Thursday, September 29, 2005

The subterraneans

Everything you ever wanted to know, but were too afraid to ask... about the world's metros, subways, undergrounds, U-Bahns or T-Banas. Maps. Photos. Metros with a View. Left or Right? Metro Bits.

Postscript: M Scott Peck

The Daily Telegraph obituary of M Scott Peck, linked in the previous post, generated some email -- for and against the Telegraph's somewhat harsh, irritable tone. For a more anodyne obit, try the New York Times (reg. required). Thanks, Mike B!
The Telegraph obit also generated email pointing out that though a messenger may have lived a less than wholesome life, the message was still valuable.
The example given? Tibetan rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa. who founded the Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, in 1974. In the years prior to his death (1986) Trungpa became an "alcoholic, a smoker and slept with his students. He was an artist and a poet, the man was also a wonderful conduit for Buddhist teaching. Go figure." Trungpa helped a lot of people.
Which got me thinking further. About psychiatrist R D Laing. And Alan Watts. Laing helped many people (including Mister Bijou) through his professional work and his writings (The Divided Self; The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise; Knots). Separately, Watts explained Buddhism and, later, Taoism (The Way of Zen; Tao: the Watercourse Way). Both Laing and Watts ended up terminal alcoholics. Yet their works continue to have merit. So, the conundrum remains: how important is knowledge of a person's private life in assessing their published work?

M Scott Peck

M Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Travelled (the title comes from a line in a Robert Frost poem) just went and died. As penance for past sins, Mister Bijou actually read that book some time in the early 1990s... oh, well. The UK's Daily Telegraph obituary is an absolute corker:

Latterly he suffered from impotence and Parkinson's Disease and devoted himself to Christian songwriting, at which he was not very good.

He married Lily Ho in 1959; they had three children, two of whom would not talk to their father. She left him in 2003. He is survived by his second wife, Kathy, an educationalist he picked up, while still married, after a lecture at Sacramento, and by his children.

Read more? Daily Telegraph demolition job.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bob Dylan: watch the parking meters

How Bob Dylan beat the press: AlterNet
How did it feel? Guardian Culture Vulture Blog
Bob Dylan: How [Andy Kershaw] found the man who shouted 'Judas' Independent
Series Of Clichés: The American Prospect
Like A Rolling Stone: lyrics

Mary Gauthier: Mercy Now

Mercy Now, by Mary Gauthier.
Beautiful, beautiful... oh, yes...
To listen, please go to Mary Gauthier's website and then click on Mercy Now (streaming audio).
Thanks, Gavin!
For more info about Ms Gauthier, try here.

Hong Kong People's Alliance on WTO

The local organizing body for NGOs and other grassroots organizations which are coming to Hong Kong for the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (13-18 December 2005) is the grandly titled Hong Kong People's Alliance on WTO.
Mister Bijou has looked high and low for a website with the same-name Hong Kong People's Alliance on WTO, to no avail. The closest Mister Bijou can come is the Hong Kong People's Alliance rather threadbare website.
Still, one website can lead to another. In this case, the Hong Kong-based Asian Migrant Centre. That organization's Hong Kong Declaration on WTO, Development and Migration (July 2005) makes for interesting reading.
Further recommendations? Founded in 1976 and still going strong: Hong Kong-based Asia Monitor Resource Center.
Stop corporate globalization? Our World Is Not For Sale.
Like to breathe fresh air? English/Chinese Greenpeace.
Agit-prop films? HKFS Social Movement Resource Centre: Wednesday Night Film Series.
Fancy bureaucratic bells and whistles? For that, there is the altogether flashier Hong Kong Government WTO website. Which has some useful bits and pieces such as What is the WTO? But the website is so flash that some of the mind-numbingly lame 30-second videos of Hong Kong Government Public Announcements about 'free trade' (aired on TV) in the Video Gallery (Flash required) don't seem to work with Mister Bijou's cookies-off Firefox browser (my mum counseled me to never accept cookies from strangers)...

Hong Kong To Stock Chemical Antidotes For WTO Meeting

Looks like Hong Kong government is working itself up into a panic-mode frenzy. As well as bulk-buying rubber bullets:
The Hong Kong government has ordered hospitals to stock up on antidotes to cyanide and insecticide in preparation for chemical attacks during the World Trade Organization meeting in December, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Hong Kong's Hospital Authority is checking stocks of the chemicals sodium nitrite, sodium thiosulphate, hydroxocobalamin and pralidoxime - antidotes to cyanide and insecticide - the Ming Pao Daily News reported Sunday, citing unidentified sources.
More? Dow Jones Newswire via Nasdaq.

For weeks now there have been regular 'scare' stories appearing in the local Chinese-language press -- like the one from the Ming Pao Daily News. And they all seem to usually cite one of those 'unidentified sources'.
Well, freedom lovers, Mister Bijou is old enough to remember when governments were getting their knickers in a twist and saying: 'hippies plan to drop LSD in the water supply'.
Camarades: Plus ça change, plus ça reste la même chose.
What we have here is government black propaganda to create dis-ease and antipathy locally to anyone who has anything critical to say about what is going to be discussed and decided at the WTO meeting. What is going to be discussed and decided? So far, there has been nothing about that in the mainstream media. In such absence, Mister Bijou is going to step forward and elucidate...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Postscript: Typhoon Damrey

Having caused much havoc on Hainan Island (satellite image), Typhoon Damrey became Severe Tropical Storm Damrey as it crossed the Gulf of Tonkin before making landfall in northern Vietnam. Damrey -- which Mister Bijou now knows is the Cambodian word for elephant -- is now heading for northern Laos.
That activity on the right is Typhoon Longwang, currently about 370km south-southwest of Iwo Jima (to enlarge, click map). Longwang is forecast to move west at about 15km/hr across the western North Pacific.
According to an unlinkable, javascript page at Hong Kong Observatory, Longwang is the Putonghua for Dragon King, the God of Rain in Chinese mythology. Just so you know.

US army plans to bulk-buy anthrax news service.

Kate Bush

King of the Mountain, single, Mp3 (direct link, won't last long). From the 2-cd to be released 7 November 2005. First new Kate Bush material in 12 years...

Monday, September 26, 2005

NOLA: killings, rapes and mayhem that never happened

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the [Super] Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.
"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.
The real total was six, Beron said.
Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.
The rapes? Shootouts? Rampant violence? Never happened. Read more? New Orleans' online Times-Picayune.

