Friday, June 30, 2006

An imperial concubine's smile

Bought some fresh lychees 荔枝 a couple of weeks ago, but they weren't the usual mouthwatering delish. Since when longan 龍眼 (dragon's eye) have now appeared at the local fruit and veg. As have a new batch of fresh lychee, which are much better than the earlier lychee -- these are juicier and have that delicate, fragrant aftertaste.

A little ferreting around on-line reveals that lychees, like apples, come in different varieties. Such as:
'Fei tsu hsiao', or 'Fi tsz siu' (imperial concubine's laugh, or smile) is large, amber-colored, thin-skinned, with very sweet, very fragrant flesh. Seeds vary from large to very small. It ripens early.
Not sure which variety this is, but herewith I swallow an imperial concubine's smile. Or three. It ripens early. . .

That's for now. The rest are for the beach on Saturday to share with Barb and the kids.

For your lychee needs: purdue
For obsessives: FAO

No (wo)man is an island

The arrow of time: Diego and Susy
Thanks, Gavin!

Ever been dumped? It's all here in Jennifer Holliday's seismic performance of And I'm Telling You (I'm Not Going) -- it starts at 3:15: youtube

On a happier note: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage, by Amy Sutherland: NYT

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hong Kong: Kai Tak

For anyone who ever flew into Hong Kong's old airport at Kai Tak. A text-book landing (plus a nice pan of Kowloon City): youtube
Another landing: youtube
A not-so text-book landing: youtube

Who turned the lights out?

Maybe it's in his introduction to Deschooling Society (1971) or the one for ABC, The Alphabetisation Of The Popular Mind (1988), but it is the kind of thing Ivan Illich was wont to say: "A lot of things have happened this century, and most of them plug into walls."

As I remember it, Illich went on to suggest that on Day One you unplug the newest electrical appliance, Day Two the next, and so on until you are totally unplugged. Life, as you know it, quickly becomes impossible. Livable, yes. Humans, after all, lived without electricity for thousands of years.

Anyway, why not try it out? If that is too arduous, how about as a thought experiment? Unplug those domestic appliances one by one and see how your life would change. (We'll ignore transport and work.) You know: the computer, CD player, microwave, TV, aircon, alarm clock, doorbell, fridge, cooker, toaster, kettle, telephone, water heater, and the lights. Don't forget to turn out the lights.

Oh, and if you live in a highrise: take the stairs.

Once lived for several months in a village in southeast Asia where there was absolutely no electricity. Fortunately, it was warm -- but not the hottest time of the year. That was where I learned how to draw water from a well. And how heavy and burdensome water is to have to carry. Discovered the haphardness and limitations of cooking with charcoal. After dark, you made your own amusements in the flickering shadows and light of kerosene lamps.

I see the Israeli's destroyed northern Gaza's electric power plant. The plant cost US$150 million to build. Now, there is only rubble. Who knows when a new one will get built and how long it takes to build one. Fortunately, the power plant was insured with a US agency for US$48 million: Boston Globe

Oh, Ivan Illich: Guardian Obit

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hong Kong Jelawat

A No.1 warning went up yesterday, for tropical cyclone Jelawat, Where did that come from, how did that sneak in? Currently, Jelawat is about 450km south of here.

So far today, there have been some very heavy downpours. Since no one hereabouts likes to get their head wet, even people with umbrellas scurry for shelter. The streets and alleys on a little island in the South China Sea soon empty of people.

Whether from or wet or dry vantage point, there is something elementally enervating about such monumental deluges. As long as one's house does not get flooded or other mishaps to life and limb occur. Then the rain stops and the daily rhythms of life regain their momentum.

For reasons best known to itself, Hong Kong Observatory now "dispatches' Thunderstorm Warnings. Excerpts from the one they issued this morning:
Thunderstorms are expected to occur over Hong Kong. Gusts exceeding 85 kilometres per hour were recorded at East Lantau at around 9:15 a.m. Members of the public are advised to take the following precautions when thunderstorms occur:
1. Stay indoors. Seek shelter in buildings if you are engaging in outdoor activities.
2. Do not stand on high grounds. Keep away from highly conductive objects, trees or masts.
3. Take precautions against violent gusts. Beware of flying debris and falling objects.
4. Drivers using highways and flyovers should reduce speed to be alert to violent gusts.
No mention, however, of the supposed danger of using a mobile phone or iPod in the great outdoors during a thunderstorm: Guardian

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Bumped into a friend on the waterfront yesterday evening who couldn't contain himself. He had recently won HK$80,000+ betting a rollover with handsome odds on a couple of World Cup matches.

