Do you know why the ostrich wanted to cross the Federal Highway?

I can mow reveal – in the strictest confidence, mind – that said ostrich was of Roman descent and it was afraid that someone would Caesar!

It was the talk of Kuala Lumpur on that Thursday evening. An ostrich identified only as Chickaboo – Italian for “why am I always surrounded by turkeys?” – made a run for it after it leapt out of its truck near University Malaya and pelted down the Federal Highway at speeds of close to 35 kilometres an hour. It was, however, not charged for impeding traffic as it was travelling much faster than the traffic around it.

The fast, feathered fugitive then embarked on a hour-long, flightless frolic of its own. According to this newspaper, the fowl fiend was finally flummoxed and pinned down at around 4.15pm by two rescuers, identified only as the heroic Agus and Shunmugavael.

The bird had, apparently, belonged to an ostrich farm in Semenyih although no one can explain what it was doing driving a truck near University Malaya.

Agus and Shunmugavel should be considered for medals of valour in the face of overwhelming might. Ostriches are the largest and heaviest birds on the planet. They are between seven and nine feet tall and can weigh up to 350 pounds.

OK, the poor fellows cannot fly but, on the other hand, you don’t see them getting sucked into jet engines either. You have to put these things in perspective. The sinking of the Titanic, for example, was both a tragedy and a triumph – a tragedy for its passengers but a triumph for the lobsters awaiting the chef’s ministrations.

Listening to the radio then, I was struck by the number of people calling up to profess concern for the feathered fugitive There is no doubt about it: human beings generally do care about the creatures on this good earth especially when they are not eating or wearing them.

What, you might ask, will happen to Chickaboo of no last name, that defiant Italian chick with long legs and massive sprinting ability, now impossibly stuck miles away from Rome and in the green, bowels of Semenyih?

Nothing apparently. We have been told that it belonged to an altruistic farm peopled by brave but benign gentlemen with no last names – Agus and Shun, for instance – and the mighty Chickaboo will live out its speedy life, eschewing pasta, and getting used to Malaysian cuisine. 

In short, Chickaboo was born free and, much to the chagrin of red-meat lovers the world over, would never be a candidate for the cooking pots of Asia.

In short, like the sheep that gives us steel wool, Chickaboo had no natural enemies except for disease, old age and high cholesterol associated with an unvarying Malaysian diet.

It was free to roam the meadows of Semenyih and do whatever it was ostriches do when they are left free to roam the meadows in Semenyih.

I can almost hear you sigh, dear reader. Was that a sigh of contentment, of things ending up in their proper place and of happy endings fading into the sunset?

Or was that a sigh of vexation at bleeding-heart, animal-lover liberals who had risen to the top of the food chain only to become vegetarians?

Meanwhile, back at the farm in Semenyih……

This first appeared in June 2016


A Japanese aquarium, closed during the coronavirus outbreak, is asking people to make video calls to their eels so the sensitive creatures remember that humans exist and don’t pose a threat.

The Sumida Aquarium, housed in the landmark Tokyo Sky Tree Tower, has been closed since March and its animals have become used to a largely human-free environment during the two-month calm.

Indeed, the wriggling creatures seem to have forgotten all about humankind. 

This was unlike Donald J Trump, however.  And how do we know that the Donald has a good memory?

Because he’s said so repeatedly, recently again telling the press: “I have one of the greatest memories of all time.” It wasn’t clear if it was a reference to his evening with Stormy Daniels, but he made it clear that he had a memory like an elephant. Indeed, he’s often claimed that elephants frequently consulted him. 

But I digress. I was talking about forgetful eels, wasn’t I?

It seemed that the eels had started forgetting about humans altogether. Garden eels were especially skittish, apparently – they disappeared into the sand to hide every time their keepers passed by. 

To the polite Japanese, it was bad form and not very considerate at all, especially, when you considered the feelings of the keepers trying to monitor the health of said beasts. 

Previously, the eels had gotten so used to their human visitors that they frolicked about in blithe abandon in front of them quite forgetting that they were sensitive creatures by nature and quite wary of the human being.

Now, bereft of human contact, they were suddenly shy and retiring. You could say they were modest to a fault and the sharks admired them because they admired creatures who had little talent and were modest about it. 

Desperate situations require desperate remedies so Yamamoto-san, the head of the aquarium, has turned to technology for the solution. 

