Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tung Lung Chau Part II (photo-essay)

A little more than a week ago, I put up my first Tung Lung Chau photo-essay -- one that ended with the promise that there was another photo-essay to come of my day trip last May to the ninth biggest of Hong Kong's 236 islands. So, without further ado, here are more photos of the place and its attractions :b :-

Literally not far away
from where we left off in the first photo essay

The kind of view and sight that one feels a need
to pause for a few moments to drink in

Still, the main official draw in the
Tung Lung Fort Special Area
are the ruins
of the 18th century
Tung Lung Fort

As its thick walls hint, the now declared monument
was part of a maritime Chinese defence system,
built to command the Fat Tong Mun Channel

As I hiked around the island,
was moved to reckon that it has formidable
as well as human-made fortifications

As rocky as Tung Lung Chau may be though,
there actually is quite a proliferation of flora
to be found on and about it

One of my favorites: Splash-of-white
(yes, that really is its name!) -- so-called because of
its 'white jade leaves' that actually are part of the flower

And although it's been described as an 'invasive species'
in places like Florida and Hawaii,
must admit to
liking the splashes of color that the Rose Myrtle
gives to the countryside where it grows

Monday, October 27, 2008

My first book (and author) list of 2008!

Talk about reading in some style! ;)

As we near the end of the tenth month of 2008, it's with a shock that I've discovered that I've not written a single blog entry about books thus far this calendar year! Especially since, in contrast, I wrote twenty book-focused blog entries last year; one of which was attracting comments -- well, one set of comments -- as late as early this month. So, to make up somewhat for this, here's going ahead and throwing the spotlight, in no particular order, on a sampling of cool writers and books that I've discovered since moving to Hong Kong (not all of them Hong Kong focused nor crime fiction oriented!):-

i) Jason Wordie -- What heritage activist Khoo Salma Nasution (nee Khoo Su Nin) has done with the streets of George Town (Penang's capital city and now a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site), local historian Wordie has done for the streets of Hong Kong Island (though I wish he had covered more of the areas where I've lived for a time now!) and Kowloon. Thanks to his books, I've been encouraged to venture into sections of Hong Kong I might not otherwise thought to do, and found much of interest. Now if only he'd hurry up and write a volume on the streets of the New Territories! ;b

ii) Qiu Xiaolong -- Born in Shanghai but currently a resident of St. Louis, Missouri, Qiu writes crime fiction novels in English that have a Shanghainese policeman as its main protagonist. Have read all five of these works -- Death of a Red Heroine (2000), A Loyal Character Dancer (2002), When Red is Black (2004), A Case of Two Cities (2006) and Red Mandarin Dress (2007) -- and find with each book that I like his writing style -- one which, unusually for a crime novelist, doesn't get me staying up all night to rush to finish each book but, instead, enjoying them in a measured pace and fashion -- more and more.

iii) Sara Paretsky -- For some reason, in all the time that I lived in the US (including Beloit, Wisconsin, just 90 miles away from Chicago where the V. I.. Warshawski novels are largely set), I never tried reading a Sara Paretsky book. But after I decided to buy and read a copy of one of her books that I found in a used bookstore here in Hong Kong, I've been on the hunt for all of the books that have the spunky V. I. as its protagonist. Thus far, have managed to track down eight of them -- mostly in used bookstores rather than those selling new books. That means that four are still waiting to be found, and I sure do hope so my search for all of them will meet with success before too long!

iv) William Boyd's Restless -- I've known for some years now about the work of this Ghanaian-born Scottish author but, as might be expected of someone with my Africanist and English boarding school background, I was drawn more to Boyd's Africa-set writings like Brazzaville Beach and A Good Man in Africa and book about English boarding schools (School Ties). But another browse through a used bookstore here in Hong Kong unearthed a spy novel that really intrigued and which I think is worth recommending to others (including those, like me, who like to read but don't show a particular prediliction for that genre).

v) Pete Brown's Three Sheets to the Wind: One Man's Quest for the Meaning of Beer -- As this blog's regular readers know, I love beer as well as travelling. Which, I guess, makes it pretty much of a foregone conclusion that I'd love Brown's actually pretty substantial -- with a total of 458 pages, not including a few more allocated for scribbling "Tasting Notes"! -- as well as eminently readable tome. Thanks to him, I'm seriously putting Brussels as one of my places to visit before I die. And Munich during Oktoberfest as well (although Barnsley I'll still think I'll give a miss)... ;)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Scary (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

It's less than a week before Halloween; so if I were to be topical for this week's Photo Hunt, I'd go for some Halloween decorations that even Hong Kong is not spared. Instead, I've opted for sights related to a fear for primal and experienced by more than one person I know: that of heights that make it so that what should be fun cable car rides would be scary to them.