To celebrate his good fortune: We must go to dinner. So to dinner we went. At one of the restaurants on the waterfront of a little island in the South China Sea.

He chose. There was steamed fish with blackbean sauce and sprigs of coriander. Prior to cooking, the waiter showed the fish to us to confirm that it was fresh. Since the finned thing was flapping around we confirmed. What else? There was a dish of stir-fried squid in shrimp sauce with a vegetable that looks a bit like celery but tastes totally different. Plus, a dish of scrambled egg and shrimp. And, yes, there was more: abalone with ducks' web feet. My host was convinced the abalone was tinned, so he wasn't happy about that. We managed to eat most everything, what little remained he bagged for his dogs.

So ended an unexpected evening.

Hah! Just got a text message. Barb (Brighton) has arrived. Meet @ Windsurfer Cafe. No, change of plan: make that Beach Bar, Kwun Yam beach, 5:30pm.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

How to watch the World Cup

Soccer and other considerations, by Tony Karon:
But there's nothing "local" about Arsenal anymore: When it played Real Madrid earlier this year in the Champion's League, there were only two Englishmen on the field, both playing for the Spanish side.
By some estimates, there are now more than 4,000 Brazilians playing professional soccer abroad, which is why Brazil's starting lineup in Germany will consist entirely of European-based players. (Indeed, Brazil could probably field two teams for the tournament, each of which would feature many of Europe's leading club players.) Germany's squad, by contrast, is almost entirely home grown,although even in the German league, many of the leading lights are Brazilian imports.
For fans and non-fans alike: TomDispatch (scroll down)

Hong Kong: Very Hot

According to Hong Kong Observatory, a ridge of high pressure is bringing generally fine weather to southern China and the northern part of the South China Sea.

It is hot, but they humidity is down and if you find a spot in the shade blessed with the breeze that is coming up from the southeast it is mighty pleasant.

An added blessing: the clean, pollution-free southeasterly winds have blown away all the smog that habitually persists these days throughout the region. For Once, Everything Looks Crystal Clear. As It Should Do.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lusophone longing

Bonga? Ever heard of him? Me, neither. Not until I sauntered over to moistworks to see what was going on.

There's a thoughtful essay by Megan Matthews and two tracks -- Mp3s -- available for download by an Angolan musician named Bonga Kwenda. Check out the Comments, too. Actually, the lyrics are not in Portuguese, but no matter. The songs are haunting, beautiful, Mona Ki Ngi Xica and Muimbo Ua Sabalu: Moistworks

That was then, this is now: China grooms a strategic relationship with the Community of Portuguese Language Countries: YaleGlobal Online

Beckett: Stirrings Still

Tim Parks reviews four recently published books about Samuel Beckett. Parks is an Englishman who has lived in Italy for more than twenty years.

I don't know what the original is like, but Park's translation of Robert Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony makes for a great read. So is his Beckett review, Still Stirring: New York Review of Books

For late Beckett (the page has a dreadful background, best to copy and paste into a document) : Stirrings Still

Hong Kong: Heat Index

At 14:10 on a little island in the South China Sea, the ambient temperature outside is 31.3C. According to the Heat Index, however, it is 42.3C.

Am I better off knowing that? Who knows? I remain in the shade and have a nice breeze coming through the window. Across the alley, someone, somewhere, is playing mahjong. Cool, eh? But soon I must go out and cross the square to buy some wholegrain bread at the bakery. On days like these, Captain Sensible says: when you go for that walk, open an umbrella.

