Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Writing about movies, music and more!

A glorious still from
one of my favorite Chinese New Year movies

Chinese New Year is approaching! And one sure way to tell this is to take a look at the cover -- and some of the contents -- of the latest issue of bc magazine (that's now on-line and will hit Hong Kong streets tomorrow).

Of my contributions, must say that I particularly enjoyed writing
Feast of Film Fun, a feature article on Chinese New Year movies that includes -- but of course! -- mention of The Chinese Feast (1995), another of those Tsui Hark cinematic gems that might be better acclaimed in the West if it didn't come with such horrible English subtitles... :S

Anyways, before I get too carried away and start ranting on and on about English subtitles on Hong Kong movies, here's going ahead and providing links to other pieces of writing by moi:-

i) Statistics and Showstoppers -- Eight 2008 Hong Kong Arts Festival picks;

ii) Music and Amour -- As the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra's upcoming Valentine's Concert 2008 serves to remind us, Valentine's Day also falls in February;

iii) Review of CJ7 -- Stephen Chow's first movie since the kick-ass Kung Fu Hustle (2004);

iv) Review of Chrysalis -- A French action movie featuring a Wing Chun practice dummy (but no action choreography from any Hong Kong film industry personality);

v) Review of The Edge of Heaven -- The fifth feature by Fatih Akin, the director-scriptwriter whose In July (2000) bowled me over and got me hankering to visit Istanbul!; and

vi) This issue's Editor's Diary (but, bar for the Lea Salonga: Five Favourites interview, not the Live Music section blurbs this time around).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pak Kung Au (aka Tung Chung Au) to Nam Shan (Photo-essay)

It's been more than a month since I put up some photos from a hiking excursion. And, if truth be told, it's been more than a month since I completed a hike. (I attempted one yesterday but, sad to say, was tired still from the exertions of the past week and so out of shape that I had to call it quits early on! Fortunately, two other members of that party did too -- consequently, I had company that, as it turned out, was pretty good and fun to hang out with for the remainder of the day!)

As it so happens though, I still have quite a few interesting pictures from a few Hong Kong hikes I went on towards the tail end of 2007 that I've yet to post up on this blog. So here's going ahead and sharing a selection of these from one of the more scenic as well as lengthier hikes that I went on and did manage to complete -- as it turns out, on the same beautiful island, Lantau, as I spent a good part of yesterday...

Early on the hike from Pak Kung Au to Nam Shan,
I got the feeling that if I tarried too much,
I'd get left far behind by my intrepid companions! ;S

Lantau Peak (and its environs)
not (yet) scaled and, instead,
only admired from a distance

A view of the Lantau coast (and Sha Tsui in particular?)
from pretty high above

A view of a section of the trail
that we hiked on that day

Can anyone identify these flowers?
(All I know is that they pretty beautiful!)

The eye (coupled with a degree of air pollution)
can deceive -- for that's actually
an island in the distance, not a UFO!

In case anyone needs some assuring:
Yes, I really (still) was in Hong Kong --
and standing smack dab on its largest island,
as a matter of fact! -- when I took this photo! :)

Towards the end of our longer-than-anticipated hike,
we found ourselves in a race against the setting sun!
(But yes, we did manage to complete the hike --
though only just! -- before dinner time that evening ;b)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Old-fashioned (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Kowloon Wholesale Fruit Market (Gwo Laan),
Yau Ma Tei

Sundry goods shop, Central

The Blue House (tenement housing), Wan Chai

Better late than never? I realize that I'm posting this week's Photo Hunt entry super late; so late, in fact, that it's already Sunday (as opposed to Saturday) over here in Hong Kong. However, figure that it's still Saturday over where tnchick and many other Photo Hunters are. Also, that this week's theme is too good to miss (even in a super busy week like this one has been for me)!