In a bid to reacquaint the eels with humans, the aquarium is setting up five tablets facing the tank housing the delicate creatures, with eel enthusiasts asked to connect through iPhones or iPads via the FaceTime app. The callers are then supposed to show their faces, wave, smile and talk to the eels. 

But given the tender nature of the animals, callers are asked not to shout and to always refrain from recounting how much they loved dining out on unagi.

That would, they were advised, be bad form as everyone knew that eels were sensitive, tender creatures as opposed to octopi which were tough suckers and required boiling for at least several hours to render them delicate and tender. 

In the event, the aquarium’s plea has attracted plenty of support, under the wildly original Japanese catch phrase – “When you gaze at the garden eels, the garden eels gaze back at you.” 

And it puts them at ease. When you come right down to it, show me an eel without ease and I’ll show you a creature spelled “ls.”


It’s often been called man’s best friend and with good reason.

A dog that’s been waiting in the middle of a road for more than 80 days for its owner to return has sparked an outpouring of emotion on Chinese social media, after a video emerged of the pet standing guard near where its owner was reportedly killed.

The state-owned China News Agency reported the dog in the city of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, had been sitting by the guard rail in the middle of the road for almost three months.

This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Indeed, the dog in China has nothing on Japan’s famous Hachiko, the Akita dog that waited for its dead owner for more than nine years outside a train station in Tokyo in the 1920s.

Do you see that happening with a cat?

Fat chance. You see, in ancient times cats used to be worshipped as gods and they have never gotten over that. So, while dogs look up at you, cats look down to you and generally sneer at everyone until it’s mealtime. 

 They also think everyone’s Egyptian: those were the idiots who started the cat-worshipping cult.  

I admit it, I’m not really a cat person. This is a generally well-known fact. In fact, when I was living in Petaling Jaya in the 1990s, one of the neighbourhood cats got killed. It was actually curiosity that killed the cat but, for a while there, I was a suspect. 

Dogs not only agree enthusiastically with everything you say but greet you every day as if you were a member of the Beatles.

And dogs have functions. There are police dogs, sniffer dogs and bird dogs. 

Which reminds me, have you heard the one about the talking sheepdog? After he’d collected all the sheep, he tells the farmer, “OK, that’s it, that’s the 40 for you”. 

Farmer protests, “I’ve only got 37 sheep.”

Dog: “I know, I rounded them up.” 

And when’s the last time you saw a seeing-eye cat? 

In fact, the beasts can be notoriously picky. I once was  neighbour to a couple – Sugu and his wife Annabel – who seriously adored their cat Ben Hur. OK, it used to be Ben until it had kittens. 

That was a joke and the curmudgeonly cat was really called Bennie. They so doted on the fastidious feline that they even acquiesced to its demand that it be only fed with either lamb or lemon sole. 

Once Sugu thought he would fool the finicky feline and offered the rascal ikan kurau or threadfin. He got scratched for his audacity.

Whenever I visited them, I would seat myself on one of the chairs on their balcony that Sugu told me later was generally occupied by Bennie. 

That explains it. I used to wonder why the cat always used to slink past and regard me with the barely restrained menace of an axe murderer. 

Still, I am pleased to report that its extravagant diet seemed to suit Bennie who lived on to become the Methuselah of cats. It lived until the ripe old age of 24 – over a 100 in our time – and was accorded all the pomp and pageantry of a state funeral. 

Let’s face it. If we leave out pit bulls and Rotweilers, the average dog is a better person than the average person.

 I first wrote this for the Star sometime in November, 2018

Mind Your Language

In the early 1980s, a work of fiction first surfaced as a cult classic before rolling on, wavelike, to become an enormous best seller in the United States. Its title intrigued me so much, I bought it. 

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is a hilarious romp through the mind of its protagonist Ignatius J Reilly, a fat Don Quixote who bears a perpetual grudge against the world for reasons too crazy to explain. 

But the original source of my fascination with the book was its title, specifically the collective noun it employed to group “dunces.” A read-through of the book’s foreword cleared up the mystery.  

The title was spun off from a saying coined by the satirist Jonathan Swift: “when a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” In the context of the book, it made sense: Ignatius naturally fancied himself a genius. 

But it was the genius of the collective noun that grabbed me.  

