Thursday, June 30, 2005

Weather report

Numbers enable ideas to hold together. It wasn't so long ago that China's president, Hu Jintao, gave a Four-point Speech on policy toward Taiwan. Examples from the Mao era are legion: Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Three Years of Natural Disasters, Four Cleanups Movement, Four Greats (Great Teacher, Great Leader, Great Supreme Commander, Great Helmsman), Group of Five, Gang of Four. Post-Mao includes the Two Whatevers, and Four Modernizations. No surprise then when in 1984 Deng Xiaoping proposed a numeric formula for China and Hong Kong, post-1997: One Country, Two Systems. To mark the handover, 1 July is a public holiday in Hong Kong.

Sorry to bang on about the weather, but there is a lot of it about.
Bulletin updated by Hong Kong Observatory at 23:15 HKT 30/Jun/2005
Here is the latest weather bulletin issued by the Hong Kong Observatory.
General situation
A trough of low pressure brought rainy weather to the coastal areas of Guangdong and the northern part of the South China Sea today. Locally, it was cloudy with squally showers today. More than 80 millimetres of rainfall were recorded over Lantau, Tsuen Wan and Western District of Hong Kong Island. Under the influence of the squally showers, gusts exceeding 70 kilometres per hour were recorded at Tsim Sha Tsui in the afternoon. A ridge of high pressure is expected to bring generally fine weather to southeastern China over the weekend and early next week.
Weather forecast for Hong Kong (Friday, 1 Jul 2005)
Cloudy with showers and one or two squally thunderstorms.
Temperatures will range between 25 and 29 degrees.
Moderate to fresh southerly winds, gusty at times.
Outlook : Weather improving over the weekend. Fine and hot next

Italo Calvino

Invisible Cities, an excerpt:
Already the Great Khan was leafing through his atlas, over the maps of the cities that menace in nightmares and maledictions: Enoch, Babylong, Yahooland, Butua, Brave New World.
He said: "It is all useless, if the last landing place can only be the infernal city, and it is there that, in ever-narrowing circles, the current is drawing us."
And Polo said: "The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."
More Calvino here.

Drug bust in Shanghai

Photos and report (in English) of drug bust of a low-level, woman street dealer in Shanghai. First published in Chinese, and evidently originated from within Shanghai CID. A fascinating and surprising glimpse of policing in China. OK, not China, but one district in the biggest city in China.
Surprising glimpse? What do I know? I was surprised on my first visit to China to see that Chinese police did not habitually carry guns. Just like Britain. But that was a long time ago and things may have changed. Onward to the drug bust and outcome... with hosting and translation into English by EastSouthWestNorth. Many thanks!

BBC Beethoven downloads

BBC Radio 3's Beethoven downloads for symphonies 6, 7, 8 are now available. Offer open for those three until 4, 5, 6 July, respectively.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Google, yet again

This week is developing into a bit of a Google.
Safe For Work. But you might want to use headphones. Very funny: Google + the Motown classic, My Girl. (Flash required)
Thanks, Gavin!

Riot in city of Chizhou (Anhui province)

Traffic accidents often seem to provide the flashpoint for public disorder in China. There are a lot of traffic accidents in China. This one happened on 26 June 2005. What started off small, grew big.
Photos, consolidation of Apple Daily and Chizou Daily reports, and translation into English by EastSouthWestNorth. Many thanks.

Dylan: counter culture

Dylan's Live at the Gaslight 1962 show is set for official release. That's the good news. The bad news? Starbucks has exclusive rights to sell it for the first 18 months. Starbucks USA only? It's not clear. They don't say. I don't know.
The Gaslight has been available for years on various bootleg labels. Somehow, it is one of the few early Dylan recordings I do not already possess. Ah, well.
Also end-August: "The Bootleg Series Volume 7: No Direction Home". According to reports, No Direction Home contains unreleased early 1960s material from Dylan's archives.
I hazard that a lot of the material is already out there on bootlegs: Folksingers [sic] Choice: The Cynthia Gooding Radio Show featuring Bob Dylan (1962); The Banjo Tape & NYC Town Hall (1963). And on Scorpio's The Genuine Bootleg Series. To get an idea of how good the Scorpios are: The Genuine Bootleg Series, The Genuine Bootleg Series Take 2, and the truly superb The Third One Now.
That said, most people won't have any of those bootlegs nor heard much of the very early Dylan in performance. That was a time when he used to work an audience, make them laugh. So, it's very welcome news that some of that early 1960s stuff is finally coming out officially. More about Dylan, Gaslight, Starbucks and, yes, Martin Scorsese, all in one article, at the non-reg required iht.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Google Map: a little island in the South China Sea

Click here, zoom in/zoom out, and you can see a little island in the South China Sea.
A million thanks to Nick G!

Samuel Beckett

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.
Opening line of the novel Murphy, by Samuel Beckett
Beckett's reworking of (King James version) line 1.9 from Ecclesiastes. The latter link to wikipedia has an illuminating section on 'vanity'.

Google maps

An email reminded me that a lot of people may not know about one of Google's many services: maps.
Introduced nearly four months ago, Google offers maps as well as free, eye-in-the-sky satellite images, directions and search listings for the US.
Beginning April, the map service, directions and search facilities were extended to the UK -- but no satellite images. No indication either, as yet, that Google will extend the service[s] to cover anywhere else.
Thanks, Nick G!

Update. Google now has free satellite images of UK, and elsewhere. But the images I've looked at don't zoom down anywhere like as much as the images for the US. Not for Birmingham, anyway. Outsiders might say that perhaps Brum is better as a blur. To that I say, take no notice of such no-nothing nincompoops and ne'er-do-wells.
You can also roll the Google Map to other parts of the world. And zoom in. Somewhat. But keying in Paris, Dusseldorf, Hong Kong, Beijing, Koh Samui, Boracay, Wherever, won't get you anywhere. Well, it didn't get me anywhere. And, I've also been trying to find a little island in the South China Sea. To no avail.
If you can find a way to do that using Google Maps, please let me know. Meantime, Nick G, thanks for additional information and corrections!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody

Soundboard recording. Mp3 here.
Somewhere, I have a bootleg of the soundboard of the 1979 Montreal show. Dylan recorded the show for release, then shelved the idea. This one sounds like it is a soundboard from a different show on that tour.
Hurry now, while stocks last.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Google command line help

For the 101st Fighting Keyboarders Battalion, here are some useful search tips.
I haven't tried them all, and the translation ones didn't seem to work for me.
But word definitions is good: /define serendipity
And the news one can bring up some interesting stuff.
For instance, I tried /news Peng Chau.
Which is how I found out about this Peng Chau sustainable community project. At the bottom of that page is a contact address. Hey, why not? So I clicked on that, too. Green Peng Chau, now that's well worth a virtual visit.
Serendipity? Awesome.

