Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Isn't It A Pity?

George Harrison's song as performed by Nina Simone. Words fail me. Just listen. Jaw-droppingly beautiful. Mp3 here.

Mellow Yellow (part two)

Nick G writes:
A true story: Last night in the wee hours I was awoken by a loud thump. I guessed that something on the roof had blown over so I turned back to sleep. Then a really loud thump - was it the front door?! It sounded like it. I grabbed a heavy, military-style torch and waited, ready to clobber the intruder. Then something yellow in the kitchen blurred past - an overripe banana had fallen from its hook and joined two others on the metal kitchen table below.

Moral: Only Cheung Chau greengrocers can keep bananas green for more than a day. Or: Things that go bump in the night may be bananas.
Thanks, Nick G!

An enigma wrapped up in a mystery: Santa Banana! Why is it that 'Cavendish' bananas don't seem to ripen in the open-air markets, but from the moment you buy them they instantly speed ripen? And why is it those smaller, quite different tasting (as yet) no-name bananas last much longer? Anyone know?

American Livestock Auctioneers

Listen and marvel.

Monday, May 30, 2005

non! [en anglais]

After the no vote, what next? This pin-ball game (Flash required) may help.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Disney Hong Kong insists on shark's fin-soup meals


Hong Kong's office buildings coldest in the world

Now, it's official.
Most Hong Kong offices keep their temperature at between 21 (70 Fahrenheit) to 22 degrees Celsius (72 Fahrenheit) - with the coldest office measuring 17.6 degrees (64 Fahrenheit) - well below the recommended 25 degrees (77 Fahrenheit), the study by Hong Kong Polytechnic University professor Daniel Chan said.
But why is it in the Weird News department?

Filipino bands

A band should be well versed in R&B, retro, techno, modern jazz, ballet, folk dance, fandango, cariñosa, ballroom, paso doble, cha-cha, samba, rumba, tango, fox trot and the quickstep. Great article about how it happens that Filipino bands play hotels, bars, clubs, and cruise ships worldwide. NYT (reg required)
In Thailand, the most requested song is ''Hotel California.'' Taiwan is lately cuckoo for the macarena. The Chinese, he said, ''have not gone to the state of loud music. They are still at the state of like the early rock 'n' roll music, 60's music, Petula Clark, Burt Bacharach, evergreens, you know? 'Born Free,' 'Yesterday,' 'Unchained Melody,' 'I Can't Stop Loving You.''' The most commonly requested song in both China and Japan is Sinatra's ''My Way.'' And yet in the Philippines, Gan said, unless you're at an oldies club, audiences only want the current Top 40. ''If you request 'My Way,' you get shot. I'm not kidding. That actually happened.''

Piano Man identified?


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Peter Brook

Now 80, Peter Brook flew into Jerusalem last week to deliver a lecture, attend a lunch, conduct a directing workshop, and be at a ceremony to accept an award. And give interviews. Like this one. Wonderful.

sexuality, memory, and morality

Dagmar Herzog:
This book was originally conceived as a study of the generation of 1968 in West Germany. Seeking to understand how Nazism and its legacies were interpreted in the 1960s, especially by the New Left student movement, I was struck by the preponderance of arguments that the Third Reich was a distinctly sexually repressive era and that to liberate sexuality was an antifascist imperative. Numerous New Leftists argued directly that sexuality and politics were causally linked; convinced that sexual repression produced racism and fascism, they proposed that sexual emancipation would further social and political justice.
From Herzog's introduction to her new book, Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany. Intro too heavy? Read this A-1 review here.

Ian Rankin + Van Morrison + Dylan

Profile of Ian Rankin.
Van Morrison biography.
Mike Marqusee reviews the Greil Marcus book about Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone. Read the review and thereby save your pennies! Note: Marqusee's own most excellent Chimes of Freedom -- revised and expanded -- is due out in the autumn.
Update. I've read several of Rankin's Inspector Rebus books. Enjoyed them all. But for the life of me, I can't remember which ones. On my travels late this afternoon, I stopped off at Ally's shop. To buy and drink a bottle of water and have a chat with those who were there. Ally sells, among other things, second-hand books. Serendipity? Just as I was leaving, a library angel whispered in my ear: Rankin, Rankin. There were two: Resurrection Men, A Question of Blood. At eight (Hong Kong) dollars a pop. So that's me sorted.

Aneurin Bevan

One of my best friends, Ash G, persuaded his wife Faith that their two sons have the middle name 'Aneurin'. Why? Click here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Mary Jennings

It is with regret that I pass on this news: Mary Jennings, a long-time resident of a little island in the South China Sea, passed away on 10 April, 2005 at her home in Tlacotalpan, Mexico. Her daughter, Hester, was with her for the two months prior to her death. Hester will be remaining in Tlacotalpan for another month or so.
If you would like to send your condolences to Hester, please contact Gavin G, Julia G, Jonathan C, or myself. We have Hester's email addresses. Don't know our addresses? Please leave your contact email address in the comments box, below. Thank you.

Friday, already

Fridays, I generally take the ferry from a little island to the Big Island. To share some space/time with friends of mine. Whoever and wherever you are, I hope your day goes good for you.

11 steps to a better brain

From the latest edition of Britain's New Scientist magazine.

Cathay Pacific passes cost onto passengers

In March, 2005, Cathay Pacific reported its second-highest profit ever. With 2004 profit jumping more than threefold to HK$4.42 billion (US$567 million), from HK$1.30 billion (US$167 million) in 2003.
Now, Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Dragon Airlines have obtained government approval to increase fuel surcharges on passenger fares. From June 2005, Cathay Pacific is charging $HK250 (US$42.22) per ticket on long-haul flights, up from its current $HK118.
Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Dragonair, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Air China, also increase their surcharges on short-haul flights to HK$86 from HK$42.
Other airlines using Hong Kong International Airport will also hike up surcharges, including Singapore Airlines, Air Canada and Northwest Airlines.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

World news -- map


Hong Kong Observatory

The people at HKO do a great job forecasting weather for what is a small, but topographically complex area. And their website is awesome -- with all kinds of interesting things to look at and learn from. Except, that is, for their rainfall isohyet chart. Take a look. At the green. Instead of going light/less --> dark/more, the Observatory's online people have done it bass akwards. Which is confusing, misleading and irritating. OK, I am irritated. And I think other people are being misled. I know, I know, there is other stuff going on in the world that is much more important. But if little things like this can be improved, what's the harm? I have written and posted a polite email. When you have a moment, why not drop the weather people a polite line too?
Here: mailbox [at] hko.gov.hk

Hong Kong

Tsang resigns so as to campaign for 'election' to post of chief executive.
Li Ka-shing mega-donation to University of Hong Kong prompts criticism and worries about academic freedom.
Weird goings-on in preliminary court proceedings prior to Parkview murder trial.
Current weather.

Military-Industrial Complex Speech

Dude, while we're at it: Eisenhower's speech in 1961. It covers all manner of concerns. Say what you will, but was that man Ike prescient, or what?

