Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Tank Man

PBS documentary about China 1989-2006. It's in six parts: Prologue, Tens of Millions of Protestors, The Theatre of Massacre, China's Rise, Two Chinas, The Struggle to Control Information.

Oh, the power of images.

Viewable online (click High Cable/DSL): PBS Frontline

Futbol? Futbol?

You want futbol? Shaolin soccer: youtube

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dragon Boat Festival

Tomorrow, 31 May 2006, is Tuen Ng Festival ((what with it being the Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon) and Dragon Boat Day.

Another public holiday.

This year, the International Dragon Boat Races are taking place at Stanley Main Beach, on the south side of Hong Kong island. According to the official website, the International is now in its 39th year and there will be 3,500 paddlers. The website's frontpage has a neat pre-warm up video (but the frontpage also loads a rousing and loud rap version of I've Got the Power. If that means NSFW, wait till you get home.) Dragon Boat

Hereabouts, on a little island in the South China Sea, there were dragon boat races in the harbour on Sunday just gone. As in many other matters, here we paddle to the beat of a different drummer.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Yet more weather porn

This is so neat: HK Observatory

The road more travelled

Travel writing (an entirely new category?), by Jeremy Treglown: FT


How's this for a power play:
The government capitulated after several nights of terror. . . The delegation promised to provide imprisoned PCC members with 60 televisions and to permit them to watch the football World Cup.
Sinister forces flex their muscles in South America: spiegel

Hong Kong: Central harbourfront to be vibrant and attractive (with photos)

(click on images to enlarge)

Vibrant and attractive? That's what they say, but they would say that, wouldn't they? Well, it looks like a done deal: Hong Kong Government press release

But don't be too sure. It ain't over 'till the fat lady sings, et cetera.

There so many things wrong about the plans, I don't know where to begin. Grrrrhhh!

After a deluge: salt and water

Hereabouts, eighty percent of the year's annual rainfall occurs between the beginning of May and the last days of August.

It seemed this Sunday morning as if we were getting half of it in one go. Yes, an amazingly heavy rain storm. It just bucketed it, bucketed it down.

Then it stopped.

Still, there is much pleasure to be had witnessing said tumult -- providing one is sheltered, safe and dry. Plus, as mum would say, a downpour's good for the plants, settles the dust, and cleans the streets.

All well and good, but that urban (and rural) run-off mostly pours into the sea -- which is why the local authorities recommend citizens stay out of the briny deep for the three days following a heavy rain storm.

The salt of the earth take no notice and bathe before, during, and after a deluge.

Irrepressible info

The pledge:
I believe the Internet should be a force for political freedom, not repression. People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference.

I call on governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet – and on companies to stop helping them do it.
Sign this pledge: Amnesty International

Friday, May 26, 2006

Enron: Guilty!

To mark the occasion musically, how about a bunch of songs? Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Plus, an Enron Voicemail. All mp3s: WFMU

Hong Kong: Bus Uncle says "I've got pressure"

Among the many items that caught my eye several days ago in the ever busy and informative local EastSouthWestNorth was a story titled Bus Uncle.

That story has now made today's (26 May 2006) Guardian. The Guardian credits an agency report, in this case Associated Press (25 May 2006). Both the AP and Guardian reports have, among other things, lame links to youtube.

Uncredited be either the Guardian or AP is the Hong Kong blogger who broke the story in the English-language medium: EastSouthWestNorth:
Excerpted from Apple Daily via InMediaHK:
What is the most popular movie in Hong Kong? It is not M:i:3 (which is likely not to be shown in mainland China) and it is not Da Vinci Code (which is severely criticized by the Catholic Church). No, it is a stealth video clip entitled "巴士阿叔, Bus Uncle" on YouTube.

The incident occurred on the top deck of a Number 68X Kowloon bus on April 29. A young man observed that the middle-aged person in front of him was talking too loud on the mobile telephone. So he tapped the man's shoulder and asked him to keep the volume down. This led to a vigorous response, including a string of obscenities. The entire proceedings were recorded by another passenger using a mobile camera phone. The film was uploaded on YouTube and then seen by the whole wide world. As of May 19, 1.2 million people have watched the video clip!
Here is the original report in English (24 May 2006) with direct links to the appropriate youtube clips as well as to merchandising opportunities and ring tones: EastSouthWestNorth

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bob Dylan: Theme Time Radio Hour

That third radio show by Bob Dylan is now available for our listening pleasure. This one takes as its theme Drink.

