Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Live from Louisiana, post-Katrina video coverage on WWL-TV.
They are broadcasting, when they are broadcasting.
Heartbreak viewing.

Jack Kerouac's amphetamine-cranked trip, it ain't...

But cycling back and forth along the Sai Wan waterfront road sure works wonders on body and soul: physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Kerouac's On the Road? First time I read it I was doing a lot of drugs. Re-reading it a couple of years ago, drug-free, I was agreeably surprised at how well the book had withstood the test of time. Worth a look.

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

With the prosecution and defense finished presenting their cases and summations, Justice Michael Lunn began his directions to the jury Tuesday in the trial of Nancy Kissel, who stands accused of murdering her husband, top Merrill Lynch banker Robert Kissel.
Report here,

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bob Dylan: contrarian of a generation

No Direction Home, review of DVD and two-cd by John Pareles:
Has there ever been a rock star as contrary as Bob Dylan? When taken for a folk singer, interpreting traditional songs, he started to write his own. When taken for a topical songwriter who would dutifully put his music behind party-line messages, and praised as the spokesman for a generation, he became an ambiguous, visionary poet instead. And when taken for an acoustic-guitar troubadour who was supposed to cling to old, virtuous rural sounds, he plugged in his guitar, hired a band and sneered oracular electric blues.
Full text (NYT, reg required).


Fütbol, late afternoon, Tung Wan Bay

I resign!

Linda Spencer in the Guardian:
The website is truly an inspiration. Everything you need to know (and everything you don't) about quitting your job with flair is here. Need a resignation letter? Templates ranging from the dignified to the hilariously insulting are ready for use. Or how about an online calculator to work out your holiday pay? With these tools there's no way you can get shafted with your final pay cheque.

Price hikes in the 'pipeline'...

Three years of deflation have ended. Prices of basic necessities began to increase in the last quarter of last year: a (Hong Kong) dollar here, a (Hong Kong) dollar there.
Since almost all Hong Kong's basic necessities in food and other consumer items have to be imported -- vegetables, fresh pork, fresh chicken, live freshwater fish from China; everything else from around the globe -- these price increases were in part a reflection of the shift down in the Hong Kong dollar against most other currencies. With a less favourable exchange rate, the same items cost more.
Added to which, various recent food scares about the safety of pork and fish from China have also resulted either in lower or the complete cessation of the importation of such items. Consumers, if they have a mind to eat such foodstuffs, have been obliged to buy more expensive products imported from areas other than China.
Then there is the price of oil... Currently US$70 a barrel. Received wisdom is that speculators have pushed the price to US$20 more than it need be. Be that as it may, the traded price is the traded price. Airlines hereabouts have twice increased the fuel surcharge for passenger flights this year. Likely the airlines, like the container ship owners, have increased their freight charges applying to their customers: shippers, traders, merchants, retailers.
For local consumers, more price hikes are in the 'pipeline': from First Ferry (+ 9.6%?) and others. Details here.
Since wage increases always lag behind price hikes, for the forseeable future for wage earners what's in store is less spending power and the reduced ability to save.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Iraq: the unseen war

Some more gruesome than others: 12 pix.

Meteorological station on a little island in the South China Sea

Ha! The local weather station's signal mast broke during Typhoon Ellen (1983). But on sunnier, balmier, slower days:
In spite of the long shift hours, colleagues off duty could go swimming at Tung Wan Beach on the island's east coast. Some preferred to go to the cinema or take strolls around the island. There used to be some twenty cooked-food stalls near the ferry pier and many colleagues enjoyed the seafood and other delicious snacks at these stalls. A retired colleague who had worked at Cheung Chau for a long time planted many kinds of fruit trees, such as orange, shaddock, loquat, sapodilla, papaya, banana, etc. in the station garden. His efforts were highly appreciated, and many colleagues could recount how good the fruits tasted.
History of a little island in the South China Sea's aeronautical, meteorological and signal station? More here.

Hurricane Katrina

City of New Orleans evacuated...and there is every reason to believe the city will be totally trashed (see links below). Live local coverage on WWL-TV, weather permitting.
Hurricane Katrina is a big one: 160mph sustained winds, gusts higher; rain; floods...
Non-Precipitation Watch/Warning/Advisory, one of the scariest warnings ever.
Hurricane KATRINA Public Advisory
US National Hurricane Center
It all looks very bad. I was in Hong Kong in 1983 for Typhoon Ellen. It was not a picnic, believe me. A major typhoon (Typhoon Signal No. 10, highest warning) and direct hit, Typhoon Ellen was one of the scariest, most frightening times I have ever experienced. And there have been a few... ever looked down the wrong end of handgun? Had a stranger pull a knife on you? Neither events, I hasten to add, took place in Hong Kong. But I digress.
I was living on the 16th floor of a 24-floor highrise, in a residential complex on the west coast of Hong Kong island. Our block was mostly sideways on to the winds and rains. The building... swayed. Yes, swayed. The noise? It was like an express train roaring past. Bushes flew past our taped-up windows, the glass panes bending in and out. The rain went past sideways. My partner and I soon moved from our bedroom to the living room, where we hid under the duvet. The whole thing happened at night, lasted for hours, and no one got any sleep. Fortunately, the electricity stayed up. The next day, we ventured out to see the damage in the neighbourhood, which was a lot...
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Never need to go through a Big One again, thank you very much.
So, I wish all those in Katrina's path the best of luck.
Typhoon: Chinese for big wind.
Hurricane: Spanish from hura¡kan, the Taino word.

Beneath the banyan tree

Ad hoc bike parking zone on a little island in the South China Sea.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Half Man Half Biscuit

Birkenhead's supergroup Half Man Half Biscuit has its own website. So I have now discovered. Mp3s to download as well as comprehensive biography, discography, news, et cetera.
Some of the recordings are taken from the BBC radio shows of John Peel or Andy Kershaw. Always a pleasure to hear the witty and entertaining HMHB -- Joy Division Oven Gloves; When the Evening Sun Goes Down; Paintball's Coming Home; I'm Throwing Rice (At the Girl I Love). The pleasure doubled with Peel or Kershaw attached.

Luc Ferrari

Mp3s currently at moistworks may be of interest to some. There is, for instance, some mighty fine dub (go to moistworks and scroll down).
More recently, moistworks has put up several tracks by Luc Ferrari. Luc who? First I'd heard of him was a few days ago when his obituary started popping up. Ferrari was, I learned, a composer who used tape recording of ambient environmental sounds in "an organized and poetic, though non-plot oriented manner." That's from the Wiki entry.
Can recommend at Moistworks the excerpt from Presque Rien No. 1 "Le lever du jour au bord de la mer" (1970); the excerpt from Presque Rien No. 2 "Ainsi continue la nuit dans ma tete multiple" (1972); Danses Organique Part IV (1973).
Moistworks, one to bookmark.