Yangjiang, China, to go nuclear

News that construction of a nuclear power plant in Yangjiang, a port city in south China's Guangdong Province, is expected to begin early next year, and that it will be the largest nuclear power plant in China, got Mister Bijou googling...
Yangjiang? It's 250km southwest of Macao (to enlarge, click map). According to Yangjiang government website, it is "an uprising city by the South China Sea." I think they mean "up and coming", but hey! full marks for having (a) a website in English; (b) loads of pages about a place that looks real interesting. On yet another website , Mister Bijou learned that Yangjiang City has a population of 2.6 million. Who knew? That there are beautiful beaches, islands and greenery in the locality. And that the place is a seriously major manufacturer of knives and scissors. Sort of a Chinese Sheffield in the sub-tropics. The 21st century? Live and learn.

Consumer Affairs: Bob Dylan's No Direction Home

For those of you in the UK, BBC 2 is showing the first part of the Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home this evening. Part le deux is on demain soir. But you almost certainly know that already. Hereabouts, Mister Bijou has to go to Hong Kong on Tuesday, so he will probably swing by the HMV store in Central and pick up the 2-DVD ($229.00; US$29.52; GBP16.35), despite reading this:
Scorsese's brightest stroke is to use these historic performances as the film's leitmotif, cutting back to one dark U.K. stage or another every time the back story reaches an especially fraught point. Tragically, his final offense is to climax No Direction Home with Pennebaker's footage of perhaps the single most fabled live performance in rock history -- "Like a Rolling Stone" at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, May 17, 1966, the so-called Judas show -- and cutting, after just one verse, from the performance to a black screen and end credits. Imagine spotting Halley's Comet, then being forced to close your eyes.
That's from Devin McKinney, writing in the left-leaning American Prospect. Oh, wait! Amazon is selling the 2-DVD for US$17.99. Eleven and a bit US dollars cheaper. Even with the add-on postage it is cheaper. DVD Region 1? That's what Hong Kong HMV is selling. Not that it matters. Mister Bijou has one of those completely promiscuous play-anything Made in China DVD/VCD/Mp3/WAV/and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all format players; just slip it in and press the play button.
Anyway, among all the other news print articles, historian Simon Scharma -- always worth a read -- writes about Mister D in Voice of America. That Guardian article has a listing of UK events and other related stuff, too.

War of words in Guangdong

Over the weekend, 60 59 of Hong Kong's legislators made a trip across the border to Guangdong to meet senior provincial and national leaders. Signalled as a new willingness on Beijing's side for dialogue, this officially-sanctioned trip was a first. Among the 60 59 were Hong Kong pro-democracy legislators, including the indefatigable democrat Martin Lee (who last year had the honour of being branded a 'traitor' by a senior mainland official), Democratic Party leader Lee Wing-tat, trade unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan and Frontier group convenor Emily Lau. Almost all had previously been barred from entering the mainland for any reason whatsoever.
China's main man at the White Swan Hotel talks? Zhang Dejiang, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and secretary of the CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee.
Things went reasonably well until someone from Hong Kong brought up June 4, 1989. No, that someone wasn't pseudo-Trotskyist and street agitator Leung Kwok-hung (Longhair), although he did manage to create some argy-bargy, earlier.
South China Morning Post (paid; no link).
(Hong Kong) Standard.
The mainland's Xinhua.

They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!

Glorious foot-tapping, singalong 1966 classic by Napoleon XIV. That, and 20 other truly demented versions. For all mp3s go to the mostly wonderful WFMU.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Typhoon Damrey

While Mister Bijou was asleep someone upgraded a merely severe tropical storm up to a headstrong typhoon (click image to enlarge). According to Hong Kong Observatory, Typhoon Damrey is about 400km south-southwest of Hong Kong and moving west at about 12km/hr. Towards Hainan Island, where they should already have battened down the hatches.
The Obs say winds at the centre of Damrey are achieving 140km/hr. A little island in the South China Sea is experiencing wind speeds up to 98km/hr. Other than the gusty winds? Locally, occasional sunshine, occasional rain. Later today, Mister Bijou is taking the 3:30pm ferry into town -- should be an enjoyable ride! The Number Three is still up.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Blowin' in the wind

The Number Three went up over night and is still up. Tung Wan Bay is the place to be for whitecaps on an angry sea, crashing waves, and full-on winds: 51 km/hr with gusts and gale force winds up to 92 km/hr. Wonderful! Exhilarating! You can feel it blow all the cobwebs away! Whatever else it may be, this is one of nature's gifts: a natural high! Are there more ions in the air? Meanwhile, on the leeward side of the island, which is where the harbour is, not a leaf stirs.
According to Hong Kong Observatory, severe tropical storm Damrey is about 290km south of Hong Kong (4pm) and it is moving west at about 15km/hr. No rain has yet fallen on a little island in the South China Sea. That's for later...

Hurricane Rita: KPRC Local 2 News Live

Houston's KPRC Local 2 News Live Online. Stranded on the highways and byways of Texas, sitting in the predicted path of the hurricane, are loads of evacuees whose cars have run out of gas (petrol)...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Tropical cyclone Damrey

Tropical cyclone Damrey (click to enlarge image) has been dithering about in the South China Sea for a couple of days. According to Hong Kong Observatory, Damrey has intensified into a severe tropical storm. Which explains why so many local trawlers are now tidely anchored together in the typhoon shelter of a little island in the South China Sea.
Currently (thanks, Obs!), the centre of the storm is about 370 kilometres southeast of Hong Kong. Damrey is moving very slowly (12km/h) west. Tropical Cyclone Signal No 1 has been hoisted. The Number Three may go up overnight. No rain, yet. No drama, either. The rain will arrive on Saturday. As usual, another wet weekend.

World Trade Organization: Hong Kong

The Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference is scheduled to take place in Hong Kong 13-18 December, 2005. Locally, coverage of what the ministers will be talking about has amounted to next to nothing. Instead, since the summer already, local English- and Chinese-language newspapers have been reporting official steps being taken to head-off, contain, deal with 'violent protests'. Stephen Steven Vines in today's (Hong Kong) Standard has an opinion piece:
Fearing the outbreak of violent demonstrations the government is planning to close most Hong Kong Island schools on the conference's opening day. Companies have been warned not to schedule important business meetings in the Wan Chai area during the conference. Banks have been instructed to formulate plans for a disruption of business.
In addition there is the usual host of police mobilization measures, traffic control schemes and, so we now learn, a plan to prevent the hijacking of RTHK, the event's host broadcaster.
Meanwhile, there are reports that hotel rooms have been denied to would-be WTO protesters and the existence of an official immigration watchlist has been made public which strongly suggests that entry will be denied to some of those who want to take part in the demonstrations,
What message is Hong Kong sending the world with all this talk of riot and disruption? One reading of the situation is that the government is panicking, so unsure of coping that it is lashing out in all directions.
Read Stephen Vines in full? Go here.

