Suspension of Fishbelief

Taman Negara, Malaysia's spectacular and gigantic park, billed as "the world's oldest rainforest," is home to some amazing creatures, including the great argus, essentially a long-tailed chicken, but one so spectacularly plumed as to make peacocks seem rather petite by comparison. Tigers live here, as well as wild Asian elephants and neck-crookingly tall mahogany trees. I saw some spectacular birds (but not the argus--I'll have to go back!), but one of the oddest creatures was this fish, out for a stroll along the driveway, in its own fashion. Casual googling suggests it is an anabantoid, or climbing gourami, one of a number of species perfectly content to leave the water and walk about on the land for hours at a time, presumably in the interest of expanding territory and range.

When I first saw this fish I had an experience you will perhaps share while watching the beginning of this video, namely that the poor animal was being pulled along by some unseen hand, in the manner of a Times Square prankster dragging a twenty-dollar bill along the pavement on a bit of invisible monofilament. I looked around, to see if someone was having me on. Then I followed this little creature for a good hundred feet. Strangely, it stayed on the asphalt. After a time, perhaps exhausted, or having concluded that it was not going to have the luck suddenly to come across an unknown pond, it turned around, and started moving back in the direction from whence it had come.


What was that Boy Scout motto, again?


The very beautiful Taman Negara, or National Park, in peninsular Malaysia, has one major drawback. It's infested with leeches. Luckily, I have some leech socks. Unfortunately they are at the moment in the rubbermaid bin full of camping supplies, back home on the shelf in Brooklyn, NY. 

"They're not going to do you very much good there, are they?" snarked a fellow birder, when I explained my situation. I was admiring his pair and wondering where he had gotten them. 

I'm starting to feel more like a World War One battle re-enactor than a birder.

Right Foot


The problem with forgetting your leech socks is you end up going through a lot of regular socks. I suppose you could just call them "leeched socks."

Left foot. Absolutely painless, but the vast quantities of blood are stress inducing nonetheless. Leeches apparently have a combination therapy analgesic and anticoagulant which they apply while incising, so that even if you catch them at their meals and flick them off, the wound continues to bleed. And bleed.


I'm holding out for Jonathan Franzen in Double Extra Large

"Shoes and Clothe" boutique, of Phnom Penh

Engrish is an endless source of amusement. For decades already we have found ourselves cackling at the excruciating, the misplaced, the misspelled, the off-center, or the just plain random words and letters that hapless Asians see fit to emblazon on their t-shirts. (Although to blame Engrish entirely on Asia may be unfair. Just today, while filming at Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, I spied a Russian gentleman wearing a burgundy t-shirt boldly emblazoned SOUTH DAKOTA IT'S ALL YOURS DANCE MASTER SCHELUDES.)

The origins of this sort of typographic festival seem to me to be rooted in the fast-fading allure of the great United States, beacon to would-be emigrants and aspirant entrepreneurs from every corner of the globe. In China, Vietnam or Russia, clothing with the English alphabet sprayed all over it denotes a certain hipness. No matter how random, the letters alone indicate worldliness, mobility. This is ironic in that the moneyed classes the world over tend to speak actual English--the Engrish shirt only works for those too low in status and education to comprehend the meaninglessness of the slogans they are sporting. Absurdity is just a click away; Google translate makes it so easy to be so very, very wrong.

The allure of the east and the rise of China as an economic power has somewhat turned the tables, with more and more attention being paid to the parallel phenomenon of Chingrish, including an excellent blog that chronicles the tattoo catastrophes of hipster Westerners.

I can't recognize Chingrish when I see it, but I'm always on the lookout for spectacular examples of Engrish, so my eye was drawn by this window display on the streets of Phnom Penh:

Rising up the NYT bestseller list, it's Erheyi Sniamla


"Going Greenly into the Future," a screenplay

There was no response from the media relations office of "elegantly" Glenwood Properties in response to numerous emails inquiring why their recent marketing campaign prominently features what appears to be Merops pusillus, the little bee-eater, an insectiverous bird widespread across most of sub-Saharan Africa, but unknown from New York City or anywhere else in the Americas.

At the offices of Global Glut Realty Corp., Joe and Schmoe sit at a polished black granite conference table, wearing Brioni suits. Manhattan, viewed through the smoked glass floor-to-ceiling windows of a corporate high-rise, stretches out beneath them.

SCHMOE: They're nice apartments I have, Joe, all over the city. I don't understand why they're not renting.

JOE: You're out of date; you need to get with the whole ecological revolution. People want their place to be sustainable and stuff.

SCHMOE: What the hell is that supposed to mean?

JOE: You know, like, long lasting, and, uh...natural.

SCHMOE: WTF? You mean I have renovate? I just redid all these places. They're like minty fresh.

JOE: Nah, you don't have to do nothing. Just emphasize the environmental aspect in your New York Times adverts. Green, green, green. That's the word everyone is using. Make it green.

SCHMOE: C'mon, stop yankin' it. The apartments are painted white. Who the hell wants a green apartment?

JOE: Not green the color, you moron. Like, as in natural, you know whuttum saying? Like a spinach milkshake or some shit. Like, yoga. Put a tree in there, dickhead. I dunno, put a picture of a fountain, some bubbly water. Just make sure you call it green in big letters. Paint a picture of a tree, or a goddamn bird or something. You see how I'm helping you, here?

SCHMOE: A bird? What do I know from birds? You mean, like a parrot, or what?

JOE: No, you jerk. Like some wild natural creature, you know, that flies around in trees and stuff.

SCHMOE: How am I supposed to take a picture of a bird?

JOE: You really are thick today, Schmoe. Let me order us up a couple of frappuccinos, get that brain working. Look, it's not particle physics. Just go on the internet, and get a nice picture of a bird, and just kind of place it tastefully in your ad, there. You'll see; people will be signing leases in no time.