, had no such qualms and was probably more excited about seeing a camel for the first time in his life than he was worried about getting spat on.

Making kissy faces with the camel
His courage quailed, however, when we came face-to-face with this four foot long water monitor lizard  (Varanus salvator)
 The zoo also housed an indoor and air-conditioned aquarium which featured mostly river species of fish like the Fire Eel (Mastacembelus erythrotaenia) and the giant and intimidating looking Arapaima (Arapaima gigas) which, incidentally is also a living fossil which means that it has survived since dinosaur times!!! But one  of the things which most drew my attention about our National Zoo was the breeding program they have begun to conduct in an attempt to rehabilitate certain endangered species in the wild. In addition to the near-threatened Painted Storks (Mycteria leucocephala), Ibises (Threskiornis aethiopicus and Eudocimus ruber) and Flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus and Phoenicopterus ruber) which all had free-roam of the park's grounds, the zoo also conducts a breeding program for the Milky Stork (Mycteria cinerea) which is incidentally one of the most endangered birds in Malaysia.

Ray and the Waterbird lake, which is the largest exhibit in the park
Saying hello to the Painted storks (Mycteria leucocephala)

Pins and Needles 32 ~ Smashing Swallowtails pt. 2

Hey ya'll!!!

That's it! I'm officially done, which means I now have the arduous task of posting all I've been putting off thus far. Anyway as you might have gleaned from the snippets I left in my previous post, I've recently come upon a cache of swallowtail specimens and have been absolutely DYING to post them up here well... seeing as to how I've had more time than I can handle these past few days, I took the opportunity of cataloging them and what not, so here they are! 

Papilio memnon
Atrophaneura coon doubledayi
Atrophaneura varuna
Atrophaneura nox
As you can see, I've gotten a little bit obsessed over swallowtails recently, especially the Atrophaneura genus of red-bodied swallowtails (their bodies are red because of the poisons they sequester from the plants they eat). Anyway, I consider the nox to be one of the prizes in my collection so far. Atrophaneura nox or the Malayan Batwing (not to be confused with the birdwing butterflies) is considered a threatened swallowtail species and it is my goal in the future to extend my breeding project to such a beautiful butterfly with hopes of rehabilitating it into the wild. I really love the way the velvety blue stands out in contrast to the other darker portions of the wing. It's a pity the specimen suffered a few tears though, or it would have been perfect. Anyway, just sharing some of the more exotic, if somewhat less prolific, butterflies of Malaysia. Hoping someday someone will come upon this blog, read what I have wrote and come to appreciate wildlife on a whole new level. Anyway, more posts coming up soon, but until then~ 

Make of our hands, one hand
Make of our hearts, one heart
Make of our vows, one last vow
Only death will part us now.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Trap in a Reverie (Ray)

Darkness dawned over the horizon as stars started to speckle through the vast sky. The lagoon was still, no signs of anyone. In the distance, bullfrogs began their mating call, loudly belching which supposedly should sound melodious to their potential mate. I took it in all these beauties, all these little things of life that made it perfect. Gradually, I shuffled into my room, reluctantly picking up another psychology textbook. The deadline was closing in and I knew I should not waste any more time. Yet, my mind wouldn’t permit the sentences I was reading to enter into my long-term memory.

I pulled back. “Long-term memory?” I had definitely read too much. Unable to bear the torment any longer, I threw the book to the floor and myself onto the bed. I sighed. I did not want my life to be bound by books but these books were my one-way ticket to my dream, my goal. I had been reading the entire day and my mind was full of psychological terms. One of the subjects I had to study was Motivation and Emotion. It wasn’t exactly the world’s most exciting book to read but I recalled a paragraph amidst the tome, stating that any attempts to successfully perform an action would be in vain if one does not have the motivation to begin with – or was it something entirely different? I couldn’t care less at the moment.

My head started to spin and the bed somehow embrace me as I slowly lost my consciousness. Blurry imageries suddenly appeared in my vision. “Looks like I’m dreaming,” I remarked to myself. I concentrated on focusing on my dream until the picture became clear and then, I realized I was on an open field with grass swaying around me as if they were waving at me. The field was stark, the sky was cloudless, and I came to the realization that my mind lacks imagination.

Growing up Creepy pt.5 ~ The Sign.

