Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A few more links to my published writings

Screen captures from Queen of Temple Street,
just one of the cinematic gems that made up
the recent Care for Our Community film programme

Things being the way they currently are over at bc magazine, it might be a while before the website is updated again. So rather than provide links to the latest, up to date pieces that I've written, I'm going to go ahead and link to writings from the past two issues whose events may have passed but highlighted personalities and such might still be of interest for some people to read in the meantime:-

From Issue 259:-

i) Midori Matured -- feature article on virtuoso violinist Midori Goto;

ii) Aerobic Aeros -- feature article on a physical dance theatre production whose cast comprises aerobics gymnasts from Romania;

iii) Community Cinema -- on the Hong Kong Film Archive's gem-filled recent Care for Our Community film programme;

iv) One more Editor's Diary that helps prove that Hong Kong is not a cultural desert! ;b

From Issue 260:-

a) The Nymph and the Femme Fatale -- The Royal Ballet (of Britain)'s Sylvia and Manon;

b) The Sounds of Scraps -- Canada's amazing (as I can personally attest to post attending one of their concerts) ScrapArtsMusic group;

c) Dulcimer Dedication -- A Hungarian cimbalom collaborates with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra;

d) Still another Editor's Diary aimed at getting readers to go out and about in the Big Lychee some more... ;b

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Northeast Hong Kong hike, Part III (photo-essay)

This blog entry is one that I feel obliged to put up more for myself than for family or friends. Put another way: Even though my first and second Northeast Hong Kong hike photo-essays have attracted a grand total of one and zero comments respectively, I'm going to go ahead and put up Part III -- for the sake of completion and, also, for my own records. So, without further ado, here are a selections of photos taken on the part of the hike that covered Sam A Tsuen and back towards Wu Kau Tang on a different, more hilly trail before diverting to Hong Kong's famous Bride's Pool and nearby Mirror Pool; natural beauty spots that many people living in Hong Kong for years have not ventured to -- their loss, really!

One of the things that made Hong Kong's Country Parks
feel so safe to hike with just a friend or two:
its preponderance of clear and helpful

On a hike through diverse geographical landscapes,
my hiking pals and I now passed a marshy/swampy area
located near Sam A Tsuen and the sea

A few -- okay, maybe not so few! -- meters up later,
we were presented with this view of land and sea

A far more ruined abandoned dwelling than those we had seen earlier along the hike

Yep, more purple rock -- albeit encountered at a
significantly higher level elevation than previously

Down below was the part of the trail
we had hiked earlier on,
further in the foreground
was the part of the trail that awaited me

A view from higher up of the landscape
passed by and photographed earlier in the hike

Lower part of the Bride's Pool --
alas, by the time we got there, the lighting wasn't optimal
and my hands were shaking too much from fatigue,
so that good shots of the upper part of it
will have to wait for another visit! ;(

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hanging (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Perhaps I'm prone to macabre thoughts but I must admit that the first image that came to my mind with regard to this week's Photo Hunt theme wasn't very pleasant. One of my reasons for starting this blog though was to help bring out the Pollyanna in me. Consequently, after some determined mulling and searching, have come out with two examples of hanging that I think are more positive as well as interesting.

More specifically, my first photograph features clothes hanging out to dry from that help bring color to the overall everyday scene; while the second was taken inside a Chinese temple whose curly wurly coiled incense sticks hanging from its eaves indicates that it caters to worshippers who are Cantonese speakers (since if they were, say, Hokkien, the incense sticks would be straight rather than curly!). :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Links to recent film reviews

Little Tony and Takeshi co-star again...
this time around in John Woo's Red Cliff

It's so late as I write this blog entry that even though I'm treating it as Tuesday night, we're now officially into Wednesday morning. So this is going to just be a quick and dirty "heads up" that the bc magazine website has finally been updated, making it so that the following film reviews by moi -- and quite a bit more besides! -- are now available on line:-

1) John Woo's Red Cliff ;

2) Jiri Menzel's I Served the King of England;

3) Claude Berri's Ensemble C'est Tout; and

4) Tsui Hark's Missing (which I really wish could have been so much better).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shaolin kung fu demonstration in San Po Kong

A Shaolin kung fu exponent strikes a martial pose

A Shaolin kung fu exponent strikes another on the head
to demonstrate the latter's Qigong (power within)