Chips, French fries, pommes frites, friet

More than you'll ever need to know.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Amnesty International Report 2005

The intro:
During 2004, the human rights of ordinary men, women and children were disregarded or grossly abused in every corner of the globe. Economic interests, political hypocrisy and socially orchestrated discrimination continued to fan the flames of conflict around the world. The “war on terror” appeared more effective in eroding international human rights principles than in countering international “terrorism”. The millions of women who suffered gender-based violence in the home, in the community or in war zones were largely ignored. The economic, social and cultural rights of marginalized communities were almost entirely neglected. (Italics, my emphasis)
For AI on ‘Terror’, ‘counter-terror’ and the rule of law, go here (and scroll down).
For BBC coverage of Amnesty International report, with links to PDF files.
For the avoidance of depression... join Amnesty International.
Hong Kong branch
or phone (852) 2300-1250

And for Your Salad, Perhaps a Chilean Organic, 2004?

All about olive oil. (NYT, reg required)

Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline

Rudyard Kipling -- whose poem "If" graces the wall of many an Indian restaurant in Hong Kong -- called it the "Great Game". Control of Central Asia. It's the game that won't go away. With the US, these days, as lead player. The geo-politico goal? Put the lock on one more non-Gulf, non-Saudi source of oil. Ta-raa! Opening today, with oil execs, local and regional pols, and US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to ceremoniously turn the tap, start the flow. The 1,100-mile pipeline starts out from the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, wends its way through Georgia, and ends next to a US miliary base (hello!) at Incirlik, on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.
Background and where the players move to next -- in the UK's Independent here. Another view: BBC News here. Update. Very extensive and excellent report in Canada's Globe & Mail.


New! Two-cd of 1980s Chicago house. I was in Eastbourne, England, of all places, briefly in 1987. Which is where I picked up a cassette of Marshall Jefferson et al. A couple of plays and I was hooked. The cassette and the means to play it are no more. Time to stock up again. The UK's Soul Jazz Records has a well-earned reputation for the quality -- sound and content --of its catalogue of cds/lps. Check out their website for 1980s post-punk New York dance, Arthur Russell, New York-Cuban, Brazilian, and Jamaican music.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mellow Yellow

I have a soft spot for the 45s Sunshine Superman, and Mellow Yellow... quite rightly. Who knew Donovan and Alan Ginsberg wrote out the captions for the opening shots of the Dylan film Don't Look Back. Donovan .

Monday, May 23, 2005

Alex Ross on the Hyperion case

Alex Ross, The New Yorker magazine's music critic, on the Hyperion case:
There's something chilling about the ever-expanding definition of copyright; it's serving the public less and less.
Full text of Ross here, then here, and here. My earlier posts here and here.

Update. Ionarts weighs in with some valuable insights.

Johnny Cash: Hurt

Streaming video.
If you are like me -- never was/have been a big Johnny Cash fan -- stick with it... the song builds and builds. I don't know why, but I had a tear rolling down my face by the end.
Thanks, Gavin!

Disney + shark fin soup

Today's SCMP (paid subscription; no link here) reports News that Hong Kong Disneyland will be serving shark's fin soup at its soon-to-be-open Disneyland Hotel makes today's front page in both of Hong Kong's English-language newspapers. A Disney person burbles about the soup being 'an integral part of Chinese banquets'. Sadly, this is true. Further damage limitation from Disney: 'shark's fin soup will only be served at private functions on special request.' Oh, so that's all right then? Meanwhile, the trade in shark's fins is pushing some species close to extinction. As for Hong Kong Disneyland -- the one in France was once memorably described as a 'cultural Chernyobil' -- Martin Baker of Greenpeace Hong Kong asks:
How can the same company that produced Finding Nemo -- with its message that marine life is under threat -- at the same time support a trade that is unsustainable, wasteful and cruel?
The money, Mr Baker. Follow the money.

Update. Link to Hong Kong Standard .

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Chelsea Flower Show

Home workers are putting down roots. A computer in a garden shed? More, much more, than that. Here.


Bought some fresh (荔枝) yesterday. It's the start of the season but prices of fresh lychees from mid-Guangdong province are already OK. Stuck them in the fridge overnight and had some nicely chilled ones as part of my breakfast this morning. Not too many. Hereabouts they are considered very 'hot', very yang (陽); overdose on fresh lychees and you can end up with a nosebleed or some other misfortune. When in Rome... et cetera. The weather? Glorious. Fine and hot (31C) with a nice southerly breeze over the south China coastal areas.

Japanese toilet commercial

Loopy Aardman-style Japanese ad here.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Hyperion and Carter-Ruck

An earlier post referred to the troubles that leading independent classical music recording company Hyperion now finds itself in. Most especially, paying what are assumed will be very hefty costs for the plaintiff's legal team. Carter-Ruck. That name rang a bell. So I did some digging. Ah, yes. Peter Carter-Ruck. The libel lawyer who used to tangle with the British satirical magazine Private Eye. The libel lawyer who actually lost a case against The Eye and was, for once, left with very hefty costs to pay himself.
Carter-Ruck died in 2003. His obituary in The Guardian was written by an ex-partner. It starts thus:
The libel lawyer Peter Carter-Ruck, who died on Friday, had a chilling effect on the media. He was a chancer, out for the maximum fee. And he did for freedom of speech what the Boston Strangler did for door-to-door salesmen.
Dead men can't sue for libel. The obit continues here.
The man is dead. But the law firm continues, specialising in defamation law, libel law, slander law, and -- sign of the times -- intellectual property law.

US Senate: Mr Galloway did not submit a statement

It's official:
George Galloway, Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow, Great Britain
Mr Galloway did not submit a statementChecks dictionary for descriptions/definitions of 'statement'.
They must be using a different dictionary.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Friday, already

Fridays, I generally take the ferry from a little island to the Big Island. To share some space/time with friends of mine. Not today, though! Tonight I am meeting up with Barb (from Brighton) and a bunch of other good people. Why so? For dinner on the harbour waterfront of a little island in the South China Sea. That said, whoever and wherever you are, I hope your day goes good for you. And may you take a hungry stomach to your meal. Bon appétit!

Legal decision bodes badly for music

A recent British legal decision on the scope and remit of 'copyright' may now sink one of the UK's independent classical recording companies.
In the lead judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Mummery held that: In my judgment, on the application of Walter –v- Lane to this case, the effort, skill and time which the judge found Dr Sawkins spent in making the 3 performing editions were sufficient to satisfy the requirement that they should be “original” works in the copyright sense. This is so even though a) Dr Sawkins worked on the scores of existing musical works composed by another person (Lalande); b) Lalande’s works are out of copyright; and c) Dr Sawkins had no intention of adding any new notes of music of his own (Para 36)

Lord Justice Mummery decided that “A work need only be ‘original’ in the limited sense that the author originated it by his efforts rather than slavishly copying it from the work produced by the efforts of another person” (Para 31).