I don't know what woke me up that morning, but it was 7am when I stirred and could not go back to sleep. Strange, considering I could barely keep my eyes open, having slept not more than three hours earlier. I was feeling edgy, cranky, and full of angst. I felt like I had had enough with work, enough with life, enough with the pressures that come with certain social obligations and I wanted to forget it all. I had done all I can and I wanted nothing more than to just go back to bed, forget about the problem and deal with it only later, at a more reasonable hour.

But something woke me up, and it seemed determined not to allow me to go back to bed. Instead, I paced the confines of my room, shufle, shuffle, back and forth. And then I heard it, a crack. Small, barely audible, but instantly recognizable. I turned my head towards the source of the sound and then I watched, almost with dumb fascination as a butterfly began pulled itself out from the coffin of its former life. Beautiful, resplendent, in hues of violet blue so deep it seemed pierce the dark (but slowly brightening) morning sky. Its scalloped hind-wings were dotted with vibrant reds and yellows and oranges that reminded me of the lantana flowers they love so much, while its fore-wings, tapering and strong, were striped with contrasting bands of silvery-white. It was, like the birth of all my butterflies, breathtakingly beautiful. The butterfly eased its way out of the casket, one delicate limb at a time, until it was completely free, poised upside down as it were, as a gravity defying ballerina. The proboscis, long and elegant began to slowly furl and unfurl. In a moment so unbelievable it seems almost surreal, the butterfly cocked its head, and I was transfixed by the insect's stare.

A single pair of compound eyes, black as pitch and faceted like a beautifully cut onyx, stared me up and down, as if judging my worth, and I could not but entertain a romantic thought where I wondered if even butterflies had souls. Slowly, but surely, its wings began to expand. Absently, almost like an after-thought, I felt a vibration by my side, but I ignored it. So transfixed was I by this minute creature that for a moment, all the time in the world seemed to slow. I noticed, almost absently, that the world was stirring about me, but my focus, the entire portion of my thoughts, were directed at the butterfly. I stared at the butterfly, and the butterfly stared back. Presently, the little insect began to stir, evidently tired of our little staring contest, and it raised a foreleg and tapped it on the surface upon which it was clinging to. Tap, tap. Like little nails drumming upon a polished hard-wood surface. tap, tap, tap. And as gradual as it took hold, the butterfly began to release its hypnotic spell upon me.

The world began to come back in bits and pieces. I noticed casually, at first, the ever-brightening sky. Then came the realization that the birds, which had began to stir from their nests high up in the trees, had started to sing, their melodic thrills punctuated only by the slightly gruff tones that emanated from the mess of comforters and pillows on the bed which in turn marked my lover's imminent arrival into the rest of this waking world. And then I felt again, that something was vibrating by my side again, only this time I realized that it must have been my phone. I picked it up and saw, a notification. It told me Dr. Andrew had sent me a message. I opened it. The first words I read... "You are all done." It took a moment for the words to sink in, but it did. I was finished, I was done. My thesis. The dissertation that I had worked so hard for the entire year had come to fruition.  I felt a song, rising in my chest, and without warning, the butterfly flicked its antenna in my direction, and started to fly.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Portrait of a Birdwing Butterfly

Hey ya'll

Just spent the last half an hour coming up with this!!! It has been too long since I last sketched anything much less got to painting.

The Cairns Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera euphorion) a visual symbol of my anticipation  of FREEDOM!!!

Growing up Creepy pt.4 ~ "LICE in my RICE!!!"

Hey ya'll!!!

Now, I've never been one to be adventurous, least of all when it comes to food... but I must admit I have done some pretty amazing gastronomic stunts on the rare occasions when I actually feel like it. Tarantulas, bamboo worms and duck embryo are just some of the creepy, crawly and strange things I've put into my system in my day. But there is a difference, I suppose, between going to a market in Thailand and purchasing creepy crawlies for food and having one show up unexpectedly in your dinner!!! Which, reminds me of an incident which happened to a friend of mine a couple of years ago.

Now, I know this girl from college, an Indonesian girl (not that her nationality has anything to do with the story) and she was very pretty. Not too bright, though, but that's also besides the point.  So, one day, this friend of mine was feeling rather hungry and she decided to go make herself some fried rice. After making the rice, though, someone calls her up and asks her out for a movie and she agrees. But the rice was still too hot to store in the fridge and the movie was starting soon so what she does is she leaves it on the kitchen table but covers it with one of those.... cage thingies... you know, the ones to keep the insects out.