So here's going ahead and providing a couple of glimpses of sections of Asia's World City that contain vestiges of another era: that is, look more old-fashioned than popular stereotypes -- at least over here in Asia, if not 'the West' (certain denizens of which sometimes seems to mistakenly think that it's still The World of Suzie Wong over here) -- of Hong Kong might suggest that it still can possess. Yet, for all this, are still very much in use and increasingly valued as part of the territory's living cultural heritage.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Important (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

There are so many things in life that I consider to be important. Still, if push comes to shove, it's hard to think of anything more important than water (especially a plentiful supply of clean H20). Consider the following facts gleaned from the Wikipedia:-

  • Water covers 71% of the earth's surface;
  • Human civilization (and scores of metropolises) has historically flourished around rivers, major waterways and still other bodies of water;
  • The human body is anywhere from 55 to 78% water (depending on body size);
  • To function properly (and to avoid dehydration), humans require up to 7 liters of water per day;
  • Water is used to wash, clean, cook, process food, in power generation, for recreational purposes and so much more besides; etc.
Than there's the aesthetic pleasure that viewing -- and photographing ;b -- running water, waterfalls (be these natural and man-made) and reflections on still water can provide. Hence my decision to offer up more photos than usual -- and one example each of the afore-mentioned -- for this week's Photo Hunt... :)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Latest writing round-up

An artifact at the Hong Kong Museum
of Coastal Defence in
Shau Kei Wan
that bears testimony to
the area's historic sea-faring ties

I'm a bit late this time around with my bc magazine article linking as the latest issue actually hit the streets yesterday. But better late than never, right? So here comes another round-up of the bits that I wrote:-

i) Finding Miss Blossom -- an arts feature article about the HK Dance Company's latest production, a contemporary dance offering inspired by a classic Cantonese opera;

ii) Ooi's Take On Othello -- an arts feature article about a Cantonese version of Shakespeare's tragedy (whose director, more than BTW, is originally from Penang, like me!);

iii) The Sparkle in the Dark -- a review of a movie from the least celebrated Tony Leung in the Hong Kong film industry;

iv) 27 Dresses -- a review of the Hollywood romantic comedy;

v) Editor's Diary -- ten things to check out in Hong Kong over the next two weeks;

vi) Live Music -- yes, I've taken over the writing of this section of the magazine once more; and

vii) Backside -- not all written by me; just the Stopwatch piece -- but yes, I took the photos for it too!

And I also didn't write the feature article on the Legislative Council building but also would like to recommend it for your reading interest -- and not just because another one of my photos I took got included in the hard copy version of this piece either! ;b

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Winter's here in Hong Kong! :)

It never gets cold enough in Hong Kong
to be able to ice skate outside
but it still can get quite cool...

Some days, I think that in a past life, I must have been a native of a territory with a colder clime than Malaysia. Or maybe it's just a case of 'the grass is greener on the other side' syndrome making this person, who was born and largely raised in a country with equatorial climate, love cooler temperatures so. All I know is that when I look at the current 7 day weather forecast for Hong Kong, my heart threatens to skip a beat, and for joy! :)

For those whose countries continue to measure temperature in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius or Centigrade, here's a temperature converter -- which, despite its name, actually works both ways -- to help figure things out. Alternatively, trust me when I say that I view Hong Kong's winter as one in which, for the most part, one doesn't really need an overcoat but, rather, enables me to comfortably put on some of my favorite types of clothing: namely, sweaters, scarves and -- this especially! -- flannel shirts.

On a Hong Kong movie note: At the risk of stating the obvious, there was a reason -- beyond that of style -- that Chow Yun-Fat didn't seem idiotic for dressing the way he did in the iconic A Better Tomorrow. At the same time, it does make me laugh when even the slightest lowering of temperature from what I'd classify as 'hot' causes Hong Kongers (and, I've noticed this among residents of Taipei as well) to break out their winter gear with a vengeance!

Nonetheless, nothing strains incredulity more than to see people wearing wool scarves and turtleneck sweaters, and even leather jackets (in a bid to emulate their cinematic idols, no doubt), in places like Malaysia -- something that I've seen done on occasion, both in my time in Kuala Lumpur as well as Penang. And no, I really don't believe that even the fact that Malaysians have a love of air-conditioned buildings can be an excuse for these cases of fashion victimhood! ;D

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Skinny (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

The word
skinny tends to bring to mind skinny physiques, arms and legs for me. However, as regular visitors to this blog might have noticed, I'm neither a photographer who's comfortable with taking shots of strangers nor a blogger who's all that comfortable with putting up photos of herself, her family and friends on the internet. Consequently, this week's Photo Hunt theme is one for which I don't have too many suitable photos...