Weather Undergound of Hong Kong: Heat Index

Update: Well, I went out, and I am not convinced it feels like forty degrees plus. More like thirty one point three. So much for metrics.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer solstice

Yes, today is a Midsummer Night's Day. The actual, real and existing longest day and shortest night of the year. Apart from that? Nothing else planned. Not yet, anyway.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Acid redux

I started out on burgundy / But soon hit the harder stuff (Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, by Bob Dylan)

Louis Menand, who is always worth a read, does a good job on the life and high times of the unsavoury Timothy Leary: New Yorker

In praise of mangosteen

Today, Mister B bought some mangosteen at one of the local fruit and veg shops of regular patronage.

It pays to be regular.

Last week, the f & v lady triumphantly pulled out a UK ten pence piece and thrust it in front of me. I wondered what was going on for a moment. The coin is the same colour and size as a Hong Kong dollar. She wanted me to see it, and asked me how much it was worth. After some discussion, we decided it was worth about HK$1.40.

Whereupon, she thrust it in my hand, and wished me well. Like I say, it pays to be regular.

Mangosteen? I knew they were mangosteen because it said so on the box. That, and when you get them home it's best to open them with care as they have a stain almost impossible to remove. Best eaten, therefore, over the sink.

Still, after I got home, I did a bit of googling. Turns out many in Southeast Asia regard it as Queen of the Fruit. Me, I am much more partial to the exquisite taste of durian. Still, as they say, one person's poisson is another person's poison.

Bob Dylan: Theme Time Radio Hour

The radio shows are coming thick and fast. Where are we now? Jail one week, Father the next. Great music and commentary. All in beautiful, cross-platform Mp3. Again, many thanks to WMS and his pals: White Man Stew

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hong Kong: another Tung Chee-hwa folly

So this was the then Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's vision by 2003: "a cable car and a themed cultural village, with associated attractions and facilities, creating a truly integrated tourism experience."


So five days before the official opening, where are we?

According to today's Hong Kong Standard, the cable car's ticket office at Tung Chung may not be large enough, is poorly ventilated, and only has celing fans to cool the expected crowds. Each cable car only seats ten, with additional room for seven standing. The trial run on Sunday (17 June, 2005) left 500 volunteers motionless in the air for more than two hours. . . something to do with the software. The Standard

This was after a similar problem that lasted 45 minutes on Saturday. Oh, and someone recently realised that the locality's often strong winds means that service will have to be suspended, possibly for a total of three months in the year.

The Grand Opening will be postponed.

For all your Ngong Ping 360 needs: Ngong Ping

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bob Dylan: Modern Times

Dylanologists will already know that earlier this year Mister D put together some new material, in private, at Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie, NY. (How do you say that: POO-keep-sea?)

Thereafter, he repaired to a Manhattan recording studio. Well, now we know, the upcoming album is called Modern Times, and is due for release 29 August, 2006: Rolling Stone

You might want to stand by your TV sets on that day. Why? The previous Dylan album, "Love & Theft" was released the morning of 9/11, 2001.

Hong Kong: bar time for Kevin Egan

Well-known barrister and defence lawyer Kevin Egan was this morning sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. Second vice-president and a regular at the bar of Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club, it looks like Mr Egan will now be propping up a bar of a different sort.

Egan was convicted based partly on the testimony of then court reporter of the South China Morning Post, Magdalen Chow. Both that reporter and SCMP were granted immunity from prosecution.

But as Egan's counsel, John McNamara, stated in court:
Egan had tried to warn Chow against publishing information about the potential witness by telling her to look up the relevant law.
"Had she done so, she would have realized it was an offense by her, the editor of the newspaper, and the company itself," he said, adding that she also knew there was a gag order and should have paid utmost care to what was published.
"Why should he be sentenced for what the SCMP has done?"
More? Hong Kong Standard

Methinks Egan will appeal the sentence and conviction.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Random Shakespeare Insult Generator

This is useful: Thou roguish spur-galled maggot-pie!


Tomorrow, 16 June, is Bloomsday. Mister B has read Ulysses twice (blush). It's really good, especially if you read it (silently) in an Irish accent, like Micheál MacLiammóir:
O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A worthy cause



(turn on
yr cookies):
Get Involved

Thanks, Gavin!

Hong Kong: Latin Dance ends in tears

Today's SCMP (paid, no link) reports a case that is now before the High Court in Hong Kong. The plaintiff is HSBC Private Bank Asia Regional Chief Executive Officer Monica Wong (left).
Evidently, Ms Wong not only has a calculating mind, she also had a passion in her loins: for the cha cha, mambo and torrid tango of Latin Dance.