Curry: A Biography

The Guardian has a so-so review. Maybe the book by Lizzie Collingham is better. The Wikipedia entry is more than adequate.
The term 'curry' was a product of the British Raj and the word has since become synonymous worldwide for food from the Indian sub-continent. But credit where credit is due: praise be to those 16th century Spanish explorers, adventurers, merchants and missionaries who brought those fiery red chilis from Central America to the Indian sub-continent, China and southeast Asia. Without those chilis, not only Indian but also Thai, Vietnamese, Malay and Sichuan food would taste totally different...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Alcoholic blackouts

Blackouts? My mum and her friends lived through those: nights of living in a city with no light. No street lamps, cars with muffled headlights, windows blanketed so that no light may leak. The city all dark and anonymous, a more elusive target for the German Luftwaffe bombers.
But there is another kind of blackout: alcoholic blackout. I'd never heard of that until I met some sober alcoholics.
Hang on, just hold on a second... the term 'sober alcoholics', isn't that an oxymoron? Perhaps it is, but that is what they call themselves. If the term helps to keep them sober, more power to them, eh?
Anyway, there's a useful article about alcoholic blackouts published in the weekend edition of the [Hong Kong] Standard: blank tapes.

Triad outrage

Anyone who has moved from elsewhere to Hong Kong soon realises this place is different. Sure there is crime: family members murder each other, people rob and steal, but the streets... the streets of Hong Kong are generally safe.
The triad gangs? There are several, the biggest being the Sun Yee On (新義安). At the sharp end of capitalism, criminal enterprises such as Sun Yee On generally only resort to violence if it concerns finance, loyalty, discipline, internal or external affairs. Eight or ten toughs beat someone unconscious; a hitman imported from the mainland puts a bullet in the head of a current or ex- business partner; two or three street fighters chop the arms and legs of someone who has tried to wriggle out of paying any of their debt to the loanshark.
So, the triad-style attack on Thursday evening against a seven-year-old boy -- chopping the little lad's arms so that the muscle in his arms has been all but severed -- has provoked public outrage.
Methinks the Old Bill will be pressuring people in the grey economy and making their lives uncomfortable until they deliver up the malefactors.
Story here.
More on the triads in Wikipedia.

Bob Dylan: No Direction Home

Three reviews of Dylan's Bootleg Series Vol 7: No Direction Home

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

Courtroom case now coming to a close.
Final summation by the prosecution.
Reuters report.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Eye | Land | West

A room with a view looking west -- on a little island in the South China Sea.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What's left to love for?

Music melancholia: A Distant View by AGF/Delay.
Trip-hop video (Quicktime).
Laurie Anderson meets Theodor Adorno.
Very nice it is, too.

Blogs in China

Sixty per cent of Chinese bloggers are female. The males? Busy playing games. For more on China blogs, freedom of expression, its extent and limits, and the bloggers who have a propensity for personal expression, this report in Business Week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

China: tremors but it ain't no earthquake

I thought it was just more reports -- there's nothing new in Chinese peasants, the unemployed and elements of the lumpen proletariat going on the rampage these past 15 years -- but there are increasing numbers of so-called 'mass incidents'. Just a month ago, Zhou Yongkang, China's public security minister, told Reuters there were 74,000 'mass incidents', or demonstrations and riots, in 2004 -- an increase from 58,000 the year before, and only 10,000 a decade ago.
There is a growing uneasiness in the air in China, after months of increasingly bold protests rolling across the countryside.
For reasons that range from rampant industrial pollution that recalls the shock of Minamata disease in Japan in the early 1960s to widespread evictions and land seizures by corrupt local governments working with increasingly powerful property developers, ordinary Chinese seem to be saying they are fed up and will not take it anymore.
Each week brings news of at least one or two incidents, with thousands of villagers in a pitched battle with the police, or bloody crackdowns in which hundreds of protesters are tear-gassed and clubbed during roundups by the police. And by the government's own official tally, hundreds of these events each week escape wider public attention altogether.
Want to find out more? Click here, comrade.

terrorists = pirates

Interesting article in the latest issue of Legal Affairs:
Until 1856, international law recognized only two legal entities: people and states. People were subject to the laws of their own governments; states were subject to the laws made amongst themselves. The Declaration of Paris created a third entity: people who lacked both the individual rights and protections of law for citizens and the legitimacy and sovereignty of states. This understanding of pirates as a legally distinct category of international criminals persists to the present day, and was echoed in the 1958 and 1982 U.N. Conventions on the Law of the Sea. The latter defines the crime of piracy as "any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends." This definition of piracy as private war for private ends may hold the crux of a new legal definition of international terrorists.
Full text here. We will live leave the case of how to address and punish state and state-sponsored terrorism to another day.

Eye | Land | Peer

The new public pier on a little island in the South China Sea (if you so desire, click on image to enlarge).

Steve Jobs: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, spoke to graduates at Stanford University on 12 June, 2005. What he talked about -- life, love, death, Stewart Brand's The Whole Earth Catalog (remember that?) -- is way too long to quote here. So, may I make a suggestion? Create some time for yourself, sit back, relax, click here and read.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Freedom lovin' bread and circuses

You Can't Make This Stuff Up Department: according to a US Defense Department news release issued on Tuesday, 9 August, this coming 11 September will be the first-ever "America Supports You Freedom Walk".
Pentagon-organized, the so-called freedom walk is 'to remember the victims of 9/11, to honor U.S. troops and veterans, and to highlight the value of freedom.'
Plus, freedom lovers, there'll be a concert by country singer Clint Black. Mp3 of Clint Black singing his freedom-lovin' I Raq and Roll.
Oh, wait. One of the media co-sponsors of the 'Freedom Walk', Washington Post, has pulled out.
No? Well, on the other side of the highway is an mp3 of I'm Taking My Country Back by the Honky Tonkers For Truth. Can't help you with that new Rolling Stones tune Sweet Neo Con, though. Have to wait for the cd release on 6 September, unless the tune leaks out before then...
Mind you, the BBC Worldservice has already played a couple of short clips from three of the songs on the new album. I think they said those three are already up at iTunes? As appetizers, they were actually quite tasty.
Old joke: what happens if you play a country & western song backwards? You git yor truck back, yor dog back, yor woman back... Told you it was old.

Steve Earle: On mY Mind

First listen, I thought he was singing: just another poor boy, off to find a rich man's whore. (For thirty years I thought Jimi Hendrix was singing "'excuse me, while I kiss this guy". Made sense to me, and a lot of other people too.)
Steve Earle: On My Mind. Great song, great sound. Video here (streaming). Thanks, Gavin!

Why can't you buy heroin at Boots? Or Watson's?

I've long thought that all so-called 'hard' drugs should be decriminalised. As it stands, the business is run by the most aggressive and often brutal specimens of humanity that capitalism can throw up. Whole countries are corrupted and wrecked by narco-, warlord- and gangsta business practices and power politics, and turned into war zones. Colombia, anyone? Afghanistan? Innercity zones in Western developed countries? Politicians, bureaucrats, customs, and police officers are bribed and corrupted along the trafficking routes. Consumers are, ipso facto, criminals. Prisons around the world are filled to overflowing with people who could otherwise be doing something else -- even something useful. If 'hard drugs' were legalised wouldn't that mean that everyone would become a drug addict? No, of course not. Alcohol is, outside of Muslim countries, freely available and not everyone turns into a raging alcoholic.
If you are interested, there is a longer and better argued piece in today's Guardian.