Hurricane Rita

Mister Bijou loves the fiery colours, but is real glad he is nowhere near it, and real sorry for anyone that is. Hurricane Rita, image found at US National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center

Zhang Jian conquers Ling-Ding sea

That's the headline in the news report in Xinhua. In the South China Morning Post (paid; no link) they refer to it as Lingding Yang -- the bay at the mouth of the Pearl River estuary. Whichever, whatever, it is otherwise known to blissfully unaware English-speaking landlubbers as that nameless stretch of water between Hong Kong and Macao.
Portly, 41-year old Mr Zhang dropped off the side of a boat close by Tai Po Pier, Lantau, on Thursday morning and then proceeded to swim to Hak Sa Beach, Macao. It took the redoubtable Mr Zhang ten and a half hours to swim the 35km. Awesome.

Bulky jacket syndrome

David Mery was stopped and searched on a London Underground platform, arrested, handcuffed, taken to a police station, questioned, his possessions taken away, fingerprinted, photographed, DNA swab. The usual. While in detention his flat is searched under powers given to the police by the Terrorism Act. Finally, he is released on police bail, on his own recognizance. The usual. Later? Case dismissed. This is the scary part:
Under current laws the police are not only entitled to keep my fingerprints and DNA samples, but according to my solicitor, they are also entitled to hold on to what they gather during their investigation: notepads of arresting officers, photographs, interviewing tapes and any other documents they entered in the police national computer (PNC). So even though the police consider me innocent there will remain some mention (what exactly?) in the PNC and, if they fully share their information with Interpol, in other police databases around the world as well.
In other police databases around the world... oh, oh. Time to wield out Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), a supporter of Hitler from 1933 until he (Niemöller) was arrested in 1937. In 1945 and in years thereafter, he made the following observation. There are various versions but this is, historically, the most accurate:

First they came for the communists,
I did not speak out
because I was not a communist.

When they came for the social democrats,
I did not speak out
because I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists
I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews
I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew;

And when they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

U.S. Petroleum State Data

Petroleum profile: Texas

Hurricane Rita

Houston's KPRC Local 2 News Live Online
(Thanks, Gavin!)

Tropical storm Damrey (click image to enlarge) has been holding all but stationary over the South China Sea for the past 24 hours. Movement is, such as it is, very slowly westward. Hong Kong Observatory has issued a Tropical Cyclone No 1 signal. A Very Hot Weather Warning was also issued at 11am. It is sunny, hazy and hot (1pm)


Isolated showers and thunderstorms are on the cards for this evening.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Happy Birthday! Fawlty Towers

Belated happy birthday to Fawlty Towers, which celebrated its 30th anniversary yesterday. And it hasn't aged a bit. With 12 hilarious episodes. Read more? BBC.

Bob Dylan: No Direction Home

For the enlightened, BBC has a video report with clips from the Martin Scorsese documentary about Bob Dylan. Please click here (then scroll down; bottom right).

Eye | Land | View

Looking at Lantau island (to enlarge: click on image).

Taking the Mickey

Hong Kong Disneyland, 80 percent paid for by Hong Kong taxpayers:
There are four zones to the park: Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Adventureland are where you’ll find the attractions, and Main Street USA — the American Gothic mall selling Disney-branded merchandise from T-shirts to tea sets — is where you’ll be taken for a ride. My advice is to save your cash — not only is that Tigger tie tasteless, it’s 10 times the price of the perfect copy on sale in the Mong Kok night market. Mindful that anything can be faked in Hong Kong, Disney has attempted to thwart the knock-off artists by including special holograms on the labels of genuine merchandise. The fakers have responded with counterfeit holograms.
Read the rest? It's here in the UK's Sunday Times.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The day after: Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節)

It's over. We all got to see the moon. Mister Bijou? He also acquired a mooncake. In this instance, a traditional lotus seed paste with a salty yolk -- representing the full moon -- in the middle. Since it is a high-cholesterol time bomb, consumption will be rationed out over a span of several days.

Legal snuff porn

Some years ago I visited the Hong Kong Correctional Services Museum. I hasten to add the visit was connected to some research I was doing. Until then, I didn't even know there was such a place. Turns out the museum is on a sleepy road, the premises set amid dense tropical foliage, between Stanley Village and maximum security Stanley Prison. What a good little museum: well organized, well lit, well presented.
You get off to an entertaining start in the entrance lobby with the large wooden frame they used to tie prisoners upon before they flogged them. I observed that this was a special favourite with visiting parties of school kids.
Flogging? I am not sure when that stopped in the local penal system, but it has been stopped for a long time. Not how I imagined it, there is also (upstairs) a hangman's gallows, which has a roller system for the rope. Nothing like the kind you see in Westerns. Whether the one in the museum was real or a simulcra, I know not. But I do know that no one was executed in Hong Kong after capital punishment was abolished in Britain. Whenever that was. Early 1960s?
Having finished touring the museum, if you go round the back you discover a separate building that showcases prisoners' handicrafts, and a delightful sitting-out area with a view overlooking a placid bay. Having viewed all the other stuff, it really is nice to be back out in the freedom of the open air...
All this by way of introduction to the informative, entertaining, moving-parts: History of the Guillotine (Flash required).