In relying on the decision in Walter -v- Lane, the Court of Appeal rejected Hyperion's reliance on the House of Lords authority of Interlego -v- Tyco. This case (which concerned a claim to copyright in a new technical drawing for the lego brick) made it clear that even though a lot of skill was required to copy the original technical drawing that did not mean that the new drawing was original. By analogy, Hyperion contended that even though Dr Sawkins had exercised a lot of skill in copying the music of Lalande into the modern form (a textual process) that did not mean the resultant edition was an original musical work.
Hyperion lost. Whither now goest the future of recorded music?

Love Will Tear Us Apart

Occassionally, I like to hear music that has menace running through it. Not as often as it used to be, but the urge arises. For Howlin' Wolf. The Stones' Gimme Shelter. Velvet Underground & Nico. The first time I heard Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart I stopped doing whatever it was I was doing. I don't have a copy to hand, but listening to the radio last night, there was a segment about Ian Curtis, Joy Division's lead singer and songwriter. Curtis committed suicide 17 May 1980. The BBC played the song, and I stopped doing whatever it was I was doing.
When routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And resentment rides high
But emotions won't grow
And we're changing our ways
Taking different roads
Then love will tear us apart again.
No mp3 link, but complete lyrics are here.

Banksy at British Museum

Art prankster Banksy has been at it again. This time at the British Museum with prehistoric art: "early man venturing towards the out-of-town hunting grounds". Done on fake rock, plus suitably authoritative caption. BBC picture of Caveman with a Shopping Trolley and story here.
Thanks, Lincoln + Ron M!
In March 2005, Banksy visited NYC's most famous art museums. See photos of a 'British pensioner' in action and results here.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Valliant HQs of May '68

Serving food and drink, restaurants in the Latin Quarter also functioned as informal, impromptu headquarters during May '68.
A Paris, le 10 mai 1968, les barricades réapparaissaient dans la nuit, rue Gay-Lussac, rompant avec le calme d'une ville "engluée dans le continuum du temps bergsonien" , écrit Eric Hazan. Pour beaucoup encore, ces souvenirs ne sont pas dissociables des lieux qu'ils fréquentaient alors, aux côtés des "enragés" , des "katangais" ou des simples spectateurs. Quels étaient les restaurants des cinquième et sixième arrondissements en mai 1968 ? Que servaient-ils et combien en reste-t-il ?
Which were the restaurants? What were they serving? And how many of them are still in business? Cliquez ici pour connaissez encore plus.

Other cool stuff from Xinhua

'Car export goals hurt by ship shortage,' that's the headline. Can't they just drive them to wherever?
The ro-ro (roll on/roll off) niche shipping market, with some 425 ships, is dominated by the three big Japanese lines of Nippon Yusen Kaisha, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., which have little capacity to spare for China right now.
Foreign makers didn’t export from China until late last year. But foreign firms will spend over US$15 billion to triple output capacity by 2008 to 7 million cars, with most set for export.

Sophie Marceau's 'wardrobe malfunction' at Cannes

Sophie Marceau, the French actress, is real popular in China. So popular she made one of the pages of Xinhua when she had a 'wardrobe malfunction' at Cannes. No kiddin'. See for yourself. It's . This may Not be Safe For Work.

Update. Oh, me; oh, my. Mademoiselle Marceau? Elle est très populaire en Chine. D’après Xinhua:
BEIJING, May 15 -- Celebrated French actress Sophie Marceau will pay a visit to China this September for the closing ceremony of French Culture Year in China. The veteran actress, who is attending the ongoing Cannes film festival, says she will bring three films to China and one of them is her directing debut. She is expected to meet Chinese director and actor Jiang Wen in Beijing to discuss the possibility of future co-operation. After a stop in Beijing, she will move to south China's city of Chengdu, in Sichuan province.

Movie review of the month

Sith. What kind of a word is that? Sith.

Church of Anthrax

John Cale and Terry Riley in 1970. Oh, happy days.
Still sounds as fresh as it did when it first came out. Wonderful!
Listen/download. Other great music there, too.

[update. Whooops! I meant other great music here]

I guess the Cale + Riley will be up for a couple of days or so.

[update. It was remiss of me not to say it before. So, here now: many thanks to banananutrament]

Having downloaded and listened, I went and checked: the album may be available, but a cd is definately out of print. Bummer.
Link via jahsonic.com.

One for the Brighton crew

Kemp Town

Gavin's grab bag

UK housing market porno.
Always consult when excited friend emails latest online fright.
Thanks, Gavin!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Stans

M x O + Bh (H+R) x S = 18 May

Today's the Day:
M is for motivation, O for opportunity, Bh for proximity to a Bank Holiday, H for the increasing hours of daylight, R for reflection time and S, naturally, for success. It all adds up to May 18, according to psychologist Cliff Arnall.

Update. Also in The Guardian, this:
"The simple fact of existence, of being aware that you are aware; this to me is the most astounding fact," he says. "And I think that it has something to do with dying. When you are a kid you are beset by fears and you think, 'I'll solve the fear by living for ever and becoming a movie star.' But I am not going to live for ever. And the more I know it, the more amazed I am by being here at all. I am so thrilled by the privilege of life, and yet at the same time I know that I have to let it go."
Spot on. It's from an interview with William Hurt (55).

Galloway/Senate celebrity deathmatch

Streaming BBC video (47 minutes).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Power of Nightmares

Adam Curtis's three one-hour series, a political analysis of the causes and consequences of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, has already been seen on BBC TV. And on al-Jazeera. Edited down to a two and a half hour film, it has now shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Why it is unlikely to be seen on TV in some other countries here.
Le Festival de Cannes (en français) allez ici.

Hope he finds his way home

I took the photo down. The 'piano man' story is still here.
The humble cauliflower falling into disfavour? After reading this, I went down the waterfront and bought one. HK$3.50.
Both stories from The Guardian.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Bun Festival blues: update

That's it. It's over. This Year. Sort of.
Most everyone I know, locals and westerners alike, didn't go to watch the climbers go up the Long March steel tower. There's a feeling that what was a local festival has been hi-jacked, and cheapened. Boycott comes naturally. While some repaired to a bar to watch English soccer, live, en direct. Others fanned themselves in the open-air sections of restaurants. As the crowds passed by along the waterfront, Pak Tai Temple bound.
Then we went home.
The local Chinese-language newspapers, along with the English-language organ of record South China Morning Post, all carried extensive reports. (scmp has paid subscription; thus no link, no quotes).
A local fireman on a little island in the South China Sea won the Long March tower climb and competition. So that's good. A local lad sees off the outsiders. Comforting, too. You never know when you are going to need a fireman.
Old Thai proverb: better to have your house robbed ten times than burn down once.
Speaking of things Thai, a friend phoned me from Koh Samui. Hi, Mark B!
To tell me he'd seen the Bun Festival on BBC World TV.
It's been a real hot day. I'm going to take a shower, go to bed. Outside is night. A heavy rain shower has just started. That will cool the air somewhat, clean the streets, water the plants. Have a great day, wherever you are.