Justice Department ends nude cover-up

There are signs a-plenty that Bush II is fast becoming a lame-duck presidency. One more sign that the End Times is approaching:
The cover-up is over at the U.S. Justice Department.
After more than three years of being blocked by large blue drapes, two Art Deco aluminum statues of semi-nude figures in the building’s Great Hall can be seen again.
The “Spirit of Justice” and the “Majesty of Justice,” which loom over the stage in the Great Hall, were blocked from view by curtains installed by the department in January 2002, when former Attorney General John Ashcroft was in office.
Reuters, via MSNBC

What have the Brits ever done for us?

Just in from Dublin.
(Flash required)
Thanks, Gavin!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

China + Hong Kong floods

In Hong Kong, floods, landslides, torrential rain chaos. Across the border:
Record-high floodwaters rushed through southern China's industrial heart yesterday, putting factories and railway lines in the path of torrents that have killed hundreds and caused $2.5 billion in economic damage over the past two weeks.
Government forecasters warned of more torrential rains in the densely populated south, especially north of Hong Kong around the Pearl River Delta, a hub for China's booming export industries.
The Pearl River was swelling late yesterday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, calling it ''the largest flood peak in the region's history."
Macau issues flood warning.

Billie Holiday

Life and times of a Street Diva.

Disney takes shark's fin off the menu

Disney spokeswoman denies company has bowed to public pressure. Yeah, right...

Friday, June 24, 2005

China + Hong Kong floods

Yahoo News summary + photos here.

Gilbert & Sullivan + UK ID card scheme

Very clever lyrics, a dapper dog singing, the cutest puppy pianist on the planet...

The Chauffeur's Dilemma

What is it? Find out here.
Thanks, Gavin!

Doctor Feelgood

Several days ago, one of the South China Morning Post (no link) front page stories reported that some doctors in Hong Kong were suspected of receiving kickbacks from specialists for referrals. And that private hospitals offered 'sweeteners' to specialists to ensure a steady flow of patients.
It also came to light that last year the ICAC investigated two general practioners and a surgeon -- but the case was dropped after the Department of Justice vetoed prosecution, citing insufficient evidence.
The Hong Kong Medical Council is now appealing to people to come forward if they have information.
While they are it, maybe the Medical Council could take a look at the private doctor who sold Nancy Kissel -- she of Parkview milkshake murder trial -- ten tablets of Rohypnol for HK$4,705. That's HK$470.50 a tab. If that's not murderous profiteering, what is?
Private doctors? A plague on them! Me? I'll stay with Hong Kong's low-cost, excellent public health system.

Some doctor songs:
(I Told) the Witch Doctor -- Alvin and the Chipmunks
Doctor Dick -- Lee Perry
Doctor, Doctor (Can't Stand the Size of Your Needle) -- Prince Buster
Doctor Robert -- The Beatles
Dear Doctor -- The Rolling Stones
The Witch Doctor Life -- Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band
Doctor my Eyes -- Jackson Browne
Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor) -- Robert Palmer
Doctor Doctor -- Thompson Twins

Weather report

It is raining real heavily. Hong Kong Observatory issued a red alert, thunderstorm, and landslip warning at 10.02 am. The Obs suggests cancelling 'non-essential appointments, stay at home or remain in a safe shelter.' Plus, a special announcement about flooding in the New Territories.
Update at 12.30pm. Many parts of Hong Kong island, Kowloon and the whole of a little island in the South China Sea had had by midday today: up to 300mm of rain during the past 24 hours.
Update at 1.15pm. Between 11.45am and 12.45pm, lightning was detected over all regions of the territory -- usually, it is localized. Speaking on the one o'clock news on RTHK, a man from the Obs said that in some areas rainfall this morning had been 100mm in an hour! Heavy rains coupled with a very high tide have also produced serious flooding in Tai Po, and other low-lying coastal areas of the New Territories.
Update. 1.30pm. Stopped raining. Bright and light. Time to go for a gentle ride on my bike.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

JCB Song, by Nizlopi

For non-British readers, a JCB is a mechanical digger.
I'm Luke, I'm five
And my Dad's Bruce Lee,
Drives me round in his JCB
Lovely song, great visuals, heart-warming stuff.
Takes a minute or two to upload, but it really is worth it.
Also available to download (Quicktime/Windows Media)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mark Rothko

After the Centre Georges Pompidou opened in 1977, I'd often go visit on my days off. With whoever was special in my life at the time, friends, work colleagues, or visitors from out of town. Or just on my own. I lived within walking distance. It was cheap to get in, one day a week it was free.
Sometimes, it would just be to go hang out in the open area overlooking the building's entrance.
That area had quickly become an extra-ordinary place and space, an attraction in itself. A public forum for what was, essentially, commedia dell'arte. Impromptu entertainment provided by an assortment of very accomplished musicians, mime artists, actors, magicians, jugglers, sword swallowers, and story tellers. To be there would always temporarily restore my failing faith in myself and the world at large.
Sometimes, I would go in and explore the modern art. And that is where I discovered the paintings of Mark Rothko. I had dimly heard of him, probably seen reproductions of his work. But to see his paintings was a revelation that became a comfort.
It is very difficult to explain this. Most of the Rothkos in the museum were very large canvases. At first sight they appeared as just solid colour, usually a very dark-bluish black. That's it, that's all.
But in my wanderings around the museum, after all the razzle and dazzle elsewhere, I'd invariably make my way back to the very big room with the very big Rothkos and sit there and look at them. And in spending time there, I began to realize that if I watched a Rothko long enough, I began to see (imagine?) slight variations across the canvas. What looked like flat paint upon a flat canvas slowly revealed itself as having an unsuspected depth. That a cursory glance was treacherous, what seemed monotonous and minimal had (hidden?) charms. But over and above all that, the paintings spoke to me of serenity. A quality I sorely lacked, except when passed out. A quality I sought, desperately craved. And so I sat there and considered those paintings in their dark silence.
Why Rothko, now? Prompted by this post from elsewhere.

You are what you eat

Brazil nuts. Peanuts. Walnuts. Hazelnuts. Almonds. Macadamia nuts. Pistachios. Almonds. Go nuts! Also from Guardian: medieval lifestyle manual from the 1390s.
It is certainly based on notions of moderation and balance that would not be out of place in your average Sunday colour supplement. Health essentials include air, food and drink, movement and rest, sleep, and the moderation of extreme emotions.
If you read Guardian link, you'll find out more. Oh, crayfish are supposed to be an aphrodisiac. A BBC Worldservice item on the Tacuinum Sanitatis revealed that much of the information in it was lifted from 11th century Arab manuscripts, based on ancient Mesopotamian tablets from 100AD. No link, you'll have to take my word for it.
I love medieval manuscripts; they always have beautiful illustrations. To view a Tacuinum Sanitatis go here. Clicking on the illustrations is very useful, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Thank Goodness for Robin Williams

Q. What happens to George W. Bush when he takes Viagra?

A. He gets taller.

Radical philosophy

Reflections on the politics of aid in Africa.
Via Fat Buddha. Thanks!