Pat Robertson declares fatwa against Chavez

Well, that's mighty Christian of him... Pat Robertson, host of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club and founder of the Christian Coalition of America, has called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. From 22 August broadcast of The 700 Club:
ROBERTSON: There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.
You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.
Video (not direct link, Quicktime). Methinks Roberton should discuss with his doctor the dosage of his medication.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Vultures, diclofenac, the Parsis of India

Yesterday's South China Morning Post Sunday edition (paid, no link) had as lead in to a story: the current plight and dissension within the Parsi community in India. Adherents to the ancient Zoroastrian faith, the Parsi's generally dispose of their dead at Towers of Silence. It is there they leave a corpse, which is henceforth promptly devoured by vultures. Thusly, one of Zoroastrianism's fundamental beliefs -- that their dead must not pollute the land, air or water -- is practiced. Or was, until very recently.
Vultures are one of the Indian sub-continent's pre-eminent sanitary engineers -- eating up not just the Parsi's dead, but everyone else's: dead cows, goats, dogs, what-have-yous. But in the late 1990s, first peasant farmers and the Parsis, then a scientist, noticed there were fewer and fewer vultures, and that vultures were dropping down dead all over the place. In fact, numbers had plummeted by 99 percent. In less than a decade. Which is why other scientists worldwide quickly joined the quest to figure out what had happened and why. In the interim, the once ubiquitous vulture was promptly put on the critically endangered list.
Meantime, the Parsi's were trying to figure out what to do given the increasing paucity of vultures. Magnify solar rays to dessicate the bodies? Create a netted aviary over the Tower of Silence? The discussion went this way and that. It is still not settled.
Scientists finally identified the culprit as Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) taken to reduce inflammation, such as in arthritis. Turns out the farmers were giving it to their cattle. If a cow keeled over, the opportunistic vultures ate it... and absorbed the diclofenac. With devastating result. It's a fascinating story, more here.
In March 2005, the Indian government ordered diclofenac banned, an order that will take effect by the end of this year. Hopefully, the vultures will recover in number. It is not a given, however. Once a predator's presence diminishes other predators move into the ecological niche. Newly occupied, that niche may no longer be available to vultures in significant number.
Disclosure: I regularly take diclofenac. The only vultures round here wear suits and, as far as I know, while they may try to extract their pound of flesh, it is more often from the living than the dead. Still, to safeguard the future of the (avian) vultures, I guess my diclofenac ingestions disqualify me from ending up at one of those Towers of Silence. Oh, well... there are other ways: ashes to ashes, dust to dust, et cetera. Meanwhile: live well, be thankful, be helpful.

Weather report

Well, that's the weekend over: 320 millimeters of continuous downpour from Saturday to 10pm on Sunday. Reports of 116 landslides --31 on Hong Kong island, 19 in Kowloon and 66 in New Territories. Major road closures on Lantau including both roads to Po Lin Monastery (寶蓮寺), which resulted in the place being briefly cut off from the rest of the world. Some might say this is a Good Thing. Perhaps it gave the commercially avaricious Buddhist monks at Po Lin (Precious Lotus) the opportunity to meditate.
On this, for instance: during the Monday to Friday work-week when we get warning of impending very heavy rains, typhoons and such like, there's a well-ordered, slow-but-sure shutdown of Hong Kong. Depending on the actual or predicted severity, schools close (if they had already opened), followed by work places and, finally, most forms of public transport. If it is a typhoon, people get paid their salary despite the fact they are not at work. A state of affairs just short of bliss. But if it happens at the weekend, outside regular work hours? No financial recompense and a weekend most probably stuck indoors. So why do such weather events and accompanying shutdowns seem to occur most often around the weekend? Why is that?
Monday? Back to work. Outside? Sunshine. Go figure.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bob Dylan: No Direction Home

BBC website has all manner of interesting stuff on it. Currently, they have a section about Britain's coast, which also includes video clips of people talking about how they feel about their own bit of seashore. I haven't looked at them all, but there is a nice one by a man who sells fish sandwiches on Brighton beach, a saddish story about a Punch & Judy man, and one about the old, long-ago abandoned River Severn ferry. Much to my surprise, the last-mentioned had Dylan content, and now explains the cover of the next Dylan release, No Direction Home.
BBC Video Nation Coast webpage for River Severn, go here. BBC Video Nation Coast webpage, go here.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Purple Rain

It's been raining since I don't know when. The rain took a break Friday afternoon, then started again. And how! Heavy rain and strong winds. Non-stop. It is still raining. This too shall pass. That, I know. Anyway, the chart above is for the past 24 hours. As you can see: it really is Purple Rain. (Nick G, thanks for the chart!)
I went out in it this lunchtime to meet up with Mr N, have a snack, pick up a newpaper and buy some food and stuff. No queue in the supermarket, not many people about at all.
Came back, made lunch, put Max Richter's The Blue Notebooks on the cd player. Prince? I have. But only on cassette and nothing to play that on anymore. Still, I needed something to shake things up after Notebooks, so... Changing Faces: The Best of 10cc and Godley & Creme (scroll down for track listing).

Some rain songs:
Come Rain or Come Shine -- Ray Charles
Rain -- The Beatles
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
I Wish It Would Rain -- The Temptations
Little Bit of Rain -- Karen Dalton
Listen to the Rhythm (Of the Falling Rain) –- The Cascades
Buckets of Rain -- Bob Dylan
Singin’ In the Rain -- Gene Kelly

Ready, aim... fire!

Out with a bang:
The "gonzo cannon" is all but completed, last-minute organizational details are being worked out and the countdown has begun -- on August 20, the ashes of the late Hunter S. Thompson will be blasted into the air above his home in Woody Creek.
It reportedly will cost an estimated $4 million, according to sources close to the effort. Those costs are being borne by actor Johnny Depp, a fellow Kentuckian and close friend of the late writer who portrayed Thompson in the film version of his seminal book, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."
Further details and photos at the Aspen Times. Thanks to Gavin for the heads up, and this link!

Friday, August 19, 2005

China cracks down on cavorting net floozie

Among links in the right-hand column is Biting the hand that feeds IT. A UK-based source for IT news, it is uniformally informative, witty and irreverent. Like this news item about Shi Hengxia - aka "Sister Furong" (Hibiscus) -- "a cavorting net floozie who has become national celebrity due to her suggestive online posturing." Full story here. Their download section (Windows and Macs) is also worth checking out.