The British 'smoking gun' memo

London, 23 July 2002. The minutes of a meeting of what was, in essence, a British 'war cabinet', reveal and confirm what everybody who knows and cares about it already "knew": whatever the Iraqis chose to do or not do, Bush2's decision to go to war had long since been made. The minutes will be Stateside later this week. For the first time in an American print publication. With an accompanying piece by Mark Danner:
Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of M16, just back from a U.S. visit, [remarked] that "[t]here was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
Full Danner piece already here (and scroll down).
Keep an eye on New York Review of Books, later this week.
Thanks, Lincoln!

Update. UK eyes only. Text of the Downing Street memo here.
Update. Paul Krugman on the 'Downing Street memo'.

Ukraine's 'orange revolution'

A 21st century revolt?
The true story of the orange revolution is far more interesting than the fable that has been widely accepted. It tells us, not just about what went on in Ukraine in 2004, but how the border between politics and entertainment is dissolving in the 21st century.
With the usual suspects as sponsors: the US State Department spent £35 million that's known about -- there was almost certainly a lot more funnelled through other official, but black hole, US government budgets as well as from US private lobby sources. And the Russians? An estimated £160 million. Not that it did the latter much good. The Guardian, yet again. A fascinating account.
Thanks, Mick S!

Buddha's Birthday

Today, 16 May, is a public holiday. It should have been on 15 May, but that was a Sunday this year, so they made it Monday. We've had quite a few public holidays the last two and a half months: Good Friday (25 March) and Easter Monday (28 March); Ching Ming (清明節), known locally in English as Grave Cleaning Festival (5 April); First of May, (2 May, because 1 May fell on a Sunday this year). The more the merrier, I say.
So what's it today? Buddha's Birthday.
The historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama? Or any of the other before or after Buddhas? I haven't a clue. And I don't think anyone else does either, or cares.
But I do know: this public holiday was one of the results of a long series of talks. The talks between London and Beijing prior to the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. Talks on items big and small. Item: the public holiday marking the occasion of the British Monarch's Official Birthday. That would have to go. Evidently, they were also in accord that the number of public holidays should remain the same (remember: one country, two systems).
My guess is that since there were already public holidays on significant Christian and traditionally festive Chinese days, some bright spark, or sparks, suggested something non-contentious, like Buddhism. Hey presto, Buddha's Birthday! Then they moved onto the next item on the agenda.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Hong Kong's silent witness

Silent Witness.
Silent Witness is a phenomenon. This is the horse with his own website; the horse who indirectly caused a riot last month when the Hong Kong Jockey Club ran a competition with Silent Witness baseball caps as prizes. Sixty thousand stormed the stalls when they realised there weren't going to be enough to go round and 26 wound up in hospital.
Fun article about Silent Witness, Hong Kong horseracing, and how those in Shatin, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Times Square fell silent.

Bun Festival blues, update

The procession. It was marvellous. I started out for Mrs. Chu's but then realised she hardly ever opens anymore. So I didn't go there, I went to Ally's shop, which is further down the hill and several doors down. There were some people there I knew, but not the ones I expected to see. A couple of those, I tried phoning but they had their phones turned off. Duh! So I took off from Ally's for a little island's answer to Times Square. The square was crowded, but not overly crowded. There was a breeze, which was wonderful.
Word picture: Passing through the square, the procession, with its series of 'floating children', interspersed with lion dancers, was received with rounds of applause by we who were there. At some point, the procession began to come into the square from two streets. That's when things really got glorious. For this onlooker, anyway. The sound of the horns and cymbals of the local Chui Chow band -- composed of old men in floppy straw hats and bright yellow T-shirts sponsored by a German beer company; a teenage, local cheerleader-style silver band playing When The Saints Go Marching In; a local squad of young women banging away on cymbals to a Chinese tune; and a 'floating lion' dance with young women and (muscular) men crashing and banging away on cymbals and drums. All that, all going at the same time. Loud, noisy, it was a beautiful cacophony. One of those unscripted moments that is truly greater than the parts. To top that, the floating lion above us let drop a long red scroll from his chin and then from his open mouth shot out a cloud of gaily-coloured shiny confetti. We cheered, we clapped.
Oh, yeah!
As I write this, there is a lion dance with attendant cymbals and drum banging away in the street below me.
Soon: off to the Beach Bar to meet those I missed.

Bun Festival blues, update

Lunchtime, Sunday: 32C + 79 per cent humidity. The procession through the village officially starts at 2pm, but I've had cymbals a-crashin', horns a-blowin', and drums a-thumpin' going past my door for the last couple of hours. That, and sun hats and umbrellas a-plenty. Major crowd. I am not going to even bother trying to get to the waterfront to see the procession. Instead, I will watch with the cognoscenti at Mrs Chu's 7-Up bar. If I can get there. Procession photos here.

Real easy Italian recipes

Real simple Italian recipes. Next week: mains, vegetables, puddings and cakes.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

South China Morning Post

English-language organ of record, the South China Morning Post, has in the past three weeks managed to omit or misrepresent-- I can't make my mind up which -- one important fact in regard to the upcoming Bun Festival. The scmp's reports have stated, more than once, that there has been no bun tower-climbing since the famous bun tower collapse of 1978. This is being, shall we say, 'economical with the truth'.
For the past 25 years, at least, three men have been selected by street associations neighbouring Pak Tai Temple. At the appointed hour, usually around midnight, each man has clambered up his designated tower, then hacked away at the buns until the tower is stripped bare. First one to finish is the winner. Bun climbing, there. Competition, there.
Omittance? Misrepresentation? Or something else? One wonders if the scmp has been misled. There are elements on a little island in the South China Sea who have financial interest in, and stand to richly profit from, this new 'improved' Long March bun tower competition. Could it be that Hong Kong's Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Ho Chi-ping, was similarly misled, too?

Bun Festival blues, update

If you took this photo and don't like it here, leave a comment and I'll take it down
During the past few days, preparations have been going ahead for one of the highlights of the Bun Festival: the procession through the village. It's unique to the island. For photos of the procession go here. The procession takes place on Sunday.
Loads of metal crowd barriers have arrived, and will soon be put in place. A three-tier stand with sitting for five hundred people has been erected in one of the village squares. A painted yellow 'no pedestrian waiting' area has been established around the ferry terminal. It is hot: 33C. I have stocked up on fresh fruit -- grapes, mango, watermelon, grapes, small bananas.

Bun Festival: A Hong Kong tradition is revived, but carefully

Keith Bradsher, The New York Times
Three bamboo towers covered with buns are being erected for religious purposes, but there is only one 14-meter tower for climbing, and it is made of steel. Designed to Hong Kong skyscraper standards, the steel is anchored to a heavy metal plate buried in about 40 centimeters of concrete. It has been wrapped in bundles of bamboo to disguise the girders and make it resemble a traditional tower.
Blue plastic impact-absorbing boxes have been spread around the base of the tower and are covered with thick blue gym mats, in case any climber's equipment malfunctions.
Complete report in the no-registration required IHT here.
Thanks, Lincoln!

Dr Martin Williams

Hong Kong-based writer, photographer and nature tour leader Dr Martin Williams, has a great website.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to prospect for dinosaurs in China, climb South-East Asia's highest mountain, discover birds at one of the world's top migration watchpoints, roam the planet's oldest rainforest, hop back in time to hunt frogs and deadly snakes on the island destroyed to make way for Hong Kong's airport?
To find out more about Doc Martin, aka Martin the Bird, his tours, and a lot else, go here.