The English language has always fascinated me because of its flexibility. A bird in itself cannot make a pun. But toucan. 

You see what I mean? 

But collective nouns like “confederacy” lend themselves to slick or surreal, even classy imagery. They can move you to awed respect as I was on witnessing said book title by Mr Toole. 

Or they can render you disbelieving. Take apes, for example. They still can’t believe that we descended from them which might explain why it is a “shrewdness” of apes. 

And I think it was an ape that pointed out that evolution was only a “theory” and that it was gravity that was the “law.”  

Crows are considered ugly, quarrelsome scavengers which one property agent actually thinks brings down the value of Malaysian neighbourhoods. So it’s no wonder that it’s a “murder” of crows although one suspects you still might have to prove probable cawse. 

One would immediately accept a “pride” of lions given the imperious bearing of the species. A “parliament” of owls also sounds right although they might not give a hoot. 

There is something poetic about an “exaltation” of larks while it might not be amusing to be confronted by an “obstinacy” of buffalo. A “tower” of giraffes rings true as does a “prickle” of porcupines. A “cauldron” of bats does render them sufficiently creepy and a “flamboyance” of flamingos is just classy. 

Similarly, a “caravan” of camels is perfect as in the ancient Arab proverb that dismisses criticism thus: the dogs may bark but the caravan moves on.

I have never liked cats. They are far too independent and sneering to be considered seriously as pets. I mean, a dog has an owner but a cat has a staff.

Therefore, I congratulate the Earls of English for their choice of a “nuisance” of cats. That is spot-on given their propensity to turn up uninvited and make themselves at home. 

But, come on. I mean, a “cowardice” of dogs? OK, my old dog Sandy treated burglars with the same enthusiasm it reserved for my nieces but that had more to do with its infectious joy for life. I would respectfully suggest an “ebullience” or a “rapture” of dogs.

The Answer To Life’s Problems Isn’t Vindaloo

It wasn’t a plane and, no, it wasn’t a man with funny underwear over his tights.

But it was a funny-looking bird that looked orange and sick as it lay by the highway in Buckinghamshire in England early last week.

According to CNN, it baffled staff at a UK animal rescue centre until they realised it was just a seagull covered in curry.

“It’s a seagull covered in curry,” declared the chief vet after a judicious sniff at said gull. “How perfectly foul.”

The prudish staff at the Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital were shocked: they knew that fowl was a four-letter bird.

Actually, the bird – named Vinny after vindaloo – was an insecure gull which longed to be an eagle. As gulls went, it was big and was easily big enough to be a D-Gull but not quite big enough to be an eagle.

That depressed the less-than-big bird as it contemplated the bleak and existential question that has tormented glum gulls for millennia: how could it soar like an eagle when it was surrounded by turkeys?

As it flew disconsolately over the cerulean-blue waters of the Buckinghamshire Bay, its answer came in a flash.

The answer was vindaloo.

The near-magical powers of vindaloo have been voluminously documented and chiefly revolves around its prodigious propensity to cure constipation.

History buffs will be interested to know that it was invented around the 13th Century by one Aravinda Pillai who was born in the village of Trissur in Kerala, India.

Even as a child, Aravinda was fascinated by flavours and all things spicy. At a precocious nine, he managed, one morning, to cook pancakes for breakfast. Aravinda was thrilled but his siblings were deeply upset.

Pancakes had been their favourite rabbit.

As he grew older, however, his fame as a cook rose until he was appointed as chef in the palace in Kerala’s royal capital of Trivandrum. And, one fateful day, the King himself confessed to being bored with the pedestrian fare being served up and beseeched Aravinda to come up with something original.

He was still thinking about it when his eye fell casually on some apple cider vinegar – used for washing hair – in his bathroom.

It takes true genius to recognise serendipity when it looks you in the eye but Aravinda was equal to the task.

He instinctively knew that if he simmered lamb stock and vinegar, sugar, salt and seasonal spices with choice cuts of lamb for just long enough, he would end up with a succulent, falling-off-the-bone lamb dish fit for a King.

The monarch agreed and named the dish after his Chef in a Bathroom. In short, His Majesty decreed that it should forever be called Vindaloo.

Vinny, the sad seagull, knew all about the restorative powers of the delectable dish created by Aravinda all those years ago. It also knew that when cooked perfectly, vindaloo is golden.

