Reality TV…. in a theme by the Berliner Philharmoniker

October 30, 2008 at 3:42 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I caught the broadcast of “A Trip to Asia: On the Road with the Berlin Philharmonic” on BBC Four shown sometime in early September this year. Curious, BBC Four in Singapore? I ain’t gonna tell you how I did it. Anyway, I had expected it to be just a routine concert tour by a major European orchestra to asian cities. Wiener Philharmonic had done it, LSO had done it, Concertgebouw had done it,… and the list runs on. So no big deal isn’t it?

It didnt take long before I’d realised that this is no ordinary concert broadcast. The film basically provides a deconstruction of individual members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, through a series of interviews, peeling away the layers of confidence and exuberance which they portray through their concerts. Slowly, the film reveals some of the inner fears, tension, internal contradictions, and sometimes ghosts of the forgotten past. A horn player relating how she was “Ms Unpopularity” in school, a second violin speaks of “the struggles of not being able to pick up the subtlies of playing in an orchestra which had developed a rich culture”, of being ashamed of his asian heritage and not being about to assimilate into everybody else. The principal oboist shared how he used to stutter as a teenager, and how his instrument became his medium to becoming mainstream. Similar sentiments echoed through several more members from the various sections of the orchestra. Rattle speaks of the Jekyll and Hyde within his musicians. The concertmaster speaks of the sound of orchestra back in Karajan’s days still ringing in his ears and his continual quest in search of that sound again. The level of sheer frankness and directness, at times an overload of information, is just overwhelming and leaves much food for thought.

This concert tour is also the make-or-break period for three young budding musicians including a piccolo player, a percussionist and a violist. undertake their probation period upon passing the grueling auditions, where they were graded by the musicians, or “lifetime honorary members of the Berlin Philharmonic Society” they call it. Much of this has to do with the unique system of democracy which acts as a basic infrastructure for the workings of this orchestra. Members are elected by other members upon which their positions in this, arguably the best orchestra in the world, are confirmed and secured through another series of balloting, at the end of the probation period.

Some interesting anecdotes taken from the interviews:

Thomas Timm (Leader of 2nd violin): When I was young, I was described as what you might call being “odd”.

Noako Shimizu (Principal Viola) : My husband says, “Why do you make such an effort? No one hears you anyway. ” Those words could kill some of the others. They are so proud!!!

Raphael Haeger (Percussionist) :  Its a big change when someone new joins. Its like an adopted child suddenly joins a big family. Everybody has to shift along the table.

Albrecht Mayer (Principal oboe) : People often say that musicians are egocentric. What else should be be?

Wilfried Strehle (Viola): Karajan was right, when he said that the so-called weakest one at the back determines the standard and the quality.

Who got through the probation and who did not? Watch and find out.

Official website:

BBC synopsis:

Boom Town Media :

Berliner Philharmoniker’s website:

Shy slippers…

August 7, 2008 at 5:32 am | Posted in orchids, paphiopedilum, slipper orchids | Leave a comment

I love slipper orchids and greatly admire them for their elegance. At the same time I feel extreme frustrated for not being able to get them to flower and for some species, keep them alive! Vanity drives me going after them but if death is an eventuality, then perhaps not. Cannot take credit for being able to bloom these as they were bought on bargain from Ching Hua during the SGF 2008 which just ended last weekend. Hopefully I would have better luck in these fellas.

Paphiopedilum superbiens, not sure which variant this is, i.e. var. curtsii or var. superbiens. Have to wait for it to bloom properly.


I was told that this is Paph. lawrencenum but from the looks of it, it’s more likely to be a  “maudiae”, a primary hybrid made between P. callosum and P. lawrencenum.

I really love how these blooms look before opening. Like one wearing a helmet. Will update more pictures when the blooms develop further 🙂

Kota Tinggi – A Reprise Part 4 : Nepenthes Land!

July 29, 2008 at 7:07 pm | Posted in fieldtrip, nepenthes, orchids, travel | Leave a comment

A short drive away from our last locality, we reached Jermaluang. It was a hot and lazy Sunday afternoon and many shops seems to be closed or in a siesta mood. In fact, the whole town seem to be in siesta. We settled for a home-operated “restoran” for lunch. It was a simple fanfare, but the Kampung food was really sedap.

