Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bob Dylan: Modern Times

Postman Pat came through this lunchtime with the package: Bob Dylan, Modern Times. So. . . how is it? Based on several listens, it's much, much better than "Love & Theft". Modern Times has a lot stronger set of songs and musical arrangements to match. In a word: TheLevee'sGonnaBreak.

Elsewhere, Bob on Bob, Dylan talks -- by the worthwhile Louis Menand: The New Yorker
Free bonus, The Crackin’, Shakin’, Breakin’ Sounds, profile of Dylan (1964) -- by Nat Hentoff: The New Yorker

The world's shortest Bob Dylan interview: creem magazine

Hong Kong: Star Ferry loses its brilliance

Hong Kong's English-language daily newspapers -- South China Morning Post, The Standard -- today feature what will become (in November) Hongkongside's new Star Ferry terminal. Front page stuff, something to do with completion of the external features of the new terminal: The Standard

The workaday Star Ferry terminal (Hongkongside) has been in its current spot for more than fifty years. Within spitting distance of Central, the public area this side of the terminal's turnstyles was the place for strangers to meet, acquaintances to become friends, and where lovers' hearts were made and broken. A super convenient way to get to Kowloon from Central, a journey on the Star Ferry offered we the hurried masses a pleasant pause, a cool breeze, and what once passed for fresh air.

(click on image to enlarge)
No more. Locals, be they commuters or otherwise, will abandon the Star Ferry in their droves. Why? The new ferry terminal is a good ten-minute walk from Central and half way across the harbour. For those who take the trouble to take the ferry, it only gets worse: the planners are closing the bus station outside Star Ferry Kowloonside. What was once a transport hub will be no more. Go figure. Expect to see Star Ferry's numbers plummet and current usage -- locals (70%) and tourists (30%) -- reverse within a short time of opening. Such is the way of progress.

Meanwhile, the old ferry terminal is to be "reclaimed" -- that is, the site is going to be filled in all the way along to the Hong Kong Convention Centre in Wanchai. What for, you might ask. To enable the construction of yet another highway. As for Hong Kong's once magnificent harbour, it shrinks by the month and is destined to become a narrow drain.

Yes, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot. . .

Reading matters

From the archives, Michael Korda on Graham Greene: The New Yorker

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Whistleblower? Youtube it

Lockheed Martin worker takes concerns to Youtube and becomes ex-Lockheed Martin worker: Washington Post

Blowin' the whistle: youtube

Monday, August 28, 2006

Martin Luther King, Jr: I Have a Dream

This day in 1963 Martin Luther King spoke thus in Washington DC:

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bob Dylan: Ain't Talkin'

National Public Radio's latest all songs considered programme features the last track of Dylan's Modern Times: Ain't Talkin'.

My take? Ain't Talkin's subdued soundscape made me think of J J Cale. What else? A lot of people are going to be covering that song.

The link goes to Latest Show. But if Modern Times doesn't show up? Go to Archives (episode 118) : npr

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The air-conditioned nightmare

A brief history of air-conditioning, by James Fergusson: Prospect

Photo is from Hong Kong Lost Laundry: Michael Wolf

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bob Dylan: A-Z

It's a weighty tome -- 832 pages. But it has an accompanying and searchable CD-rom: Guardian
Thanks, Gavin!

Hong Kong: out-of-court settlements

Hong Kong is one of the safest places in the world. Absent local debt collectors and the gambling industry in nearby Macau: (registration-free link) NYT

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hong Kong: Ho. Ho. Ho?

Last Sunday afternoon, Democratic Party vice chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan walked into the crowded McDo's in Queen's Road Central. Mister Ho, however, got more than a McDo fat-laden junk food Happy Meal: three men set about the Legislative Councillor with baseball bats and batons.

By the time the trio had finished (three-five minutes), Ho had a broken right arm, badly broken nose, damage to the right eye, and sundry other head injuries. He's in Queen Mary Hopital, Pokfulam.

The emerging consensus is that the attack is linked to Ho's work as a lawyer. To wit, his representing Winnie Ho Yuen-ki (no relation). The aging Ms Ho is embroiled in ongoing legal battles -- fourteen in Macau, four in Hong Kong. At stake are vast oceans of money (see link, below). Another lawyer working on behalf of Ms Ho has already been attacked and sustained head injuries.