Military Care for the Wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan

Casualties of war:
The airman lost one leg above the knee, the other in a hip disarticulation, his right hand, and part of his face. How he and others like him will be able to live and function remains an open question.
New England Journal of Medicine (9 December 2004) report here.

Is this the philosophy department? Well, yes, and no.

The Beeb has a helpful page.

Rainy season

Here speaketh Hong Kong Observatory at 6pm:
The active southwest monsoon is bringing unsettled weather to the southern China. Locally, heavy rain brought more than 100 millimetres of rainfall to Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Lantau Island, Tsuen Wan, Kwai Tsing, Sha Tin and Sai Kung.
Weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow:
Cloudy to overcast with rain. Rain will be heavy at times with squally thunderstorms tomorrow.
Temperatures will range between 26 and 29 degrees.
Fresh southwesterly winds, gusty at times.
Outlook: Occasional heavy rain in the latter part of the week.
Some rain songs? Previous post here.

Netvigator blocking email sent from

At the weekend, I discovered that email was not getting through to me from a UK friend who is a customer of a largish ISP,
I contacted by email to enquire if netvigator was blocking It would not surprise me... some months ago I read that has 65,000 customers with compromised computers.
Hi-jacked, infected, infested computers ready for use by bored Bulgarian teenagers with a mind for spamming, phishing, pharming, penetrating the Pentagon, and whatnot.
One can only speculate, but tiscali has not been in the best of financial health. Perhaps that is why it has not directed many, if any, of its resources of time, money and manpower, at contacting its customers and taking them through the steps needed to clean up infected computers. Meanwhile, tiscali IP addresses get added to the many public and private block lists around the world.
Netvigator? Like many of telecom companies worldwide that jumped on the internet bandwagon, they were negligent, delinquent even, in their own early days. They may still be on some lists.
But what about my own email to netvigator? No response. Evidently, customer service representatives take a break at the weekend. Monday, I navigated Voice Mail Hell and finally got a live one. Who listened and said he'd pass on the problem to the tech people.
Meantime, I posted here a generally supportive piece about blocking email from offending ISPs. I have been online long enough to remember the first spam, and the frantic efforts by long-time users to pressure ISPs to nip it in the bud. Worldwide, most ISPs would not listen. Spam consequently exploded. Worldwide, ISPs were still slow to act, the worst offenders being telecom companies. It would take too long to explain why that was, just trust me, they were. On-line old timers pressured them, but often to no avail.
As a last resort, about five years ago, some old-timers instituted SPEWS (spam prevention early warning system) . SPEWS is a free service. Many ISPs, however, prefer Spamhaus. Go there to see why. Like SPEWS, Spamhaus offers a free service. Their Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO) is also instructive: a comprehensive listing of the low-life that are responsible for most spam.
Major spam sources? Americans based in Boca Raton, Florida, taking advantage of greed and stupidity in China and South Korea. Heh! It's off-shore outsourcing! Consequently much of the world blocks email from those two countries. But back to netvigator and tiscali.
Lunchtime Tuesday, a tech from netvigator contacted me and explained it wasn't netvigator that was blocking email, but
So I deleted my misterbijou post.
Netvigator are, it appears, being somewhat disingenuous in their explanation: it's not us, it's
Having looked at -- based at Richard Li's Cyberport in Pokfulam -- it is clear that netvigator are employing that classic Hong Kong ruse -- delegation of responsibility to a sub-contractor. Quite possibly, netvigator are also paying for a service that can be got elsewhere for free. Viz: If spamhaus is good enough for British and American government departments, why isn't it good enough for netvigator?
Instead, netvigator customers are paying for a service that can be got for free. And paying the rent for office space at Li's Cyberport. Only in Hong Kong.
My UK friend? He is reasonably tech savvy. The email rejected by includes instructions on how to get himself white-listed [as opposed to black-listed]. We are now back in email communication. For the time being.
Still, it would have been nice if netvigator let us know they use such a system. And it is disingenous for them to say they are not doing it. Like I said, I support email blocking. Email is in a sorry state of affairs, and blocking offenders and delinquent ISPs is the only system that works.
You may wish to check your system for spyware, etc.
I can recommend:
It is free. Effective. Easy to use.
I have sent the guy a donation.
For virus protection:

Weather report

According to Hong Kong Observatory, what we have is an 'active southwest monsoon'.
Late Tuesday morning: strong winds, very heavy rains -- 30mm and more in an hour. Occasional, distant, peals of thunder. Flooding in the New Territories and poorly drained areas everywhere. It has fallen so gloomy here; the street lights have turned themselves on.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Moon [in June], according to Shakespeare

Unsurprisingly, William Shakespeare invokes the presence of the sun, moon, and stars in almost all his plays. This is, after all, an era when people believed in the influence of the 'heavenly orbs', and philosophers grappled with notions of the ancient Greek idea of the 'music of the spheres'. Come to think of it, not much has changed. For Shakespeare, reference to the moon is often in the context of love. See, for instance, the repeated mentions in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In any case, before electricity, the nights around a full moon, both in countryside and towns alike, offered a fuller, more illuminated, sometimes safer opportunity to travel, and make merry! Which is still the situation today, in the many electricity-less parts of the world. But in Shakespeare's late play, the dark and enormous King Lear, we have Edmund railing thus:
This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! "My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail, and my nativity was under ursa major; so that it follows I am rough and lecherous." 'Sfoot! I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing [bastardy].
Act 1, Scene ii

Moon songs

According to NASA, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, the moon is going to look real big as viewed from the USA.
This week's full moon hangs lower in the sky than any full moon since June 1987, so the Moon Illusion is going to be extra strong.
More about the Moon Illusion at NASA. Let's hope it's true for here too.