Italo Calvino: invisible cities, cities of ideas, ideas masquerading as cities

Today, 19 September 2005, is the 20th anniversary of the death of Italo Calvino. From Calvino's last novel, Palomar:
"First of all, you must not confuse being dead with not being, a condition that occupies the vast expanse of time before birth, apparently symmetrical with the other, equally vast expanse that follows death. In fact, before birth we are part of the infinite possibilities that may or may not be fulfilled; whereas, once dead, we cannot fulfill ourselves either in the past (to which we now belong entirely but on which we can no longer have any influence) or in the future (which, even if influenced by us, remains forbidden to us)."
One exquisite writer writing about another exquisite writer: essayist Gore Vidal on Calvino. Something shorter? Translator William Weaver on Invisible Cities:
These cities may have been invisible to the sedentary emperor, but as the tireless Marco Polo made him see the most remote places, so Calvino recreates them for us, and -- no matter how distant -- they are eminently, unforgettably visible.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tonight's the night: Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節)

Yes, the Mid-Autumn Festival means a three-day weekend this year for those of us who happen to live in and around Hong Kong. How so? Since people will be staying up late tonight (Sunday) to enjoy the biggest, brightest moon of the year, the day after is a public holiday. That was so under the Brits, and still is.
(Oh, that photo... that's the earth seen from the moon. Isn't the earth beautiful? Spaceship Earth. Pity we are trashing it so, making it uninhabitable for humans. So it goes.)
Anyway, back to local matters. Irrespective of who rules, weekends, festive or otherwise, seem to have a tendency to inclement weather. This weekend has been no different. Late yesterday, Saturday, Hong Kong Observatory 'issued' a Tropical Cyclone Warning No. 1.
The Observatory used to 'hoist' a warning -- someone would literally go out in a gale and hoist the appropriate symbol up the weather station's flag pole. But now, as far as I can tell, weather stations are deflagpoled, unmanned, automated affairs -- so they 'issue' warnings.
(I'd like to be able to directly link to the Hong Kong Observatory's separate webpages that explain what those warnings mean, but the Obs website doesn't seem to allow. If you are interested to find out, go here and follow the links.)
Anyway, tropical storm Vicente has passed. The meteo reports Vicente as currently north of Da Nang, Vietnam, and expected to make landfall there later today.
Hereabouts, the Observatory has now downgraded to a Strong Monsoon Signal. For us earthbound travellers, what that means is we have a bright, sunny, occasionally cloudy, and very windy day. Yippee! The windsurfers are making the most of it out on Tung Wan Bay. Mister Bijou? He put out a line of washing to dry on the line before he went for a ride on his bike. Domesticity.

As well as the lanterns and whatnot, the practice on a little island in the South China Sea is to go down to Tung Wan Bay on this festive evening and light candles in the sand. Very pretty it looks too. Given the wind, people will have to dig deep pits, otherwise the candles will blow out. I am sure it will all work out. Mister Bijou will be down there to admire others having fun, regard and contemplate the big bright moon, and perhaps score some mooncake, too. Happy Moon Festival to everyone!

Bob Dylan: The Madhouse on Castle Street

Madhouse on Castle Street? Broadcast on BBC TV in January 1963? Don't remember watching such a play featuring an almost unknown (unknown outside hard-core folk circles) Bob Dylan. My guess is we were almost certainly watching Sunday Night at the London Palladium, on ITV. Those were the days, my friend.
Trouble is, there has never been the chance to watch Madhouse since. For housekeeping and budgetary purposes, the BBC soon therafter erased the Madhouse tape, along with tapes of many other programmes. A short-sighted step, that the BBC's finance department, cultural historians, and viewers have long since come to regret.
The Guardian/Observer has a long, fascinating account of Dylan's first visit to Britain. Oh, some of the clubs mentioned, Bunjies Coffee House, Les Cousins, and the Troubadour were still functioning in the late sixties -- but barely. To read, please click here.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Nina Wang

Both today's local Chinese- and English-language newspapers devote much coverage to the decision of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal in favour of Chinachem billionairess Nina Wang. Not only local news, but worldwide. This is one of the better reports.
No surprise, she's good copy, the story has racy elements: the rags-to-riches, cuckolded, twice-kidnapped husband whose body has never been found. The bereaved and aging father's legal efforts to wrestle the estate from his daughter-in-law. The billions of dollars at stake. The accusation that the widow Wang forged her late husband's will. The pig-tailed widow's 'wacko' lifestyle. Her 50 bodyguards...
So, while not as Dickensian as Gradgrind versus Gradgrind, for eight years the case passed from one court to another. Now, it is over; I think.
Anyway, it all seemed like a good opportunity to put up a cartoon. Eighteenth century, possibly by James Gillray or William Hogarth. But the search has proved fruitless. In the absence of said cartoon, here is a word picture from memory: It shows one man pulling on the horns of a cow, another man at the other end pulling on the cow's tail. In between, sitting on a three-legged stool is a lawyer: with a big grin on his face as he looks over his shoulder at the viewer. What's the lawyer doing? Milking the cow. Ta-rah!

weekend = squally showers and thunderstorms

I've been trying to upload a satellite image of the Tropical Storm Vicente, to no avail. In its absence, here's Hong Kong Observatory:
A ridge of high pressure is affecting southeastern China, while rain is widespread over the northern part of the South China Sea. At noon, Tropical Storm Vicente was centred about 320 kilometres southeast of Xisha. It is forecast to move northwest or west-northwest at about 30 kilometres per hour in the general direction of Hainan.
Weather forecast for this afternoon and tonight: Cloudy with rain and squally thunderstorms. Fresh easterly winds, occasionally strong over offshore waters and on high ground. Outlook : Windy, cloudy and rainy tomorrow. Sunny periods in the following few days.
This does not augur well for this weekend's Mid-Autumn Festival.

Friday, September 16, 2005

One more cup of coffee for the road

Tales from the coffee trade: Guardian in-depth report on the journey of the coffee bean to the coffee shop.
Consumer Affairs division: Mister Bijou's price watch. The Li Ka-shing owned local supermarket chain Park'N Shop has bags of 500 gram Melitta ground Cafe Mocha coffee. For months, the Mocha was retailing at HK$89.80 (with occasional price cut to HK$79.90). The price now is HK$99.80 ( but currently on 'special offer' at HK$92.80).
Even so, I remain amazed and grateful that Mocha is available on a little island in the South China Sea. But consider those numbers. My guess is that none of that price increase is going to the miserably paid coffee growers.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Kurt Vonnegut

Older, and bleaker.

Plane spotters' paradise: military airbases around the world

Biting the hand that feeds IT (general link in right-hand column) has dug up a good number of Google Earth satellite images of military air force bases around the world: Thailand, India, Australia, Russia, China, North Korea, the USA's famous Area 51, and some rather smudgy images of UK Royal Air Force and US Air Force bases in Britain. Many of the other photos have some great detail, and include one of a parked AWACS on a Thai airbase. For pix and commentary? Click here.
What about a satellite image of a little island in the South China Sea? We have no air force base, but we do have a helicopter pad at Tung Wan Bay. Mostly used for ferrying medical cases to Hong Kong. To view? Easy-peasy, go to Mister Bijou's right-hand column. Thanks!

