Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bob Dylan: Subterranean Homesick Blues

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

And some sage advice:

Friday, June 29, 2007

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Late night diners

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hong Kong: Ten Years' After

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Trawlers at anchor, flying the PRC and HKSAR flags

Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the handover. Since 1 July (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day) this year falls on a Sunday, Monday is a public holiday.

It rained, oh how it rained, on the evening of 30 June 1997. It looks like it'll rain again ten years' later.

One day follows another. And before you know where you are ten years have elapsed. Where did those days and nights go? How did the time fly by so quick?

So here we are, in the moment:
And for all its problems, Hong Kong remains a great place to live, at least for me and for many others I know. You can still find almost anything you want here at almost any time of day or night. And it’s still safe to walk down a dark street at four in the morning. And it will always be just a few hours away from some of the other most interesting places in the world. And I still have the freedom to express myself publicly in this fashion. Hong Kong. It ain’t perfect. But it’s my home.
That's by Spike (aka Hong Kong Redux), and is from his latest column in bc magazine

UPDATE. Another view, and just as valid. The humbling of the white man in Hong Kong, by Kent Ewing: Asia Times Online

Ten years' after, how's it been for you?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

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Ferry pier

Monday, June 25, 2007

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Cloud patrol: six thirty-two pm

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Reading matters

On Evil: An Interview with Alain Badiou
Cabinet Magazine

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Letter boxes

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

First track off the album Let It Bleed. As it began, so ended the confusing, exhilarating, turbulent, tumultuous "the Sixties": rape, murder. . . it's just a shot away.

Have a great weekend. After all, and also from Let It Bleed, "you can't always get what you want but you might find sometime you get what you need." Amen to that. Awimmin, too.

Friday, June 22, 2007

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Frontage with handcart

Hong Kong: local action

Local Action, by Daisann McLane: Learning Cantonese

It's a good read. And not for the first time, Daisann mentions the book Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong, by Alice Poon. Book review: hemlock

The digested review? Poon's book explains why and how a small group of property developers became mega-rich and in the process took commanding positions in the domestic economy: buses, electricity, gas, supermarkets and other retail chains, telecommunications. . .

Even shorter? Why things are the way they are.

According to Ms Poon, Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong, which was published in 2005, is available in Hong Kong at Dymocks as well as the other retail chain bookstore Bookazine.

It's also available online at Amazon, but the Amazon resellers are asking from US$29.50 to US$38 for Used copies.

However, although Land and the Ruling Class is not listed at Hong Kong's English-language on-line book retailer Paddyfield, an email to paddyfield elicits the following:
We are pleased to inform you that we can order the book for you.
The price is HK$150.
The order is in. In the meantime, Local Action.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

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Ferry terminal

Hong Kong: Wanchai air raid shelters and other historical remnants

The intrepid batgung has been poking around in Wanchai, and knowledgeable readers pitch in with supplementary comments.

Tunnels under Hospital Hill: batgung
Mount Parish: batgung

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

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Street corner

Stargazer: view toward horizon from 22°N 114°E

This is a follow-up to the photograph in this previous post.

The buildings around the main square of a little island in the South China Sea block any view of the horizon (and more else besides). So, the view from Mister Bijou's bijou balcony is limited.

Still, even with the semi-cramped view and the often overwhelming light pollution, there is on a cloudless evening stuff to see in the sky and wonder about. That crescent Moon, for instance, and the one very bright twinkling object. But what is it that burns so bright? Saturn or Venus?

At the same time last night, the moon was southeast of either Saturn or Venus. Tonight, at the same hour, the moon has shifted higher and more westward so that the positions are now reversed: Saturn or Venus is currently hanging to the Moon's southeast.

Saturn or Venus? Mister B now believes Nick G was spot on: Venus. Thanks, Nick G!

Venus burns much brighter than any other object in sky (besides the Sun and Moon). But, even so, this may help for tonight's view at seven thirty-six pm: fourmi lab

Hong Kong: Legislative Council Questions

Some of the questions (and answers) from the LegCo meeting of Wednesday, 20 June 2007:

LCQ4: Frontier Closed Area
LCQ6 : Suicide or attempted suicide cases on MTR tracks
LCQ16: Posting hyperlinks on Internet forum

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

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Shop worker

Monday, June 18, 2007

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Seven thirty-six pm: the crescent Moon hangs off Saturn Venus

Hong Kong: Dragon Boat Festival

Tomorrow is the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese calendar, which means Dragon Boat Festival (端午節), and a public holiday.

Like many festivals around the world, Dragon Boat festival's origins are not known for sure. The commonly-held view is that the day commemorates and celebrates Chinese poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC-278 BC). Disgusted by the corruption of the government in what is now Hunan province, Qu protested and committed suicide by drowning himself in a river.

More on Qu Yuan and Dragon Boat festival : wikipedia

As with any good festival, food is involved. In this case, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves.