Two Hos, one to go. Sister Ho's brother, Stanley. For it is he that she is in dispute with. Stanley Ho, you will recall, held the monopoly (along with his partner the sinister Henry Fok) for forty-five years to own and operate (until 2002) all the casinos in Macau. Stanley got inordinately rich on other people's greed and bad luck. An octagenarian and polygamist, Stanley Ho is also a Latin American ballroom dancer, money launderer (a casino in Pyongyang, North Korea), airline, shipping and property magnate, medal emblazoned holder of honoray doctorates, and backroom political operator. He denies any connection with triads. Well, he would, wouldn't he?

Stanley Ho

338 metre

Another turn of the wheel: asiaweek

Monday, August 21, 2006

You are what you search?

Mister B is an Omnivore. And you? The seven ways people search the Web: slate
Search history, the records of AOL customer No. 16006693: slate

Dial M for Murder?

Legal and illegal covert government phone wiretapping? Phone the telecommunications companies! Without their help, it ain't going to work. But given the telcos co-operation, covert wiretapping can also be put to all manner of other uses, including partisan political advantage or financial gain.

Unintended consequences? Whatever. In the grimy layers of spookworld lurk real cloaks and real daggers. When high stakes are at risk, murder becomes an option. In Europe, there have been at least two strange deaths: one in Greece, and more recently in Italy. Both 'suicides' are connected with major wiretapping scandals: AlterNet Thanks, Gavin!

Salaam Bombay! The aftermath.

How was Peter M and family's going-away party on Sunday afternoon. Mister B regrets to announce he doesn't know; he didn't go.

It wasn't the heavy rains and violent thunderstorm which started around two pm and lasted a good three-quarters of an hour that caused the absence. Perhaps hardier, healthier souls who made it to the party will report in the Comment box?

Weather causes death and injuries: (Hong Kong) Standard

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mr Al Kyder to the whte courtesy telephone, please

What happened when Mr Al Kyder and Mr Terry Wrist bought tickets for Austrialia's airline Virgin Blue: Flight Global

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Iraqi peacekeepers sent to Scottish border

Tigris troops swap sunshine for fog on the Tyne: Guardian

Friday, August 18, 2006

Magnum photographers

Magnum has a fifty-year history of producing outstanding photographs. Now: Magnum in Motion

Thursday, August 17, 2006

In the Mood for Love: Wong Kar-wai

Hey! This is Mister Bijou's post number one thousand! To celebrate, a clip from one of Mister B's favourite films:

In the Mood for Love, directed by Wong Kar-wai. The cinematographer? Chris Doyle. Maggie Cheung wears the cheongsam as she and Tony Leung politely and discreetly edge their way toward an affair. The music? Yumeji's Theme, by Umebayshi Shigeru. Thanks, and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A plum job

Currrently on sale on a little island in the South China Sea are fresh plums. Mister B's fruit and veg lady says they are from California.

Mister B has tried at least five varieties including the oval and spherical ones with blue-black skins (very, very juicy) as well as some spherical green ones (juicy, with a soupçon of tartness). Are the latter damsons? Ah, no, they're not. Wikipedia to the rescue: Reine Claude, aka greengages

Salaam Bombay!

Peter M and family are having an official farewell to a little island in the South China Sea this coming Sunday. Next stop? Mumbai, the city formerly known as Bombay.

Everyone, wish them well!

Meantime, for your viewing pleasure, Bollywood does
The Beatles: youtube
Or, Bollywood does the "hello mista, how do you do?"
with the infectiously foot-tapping Chin Chin Chu: youtube

Oh, Salaam Bombay? More info: Amazon

Monday, August 14, 2006

Watching Lebanon (part the second)

CNN interview with Sy Hersh: youtube

Bob Dylan: Modern Times

Dylan's album Modern Times is due out on 29 August 2006. Stand by your TVs, the previous Dylan album came out on September 11, 2001.

Meantime, we have the cover photo and title to mull over.

Modern times, eh?

Yeah, right.

The photo was, it turns out, shot in about 1947 by Ted Croner. Ted Croner obit (August 2005): Guardian
Ted Croner gallery and prints: Embrace your Space

The title? Was that inspired by Charlie Chaplin's timeless Modern Times (1936)? Almost certainly. Chaplin's film Modern Times: Amazon

Watching Lebanon

Washington's interests in Israel's war, by Seymour Hersh: The New Yorker

Jack Edwards: RIP

Jack Edwards died last night in Prince of Wales Hospital. He was 86.

Following the surrender of Singapore during World War II, Mr Edwards became a prisoner of war -- first in Changi and then Taiwan. After the war, he played a major part as a member of the War Crimes Commission in bringing Japanese war criminals to trial.

Starting in the 1980s, Mr Edwards became well known to Hong Kong's English-language radio listeners as he doggedly lobbied for financial compensation for Hong Kong's war veterans as well as for justice for the territory's war widows, the latter having been particularly disrespectfully treated by a series of British governments.