Hong Kong: Carp, carpe, koi, 鯉

I was thinking about Hong Kong's chief executive, Bow-Tie Tsang (煲呔曾), the other day. Well, not so much about him nor his bow ties, but about his request for a fish pond to be created in the grounds of Government House. More especially, about the fish Sir Donald Tsang KBE, Hong Kong Ltd's CEO, wants to put in his pond: carp.
A fine fish.
According to my copy of Wolfram Eberhard's A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols:
the Chinese words for 'carp' and 'advantage' are phonetically identical: so the carp symbolises a wish for benefit or advantage in business. It is also said that on its journey upstream the carp can jump the rapids in the upper course of the Yellow River (at the Dragon Gate). This feat is compared to success in the state examinations, and is frequently shown in pictures: the carp, surrounded by smaller fish (those who don't pass!), is in the act of making its powerful leap. As this is no easy feat and requires long preparation, the carp is also a symbol of patience and steadfastness.
Bow-tie Tsang, who admits to a passion for carp caring and keeping, will already know carp (Cyprinus carpio) are gregarious creatures: there need to be at least five for them to thrive. Less than five, they get depressed and die. Fish, in case you didn't know, have feelings too.
More about carp? Carp (koi).
Our CEO, however, may not know about the person who had a carp tattoo done, completely covering his entire back. Sadly, Keith Alexander died on 11 July 2005, the result of a road traffic accident while riding his bike. Still, the website and photos of the making of the carp tattoo remain. He documented the whole process and it's online.

Hong Kong: McDonald's McWages

Reports today in English-language and Chinese local newspapers about low wages and poverty in Hong Kong. No surprise, among the companies surveyed: McDonald's pays the lowest wages in Hong Kong - HK$15 an hour. McDonald's and a company called Lo's Cleaning Services, which has numerous cleaning contracts in private housing estates, public transport and government departments. According to the South China Morning Post (paid, no link):
An hour's pay for a junior McDonald's staff member is not enough to buy the fast-food chain's cheapest combo meal. McDonald's pays its staff $15 an hour - the lowest rate found in a union survey of 80 companies - compared with $20.30 for a Sausage McMuffin with fries and soda.
McDonald's Hong Kong website is entertaining. Found on their People Philosophy webpage:
People Promise: "We Value You, Your Growth and Your Contributions"
Yeah, right.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lightning: Hong Kong, Foshan, Macao

Another cool app from Hong Kong Observatory: the lightning detector. Some may scoff, but I think it's cool: cloud-to-ground and cloud-to-cloud lightning strikes. The above shows cloud-to-ground lightning strikes between 9:10-9:39pm on 13 August 2005. More details here.
A little island in the South China Sea is to the southwest of Hong Kong island, as you can see we were treated to a real good show that evening. I saw lightning hit several boats in the harbour, the mast of the weather station at the southern end, and sundry other spots on a little island in the South China Sea. Plus, there was loads of cloud-to-cloud lightning.
Overall, throughout Hong Kong between 9-10pm on that day there were nearly 2,100 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. More details here.
The lightning detectors are at Chung Hom Kok, Sha Tau Kok and Tsim Bei Tsui (Hong Kong), Sanshui (Foshan, Guangdong province) and Taipa in Macao. I am not sure how the lightning detectors work, or whether they are a Good Thing, but the Pearl River Delta region now has them.
Lastly, a question of the moment: do mobile phones attract lightning? Does anyone know? Shouldn't someone get on to this burning question? Anyway, it looks like it might be prudent to turn off the mob during a storm while visiting the Great Wall near Beijing. Why? Read here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Making Waves in Hong Kong

From the What You Can Do segment at the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden website:
At times, the environmental problems we face can seem overwhelming. Walking amongst the steel and glass towers of central Hong Kong, sometimes it feels as though the natural world no longer exists. Yet, outside the heart of the city, some wild spots still remain. If you come to a pool or stream in one of these places, drop a pebble in the water and see what happens. As the stone vanishes, ripples spread outward across the entire pool. If you drop more stones in, the ripples touch. Working to protect the environment is like dropping a pebble into a vast sea. It takes great courage, but we must do it, no matter how small or weak we may feel. We must strive harder than ever to protect what's left of wild Hong Kong and South China, and find new ways to achieve a balance with nature. Together, we can make waves!

Wild Thing in Hong Kong

Commentator, crypto-fascist and wine connoisseur, Kevin Sinclair had an interesting column in the South China Morning Post (paid, no link) a couple of days ago about something I'd never heard of before: the Golden Coin Turtle. Thanks, Kevin!
Sinclair, who lives in the New Territories, had popped in to the nearby Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden. According to the Kadoorie website:
Southeast Asia has the richest diversity of chelonians in the world--over 90 species. At least 37 of these are endangered, though it is feared that the count has now doubled in recent decades, due to economic prosperity and open markets. KFBG, like many other organizations, has only recently become aware of the crisis Asian turtles and tortoises face. Our location within Hong Kong gives us a unique perspective and opportunity to aid turtles in their fight for survival. We have already begun a conservation breeding programme which includes the Three-lined Box Turtle Cuora trifasciata also known as the Golden Coin Turtle, and have also successfully bred the Vietnamese Leaf Turtle Annamemys annamensis.
The Golden Coin Turtle (Cuora trifasciata) is, of course, on that endangered list -- not just endangered, but critically endangered, on the brink of extinction (aren't we all?). Still, where there's life, so they say, there is hope. Trawling around the web, I came across the Department of Ecology & Biodiversity, University of Hong Kong's online newsletter, Porcupine! I have lived here a considerable time, but this place continues to amaze me. There are sightings (and some photos) of all sorts of Wild Things that live in Hong Kong: wild boar, mongoose, barking deer, masked palm civet, porcupine and a lot else besides. See for yourself, here. Amazing, just amazing. (Oh, I saw a rather large apple green lizard while I was cycling to Sai Wan, yesterday. Apple green, lizard, eight or nine inches long. That's all I know, all I can tell you.)

Hong Hong photos on flckr

Things To Do While At Work Department: take a look at a mighty fine representative series of photos of Hong Kong. More? Flickr has a new category of photos: interestingness. There's some lovely stuff there, too. To avoid being overwhelmed, however, may I suggest going for the option last 24 hours.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Octopus snuff movie

Watch an octopus reveal a startling ability!
Octopus snuff movie video clip.

Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere

World War II Japanese propaganda.

Brits drinking themselves to death

Death rate soars.
These figures include only deaths from alcohol-related disease, such as cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis and accidental alcohol poisoning, which can be a consequence of binge drinking.
If deaths in which alcohol-related violence are a factor are counted, such as stabbings and car accidents, the numbers are vastly higher. The government uses a global figure of around 15,000-22,000 deaths a year, which includes around 1,000 suicides.
Full report in Guardian. Locally, South China Morning Post used to carry a small ad in the classifieds (when their ad rates were still affordable). The ad said: If you want to drink, that's your problem; if you want to stop drinking, that's our problem. Hong Kong Alcoholics Anonymous: 2522-5665; Chinese speaking: 2578-9822. Hong Kong AA website.

Long Hair bugged?

