Monday, December 31, 2007

10 highlights of my 2007


The Taipei institution I recently visited
that gets my vote for best museum this year


A photogenic part of that which gets my vote
as the best place to live
that's just a few minutes' walk away
from the pub that has become a firm favorite of mine :)


Around this time last year, I wrote up a list of my 10 highlights of 2006. Reading it again recently, I found that it served to remind me of some particularly good times and experiences. Consequently, it seems worthwhile to go ahead repeat the exercise, only for 2007 this time around.

As previously, the list is on the eclectic side, as reflects this blog's and its writer's personalities. Also, as reflects the eclecticism, while certain categories (e.g., 'best book' and 'best museum') are the same as last year's, others are different -- as befits my different experiences this year from 2006. At the same time though, hope that it will make for worthwhile (and enjoyable) reading for more than myself. And now, without further ado:-

1) Best Book: Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates, and the Story of the New China (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2007) by John Pomfret, an American journalist who had been a university exchange student at China's Nanjing University in the early 1980s and later served for a time as the Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post. Full of interesting, detail-rich stories that ring true (and sometimes are all the more chilling for this being the case), the tome makes for a thoroughly engrossing read as it gives an insightful look into the contemporary Chinese psyche by way of an exploration cum examination of the lives of people who really have, as the ancient Chinese curse goes, lived in "interesting times" -- as well as lived to tell the tale.

2) Best Concert: If I had named a 'best concert' for 2006, it would have been the Tsai Chin concert at Genting Highlands. The truth of the matter though is that however enjoyable it was, it also happened to be the only live music event I attended that year! In contrast, since moving to Hong Kong in May, I've managed to attend my share of concerts, many of which -- for all of Hong Kong being the fabled land of Cantopop -- have had classical music on the programme. Over the course of doing so, I've become quite the fan of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and it's their Birthday Rhapsody concert that tops my list of wonderful concerts that I attended; though another, this time one given by Taiwan's U Theatre drumming troupe in Hong Kong earlier this year, also merits a special mention.

3) Best Hike: As regular readers know, I've been able to do quite a bit of hiking since moving to Hong Kong. And while each and everyone of those that I've gone on have had their merits, I must say that the highlight of my 2007 hiking year really has to be the exhilarating expedition that two of my friends and I embarked on and that took us from Wong Nai Chung Gap up to Violet Hill before ending up at the Tai Tam reservoirs; a hike which allowed me to take in views and take photos like these, these and these, and was all the more enjoyable for the refreshing wind that blew and bright sun that shone that day.

4) Best Live Performing Arts Production: The Hong Kong Dance Company's Angel Falls actually provided with two really cool experiences rather than just the one. Firstly, I'm going to come out and state that meeting and interviewing its director and scriptwriter, Raymond To, was a dream come true and it really was the icing on the cake when the scriptwriter of Peking Opera Blues -- my favorite movie in the whole wide world -- and so much more turned out to be utterly charming, gracious and interesting a person to interview. So, it was with great anticipation that I went to check out a performance of this beautiful musical, and with much joy that I found it to be every bit as entertaining and enjoyable as I had hoped as well as trusted that it would be.

5) Best Museum: The National Palace Museum, located in Taipei, Taiwan, and containing untold treasures and riches that span some eight centuries of Chinese history, much of which was transported over from Mainland China along with the fleeing Chinese Nationalists in 1949. Tracing its origins to the National Palace Museum which opened inside Beijing's Forbidden City on October 10, 1925, this institution first opened to the public in Taiwan in 1965 but was closed for extensive renovations for some four years in this century and only reopened again to the public on December 25, 2006.

(Also, at the risk of upsetting folks from Mainland China, I have to admit that when my mother and I visited the Forbidden City back in 2005, we were impressed by the architecture but couldn't help but something -- or, rather, quite a few things -- were missing from its interiors. Thus the kernels of our idea to visit the National Palace Museum were sowed on our visit to Beijing. And after visiting that museological establishment, I can confirm that it most certainly is where a lot more impressive portable objects are to be found than in any of the former royal residences we visited over on the Mainland!)