Some Moon songs:
Blue Moon -- The Marcels
Fly Me To the Moon -- Frank Sinatra
Blue Moon of Kentucky -- Bill Monroe
Walking on the Moon -- The Police
Moon River -- Johnny Mathis
Bad Moon Rising -- Creedence Clearwater Revival
Moonshadow -- Cat Stevens
Every One's Gone to the Moon -- Jonathan King
Mr Moonlight -- The Beatles
Harvest Moon -- Neil Young
Shine On Harvest Moon -- Laurel and Hardy
Sisters of the Moon -- Fleetwood Mac
How High the Moon -- Ella Fitzgerald
The Whole of the Moon -- The Waterboys
Moonlight -- Bob Dylan
Album? The Floyd's -- Dark Side of the Moon
Instrumental? Third movement of Suite Bergmanasque, Clair de Lune -- Claude Debussy
I'm sure there are more songs. If you are interested, in this household the all-time favourite song remains: Moondance -- Van Morrison

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I haven't spoken to a soul all day.
Good night.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Donald Tsang

The Economist.

US declares war on Britain

No kiddin'.
Brits fight back and burn down the White House.

Fiddling the numbers?

Lies by commission, lies by omission, obfuscations, and general being 'economical with the truth' -- before, during, and since -- the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
No surprise: it is said that the first casualty of war is truth.
Is there a fiddling of the numbers, deliberately understating the growing list of fatalities among US military?
Update. I took the link down. I got some input from someone who knows much more about those sorts matters than me. The claim doesn't hold up. I sit corrected. I am glad for the correction.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday fun

For a fraught Friday, some online ad relief:
(Flash required)
Thanks, Mark B!

Technical Guide for Editing Gonzo

Hunter S. Thompson from the other end of the Mojo Wire, by Robert Love.
Columbia Journalism Review

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Ooops! 16 June. Nearly missed this one: Bloomsday.
I have read Ulysses three times. Not bragging or anything, it's just that I enjoy it. First time started badly, but then I experimented... and hit on the ruse of reading it silently in an Irish accent. Worked a treat!
when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.


Snoop Dogg versus Led Zeppelin

One for you, Nick G!
Anyone else, too.
Mash up: Drop It Like It's A Whole Lotta Love.
Ooooh, that other track by Louis XIV vs. Devo vs. Fatboy Slim vs. The Knack doing Finding Out Sharona is Blind. That's alright, too.
All here.

Dim sum in Bristol

Siu mai, law mai gai, cheung fan, congee with trimmings, and my all time favourite: phoenix claws with black bean sauce. Peasant cooking with good PR: phoenix claws being much more regal than mere chicken and their feet.
And don't tell me you have never eaten chicken's feet. If you are a non-vegetarian, what do you think you have been eating in those mass-market chicken soups and stocks?
Fill your rice bowl here.
Thanks, Jack C! And Barb!

Only a Pawn in Their Game

America's ghost soldiers: photos of Iraqi invasion American military dead -- up to 13 February, 2005.
Thanks, Gavin!
Look at the some of the photos, and the dry statistics melt away. Behold they whom were all once flesh and blood.
Behold. Once. Once upon a time.
The Donald Rumsdfeldian 'metrics' for American military dead crossed the 1,700 threshold, last week. Be sure that someone, somewhere, is counting the many more thousands of American military who have been maimed for life.
As far as I know, there is no comparable website with photos of the (who-knows-how-many?) Iraqi military dead. Nor for the double-digit (who-knows-how-many?) thousands of Iraqi civilian fatalities. Nor for the Iraqi maimed nor the orphaned. So it goes.

Weather report

Lunchtime, Thursday.
Very heavy rains. Strong winds. Hong Kong Observatory has issued a thunderstorm warning: members of the public should be alert. Glad I don't have to go or be in Hong Kong, today. There will be traffic chaos.

Chinese factory workers and the things they make

"Last week, I took testimony from several young female workers from Shenzhen who said they were locked in a work room for 18 straight hours making inflatable Frisbees," Gao said. "Finally, the girls joined hands on the factory floor and began to chant, 'No more insane flying toys for Western pigs!' They quickly lost their jobs and were ostracized by their families, but the incident was a testament to China's growing disillusionment with producing needless crap for fat-ass foreigners."
Satire lives!

Kurdish Officials Sanction Abductions in Kirkuk

KIRKUK, Iraq -- Police and security units, forces led by Kurdish political parties and backed by the U.S. military, have abducted hundreds of minority Arabs and Turkmens in this intensely volatile city and spirited them to prisons in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, government documents and families of the victims.
Washington Post

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mary Kaldor

The global political economy is producing failed states, networked insurgency and extremist politics. Fighting “old wars” in response, as in Iraq, is a guarantee of failure, says Mary Kaldor.
I don't know who she is, but she makes a lot of sense.
Full article here.

Book meme

This book meme is doing the blogosphere rounds. OK, I've seen it four or five places.

Number of books I own
I've no idea - a couple of hundred. Maybe. Here. Elsewhere, I've bought more -- but in my life travels they were left where they were when I was gone. So it goes. If I buy anything these days, it's usually online. It's easier and more convenient for me, these days. Exception! If I make a trip to England, I always somehow manage to hit a bookstore and come out with some books.

Last book I bought
Two books by Ian Rankin. At Ally's shop for HK$8 a pop. I just finished Resurrection Men. On to the other Rankin.
Except that Mike W lent me his copy of Will in the World, by Stephen Greenblatt. It's a wonderful biography of William Shakespeare. I'd forgotten how regulated was Elizabethan England. Brutal, too, with all its hanging, drawing and quartering. Many insights on Elizabethan England in general and on Stratford, its outlying villages and towns like Kenilworth. And, of course, he has much to say about how Elizabethan England, and the stages of Will's own life, find their ways into the plays. Or, as the case may be: do not. Greenblatt is highly speculative in parts, but since so little is known about Will S speculation is inevitable. Greenblatt is very knowledgeable, readable, and very entertaining. I am rationing myself. I have a feeling this is a book I shall be sad to finish.

Last book I re-read
Beckett's Dying Words, by Christopher Ricks. Beckett makes me laugh. Ricks makes me laugh. Ricks on Beckett makes me laugh even more.

Five books that mean a lot to me
Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. One of my A-level history teachers lent it to me. It explained a world that until then didn't make much sense. Life took a new trajectory.
Collected Poems (1909-62), by T S Eliot. She opened a book, turned a page, and read to me: The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrok. It was like as if she had opened a door for me. I hope she went on to have a happy life. Maybe, she too, later on, discovered Eliot's Four Quartets.
Inside the Whale and Other Essays, by George Orwell. I love essays and these by Orwell are some of the finest in the English language.
Alcoholics Anonymous. I found this book much, much later. It explained a world that no longer made much sense, and how to get out of it.
Love In the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His earlier, more famous novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the few novels I have never managed to finish. Just couldn't get into it, kept losing my place, gave up. Much later on, someone lent me Love In The Time of Cholera.
Maybe it was the right time and the right place: a sleepy beach resort in a semi-forgotten part of southern Cebu, the Philippines. The local culture, history, society, vegetation and climate closely resembled that of the book. Not exactly, but close enough. And Marquez makes the textures, scents and sensuality of everyday walls and doors and plants and fabrics so real. His characters are complex, contradictory, pull themselves this way and that, tumbledown flawed humanity, fully drawn. Such a beautiful story. Desire. About desire.
OK, now what's on your list?