Another side of Bob Dylan

"Only last week the final issues of the broadsheet Guardian carried a correspondence remarking on the presence on his most recent album, released four years ago, of a song titled High Water, inspired by an item from the repertoire of the great early bluesman Charley Patton, who sang of the great Mississippi flood of 1927, when the levees broke and thousands died."
Dylan, his topicality, and why and how this month of September has turned into a worldwide Dylan event, by Richard Williams in the Guardian.

Ex-Kink Ray Davies: the day I got shot in New Orleans

Ray Davies writes about how, one evening last year, near the French Quarter, he was shot during a mugging. He describes the medical care he received. His slow recovery. And what else he observed in New Orleans: a city in profound disrepair. Two pages.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

City of New Orleans flood map

Point and click for current and maximum flood levels anywhere within the City of New Orleans. Nice application based on Google maps and satellite images. Start here.

More tales from the skin trade

Looong article in the Guardian about how collagen for certain beauty products may have been harvested from the skin of executed prisoners in China.
The mainland Chinese have a fairly hardnosed "waste not, want not" approach to 'bad social elements'. So it wouldn't surprise me if this is true. And that the trade in such collagen comes through Hong Kong.
Amnesty International believes around 3,400 people were executed last year, with a further 6,000 on death row. Collagen? Apparently, it is injected to plump up people's lips and flatten out their wrinkles. Very popular in Britain, so they say. Full report.

Aggro at opening of Hong Kong Disneyland

Protestors were out in some force for the opening on Monday of Hong Kong Disneyland. Report here.
Some of the aggro was videotaped and is online here (Quicktime, scroll down page). Link via EastSouthWestNorth.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節)

Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節), or Chinese Moon Festival, is earlier than usual this year, although by Chinese reckoning it's still on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Be that as it is, there are six days to go: 18 September 2005. FYI: the day after, 19 September, Monday, is a public holiday in Hong Kong. More about the Moon Festival, one of Mister Bijou's favourite local festivals, later in the week.

Port Out, Starboard Home (POSH)

Wordperson Michael Quinion, editor of the World Wide Words website, sends out a weekly email. It makes for a quick and pleasant read of a Saturday. The service is free, go to his website if you'd like to subscribe.
Quinion's latest book Port Out, Starboard Home is out now, published by Penguin. Mister Bijou is adding POSH to the 'want list' he is soon going to be sending to Santa. Meanwhile, the always entertaining Nicholas Lezard gives it a thumbs up review in the Guardian. Please click here.

China's vice president Zeng Qinghong in Hong Kong

Reports on Zeng Qinghong's visit to Hong Kong:
Zeng's 'cool it' hint to democrats: "All strata, all circles and all political groups in Hong Kong should put Hong Kong's overall interests first and jointly contribute to building a prosperous and harmonious Hong Kong." Translation: do it our way.
Zeng talks with some very rich businessmen but not others.
Leung "Long Hair" Kwok-hung thrown out of official banquet (what's new?).
Zeng calls on Hong Kong government and Hong Kong Jockey Club to make Beijing's dream come true.

I want to sit on Trent Lott's porch

Remember when George W Bush arrived in Biloxi, Mississippi, 2 September? He made a deeply felt speech in response to the devastation he had witnessed and the stories he had heard: "Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch," Bush said, referring to the former Senate majority leader who lost his 154-year-old family home in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Trent Lott's porch now has its own website.

Dylan's Desolation Row

Essay by Roy Harper. (Hey, Nick G! Roy Harper!) Roy Harper, winner of the 2005 MOJO Hero Award. Hero Award! Who knew?
Anyway, MOJO magazine printed an edited version of Harper's thoughts about Dylan's Desolation Row, now they have put online the full version for our reading pleasure.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Katrina photo series

A photographer/hotel worker/Nicaraguan immigrant who lives in New Orleans took about 200 pictures from the time before the storm struck, during -- including the eerie, beautiful calm when the eye passed through -- and after. One of the best presented photo series I have seen. Click here.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Theme park officially opens on Monday, 12 September 2005. Bigwigs from China, Hong Kong, the USA, and elsewhere will be in attendance.
Yours truly, Mister Bijou, is not invited. Nor will he be going any time soon. Why? He'd rather saunter from one aquarium to another at Ocean Park than stand in line at that cultural Chernyobyl over in Penny's Bay. Still, enquiring minds need to know: how big is Hong Kong Disneyland, the actual theme park? Phase 1, what's opening tomorrow: 15 acres. By way of comparison, Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, is 17 acres.

In Macao, Giant Pleasure Domes Are Decreed

The New York Times headline was inspired, of course, by the opening lines of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
The poem runs another 60 or so lines. As Coleridge explained some time later the entirety of the lines were:
composed, in a sort of Reverie brought on by two grains of Opium taken to check a dysentery, at a Farm House between Porlock & Linton, a quarter of a mile from Culbone Church, in the fall of the year, 1797.
It is also well known that Coleridge was interrupted in his writing by "a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour..." In the process, Coleridge lost his muse and never did get to finish the poem. So it was published as it was: a fragment of 60 lines. Yet I find myself in agreement with many others: if only the unknown person from Porlock had arrived a tad earlier! Why so? Those two opening lines by Coleridge are perfect as they stand.
Whether the pleasure domes of Macao are perfect, however, depends on what you mean by 'perfect'. They are certainly not 'stately'. While the Portuguese ruled Macao, as they did for 400 years or so until 1999, they granted a company fronted by Stanley Ho -- he who had traded with the Japanese during their savage occupation -- a near monopoly on the casino gambling industry. Catering to Hong Kong gamblers, carried back and forth to Macao by Ho's large fleet of fast ferry boats, Stanley, his extended family, and other interested parties including Henry Fok, grew very rich.
But that cosy if occassionally murderous monopoly ended in 1999. Since when, many changes have taken place, and many more are coming. Mega changes. Mainland gamblers -- many with money looted one way or another from what were Chinese state assets or banks -- pour in and party like its 1999. While the spectacular razzmatazz operators of Las Vegas have opened up and they have further mega plans. NYT article (reg. required).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Steve Bell: the casualties of Hurricane Katrina

Steve Bell cartoon in the Guardian (9 September, 2005).