6) Best Place to Live: This one actually is for more than just 2007 since eight months on after moving to Hong Kong, I really do feel that it's the best place in the world that I have lived thus far. And when you consider that thus far in my life, I've lived in -- not just visited -- quite a few places (namely, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Wellingborough, London and Beckenham, England; Beloit (Wisconsin), Yellowjacket (Colorado) and Philadelphia, USA; and Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, Tanzania)... and, also, that I love Hong Kong far more now than it was 'just' a movie mecca which I made annual pilgrimages to for some years... Touch wood, but I truly do hope that I'll be able to happily call it home for some time to come.

7) Best Pub: There are times after work when I like to head over to a pub for a pint or two (but seldom more than that -- honest!). And although I had determined to try out a selection of drinking holes after moving to Hong Kong before settling too quickly on just one to be a regular at, the truth of the matter is that early on, I realized that I had found one that I really like in The Globe. For while there are quite a few other pubs and/or bars that are closer to my residence or workplace, none of them match Toby Cooper's place in terms of draft beer selection and ambience, and -- this is something that really seals the deal for me... -- its being a non-smoking establishment! Additionally, its food -- especially its homemade pies of the week -- isn't half bad either. Ditto re its friendly staff!

8) Best Restaurant: Confession: I've only ever been to the Tin Hau branch of Yakitoritei. So it's possible that its older Happy Valley branch may be even better than this newer branch. And I probably should give it a try some time. The 'problem', though, is that so strong a grip does the Tin Hau branch of this eatery that serves up over 40 different varieties of
yakitori already have on me that whenever the mood strikes for me to go have some grilled Japanese food, it's to this place -- whose grilled quails eggs are simply divine, and whose chefs know how to make strips of chicken skin simultaneously crispy, chewy and delicious! -- that I find my feet automatically carrying the rest of me to these days! ;S

9) Best Sporting Experience: It's been a while since I wrote about the association football team I've supported since 1978. This has not been because my Arsenal passion has dampened some but, rather, because superstitious person that I am when it comes to football, I sometimes worry that I will jinx The Gunners by writing about their' virtues and better moments! For all this, I can't help but give voice in this entry to the joy that The Arsenal have often given to me. And -- this current campaign having gone swimmingly well thus far -- none more so in 2007 than the day in January when a second string team of Young Guns put six goals past the legendary Liverpool at 'Fortress Anfield'! :b

10) Best Totally Unexpected Occurrence: Funny but true: The more I think about events that fall into the category, the more I realize how many there were (and how surreal -- and fantastical -- my life has been since I moved to Hong Kong). And in any other year, certain celebrity encounters -- e.g., spotting Bobby Yip, hands full of shopping, in one MTR station, Hui Siu Hung in another, and seeing Eric Tsang, Sandra Ng and Crystal Tin casually chatting away in the lobby area of a cineplex, never mind passing by Leon Lai as I walked down the stairs after having said my goodbyes to Miriam Yeung...! :o -- would definitely have topped this category. But the Hello Kitty fan that I am really does feel that this year, what really takes the cake is my getting gifted a set of MTR Hello Kitty Heroes by the Sanrio Wave folks as a token of gratitude for my having written a feature article about Hello Kitty and gotten her on the cover of bc magazine! :)))))))

Enjoy? If so, please do feel free to post some comments on my choices and categories! Oh, and should anyone wonder about why there's no Best Film category here, it's because I'm preparing a whole blog entry that will be devoted to movies I viewed in 2007, and it's my intention to write and put it up on this blog in the very near future... :b

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Messy (This week's Photo Hunt)



"Where's the mess?" I can hear all but the keenest-eyed folks asking when they take at the two pictures that I've put up for this week's Messy-themed Photo Hunt. To which I will reply with the following:

Firstly, see the cow standing on the hill in the bottom photo? Well, it and the other cows that are allowed to roam freely around Hong Kong's Tap Mun Chau (AKA Grass Island) are responsible for making it so that beautiful though much of this remote as well as rural 2 square kilometer section of the HKSAR is, there are some people who will want to steer clear of it. Alternatively put (and to quote no less a source than Wikipedia), "hygiene-conscious [individuals] tend to stay away from Tap Mun as the island is home to cattle, resulting in hilltops dotted with many piles of faeces"!!!

