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

Hot (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

This week's Photo Hunt theme allows me to highlight two things about Hong Kong that I've been meaning to do so for some time now. Firstly, that there is an unusually high preponderance of cautionary signs for just about everything here, not just about the weather. Not that I want to accuse the HKSAR of being a nanny state, mind. But a lot of the warnings I've seen being broadcast around here often do seem to fall into the "d'uh, we know!" category. A case in point: Believe you me when I state that I didn't need telling that it was very hot that day this past summer when I went to visit the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence over in Shau Kei Wan and came across this bilingual "Very Hot weather warning" sign, among other things! ;b

Secondly, not only does the reputed 100% concrete jungle that is Hong Kong have wonderful country parks and attendant natural greenery, it also has its share of sandy beaches -- like that at Shek O, over on the southeast section of Hong Kong island! And on (very) hot, cloudless days, guess where a significant amount of the territory's population like to head to and happily bake on (albeit more often than not under significant umbrella shade)? ;)

Friday, November 16, 2007

I Love ____ (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

One year ago today, I started writing this blog. Looking back at my first blog post, the mood it captured seems serious and a bit wistful, sad even. These days, I like to think, my blog entries are written in a generally cheerier vein and spirit. And, indeed, early on, I did hope that this blog would help release my inner Pollyanna. Hence my trying to write to focus on that which makes me happy, like and love.

Which brings us to this week's Photo Hunt theme: one that I very much enjoyed thinking about and mulling what to especially focus on. At the end of the day though, it's really impossible to go beyond the fact that I Love Hong Kong (and being in Hong Kong). Hence my going ahead and putting up a couple more photographs taken in the part of the world that I am ever so happy to be able to currently call home.

More than incidentally, this pair of photos were taken on the type of day in the Hong Kong which I particularly love: i.e., those of low pollution and beautiful, bright blue skies. Much as I would like for it to be otherwise though, over here in the Pearl River Delta, such days aren't ones that can be taken for granted any more. Instead, when they do occur, they get cherished all the more and compel me, even more than usual, to want to be out and about and enjoying being in the ample public outdoor spaces that the place that likes to call itself Asia's World City is rather unexpectedly able to offer up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

October 19th hike's end: Tai O (Photo-essay)

Two Thursdays ago, I started posting photos taken on my Chung Yeung 2007 hike from the new town of Tung Chung to the traditional fishing village of Tai O some five and half hours walk away to the west. Finding that there were more photos that I wanted to share to fit a single photo-essay, I posted another batch of pictures taken on the same hike a few days afterwards -- and now am going ahead and posting batch number three.

This time around though, the focus is on the village of Tai O and its surroundings. And should those Hong Kong filmophiles from among this blog's readers figure that the name sounds familiar, it's because Tai O has been the locale of movies like Lawrence Ah Mon's Three Summers, Andrew Lau's Bullets of Love and Jamie Luk's The Case of the Cold Fish (all of which are not major works but, nonetheless, have their charms -- and due in some part to their settings)... :b

Looking back at the scenery
my hiking companions and I were leaving behind
in order to return to 'civilisation' and search for dinner!

Getting into Tai O from the northeast, like we did,
the first major building we saw
was its historic Yeung Hau Temple

A case of photographic perspective skewing reality
-- almost needless to say, the temple building
is actually not as small as it looks there!

Looking towards the mountains
(instead of the coast and sea)

Close up view of the stilt structures
for which Tai O is famed

A sign in the form of a flag that Hong Kong
actually is part of the People's Republic of China

Yes, it really did feel as quiet and calm
as it looks in this picture out there
in that particular rural corner of Hong Kong! :b

Although we were hungry at this point,
we still found ourselves pausing
to drink in views such as these... :)

Yet another batch of links to published writings

A wild bird gazing into
the murky waters of Victoria Harbour

-- and, if it thought like a human,
wishing that the water was cleaner and clearer