Which is why it seagull-dived into an industrial-sized vat of vindaloo outside the biggest curry-house in Buckinghamshire.

The bird was lucky in that the dish had been cooling for some time so it escaped being cooked.

Animal lovers will be delighted to know that Vinny has made a complete recovery.

But his vets have advised that trying to be a golden eagle may be prejudicial to its health.

Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Pig

Francis Bacon might have been charmed. 

A pig in South Africa can paint artwork that actually sells so her handlers have -obviously – named her Pigcasso. 

Brandishing a paintbrush in her snout, Pigcasso enthusiastically tosses her head to create bright, bold strokes across a canvas propped up in her sty. 

Her story is not an uncommon one as pig stories go but, in her case, there was always going to be a twist in the tale. 

The animal was rescued from an abattoir as a piglet, thus avoiding a fate worse than bacon. She was then brought to an animal sanctuary in Franschhoek, in South Africa’s Western Cape region in 2016, where her new owners noticed her love of colour and paintbrushes. 

The last line is from the original Reuters report. How on earth the owners could have discerned the pig’s leanings is unclear but who knows? Maybe the porcine painter confided in them. 

As pigs are known to be smart animals, its new owners wondered how to keep the sow from getting boared in her barn.  

“We threw in some soccer balls, rugby balls and of course there were some paintbrushes lying around because the barn was newly build,” said Joanne Lefson who ran the sanctuary. “She basically ate or destroyed everything except these paintbrushes … she loved them so much.” 

Soon the pig was dipping the brushes into pots of paint and making her mark. Her paintings can sell for almost $4,000. 

At this point dear reader, you will just have to suspend disbelief and simply remember that it was Picasso who made the remark about good taste being “the enemy of creativity.” 

Chalk one up to the artist. The proceeds of her paintings generally go to animal welfare causes so you could even call her philanthropig.

“Pigcasso is definitely an abstract expressionist, you can’t exactly define what she’s painting but I can tell you that her style slightly changes depending on her mood like any great artist,” said Lefson. 

The critics secretly thought it was hogwash but it was an endearing story and they figured they’d let it pass. 

Pigcasso herself was unimpressed: she felt the world didn’t make sense so why should she paint stuff that did? She thought about the abattoir and shuddered: there but for the grace of Lefson went sausages, she thought and felt that art was distinctly preferable.

In between her dalliances with the canvas, she exhibited a puckish sense of humour.  She especially delighted in hiding behind a bush and leaping out at unwary visitors to startle them. 

She took great delight in these hambushes.

Meanwhile, the swinish sketcher has been going from strength to strength. 

Pigcasso has even had one of her artworks turned into a watch face for Swiss watchmaker Swatch. 

Swatch announced a collaboration with the pig last month. 

 The limited edition “Flying Pig by Ms. Pigcasso” features green, blue and pink brush strokes and sells for $120. 

No one knows what it means or if it means anything at all but, hey, remember what Andy Warhol said. 

Art is anything you can get away with. 

It Can Run But It Can’t Hide

A postman by profession, Andrew Waller was a philosophical man. “Life was like a bird,” he liked to say. It looked pretty cute and all until it pooped on your head.

That was what happened to Mr Waller last Monday. Well, in a metaphorical sort of way that is.  While crossing the road to the post office in Paris, Texas, he was hit by a runaway cow which then jumped over him in its desperate attempt to get away from four police cruises that were chasing it.

Mr Waller was shaken but not stirred and otherwise unhurt. But he was shocked. Actually, at the precise moment the steer ran into him, he involuntarily exclaimed: “Be fruitful and multiply” but not exactly in those words.

You couldn’t blame Andrew. This wasn’t New York or Kuala Lumpur where a person might get run over while walking on the pedestrian sidewalk. 

This was Paris, Texas where cows had hooves instead of feet because they lactose. In fact, in that part of rural America, cows outnumbered people and almost never jumped over the moon not to mention pedestrians. Indeed, the only accidents that occurred there occasionally caused people. 

Still, Andrew was grateful to the stampeding bovine, which had vaulted him from Texan obscurity into national prominence. That was no bull either because it won him his five minutes of national fame – it was covered by the national media – and you could say he milked it for all it was worth. 

Without trying too hard, he came across as modest, diffident and deprecating, a latter-day Forrest Gump. 