As was and is the case for the previous shows -- Weather, Mother -- you'll find the mp3 here: White Man Stew (that's Stew, not Stews as I wrote in my earlier post; my bad). Thanks, WMS!

Radical Chicks

After time out, time in. By way of re-entry, there was going to be a quote from T S Eliot's Burnt Norton but that is saved for another time. Instead, for all kinds of reasons, here are the Dixie Chicks with Not Ready to Make Nice:

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Typhoon Chanchu: aftermath

Last night at 9:30pm. Hong Kong Observatory dropped the signal from No. 3 to No. 1. By the time Mister B woke up this morning, all was back to its seasonal normality: blue sky, tranquil sea, hot sun, warm earth.

The sort of day that brings to mind the opening sentence of the novel Murphy, by Samuel Beckett: The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

Anyway, South China Morning Post (paid; no link) reports that, locally, the worst casualty was a 79-year-old lady hit by a falling flowerpot. Her being in Kowloon, the flowerpot may have fallen from a great height. She is in a serious condition in United Christian Hospital. Here's hoping the elderly lady gets well soon.

Elsewhere? To the east of Hong Kong, mainland authorities in southern Guandong and the southern provinces in Fujian evacuated up to six hundred thousand people in anticipation of Typhoon Chanchu's predicted northeasterly course along the mainland coast.

Bob Dylan: Theme Time Radio Hour

Like to listen to the first two Bob Dylan radio shows? They are now available as Mp3s: White Man Stew

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Typhoon Chanchu

Zhuhai, next door to Macao: waterfront on 16 May 2006

Typhoon Chanchu

Let's see, Monday evening Hong Kong Observatory issued a Tropical Cylone Warning No. 1.

Tuesday? Most of the day was overcast with patches of very fine rain. It was only in the evening that the winds significantly picked up accompanied by the passage of light rain bands.

At daybreak this morning, Wednesday, the Observatory issued a No. 3 Warning.

(For language mavens. The Obs used to "raise" or "hoist" a warning. During a storm some poor blighter had to go out and hoist the appropriate big symbol up the flagpole at the weather station. When the weather station became "de-manned" and automated a few years ago there was nobody there and nothing to raise so they switched to "issue".)

For more information on Warnings: Definitions and Meanings: Hong Kong Observatory

Timing of the ebb and flow of the tide coupled with the storm surge means that around now some low-lying shore areas may be subject to flooding: Hong Kong tidal information (real time)

It's 23C, overcast, very windy with heavy rains.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Wrong Guy

Nice follow up by BBC News 24 about their mistaken identity interview (Guy Goma/Guy Kewney): BBC AudioVideo
Thanks, Nick G!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Reading matters

Not done this for a bit. Of interest:

The Wars of the Texas Succession, by Paul Krugman (2004): New York Review of Books

Humanity's Ground Zero -- Turning a Planet into a Slum, interview with Mike Davis: Tomdispatch (1)
Green Zones and Slum Cities -- The Imperial City and the City of Slums, interview with Mike Davis: Tomdispatch (2)

Classical music, the love of my life, by Armando Iannucci: Guardian

Weather Porn

Not just Weather!

For all your emergency and disaster needs -- Biological Hazards, Earthquakes, Epidemics, Fires, Floods, Heat Waves, and Volcanoes: World Disaster Alert Map

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Fare comment!

The cabbie, from French West Africa, was waiting in the lobby of BBC Television Centre in West London, when a line manager mistook him for an expert on the Apple Corp versus Apple Computer legal case.

The cabbie was rushed to the studio, micced up, then interviewed live.

Confused but co-operative, he did a pretty good job. Here's the clip (Windows Media)

Ha! Now it's made it to Youtube

Typhoon Chanchu

(click on image to enlarge)

About one thousand kilometres south-southeast of a little island in the South China Sea, Typhoon Chanchu continues to make (relatively) slow progress in a west-northwest direction. Hong Kong Observatory is forecasting heavy rains and "squalls" mid-week.