Two Shaolin kung fu exponents spar with each other
to demonstrate their weapons expertise

Pretty much every week since I moved to Hong Kong, my mother will e-mail to ask me what I've got planned for the weekend. Often times, I'll tell her that I'll be going to at least one performing arts show (e.g., a classical music concert, a play, a dance performance) or to check out a movie that's being screened as part of an on-going film fest or retrospective. When the weather is good (i.e., pretty much guaranteed to be dry and not too deathly hot!), I might inform her that I'll be off on a hike with a friend or more. Some other times, I'll tell her that I'm planning to go check out some part of Hong Kong that I've not yet (sufficiently) explored.

For this past weekend, my answer was: a screening at the invaluable Hong Kong Film Archive on Saturday (of Ann Hui's superb latest film, The Way We Are); and a Shaolin kung fu demonstration in San Po Kong this Sunday afternoon -- the third such show that I've had the chance to check out since returning to Asia in July 2003 (even while being only the first thus far in The Big Lychee). Each time around, it's been pretty impressive and enjoyable.

And yes, fellow Hong Kong movie buffs, be assured that quite a few moves, styles and weapons are ones that will seem familiar for those who have checked out their share of kung fu films (including such favorites of mine as Lau Kar Leung's The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and -- I realize it's not a Shaolin kungfu movie per se but it does boast great demonstrations of a plethora of weapons of the Chinese martial arts arsenal -- Heroes of the East). ;b

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What IS that?? (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

What IS that?? Not just a question, it's also this week's Photo Hunt theme! ;b

Something which suits me fine as this means that I can put up some more photos taken on various visits to Sai Kung town, one of whose main attractions is the prospect of feasting on fresh seafood cooked in one of the town's many seafood restaurants (among them the Hung Kee Seafood Restaurant with its attention-getting fish-shaped neon sign). And I really do mean fresh as a lot of items on the menu are still alive when displayed in tanks and awaiting your selection! Or, as was with the case with the crabs in my the top-most photo in this entry, lying about on the sidewalk for some reason or other! ;DDD

Incidentally, the seafood restaurants in Sai Kung serve substantial multi-course Chinese meals. So my recommendation would be to build up an appetite for dinner by taking advantage of the fact that much of Sai Kung District -- and, in fact, most of the Sai Kung Peninsula -- is within designated Country Parks and going out hiking in the area earlier in the day. :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

100 Movies

No fear re Peking Opera Blues
being excluded from my 100 Movies list! ;b

Recently, my good friend, the proprietor of the Falling Stones are not Heavy blog, changed hosts from livejournal to Word Press. In doing so, he was able to add extra sections to his blog and now has a 100 Movies list that he feels a strong connection to that I found to make for interesting reading -- and so much so that I've decided to follow his example and post a 100 Movies list of my own too.

In my case, my main criteria when making my choices is that the films be ones which have particularly impacted and/or impressed me over the years (but, particularly, in the last 10 or so). Alternatively put, and contrary to the disparaging assertion sometimes made by people that "it's only a movie", I will venture to say that a fair few of the films on my list are not only able to move, enchant, make me happy and otherwise alter my emotional state and views of humanity but they also have changed my life and life path in addition to my film viewing habits and perspective.

To cite just one example: One big reason for my now living and working in Hong Kong is because I fell in love with Hong Kong cinema and the portraits of the place and its people that some of its best films provided me with. And, yes, here's handing out due warning that my list is undeniably heavy on Hong Kong movies.

Still, rather than order the films by territory, I'm going to list them in alphabetical title order. In doing so, I'll leave it to readers to do such as count the number of Hong Kong movies on my list, those starring Brigitte Lin or anything else that particular interests you... ;b

11'9''01 - September 11 (various directors, notably Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2002)
14 Amazons (Ching Gong & Charles Tung, 1972)
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Lau Kar Leung, 1978)
A Chinese Ghost Story (Ching Siu Tung, 1987)
A River Runs Through It (Robert Redford, 1992)
Ashes of Time (Wong Kar Wai, 1994)
Babette's Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1988)
The Ballad of Little Jo (Maggie Greenwald, 1993)
Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
Beaches (Gary Marshall, 1988)