After recharging our body with drinks and a quick makan, we were back on the road again. Azmi suggested that we make a short detour to visit some Nepenthes locality, to make the trip “more inteesting”. I couldn’t resist. 🙂

He hadn’t been to the location for sometime now. So we called Lim for help. After a quick confirmation on the locality and driving instructions, we were on the road again. And it wasn’t before long that we struck gold. We knew that we had entered Nepenthes territory. It was not a full Kerangas type of habitat but the ferns and other vegetative landscape suggest that pitcher plants could be near by and true enough there they were. First to be stopped were N. gracilis, possibly the most abundant species in southern Peninsula.

Not bad for a first stop we thought. The pitchers look a big and robust but they seem to be infected by the “red stain” problem caused by a fungal attack ,as mentioned in Phillipps, Lamb and Lee’s new book.

We drove on to another location and through a quiet sliproad, we were greeted by a magnificent upper pitcher of N. rafflesiana standing erect and proud amongst the resam fern backdrop.

The peristome displayed a psychedelic spectrum of colours!

Then we saw A. gramatifolia, another indication of entering Nepenthes land!

An interesting dark red N. raffesiana lower pitcher.

A typical speckled lower pitcher

We also found a red clone of N. gracilis.

And some green N. ampullaria which are commonly found in these areas.

Couldn’t locate any N. xhookeriana and N. xtrichocarpa but we felt glad to be able to see these tropical pitchers nonetheless. 🙂



to be continued….

Kota Tinggi – A Reprise Part 3 : A sad kitty interlude

July 29, 2008 at 6:19 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

After a long “hiatus” from the topic, I decided that I should continue with the fieldtrip report…


After visiting the locality of Cryptocoryne sp. “Kota Tinggi” and C. schulzei, we headed north to  move to our last crypt destination for the day. Before that we decided to stop over near Jermaluang for lunch.

On the way to this rustic old town, we came across this :

What a gorgeous looking creature he was, alas dead, by the road. Head was squashed on one side and caked to the road. Not a pretty sight at all.  It was already mid-day and the body was also stiff as a log. But there weren’t any flies hovering around. This adult male must have been freshly dead, probably ran over during the night before while trying to make a crossing. Prionailurus bengalensis, better known as leopard cats are such a rarity to spot in the wild nowadays. Once common all over Mainland Asia from India, China and down to the tip of the Peninsula where we are situated now, wild populations have declined to a deplorable state. They are very shy nocturnal animals, often solitary making them even harder to spot, let alone track. Known as 石虎 which literally means “stone tiger” in Mandarin, they were once hunted as a delicacy in Taiwan. They have now become officially extinct on the island. Elsewhere, lost and destruction of habitat, like what’s happening in Peninsula Malaysia, has caused the same, if not greater devastation.

This was once all leopard cat country. Now it’s just miles upon miles of endless palm oil plantation. Flora and fauna alike, many organisms fall victim to the destruction of Man. There are people who are strongly against the collection of live specimens of plants and animals from the wild. Pilfering they call it, but have we, self-proclaimed masters of this land, been able to provide for and protect all that’s been left to our care. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all against senseless exploitation of nature and poaching. But sometimes I wonder which is the greater of the two evils; removing a living thing from its natural environment in attempt to keep it alive in hope to prolong its existence in the world we live in albeit not giving it a chance to fight for its own survival, or by using laws to ensue their slow and painful, but almost certain demise, as we watch together helplessly as they disappear from the wildeness, just as the wildeness disappears around them. Can conservation laws really change their fate? As we stand by the roadside and listen to the swansong of this sad leopard cat, I can’t help but think that they can’t.