Thanks to Mr Edwards, the post-Thatcher British government under John Major finally buckled under in 1996: the war widows were given the justice and respect that were their due. And the right to British passports, a matter of some importance in the run up to 1997.

Mister B is no fan of the Armed Bodies of the State, but doesn't Jack Edwards merit major repect for his principled fight on behalf of others? Sure does. Stubborn. Determined. Thanks, Jack.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Terrorism: you can get it in a can

The narcissism is astounding. Lebanon is actually being terrorised by Israel, Iraq is actually being terrorised by America, and this merciless, cruel, sadistic, reckless destruction is easily subsumed into the fabric of daily life - the first allegation of a threat of a potential attack in Britain at some unspecified point in the future, and suddenly we are encouraged to luxuriate in the fantasy prospect of annihilation. Knowing full well that the building next door is not about to be flattened under several tonnes of explosives, we are encouraged to pretend it's World War II and evince the stoicism of Blitz survivors. The Blitzkrieg is upon Beirut, but we are supposed to imagine that little Nazis are flying over our heads. Don't be complacent. Look out your windows. Keep an eye out. Don't forget to cast a nervous glance over your shoulder. Take notes. Tell the government everything. Root out the evil within. Question your own motives. Telephone the terrorist hotline if you suspect yourself of possessing the slightest nihilistic impulse. Oh - and do try to go about your daily life as normal.
More: Lenin's Tomb

Hand luggage on a plane

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Greg Palast: the truth will out

Greg Palast has a new book out: Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, The Best Legal Whorehouse in Texas, No Child's Behind Left and Other Tales of Class Combat in a Dying Regime.

Palast has also done a podcast for Penguin Books. As the lady who introduces it says, this podcast contains strong opinions and strong language. Whatever. The podcast is available in a number of formats including Mp3 and whatever it is iPod people require: the penguin podcast page

Hong Kong: post Bopha

Well, a little island in the South China Sea had about an hour of thunder and lightning last night and then all was peace and quiet. If there was anything, Mister B knows not, having slept soundly.

Tropical cyclone Bopah is still southeast of hereabouts, but has weakened to a tropical depression. Bopha is making its (irregular) way further westwards. The Number One is still up.

Elsewhere, to the north, tropical typhoon Saomai has passed the north end of Taiwan and is roaring toward mainland China's Fujian and Zhejiang provinces.

Hong Kong Observatory: tropical cyclone tracking

Hong Kong: light, bright, noisy night

The radio started crackling about an hour ago. . . lightning strikes. According to Hong Kong Observatory, between 11:00pm and 11:59pm there were 1,534 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. That thunderstorm front is heading west toward a little island in the South China Sea. Time to powerdown the computer and unplug the modem!

Bon soir, tout le monde. Or, as we say hereabouts, joi geen!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

George Galloway

Last Sunday, George Galloway appeared on the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sky TV. Given the venue, Sky TV, George was in combative mood: video google

Fernando Pessao

Started reading Fernando Pessao's The Book of Disquiet several months ago. Disquiet isn't a novel and doesn't have a plot. Instead, it's a multitude of short prose pieces -- pieces that are often melancholic, occasionally whimsical, beautifully written, and of an unsparing introspection.

Disquiet is the sort of book you can pick up, and dip in. But when it begins to read like a long and beautiful suicide note you know it is time to put Disquiet down. Time to think about something else, read something else. Like P G Woodhouse or Raymond Chandler. Which is what I did over a month ago.

But as that old adage goes: when the student is ready, the teacher appears. In this case, today, on page 297 of the Penguin Classics edition:
It's a rule of life that we can, and should, learn from everyone. There are solemn and serious things we can learn from quacks and crooks, there are philosophies taught us by fools, there are lessons in faithfulness and justice brought to us by chance and by those we chance to meet. Everything is in everything.
In certain particularly lucid moments of contemplation, like those of early afternoon when I observantly wander through the streets, each person brings me a novelty, each building teaches me something new, each placard has a message for me.
My silent stroll is a continual conversation, and all of us -- men, buildings, stores, placards and the sky -- are a huge friendly crowd, elbowing each other with words in the great procession of Destiny.
The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessao

Elsewhere, and later: Situationist Guy Debord's theory of the dérive

Free Robert Fisk

Until the beginning of this week, The Independent newspaper's Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk, was parked in the online pay-per-view section. With a bit of sleuthing it was possible to read those same Fisk articles elsewhere, possible but a tad irksome.