Ben Hur (William Wyler, 1959)
The Blue Kite (Tian Zhuangzhuang, 1993)
The Bride with White Hair (Ronny Yu, 1993)
C'est la Vie, Mon Cheri (Derek Yee, 1993)
Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, 1981)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967)
Chungking Express (Wong Kar Wai, 1994)
City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)

Comrades, Almost a Love Story
(Peter Chan, 1996)
The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
Dancing with Wolves (Kevin Costner, 1990)
Dead Poets Society (Peter Weir, 1989)
Dragon Inn (Ching Siu Tung & Raymond Lee, 1992)
Early Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1956)
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (Ang Lee, 1996)
Electric Shadows
(Xiao Jiang, 2005)
ET - The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1981)

Europa, Europa (Agnieszka Holland, 1990)
Festival Moon (Zhu Shilin, 1953)
Flowers of Shanghai (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1998)
Fong Sai Yuk (Corey Yuen, 1993)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (Mike Newell, 1994)
Fried Green Tomatoes (Jon Avnet, 1991)
The Game of Their Lives (Daniel Gordon, 2002)
Girls Without Tomorrow (Wong Chi & David Lam, 1992)
Good Will Hunting (Gus van Sant, 1997)
He's a Woman, She's a Man (Peter Chan, 1994)

Heroes of the East (Lau Kar Leung, 1978)
Hotel Rwanda (Terry George, 2004)
Impromptu (James Lapine, 1991)
Joint Security Area (Park Chan Wook, 2000)
Just One Look (Riley Yip, 2002)
Kekexili: Mountain Patrol (Lu Chuan, 2004)
Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow, 2004)
Lady General Hua Mulan (Griffin Yueh Feng, 1964)
Lost and Found (Lee Chi Ngai, 1996)
The Lovers (Tsui Hark, 1994)

(Raoul Peck, 2000)
Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964)
Mekanik (Othman Hafsham, 1983)
The Mission (Roland Joffe, 1986)
My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964)
My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
My Wife is a Gangster (Cho Jin-Gyu, 2001)
Needing You... (Johnnie To & Wai Ka Fai, 2000)
No Man's Land (Danis Tanovic, 2001)
Once Upon a Time in China I (Tsui Hark, 1991)

Our Sister Hedy (Tao Qin, 1957)
Out of Africa (Sydney Pollack, 1985)
Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
Peking Opera Blues (Tsui Hark, 1986)
Peppermint Candy (Lee Chang Dong, 2000)
Platoon (Oliver Stone, 1986)
Police Story III: Supercop (Stanley Tong, 1992)
Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992)
Postmen in the Mountains (Huo Jianqi, 1998)
Princess Raccoon (Seijun Suzuki, 2005)

Raiders of the Lost Ark
(Steven Spielberg, 1981)
Raining in the Mountain (King Hu, 1979)
Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
Rhapsody in August (Akira Kurosawa, 1991)
The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom & Mat Whitecross, 2006)
Royal Warriors (David Chung, 1986)
Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)
Red Dust (Yim Ho, 1990)
Run Lover Run (Richard Chen Yao-Chi, 1975)

Sansho the Bailiff
(Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954)
Saving Face (Alice Wu, 2005)
Secrets and Lies (Mike Leigh, 1996)
Sepet (Yasmin Ahmad, 2004)
Shanghai Blues (Tsui Hark, 1984)
The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965)
Still Life (Jia Zhangke, 2006)
Suriyothai (Prince Chatri Chalerm Yukol, 2001)
Swallowtail Butterfly (Shunji Iwai, 1996)
Swordsman II (Ching Siu Tung, 1992)

Tempting Heart (Sylvia Chang, 1999)
To Sir With Love (James Clavell, 1967)
Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, 1982)
Twenty Four Eyes (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1954)
Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)
Under the Moonlight (Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi, 2001)
West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961)
Wild Rose (Sun Yu, 1932)
Wing Chun (Yuen Woo Ping, 1994)
Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Northeast Hong Kong hike, Part II (Photo-essay)

There have been times when I worried that my blog was getting too Hong Kong-centric. However, what with posting quite a few entries over the past weeks that related to my visit to Japan and return to Penang in recent months, I'm now thinking that Hong Kong latterly has been somewhat neglected. So, have decided that it's high time to resume putting up photos from the
Wu Kau Tang to Sam A hike in Plover Cove Country Park that I went on with a couple of friends back on the third day of Chinese New Year 2008 (and had my first photo-essay on back on May 7)!