So to those out there suffering from acrophobia: I hope that checking out my this week's scary Photo Hunt entry doesn't prove unpleasant. And for those who don't: Tempted to try out these modes of transportation cum attractions (at Ocean Park and Ngong Ping respectively) for yourself? ;b

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tung Lung Chau (photo-essay)

For those who thought that the March hike from hell would permanently put me off hiking: no fear! And while it was a little bit more than two months until I was back in the saddle again -- thanks in no small part part to my getting tempted by what this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival had to offer -- a Roz's Hiking Group outing to the island known as Tung Lung Chau (trans. East(ern) Dragon Island) this past May, as this photo-essay shows, proved too tempting to resist...

The pier on Tung Lung Chau
(complete with portabin at its edge!)
For reasons best known to them, I spotted lots of 
normally fluttery creatures at rest (or plain asleep?)
on Tung Lung Chau that day!

And because it rained just before we got there
(and on the boat trip to the island),
got to see
such delicate sights as these water drops on spider webs

Maybe not as delicate as the above but still pretty
and worth appreciating all the same, right?

It might look steep but let me assure you
that this was one of the easier hills to climb

I've encountered here in Hong Kong! ;b

And when one gets rewarded with views like this,
the ascent really does feel very worth it :)

At the same time, after descending from that hill,
one realizes -- wow, it's actually quite high up! :D

Stunning? You ain't seen much yet
-- in fact, I'm not even past the half-way mark
of our hike
yet! (Which can only mean that...
yep, another Tung Lung Chau photo-essay awaits!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Culture vulture weekend

Actor Lam Suet and editor-director Law Wing-cheong
at the Q&A after the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival screening
of the actually made-for-TV Tactical Unit - The Code

It seemed like just a few moments ago that I was thinking TGIF and, also, how nice it is that since I no longer work on Saturdays (as well as have to work late on Friday (and Thursday) evenings on alternate weeks), my weekends actually begin on Friday evenings. But now, as I write this sentence, I find that it's less than one hour to the beginning of a new Monday. So, if truth be told, it can seem like the weekends still aren't long enough for my liking! ;(

Having said that though, I must admit to managing to cram quite a bit into my weekends here in Hong Kong. A case in point: This particular weekend's activities have included taking in a comedy show at the Take Out Comedy Club in the Big Lychee's version of Soho (i.e., the area South of Hollywood Road!) on Friday night, a jazz gig and televised Arsenal match -- we won, we won!!! -- on Saturday night and checking out two films screening as part of the on-going Hong Kong Asian Film Festival today along with a flying visit before that to check out the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei.

Although I wish it were otherwise, social realist classic Dry Summer (Turkey, 1964 -- 8.5 on the scale) and police procedural Tactical Unit -- The Code (Hong Kong, 2008 -- 7.0) actually are only the third and fourth Hong Kong Asian Film Festival entries that I've viewed to date; with the two earlier ones being the whimsically fun Yoshino's Barber Shop (Japan, 2004 - 7.5) and Always -- Sunset on Third Street 2 (Japan, 2007 -- 9.0), one of those wonderful feel-good movies that nonetheless got me weeping so much -- both out of happiness as well as sadness -- that I had to go wash my face after the screening!

Still, it's a darn sight better than last year when I ended up taking zero screenings at that which proudly claims to be Hong Kong's second largest annual film festival (in large part because of my then being way too busy as well as unpredictable schedule made it so that I couldn't feel confident about being able to have certain evenings and weekends free to watch movies of my choice for fun). So... onwards and upwards, we hope and trust! :)

(P.S. I've received a couple of requests to write some movie reviews for this blog, especially now that I'm no longer reviewing movies anywhere. The thing, though, is that the movie viewings -- and other activities -- are coming too thick and fast for me to want to do so. To wit: Tomorrow, I'm off to another movie screening after work. So, sorry, but I just don't see the inclination to do so being there for some time to come.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Family (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

As I go around Photo Hunting each week, I find that many of my fellow Photo Hunters have no qualms about displaying photos of their families or themselves on their blogs -- so I duly expect to see lots of happy faces on this week's Photo Hunt. At the risk of being a killjoy, however, I am not going to go with the flow here.