“I started off with nothing,“ he told the national networks when asked what he was pre-Bessie, for that was the name of the cow that flattened him, “And I still have most of it left.” 

It all started because Bessie was bored and fed up with her lot in life. It was one of those days when everything came in through one ear and out the udder. 

While being loaded on to a sale vehicle, Bessie made a dash for it. It led Texas police on a miles-long chase through city streets and was caught on video hurdling over a pedestrian (read the modest Mr Waller).

A police dashboard camera recorded Bessie, running at a high speed through the streets, and running directly into the hapless Mr Waller. 

Andrew “I Had A Beef” Waller was knocked to the ground and the cow jumped over him in a leap not seen since Carl Lewis. 

Alas, there are no happy endings to this story.

Police said the cow managed to give officers the slip and was on the loose for more than 24 hours before it was hit by a car and killed.

And this being America, people actually mourned for Bessie. Even Donald Trump tweeted that he’d “bet” that the driver of the kill-vehicle was a Democrat.

Bessie was being loaded on to a sale vehicle prior to heading to the abattoir. 

That was why she was running. 

She was running for her life. 

Did You Know There Are Awards That Recognise Stupidity?

No kidding. They’re called Darwin Awards in honour of Charles Darwin who contributed the theory of natural selection – survival of the fittest so to speak – towards the knowledge pool of humanity. 

But the awards are for people who get killed through their own stupidity. In the process, they do humanity a favour by removing themselves from the gene pool so to speak. 

Perhaps the Arizona woman who tried to pose for a selfie with a jaguar might qualify for a Darwinian honourable mention. 

What do you think happened?

Of course, the woman who stepped over a barrier to take a selfie at a zoo in Arizona in the United States was attacked by the jaguar.

That’s what happens when you fish in the sea of life without bait. Or try and run up a down escalator. 

When she crossed the barrier and approached the enclosure to photograph herself with the jaguar, it swiped out through the fencing, leaving deep gashes on her arms.

Wildlife World Zoo director Mickey Ollson said there was “no way to fix people crossing barriers”.

“They’re there for a good reason,” he said carefully avoiding the impulse to add: “Duh!”

Although the protagonist was a woman, 70 per cent of all Darwin winners are male and, again not surprisingly, most winners have come from the United States. Think Trump and no one should be surprised. 

Here’s another rocket scientist from Arizona again. According to police reports, a man accidentally shot his own, well, sausage while shopping in the meat aisle at Wal-Mart. 

Arizona law does not require a permit (nor a holster for that matter) to carry a firearm, so our hero felt free to carry his piece “commando-style” (unholstered) beneath his waistband. 

When the unholstered gun drifted down into his jeans, he reached in and accidentally pulled the trigger while repositioning his weapon. This loose cannon’s low hanging fruit didn’t have a chance. Neither did said loose cannon. 

Firearm supporters can add this event to the arsenal of ammunition against gun control. 

Not every winner is from the US, however. India has its fair share of people a few poppadoms short of a curry too.

Driving home from a wedding, Prabhu Bhatara idled the car on the roadside to relieve himself in the woods. From a squatting position he spied an injured bear— no less. And what does he do or think? 

The rocket scientist thinks selfie. 

Meanwhile, instead of intervening, the passengers in his car pulled out their mobiles and filmed the carnage.

As he neared the bear, the passengers advised him against his plan. Rocket scientist that he was however, the former wedding guest was determined to fulfil his full selfie potential. 

Once he was within reaching distance, the bear turned out to be not as injured as it seemed  – maybe it was just a bad hair day – and lunged forward, pinning Mr. Bhatara to the ground, “killing him on the spot,” according to Forest ranger Dhanurjaya Mohapatra.

Then, perhaps disgusted at this epic display of homo sapien apathy, a stray dog joined the fray in an attempt to save the man, and tried to fight off the bear! The bear, however, seemed to believe that the world had one too many selfie-seeking humans and finished off poor Mr. Bhatara.

According to media reports, once the body was retrieved, forest officials treated the bear for its injuries. The dog, although probably still disgusted, was unharmed.

Despair not my fellow Malaysians. Although we may appear to have an over-achiever’s share of rocket scientists, morons and dim-witted people, there is always one bright shining thought that we should keep in mind.

It could be far, far worse.