 Seldom do I allow such a sense of helplessness to overcome me. As we bake under the midday sun, I could feel a chill deep within my heart. While the others get into the car, I carried the little fella into the bushes on the side of the road and said a little prayer for him. He has moved on, and so must we…



to be continued…

Singapore Garden Festival Part 4 : Borneo Exotics Booth

July 29, 2008 at 8:19 am | Posted in books, exhibitions and events, nepenthes | Leave a comment

Together with the orchid show in Hall 401 is a range of stalls set up by nurseries and plant growers from both local and overseas. Having been overwhelmed by the magnificent display of Nepenthes by Rob and Diana, I quickly made my way to Borneo Exotics’ Booth on level 4. The booth was still in midst of being set up on the first day. Apart from a range of lowland and intermediate species and hybrids on sale, there were two interesting finds at the booth.

Firstly, a new edition to “Pitcher Plants of Borneo” by Lamb and Phillippe with new contributions from Ch’ien Lee.

 Some random pictures taken from the book.



 Second interesting find is the exquisite Nepenthes prints done by Mr Wiliam Richard Taylor, who’s currently based in Kuching. The details on each one of them is amazing. Heard from Rob the prints were all drawn based on live specimens and not through photographs. Taylor had spent a considerable amount of time doing up these beautiful art pieces in situ at Rob’s facilities in Sri Lanka. Absolutely stunning work.


















Several interesting hybrids are avaiable at the booth, the most anticipated of course, was N. xGardenTech, which is a N. ventricosa x ampullaria  . This is the intensity of one of the larger plants on sale.


And this is one of the S-sized plants available. Cute lil’ fella!

















to be continued….

Singapore Garden Festival Part 3 – Orchid Show (2) : Dendrobiums

July 28, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Posted in books, exhibitions and events, orchids | Leave a comment

Next comes the Dendrobium. Decide to take pictures of the more unusual ones.

D. erosum?

 D. farmeri

 D. macrophyllum

A lot of aunties were fascinated by how D. braeteosum could have flowers growing near the base. *laughs*

And other same aunties commented how the flowers of D. similieae look more like bunches of berries than flowers.

 Then comes my favorites, the antelopes of the Spatulata tribe. yummy!!!

D. lasianthera, one of the most flamboyant of the spatulatas.

D. sutiknoi. one of my personal favs!

A down dropping D. lasianthera. 

More D. lasianthera!

D. strebloceras 

The elegant D. stratiotes. This shot kinda reminds me of the cover of Lavarack’s latest edition of “Dendrobium and its Relatives”, except that the featured dend on the book cover is D. anntenatum I think.

 Speaking of which , there is a book on sale at the show on the Spatatula Orchids of Papua New Guinea, published two years back by the Orchid Society of PNG. This beautiful book covering all the known species from PNG then as well as some probable new species yet to be described. The only place I could find this book for sale online is over at orchidbooks, at twice the price of what’s being offered during the show. Wasted no time in getting a copy for myself. 🙂

 to be continued…

SGF 2008 part 1 :

SGF 2008 Part 2 :

 SGF 2008 part 4 :


Singapore Garden Festival Part 2 – Orchids Show (1) : Bulbs & Slippers

July 28, 2008 at 2:50 pm | Posted in exhibitions and events, orchids | Leave a comment

The other much anticipated component of SGF 2008 is of course the orchid show. This years Orchid show and competition is held separately in Hall 401. Below are some random shots of orchids being showcased during the competition and exhibition

First the Bulbophyllum. Not a genus which I’m particularly fond of, so not many pictures.

 Next the slippers orchids of paphs and phrags. Mostly hybrids

Firstly, a Phragmipedium hybrid. Think it won something.

A cross within the Polyantha subtribe…. I like 🙂 Reminds me of Paph. “Sander’s Pride” which is essentially P. sanderianum x P. stonei. 

 Then there’s Paph. “dollgoldii” the infamous hybrid between Paph. armeniacum and Paph. rothschildianum.

Some alba forms of Paph. “maudiae” from P. callosum and P. lawrenceanum. Though the one in the second picture reminds me of P. sangii‘s downward drooping petals.



The next two of hybrids made across various tribes. Not to my liking.


This is a multi-floral hybrid that has P. hangianum influence in it.

And the famous P. “Magic Lantern” which is P. delenatii with P. micranthum. And that’s P. emersonii in the right background I think. Wonder how it’s going to survive in our weather.