For bird lovers

Two articles, one about British urban birds -- pigeons, herons, bluetits, blackbirds, starlings, magpies and robins -- the other is about ducks.
Plus, the whimsical Guy Browning on: how to... snack.
The world can be divided into those who snack on biscuits and those who snack on fruit, and never the twain shall meet - except in the shadowy area of the Jaffa Cake. Biscuits come in packets of about 24. Eating anything more than half a packet is technically a meal. Only on hotel tea trays do biscuits come in twos, and that's because the hotel management know you better than you know yourself.
All in The Guardian.

Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football

Tom Bower writes about Man U, the FA, and soccer in The Guardian.

MR. CHINA: A Memoir By Tim Clissold

Old joke: Three men in prison. First prisoner asks second prisoner: "Why are you here?" The second replies: "I supported Deng Xiaoping. And you?" First prisoner replies: "I opposed Deng Xiaoping." They both look at third and say: "And you, what about you, comrade?" To which he replies, somewhat sheepishly: "I am Deng Xiaoping."

Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), imprisoned as a 'capitalist roader' during the 1966-76 Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (無產階級文化大革命), later oversaw monumental economic changes in China. Travelling to the Zhuhai and Shenzhen Special Economic Zones in 1992, Deng declares: "to get rich is glorious." A banker, Tim Clissold quits his consultancy job with the then mega-large accountancy firm Arthur Andersen and heads off to China to get rich. IHT review of Clissold's book here.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday, already

Fridays, I generally take the ferry from a little island to the Big Island. To share some space/time with friends of mine. Whoever and wherever you are, I hope your day goes good for you.

Photo courtsey of Nick G
Thanks, Nick!

Once upon a time you dressed so fine...

threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
The Guardian has an excerpt from the just-published Greil Marcus book about that song. [The Marcus here reads OK, which is not always the case with Marcus. Still, the general consensus about the whole book seems to be: if you can read it for free, go for it. Otherwise, give it a pass.]

Morning glory

Upon Westminster Bridge

EARTH has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

William Wordsworth. 1770–1850

The Bee's Knees

Ladies and gentlemen, looks like Karl von Frisch was right after all: "waggle dance".

Thursday, May 12, 2005

What's the matter with America?

I grew up in Britain during the fifties and sixties, and a big part of that growing up included hearing Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Del Shannon, Little Richard, Gary "US" Bonds, Roy Orbison on the radio. I think the first 45 I ever bought was either The Locomotion by Little Eva or Save the Last Dance for Me by The Drifters. America was West Side Story, Gary Cooper. It was also Martin Luther King and John Kennedy. Cassius Clay and Malcolm X. Mark Twain, Thoreau, Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner. Tamla Motown. And Bob Dylan. Leadbelly, too.
America was an idea.
The first time I visited was not too long after many of the Northern cities had rioted and burned. I hitch-hiked (!) and delivered cars. The size of the country was overwhelming. The radio was terrible. There seemed to be no escape from that awful Angie by the Rolling Stones. The TV was full of propaganda: buy! buy! Every 15 minutes. I vowed then I would never knowingly eat Oscar Meyer products. That's one vow I have managed to keep. The news was parochial. The outside world hardly, if ever, existed. The race tension and segregation was in your face, there was palpable fear of violent crime. But I was white and young and had a cute English accent, and most everybody I had any contact with was gracious and kind. The can-do spirit was infectious and uplifting. But I didn't stay. And this is not the time and place to talk why.
There was a long gap before I visited again. This time it was the West Coast. I know the US is so different from region to region, I saw the North and Deep South on my first visit. Maybe it was just the West Coast. Maybe it was just that I had changed. You ever seen the film La Grande Bouffe? About four rich French guys who decide to eat themselves to death? That's what I glimpsed.
Then 9/11. I know many Americans, others too, at first thought it was a movie. It's the sort of movie Americans make. (Hardly anyone else makes those kind of movies. Why?) But it wasn't a movie. It was something qualitatively different. We usually see the aftermath of murder and mayhem. The TV news is full of all that night after night. Has been ever since I was a kid. What sets 9/11 apart is this: everyone was able to watch it. In Real Time. As It Was Happening. And then Americans were stunned by 9/11. How, they said, could they hate us so much? Stop. I don't think I want to go any further down that particular road.
Nor about Iraq. And Bush and Blair. Not here, not now. Those two are for another time.
Anyway, I have just been reading this in the New York Press. Which is what set me off here.
The Republicans are selling a product that Middle America wants to buy, and it's a far better product than what the Democrats have to offer. That product is meanness. Americans are hooked on meanness, and that meanness is everywhere, particularly at the workplace, where American workers have been getting increasingly reamed for almost three decades. By this point, the brutal squeeze has been so deeply internalized that it is impossible to imagine -- —indeed, is offensive to consider -- —the possibility that someone might make life a little easier. The Republicans offer two things to their voters: to make life more miserable on people who seem to be happy (the coastal elite); and to increase the pain of the average Middle American, who, in the words of former GE chief Jack Welch, has "unlimited juice to squeeze."
I've got friends who work in the States. One, himself an American, was back here recently and briefly."You wouldn't believe it," he said. "Two weeks holiday per year, long hours, and everyone frightened up the kazoo they'll lose their job. It sucks, man. It sucks."
So what? you ask. What's it got to do with you? A Brit? Well, not much, I guess. I have had to let go of a number of precious people and things these past eight years or so. Just grieves me, that's all.

Shopping tip: pricenoia

If you buy anything from amazon.com it's worthwhile checking with Pricenoia. That way you can find out which amazon is the best buy. According to pricenoia, from where I sit it looks like amazon.ca often offers the best deal.
'Course it depends where you are and what you are buying. I think it's worth a look. I've had reason to buy accordingly. I don't have any financial arrangement with pricenoia. I am just passing this on. Gratis. Free.

Hong Kong dollar

This started out as a shopping tip. It got too long. So, shopping tip to follow.

The Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to the US dollar since October 1983. The rate? One US dollar will buy you HK$7.80. But why the peg? In the autumn of 1983, the wealthy realised Hong Kong was going to be handed back to mainland China in 1997. Panic ensued. There was a mass exodus of money. The currency collapsed. To restore some semblance of confidence, the then British colonial government set a fixed exchange rate. It did the trick: the exit of money slowed down; even as the mass exodus of people began. Anyway, the peg has been in place ever since. Which is fortunate: during the 1997-98 Asian financial meltdown, only the pegged Hong Kong dollar, at great financial cost, avoided the wave of huge devaluations that hit other Asian currencies and which subsequently impoverished millions of people. (Mainland China's yuan is also set to a fixed exchange rate, but that's a topic for another post.)
We travel, sometimes. Which almost inevitably means getting on a plane and flying. And wherever you land -- near or far -- is almost always foreign. With a different currency. Most of what we eat, drink, wear, most everything we consume here is imported. Vegetables, pork and sundry other items come in across the border from China. But most everything else comes in from much further afield. Because the HK dollar is in lockstep with the US dollar, how the US dollar is doing impacts on many local consumer prices. It impacts on travel, trading, buying and selling. It impacts on whether you put your savings into any one of a number of currencies the local banks offer plans for. So we tend to be somewhat knowledgeable about currencies and sensitive to their fluctuations and trends. And the US dollar has been doing real bad these past 12 months or more in relation to other significant currencies. Down 30 percent against the Euro. Down 15 percent against British sterling. That's quite a lot of chump change.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

McDonald's goes vegetarian

From Friday, for two and a bit days, the McDonald's on a little island in the South China Sea -- yes, there is one -- goes vegetarian. I have no idea what the food technicians serve in place of the usual McFare, but I hear the standard McMenu is off the McMenu.
I rarely step foot in the place. Once in a blue moon for a coffee or hot chocolate. That's it. I used to do a milkshake until I realised they didn't call them that but just "shakes". Why? No milk. Better living through chemistry, and all that. No thanks.
I wish this switch to vegetarian were a harbinger for change worldwide, but it isn't. Just that Ronald McDonald doesn't want to incur the wrath of many locals and some Chinese Gods.
For here it is the custom to go "vegetarian" during the Bun Festival. I put that word in inverted commas, because on a little island in the South China Sea the meaning is extended to include oysters. That's cooked oysters. Slathered in some sauce. Cooked, can you imagine? I skip the oysters. I'll wait for the next hotel buffet when I can down some jet-fresh oysters bathed in a splash of seawater and a soupçon of lemon juice. Oh, yes.
Anyway, for the Bun Festival it'll be eat in or eat out. Whichever and wherever, like many other people on a little island in the South China Sea, I'll eat vegetarian. It's healthier and will avoid purposively incurring any God wrath.

Bob Dylan: dignity

When Bob Dylan's conversational and freewheeling memoir Chronicles Volume 1 was first published in the USA late last year, buyers who bought, I forget where, were also offered a free cd. (Thanks, Lincoln!) The free cd stock ran out. It's probably best to look on ebay now.
That freebie has six Dylan tracks: two from New Morning, two from Oh Mercy, and two previously unreleased tracks: a 1962 live performance by Dylan at The Gaslight in NYC of an old folk classic The Cuckoo; and a 1991(?) demo of the piano-playing Dylan singing Dignity.
Dylan, who has the final say-so on what goes out must like the song. The demo version appears on the UK edition of The Essential Bob Dylan. Which is, by the way, a much better buy than the measly American version. While the Yanks get palmed off with 30, the Brits get 36 tracks.
Now comes a new 2-cd, issued to coincide with the publication of Les Chroniques -- the just-published French version of Chronicles. Available only in France, or from your online French retailer, the cd set comprises songs by Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Woody Guthrie, Tex Ritter, Link Wray, Roy Orbison, Bobby Vee, Neil Sedaka, Irma Thomas, Nina Simone, Billy Holiday -- to name but a few. What we have here is an audio snapshot, the artists/songs Dylan says helped shape and influence him in his formative years as a professional performer and songwriter.
And that's only the first disc. Side two is in a similar vein, but moves on to some of the friends he mentions in his book: Tom Paxton, Richie Havens, Karen Dalton, et cetera. This all leads up to Dylan compositions made famous by others, including The Byrds, Cher, Johnny Winter, The Neville Brothers. And scattered throughout the last disc is himself, the Bobster, with six of his own songs. Last track? You guessed it: Dignity. The 1991 demo. He must really like the song. I know I do.
Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity?

Drinkin' man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered up mirrors
Lookin' into the lost forgotten years
For dignity
There's a lot more where that came from. Short sample audiostream and complete lyrics of Dignity .
Move on, move on. The 2-cd Bob Dylan Chroniques Volume 1 is a great collection, yet it has a mighty absence: jazz. To include any of that, however, would have required yet another disc. [update: OK, there's one track on the second disc : Dylan doing his jazzy If Dogs Run Free from the album New Morning; but other than that there's zilch by anyone else].
But, as we know from reading Chronicles, the Bobster listened to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He watched jazz players including Miles Davis and Cecil Taylor. And one day the young performer and songwriter came across Thelonious Monk sitting at a piano. Monk asked Dylan what kind of music he played. Dylan answered: folk music. Monk growled back: we all play folk music.
Dylan is currently enjoying a renaissance. Monk has passed on. Fortunately, his music continues. If you don't know Monk, give him a try. Monk is good music. Suggested and recommended: Monk's Dream, Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, or Monk playing solo on Standards.
Here's to looking for D-I-G-N-I-T-Y.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

After the deluge

Yesterday morning's rain and winds brought chaos, destruction and death. A little island got off lightly, with maximum winds of 74 km/hr. On the Big Island, grid lock. Kowloon, signage and bamboo scaffolding collapses. Twenty-three containers in four stacks at Hong Kong International Terminals port were toppled by 135 km/hr winds. It took firemen three hours to lift three of the containers off one truck in which a driver was trapped. The driver, Chan Shui-sang (47), was certified dead at the scene. Commiserations to his family, work colleagues, and friends.

More heavy rains and winds this morning. Then it all stopped. Just like that. Back to bright sunshine.

Bun Festival blues: update

Patrick Ho Chi-ping, Hong Kong's Secretary for Home Affairs, speaking on the radio yesterday, floated the idea of having a little island's Bun Festival all year round.
"We can allow participants to climb up the tower and grab cakes and dolls. We believe these kinds of new sports events would bring business opportunities to Cheung Chau and boost its tourism industry."
Islands District Councillor Kwong Kwok-wai welcomed Dr Ho's idea. A little island in the South China Sea resident, the Councillor is, according to the official Islands District's (members photos and all) website, also chairman of the Island District's Tourism, Agriculture, Fisheries, Industry and Commerce Committee; and member of the Traffic and Transport Committee. Mr Kwong's occupation is listed as company director.

Me: I think they ought to turn a little island's Pak Tai football pitch into a pool, have the Long March steel tower on a small island in the middle, throw some of those hungry people-eating Australian crocodiles in there, and make the contestants swim to the tower. That would draw the crowds.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Some rain songs

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall -- Bob Dylan
Here Comes the Rain -- Eurythmics
Fire and Rain -- James Taylor
Purple Rain -- Prince
The Rain Song -- Led Zeppelin
I Can't Stand the Rain -- Ann Peebles
Who'll Stop the Rain? -- Creedence Clearwater Revival
Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head -- B J Thomas
I Wish It Would Rain -- The Temptations
Little Bit of Rain -- Karen Dalton
Listen to the Rhythm (of the falling rain) –- The Cascades

I am sure there are more, but above all else is:
Gene Kelly – Singin’ In the Rain

Monday lunchtime: buckets of rain
28 mm of rain fell here in the last hour

Doug Engelbart in 1968

From Stanford University:
On December 9, 1968, Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, presented a 90-minute live public demonstration of the online system, NLS, they had been working on since 1962.