Alternatively put: I'm applying similar conditions of privacy for my family as I do for myself; and in doing so, showing just the backs of my mother (carrying an umbrella for shade), my father (with my mother's bags chivalrously strung about him!) and a family friend as they walked about exploring the Kokoen Garden in Himeji, Japan, that my flower-loving father -- hmmm, he's sounding like quite the... cissy, isn't he? But, really, he's not! ;D -- was super intent on visiting.

To make up for this high wall of privacy, I've gone ahead and put up two photographic samplings of the aesthetic treats that lay behind the high walls seen in the first photo. Oases of calm and beauty on a hot, sunny day (that also were filled with mazy paths), they lulled us into spending quite a bit more time there than we had anticipated on doing when stopping by in between the larger attractions of Himeji Castle and the Engyoji temple on Mount Shosha on a day trip out of Osaka. And helped provide me with some more good memories of fun times spent in the company of family members. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Barbecue gluttony

Food for six?? (And tools for barbecueing too)

The charcoal and fire for our barbecue

Hong Kong people have big appetites. If I didn't already think this, I really got to definitely deciding this after seeing the contents of the large tray that turned out to be what we had gone for when asking for a package for six people at the barbecue place we had dinner at in Tai Mei Tuk a few weekends ago.

As might be expected, our all-female party of six -- comprising two Malaysians and one German along with three Hong Kongers -- struggled to and then gave up, with one third remaining, on trying to finish all that food (which, more than by the way, largely consisted of meat products). Surprisingly, however, the physically smallest of us all -- a Hong Kong female who, perhaps, not coincidentally, also was the youngest member of the group by at least a decade -- declared that she and five Hong Kongers her own age would surely be able to consume that quantity of food! (The rest of us, on the other hand, agreed that, next time around, we'd know that the package for four can actually feed six pretty well!)

Still, lest anyone worry about wastage, all the leftover food didn't go to waste because someone did doggybag it home for her family to eat. Also, for those wondering about the cost of the altogether pretty yummy -- albeit labor-intensive! -- feast: All that shown in the above photo (N.B. the plastic jar of honey that was used to generously coat each barbecue edible!) plus one soft drink each and a whole loaf of bread (whose slices some of us opted to toast) came to approximately HK$65 (~US$8.38) per person. Quite a bargain, actually, by Hong Kong as well as American standards, right? :b

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Views from atop a bus (photo-essay)

As regular visitors to this blog know, I like seeing Hong Kong and taking my share of photos while out hiking. I also have been known to go on foot to check out more urban sections of the Big Lychee. At still other times, I like to take bus rides to and through other parts of the territory. And while it can be difficult to take photos on moving buses, I often have my camera at the ready while sitting up top and in front of the double deckers favored by Hong Kong's bus companies and consequently, on occasion, have come up with snaps that I like and reckon are worth sharing, like in the following photo-essay:-

One of those older Hong Kong buildings
that I think possesses plenty of character

A more modern building complex with significance
for Hong Kong movie fans (especially those
who have seen and liked Hollywood, Hong Kong)

Speaking of movies:
Hong Kong's got lots
of video stores like this one...

And stores with fruit and vegetable
on open display like this too

Golden dragon (statue) in Causeway Bay

Not modern art but, instead, part of
the China Gas Company complex
over in To Kwa Wan

The first of Hong Kong's three cross-harbour tunnels
for cars and other road vehicles

(There are a further three for trains)

Travelling on the Tsing Ma Bridge
(yet one more Hong Kong landmark

that's appeared in its share of movies!)

Redux redux

Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia
as the Defeat-Seeking Swordsman (Swordsperson?)
in Ashes of Time (original and redux)
(picture from Ashes of Time Redux's Sony Classics website)

As was promised earlier this week, I'm calling attention and linking to the reports -- not one but two! -- that sbk now has her pictures, thoughts and comments about Ashes of Time Redux and being in the audience for the Q&A involving acting goddess Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, director Wong Kar Wai and cinematographer Christopher Doyle -- and another earlier in the day with 'just' Wong and Doyle -- up on her blog.

At the same time, am going to say that I've checked out more of the official Ashes of Time Redux site than just the gorgeous stills now and found massive spoilers in the trailer. So here's a warning to those of you who've yet to see the original Ashes of Time (1994) to stay away from that trailer and feast your eyes instead on the still photography (a sample of which I've put at the top of this blog entry). Long-time Hong Kong movie fans, OTOH... I don't think you'll be able to watch the trailer just once... nor tear up, for more reasons than one, when you see the "Starring..." segment.