And should you really wish to see the messy evidence for yourself, look carefully at the foreground portions of the posted photos and it ought not be too difficult for you to spot at least one cow 'pie' about the place. Still, if it is, chalk it down to my having been too successful in ensuring that the photos I took during my recent visit to Tap Mun would not have cow pies in them rather than that the island being bereft of them... ;b

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tai Tam Reservoirs redux (photo-essay)


Season's greetings to you all and hope you get to enjoy some time off during this end of the year period. As for myself: Just returned from one vacation trip away from Hong Kong yesterday and will shortly head out of the territory for another!

But before doing that, here's going ahead and sharing some more scenic shots from the gentle -- but long -- Hong Kong Island hike with my mother that I went on last month; in particular, the Tai Tam Reservoirs portion of this particular outing. And, again, if parts of it strike some of you as familiar (as well as, I trust, beautiful), that's because I had been through here before... only, faster and with less pause for photography and -- pun very much intended! -- reflection than this time around... ;b

Before we get to the water, here's a look
at part of the hiking path we were on

More of the trail
but now water also beckons...

A calm and pretty spot
within
Tai Tam Country Park

Pulling back for a larger view
of one of the Tai Tam Reservoirs

The kind of picture that gets me thinking --
I may not be able to paint but, hey,
at least I can take a photograph like this one! :)

Yes, those really are reflections of clouds
(as well as surrounding greenery) on the water :)


More great scenery made even more beautiful
when reflections
get thrown into the equation

One last photo -- and you just know
that it had to include reflections, right? ;)


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Light (This week's Photo Hunt theme)



I'm not sure whether tnchick meant it to be so but as it so happened, I found this week's Photo Hunt theme to lend itself well to being festive- as well as light-themed. In any event, from my ever-growing digital photo archive, here's one photo taken during a very local -- we're talking neighborhood, not even single territory or regional culture! -- festive celebration and another that got me thinking of Christmas (a day which is fast approaching as I write this!).

More specifically, the abstract -- and artsy? -- looking top photo actually is a blurred shot of the head of the 67 meter long -- and really quite spectacular! -- Tai Hang fire dragon that's made up of thousands of burning as well as lighted incense sticks plus stalks of dry straw and pearl grass as it quickly passed by me this past September.

As for the bottom photo: I took that early one evening in Macau, before it got really dark but after the lights went on, and it's of St Dominic's Church, a religious establishment with a violent past but also a beautiful building whose main entrance is on the former Portuguese enclave's very picturesque Senado Square.

On a more mundane note: I will shortly be going off for a bit somewhere where I won't have regular internet access. So I hope that my fellow Photo Hunters will understand if this week, I don't visit as promptly, etc. as usual. Also, yes, I do hope to be back to my more usual ways next time around! And in the meantime, here's wishing everyone (else) who'll be having it "Happy holidays"! :)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Small (This week's Photo Hunt theme)



Some weeks, I spend part of my Saturday afternoon after work -- yes, alas, mine is a 5 1/2 day work week :S -- going around town with a camera, trying to find a worthy and appropriate subject for the week's Photo Hunt. Some other weeks, on the other hand, are ones with themes that get me happily thinking "Yay, I have just the photo(s) in my collection to showcase!" And as it so happens, yes, indeedy, re this happening to be one of the latter weeks. :)

For, back in July of this year, I had gone on the Ping Shan Heritage Trail and towards the end of my explorations, I had come across the small shrine, complete with orange offerings (which, for the purposes of this Photo Hunt, are great for emphasising how small the pair of religious figurines in the photo in question really are!)

But precisely because the figurines are rather small, they may not make for quite an impressive photographic subjects. Consequently, I'm also including a second photo in this entry that also have small religious figurines as their main subject matter; only this time around, they are ones that are part of a much larger and, accordingly, far more visually impressive assemblage!

As you might imagine, I was close to speechless when I first spotted this unusual assemblage of religious figurines; and this not least because I honestly had never read or been told about its existence! To this day, I don't know much about who is its creator -- or creators -- and such. Only that this collection of figurines is to be found in what looks to be part the apparently not very well known -- or visited -- Waterfall Bay Park, located near Wah Fu over on the western side of Hong Kong Island. And that another intrepid blogger also has been to the area and similarly thought that the shrine was worth photographing and mentioning on a blog... ;b

Friday, December 14, 2007

Along the Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path (Photo-Essay)


A few weeks back, my mother came over to Hong Kong for another visit. Whereas previously, we had mainly explored the territory by bus, this time around, I figured that there would be a couple of hikes that she could go on and enjoy. And how right I was proven!