This was the public debut of the computer mouse. But the mouse was only one of many innovations demonstrated that day, including hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface.
Video clips (Real Player) from that 1968 demonstration, including: "I don't know why we call it a mouse. It started that way and we never did change it."

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Weather report

Bucketed it down this morning. Looks like more of the same. Monday, if I go out, I will shut down the computer and disconnect the modem. Some years back, I lost a hard drive due to an electric storm. Other friends have lost computers, modems, TVs. Surge protectors don't seem to provide sufficient protection. Hereabouts, lightning does strike twice.
Bulletin updated by Hong Kong Observatory at 21:45 HKT 08/May/2005

Here is the latest weather bulletin issued by the Hong Kong Observatory.
A broad band of rain-bearing clouds is covering southern China. On the other hand, a trough of low pressure brings unsettled weather to central China.
Weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow
Cloudy with showers. Heavy at times with a few squally thunderstorms tomorrow. Temperatures will range between 24 and 27 degrees. Moderate southerly winds.
Outlook: Occasional heavy rain and thunderstorms on Tuesday. Sunny periods in the following few days.

V E Day: pause to remember the Soviet and Chinese people who perished

This weekend there are commemorations in many places for the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe. The headlines have been grabbed by Bush2 and the political leaders in the newly independent Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithunia. Well, they have their own axes to grind.
The unassailable fact is the Soviet people sustained terrible casualties during the war. And it is thanks to their resistance and tenacity that European fascism was later defeated. There's more:
The Soviet Union is not the only state to be written out of the victory story in the west. The Chinese people also lost an estimated 20 million as a result of Japanese aggression. Just as the Soviet armed forces held down the Germans, so the less effective but numerous Chinese armed forces kept the Japanese bogged down in Asia. This is a record that is still almost unknown in the west, yet if Japan had achieved quick victory in China, large resources would have been released for an assault on the rear of the Soviet Union, or a larger military presence in the Pacific. In this case, too, western allied casualties would have been much greater without the stubborn resistance of their Asian ally.
In the end, the western freedom to plan and execute a global strategy depended on the ability of the Soviet and Chinese forces to hold the main enemies at bay while western air forces bombed the Axis motherlands flat. When victory is celebrated tomorrow, it is important that we pause to remember the almost 50 million Soviets and Chinese who perished to contain the imperial aggression of Germany and Japan.
Full article by Richard Overy, writing in The Guardian.

Bun Festival blues: update

South China Morning Post's front page last Sunday included an item about the upcoming Bun Festival. The report was by Polly Hui, native to and resident on a little island in the South China Sea. The report included details about the Long March rocket, the festival, and the reporter's own ascension the previous day. Ms Hui, who is on the scmp payroll and more usually focuses on Education, recounted how, when she had climbed some way up the alien tower, despite wearing a harness and fitted out with ropes, she momentarily lost her nerve. I don't blame her. However much those sophisticated bits of the brain are telling you this is all perfectly safe, that much older, truly ancient -- more, dare I say it, reptilian -- part of the brain is shouting: danger! danger! flee! flee! Still, all in the line of duty, despite having suffered a momentary lapse of confidence, Ms Hui found the resources within herself to complete the climb. Good for her! Courageous, in deed. For what is courage but the willingness to go forward, fear and all.
I am not sure I would now be able to do what Ms Hui did. For starters, her knees are in better shape than mine. Plus, I have grown much more cautious. Perhaps, too cautious. When I was about Ms Hui's age, I once spent a day on a building site, four floors up, walking on an asbestos roof, picking my way guided by the rivets that attached the asbestos to the supporting girders. Sans safety equipment, sans safety net. This was, of course, a cash in yr hand, non-union site, run be Hammersmith flyboys. Me? I was broke. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was only after I finished, I shook like a leaf. Ah, the wrecklessness of youth.
Back to Ms Hui. Thanks to her, we also learned that among the climbers ascending the Long March on the official day will be one or more women. This is a Good Thing. The traditional three bamboo-tower 'men only' climb, was certainly exclusionary, misogynist even. However, I am puzzled as to one thing. Ms Hui's report included mention of the view from up the tower, without mentioning the (competing) traditional three bamboo towers not a stone's throw away. I know, I know, at that time the three towers were still supine. But the bamboo structure that surrounds the trinity of towers was already up and in place. A photo accompanying that front-page story makes plain the scmp's intrepid reporter was not wearing glasses during her ascent. Maybe that's why. Or, perhaps mention of the tower trio was dropped in the scmp's editing process? Wherever that is, these days. A lot of the nitty gritty still takes place at Quarry Bay. But there was talk of moving the sub-editing offshore, to Bangkok. Did that ever happen? Who knows? Anyway, the absence of any mention of the adjacent towers struck me as an odd oversight.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

No Respect: Paxman 'interviews' Galloway

Short video clip of BBC's Jeremy Paxman 'interviewing' newly elected Respect candidate George Galloway. Paxman even more aggressive than usual.

Honest With Me: Musical Stories on Bob Dylan

KEXP presents a series of stories on the musical life of Bob Dylan. Told by Dylan’s friends, scholars and fans, "Honest With Me" features firsthand accounts from Joan Baez, Al Kooper, Izzy Young and the Band’s Robbie Robertson. Highly recommended: the account of Masters of War.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Icke, redux

Further to the earlier post about famous residents of the Isle of Wight. What really caught Nick G's attention (and mine) in the Wiki entry about Icke, was this:
In 1999, he published a book claiming that the world had been taken over by an Illuminati that consisted of a race of reptiles called the Babylonian Brotherhood, and that some prominent people were in fact lizards, including George Bush, Bill Clinton, the Queen Mother, and Kris Kristofferson.
Now Icke was doing fine with that list until he got to Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson? He who wrote:
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,
And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free,
Feelin’ good was easy, lord, when Bobby sang the blues,
And buddy, that was good enough for me,
Good enough for me and Bobby McGee.
Not Kristo. No. Surely some mistake. More likely Icke is confusing Kristo with another briefly bearded bard of that time: the tiresome lead singer of the Doors, Jim Morrison, aka the Lizard King.

Friday, already

Fridays, I generally take the ferry from a little island to the Big Island. To share some space/time with friends of mine. Whoever and wherever you are, I hope your day goes good for you.

Tommy Cooper

Someone sent me an email the other day with a long list of Tommy Cooper jokes. Too many to put here. OK, here's five:
You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said: 'Parking Fine'. So that was nice.
I'm on a whiskey diet. I've lost three days already.
I got into this taxi and I said to the driver, 'King Arthur's Close.'
And the driver said, 'Don't worry Tommy, I'll shake him off at the first corner.'
Police arrested two kids yesterday, one was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks. They charged one and let the other one off.
Did you hear that joke about the fire-eater? She hiccuped and cremated herself.
The madcap, hilarious Cooper, who seldom if ever got to complete his magic tricks, died as his lived most of his life: on stage. To see a great tribute to a genius, here.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Gavin's pot pourri

Couple of links from Gavin:
For the HK traveller heading for UK this summer: money tips.
American tax dollars at work: Pentagon TV.
Thanks, Gavin!