So this friend of mine, she goes for her movie and watches it and by the time it finishes it was already quite late and she was feeling hungry. Her friend suggested that they head to the nearest McDonalds or 24 hour mamak but I suppose she must have not felt like fast food and opted to go home instead, remembering she still had the fried rice from earlier. Problem is, when she went home, that the rice had already gotten cold but I suppose it was just a small matter of heating it up against because that's exactly what she did. So then my friend, with her steaming bowl of fried rice sat down in front of the TV and contentedly enjoyed the meal she had so painstakingly prepared for herself.

As she was swallowing down mouthfuls of rice though, she tasted something peculiar in one particular bite. It was pungently sour, but also slightly sweet. There was a somewhat leathery texture to each bite, like chewing down on a particularly fibrous piece of vegetable. And that's what she thought it was, a particularly fibrous and overcooked leaf of lettuce. And so she chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed, until it became evident that that "fibrous vegetable" was not going to go down, and so she spat what was left into a tissue. This is what she saw:
Or... something like this anyway considering how she'd already swallowed most of the other bits (the chewy fibrous part was the wing... or so I was told). Meanwhile I'm happy to say that nothing quite as unexpectedly nasty has ever happened to me in my life and I suppose it is only natural that I now seem almost thankful for my almost-OCD like quality for picking through my food before I eat it.  I suppose the closest I would get to experiencing something like this would be the time I found a baby cockroach in my breakfast (FOUND, but not eaten...) or the time a lizard decided to take a couple of licks off a tiramisu cake I had left on the kitchen table for five minutes (incidentally my dad ate the cake before I could get back to it and till this day, remains non the wiser) but I suppose those stories weren't nearly half as exciting as this one.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pins and Needles 30 - Smashing Swallowtails

Hey ya'll

I just finished drafting my intro (which, incidentally is the last part to my dissertation) so I'm taking the opportunity to do some quick specimens update here.  Some of these specimens were insects I've collected many months ago but seeing as to how I've just re-sorted many of them into their respective boxes I just wanted to show you some of the beautiful swallowtail butterflies I've got so far.

Papilio iswara
Papilio helenus
Papilio polytes (male)
Papilio polytes (stichius form female). The interesting thing about this specimen is her slightly smaller left hind wing. The females mimic the poisonous common rose swallowtail. Observe.
Atrophaneura aristolochiae
Atrophaneura varuna
Meanwhile I've never felt so relieved in awhile!!! Parents gone, sister gone, house to myself, and seemingly all the time in the world to finally relax and recuperate. Here's to hoping that Dr. Andrew doesn't find too many things wrong with my first chapter!!! Anyway it's about time I caught up with my re-watching of the Nanny. Also I can't wait to have Ray over so we can play house again! Till next time

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I've been chosen for the First Aids Art Collab: 23 day countdown

Hey ya'll !!!

I know I've put things off for such a long time since my previous post but I'm finally nearing the end now and it seems that the storm is just the strongest before we see the rainbow. No matter, as the days go by I grow more and more confident that I am going to make it after all! Who knows, I might even manage to finish this before the month is up!!! In the meantime, do check out PT Foundation's First AIDS art collab.

First AIDS Art Collab is an art book and exhibition project that serves to raise awareness on the issue of AIDS in Malaysia. In just over a month, we received close to 50 artworks from local and international artists answering the call for solidarity with Malaysia's People Living with HIV (PLHIV)
2001 will be the 23rd year since the inception of World AIDS Day. To celebrate, join us as we count down the 23 days to the Malaysian iteration of the worldwide event on the 26th of November. The artworks can also be viewed at our dedicated Tumblr blog here: Keep checking it for the other equally awesome artworks that did not make it into the countdown but will be featured in the art book. 

Meanwhile, guess whose artwork was chosen to be in the book as well as Day 10 of the countdown...

Those who live on the margins are like the caterpillars and the butterflies.

A caterpillar is a butterfly. It may not look like it, behave like it or incite the same emotions as it, but it is. A caterpillar is a butterfly, and the world so often forgets that fact. They look at the repulsive little worm, squirming in the dirt, it's blind featureless face, its pulsating and wriggling body, and they are repulsed. They cast out the caterpillar, kill it, stomp it. Employ all sorts of poisons and measure to keep them away. But always, they invite the butterfly. So obsessed are they by its beauty, its grace, the sort of inspiration it incites among the artists and poets alike that they forget that the caterpillar, so similar and yet so different a creature. But that is why they cast it out. So enamored are they, but the butterfly's beauty, that they refuse to embrace the repulsive thing it had come from.