Come Sunday, November 18, it will be Harbour Day over here in Hong Kong. To help commemorate this event, the plan had been to come out with a special Harbour Day-themed issue of bc magazine. The way things turned out, however, there is less coverage of this day in the magazine than the powers that be would have liked. And I guess that I had something to do with this since the following are the non-Harbour Day-themed pieces that I wrote for this issue:-

i) Milkyway's Latest Star -- feature article on Andy On (one of the stars of Milkyway Image's latest film, Mad Detective)

ii) The Wide World of Zhengs -- feature article on the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra's upcoming World of Zhengs concert along with its featured artist, the charming Luo Jing

iii) Australian A Cappella -- feature article on Antipodean a cappella quartet The Idea of North

iv) Review of Anna & Anna and an interview with its director cum co-scriptwriter, Aubrey Lam

v) Review of Tokyo Tower: Mom & Me, and Sometimes Dad

vi) The Editor's Diary for November 15 to 30 (and a bit beyond)

vii) The Live Music section

For all this though, here's stating for the record that I, too, am definitely in favor of Victoria Harbour being made cleaner than it currently is. (And very much ditto with regards to the air that we breathe.)

On a different note: For those who wonder, yes, there are 'hard'/paper copy versions of bc magazine. Also, yes, I've spotted a few typos in the on-line edition and will try to see that they get remedied... maybe before some of you check the relevant pages out! ;S

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Flexible (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Living in what one Hong Kong newspaper has referred to as Bamboo City, it's really hard to go beyond the flexible bamboo when thinking of what to feature in this week's Photo Hunt entry. And why, I hear those of you who've never been to Hong Kong -- and don't have the time or inclination to check out the linked article from The Standard -- and can't quite figure out the photos in this blog post ask, is the Fragrant Harbour also referred to as Bamboo City?

Short answer: Because pretty much at any time of the day or year, the observer out for a stroll in the built-up areas of Hong Kong will easily come across buildings in the process of being built or renovated that are effectively encased in bamboo scaffolding (like the ones in the top two photos). Also, while it can look really insane (to wit: the bottom two photos, one of which shows the bottom of the scaffolding not being rooted in the ground...), there really is a logic and method to the supposed madness, as the following excerpts from the above referenced article show:-

Bamboo scaffolding is an example of natural materials put to ingenious use. Steel scaffolding may have advantages in strength and standardised quality but bamboo wins out in other ways...

Bamboo is more flexible than steel. It can be slightly bent to fit building contours... [Additionally, b]ecause of its properties bamboo is not rigid, so weaknesses can be detected before actually collapsing. Also bamboo is about eight times lighter than steel and it floats.
Well-kept scaffolding can be used over and over again for about two years but then has to be disposed of... Bamboo scaffolding isn't necessarily dangerous... It is a cost-effective traditional craft that should be preserved and improved.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tung Chung to Tai O Part Two (Photo-essay)

This afternoon (a few hours after
I went and added two Hello Kitty figurines to my collection), I went on another hike with the same trio of friends who I had walked from Tung Chung to Tai O with a couple of weeks ago. So, having told them that I'd be putting up quite a few of the photos I took along the way up on my blog, I figure that I had better make good on my promise. Thus, here are eight more photos from that long but leisurely walk that, hopefully, more than just they and myself will be able to enjoy checking out:-

Before we get to the scenic nature shots,
first here's a colorful close-up... ;)

At times during the hike,
including this section around Sham Wat Wan,
we were more or less at sea-level
and near the sea itself

But soon afterwards,
the trail began heading up to higher ground

And it's from higher ground
(albeit that which still was close to the coast),
that we got to drink in views like this...

Is it just me or do some parts of Hong Kong
resemble some portions of the English countryside?

Although this photo makes it look
like it was not the case,
there really still was
quite a bit of sunlight left in the day at this point

Believe it or not:
This picture was actually taken
later in the hike then the one above it!

As we neared Tai O and our journey's end,
we got near to sea-level
as well as the sea once more

And hmmmm, it looks like there'll have to be a third Tung Chung to Tai O photo-essay since I think it'd be remiss of me to not put up any of my photos of Tai O and its environs at some point in the near future... ;S

Two more MTR Hello Kitty Heroes! :)

Look away now, Hello Kittyphobes! ;b

They're baaaack! Or, more accurately: As of today, November 4th, there are two more additions to the MTR Hello Kitty Heroes Collection that was first launched back on July 16th. Like the other six MTR Hello Kittys that I was given by the good folks over at Muse's Network, these plastic figurines are around 5 inches tall, dressed in MTR uniforms and -- to my mind -- very cute.