According to [Hong Kong's] The Standard, Long Hair (Leung Kwok-hung) suspects his phone (phones? flat? car?) may have been wiretapped by the police. Wouldn't surprise me. In colonial times, without going through much legal rigmarole, the local Special Branch routinely bugged people's phones. According to Wikipedia's entry on the Special Branch, the polit-pols in Hong Kong were disbanded in 1995. But old habits die hard, etc. Come to that, what is Hong Kong's post-1997, post-colonial, one-country-two-systems equivalent of the Special Branch?
Leung Kwok-hung (Chinese: 梁國雄; Cantonese in IPA: lœːŋ kwɔːk hʊŋ; Pinyin: Liáng Guóxióng), also known as Long Hair (長毛) (born 27 March 1956) is a Hong Kong political activist, he is currently a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) representing New Territories East.
Full Wiki Long Hair entry here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Gate Gourmet

Report in today's South China Morning Post (paid subscription, no link) that Cathay Pacific airline passengers are being given food vouchers to use at food outlets at the airport, prior to take off. One of the consequences of last week's mass-sacking at Gate Gourmet. It now appears that it wasn't just food that was pre-packed at London Heathrow's Gate Gourmet:

The sacking plan was drawn up by a tight-knit team of hard-line businessmen from GG's US owners, the Texas Pacific Group.
They drafted three options. The most dramatic was the "Mile Stones" plan to provoke unofficial action.
Our insider said a solicitor was consulted. The source said: "He said if staff could be provoked into unofficial action they could all be sacked and have no legal redress. It would also mean the company could seek damages from individuals."
Referring to the firm's drivers, the dossier details how staff could be told their working conditions were going to be dramatically worsened, so provoking fury.
Among the threats listed were: "No redundancy packages, no leaving early, no extra pay for extra work, random drug testing, no smoking, eating or drinking in cabs."

Full story at the UK's Daily Mirror. Elsewhere, British Airways unlikely to renew contract with Gourmet Gate. Why? BA's chief executive Rod Eddington is not amused, according to Guardian.

Obsessed package trackers

"Even though I knew the iPod, like many other consumer products, was made in China, I had erroneously assumed it would be shipped to Pittsburgh from a U.S. warehouse, perhaps in California where Apple is based."
Error! Package trackers know it's a very quick trip for an Ipod from Shanghai, where it was manufactured, to Pittsburgh.
Full story here.
Now, if they would only promptly deliver much needed food and clean water to the countless wretched of the earth...

Cleaning the toilets at Canal Road, Wanchai

The life and hard times of Auntie Lau, a poorly-paid, outsourced, contract cleaning lady. The public toilets at Canal Road, Wanchai, are under the flyover, close by Hennessy Road. Some of the clientele are harmless drug addicts, and gays going 'cottaging'. But it has been the venue for several 'head-banging robberies'. Most of the time, however, it's just a toilet. Still, Auntie Lau has to deal with all manner of incidents. Recently, a middle-aged man walked into the women's toilet and tried to castrate himself... From a sympathetic article about one of Hong Kong's many hard-working poor. First published in Next Weekly, now well summarized in English.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Eye | Land | Life

Robert Louis Stevenson:
"Few men who come to islands leave them; they grow grey where they alighted; the palm shades and the trade winds fan them till they die, perhaps cherishing to the last the fancy of returning part of the world exerts the same attractive power."
The imaginative power of islands.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

For the past several weeks, someone was going around the 'sitting out areas' of a couple of public housing estates on Hong Kong island and hammering old men. Hammering them hard, as it happened. In two separate incidents during daylight hours, two old geezers were badly injured. Last week, the serial hammerer struck again: a 70-year-old man sitting on a bench, taking in the morning air. Unfortunately, it was the last air the old guy took in. On Thursday, police arrested a 75-year-old retired carpenter. According to news reports, it was an affair of the heart and there was mention of a divorcee in her fifties.
Timely, eh? Lennon & McCartney's Maxwell's Silver Hammer (click on song title, that will take you to a page where you click on 'watch this movie!'). Bang, bang, clang, clang! Animation, very funny. (Flash required) Oh, the song has a page on Wikipedia, too.

Patti Smith

Mp3 Dancing Barefoot, click to download

Tudor Military-Industrial Complex

Tudor England wasn't just a king with a series of wives, or a queen marketed as a virgin.
This is a story about a military-industrial complex, about power and politics and propaganda, about efforts to prevent high-technology weapons from reaching the hands of the enemy. It is about the tension between armaments production and environmental damage. It documents interference by intelligence agencies in political affairs. But it's not about the United States or the Soviet Union, or the nuclear arms race or intercontinental ballistic missiles. It's about cast-iron cannon, and it took place four hundred years ago in a small corner of England.
In short, the Tudor military-industrial complex. A readable and fascinating account. Truly!

House mural...

based on a satellite image of the neighbourhood. Or, how about ceramic tiles of motorway junctions and interchanges? Yes! Barcelona, Las Vegas, Istanbul and Birmingham's very own Spaghetti Junction.

Contemplative way of looking

Paying attention in the moment to what is. Without judging whatever 'is' is as good or bad. That's something I have learned to do, not just in the solitude of an evening sitting on the roof but also cycling on my bike, sitting on a bus, while in a noisy Hong Kong restaurant (and local restaurants have to be some of the noisiest in the world), wherever. There is a piece about taking a closer look at (and I would add, listen to) the nature of things in the IHT. That article also mentions someone I'd never come across before, Victor Shauberger. I dug around and found this.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Well, that's the weekend sorted: catch the bubbles with a submarine, before your stomach acid makes you vomit. Awesome! (Flash required)

British Airways, Gate Gourmet and The Rolling Stones

Gate Gourmet? It's not just in London that the airline catering company is having disputes with its poorly paid staff. In the US, Gate Gourmet unilaterally changed the company's health care plan, drastically raising the workers' costs on July 1, 2005. These changes forced the majority of workers on the health care plan to drop coverage. However, as the result of Teamster and Unite Here members' actions those health care provisions will be restored on 1 September. More details here.
In London, Gate Gourmet sacked by megaphone more than 600 poorly paid (mostly Asian) workers. Many of those workers had family or friends who are British Airways baggage handlers or other ground staff. When someone kicks you, you kick back. Hence, the BA unofficial wildcat strike.
Oh, BA used to do their own catering in house at Heathrow until 1997. They then sold their catering operation to Gate Gourmet.
Gate Gourmet is owned by private equity investment firm Texas Pacific Group, based in Fort Worth, Texas. A founding partner of the group, David Bonderman, held his 60th birthday party at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on 16 November 2002. Music for the party ? The Rolling Stones. It was an expensive party. To see what we missed, play list and more details here.

Remember to regularly take out the trash

The ex-Microsoft China R&D vice president who didn't.
A document recovered from the Recycle Bin of ex-Microsoft vice president Kai Fu-Lee's PC has apparently revealed a belief that Microsoft could sue over Google's decision to hire Lee.
That phrase 'revealed a belief' is a might odd, but it's the reporters turn of phrase, not mine. A cautionary tale, all the same.

What the sith is this?

Are you a match for the Dark Side?
(Flash required)
Thanks, Rhodri (via Gavin)!