Yet, when looking at this particular photo that I put up, don't you get to thinking that the two buildings in focus -- and, should anyone be interested, located in the primarily residential Happy Valley section of Hong Kong -- are on the skinny as well as very tall side? Also, should anyone wonder, the pair comprise high end apartment blocks whose sleek architectural design I do admire yet am not sure that I would feel all that comfortable occupying space within!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

More Taipei sights (Photo-essay)

This past December, I visited Taipei -- and Taiwan -- for the first time ever. Before going, I only knew of it through movies (1970s efforts starring Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia but also works by the likes of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang and Chen Kuo-Fu along with Johnnie To (Turn Left, Turn Right) and Wong Kar Wai (a small but memorable section of Happy Together) and writings, both non-fictional and fictional. And from conversations with friends, including a Taiwanese house-mate back I had for a time in Philadelphia and a Taiwanese couple who were my landlords for three years in that same American city.

From what I gleaned from these various and varied sources, part of me was expecting to see a place that would be a cross between Hong Kong and Mainland China. In many ways, that was indeed what I discovered it to be. At the same time though, I'm surprised at how much more along the Mainland China end of the scale it felt like... that is, if such could be said of a place that also reminded me of Japan in some other ways.

All in all, I'm not sure whether this perception can be conveyed by way of the photos I took, and have selected for inclusion in this second Taipei photo-essay on this blog. In any event, however, hope that you'll find what I captured with my camera to be of interest (and -- hint, hint... ;b -- worthy of comment)...

Taipei's main railway station,
complete with reminder that Taiwan wants
to be a part of the United Nations

but has yet to have its petition to do so accepted

Taipei's very good public transportation system,
complete with over- and under-ground trains,
makes travelling around it easy enough,
even for foreign visitors

The 4-kilometer-long Maokong Gondola that's
also part of Taipei's public transportation system

A painterly photo taken
while riding on the Maokong Gondola
up to the Maokong hills

The futuristic looking --
and far from crowded -- mall
at the base of Taipei 101

Yes, Philadelphia really is not the only city
that is home to a bright red Love sculpture!

OTOH, I'll willingly believe that
Taipei's international airport is the only one around
with a customized Hello Kitty gate

To get a sense of how Hello Kitty-fied
that part of the airport is,
take a look at the seating over there... ;D

More published pieces for you to read in early 2008

Two beloved local landmarks in one picture --
the Wong Tai Sin Temple, and
Lion Rock that inspired a beloved Hong Kong anthem

Such is the way of the world of magazine publications that the issue of bc magazine with a 3rd January 2008 cover date actually was written up, etc., back in late December, before the office temporarily shut down for the holidays. So, if truth be told, I feel a bit more removed than usual from the published pieces that I wrote for it. Still, there's no denying that I get quite a bit of satisfaction upon seeing the following works in print and, also, to be able to share them with you on account of the magazine being available on-line as well as in a hard copy format:-

i) Seven, Not Six -- a feature article on a seven man a capella group from Illinois, USA;

ii) The Godfather of Cantopop -- a feature article on legendary composer (including of that Lion Rock anthem) Joseph Koo;

iii) My Blueberry Nights -- a review of Wong Kar Wai's mesmerizing latest;

iv) Assembly -- a review of Feng Xiaogang's first ever war drama;

v) Linger -- a review of Johnnie To's latest attempt at romance;

vi) Trivial Matters -- a review of Pang Ho-Cheung's latest entertaining offering; and

vii) Editor's Diary -- ten things to check out in Hong Kong between January 3 to 16.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Delicious (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Happy 2008 to all you Photo Hunters (and other visitors to this blog) and hope that the new year is treating you better than it is me. (I've come down with a cold -- as it so happens, my first in over eight months! -- which, unfortunately, makes me less able than usual to appreciate delicious items like that in the photos I put up especially for this week's Photo Hunt... :S)

Those of you who are familiar with Japanese food, especially sushi and sashimi, will undoubtedly be able to tell what those orange-colored edibles in the pictures are. And those of you who, like me, hold Japanese cuisine in high esteem, will undoubtedly have fond memories of imbibing your share of delicious portions of uni and ikura (sea urchin and salmon roe in English respectively).