Post-Katrina: Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job

So, the Bush team has pulled out Michael Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Brown has been, as they say in Washingtonese, 'recalled to Washington'.
So who's now heading FEMA? The Chief of Staff is a guy named Patrick Rhode. He planned events for President Bush’s campaign. Rhode has no emergency management experience whatsoever. The Deputy Chief of Staff? That's Scott Morris. He was a press flak for Bush’s presidential campaign. Previously, he worked for the company that produced Bush’s campaign commercials. He also has no emergency management experience.
Much has already been written about Bush's manner of appointing people to positions of power and authority (payback for political or financial support, cronyism, nepotism, etc) so no point in going over that.
Instead, it might be worthwhile looking at the official transcript of Brown's official nomination and confirmation by a Senate committee. The committee was chaired by Senator Joe Lieberman (Ct, Democrat). For (pdf) file click here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Vice president Zeng Qinghong to shake hands with Goofy

Ostensibly, the reason for Vice President Zeng Qinghong's arrival in Hong Kong Saturday is the opening of Disneyland - but the main purpose of his three-day visit is for Beijing to emphasize its control over Hong Kong, according to mainland sources.
Zeng, who was placed in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs after the July 1, 2003, mass pro-democracy rally, will officiate at the opening of Disneyland Monday.
But there will be a lot more on his plate than shaking hands with Goofy and fireworks in Fantasyland.
The trip will include an unprecedented dinner banquet with all 60 Hong Kong lawmakers invited among the 400 VIP guests.
Even pro-democracy legislator and radical activist Leung Kwok-hung is invited.
Other events include a private meeting with Hong Kong's most powerful businessman, Li Ka-shing, and his two sons and community walkabouts.
Full report here.

Post-Katrina: Kanye West remix

Singer Kanye West's off-the-script "George Bush doesn't care about black people" comment on the recent NBC telethon to raise money for Katrina victims is now remixed. Among the many direct links to download the mp3 is this one

Posthegemonic musings

There has always been a particular rivalry between solidity and liquidity. Liquids level, either slowly, through erosion, or tumultously and violently, as the dams break and the tidal wave comes through. They dissolve, make immanent, everything that the elite hold dear. The fable of Canute tells us that sovereignty can control everything but rising water. And the downfall of a capitalist enterprise is its liquidation.
No wonder that revolutions are often figured as floods. "Après nous, le déluge," as Madame Pompadour said.
And no wonder then that the flooding of New Orleans should have incited such panic about the threat of an unleashed African American underclass.
This is from Posthegemonic Musings. Some mighty good stuff there. Friday, when I get round to it, I'll be adding Posthegemonic Musings to the growing list of links on the right.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Post-Katrina: New Orleans becomes a war zone

The growing reliance on the military, however, is a response neither to terrorist threat or natural catastrophes. On the international arena, the US ruling elite has turned toward the use of military aggression and the seizure of strategic assets and territories as a means of offsetting the relative decline of American capitalism’s position in the world economy.
At home, the turn toward martial law is a manifestation of growing fears within America’s fabulously wealthy financial oligarchy that conditions of social polarization and steady decline in the living standards of the vast majority of working people have created a social powder keg.
I'm not much in agreement with their politics, but these people's analysis of what's been going on rings true. Read more?

Post-Katrina: the scammers, spammers, and swindlers

Post-Katrina, be careful who you donate to:
Florida's attorney general has already filed a fraud lawsuit against a man who started one of the earliest networks of Web sites -, and others - that stated they were collecting donations for storm victims.
In Missouri, a much wider constellation of Internet sites - with names like and - displayed pictures of the flood-ravaged South and drove traffic to a single site,, a nonprofit entity with apparent links to white separatist groups.
Full text, NYT (reg required).

Bean curd

Today's South China Morning Post has a one-page feature about bean curd (paid, no link). Lousy newspaper, great food.
Bean curd comes in many guises, can be cooked in many ways. I'll be buying a block of fresh bean curd later this afternoon at my local fruit and vegetables store. They keep it in a bucket of water close by the broccoli. The bean curd costs HK$1.00 for a block of the stuff, it's more than enough for one person.
How to cook? Here's what Mister Bijou does: drop a bit of olive oil onto a plate, mix in some dark soy source, place bean curd on top, garnish with slivers of fresh ginger and chopped spring onion, put the plate on a wire contraption in the wok filled with boiling water, put lid on wok, turn gas down somewhat, walk away from wok for 10-15 minutes... Ta-ra! Not exactly haute cuisine, but the result is good and healthy steamed bean curd. Bean curd?

Police informant: Yahoo ! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd

Reporters without Borders commenting on the 10-year jail sentence for mainland journalist Shi Tao:
“We already knew that Yahoo ! collaborates enthusiastically with the Chinese regime in questions of censorship, and now we know it is a Chinese police informant as well,” the press freedom organisation said.
A company's first priority is to its executives and shareholders. Everyone else can go hang themselves. Nothing new here. Move on.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

FEMA now blocks photos of the dead

The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims.
An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats and that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."
"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry.
Full report by Reuters here. So, no embeds. Well, no probs. Journos will continue doing what they have been doing all along: intrepidly covering and reporting the post-Katrina catastrophe.

Jon Stewart on Katrina: video clip

Jon Stewart is host of the most excellent The Daily Show: Fake News that delivers the Truth. Well, earlier clips I have seen are most excellent.
Stewart was away on holiday, but now the show's host is back. Wondering what he missed, but catching up real fast. Click here, then click on picture to play (Quicktime).

Today's featured article: Hong Kong

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (aka 中華人民共和國香港特別行政區). Yes, it's the front-page featured article in today's ever-growing Wikipedia. The photo? From Wiki, it shows the celebration in 1945 of the liberation of Hong Kong. Left foreground is the Cenotaph. The flag on the left is the Union Jack, the one on the right is the then Republic of China. If you know where is the Cenotaph, you'll know the water's edge is today a good long way away.

A tale of two photos

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Click here.

Hong Kong business opportunities

Monday, two factions of the Wo Shing Wo, a triad gang, showed up at the brand-new Kwai Chung Public Mortuary. Why so? To bury the dead? Not on Monday.
According to government statistics, the death rate in Hong Kong has remained steady at about 0.5 percent of the population for the past decade. That translates to around 34,000 deaths a year. If 95 percent of the families chose the HK$30,000 average service that includes cremation, the business would result in at least HK$969 million a year.
In Hong Kong, the sales end of the funeral business is often controlled by triads. They point the bereaved to regular funeral directors, florists, car-hire, whatever. And, of course, take a commission on all the business they drum up. Apparently, there is an internal struggle between the local Tsuen Wan faction which wants the new Kwai Chung Mortuary business now in their locality, and the Hunghom faction that did the business at the now-closed Hunghom Public Mortuary. Report.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Michael Chertoff: And frankly, it is very --

Sunday, 4 September 2005, Tim Russert interviews Michael Chertoff (director of Homeland Security). Chertoff is answering a question and says:
"The only way to get to people and to get supplies was to have airdrops and helicopters. And frankly, it is very -- and their first priority was rescuing people from rooftops.
It's the 'And frankly, it is very --' that catches the attention. Following as it does the statement about airdrops and helicopters. And frankly, it is very -- . Did Chertoff's internal alarm bell going off? And frankly, it is very -- What? Expensive? Chertoff interview transcript.