As they say, follow your passion. So, the prudent banker decided to take private lessons with Latin dancer Mirko Saccani and his wife Gaynor Fairweather. For the academic years 2004-7, Ms Wong paid HK$62 million for classes and competition fees. She also pre-paid a similar amount for the five years of 2007-12.

So far, so good. All went well until 25 August 2004, when Mr Saccani said unkind things in front of a crowd about Ms Wong's lack of posterior movement and called her a "lazy cow".

Mortified, Ms Wong tangoed off the dance floor. Now, she wants ALL her money -- $HK12O million (divide by fourteen for sterling equivalent) -- back.

The Latin Dance teachers are countersuing her for the balance of payment.

SCMP Business Post's Laisee has a back-of-the-envelope calculation: "Ms Wong was paying more than $HK41,000 per day for her eight-year tuition".

Mister B has been trying NOT to think about that daily rate and how much she actually earns over and above that, and what else that money could do. . . all day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

BBC News Most Popular Now

New! One to bookmark! All singin', all dancin' what are the world's Most Popular Stories Now (worldwide, by region + map): BBC News

Bob Dylan: Theme Time Radio Hour

The sixth episode of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour is now available for our listening pleasure. The theme for this one is Jail. It's a good one.

As for previous episodes, the show is available in all-terrain, play it on anything you like, beautiful Mp3. Many thanks to WMS (and his pal Steve in the UK, and another new pal, Jean in France): White Man Stew

Monday, June 12, 2006

Killing season in the Philippines

Not many, if any, of the one hundred thousand Filipina domestic helpers who work hereabouts will be marking the day, but today is, apparently, Independence Day in the Philippines.

That's independence version 1898, when the Spanish colonialists withdrew as a result of their defeat in the so-called Spanish-American War (which was fought over who should own and rule Cuba).

Turn of that century Filipino independence did not last long, however. A US military occupation force soon installed itself. The newly-independent Filipinos rebelled. The result? What is now known as the Philippine-American War (1899-1913), although at the time it was called the Philippine Insurrection. Hundred of thousands of civilians died. Does any of that sound familiar?

Top caption:"Kill every one over ten" - General Jacob H Smith. Bottom caption: "Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines" (New York Journal -- May 5, 1902)

The killing continues. The Philippines is, after Iraq, the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. There is also an ongoing, low-level and methodical campaign of murder targeting legal left-wing organisers and activists. Don't believe that? Killing Season in the Philippines: Asia Times

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Zarqawi Portrait Sets Record Price for Photography

Price details here: greg allen
But that photo, does it really deserve a frame? Washington Post

George Orwell would be proud

Newspeak, doublethink, the art of spin, Washington-style:

Guantanamo suicides "an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us": BBC News Guantanamo suicides a "good PR move to draw attention": BBC News

Billy Preston and the lads

Today's SCMP carries a reprint of a recent New York Times article about Paul McCartney, Now I'm 64.

Time flies.

Or, time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

The Beatles with Billy Preston, Get Back, Apple Corps rooftop concert (1969), London: youtube

George Harrison with Billy Preston, That's the Way God Planned It, The Concert for Bangla Desh (1971), Madison Square Garden, NYC: youtube

Big Night Out: the day after

So, how was the show? As You Like It? The short reply is, great! Nay, more than that, I liked it very much; it was, brothers and sisters, double-plus wonderful.

Arriving at the venue knowing next to nothing except this was a Shakespeare comedy, once the house lights went down and the stage lights went up we were treated to a marvellous comic tale. One that was mostly about courtship and love and featuring lords, ladies, usurpers, sons, daughters, country fellows and wenches, a motley fool, drunken vicar, wrestler, shepherd and shepherdess.

Naturally, one of the ladies soon pretends to be a gentleman, which leads to all sorts of misunderstandings and hilarity. One can only hazard what the often-rowdy, mixed audiences of late-Elizabethan London further made of such comic twists when at that epoch all the actors were male. At that time, it would have been a gentleman pretending to be a lady who is pretending to be gentleman. Cool, eh? Gadzooks!