Frankly, for my money, nothing can beat really good uni and ikura. Notice though that I specified "really good" because if not fresh, these two gourmet items can taste rather slimy and, in the case of the latter, overly 'fishy' rather than creamy in the case of uni and salt-waterily fresh in the case of ikura. However, rest assured that the pictured uni and ikura are both of high quality indeed. As proof, I furnish the fact that the first photo (of the boxes of uni all ready for sale) was taken at Tokyo's amazing Tsukiji Market while the second photo is of a set meal that I personally as well as happily devoured at a restaurant over here in Hong Kong... :b

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A tale of two Taipei buildings (Photo-essay)

Some 12 hours from now, it'll be time to get back to work. Thus will end a much needed 12 day vacation that I have to admit to wishing could go on for a little while longer. At the same time, I'm not going to deny that I managed to fit in quite a bit of fun, activity and travel into these holidays; with the tail-end of it seeing me back in Penang to say goodbye to 2007 and bid welcome to 2008, and a quintet of earlier days, including December 25 (which, incidentally, is
not a public holiday in that land), having been spent in Taipei, Taiwan.

Despite a good friend (and fellow Asian film fanatic) having wondered otherwise, I did not go to Taipei in search of Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia; and this not least since Taiwan may be where she was born and rose to fame but it being the case that she currently resides in Hong Kong and has done so for some years now. Rather, by far the main attraction for me in that East Asian territory -- which I had hitherto never visited -- was the National Palace Museum.

Unfortunately but, also, expectedly, photography is barred while inside of that museological institution. So I have no pictures to show of it and/or to provide proof of my visit there. On the other hand, many other sections of Taiwan's capital city, be they new or old, were freely photographable. Consequently, I was able to click away and thus provide you with the following sample views of two of Taipei's more remarkable buildings:-

Taipei 101 currently is the world's tallest building
-- but, rather than show you the skyscraper per se,
here's first offering up a view
from its 89th floor Observation Deck...

...and another from a different, more acute angle
that can be vertigo-inducing, and perhaps especially so
when you're behind the camera taking such a photo! ;S

The upper portion of Taipei 101, as viewed from
the hilly as well as southern suburbs of Maokong

If only the top of it were as visible from up close!
But on a cloudy day, like the day my mother and I visited,
this actually is far from the case!! ;(

And the weather conditions also were far from optimal
when we paid a visit to the second building in focus --
the Lungshan (Dragon Mountain) Temple
that's Taipei's oldest and most popular...

But, as it so happened though, the day of our visit
turned out to also have been a major festive day

Thus the temple was specially decorated
with such as flowers galore, filled with devout worshippers,
and the overall mood there that day felt really special

Additionally, let's face it:
a little -- or even a lot... -- of rain

really wasn't going to deter me from appreciating
ornamental architectural touches like these... :b

So, want to see more of my Taipei photos? Hope so, as I'm already planning to put up a second Taiwan photo-essay on this blog before too long! :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A by-the-numbers look at my 2007 movie viewing year

Movie advertising on the back of a bus, Hong Kong style!

1 -- The total number of 'new' (i.e., previously unseen by me) Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia movies viewed in 2007 (and for the record, it was Little Sister-In-Law, newly available on VCD, with English and Chinese subtitles, in 2007). (And for those who haven't realized it, Brigitte Lin is my favorite actress of all time!)

2 -- The number of films viewed in a corporate boardroom setting this past year! (And should anyone wonder, the plus side is that the seats are really plush but the negative side is that the sound and visual quality may not be as great as one would like.)

2 too -- The number of feature films I've viewed on DVD while living in Hong Kong!! (So, yes, my viewing habits have changed enormously from being a mix of home video and public setting to almost entirely the latter.)

2 1/2 -- The total number of Malaysian films I viewed in 2007 (with Yasmin Ahmad's affecting Mukhsin and Tan Chui Mui's frustration-inducing Love Conquers All being the wholly Malaysian films and Tsai Min Liang's I Don't Want To Sleep Alone counting as just a half in my book.)

4 -- The number of films that will only officially be released in Hong Kong cinemas in 2008 that I viewed in 2007.