Nice cup of tea and a sit down

Hereabouts, for the tea drinker who'd like a cuppa like the cuppa he used to drink long ago in the land of his youth, one of the best and locally available cuppas is Marks & Spencer Extra Strong Tea. Locally, being on Hong Kong island. There's an M&S in the central business district at the junction of Pedder Street and Queen's Road Central. Another M&S store for the longest time was at Pacific Place shopping mall at Admiralty. But the landlord, Swire's, refused to renew the lease and so Marks had to move out this summer. They are now in Times Square, Causeway Bay.
(Retail rant.) Swire's said it wanted to change the 'retail mix': kick out M&S and fill the space with even more designer boutiques selling crap at obscenely high prices: HK$1,000 t-shirts, HK$1,200 flip-flops. I kid you not. (/Retail rant over.)
Anyway, I have it on good authority (thanks, Nick G!) there is also a Marks store in Taikoo Shing. Failing that, our local Wellcome supermarket sells a 'quality blended tea with a full and refreshing flavour' made by Australia's First Choice. It is good and robust.
Currently, however, we are enjoying PG Tips, brought back from the motherland to a little island in the South China Sea by a good friend. It was a surprise gift. Thanks, Francoise! As is, or drop some fresh ginger, cardoman and cinnamon in and voila: Marsala Tea! Sort of.
We also sup, from time to time, Bo Lai tea, a Japanese green tea and, when that urge occasionally comes upon us, bunker-buster strength Iron Buddha black Yunnan tea. So many teas, so little time.
For much more about a nice cup of tea and a sit down, please click here.
How to make a perfect cuppa? The 11 steps to a perfect cup of tea -- George Orwell's Tea Rules click here.

Health risks

Everything you ever wanted to know about: dysentery, West Nile virus, hepatitis, Weil's disease, typhoid, cholera.
How do you get infected? What does it do to you? How is it cured? What is the level of risk? Click here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Everyone shops at Wal-Mart

No electricity? No water? No services? Most people abandoned ship? Need a change of clothes? Want to experience the pleasure of wearing a brand-new T-shirt? What to do? Police and public shop at Wal-Mart. Thanks, Gavin!
Me? I wasn't there, but if I had been I'd have done exactly what they were doing.


Live from Louisiana, post-Katrina video coverage on WWL-TV.

Accountants: a threat to democracy

Can only wish I'd thought of that, but it's the Guardian's headline, not mine. I have never understood why someone poor who steals is likely to go to prison, but someone in a suit and tie pays a fine, admits no guilt, and continues on their merry way. Call me, naive. But isn't it time we got out the pitchforks and scythes and saw these thieves off?
With the aid of accountancy firms, numerous corporate transactions are manufactured for the purpose of avoiding taxes. KPMG has admitted selling "unlawful" tax avoidance schemes that effectively deprived US public funds of billions of dollars. The firm has been fined nearly $500m as a result. Several of its ex-partners face the prospect of criminal prosecutions. Other big US accountancy firms, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte also face financial penalties and threats of prosecution.
The same firms also peddle a range of avoidance schemes in the UK, which are estimated to cost the state £100bn each year in possible tax revenues.
Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at the University of Essex, writes about the dangers companies such as KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte pose to the well-being and welfare of ordinary citizens. Guardian, click here.

Rescue Me...

The story of a storm -- and a disastrously slow rescue:
At the adjoining and equally squalid New Orleans Arena, people began putting plastic bags on their feet to walk through the pools of urine. And yet, in a scene from Hieronymus Bosch, a man named Samuel Thompson, 34, took out his violin and played Bach's famous lamentation, Sonata No. 1 in G minor. He told L.A. Times reporter Scott Gold, who witnessed the scene, "These people have nothing. I have a violin. And I should play for them. They should have something."
Newsweek's narrative.

One Good Move

Post-Katrina video clips (Quicktime). Mostly interviews of frustrated, worn-out, local officials who desparately need help and don't want to hear any more federal spin and talk-talk.
Check out Aaron Broussard. Check out Senator Mary Landrieu threatening to punch the president. Check out hip-hop artist Kanye West when he decides to ignore the teleprompter.
Light relief? You bet, comedian Bill Maher...
Very recommended.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Gris-gris gumbo ya-ya

Yes, I know Dr John's album Gris-gris was recorded in Los Angeles. But the music, the snaky rhythms, the soulful backup girls, the deep sound, the song titles: Gris-gris Gumbo Ya-Ya, Mama Roux, Danse Kalinda Ba Doom, Jump Steady. This was faraway, fabled New Orleans, Louisiana gumbo swamp voodoo coming out the stereo -- startling enough in itself. Acid-enhanced, the whole voodoo chant thing became even more trance-inducingly weird. The last track? I Walk on Guilded Splinters. Yes, indeed.
No Dr John mention in this post-Katrina roundup of who's missing, who's found, and what various musicians are doing to raise funds for the N'awlins refugees. My bet is he'll be doing somethin', y'all. Reuters.

Katrina: New Orleans left to the dead and dying

Tens of thousands of people had been evacuated from the city, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry said as many as 120,000 hurricane refugees were in 97 shelters across the state, with another 100,000 in Texas hotels and motels. Others were in Tennessee, Indiana and Arkansas.
Good to see that so many people have been evacuated and that evacuation continues. But it looks to me that fatalities are going to be in the (low? high?) double-digit thousands in the city of New Orleans. If you have seen newsreel you will know there are thousands of buildings totally submersed. Many people will have immediately drowned in such structures. There must be others who managed to survive. Isolated as they were, many of those, however, will have subsequently succumbed: through injury or lack of medical attention for chronic illness, for want of food, or by dehydration as the result of a deficiency of potable water. Sad, so sad.
"The first few days were a natural disaster. The last four days were a man-made disaster," said Phillip Holt, 51, who was rescued from his home Saturday with his partner.
Full AP report.

Katrina: Brits were told:"You're on your own."