The show was lots of fun, had a superb cast, and great production. Listening to BBC Worldservice on the way home, it was clear that going to see As You Like It had been a much better choice than going to a bar to watch the predictable dismal performance of the over-hyped, over-rated England soccer team. Thanks, Mike W!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Big Night Out

Yes, off to town to see As You Like It, the Shakespeare comedy. As performed by a local English-language theatre company, the name of which escapes me. Anyway, the show's at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre.

I do know the cast includes that well-known thespian Michael Harley. I don't know if he gets to say the following though, from Act II, Scene 7:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hong Kong: wet, wet, wet

(click table to enlarge)
As the table shows, all things being normal, the months of May, June, July, August and September are our wettest months.

Methinks the downpours today are half of this month's rain allotment all in one go. Some it accompanied by very fierce gusts of wind. Still, at least it's not cold rain!

For more Monthly Meteorological Normals for Hong Kong (1961-90): Observatory

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Language, loss, and metaphor

By Ellen Hawley: The Threepenny Review

Bob Dylan: Theme Time Radio Hour

The latest Bob Dylan radio show, Coffee, is now available for our listening pleasure. As for the other shows, it is downloadable as an Mp3. The site also has a link to the playlist.

Many thanks to WMS, and his pal Steve: White Man Stew

Hong Kong: Bus Uncle + fifteen minutes of fame

Last week, local weekly magazine Next, having tracked down Bus Uncle, took him to to an estate agents in Kowloon to "meet" his erstwhile bus companion "Alvin".

Local reporting had thus moved from reporting news to manufacturing news.

Since when, Alvin and "Jon" (the person who filmed the incident that livened up the journey home on the 68X bus) have met and made the frontcover of another local tabloid magazine.

But one tabloid has since gone even further: taking Bus Uncle across the border to mainland China so as to ply him with cheap drinks and even cheaper sex workers. (If I remember well, they pulled the same stunt some years ago with the husband of a woman who had been murdered. Pictures and headlines that followed were along the lines: Heartless husband frolics with happy hookers.)

Uncle Bus makes for, and gives, good copy. Clearly enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame, he brags about the huge quantity of women he has bedded and commends the benefits of cunnilingus:
"before the train even enters the tunnel, she has already capsized in Tolo Harbour."
Erh, yes, quite. Anyway, Uncle Bus goes on a Field Trip: EastSouthWestNorth

Search for a surname

Look up the geographic distribution of your surname, or anyone else's, in Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) for 1881 and 1998.

The site has other stuff also worth digging around in (but you'll need to turn on yr cookies for any of it to work): spatial-literacy

Thank, Nick G!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Hong Kong: June 4 vigil at Victoria Park

The heat, humidity, laziness, and sundry chronic aches and pains kept me away from Sunday's June 4 vigil at Victoria Park. Here's how the event is reported in today's Standard

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Normalizing the Unthinkable

John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Charlie Glass, and Seymour Hersh on the failure of the world’s press: Information Clearing House

Soccer World Cup 2006

The winner is? How to beat the bookies: The Predictor

Support England (if you must), but not the soccer team: Guardian

Better than flying

The skyscraper boom: Economist

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bob Dylan: Theme Time Radio Hour

The fourth Bob Dylan radio show is now available for our listening pleasure. This one's theme is Baseball, and it's a good one.

All shows (with link to playlists) currently available in Mp3 format: White Man Stew

Thanks, WMS and his pal Steve in the UK!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Clouds: flying high

(click on image to enlarge)
This year's UK surprise best-seller: The Cloudspotter's Guide:

Taking the world by storm, fighting the banality of "blue sky thinking", Cloudspotter's website: Cloud Appreciation Society

Hereabouts, commonly observed clouds: HKO cloud division

Hong Kong: a better tomorrow?

Patrick L Smith writes:
When Stalin's apparatchiks rewrote history books and airbrushed fallen colleagues out of photos, there was a saying among Soviet citizens: The future is certain, they would jest, it is the past that is not yet clear.
Good lead into his report on the heated debate about what to do with the now empty Hollywood Road Police Station / Victoria Prison in central Hong Kong: IHT

Bus Uncle: It is resolved!

Bus Uncle? Found in Yuen Long: EastSouthWestNorth