Now, it looks like The Independent has changed its policy, free Robert Fisk: Independent

Hong Kong: blowin' in the wind, again

When the Number One went up I know not. However, as of 5pm, tropical cyclone Bopha has crossed Taiwan and is currently 400km east of Hong Kong. Bopha is forecast to move west or west-southwest at about 18km/h.

We may go to a Number Three. Or, not.

Hong Kong Observatory

Tropical cyclone Bopha is not much to look at in the satellite image. What does catch the eye is another -- as yet no-name, but perfectly formed -- cyclone to the east of Bopha. Ah, it does have a name: Saomai. That one looks like it is going to go north of Taiwan before barreling across the Chinese mainland.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Brighter than one thousand suns

Hiroshima. 08:16am. Monday. 6 August. 1945.

Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atom bomb, later lamented the enormous destructive power which he had helped unleash, with a line from the Bhagavad-Gita: 'Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.'

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hong Kong: blowin' in the wind

The weather event on Wednesday (3 August 2006) was a Number Three in name only.

Here's some of what happened when typhoon Prapiroon, 'god of rain', skirted the westerly environs of the territory:

(five-minute TVB News clip)

This longer, English-language news clip was found as a result of having seen a shorter Chinese-language clip posted at EastSouthWestNorth

Hereabouts got off lightly. Thirty-one dead and fourteen missing in Guangdong province.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: Trout Mask Replica

In today's Guardian, music critic John Harris writes about his trying to come to grips with Beefheart's double-album, Trout Mask Replica. Harris is knowledgeable, amusing, and writes well. In short, he's worth a read -- if you are a bloke. Matters Beefheartian don't seem to appeal much to nonblokes.

Guardian: Mission unlistenable

Front cover: google images

Back cover:

What can Mister B tell you? That a good many spliffs were rolled up on that back cover. That Mister B would come back to what was then home (1969/70) -- a semi-squalid, damp and dirty basement flat in Brixton -- to find one of his flatmates wearing big headphones and 'singing' along to the good Captain. That it was a double album, which means it had four sides. Playing two sides was about enough. That we -- blokes and nonblokes -- all trooped off from Crouch End to the Albert Hall in 1971 (?) to see Beefheart and the band (Zoot Horn Rollo, The Mascara Snake, Antennae Jimmy Semens, Rockette Morton, Drumbo). That event turned out to be one of the loudest, most visually entertaining and musical shows Mister B has ever had the pleasure of attending. Oh, and that it probably helped to be chemically enhanced for most all of the above.

Fast 'n bulbous: Ella Guru

Couple of songs from Trout Mask: youtube

Too hardcore? For those who find Trout Mask a little too much, there is the later and very danceable Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart epic, Willie the Pimp: youtube

Hong Kong: culture of defenestration

When hope goes out of the window in Hong Kong, the furniture often follows: Economist

Hong Kong: crimewatch

Oh, Mister B nearly missed this one: lawyer Kevan Egan was granted bail on 1 August 2006, pending his appeal against a conviction for attempting to leak the identity of a witness in Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption protection programme.

The conviction was based on the testimony of a South China Morning Post reporter, Magdalen Chow.

The Court of Appeal freed Egan, 60, on bail of HK$1 million cash and US$500,000 in sureties. He was also ordered to surrender his travel documents and is barred from leaving the territory.

Presumably, Egan will be enjoying a pint or three in the bar of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club in Ice House Street this Friday evening.

Love: Forever Changes

Damn. . . Arthur Lee went and died.

Arthur Lee: Wikipedia
Forever Changes: Wikipedia
Track one, Alone Again Or (2003 version): youtube

Hong Kong: Typhoon Prapiroon, the aftermath

Well, Hong Kong Observatory saw fit to raise the second-level, strong wind warning Number Three. That call is based on weather conditions in Hong Kong harbour.

Mister B has the utmost respect for the people at Hong Kong Observatory. They are required to forecast weather for what may be a small region, but it is one that is so topographically complex that there are a variety of micro-climates. It can be pouring with rain in Central or Sai Kung, and glorious sunshine 13km away on a little island in the South China Sea.

Yesterday, wind speeds with an average speed of 41 to 62 km/h were expected (in Hong Kong harbour). But as the chart in the previous post demonstrates, wind speeds on a little island in the South China Sea yo-yoed between 65 and 115km/h during the whole of yesterday. And sustained wind speeds were never less than 75km/h for almost three-quarters of the day.

Given the terrible, murderous damage and havoc a typhoon can accomplish, the weather people are also required from time to time to make the decision about whether or not to raise the Number Eight. If it does raise the Number Eight, the city closes down.