The following are some photos I took on the Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path portion of our first hike which started at Wong Nai Chung Gap and got us to Tsin Shui Wan Au, from where we headed northeastwards through the Tai Tam Reservoirs area. (As an aside: The route from Tsin Shui Wan Au to the Tai Tam Reservoirs is one I've hiked before. So when I get to posting photos from that portion of this more recent hike, you might recognize some of the scenery from a previous photo-essays! If so, well spotted!!)

This path that's fairly flat essentially followed the catchwater along the west side of Violet Hill. Although some sections are paved, others are not. Additionally, some sections cling somewhat scarily close to the hill's edge. On a more positive note: This enabled me to take some scenic snaps, particularly of the Repulse Bay area of Hong Kong Island. So I was actually pretty happy with the state of things on that hike! :)

The small reservoir at Wong Nai Chung Gap

To put it mildly: This was a hike where one saw
quite a few luxury -- and I do mean luxury! -- homes

For all this, though, one really wasn't that far away
from nature throughout much of the hike...


Another piece of evidence: This spider's web
that I'm so happy that I managed to photograph! :)

And there are these dessicated -- but arguably
even more beautiful as a result? -- fern leaves

Repulse Bay and the green hills nearby

View of Repulse Bay from a different angle

My mother's the pink shirted figure in the distance,
and I am, of course, represented in the picture
by my shadow
;b

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Movie celebrities galore and more! :)


Brutal, bloody and serious --
Not your usual festive season blockbuster!

Peter Chan Ho-Sun. Chapman To. Will Smith. Akiva Goldsman. Francis Lawrence. I don't mean to gloat or brag but, really, last week was quite the week as far as being in the same room as movie celebrities go! (And you don't want to know what the week before that was like!!)

Still, before you start gnashing and grinding your teeth too much, be rest assured, dear reader, that if you follow the links provided below, you'll get access to some of what was said at my interviews with the director and producer of The Warlords, the producer and one of the cast of Trivial Matters, and the out-and-out star, writer cum co-producer and director of I Am Legend... ;b

Alternatively put, another issue of bc magazine has come out -- both in hard copy forms over here in Hong Kong as well as on-line -- and the following are my contributions to it:-

i) Peter Chan and The Warlords -- the article that is the result of *two* interviews with, as I told him to his face, the director of one of my top five favorite movies of all time (and for the record, that would be He's A Woman, She's a Man (1994));

ii) A Poor Nose -- an arts feature about The Chung Ying Theatre Company's Cantonese language (with English and Chinese surtitles) production of Cyrano de Bergerac;

iii) Daksha's Daring Dance -- another arts feature, this time about the Daksha Sheth Dance Company's BhuKham: Circus of Earth & Sky;

iv) Not So Trivial Matters -- Chapman To talks about Pang Ho-Cheung's upcoming movie (which To co-produced and can be seen playing a producer named... Chapman To!);

v) Review of The Warlords;

vi) Review of Persepolis;

vii) Review of Mad Detective;

viii) Review of I Am Legend; and

ix) The Editor's Diary for the period from December 13 to January 2.

In addition, fans of Hong Kong pop culture might wish to check out an article on Grasshopper by Kathleen Allard (another name that should be familiar to long-time Mobius Asian Cinema discussion board readers... ;b)

Happy reading? And do please feel free to say (write) so on the comments section if you do! :)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Long (This week's Photo Hunt theme)



On 15 October, 1994, the subject of this week's Photo Hunt entry was officially opened to the public here in Hong Kong. To this day, the half mile long Central Mid-Levels Escalator (or Travelator, as it is popularly known) -- one of whose ends is in the business section of Central, with the other being in the more residential Mid-Levels -- remains the world's longest outdoor covered escalator system.