 One of the very few species I saw at the show, P. liemanum

to be continued….

SGF 2008 Part 1:

SGF 2008 Part 3:

SGF 2008 Part 4:

Singapore Garden Festival 2008 Part 1 – Overview and Nepenthes Galore!

July 28, 2008 at 11:23 am | Posted in exhibitions and events, nepenthes, orchids | Leave a comment

On 24th July,  I attended the media preview of the 2nd Singapore Garden Festival (SGF) 2008. The preview was well-attended by members of the press and TV media, e.g. LianHe Zaobao, ST, ZaoAn NiHao, Morning Singapore, Peak Magazine etc. After a short introduction by the CEO of National Parks (NP) we were divided into groups led by NP personnel on a tour around exibition Hall 601.



Some exhibits are really interesting, designed to astound one’s senses in sound, sight and even smell! Others unfortunately IMHO are lesser desirable. What really caught my eye was the dome-shape structure which was constructed for a feature by Robert and Diana Cantley from Sri Lanka showcasing a glimpse of Nepenthes and some other tropical plants in their natural habitat. To be able to see such a wide variety of tropical pitcher plants all at once, outside their natural habitat, I got very excited about this and decided to “abandon” the other media folk and the tour and indulge myself in this tropical paradise!

 The ambience was just right…

 The chorus of Nepenthes!





The highlight of the feature was three gigantic pitchers of what is supposed to be N. truncata. Those pitchers are massive! Easilt the size of a young baby. Not to mention rare too! Having their natural habitat destroyted, the world is with no more than a handful of N. truncata specimens from the wild. Thanks to the dedication of Rob and Diana, this species which was almost driven to the brink of extinction was given a new breath of life through cultivation in their facilities located in Sri Lanka.

One of my personal favorites at the show however was N. lowii, which produced bizarre toilet-bowl like pitchers. And toilet-bowls they are indeed. Scat have been found within the pitchers and on the narrow opening of the peristome, suggesting that animals like tree shrews and birds have visited the pitchers to enjoy the rich source of resin-like nectar secreted through glands under the lid. As these animals enjoy their free meal while perching on the peristome, they “conveniently” defacaete into the pitcher, much to the delight of the plant of course, as that would provide nitrogeneous matter which is in turn injested by the latter. What a unique case of mutualistic symbiosis! Nature’s profound meaning to barter trade I guess!

This particular plant displayed within the feature is not quite within the visionary enjoyment of the public; due to the delicacy of the pitchers, the dome-shaped enclosure would be out-of-bounds to the public during exhibition days. Members of the public could only see the pitchers from afar outside the enclosure, being separated from it by a water feature which runs around the external perimeters of the enclosure like a moat. However, I had the rare opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with this highlander to admire its sheer beauty.

The first pitcher, which has a dark burgundy peristome shows an accumulation of the crystaliised resin which the animals feed on. The second pitcher however, shows a more colourfully variegated peristome. And if my eyes do not fail me, they are produced by the same plant!

to be continued….

SGF 2008 Part 2:

SGF 2008 Part 3:

SGF 2008 Part 4:

Book Review – A to Z South East Asian Orchid Species

July 8, 2008 at 5:03 am | Posted in books | Leave a comment

I’m a sucker for books. More so for books on orchids and related paraphenalia. This is a book that I had been wanting to get for quite some time now. His earlier publication on “Lowland Orchids of Papua New Guinea” was interesting but not really hobbyist-friendly; too much “science” involved and too few colour plates. In contrast, ” A to Z South East Asian Orchid Species” (A to Z for short) published by the Orchid Society of South East Asia (OSSEA) seems precisely to be targeted for the average orchid lover, one who’s interested to find out a bit more.  

Don’t get deceived by the name. “A to Z” does not contain all the known orchid species describe from SEA, nor did it profess to have contained so in the first place. But for me, this book does not fall short of any of the other areas it aims to fulfil.