Not that you'd know it here: today has been a mild (25C) and sun-filled day. This morning, Mister B went for a ride on his bike -- to Sai Wan and back. It is usually a ride done at least once a day. That little jaunt was the first in more than three weeks. Having felt very unwell for even longer, it is hoped today's sortie augurs well.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Typhoon Chanchu

(click to enlarge)
Having ripped through the Philippines as a mere Severe Tropical Storm -- ships aground, thousands homeless, not many dead -- upon reaching the South China Sea Chanchu has intensified into a typhoon! First of the season, by the way. Temperature has dropped, dogs are barking. . .

Unscheduled: ship to shore

(click on map to enlarge)
On Friday, not everyone's day turned out as planned. Especially so if they were on a lunchtime ferry from Central to Mui Wo, Lantau.

There's a blue sky, it's a clear day, and at 1:28pm and within sight of the Mui Wo ferry terminal, the double-decker ferry does an abrupt turn to starboard and soon enough slams into the headland at Man Kok Tsui. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

(click on map to enlarge)

Marine Department and ferry company enquiries to follow.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Summer song: koel

The hot months have arrived, the days and nights of heavy rains are not far off.

Mangos are plentiful, lychees are imminent.

Interrupting the torpor: the Asian Koel, aka common koel:
This is a noisy species, with persistent and loud ku-OO ku-OO calls as well as other cackles and screams.
So far unseen, but surely heard. Perhaps it perches in the higher reaches of one of the square's tall Chinese Banyan trees.

For more info: Wikipedia

Where: map

Sound byte: Bird songs (wav files), Hong Kong Bird Watching Society

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hong Kong: white house with dark secrets

If you have ever taken the Number 54 public lightbus from Outlying Ferry Terminals to Queen Mary Hospital (as Mister B does with some frequency) you may have wondered about the seemingly derelict house just glimpsed on Victoria Road, Pokfulam.

Someone, long ago, told me the place had once been a British colonial interrogation centre used by the Special Branch, the police's politico division. That certainly made sense, in the 1950s and '60s the area was still relatively remote and few other buildings then existed in the area. No one would have heard the screams:
The white house was the secret prison used to imprison political prisoners and terrorists during the British colonial period. It also served as the training school for Hong Kong/British secret agents. Many famous people with ties to the Chinese Communist Party were prisoners here, including the famous 1960's actors Fu Qi and She Wei, the spy police inspector Tsang Chiu-Fo, etc. Since the prisoners had important key information that the government needed, the special agents at the white house would use any means including drugs and hypnosis to induce the prisoners to confess.
It is, by all accounts, still a Government property and is often hired out to film crews. For pix and more: EastSouthWestNorth

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Billie Holiday

Fine and Mellow (1957)
(this may take a moment or three to load, but patience -- as we have daily the opportunity to discover -- oftentimes has its rewards.)

On 8 December, 1957, Billie Holiday performed on the CBS TV show The Sound of Jazz with a band that included (in order of first appearance, I think I got them right):

Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), Lester Young (tenor sax), Dick Dickenson (trombone), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax), Doc Cheatham (trumpet), Ben Webster (tenor sax), Roy Eldridge (trumpet).

Fine and Mellow, indeed.

Same sight, new view

One of the photos accompanying this previous post about the fiftieth anniversary of the shipping container, prompted Billy C to send me the photo amended as follows:

(click on image to enlarge)

Further plus. . . Billy C says that despite a gruelling workload he still manages to skate there once a week.

Oh, and Billy also says Barb is due to arrive hereabouts 25 June. Thanks, Billy C!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Noblesse oblige: Finnish style

That avoid-the-festivities festive party? The glamour may still be there but stamina, apparently, isn't what it was:
A certain noble Finn traipsed all the way down the slope to restock the beer bucket. When he came back with armloads of booze. . . all except [the building's residents] and the noble Finn's spouse had decamped.
Thanks also for photo (severely cropped by me), Dave A!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Sultan's Elephant

A wonderful thing in a sometimes terrible world:
The Sultan's Elephant: youtube
The Sultan's Girl: youtube

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hong Kong: Bun Festival 2006

That's it. All over. The procession. The bun tower climb. Honour upheld: local fireman Jason Kwok ka-ming won for the second time.