Tropical cyclone alert: No 1 gone up

The weather has been beautiful all week, until this morning. Today is hot and heavy. I thought something was up, so I checked the Hong Kong Observatory. Sure enough: 'at 3pm tropical cyclone Sanvu was travelling at 28km per hour in a northwesterly direction towards southeastern China'.
On its current track it will not come close to a little island in the South China Sea, but associated winds and rain bands are expected. O000-eeee!

Cancer and nutrition

The past? Forgive, but never forget. What's done is done, what's done is not to be undone. What to do today?
"Following a low-fat diet, getting an appropriate amount of exercise, and using stress-reduction techniques isn't bad advice for anyone, whether or not you have cancer"
Nutrition and cancer information here.
Getting started.
Bladder, breast, colon, liver, ovary, prostate, testicular, and other types of cancers, links here (scroll down).
Great recipes, tips and hints here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

HKSAR v. Nancy Ann Kissel, indictment no. HCCC113/2004 in the Court of First Instance of the High Court.
"You used the milkshake to conceal the drugs,'' said Prosecutor Peter Chapman today in the city's High Court. "You didn't bring the milkshakes to them. You used the girls because you knew Robert Kissel wouldn't take it from you.''
Bloomberg report.

Video clips by Iraqi insurgents

The bastard step-children of Fox News: Iraqi insurgents' videos.
Graphic footage of produced and operational videos, presented by Washington Post online.

Firefox browser tip

Useful and simple Firefox tweak.

Sunny boy

As promised, here is a photo of DocMartin 'the bird' and Maya's son, David. Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam, Hong Kong on 3 August 2005. For the astrology crowd: 11.19am. Weight? 2.9kg. David's middle name is Raditya (which means 'Sun' in Indonesian). Good, eh? Thanks for the photo (click on to enlarge), DocMartin and Maya!

On a hot summer's day

To paraphrase a saying usually attributed to the overseas' Chinese: you can take the boy out of England, but you can't take England out of the boy.
We have all experienced the perfect English summer's day - even if we were on the other side of the world.
Mike Molloy, quoted above, mentions Edward Thomas' poem Adelstrop. I don't remember if I was ever exposed to that poem at school. But it is a poem I read at some time. Later, much later, I had what best can be described as an Adelstropian moment without recognizing it as such. A bite of a Proustian petite madeleine cake that set in train remembrance of things past -- except that, unlike Proust, I hadn't a clue what in the past I was remembering.
That quasi-Proustian event occurred while travelling on a dilapidated, half-empty train. I hadn't planned to be on the train, but I'd hitchhiked from Penang a good way up the Malaysian coast, had run out of rides, and was entering an area that had a somewhat lawless reputation. At one point, the train came to a stop at a railway halt, just short of the Thai border. We sat there in the tropical heat of a late afternoon with the fuss of insects and hissing of the train, the moment filled with a warm, peaceful stillness while 'no one left and no one came'. Until a nagging feeling, a sense of déjà vu, tugged my mind. Then the train lurched forward and we were gone. At that time, I wrote down the name of the place, but the notebook was lost long ago.
Many years later, I came again upon the poem. It was only then I finally recognized the already seen that had fluttered through my mind on 'a hot summer's day'. Ha, Adelstrop! Since when Malaysia has now and forever been the Cotswolds of the tropics. Like I said: you can take the boy out of England, but...
Anyway, I have linked to the Edward Thomas poem and in doing so learned there was more to the poem than I ever imagined or knew: Adelstrop.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hong Kong Suicide Theme Park

Corker of a story in today's South China Morning Post (no link). What may have started out as lighthearted banter over bottles of Tsingtao beer after a hard day of councilling, Islands District councillor Lam Kit-sing (left) evidently decided was worth pursuing. A new Unique Selling Point for a little island in the South China Sea: promoting Bela Vista Villas (north end of the beach at Tung Wan) as a 'ghost town', with 'haunted flats' for people to stay in, plus, yes, an 'exhibition on the charcoal method of suicide'. Oh, it can also 'attract tourists for [Hong Kong] Disneyland to come [here]'. Neat tour package, huh?
[Backstory] Bela Vista holiday flats have been the scene of more than 25 suicide attempts and 20 deaths during the past eight years. Yes, a little island in the South China Sea was, at one time, most especially for the heartbroken, stressed out and financially torpedoed, the island of choice for those who wished to off themselves. Local newspapers took to calling the island 'Hong Kong's suicide capital'. Before that, people merely came over from the nightclubs of Kowloon to murder one another. These days, however, holiday flat owners have a rough and ready profiling system before they rent out. Homicide/suicide events have eased off in the last couple of years. [/Backstory]
Mr Lam 'innovative proposals' have been met with howls of protest from, among others, Island District Councillor Kwong Kwok-wai, who criticised it as a 'bad stroke in calligraphy' -- a Chinese idiom that means 'a terrible move'. Paul Yip Siu-fai, director of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention wasn't terribly impressed either.
Perhaps Mr Lam should next meet with the families, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances of those who committed suicide before he further develops his proposals. Or, do us all a favour: rent a room at Bela Vista, buy a bag of charcoal, firmly seal windows and doors, fire up the charcoal, close his eyes, and open his mouth wide, one last time...

World Trade Organization meeting, December 2005, Hong Kong

Police and government are cranking up the anti-protestor propaganda in preparation for the WTO meeting in Hong Kong in December. The possibility of violence and public disorder makes good copy for newspapers and 'sources' are only too willing to comply with lots of 'may' and 'could'. Here's a sample from the local English-language press.

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

Having already admitted to killing her Merrill Lynch banker husband, Robert, Mrs Nancy Kissel faces another day of adversarial questioning by the prosecution. As a result, much more of Mrs Kissel's earlier testimony is rapidly crumbling.
Post Scriptum. How financial institutions and some of their employees make humongous amounts of money in and from capitalism: Kissel was a vice president in Goldman's Asian special situations group, helping the firm become one of the biggest investors in bad debt in the region. Merrill Lynch then hired Kissel from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in 2000 to head its distressed assets business in Asia outside Japan.
Arcane financial dealings, eh? I am probably wrong, but that job description reminds me of something Woody Guthrie said: some folks steal with a gun, some steal with a fountain pen.

Monday, August 08, 2005

John Donne: Meditation XVII

"No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."
John Donne (1572-1631)
Donne was a great poet and became a devout Catholic. I am neither poet nor devout nor Catholic, but I read his poetry and, on occasion, meditate on his Meditation XVII. I love the English of Elizabethan, Stuart and Republican England, but for ease of reading the complete Meditation XVII is available in current English, go here.