A caterpillar is like a person living on the margins of society. It may not look like one, or act like one or experience the world in the same way as one but it is. Like the caterpillar, we live in the margins. We are a part of something and yet set aside from it. We are the children of the abject, we come from the body of the dominant "self" and yet are so different from it. And so they fear us, because we are constant reminders to them that their secured little notions of their "selves" are perhaps, not as secure as they would like it to be. And so they try to silence us. Beat us. Torment us. Keep us boxed and in our place. Always the "other". But just as the caterpillar who survives will inevitably turn into the butterfly, someday we too shall change.

To those of us who live in the shadow, persevere. Persevere so that someday we can spread our wings. Let our colors shine.

"because these things will change. Can't you feel it now? Those walls that they put up to hold back will fall down."

Can't believe, that something I sketched with a black ink pen and colored in with highlighters will receive such recognition now! Anyway I must say that it is such an honor to be received into this amazing project. CAN'T WAIT TO HAVE A COPY OF THAT BOOK!!! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Butterfly Relocation Project

Captive butterflies for breeding purposes
Hey all,

Just want to let you know that I've much to say that has been up on hold because of my thesis work but, let's just say that the end is finally in sight and it is really quite an exhilarating feeling. Meanwhile, I'm currently on a personal project to relocate a certain species of butterfly to another breeding ground as their current one is about to be demolished in a few weeks time. The tawny coster (Acraea terpsicore) butterfly is not one that is especially rare but rather one that is usually found in abundance only in specific areas. Following the destruction of the forested area (where I used to frequent weekly to make my records on local wildlife) many of these butterflies have relocated to a small strip of abandoned land next to the outdoor parking lot of Monash University. With the construction of the new condominiums, the walkway bridge and a connecting highway, though, I fear that many of these butterflies will not make it. Sure enough, some will probably move to other spots to breed, but maybe not in such abundance. Short of raising my fists in opposition to development, I've decided to attempt a species relocation, perhaps somewhere closer to home. I've grown some of the necessary host plants the butterfly requires and will now begin the slow process of transporting live adults and larvae to the area with hopes that they would eventually settle down there. This container is one of such. Meanwhile, I also managed to net a gray albatross (Appias libythea) male specimen to accompany the female I have at home.

Anyway, I must go now, need to send Ray to KL and then get back to editing my conclusion. Till December folks...

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pins and Needles 29 ~ OH Rhinoceros!!!

Hey ya'll

it's been quite a while hasn't it? Since my last update... but really I've been so immersed with everything that's been going on the past few days I ... I just really don't have as much time for insects as I used to. Meanwhile here I was thinking I would be done with my thesis on time and now it seems like I've hit a snag in the road instead. It is really quite demotivating, but I know it will all work out for the better. Like I always say, quitting is never an option! Meanwhile the OTHER thing that's going on has only reminded me why people should agree to disagree more often... would solve a lot of global conflicts it would .What's it to you if someone doesn't share your belief. Now you could be a bigot, a racist, a sexist or an ethnic supremacist for all I care... just keep those horrible things deep down... hidden, where it can fester as a mental illness and leave everyone else the heck alone. It is really quite annoying when I can't pick up the newspaper and not flip through a dozen things going wrong with the world before I can get to the comics. But enough of the depressing stuff... check out this gorgeous guy

He is some kind of a rhinoceros beetle (O. rhinoceros) , I think. You can't really tell from here but if you tip him sideways you can see his cute little horn. I'm... really not that good with beetles.
Also, laying out to dry, currently are a motley collection of butterflies waiting to be boxed and displayed. Will update you all on that the moment I have the time to take them all out and identify them one by one. In the meantime, wish me luck for my thesis yo!!!! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Someday I'll Fly Away~ pt. 2

This feeling of dread.
And a heavy heart.
Someday I'll fly away.
But first I must grow my wings.

Not sure if it's the stress talking or the pressure that looms over me like an ever encroaching deadline to which I feel I am most unprepared to face. Either way it's finally taking it's toll. Will probably update again after the 21st... if I live.