Unsurprisingly, I felt greatly compelled to get my hands on them. Worried by the possibility that the MTR would run out of stock before I could get my hands on a set of these new Hello Kittys, I actually woke up earlier than usual this Sunday and, before I even had breakfast, headed to the nearest MTR station in search of these kawaii -- and, anti-pink Hello Kitty detractors please note, distinctly un-pink -- feline figurines.

Maybe it was because I was there sufficiently early but as it turned out, there was no queue in sight, forget the kind of mad stampede for Hello Kitty items that is not unheard of (but which I very fortunately have never personally experienced). Indeed, it was a breeze to come out of the MTR station with my own set of two new MTR Hello Kitty Heroes (see above photo) along with another for my fellow Hello Kitty fan mother... (Note to those planning on getting their own: There is a two set limit per person for these items!) :))

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Classic (This week's Photo Hunt theme)


The subject of my Photo Hunt entry this week is a classic mode of public transportation over here in Hong Kong that is regarded as on the slow side these days but, nonetheless, remains quite popular -- in large part because it is the most economical option at just HK$2 (~26 US cents or 0.18 Euros) a ride -- and can be safely regarded as having withstood the test of time.

Trams have been operating in Hong Kong since 1904. Early on, their route was along what was the north coast of Hong Kong Island. Over the years, so much land reclamation has taken place that, more often than not, the Hong Kong Tramways no longer can provide passengers with views of Victoria Harbour. Consequently, they cannot claim to provide scenic views to rival that of the more glamorous -- and more expensive -- cousin, the Peak Tram. But, to my mind, they make up for it by regularly treating passengers to interesting "slice of life" peeks at everyday Hong Kong as they travel from as far west as Kennedy Town to as far east as the former fishing village of Shau Kei Wan (and vice versa).

On top of all this, there's a romantic aura attached to the tram for this Hong Kong filmophile courtesy of it having appeared in so many Hong Kong movies over the years. In particular, I think of the part it has played in courting scenes in Tempting Heart (1999), Last Ghost Standing (also 1999) and The Odd One Dies (1998), the opening scene and more in Eye in the Sky (2007), and that sizzling sex scene in Nomad (1982). Then there's also that scene in The Longest Summer (1998) in which Sam Lee's character experienced a case of "tram rage" that prompted him to hurl at least one of his fellow tram passengers out of a window from the upper deck of the tram...! ;b

A word on the physical appearance of the trams before I end this entry: These days, it's rare to see a tram whose exterior is not covered by advertisements. Rather than besmirch a classic, however, I think that the often very imaginatively illustrated ads actually are pretty cool to check out. Now that you've had the opportunity to view a few of them (courtesy of my photos), what do you think?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tung Chung to Tai O (Photo-essay)

Two Fridays ago was one of Hong Kong's seventeen public holidays. Even better was it being one of the twelve designated statutory holidays. Traditionally, Chung Yeung is the day in autumn when Hong Kongers go and visit the graves of their ancestors. These days, however, it's not only that but a very popular day for hiking. So... guess what I did on that day?

This time around, I opted to go hiking with an international group of friends (one each from Hong Kong, Germany and Singapore) along the northwest coast of Hong Kong's largest island, Lantau. At a little bit more than 5 hours, this excursion turned out to be the longest I've been on on foot in Hong Kong. At the same time though, it was by no means the most exhausting as Tung Chung to Tai O turned out to be more of a leisurely walk -- along relatively flat as well as largely paved trails -- than a hike.

Still, as can be seen below, it's not as though I didn't get many opportunities to 'exercise' my camera along the way. So I was happy. And this especially as there was good food at the end of the hike over in the village of Tai O and good company to enjoy throughout the day... :)

The walking trail officially started
near this Hau Wong Temple in Tung Chung

I took advantage of the Taoist temple
among the few in Hong Kong
whose exterior I was freely allowed to photograph

Part of the walk brings one directly under
the path of the currently stationary
Ngong Ping 360 cable car service

Old, abandoned village houses in the foreground
and a partial view of what looks to have been
its direct replacement in the background

View across the bay
to a reclaimed portion of Lantau
on which Hong Kong International Airport sits

See how easy (and popular) this walk is? :b

Still, it's not like we were entirely
far from nature and greenery though!

Ending this photo-essay midway through the hike
-- and on a cultural note --
with another photo of a small Taoist temple
(this one dedicated to the three emperors of the mountains)