Famous residents of the Isle of Wight

A mention and link in an earlier post prompted Nick G to look up famous residents of the Isle-of-Wight. Nick G: "This (Wikipedia) entry on David Icke is priceless." He's right, it's an absolute gem. Wiki's Icke here, which also has links to other sites including Icke's own.
Thanks, Nick!

Update. A case of Jungian synchronicity? Who knows. Fact is, I don't think I'd ever heard of Icke until Nick G's email. Reading Wiki, I realised I had. A couple of days ago -- over at Chief Blogging Officer. CBO often has a joyful turn of phrase. On Icke: 'Looney Tunes Whackjob Supreme'. But CBO has a serious mission. Nay, missions. The one that pertains here is documenting and writing about the links between many New Age boomers with eugenics, and fascism. To name but two. I summarise poorly. Why not see for yourself? [CBO link is over on the right, in the links list].
Elsewhere, where New Age Meets the Third Reich.

Emails 'pose threat to IQ'

Report in The Guardian a few days back:
The distractions of constant emails, text and phone messages are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis, according to a survey of befuddled volunteers.
Continue here. Cannabis better than emails? Didn't they know already? Old graffito on how to succeed in office politics: smoke dope/the more you suck the higher you get!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Плакаты Студии Лебедева

Beautiful Russian stripe posters.

Rock the Kasbah

Woah! Scrowling rapidly through the just announced webby awards you see what's hot, what's not. Hereabouts is not. For good reason. Most locally-made websites are over-the-top uber-Flash trash. But wait...
Kasbah restaurant and Medina bar! Those are the two places next to each other on the Big Island's Hollywood Road. Down at the bottom end. Said resto/bar's website was one of five nominees in the restaurant section. Didn't win. Still a nomination counts for something. Let's have a look. Hmmm. Tasty. Neat site, with nifty north-African music. Congrats to all concerned.
I've eaten in the bar, which is somewhat cheaper than their restaurant next door. Recommended. Cuisine is Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian. Delish!

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

To see or not to see? That is the question.
The problem is not that the film debases the book but that movies themselves are too capacious a home for such comedy, with its tea-steeped English musings and its love of bitty, tangential gags.
So writeth Hitchhiker fan Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. Scroll down for complete review.

Finland's more than mobile phones

Last Saturday's Finnish Labour Day Party on a little island in the South China Sea was everso enjoyable. Good food, drink and company. Thanks Bjorn and Karin.
The main action was on the roof. The rain held off, so that was OK. However, a subset developed downstairs. Why so? They preferred listening to a cd compilation of 1950s, '60s and '70s Finnish pop music. Hey! You know: different strokes for different folks. Each to his/her own. I caught some of the music on the way out. Period Euro-pop. Karin, however, graciously gave us a running commentary: "he's running through a forest, to a meadow, a lakeside, dreaming of the girl he loves." Given the poppy music, and having some understanding of what they were singing about, the overall effect was one of quirky melancholia. A bit like those wonderful films of Aki Kaurismäki:
No other film-maker from his homeland or indeed anywhere in the world is quite able to celebrate the lives of such uniquely inarticulate, alienated, unglamorous or misunderstood characters with such style and dry wit.
Celebrate lives, he does. Finding hope in despair. Laugh out loud funny. Highly recommended: Drifting Clouds or Man Without a Past. More on Kaurismäki here. Wiki's list of famous Finns.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

In praise of Firefox

A couple of years ago, I started using a web browser called Firebird. Now known as Firefox. Still, I have to switch occasionally to the Microsoft browser. Usually, on other people's machines. On a bad day, I am driven half nuts by Microsoft's; it's so clunky and doesn't have half of Firefox's flexibility. Nor Firefox's wonderful tab option. I turned my 15 year-old nephew -- who is usually no slouch in such matters -- onto Firefox. And got major thumbs up from him. I rest my case. Almost.
Casual users, who can't be minded about refinements, will appreciate Firefox, knowing they have much better security for what are increasingly unsecure and insecure times.
Why not give it a spin? To find out more, here.
For Firefox tweakers and tweaking, here. That latter link thanks to Jorn Barger's robotwisdom.
Mac users, according to the World to Wiki, you'd best hold off till 1 June 2005. When a new, improved version with a Mac-like option interface will be released.

How to... make excuses

Over the long weekend, The Guardian reported on British Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, and his trip to Washington DC, in the final days preceding the invasion of Iraq. Invasion, not war. Politicos, lawyers, commentators, reporters and whatnot to the contrary.
Goldsmith, who had been expressing doubts about the legality of any proposed war, was sent to Washington by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to 'put some steel in his spine', as one official has said.
So, Goldsmith goes to Washington. Where he meets, among others, the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, and Albert 'the Geneva Conventions are quaint' Gonzales, Bush's chief lawyer at the White House. For the whole sorry story, here.

What else? Christmas 1980, I was back in my home town. Went with some mates to see West Bromwich Albion play some other team. I know, I know, the Albion. Our excuse was the Hawthorns ground, although across the municipal border, was within walking distance. An unrememorable game, except for half-time when they paraded the new Austin Metro around the pitch perimeter. The PA going: "If you don't buy this car, your grandchildren won't have a job." Prophetic, indeed. After the Chinese, now some Russian 'baby oligarch' is interested in buying Longbridge.

Too depressing? Guy Browning is usually whimsical.
Excuses are the contraceptives of social life: they allow you to have a relationship with someone without anything too important developing. As with contraceptives, you only need to use one excuse at a time. More here.
Excuses? May be it's the zeitgeist.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

May Day

Courtesy NASA
Re-reading my previous post, it struck me that the last several sentences were a tad polemical. Strike out read/red sentences.
Replace with: Or, of the alienation and oppression of the workers? Or, just a day off, that other people fought for?
Whichever, whatever. Have a nice day. Cheers! Enjoy! Justice and peace for us all on Planet Earth.
May Day, today. Hereabouts, it is a statutory public holiday. Since this year May Day falls on Sunday, Monday is the public holiday. Maybe that's the same in many other countries.
Why the holiday? In the northern hemisphere winter is long gone, spring has sprung, summer is a-cummin. In medieval times, May was the time for dances and parties. But May Day is also Labour Day. Why?
On 1 May 1886, 300,000 workers in cities in the USA marched for the Eight-Hour Day. In Chicago, where at least 40,000 marched, the police responded brutally (what's new?). An unknown number of marchers were wounded or killed (what's new?).
Further demonstrations took place. On the one on 4 May someone threw a stick of dynamite at the cops. Five or six were killed. In the aftermath of those so-called Haymarket Riots, a handfull of demonstrators were tried and hung. America was seized in the grip of its first 'Red Scare'. Demands for the Eight-Hour Day temporarily receded. But 1 May was soon associated elsewhere in the industrialised and industrialising world with demands for, and the acquisition of, workers' rights. So 1 May is a celebration of workers' rights and the dignity of labour. Or, of the alienation and oppression of the workers. Or, just a day off, that other people fought for. Whichever, whatever. Have a day.