6 -- The total number of feature-length documentaries and/or biographical works viewed this past calendar year. (The titles: Nanking (USA), The Bimo Records (Mainland China), Before the Flood (Mainland China), The Go Master (Mainland China & Japan), Crossing The Line (Britain & North Korea), and Persepolis (France).)

11 -- The number of Hong Kong movies and/or co-productions viewed in 2007 that I'd give at least an 8.5 out of 10 -- i.e., 'very good' -- rating to. And should you wonder, these are (in viewed order, and with the original year of release in parentheses): Sister Long Legs (1960), Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), After This Our Exile (2006), Whispers and Moans (2007), Hooked On You (2007), The Drummer (2007), Flash Point (2007), The Sun Also Rises (2007), The Wild Wild Rose (1960), The Warlords (2007), and Trivial Matters (2007).

14 -- The number of non Hong Kong movies viewed in 2007 that I'd give at least an 8.5 out of 10 rating to; with these being (in viewed order, and with the territory (or territories) of origin in parentheses): The Sinking of Japan (Japan), Mukhsin (Malaysia), Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust (Japan), King and the Clown (South Korea), Hula Girls (Japan), Zodiac (USA), Ratatouille (USA), The Loyal 47 Ronin, Part I (Japan), Hairspray (USA), Lust, Caution (Taiwan-Mainland China), Hero (Japan), The Last King of Scotland (Britain), Persepolis (France), and My Blueberry Nights (an English language Wong Kar Wai movie whose territory of origin I'm actually unsure of!).

15 -- The number of different territories whose films I viewed this past single calendar year. (And for the record, they were Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Mainland China, Malaysia, North Korea, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the USA).

15 as well -- The total number of movies I viewed over the course of a little bit more than a week at the 2007 Hong Kong International Film Festival.

15 yet again! -- The number of films from Japan viewed in 2007 (And, for the record, this diverse group comprised -- in viewing order -- Four Days of Snow and Blood (1989), The Sinking of Japan (2006), Flower and Snake (2004), The Returner (2002), Sway (2006), Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust (2007), Umizaru 2: Test of Trust (2006), Hula Girls (2006), The Loyal 47 Ronin, Part 1 (1941), The Loyal 47 Ronin, Part 2 (1942), Udon (2006), The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), Hero (2007), Tokyo Tower: Mom, Me and Sometimes Dad (2007), and Rainbow Song (2006).

16 -- The number of movies from the USA that I elected to check out this past calendar year. (And, again for the record, this mixed bag comprises -- in viewing order -- House of D (2004), Meet the Fockers (2004), Film Geek (2005), Guess Who? (2005), Apt Pupil (1997), Nanking (2007), The Family Stone (2005), Sunshine (2007), Shrek 3 (2007), Zodiac (2007), Ratatouille (2007), Hairspray (2007), Rush Hour 3 (2007), Lions for Lambs (2007), I Am Legend (2007), and The Bourne Identity (2002).)

16 once more -- The number of movies released in 2007 whose director and/or (at least) one of its stars I interviewed over the course of my work.

30 -- The number of 2007 Hong Kong films I viewed in 2007.

50+ -- The number of film personalities I've spotted at movie premieres as well as in everyday settings (e.g., at a fruit stand, in a cafe, in an MTR station!) since moving to Hong Kong. And yes, I really stopped counting around the 6 month mark of my Hong Kong stay! ;o

58 -- The number of Hong Kong (and Hong Kong-related: i.e., Mainland China-Hong Kong co-productions like Curse of the Golden Flower) movies viewed this past calendar year.

64 -- The number of movies from other than Hong Kong viewed this past year.

84 -- The number of films viewed on on a big screen (i.e., usually a cinema but also film festival settings like the Hong Kong Cultural Centre's Grand Theatre) this past year.

122 -- The total number of movies I viewed for the first time in 2007. (In other words, I'm not counting repeat viewings.)

1941 -- The original year of release of Kenji Mizoguchi's still highly impressive The Loyal 47 Ronin, Part I, the oldest film I viewed in 2007. (And yes, I also did check out The Loyal 47 Ronin, Part II (1942) as a double feature treat. ;b)