Microsoft ***** China ****** ********

Seattle, Washington, USA: the practical aspects of directing Internet opinion.
Further to my earlier post. There are now reports that Microsoft's new blogger service in China prevents users from employing certain words. Freedom. Democracy. Capitalism. Socialism. Communism. All taboo words.
Anarchy is OK. Revolution, too.
Make of that, what you will.

There's a lot of weather about

Tuesday was grey, coolish (25C) with slow-moving low, dark, heavy clouds. You could feel something was brewing in the air. Around 9pm, all hell broke loose. Strong winds, heavy rains, lightning strikes in the harbour and rumbling rolling thunder further away. Outside my window, I swear to you, lightning bolts along with very loud bangs. SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Nick G in an email says he saw lightning strikes hit Shek Kwu Chau, Sea Ranch [Lantau island]. Awesome.
I powered everything down, unplugged, and enjoyed the show.
Today is, if you are interested, Wednesday. Grey and cool (25C), with rains sometimes hard. Forecast for this evening? Rain heavy at times, with squally thunderstorms. Squally? That's not a word that gets too much use. According to here: probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse skvala, to squeal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Undercover Internet Commentators on the Chinese Internet

Suqian City, Jiangsu: the practical aspects of directing Internet opinion. An English translation of an article published in Nanfang Weekend, May 19, 2005.
Many thanks to EastSouthWestNorth.

Dylan, doing it his way.

By Bill Wyman. Not the Stones' ex-bassist. Another one.
The article was in the reg-required NYT over the weekend. Now it's in the no-reg required IHT
Worthwhile read.

G8 plan to save Africa

George Monbiot takes a look at the 'conditionalities' that come with debt relief: "We will stop punching you in the face if you give us the crown jewels."

Monday, June 13, 2005

US Library of Congress

US Library of Congress has a National Recording Registry of important sound recordings. It is a fascinating list. From Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (circa 1888), through See See Rider Blues by Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey (1923), Harvard Vocarium record series: T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, others, reciting (1930-1940s), Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream (1963), and loads more besides. Dylan clocks in at #126 with one of my all-time favourite Dylan albums: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. It's a great list. See for yourself.

Portuguese Communist Leader Cunhal Dies

In 1975, a good few months after the 1974 Revolution of the Carnations in Portugal, I drank Sandeman sherry -- then under workers' control.
Sherry never ever tasted better.
Alvaro Cunhal.

Gracious solitude

Sometimes I turn the music off. Leave the computer. Go sit by my living-room window and watch the world as it presents itself. Or, I go up on the roof: to breathe in, breathe out; breathe in, breathe out.
If I can remember, or be bothered, I do a short series of tai chi exercises.
I make a point of finding time to sit, listen, and watch. Since there are moments when I now feel comfortable in my own skin, this exercise is pleasant, calming, meditative. Even if it is only for five minutes, I always feel renewed.
There are no cars or trucks to speak of on a little island in the South China Sea. The ambient noise hereabouts is of birds, school kids in the playground. Very occasionally, a helicopter will come in to the helicopter pad to pick someone up and take them to a hospital in Hong Kong.
I am very fortunate to be alive, to live in such a place.
The Guardian has an interesting article about retreats.
Towards the end of the article are four lines from a long and beautiful poem by William Wordsworth:
When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude;
From the wonderful Preludes, Book Fourth.

The Economist's Big Mac Index

How much burger do you get for your euro, yuan or Swiss franc?
Not that I eat them, but The Economist magazine's global Big Mac Index sheds an interesting light on the over/under valution of international currencies.

Beethoven for free

While working, I have been listening to Beethoven's symphony numero uno. And downloading 2, 3, 4, and 5.
For free, gratis.
Courtesy of the BBC's license-fee payers.
The first five symphonies are only up for a few more days. So if you want them, you had better hurry. Each one has a nice introduction at the beginning, before the music starts. Very useful, too. The last four will be available for download towards the end of June.
Click here to download.
Thanks and god bless the Beeb!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

One hand giveth, the other taketh away

Amid all the talk about debt relief for impoverished countries consider this:
British arms sales to Africa have risen to record levels over the last four years and have reached the £1 billion mark.
More details here.

Coal train: a fire supreme

Great photos of what happened when the 57th 'car' of a 100 -'car' train caught fire -- and a portion of the train then came to a halt on a wooden bridge.

Philippines Independence Day

Today, 12 June, is Philippines Independence Day. There are more than 150,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong -- mostly women, mostly domestic workers. Hundreds of thousands more work in Europe, North America, and the Middle East. Many are women. Many are married with children. Husbands and children, all left behind. Money earned is remitted to the Philippines. A few leave the Philippines for adventure, to see the world. Most leave because the country seems to be in perpetual dire straits.
A Spanish colony (1565-1821), a Spanish province (1821-1898), three years as an American colony (1898-1901), 34 years as an American protectorate (1901-1935), then membership of the US Commonwealth until invasion and occupation by the Japanese during world war II.
Nominally independent since 1946. Nominally. A heavy American military presence until the late 1980s, coupled with an on-going neo-colonial presence -- allied with a corrupt and venal political and land-owning class which, along with elements in the Philippines' military, has managed to engineer the country into the economic, financial and political basket-case category.
There is political tension in Manila, again. Tales of corruption swirl around a Filipino president, again.
Perhaps it is time many more of the country's 88 million citizens listened to Jose Maria Sison. And acted accordingly.
Update. Counterpunch review of Sison's At Home In the World.

US and anti-occupation fighters have started talks

End of the beginning? Or beginning of the end?
American diplomats and army commanders have held indirect talks with anti-occupation fighters in Iraq, the first officially sanctioned contact between the two sides in two years of violence.
Al-Jazeera report.

Screening Kingdom of Heaven in Beirut

I haven't seen the Ridley Scott directed sands-and-sandals epic about the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven. But someone else has: Robert Fisk, intrepid journalist and long-term resident in the Middle East. Riveting report of watching the film in a Beirut cinema with a mostly male, 20-something audience.

Smile! Click.

Ten useful tips on buying and taking photos with a digital camera. Well, they will be useful when, or if, I get my hands on/acquire/purchase aforesaid.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Oligopoly Watch

Ones to watch: Oligopoly Watch

uh-oh, fragging?

US opens criminal probe of two army deaths in Iraq.
Thanks, Gavin!