The first time I caught sight of this long and very distinctive public transport option was in a quirky and enchanting -- and highly recommended -- movie called Chungking Express. Although it wasn't until I came to Hong Kong and rode on the Travelator that I truly understood what it was as well as appreciated its length, I will also admit that pretty much every time I go on this Travelator (which is fairly regularly, since my favorite pub in the territory is located near it!), I get to thinking of that 1994 Wong Kar Wai work which, among other things, has the distinction of containing my favorite actress' final feature film appearance. In other words: It's one of those parts of the Fragrant Harbour that help make me often feel that I'm moving around, working and living in a giant as well as wonderful movie set! :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

From Wan Chai Gap to Aberdeen (Photo-essay)


A few days back, I was contacted by a friend who I had gone on a hike from
Wan Chai Gap down to Aberdeen with a few weeks back, asking whether I'd be game to go on another hike with her. Upon doing so, I realized with a start how long ago it has been since we had done that bit of hiking -- and, in fact, since then, I've gone on three other hikes in different parts of the territory! So I figure that it's high time that I put up some of my photos from what actually may well be the easiest Hong Kong hike I had hitherto gone on -- on account of it being either downhill or a flat walk pretty much all the way -- and possibly the least scenic (yet for all that, here is a set of photos to show that it's not like there had been nothing to see along the walk either!)... :)


View of our destination that day, Aberdeen,
from our starting point at Wan Chai Gap

Panoramic views weren't particularly in abundance
on this hike but water sure was
! -- A case in point:
here's a scenic view of one of the Aberdeen Reservoirs

Another watery view found along the way

A more artistic shot than usual
that, nonetheless, also involves water! ;b

One of these days, I'll get myself a nature guide
that will help me identify the interesting flora
I often see while out hiking in Hong Kong!

Towards the end of the hike, we came across
a bunch of these beautiful red flowers

that looked, for all intents and purpose,
like they had been growing in the wild

Before getting into Aberdeen proper,
we first had to pass through a huge --
and, to my mind, quite photogenic! -- cemetery


Look far and through the gap
in between the multi-storey buildings
to catch a glimpse of Aberdeen's famed Harbour!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Have you ever? (meme)


A picture from my Japan 2006 photo album

Alejna of Collecting Tokens has done it again: i.e., posted about something that made me want to follow suit. In this case, it's a meme that, in her words, is "a big old checklist of things done in one's life". As she went on to explain, the idea is to go through the list of 150 items and bold the 'done' things. So, while I'm in a revelatory mood, here goes on my part with regards to disclosing what among the list I've already gone and done (and, for good measure, I'm going to italicise the top ten things on the list I haven't done which I'd like to!):-

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink

02. Swam with wild dolphins

03. Climbed a mountain

04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive

05. Been inside the Great Pyramid

06. Held a tarantula

07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone

08. Said “I love you” and meant it

09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped


11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea

13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise

14. Seen the Northern Lights

15. Gone to a huge sports game

16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa

17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables

18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper

21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon

22. Watched a meteor shower

23. Gotten drunk on champagne

24. Given more than you can afford to charity

25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope

26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment

27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse

29. Asked out a stranger

30. Had a snowball fight


31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can

32. Held a lamb

33. Seen a total eclipse

34. Ridden a roller coaster

35. Hit a home run

36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking

37. Adopted an accent for an entire day

38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer

40. Visited all 50 states


41. Taken care of someone who was drunk

42. Had amazing friends

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country

44. Watched whales

45. Stolen a sign

46. Backpacked in Europe

47. Taken a road-trip

48. Gone rock climbing

49. Midnight walk on the beach

50. Gone sky diving


51. Visited Ireland

52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love

53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them (I do this pretty much every day here in Hong Kong!)

54. Visited Japan

55. Milked a cow

56. Alphabetized your CDs

57. Pretended to be a superhero

58. Sung karaoke

59. Lounged around in bed all day

60. Played touch football


61. Gone scuba diving

62. Kissed in the rain

63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater

66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business

68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken

69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class


71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight

72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie

74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced

76. Gone without food for 5 days

77. Made cookies from scratch

78. Won first prize in a costume contest

79. Ridden a gondola in Venice

80. Gotten a tattoo


81. Rafted the Snake River

82. Been on a television news programs as an "expert"

83. Gotten flowers for no reason (0r, at least, no reason that I can think of!)

84. Performed on stage

85. Been to Las Vegas

86. Recorded music

87. Eaten shark

88. Kissed on the first date

89. Gone to Thailand

90. Bought a house


91. Been in a combat zone

92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship

94. Spoken more than one language fluently

95. Performed in Rocky Horror

96. Raised children

97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour

98. Passed out cold

99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country

100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (Boy, have I ever!)