It's a huge responsibility, not an easy call. Yesterday, in many areas, including hereabouts, it was blowing a righteous gale. At the airport 111 flights were delayed, 249 canceled and 74 redirected to other airports. By midnight last night, ten thousand people were stranded at the airport.

Five hundred trees went down.

Maybe the Observatory needs to include metrics other than those just for Hong Kong harbour when it is making the decision about whether or not to raise weather warnings, most especially those that concern imminent tropical cyclones and typhoons in the neighbourhood.

Mainland China's People's Daily has a rather charming report:
At least one person was scratched by falling containers Wednesday afternoon in Hong Kong as Typhoon Prapiroon gained its strength in the South China Sea and brought occasional heavy rains and strong wind to the metropolis.
Don't you just love that opening paragraph? Scratched! For the rest: People's Daily

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hong Kong: weather pr0n

It's been fair blowing a gale, tipping it down.
Hong Kong Observatory

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hong Kong: Number 3

Yesterday, Hong Kong Observatory raised the Number One 'stand-by signal'. A tropical cyclone is lurking in the neighbourhood. In this case, tropical cyclone Prapiroon. That sounds Thai. Oh, it is: god of rain.

Since when, Prapiroon intensified into a typhoon and is now some 340km to the south of a little island in the South China Sea. Headed west-northwest toward Hainan Island, typhoon Prapiroon is big enough and close enough that several hours ago the Observatory upgraded the signal to a Number Three:
Strong winds are expected or blowing in Victoria Harbour, with a sustained speed of 41-62 km/h (kilometres per hour). Gusts may exceed 110 km/h. Winds are normally expected to become generally stronger in the harbour areas within 12 hours after the issuing of this signal.
Action - Secure all loose objects, particularly those on balconies and rooftops. Flower pots and other objects likely to be blown away should be taken indoors. Secure hoardings, scaffoldings and temporary structures. Drains should be cleared to avoid blockage and overflows. Listen to radio and TV announcements for further information about the storm
Thankfully, it looks as if we shall be spared the ravages of a full-on typhoon. Instead of all that anxiety, ahead is the elemental buzz and ion-enhanced joy of heavy rains, gusts, squalls, and thunderstorms.

Robert Fisk persona non grata on BBC Worldservice

A fluent speaker of Arabic, based in Beirut for almost three decades, the British journalist Robert Fisk is, apparently, persona non grata on the BBC Worldservice.

That's amazing. Fisk is one of the foremost experts on Middle East politics, and has met most anyone who is anyone in the region. But the BBC Worldservice won't use him.

Dan Damon of the BBC explains why (scroll down): BBC Worldservice

What BBC Worldservice listeners are missing, Robert Fisk: Wikipedia

Robert Fisk, The Conquest of the Middle East:
part 1: youtube
part 2: youtube
part 3: youtube
part 4: youtube

Merchant marine pr0n

Ship stalker:

BBC Worldservice. . . reporting bias

Listening to the BBC Worldservice news programmes (World Update, 5pm, Hong Kong Time), it is striking how much the BBC reports the Israeli point of view.

Opening with airtime given over to Israeli politicians and spindoctors who litter what they have to say with talking points:"terror organisation; civilians as human shields". Followed by airtime for an Israeli military spokesperson who litters what he says with talking points: "terrorist organisation; civilians as human shields".

Next? Further explaining Israeli military strategy, tactics and successes or otherwise, a BBC (Israeli embedded?) reporter files a report on the miltary scorecard from the Israeli frontline.

All of the above? Twenty-odd minutes.

Oh, wait. Currently, the BBC's Dan Damon is interviewing a Syrian spokesperson. The BBC interviewer's questions are quasi-hostile. Three minutes.

Next? Two UK talking heads explain military strategy, in general, and Israeli military strategy, in particular.

The Lebanese? Zilch. Is there a BBC Worldservice interdiction on giving any airtime to anyone from the Lebanese government?

Oh! Wait. Thirty-three minutes into the programme, a Lebanese journalist reports on the Israeli-wrought death and damage today. Two minutes.

Now back to Israel's prime minister saying Hezbollah is being destroyed.

Ah! Thirty-six minutes into the BBC programme, a spokesperson for el-Manar, Hezbollah's TV and radio station. It's not a great phoneline. It's a somewhat hostile interview. Two minutes.

Next? Fierce clashes in Sri Lanka. . .

For a news antidote (streaming audio and video), Democracy Now! -- the War & Peace report, with Amy Goodman: Democracy Now!

Hezbollah, Hamas and Israel: Everything You Need To Know

The very excellent Alexander Cockburn leads us on a perilous excursion into the distant past, starting seven whole weeks ago: Counterpunch