Visitors to the island? Fifty thousand, according to the SCMP report. But they were quoting one of the organisers. And he would say that, wouldn't he? (For another crowd estimate, see Standard, below.) Who knows? Ace eye-witness (Nick G) relates that in the evening people queueing for the ferry back to Hong Kong were five deep in an orderly fashion from the ferry terminal all the way back down to Pak Tai Temple.

There were a lot of people.

I hear the avoid-the festivities-party at Sui Kwai Wan was a success. Perhaps someone who was there could email a report? Or, leave in comment box, below.

Me? I sat on my balcony and watched the spectacle. If I am still here next year (I have reached a time in life where I wake up everyday and say thank you), I will have a small party so that others may enjoy too. That, or hang a banner saying, "Photo op! $HK300 per person, with one drink and ice included".

What else?
Several elderly parade viewers were treated for heat stroke and one floating girl fainted atop her pole before the parade began.
And about 34,000 visitors - 10,000 of whom left following the parade - brought brisk business to the island.
Lau Pang-kwai, owner of a Ta Hing incense store, said he enjoyed a 50 percent increase in sales, while Yen Lau said she expected to sell out her stock of 4,000 bun-theme pillows at HK$45 each and make up to HK$50,000.
Full report: Hongkong Standard

Friday, May 05, 2006

Stairway to Heaven

Thirty seven versions (including an excellent version by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention) of that song. Mp3s, all: WFMU

Oh, Stairway's acoustic guitar introduction was lifted from Taurus, track four on Spirit's homonymous first album, released in 1968. Just so you know.

Hong Kong: Bun Festival 2006

Foregoing the undoubted pleasures in store at the avoid-the-festivities-party taking place in a little island in the South China Sea's Sui Kwai Wan district, Mister B elected this afternoon to watch the procession pass through the village.

Brill! The procession that is. (I wish I had a digital camera to have recorded the passing moments.) Although it is too early for anyone to have put any photos up at, maybe you should look there?

Anyway, lots of colour and lots, and I mean lots, of noise. More than once, the square was filled with two or three lion dance teams with their pennants flying and accompanied by the equally exuberant and rowdy creations of the musicians with their cymbals, drums, cornets and horns. (I wish I had a tape machine to have recorded the different styles of music.)

Amidst all this, the crowning moment was an all-female, cheerleader-type brass band which passed by. Dressed in fetching white uniforms -- decorated with purple plumes -- they marched their way through as they banged on their sidedrums, blew on their trumpets, clarinets, trombones, and one instrument which I have since identified as a sousaphone.

Having the old and the new playing simultaneously side by side turned out to be a wonderful delight.

I am going to watch the Cantonese opera at the temporary bamboo opera house in front of Pak Tai Temple.

Hong Kong: Bun Festival 2006

Here's a rant (his description, not mine) from Mick S:
Ended up going out for dinner with the beach bar people last night - 2nd night of the 3-day 'fast'. Follow us, we know where we can feed on meat. Kicked out of one place, we wandered seemingly aimlessly, arriving eventually at East Lake. We had our meal and while usually I recognise little of the food when eating with this group, the dishes served up where strangely familiar:

sweet&sour pork
fried squid
beef with onions
diced chicken with cashew nuts
fried fish pieces with beancurd
soy noodles with spring onions

Seems they were only willing to serve meat dishes to tourists and thus I had to act the token part. It was all nod, nod seeing as the owner and staff know me by name, if not always the same one.

So tradition is dead. And deserves to be. Setting aside the travesty of the resurrected bun scramble on the government run, steel frame tower 50 feet from the real towers, the one god burning you can't see for the nervous, fully clad firemen and the Tourist Asso' sponsored 2nd day march, the organisers this year decreed that ripping off the plastic wrappings on the China-made buns was too much trouble and that they be placed on the towers as they were. Result, crimson towers, glinting inappropriately in the TV lights.

The opera is pretty good though.