101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge

102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived

105. Wrote articles for a large publication (Does one with a 1.4 million circulation qualify? Trust so)

106. Lost over 100 pounds

107. Held someone while they were having a flashback

108. Piloted an airplane

109. Touched a stingray

110. Broken someone’s heart

111. Helped an animal give birth

112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone

114. Gone on an African photo safari

115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears

116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol

117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild

118. Ridden a horse

119. Had major surgery

120. Had a snake as a pet


121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon

122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours

123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states

124. Visited all 7 continents

125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days

126. Eaten kangaroo meat

127. Eaten sushi

128. Had your picture in the newspaper

129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about

130. Gone back to school


131. Parasailed

132. Touched a cockroach

133. Eaten fried green tomatoes

134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey

135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read (Don't quite understand this item)

136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

137. Skipped all your school reunions

138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language

139. Been elected to public office

140. Written your own computer language

141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream

142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care

143. Built your own PC from parts

144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you

145. Had a booth at a street fair

146. Dyed your hair

147. Been a DJ

148. Shaved your head

149. Caused a car accident

150. Saved someone’s life


So... does that make for 60 things on the list that I've done? In any event, hope that the list was even half as interesting for you to read as it was for me to go through! Also, if any of these blog's readers decide to go ahead and do this meme on their own blogs, do please alert me to that fact. :)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Red (This week's Photo Hunt theme)



This week's Photo Hunt theme is one that I had lots of suitable photographic candidates for. This is not least because red is considered to be an auspicious color by the Chinese and thus is very popular around these parts. Also, well, as the song -- and movie title -- goes, The East is Red! ;)

After giving the matter some thought, I've decided to go for two photos that, when taken together, make for a study of contrast. For even if this pair of red pictures don't exactly represent the sacred and the profane, they at least are representative images from the secular along with sacred sides of Hong Kong life.

More specifically, the picture at the top is of a pork butcher's stall that's an integral part of the kind of wet market that still is pretty popular over here in 'Asia's World City'. And while pork is considered to be a white meat by some (including those involved with the "The Other White Meat" campaign over in the USA), I must say that it often looks very red to me -- and, indeed, there are others who are emphatic that this is indeed the case!

The second photo in this post, on the other hand, is of one of two red lanterns that hang outside the main doorway of the Hau Wong Temple in Tung Chung on Lantau Island. Built over two centuries ago, the temple is one of a number in Hong Kong that honor the memory of Hau Wong (trans. Holy Marquis), the general and uncle of the last emperor of China's Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), a boy ruler who spent his last days on the run from the Mongol invaders and, according to legend, chose suicide rather than surrender, and to do so by jumping into Kowloon Bay.

So, hmm, even though I hadn't originally planned it that way, both my red photos actually turn out to have something in common: i.e., they both have bloody associations of some sort! ;S

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chungking Express: Anthropological Delight, and quite a bit more! :)


The picture pertains to Chungking Express the movie
but this post's title and subject matter
actually don't! ;S

Before anything, here's pointing out that I spent the greater part of last week (i.e., production week for this issue of bc magazine) sick with stomach virus and away from the office. So I'm actually not responsible for its cover. But having said that, of course I'm delighted by it -- after all, it's not everyday that the phrase 'Chungking Express' and 'anthropological delight' are placed next to each other, is it? ;b

Moving on to the contents, the following are what I am responsible for (or, at least, wrote):-

i) The World of Chungking Mansions -- as related to moi by anthropology professor Gordon Matthews;

ii) Clowning in the Snow -- an arts feature on Slava's Snowshow;

iii) Kidd Dreams -- an article on Carol Kidd, of Shiri's When I Dream song fame;

iv) In Love With the Dead -- interview with director Danny Pang as well as a movie review; and

v) Editor's Diary -- with 10 entries written by me and one not (I wonder whether people can tell which it is! ;b).