Weather report

Bulletin updated by Hong Kong Observatory at 12:45 HKT 11/Jun/2005
Here is the latest weather bulletin issued by Hong Kong Observatory.
The southwest monsoon is bringing hot weather to southern China.
Weather forecast for this afternoon and tonight: Fine and hot apart from isolated showers. Light to moderate southwesterly winds. Outlook: Hot with showers in the next couple of days.
Current temperature on a little island in the South China Sea: 31.9C
Relative humidity: 64%
Sea surface temperature: 27C
Oh, today is a public holiday: Tuen Ng Festival (Dragon Boat Festival)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Something Rotten in Ohio

Gore Vidal is one of America's finest essayists. Especially on the politics of his own country.
Outside the oil and gas junta that controls two and a half branches of our government (the half soon to be whole is the judiciary), there was a good deal of envy at the late British election among those Americans who are serious about politics. Little money was spent by the three parties and none for TV advertising. Results were achieved swiftly and cheaply. Best of all, the three party leaders were quizzed sharply and intelligently by ordinary citizens known quaintly as subjects, thanks to the ubiquitous phantom crown so unlike our nuclear-taloned predatory eagle.
The rest of his current essay.
Plus link to Representative John Conyers (Democrat, Michigan) and his report on what happened in Ohio (pdf). It is, says Vidal, a 'valuable guide on how to steal an election'.

Joy division

Alain de Botton, (pop) philosopher, writes about the cinema, happiness and other matters.
But the tragedian and film-maker can draw us close to an almost unbearable truth: that every folly or blindness of which a human being has been guilty in the course of history can be traced back to aspects of our own nature; that we bear within ourselves the whole of the human condition, in its worst and best aspects, so that we too might be capable of anything under the right, or rather the very wrong, circumstances. Once audiences have been brought close to this fact, they may willingly dismount from their high horses and feel their powers of sympathy and humility enhanced. They may accept how easily the happiness they are currently enjoying in their own lives could be shattered if certain of their more regrettable character traits were one day to come into contact with a situation that allowed these flaws an unlimited and catastrophic reign - leaving them no less shamed and wretched than the unfortunate characters we meet in Greek tragedy or elsewhere.
Worth a read.

Lot of good music

When I get low I get high: Ella Fitzgerald. Nina Simone doing another Harrison song. So-so The Wailers. Dylan cranking it out in 1966 with Like A Rolling Stone -- "it was as if B-52s were roaring through a cathedral."
Plus, Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield (who they?). Oh, lamer song. Delete.
Mp3s all.
Click and download here.
A band I have never heard of: Spoon.
The sound like they are a good live show.
Song: My Mathematical Mind here.

Gavin's Grab Bag

Bit of a back log this end. More to come.
I am hopeless at this kind of labyrinth stuff.
How about face analyzer?
Thanks, Gavin!
From me: Friday Fun.

'Safe' drug link to heart attacks

This is not welcome news. Mentioned in the report is one of the prescribed drugs I take -- diclofenac. Which seems to work well and leaves me with few unpleasant side effects. I have got it down to three tablets a week. The fewer tablets, the better.
Ibuprofen? It never seemed to work for me and I also experienced a series of unpleasant side effects: including day-long nausea, lassitude and weariness, and bouts of dizziness. I lived like that for weeks, and was not the best of company.
Celebrex? I was prescribed that about a year after it came out -- that didn't seem to work either -- so I stopped that several years ago.
Then, I saw some pain management specialists at Queen Mary Hospital. Who knew they were there? I didn't. I was in for something else and I guess the nurses saw I was in so much pain.
The pain people talked to me and asked me all kinds of questions. Pain can be surprisingly difficult to describe with any sort of accuracy. But they had some kind of checklist and kept asking me: on a scale of one to ten...
After which they first prescribed a codeine formula -- it didn't work -- so they then prescribed diclofenac. Which did work, and does.
I have known all along that these drugs have risks attached. But I also know what life is like without them: crippling pain. So, I guess I will keep taking the tablets.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

'Smart' ID card

This afternoon, I had to go into town to start the process of upgrading to a new 'smart' ID card. I am not sure what the 'smart' is all about. I think you'll be able to load it up with money; or something. I am sure it means more digital traces, more digital tracking.
Anyway, are the Immigration Department super efficient? Too right. Gosh, I was in and out in a jiffy.
No more ink pads for thumbprints -- instead they have this little box with a little glass window upon which you must press. No more sitting on a stool and having someone shout at you to look at the camera. Oh, no. Now, they have a mirror so you can make those all-important, last-minute, pre-portrait adjustments. Then they take TWO photos and ASK you which you prefer. If you don't like either, they'll take another one. Or MORE. Until all parties are satisfied.
Card will be ready in ten days or so.
Gone are the days when if you looked like your passport photo, you were probably too ill to travel.

Dwight Eisenhower writes to his brother, Edgar

President Dwight Eisenhower writes to his brother, Edgar Newton Eisenhower, on 8 November 1954:
Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this--in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon "moderation" in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
From the Presidential papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, Volume XV - The Presidency: The Middle Way Part VI: Crises Abroad, Party Problems at Home; September 1954 to December 1954

Nancy Kissel murder trial

Hong Kong Standard.
UK Guardian.

Customer service message

Ashley Gibbins decided to wreak revenge on UK broadband provider NTL by altering their recorded customer service message. What did he say? What happened to him? Here.


Don't you just love that title? NarcoNews from the NarcoSphere: reporting on the Drug War and Democracy in Latin America. Some good stuff on Bolivia:
Leaders of remote neighborhoods of the city of El Alto have complained that representatives of the government agency Democratic Initiatives, who work with resources from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), offered much needed equipment for their neighborhood committees’ social centers, on the condition that their committee presidents lift the general civic strike now in its 15th day.


Compañeros! Este blog es de Bolivia:
1. Nothing Big Happens Politically In Bolivia Without The US All Over It

Who did Carlos Mesa meet with yesterday just before tendering his resignation? The US Ambassador. Do you think he paid a similar visit to the Spaniards or the Nicaraguans? After the 2002 elections who called in the various candidates one at a time to pressure them to line up behind Sánchez de Lozada? The US Embassy. It would be utterly out of character for the US Embassy NOT to have its fingers all over the question of who succeeds Mesa and apparently it is acting in true form.

2. The US Embassy is Really Good and Being Stupid

Remember back to the elections in 2002. The US Ambassador at the time took square aim at Evo Morales as the US’s chief Bolivian political enemy. To implement that view the US Ambassador publicly threatened Bolivians with a cutoff of aid if they voted for Morales, an announcement that single-handedly skyrocketed his support in the polls and put him within two points of finishing first. One would suppose that the US interest in Bolivia right now is promoting stability. By promoting Vaca Diez behind the scenes the US is really shoving Bolivia off the cliff.