Off to an avoid-the-festival party soon. Think I'll assume the old bore persona, "assume" hah!, wistfully recalling old days when traditions were respected and all was right with the world. Won't mention the fact that the festival was moved off the beachfront in the late 60's to accommodate the tourist hordes. Some myths have to be protected.
Thanks, Mick S!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hong Kong: Bun Festival 2006

Yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, the island went vegetarian, or its notion of vegetarian. Steamed, or is it boiled, oysters, anyone? Still, the vegetarian crispy rolls are very good, if you avoid the over-greasy ones. Meat eaters mostly go into the closet for two and a half days.

Also on the plus side, as a sop to local custom, McDo -- yes, sadly, not gladly, there is a McDo on a little island in the South China Sea -- apparently stops serving its global McChew and McChuck. What do they serve instead? I have no idea.

What else? The selling of the Bun Festival. . . Official souvenirs? Phone strap (left) and magnet (right). There's probably more, but I haven't seen any yet.

This year, the baker asked me if I wanted a festival bun with lotus seed filling. I said I didn't care, just give me a lucky bun. He laughed, but took my money all the same.

Friday is going to be very crowded.

Hong Kong: Bun Festival 2006

Crowd control barriers arrived? Check. Bikes illegally parked on the waterfront removed? Check. Official viewing stands ready? Check. Bun Tower? Check.

Extra ferries? See earlier post. Check.

Hong Kong Police? Check. Hong Kong Fire Services Department? Check. Hong Kong Hospital Authority medical services? Check. Hong Kong Government Flying Service? Check.

Transport Department Emergency Transport Co-ordination Centre? Check. Home Affairs Department Emergency Co-ordination Centre? Check. Hong Kong Observatory? Check.

Local worthies? Check. Local unworthies? Check. Politicos, civil servants and other VIPs? Check.

Media centre? Check.

Hong Kong Tourist Authority? Check. Leisure and Cultural Services? Check. Islands District Council? Check. Hong Kong Mountaineering Union? Check? Cleaning Services? Check.

Hong Kong Police Bagpipe Band? In drone mode.

Hong Kong: Bun Festival 2006

Bun Festival.

Easily the best guide to the history and customs of the Tai Ping Qing Jiao (Purest Sacrifice celebrated for Great Peace).

Aka Bun Festival:
Dr. Sui-wai Cheung

How to brighten up a night at the bar

Horn guy: video google
Thanks, A Depth of Life!

Hong Kong: Bun Festival 2006

Late Wednesday night, this email from Mick S:
I just saw the ATV late news and apart from telling its audience that the bun festival was on Saturday I'm sure they said there'd be special ferries and overnight buses TO Cheung Chau. Well, I want to be on one.
Thanks, Mick S! Here's a preview.


Still, even local terrestial broadcaster ATV isn't alone in its confusion about when the Bun Festival takes place. Today's South China Morning Post also repeats the Saturday error in its extensive report "Bun festival climbing champion vows to keep local grip on trophy." (The defending champion, Kwok Kai-wing, is a local who is also a fireman.) If you are interested, the story is on page four of City section (no link, paid).

Still, every cloud. . . et cetera. Those of a curmudgeonly disposition will welcome ATV and SCMP's hopelessly misinformed reporting as this promises fewer people visiting the island on Friday. Even if the other English-language newspaper got it right: Hongkong Standard.

And here, too.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hong Kong: Bun Festival 2006

Please to make a line here. Thank you for your co-operation.

"The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day"

According to historian Peter Linebaugh:

On May Day 1980 the Green and Red themes were combined when a former Buick auto-maker from Detroit, one "Mr. Toad," sat at a picnic table and penned the following lines,

The eight hour day is not enough;
We are thinking of more and better stuff.
So here is our prayer and here is our plan,
We want what we want and we'll take what we can.

Down with wars both small and large,
Except for the ones where we're in charge:
Those are the wars of class against class,
Where we get a chance to kick some ass..

For air to breathe and water to drink,
And no more poison from the kitchen sink.
For land that's green and life that's saved
And less and less of the earth that's paved.

For more about the Red and Green as well as the remainder of Mr Toad's terrific poem: autonomedia

Service resumed