Although assistance was offered to US residents, British nationals were told they would have to fend for themselves. According to those who remain stranded in the stricken city, police had visited hotels and guest houses on the eve of the hurricane offering to evacuate Americans, but not Britons.
The order meant UK holidaymakers without cars were left helpless in the face of the hurricane. Some have been trapped in hotels and guest houses since the hurricane struck at 7am local time last Monday.
There is a payphone in the (Ramada) hotel lobby, but US operators have been refusing to accept collect calls from stranded Britons.
'Some of them are just hanging up even after they have explained they are trapped in New Orleans. It's like - what emergency?' said Scott. He added that conditions in the lobby were described as atrocious, with sewage up to knee level last night.
Guardian report (4 September 2005).

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Notes from Inside New Orleans

Jordan Flaherty is a resident of New Orleans, union organizer, and an editor of Left Turn Magazine (
Images of New Orleans' hurricane-ravaged population were transformed into black, out-of-control, criminals. As if taking a stereo from a store that will clearly be insured against loss is a greater crime than the governmental neglect and incompetence that did billions of dollars of damage and destroyed a city. This media focus is a tactic, just as the eighties focus on "welfare queens" and "super-predators" obscured the simultaneous and much larger crimes of the Savings and Loan scams and mass layoffs, the hyper-exploited people of New Orleans are being used as a scapegoat to cover up much larger crimes.
Sober overview of the social, racial, economic, historic elements in play in New Orleans. Please click here.

Katrina: New York Times reports and opinions

Conditions in New Orleans.
The Superdome, where upward of 25,000 people had sweltered in conditions described as unfit for animals, was mostly emptied, though 1,500 were still there late Friday. They had renamed the place, rife with overflowing toilets and reports of murder and rape, the Sewerdome.
Profile of New Orleans' mayor Ray Nagin.
Flying around the internet is an mp3 of a phone interview Nagin had on Thursday evening with New Orlean's broadcaster WWL-TV. I can't currently give you a link for that. Worth hunting down. That said: I have the mp3. If you want it, leave a comment in the comment box or contact me by email (you know who you are). WWL-TV has been awesome to watch these past six days. Worth checking out, too.

UPDATE: Gumbopages (scroll down) has a transcript of the Nagin interview, plus link to text and audio on "Mayor lashes out at Feds." I've noticed it takes forever and a day to connect to CNN, so please exercise some patience. Thank you.

Maureen Dowd: United States of Shame.
Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.

Crippled inside: A User's Guide to DRM in Online Music

Ten or so years ago, talking to a guy who worked for the local organization that 'defends' the rights of companies that own the publishing rights to music and market the cds that fill record stores, I learned three things.
Firstly, he was keen to promote the idea that he was defending the rights of singers and songwriters.
Second, he was much less keen to highlight the fact that the driving force behind the significant effort to enforce payments came not from those self same singers and songwriters, but from the music publishers, music manufacturers and marketers (often different branches of the same media conglomerate).
Lastly, he took great pains to explain that when you buy a cd you are buying a physical asset but not the music thereupon. Even after having paid an arm and a leg for a cd, you still did not own the music on that cd.
That was then, this is now. Need a simple run-down on the pitfalls and consequences of 'buying' music online? Look no further: The Customer Is Always Wrong: A User's Guide to DRM in Online Music. Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware!

Pacific Reef-egret

Life goes on... very late Friday afternoon, one of these Pacific Reef-egrets was plucking fish out of the waters of Tung Wan Bay. What a wonderful privilege to be able to observe such an event.
(Oh, and I'd like to thank 'bird man' Dr Martin Williams for identifying this bird for me. For matters ornithological -- as well as more, much more -- please check out his website. Thank you.)

Friday, September 02, 2005

FEMA and flood control projects under Bush

Washington DC's K Street, right-wing lobbyist Grover Norquist famously said: “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
Here's the drowning in action as concerns FEMA and the city of New Orleans flood control projects: timeline. As Kevin Drum, the guy who put together the timeline, says: read and weep.

Cough, cough... nitrogen dioxide over China

Nitrogen dioxide levels over China. That red blob in the south is, of course, the Pearl River Delta region: Guangzhou, Hong Kong, et cetera. Published 1 September, 2005, European Space Agency (ESA) satellite image:
China's spectacular economic growth during the last decade has brought many benefits – and some challenges. Global atmospheric mapping of nitrogen dioxide pollution performed by ERS-2's GOME and Envisat's SCIAMACHY reveals the world's largest amount of NO2 hanging above Beijing and northeast China, as reported in Nature this week.
Exposure to nitrogen dioxide in large quantities is known to cause lung damage and respiratory problems, although little is known about the consequences of long term exposure to elevated atmospheric amounts. The presence of this gas is a significant driver of the production of low-level ozone, which, within the troposphere (the lowest part of the atmosphere, extending eight to 16 kilometres in height) is itself a harmful toxic pollutant, a major ingredient of photochemical smog. "While nitrogen dioxide vertical column concentrations above central and eastern Europe and parts of the East Coast of the United States have been either static or exhibiting a small decrease, there is a clear and significant increase over China," explains John Burrows of the University of Bremen's Institute of Environmental Physics, SCIAMACHY's Principal Investigator.
ESA link, click here.

Katrina: trapped by poverty

In the day or so before Katrina hit the city of New Orleans, after the order had been given for a mandatory evacuation, what was striking to this outside observer was that no public, organised effort was made to evacuate people.
Those who had the money and means had the chance to get out. If you had a car and a credit card? Fine. If you didn't? Tough. Those without were left behind.
That was evacuation, but evacuation laissez-faire style.
Now that may be the way it is in what used to be called Third World countries. But in the wealthiest country in the world?
The local authorities finally and grudgingly, yes, grudgingly, opened the Superdome to those left behind. And who were they? Sure, some people chose to stay. But many others had no choice: the poor, indigent, homeless, mentally ill, the old, the infirm.
Who knows how many in New Orleans made it to safe refuge? No one knows. There is ever reason, however, to expect that the number of dead will be huge.
In America, class, money, power, and race are tightly linked. If you are a member of the American underclass, chances are you are black. Trapped in poverty, left to sink or swim. Literally.

Hong Kong Parkview milkshake murder trial

Nancy Kissel? She got 'life'. Among the many reports, here is the one from IHT.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Drowning New Orleans [2001]

Scientific American, October 2001 issue:
A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city.
By Mark Fischetti (print version dated 31 August 2005).

If you keep digging....

...where will you pop out?
Now you can find out for sure what's at the other end.
Another application based on Google Maps.
Earth: Dig it, but dig it right.