As my hiking companions and I went further east
along the trail, past Wu Kau Tang's abandoned villages
and deeper into the countryside, the ex-geology student in me

started seeing rocks whose shapes fascinated me!

A little further along the trail from Wu Kau Tang
towards Sam A Chung, the rocks and sand
actually turned purple-ish in color!

It was dry season when we did our hiking...

Otherwise, this river would not have been
as narrow and shallow as in these photos

Looking back now while we're currently
right in the middle of an unusually wet summer,
it's almost weird to recall that it was so dry then!

Also, on the same hike, we were soon within sight
of the sea
-- specifically at Sam A Wan (whose 'Sam'
is 'three' is Cantonese
and 'Wan' is 'bay'...
now if only someone would tell me
what 'A'
stands for in the same language!)

Geological features were to this middle leg of the hike
what abandoned villages were earlier on
majorly fascinating features of the landscape!

Sam A Tsuen -- a place with
beautiful vistas to appreciate when alive
and good feng shui that can be utilized by the dead
(for yes, that indeed is a grave out there in the distance!)

Hello Kitty in official mode

Hello Kitty -- symbol of Japan
(along with the Tokyo Tower and Mount Fuji)!!!

As regular visitors to this blog know full well, I have a distinct fondness for that cute cat called Hello Kitty along with Japan and Hong Kong's trams. So you can understand how happy the following sight made me when I came out of the MTR on a rainy workday this past week and was greeted by it! :)))))

And for those who don't yet know: It's official. Hello Kitty has been appointed Japan's goodwill tourism ambassador to Hong Kong and Mainland China by the Japanese government! :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Arguably Penang's greatest cultural heritage

Halal - Malay style Penang assam laksa
from my favourite purveyors of this dish
(a grandmother and her grandchildren
who operate their seaside stall only during weekends)

Not halal - lok lok (AKA dip dip --
so called because you take the sticks and dip, dip,
their contents into boiling water to cook them!)
from my mother's and my favorite stall in Gurney Drive

Reading the description of George Town (and Melaka/Malacca) on the UNESCO web site, it seems like the main reason for their recent inscription on the World Heritage List is that they are full of architectural treasures. Ask most Penangites (or Malaysians, or our Singaporean neighbors for that matter) what's the best as well as most Penang thing about Penang, however, and the answer will very probably be: Its food. And that for sure will be the immediate answer -- yes, often times even ahead of "family"... ;b -- when you ask Penangites abroad what they miss most about their home state.

Given this state of affairs, you would most definitely be right were you to surmise that I spent quite a bit of time during my most recent trip back to Penang checking out my favorite eating spots and eats. Among these were the Perak Lane beehoon that's famed for its fish beehoon and porridge (but whose beehoon with pork and kidneys is my dish of choice there!), Gurney Drive rojak, the Tari (Dancing) Cafe in Tanjung Tokong that grew out of a small Tari Burger stall (whose hot dogs -- sorry, New York, Chicago, etc. -- truly are the world's best!), Penang Hokkien Mee from a stall near the Pulau Tikus market, and the delicious fare in the two photographs at the top of this entry.

Sounds and looks good? All I can say to those who've yet to sample them, they probably actually taste far better than you can ever imagine! As for the cost: Believe it or not, each bowl of that heavenly assam laksa costs quite a bit less than US$1 while each stick/skewer of the lok lok goes for 70 Malaysian sen (i.e., less than 25 US cents). :b

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

George Town, Penang - UNESCO World Heritage Site! (photo-essay)

At long last: George Town, the capital of Penang, together with Malacca, has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List! And the following is some of what UNESCO has to say about these newly inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Sites:-

Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia) have developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West in the Straits of Malacca. The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible... Featuring residential and commercial buildings, George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. The two towns constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.

Something that I hope one can get a sense of upon viewing the photos below along with
some other Penang photo-essays on this blog...

As the statue of Queen Victoria (which now stands
in the grounds of the Chinese Recreation Club)
provides mute testimony to, it used to be that Penang
was part of the British Empire over which,
it was proudly proclaimed, the sun never set

Even more strange as it may now seem,
it used to be that Penang was a part of British India
before being part of the British Straits Settlements,
then British Malaya, etc. -- and, latterly, Malaysia

This is not to say, of course, that there isn't
a discernible Indian (and Hindu) presence in Penang --
but, as the skull-capped gentleman in the picture is proof of,
these days, the Muslim and Malay presence is also strong

The Acheen Street Mosque -- a photo of which
was taken around Chinese New Year 2006

(hence the Chinese lanterns that also are in the picture!)