House of the Rising Sun

Mp3s by all the usual suspects: Huddie 'Lead Belly' Ledbetter, Dave van Ronk, Bob Dylan, The Animals. Take your pick. Herein are 250 versions of House of the Rising Sun. I haven't tried the French pop singer Johnny Hallyday's German Das Alte Haus in New Orleans, but the long, slow, silky rendition (in English) by Nina Simone is a keeper. Leslie West, too (whatever happened to him?). The drug-fuelled Beatles is worth a crack. So is Eric Burdon -- in performance and throwing a wobbly in 1990. Sadly, however, there is no version among the 250 in Cantonese. It exists, the Cantonese version... but it's just not there. Ah, well, keep looking.
Downloads here. A tad slow, but... hey! While waiting, there are the lyrics to consider.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

More google stuff

For a growing collection of google maps, satellite images and hybrids, click here. The Forbidden City, Beijing? Comrades, it is here. How about a little island in the South China Sea? Click the link on the right-hand side of this page.

It's a boy!

Hey, everyone! A little island in the South China Sea has a new addition! Yes, husband + wife DocMartin 'the bird' and Maya are now proud parents.
It's a boy, and his name is David (+ an Indonesian name -- but I don't know how to spell it yet). Place of birth? Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam. Date of birth? 3 August 2005. So he's a Leo, in western astrology. Chinese astrology? Born under the sign of the rooster/chicken. Time of birth? Not sure... 11.19am? Weight at birth? Martin told me, but I forgot. Government helicopter ride from a little island in the South China Sea to Hong Kong? No such luck. Marine Police launch and transfer to hospital? Yes. Delivery? Natural and mega-quick (15 minutes!). Fast, eh! Health status? Everyone is tickety-boo. Photo or photos to follow...
Meantime, on behalf of their friends and acquaintances: congratulations!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Friday, August 05, 2005

Wong Kar-wai: 2046

Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-wai's next and latest film, 2046, is now doing the rounds. First shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, when Wong presented an unfinished film, the result received a luke-warm response. No surprise there. Since when, more filming, thinking, editing... Hey, presto! The 'finished version' is now on release. I haven't seen it yet. I am still relishing Wong's previous film In the Mood for Love. First I saw that film. Later, I bought the music soundtrack. Very recently, I picked up a cheap and legitimate copy of Mood on VCD. Yeah, I think Mood is a great film. Would that there were more such films. The New York Times (NYT reg-required) has a truly awesome review of Wong's latest cinematic pleasure, 2046. Desire and Loss in the Curve of a Back:

"Like some avant-garde filmmakers and like his contemporary, Hou Hsiao-hsien of Taiwan, among precious few others these days, Mr. Wong makes movies, still a young art, that create meaning through visual images, not just words. And so in "2046," the wallpaper swirls find a visual echo in the curls of a metal grille that, in turn, echo the loops of some cursive handwriting, the curlicue of smoke that rises from Jing's lighted cigarette and the impossibly long curve of Bai Ling's arched back."

National Sandwich Month

Almost certainly a plot by US wheat growers, bakers, sandwich spread fillers, potted meat makers, duplicitous provisions store-owners, scheming sandwich-board men, and others of that ilk: National Sandwich Month.
The Brits, riding pillion passenger, have a British Sandwich Week. A week, mark you. But that was in May.
Commerce-free Wikipedia has an extensive range of sandwich filling: 4th Earl of Sandwich, butties, links to sandwiches, and a lot more besides.
Yes, time for some Marmite on a cheese toast. And a nice cup of tea. After which, there is the Marmite FAQ and the Guardian's Marmite Net Notes.

Song that Changed the World

By you know who.
Another day, another list.
Discuss. (I suppose they mean the Anglo-Saxon world.)
Complete list here.
Thanks, Peter O!

Ayman al-Zawahiri

After the recent al-Zawahiri video, a useful article by Jason Burke. Also, by someone else, a backgrounder on the Egyptian paediatrician, surgeon, Islamo-politico theoretician and strategist.

The Long Emergency

Tine to buy one of those survivalists' handbooks? Stock up on instant noodles, bottled water, matches, Swiss Army knives, tents and sleeping bags? Head for the hills? We all might want to after reading this commentary by someone called James Howard Kunstler. Not for the faint hearted or clinically depressed.

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

In answering the first question in an afternoon of intense questioning by the prosecution, Mrs Kissel admits she killed her husband, Robert. The rest of the afternoon zeroed in on taking apart her claims she helped finance her husband's alleged cocaine use and his alleged sexual abuse of her.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Nazim Hikmet

Turkish communist poet, political prisoner, Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963) was released from jail in 1950 after international protest. He spent the rest of his life in exile. I don't know when he wrote the following poem. But it seems timely to quote it.
I Come and Stand at Every Door

I come and stand at every door
But no one hears my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead.

I'm only seven although I died
In Hiroshima long ago
I'm seven now as I was then
When children die they do not grow.

My hair was scorched by swirling flame
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind.

I need no fruit, I need no rice
I need no sweet, nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead.

All that I ask is that for peace
You fight today, you fight today
So that the children of this world
May live and grow and laugh and play.

A Bigger Bang

The Rolling Stones have an album coming out in September. In all likelihood it is their last studio album. Title? A Bigger Bang.
So what? Apart from Let It Bleed (1969), Exile on Main Street (1972) and Some Girls (1978), the only other Stones album worth having is a compilation of their singles from the 1960s and early '70s. OK, I'll be generous and throw in another album: Tattoo You (1981). Other than those, there have been a succession of bad to mediocre albums for thirty years or more. I have listened to many, bought none.
The Stones are a very efficient and experienced business machine, the publicity for the new album is already cranking up. I guess this post is part of that. Mea culpa.
Anyway, good look at the Stones -- 'the most expensive tribute band in the world' -- and review of the tracks on the new album in Uncut magazine. Which also has a special section on the life and death of Brian Jones -- and stuff about an upcoming film with the working title The Wild and Wycked World of Brian Jones.

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

Nancy Kissel gives her version of the violent night that ended with her husband Robert, a Merrill Lynch banker, dead in their bedroom.
Many an 'expat' marriage has been wrecked on the shores of this barren rock Hong Kong. Why that is so is perhaps a post for another time.
For now, this: to save such a marriage, some, like the Kissels, turn to marriage counseling. And some marriage partners turn to drugs. If they are not doing them already. The legal drugs: beer, wine, spirits... the street drugs: hash, coke, ice, smack... the prescription drugs. For the latter, you need to find a Dr Feelgood. In Mrs Kissel's case that was Dr 'Fung': Lorivan, Stilnox and Amitryptaline + Dr Annabelle Dytham: Rohypnol.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett's play En Attendant Godot had its first public performance in English in London, 3 August 1955.
Vladimir: Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be? (Estragon, having struggled with his boots in vain, is dozing off again. Vladimir looks at him) He'll know nothing. He'll tell me about the blows he received and I'll give him a carrot. (Pause) Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens) But habit is a great deadener. (He looks again at Estragon) At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. (Pause) I can't go on! (Pause) What have I said?
Thanks, Sam!

An Illustrated History of Neocon-Blowback

An oftentimes complicated tale, simply told by Juan Cole.
(Fisking? Guardian weblog glossary for explanation)
Or, how about disinformation, distortions, lies, and obfuscations? Secrets and Lies: The True Story of the Iraq War, by Dilip Hiro. Review here, looks good. Bush and Blair look bad.