Firstly, it serves well as a guidebook for floral identitification to more commonly seen orchid species from SEA, both in cultivation and in nature. But being common isn’t exactly just what O’Bryne had intended to be; it also contains photographs and information on rare and unusual orchid species which at the point of its publication, known from drawings and sometimes only textual description. There’s also an inclusion of several species which had been described by him around the time of publication, one most notably interesting for me is Malaxis hoi. A distribution map and a “plant habit guide” for each species is also provided for every species featured. The taxonomic details are also up-to-date e.g. Bulb. putidum instead of Bulb. fascinator.

Secondly, it contains information on cultivation requirements e.g. temperature, shade and watering requirements, the last being decided upon by the raining patterns of regions where the species is endemic to. It even contains advice on cultivation treatment pertaining to the choice of pot, as well as lime requirement for certain species. In short, its a wonderul book to own and read for the novice orchid gardener like yours truly.

This book contains 168 pages and covers 400 species across 94 genera. To speak fairly, no book of such a size would be able to contain the plethora of orchid species from the SEA region and at the same time give each description a fair treatment. But the choice of species O’ Bryne had put up in “A to Z” is both sound and satisfactory. It is highly graphic and photographs are of very high quality. One can probably only quibble over the lack of pictures of foliage which many of the orchid species included have been widely admired for and might be instrumental for their identification, e.g. Malaxis spp. Paphiopedilum spp. , Phalaenopsis celebensis, Phal. schilleriana etc. There’s also no photo entry for Zeuxine spp.

Despite the title, the book covers species all the way to the Vietnam-China border, e.g. Paph. malipoense. It’s also very portable and handy, making it convenient to bring along to nurseries for identification needs. Overall, its an wonderful book to have and most certainly earns a worthy place in any orchid lover’s reference library.



Book Review – Aquarium Plants by Christel Kasselmann

July 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm | Posted in books, cryptocoryne | 1 Comment

Aquarists of the planted tank hobby should be not unfamiliar with Kasselmann’s book “Aquarium Plants”. Herr Kasselmann is a respected aquarist, the chief editor of the famed publication, Aqua Planta as well as noted author of several books on aquaria hobby, the current title showcased here being probably the most well-known and widely owned.

The content pages

 One of the numerous strengths of this book is its discussion on the science behind the survival and evolution of these aquatic plants, e.g. understanding their inflorescence morphology, pollination and reproduction biology, detailed information on the water chemistry of various types of water systems. It provides the reader, presumably an aquaria enthusiast, with information which might not be readily available  otherwise.

And the reason why this is a must-have for crypt fanatics is its coverage on these aquatic aroids, which is the most extensive to date in aquarium literature.  Not only are there pictures of inflorescence for ease of identification, there are also photographs of crypt localities taken in situ by the author during his crypt hunting days, most notably with Bogner to Sri Lanka. One can only drool and dream about visiting these sites someday.

What’s even more curious is his inclusion of the taxa from the genus Laganendra, amphibious aroids which are closely related to their Cryptocoryne cousins but one would not necessarily associate them as being “aquatic”, let alone being used in aquascapes. Has it been done before even!? This section is refreshing and nonetheless valuable, as finding information on Laganendra spp. is as difficult as getting a wooden chicken to lay eggs, or as I always tell my students, getting papayas to grow on watermelon trees. The premise of the argument is of course, watermelons don’t grow on trees in the first place!

If one was to find fault with this publication in deliberation, one could probably only criticise that the information in the book is not as updated as we would have wished. Sounds familiar? 🙂 Some taxon like “C. diderici ” had already been lower to a morph of C. cordata. Same with ‘“C. zewaldiae” being synonymised as C. minima variants from Sumatra. It would be even better if it had contained information on the demands of an emerse crypt setup and related aroid species. A  large pullout map denoting the distribution of the various Cryptocoryne species would be great, more precise information down to the last bearing on collection locality would be ideal but then again, that would be just shameless nit-picking from the forever insatiable. 🙂

In summary, its a very enjoyable book both in textual and graphical content. It is a book to be savoured by both emerse crypt lovers and general aquaria hobbyists who wants to know more about these green thingies they deal with, be it an a master scaping artist or a Day 1 novice. I most certainly did.

Next Page »

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.