What to watch for in the coming days:

A move to convene the Congress in Sucre, away from the La Paz protests, to accept Mesa’s resignation and make Vaca Diez his successor.
A response from other political leaders outside the Congress warning that Vaca Diez is a recipe for Bolivian disaster.
A counter-proposal from the social movements and others for: a caretaker government led by the Supreme Court President; new elections in August for President and Vice-President; and a national vote at the same time on regional autonomy, nationalization of gas, and election of members to a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the constitution.
The US is playing with fire these days in Bolivia and it never plays with fire here well. In October 2003, when everyone including his own Vice President had broken with Sánchez de Lozada over his violent repression against protesters, the US propped him up for another week and another few dozen needless deaths.
Here’s a suggestion to my friends covering Bolivia for the foreign press. Start calling the Embassy and ask what role they are playing behind the scenes in the question of Mesa’s successor. I am not saying you’ll get a straight answer out of them, but you’ll be onto an interesting and vitally important story.
Jim Shultz, Bolivia blogperson, was quoted in this NYT (reg required) report on 8 June 2005.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Iran Tracker

Iran Tracker does what it says, tracks the amount of media coverage that Iran is getting. It's a new service from a Toronto-based Iranian blogger.
His English-language blog is here.
His Persian-language blog is here.

Nancy Kissel murder trial

Trial opened Tuesday, 7 June.
Report here.
English translation of local Chinese newpaper report of November 2003; snuff porno: not for the squeamish.
Update. Hong Kong Standard: cheating wife beat banker to death, jury told.

Philip Bowring on the Hong Kong 'election'

Hong Kong wends it weary way through a nonelection.
Bowring in the IHT.


(1) Their frontwoman is a Russian avant-garde dancer. (2) They have a theremin. (3) The theremin is not used for whooshy space sounds but actually played by a cigarette-smoking waif virtuoso who makes it sound like an entire string section. (4) They cover Kurt Weill, (5) and Schnittke. (6) They lug around a monstrous marimba, and (7) a band member coaxes scratches and squiggles out of a Palm Pilot via a proprietary piece of software.
Barbez? From Brooklyn, NYC.
Barbès? Paris, France. La plupart des habitants sont Algérien,
Marocain, Malien, Sénégalese.
Métro? Barbès-Rochechouart. Plan de
Métro: ici.
Barbez mp3 here
(scroll down)

Thwarted by a surge in democracy

This one nearly slipped by. Every French voter received a copy of the proposed constitution. Many of them actually tried to read it. Serge Halimi writing in The Guardian about the French non.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

One Day in Iraq: Daily lives

I wrote what I wrote in the previous post and then listened to the BBC Worldservice. After which, it was over to the BBC News website for One Day in Iraq -- 7 June, 2005. People from all walks of life, all over the country.
Read here.
What a miserable world.

Just For Today

The phone man came this morning -- replaced the thingy-me-bob that the phone line and broadband line plug into, the aforesaid thingy-me-bob which then plugs into the wall socket. If you get my drift. Anyway, telecom-wise, everything is now ship-shape and Bristol fashion. I just need to keep paying the bills.
This afternoon, I went to Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam, for a check up. I go now about once every seven months. Always see the doctor who phoned me up after he saw the result of the scan, Dr K. In fact, it's not just him but also the same nurses, hospital attendants, cleaners, clerical staff, give or take a couple of people. It is re-assuring having that level of continuity. Amazing, a public hospital.
I sit in the waiting area with all the other people. Me wondering what is going through their minds. However many people there are, in this waiting area it is always quiet. This is a place full of people immersed in their own thoughts.
Now here I am at home, remembering what was going through my head the first time I went there: stay calm, listen, write down what he tells you, repeating a mantra that had formed in my mind: all will be well, this too shall pass, how can I best serve Thee.
I am not a Christian, but I realized I needed to try and focus outwards, whatever happened. It's like teeth. Toothache: you are drawn inwards, the outside world collapses. No toothache? You forget you have teeth, the world can be your oyster. I know that with sickness and pain, it is all too easy to get grumpy, irritated, have a short fuse. I have done plenty of that. But that day in the waiting area, I knew I needed to limit that as far as possible. I needed to look out, I needed to try and be helpful to other people. If I was going to have any chance at all.
As it happened, the treatment was very aggressive. Three months of it finally made me very ill -- it took me five months to recover physically. And in recovering, I sank into a suicidal depression. Which was insane after all that I had been through... crazy.
Anyway, that has all passed. The treatment worked. I am very fortunate. And very grateful. I had no way of knowing, but with time has come many gifts. Not material. Other kinds. I discovered that many people are kind and loving. I witnessed heartbreak and grief. I witnessed quiet courage in the face of impending death.
What is it the Jesuits say? Whatever you do, do it seriously; nothing you do is serious in the long term.
Something like that.
Dr K smiles when I walk in his office and I smile back. His hair is greyer. Mine grew back the same colour. I guess I am one of his successes. Not everyone who walks through his door has much longer to live. Dr K asks me how I am and I tell him I am OK. And he says I look really well. And I respond that yes, I am. Then he gives me a physical examination, prodding with his fingers here and there. No more scans, no more urine samples, no more blood samples, no more catheters. Your basic doctoring. With a 'see you in seven months, thank you, thank you, Doctor K', I am out the door. Bus back to the ferry terminal. On board the ferry, I sit on one of those things they wrap the rope around, on the bottom deck, at the stern. Watching the harbour diminish, the wake of the ferry, the massive ocean-going ships stacked to the heavens with containers, the hills and the clouds. And say to the wind: thank you, thank you.


Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a Utilitarian philosopher, proposed a model prison he called The Panopticon ('all-seeing'). A round-the-clock surveillance machine, its design ensured that no prisoner could ever see the 'inspector' who conducted surveillance. The prisoner could never know when he was being surveilled -- mental uncertainty that in itself would prove to be a crucial instrument of discipline.
With electronic tagging of workers in the UK, we move one step closer. Report here.

Bob Dylan's guitars

Fascinating survey compiled by Eyolf Østrem here.

I wish I could remember where I found this...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Brian Eno: Another Day On Earth

There is a Brian Eno mp3 here (scroll down on that webpage and click on Brian Eno 'This"). See what you think, I like it muchly. Yes, it has been a long time since he sang.
Further investigation (amazon) reveals that the new album is out on 13/14 June, depending where on the planet you are. Eno rules OK.
Also worth investigating at the website is the mp3 by French ambient M83.
Update. Eno interview in The Guardian. Given the imminent release of album, I expect there'll be a flurry of such interviews.