December. *Sigh* The waiting will seem ever-lasting. (Especially for someone whose Ashes of Time love extends to her having the original OST CD and photo book as well as the DVD and VCD and go up to New York from Philadelphia in order to view it on a big screen!) Still, I guess it's kind of appropriate, considering it's a Wong Kar Wai movie -- even one that actually is a redux version of one that's already 14 years old! ;S

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lazy (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

This week's theme was one of those that got me wondering whether I could participate in the Photo Hunt this time around. This is not least since I currently reside among a people who famously fall more on the hard working end of the hard working-lazy equation. While leafing through my photo archive, however, I got to thinking of the saying "as lazy as a pig"... and of it being so that one of Hong Kong's favorite (fictional) sons is an animated pig called Mcdull.

The star of three films already, including the award-winning My Life as Mcdull (2001), Mcdull also has spawned a chain of stores called McQuarter selling Mcdull related items (plush toys but such as umbrellas emblazoned with images of Mcdull and his friends too). And as it so happens, it was through the window of one of these shops that I conveniently (and lazily?) snapped a picture of a sleeping Mcdull -- or is it McMug?! -- that I hereby submit as the best candidate for this lazy Photo Hunt entry that I can find in these here parts! :b

(I'm posting my Photo Hunt entry earlier than usual because I've got a Saturday that's due to take in two afternoon movie screenings and -- less pleasantly :S -- a morning dental appointment...)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Half a world away, up in the stratosphere

More than five years ago, I left the USA for what may well be the last time. Although I did have some great experiences there and made some very good friends there, have to say that I was happy to leave the country and do not find myself often wishing that I were (back) there. This past weekend, though...

Ironically, it was because of something Hong Kong (movie) related. More specifically, New York played host to a screening of Ashes of Time (Redux) -- Wong Kar Wai's reworking of his sublime Ashes of Time -- that was graced not only by director Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle but also The Great One: none other than Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia making a rare film-related public appearance since her marriage and effective retirement from movie-making some fourteen years ago. (Indeed, it might be her first ever such appearance since 1994!)

A friend of mine was lucky enough to attend the screening, etc. in New York. I'm hoping that she'll post her impressions (and maybe some photos too) on her blog too... after which I'll of course link to them! (In the meantime, I have her to thank for a wonderful e-mail account that has got me feeling compelled to listening to my Ashes of Time and other Wong Kar Wai movie CDs plus wishing that Ashes of Time (Redux) will get into Hong Kong theatres sooner than the projected December -- months after Cannes, Toronto and, yes, New York too!!! :S)

Out in the wilds of Hong Kong (photo-essay)

A couple of photo-essays ago, I devoted an entry to recording the closest thing to a hike from hell that I've been on thus far. The more time passes between that hike and the present, however, the more I'm able to look back and recall some of the more positive moments from the experience -- in addition to my having friends who actually did help me make it down that awful mountain rather than leave me to my fate up there! So... here's presenting more photos taken during that hike -- one during which I did get the chance sometimes to stop and, if not smell, then at least take some photos of beautiful wild flowers, etc. ;b

Might these be wild coxcomb (celosia argentea)?
(At the very least, these fit the description of them
as being
"found in wild countryside or near villages")

Little did I know when climbing these steps
that I'd come to wish
there could be steps like them
during the latter part of the hike!

Back to focusing on flowers: and might this be
the Rose Myrtle
(Rhodomyrtus tomentosa)?

A sign that looks to be of a couple of folks gallivanting
under a tree but is meant to signify
something else
(I can't remember what though! ;( )

Bleeh, my flower book isn't helping as much as I hoped!
(But at least, we recognize that these are pretty flowers, right?)

Yes, there really are lots of flowers
growing wild
in Hong Kong's country parks... :b

A side and part of Hong Kong so many visitors
never see (and don't know exist)

This not least because, well, it sometimes does take
quite a bit of a climb to behold scenery like this! :)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sad (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Looking at the first two photos I've posted in this week's Photo Hunt entry, you probably thought to yourself: Now, then, what's so sad about those? Next, you might have wondered: And how does the third photo of Christie Hefner, a couple of male suits (one each from the USA and Hong Kong) and two playboy bunnies have to do with the first two photos?

Well, it's not too often that I get on a soapbox on this blog but frankly, I find it pretty sad that Macau, the former Portuguese enclave turned Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China -- the same Macau whose beautiful historic center has been world heritage listed --is slated to be home to a Playboy Mansion come 2009. Put another way: Is this *really* progress? Is this what is needed to contribute to the territory's economic rise? If so, what a sad statement that makes about the still sadly sexist, often overly sinful world in which we live... :(