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Bomb

In the early 1960s, the UK's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) discovered that the government had -- unbeknownst to the British public -- built underground nuclear bunkers.
Known as Regional Seats of Government (RSG), these bomb-proof underground bunkers were scattered around the country and would have sheltered 'key' personnel. The RSG for central England, for instance, was buried under the village of Drakelow, near Kidderminster, Worcestershire. Quite who those key personnel were going to govern in the aftermath of a nuclear attack (would there be anyone left above ground?) was not spelt out.
That was then, this is now. Like to visit an RSG? You can! How about the biggest, deepest underground bunker open to the public? Details, here.


DIY with a difference: the Discovery shuttle Homebase/B&Q makeover show from space (scroll down for Real Player/Windows Media). This is a seven-hour spacewalk and spacework.

Going out with a bang, not a whimper?

T S Eliot concluded his long poem The Hollow Men (published 1925):
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Italicized in the original, a metaphysical despair wrapped up in a children's nursery rhyme (Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush).
Although written in and for another era, during the 1950s and early '60s, many people wished and hoped that -- despite much evidence to the contrary -- Eliot's words would hold true. By the late 1960s, not so long ago, it even looked like Eliot's prophetic conclusion might become fact. That we, humankind, would see an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Further than that: reverse the trend, put the genie back in the bottle.
Such hopes are fast turning out to be a pipe dream. Israel was allowed (enabled?) to develop nuclear weapons. India, too. The renegade North Korea hasn't tested one yet, but...
Now, it looks like Iran is set on going down the same road.
Furthermore, it is depressing to note that the US and UK are tooling up to build a new generation of nuclear weapons. About that, click here.
Meanwhile, the anniversary of the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima is on Saturday, 6 August. The masterminds of that inferno sixty years ago were men in suits and ties aided and abetted by men in uniforms. Thank you, and have a good day.

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

Nancy Kissel continues her testimony.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

George W Bush re-frames the war on terror

The Administration is admitting that its strategy since September 11th has failed, without really admitting it.
George Packer in The New Yorker magazine writes about Bush's 'the war on terror' (TWOT) -- and the how and why it has now been reframed as 'a global struggle against violent extremism'. Frame, re-frame? Wikipedia has a good explanation of frame:
In communication theory, and sociology, framing is a process of selective control over media content or public communication. Framing defines how a certain piece of media content or rhetoric is packaged so as to allow certain desirable interpretations and rule out others. Media frames can be created by the mass media or by specific political or social movements or organizations. The concept is generally attributed to the work of Erving Goffman, especially his 1974 book, Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience.
More Wiki here.

Twilight of the Idols

No, not the book by Friedrich Nietzsche. Although Nietzsche's work has much to recommend. Sadly, his malevolent sister Elisabeth twisted his words and works to further her own later nasty anti-semitic and pro-Nazi projects. Much maligned, usually by people who have never read him, Nietzsche doesn't deserve such a reputation.
Anyway, maybe that heading should read: Twilight of the Idles. (There is a great essay by Bertrand Russell titled In Praise of Idleness. But I digress.)
Twilight... what is twilight? Anyone read Tristes Tropiques by Claude Levi-Strauss? I remember he spent two-and-half pages analyzing why witnessing sunset and twilight had a different impact on the human psyche than witnessing dawn and sunrise. A fascinating man, a fascinating book. But I no longer have the book to hand.
What is instantly available is a no-nonsense definition of twilight by Hong Kong Observatory. The Obs has also come to the rescue as concerns those bright lights seen in the western sky in late July at the hour crépuscule (Astronomie: lumière du soir). Yes, stargazers: Night Sky in Hong Kong, July to September 2005.

In vino, veritas?

Things that are difficult to say when you're drunk...
a) Innovative
b) Preliminary
c) Proliferation
d) Cinnamon

Things that are VERY difficult to say when you're drunk...
a) Specificity
b) British Constitution
c) Passive-aggressive disorder
d) Transubstantiate

Things that are ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE to say when you're drunk...
a) Thanks, but I don't want to sleep with you.
b) Nope, no more booze for me.
c) Sorry, but you're not really my type.
d) No kebab for me, thank you.
e) Good evening officer, isn't it lovely out tonight?
f) I'm not interested in fighting you.
g) Oh, I just couldn't -- no one wants to hear me sing.
h) Thank you, but I won't make any attempt to dance, I have no co-ordination. I'd hate to look like a fool.
i) Where is the nearest toilet? I refuse to vomit in the street.
j) I must be going home now as I have work in the morning.

Thanks, Peter O!

it is in the particularity of contradiction that the universality of contradiction resides

Robert Fisk has spent a good part of his life living in and reporting on the Middle East. In this article he investigates how someone can say to one person 'I love you', then go out and kill another and kill himself (it's usually a male protagonist). First published in Gulf Times, now at commondreams.
On contradiction? A yin-yang 'socialism with Chinese characteristics' perspective, circa 1937.

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

Nancy Kissel takes to the stand in her own defence. She airs some very dirty laundry. Who knows how much is true?

Monday, August 01, 2005

China and the world economy

Beijing, not Washington, increasingly takes the decisions that affect workers, companies, financial markets and economies everywhere
From latest issue of the Economist: From T-shirts to T-bonds.
How global inflation, interest rates, bond yields, house prices, wages, profits and commodity prices worldwide are now being increasingly driven by decisions in China. Read and ponder.
Absent from the online edition, the many pleasures of the magazine's photo captions in the print edition.

Jimi Hendrix: Purple Haze

Jimi Hendrix, along with bassist Noel Redding, and ex-Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames drummer Mitch Mitchell played the Whisky a Go-Go, a small club in Navigation Street, Birmingham, in late 1966. The gig, a Saturday-night all-nighter, was crowded with amphetamine-fueled dancers. Whatever else uppers did, a dozen doobies ingested did not leave one wholly bereft of all critical faculties. I remember deciding Hendrix was way too flashy and over the top... which he was. What did they play? Don't remember, except for Wild Thing. Choosing to play the hit by The Troggs seemed kind of naff. But then came Christmas 1966 and the single Heh Joe. Soon followed by Purple Haze. Wooah.
After singles came albums. In 1967, the excellent Are You Experienced and the later not-so-good Axis: Bold As Love. Autumn '68? The double-album Electric Ladyland. Ladyland had everything: a loud, gutsy psychedelic soundscape and an album cover (of naked ladies) upon which it was a delight to roll joints. Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll all within easy reach.
Longish excerpt recounting Hendrix's arrival in London in 1966, from a new biography of Jimi Hendrix. What a life! A soul whose flame shone bright, albeit for a short time.

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

The banker, the wife, the TV repairman, the milkshake, the corpse in the carpet, the bent metal ornament. The story in court so far. Baseball bat up next.

Hong Kong Disneyland

After the brouhaha about shark's fin soup, now it's the nightly fireworks. Who's complaining? Discovery Bay residents.