Digital Doris

I felt wretched most of the weekend -- a summer cold that continues to wear me out. I am forcing myself to eat, and pushing fruit into me. But I feel drained. And Sunday, I realized that 6 June (a deadline) falls not on Tuesday, but Monday. So it was work on Sunday. Despite feeling like a proverbial crock.
Anyway, I got it done. And I'm glad about that. I hate going over a deadline. Not that it happens much. The trick is never to send in too early or late. By return there was an email that said 'thanks!'. So that was nice.
What else? Today has been telecom day. I discovered my landline phone was dead this afternoon. It's weird, broadband is on the same line and that has continued to work just fine. I have no idea how long the home phone has been like that. Anyway, the phone man is coming tomorrow morning. I hope it is the line and not my home phone/fax. The line, he'll fix; if it is the phone/fax that will be down to me. An expense I can do without. Nothing to be done. The morning will bring an answer.
Let me count the ways, today has been telecom day. I tried ringing the government number to set up an appointment to get the new 'Smart ID card'. Voice Mail Hell. But instead of just punching in numbers, you have to interact and speak to an electronic Digital Doris. Who asks you to say your year of birth and then after you have said it, Digital Doris repeats it to confirm. The bloody thing has cloth ears. Or maybe it is my cold. Still there is a huge difference between the sound of 'eight' and 'nine'. I don't think my cold can account for Digital Doris's confusion.
Maybe there was too much background noise? I tried all this from my mobile while having coffee in a dai pai dong. [link is to a cool HK University webpage by some students who did research on said institution]
Go to Plan B. Thence, I came home to phone, which is how I discovered my home phone was dead.
Go to another Plan B. Surf over to the HK ID website -- which wouldn't work for me because it demands you use a Microsoft browser and have a printer. Printer is down, so I didn't bother to switch browser.
Go to another Plan B. Find another government number, punch the mobile, listen, punch a number, listen, punch a number... and finally, yes, through to a human. I go next Thursday afternoon to trade in my old ID for a 'Smart' one. Oh, somewhere in all that I stopped at Ally's shop for a pot of green tea and a chat... so that was nice too. Wherever you are, have a day. Ciao!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

June 4, 1989

Photo: Jeff Widener (Associated Press)

Friday, June 03, 2005

Mother Of All Thunderstorms

Around 10pm, all hell broke loose: The Mother of All Thunderstorms. Well, OK, the first major one this year. Strong winds and lashing rains: 30mm of rain in one hour. There were lightning strikes on fishing boats in the harbour, the southwestern end of the island, and outside my window. Coupled with very loud CRACKS of thunder over my head. The street lights went down, momentarily, a couple of times. A couple of times I had to step back from the window. (These days I get my thrills where I can). Fortunately, I had just shut down the computer. So I unplugged that, and the modem too. Mother Nature.

Nicholas Roeg

Reflected glory: I once had dinner with Nick Roeg, Angelica Houston, and Harry Dean Stanton. Among others. At a restaurant called Le Dôme. On Sunset Boulevard. They were very nice people and the lamb chops were very good. Interview with the man. He doesn't mention that dinner, however.

About last night

On Thursday evening, I pushed myself out of the flat to go to the Big Island for a "leaving do". I am glad I went. A whole bunch of us turned up -- people who really like each other yet only rarely see one another these days. OK... OK... stick with known facts: I rarely see them. Other fact: a lot of my social outings seem to be focused, more often than not, on departure of one sort or another. So it goes. Gentle reader: move on, move on; nothing to see here.
Anyway, the "do" was held at The Helena May. The first time I went there was way long ago. I was invited to afternoon tea by a member; in era when it was still a seriously women-only place and for a man to step across the threshold felt like an eerily transgressive act. Standards were standards: what was on view for the errant male was only the ground-floor dining area; a huge room with a 40 foot? ceiling and long, lazy ceiling fans. There was English tea with (tinned) salmon + cucumber sandwiches. The soft clinking of bone China, starched tableclothes and waitresses to match, the atmosphere, the ambiance of the room, were all so unexpected; it was as if one had sauntered into a bygone colonial era. Perhaps this was where the women did come and go, talking (softly) of Michelangelo. The place seemed to be frozen in time; delightful, charming... and all right if you were all white. Thankfully, in the ensuing years, much has changed. The local nouveaux riches, the post-colonial era, and anti-sexual discrimination legislation all playing their parts. The food has improved mightily -- I can recommend the Louisiana smoked salmon with trimmings. And, wonder of wonders in Hong Kong, the building was declared an historical monument some years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, I present The Helena May.
All that said, let me finish with this:
To Linda S, who is off to join her partner in Kuranda, Queensland, Oz, may all go well at the Village Herb Farm.
To Sue K (and others) who organised and made the evening possible: Thanks, One and All!

A Tale of Tiananmen Intrigue

Robert Marquand:
(BEIJING) When Ching Cheong left his wife, Mary Lau, in Hong Kong to cross the Chinese border 45 minutes away, he thought he was scoring a major publishing coup in Asia. Instead, he wound up in Chinese custody charged with espionage.
According to Ms. Lau, her husband, a prominent Hong Kong journalist and ardent Chinese nationalist, was to bring home an unpublished manuscript titled "Conversations with Zhao Ziyang Under House Arrest." The work, by retired official Zong Fengmin, is about as hot as it gets in the world of Chinese politics.
Continue? Here.
Thanks, Fred A!

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. But not this Friday. I woke up Monday with a horrid chest infection. I'll spare you a detailed report of the symptoms. Just say, that I was proper worn out and had a mind to cope with only the most mechanical of tasks. I have work to catch up on.

Beethoven on the BBC

Between 5-9 June, BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting every work composed by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Norman Lebrecht overview here.
BBC Radio 3 Beethoven webpage has lots of info as well as access to subsidiary webpages, where there is already loads to listen to. Plus, info about downloading all the symphonies. For free!
I came late to Beethoven, through his own 'late' string quartets and the violin concertos. Never really cared for the symphonies, but may be it is time to re-assess. Thank you, BBC!

Turtle's "78 rpm" jukebox

Way cool: Oh By Jingo! Oh By Gee!

We'll be right back after this message...

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left no other nexus between people than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom -- Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation into a mere money relation.

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigor in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man's activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former exoduses of nations and crusades.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1848

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries

Books they say you shouldn't read.
What! No Harry Potter?
To follow: Ten Most Harmful Musical Compositions of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Ten Most Harmful Paintings of the 19th and 20th Centuries...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

beer? coffee? tea? water?

Six beverages + water = the flow of history.
Beer, it appears, was controversial from the start.

Share a Secret

Homemade postcards.