Enjoy? I hope so. Lastly, and in all honesty, have to say that the Chungking Mansions piece is one that I am quite proud to have produced... :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wong Tin Lam's The Wild, Wild Rose


Banners near the Hong Kong Film Archive
for the on-going Wong Tin Lam retrospective

Lest people think otherwise: Despite my job requiring me to do quite a bit of film viewing (and reviewing), the fact of the matter is that I've not given up on movie-going as a fun extra-curricular activity. Thus, this past weekend saw me head over to the Hong Kong Film Archive in Sai Wan Ho to catch a screening of The Wild, Wild Rose (1960) that was among the offerings of Entertainer: The Art of Wong Tin Lam (a film series that -- gripe, gripe -- would be so much cooler if only more of the featured offerings were shown with English subtitles).

In any event, and for those who are unfamiliar with this Hong Kong movie:
The Wild, Wild Rose is a Cathay (aka MP&GI) film classic, one of many directed by Wong Tin Lam -- the 80-year-old father of Wong Jing who contemporary Hong Kong movie fans tend to best know as a frequent Milkyway Image character actor (cf. The Mission, Election 1 and 2) even though he officially retired some eight years ago.

It also happens to be superb showcase for singer-dancer-actress Grace Chang (aka Ge Lan) who may be a middle-aged Society matron these days but, back in the 1950s and 1960s, was one heck of a sizzling as well as major movie diva. For although its melodramatic components have not aged well, those sections of this film which place the spotlight squarely on Grace Chang the entertainer have most definitely stood the test of time.

After watching another of Grace Chang's signature movies, The Mambo Girl (1957), Brian (of HK Cinema: View from the Brooklyn Bridge, Subway Cinema, and Asian Cinema -- While On the Road) commented that:

I had previously seen pictures of Grace Chang – interesting face – sort of flat with a flared nose and a mouthful of teeth and a wide smile – but I would not have called her beautiful by any means. That’s because a still photo can’t begin to capture her immense charm, her myriad of lively expressions and her remarkably playful eyes that can enchant you one minute and devastate you the next. This is her film - she owns nearly every minute of it - and she creates a heartwarming portrait of youthful innocence that is astonishingly simple and yet completely captivating.
Well, as I told him in an e-mail written this past weekend, if only he could see Grace Chang on a big screen. Because even I, who previously had not been all that enamored by her when viewing her on a small screen (and this includes a viewing of Mambo Girl) was charmed, if not outright smitten post being privileged to have seen her visage projected onto a silver screen.

For that matter, so too was everyone in the Hong Kong Film Archive's cinema. As evidence: Whereas a lot of the viewers -- who tend to be chattier as well as significantly older than your average Hong Kong movie audience -- were prone to treat a lot of the rest of the movie like they were at a Chinese opera performance (in other words: they would pass comments among themselves about this and that that caught their attention!), every time Grace Chang appeared on screen, the whole cinema would get all hushed and fall noticeably silent.

All in all, it's been a while since I was among a movie audience that looked to love a film star so; with not only men openly lusting after her but also women appearing to wish they could be her -- or, at least, wishing that they could enthrall and capture men's hearts the way she could and did. To say the least, it really was quite the brilliant experience; and yet another memorable Hong Kong moment to savor for some time to come... :)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tai Tau Chau (Photo-essay)


The following photos were taken when I went exploring beautiful -- and surprisingly accessible -- Tai Tau Chau, near Shek O, with
a good friend of mine back in mid October (the day after my scenic walk from Tung Chung to Tai O with another three friends, in fact!) . I've already put up a few photos of the Shek O area on my blog, including on the Photo Hunt entry I put up earlier today, but I figure that it's worth devoting more attention to this scenic as well as surprisingly rural section of Hong Kong Island. Once more, as with my past photo-essays, I hope that you'll enjoy and agree that this part of Asia really does have its share of natural beauty spots! :)

View of Tai Tau Chau from Shek O's Rocky Bay Beach
Approaching the island from Shek O Headland
View from Tai Tau Chau itself
A trio of fisherman --
probably enjoying the surroundings more than

seriously thinking they can catch much from there!
As for me -- have to confess that I found
the strong waves and white foam they generated
quite intimidating at times

This cluster of rocks doesn't look too special
when viewed from this angle...
...but lookit what happens
when viewed from over here! :b
Peaceful and quiet...
but not all that far away from civilization! ;b