Chinese lanterns also figure in this photo
of a house up on Penang Hill that otherwise
might pass for an eminently English abode

In contrast, this Chinese temple that lies
near the foot of Penang Hill
looks more like
a structure that is more likely to be found in China

At the same time, this building on the corner of George Town's
Pitt Street (and yes, it's George after one of Britain's King Georges
and Pitt for one of its Prime Minister William Pitts!)
and Buckingham Street strikes me
as one that would be hard to find
elsewhere besides
an East-meets-West kind of place like Penang

Lastly but hopefully not least -- on Penang Road
are establishments with names and signboards

that give a good hint of Penang's multi-cultural
(and long may it stay that way!)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Clear Water Bay on a clear day

Clear Water Bay's Beach Number Two
is popular with swimmers and sunbathers

Clear Water Bay's Beach Number One,
(or, rather, the waters close to it) OTOH,
is favored more by people with boats

It's official: The Hong Kong Observatory declared last month to be Hong Kong's wettest month ever on record (i.e., since 1884). And looking out the window and seeing that it's raining once more, and upon further checking out the 7-Day Weather Forecast and beholding a week's worth of predicted rain at least, I'm thinking that this July's going to be prety wet too.

In contrast, the past few days have been more or less rain-less, even if humid and hot. So much so that yesterday afternoon, I was inspired to head to Clear Water Bay to check out its two public beaches along with grand views -- the latter of which was made all the more better due to the rains having helped to at least temporarily clear away a lot of the air pollution that, sadly, often bedevils the Fragrant Harbour.

And for skeptics: Yes, Asia's World City really does have beaches, some of which are more highly rated and popular than others. (And yeah, I thought it might be good to give attention to one before I go back to putting up another Penang photo-essay.)

Of course, for Hong Kong movie fans, mention Clear Water Bay and the first thing that comes to mind is the Shaw Brothers (in particular Run Run and Runme -- and for the uninitiated: no, this is not a joke; that really is their names -- the English versions anyways!) and their movies. But, really, as I hope you will get an idea from the pair of photos posted in this entry, Clear Water Bay is quite the cool place even without that connection! ;b

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pointed (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

While searching through my photo archive for something appropriate for this week's Photo Hunt theme, I got to realizing that I actually have a proclivity for taking photos of curved rather than pointed objects. So much so that for a while there, I thought I'd just go with a photo with an optical illusion that makes it look like the buildings in it are narrower at the top than base and pointed towards the sky.

But, then, I realized that there are these interesting pointed structures called pagodas in Asia, and even while the example in my photo -- which actually is a part of the local Thai temple's columbarium -- may not be the most impressive in Penang, never mind the continent as a whole, I think it's worth making a point (pun intended!) to point (and again!) out... ditto with the pointed-topped pagoda-shaped urn spotted in a temple courtyard in similarly multi-cultural Macau . ;b

Friday, July 4, 2008

Permatang Damar Laut (photo-essay)

It's been almost a week since I put up my previous blog entry -- in part because I've been travelling and then because, upon returning to Hong Kong, I had problems with my internet service (long story; short story: the problem has now been resolved). And although I'm more aware of photo theft risks and possibilities than before, here's deciding to go ahead and post some pictures taken during my visit back to Penang -- in particular, ones taken during a short hike that I trust will help to show off the beauty of Permatang Damar Laut, an area near the Penang International Airport that still is largely rural and unspoilt:-

A beauty spot presented itself
even before the start of the hike proper

As we walked along the path that was paved
but still far from busy and in a built up area...

...the distinct impression was that
the landscape was dominated by coconut trees...

...and interesting shaped rocks

To repeat (because it feels worth doing so):
the landscape's dominated by coconut trees...

...and interesting rocks (some of which
people are inclined to sit atop of
while fishing or just plain at leisure)

Also spied along the hike:
Some interesting vines and trees...

...and what amounts to a natural still life study
consisting of dried and fallen sections from a coconut tree
lying on top of green grass and associated ground cover