This one is filled with rice, minced pork, salty egg and a soupçon of dried shrimp.

Pre-cooked, the organically-wrapped pyramid package was HK$10 from a shop on a corner of the square. The shop is, by the way, considered one of the best places for cooked foods on a little island in the South China Sea because "they change their oil often."

To re-heat: three minutes in a microwave or 15 minutes steamed in a wok. Given the contents, it is recommended to supplement with green vegtables. Bon appétit!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

UK Passport? Third price rise in less than two years

Be it known that the cost of a standard 10-year British passport is to rise for the third time in less than two years. Make that a 70 percent increase in 22 months.

Mister Bijou last bought a passport nine years ago: the UK price was about 18 pounds sterling. Since when. . .

Apparently, new passports now cost 66 pounds. From October 2007, be prepared to pay 72 pounds sterling -- when passport is issued in the UK. (That last detail is important.) At the current rate of exchange, that post-October price is HK$1,112.

Oh, wait. Buying a passport in the UK is cheap. Here are current prices in June 2007 for UK passports issued in Hong Kong:
32 page adult passport (16 and over): HK$1,905
48 page adult jumbo passport: HK$2,305
There's nothing up there yet on the Brit Consul Hong Kong website, but no doubt those Hong Kong numbers will go up in October, too.

Hong Kong passport "fees", source: British Consulate, Hong Kong

Tech at home? Power down

Putting Energy Hogs in the Home on a Strict Low-Power Diet: NYT

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Bali: Sanur beach picnic

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Reading matters

Ten Dispatches About Place, by John Berger: charlotte street

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By happenstance and serendipity, Mister Bijou came across these gamelan musicians who were sitting and playing in the shade of a low-spreading tree just off Bali's Sanur beach path one late afternoon. The locale, the sun-dappled shade, the dry warm wind coming in off the ocean, the rhythms and sounds of this gamelan sonic world: it was one of those perfect moments.

Besides, gamelan is such a spacey sound! It's no wonder the aural tonalities and textures of gamelan caused such a stir in Paris in 1889 and inspired and influenced the French composers Camille Saint-Saens and Claude Debussy.

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But on Sunday, 10 June 2007, why were these musicians playing on rough ground adjacent to a dusty parking area overlooking the beach? It was, it seems, part of a Hindu cremation ceremony (version Balinese) -- there was a priest and a photo of the newly departed, but the deceased was absent, and there was no funeral pyre. The puzzle wasn't explained then and thus remains.

If there is a next trip, Mister Bijou will load up on large memory cards for the camera and take some video. For the time being, gamelan: youtube

Thursday, June 14, 2007

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Bali: Sanur beach

Miaster Bijou's first trip to Bali was too short and he hopes to return to explore more. This first time there were the undeniable pleasures of a five-star hotel (!) with its two swimming pools and several restaurants.

Not forgetting the firm and comfy bed, complimentary local fresh fruit, tea and coffee. Thirty TV channels, for those that care. And staff who knew my name. Out the window: manicured gardens and coconut trees.

Plus bike hire.

So, in between conference sessions, meals, swimming and sleeping, Mister B cycled along the beach path from one end of the bay to the other.

And also get a pedicure.

Then ventured into the "back country" and finally came upon a busy road and a taste of the other Bali: the Indonesian Bali.

Meantime, back at the hotel met some old friends and made some new ones.

Travel note: go wheel-chair assisted at airports and thereby avoid all queues for check-in and immigration. It's quicker, hassle-free, and if you fly Cathay Pacific they also give you a badge.

Ah, but home, sweet home. Having disconnected the computer and modem before departure, it was with some enthusiasm that Mister B fired everything up upon return. To no purpose. After much trouble and a day's hair-pulling, the problem was pinned down: a now dodgy graphics card.

Which meant on Wednesday a trip to Wanchai Computer Centre. Where someone sold me a new, superdooper GeForce memory-enhanced, state-of-the art graphics card.

Slot that in, up and running, back on-line, and the machine fair zips along. Though boot-up currently requires press F8 and choose Last Previous Set Up of Windows XP That Worked. . .

Anyway, so far, so good. Ta-rah!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mind the gap

Some downtime. Nothing to be alarmed about. Posting will recommence late Monday, 11 June 2007. Best wishes, Mister Bijou

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

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White cat on black canopy

Hong Kong: June 4 candlelight vigil

Fifty-five thousand people poured into Victoria Park, Causeway Bay last night for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of those who lost their lives in Beijing on and around June 4, 1989.

Although Mister B did not make it to Victoria Park, he was there in spirit. Not ideal, to be sure. But there you are.

Among the people who were there, however, was someone who takes brilliant photos: hong kong digital vision

Sunday, June 03, 2007

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Chinese lantern

Mr Wu, the farmer, grows robots

Mr Wu makes robots and has a long-suffering wife: China Daily

Paul Merton in China meets Mr Wu, Mr Wu's robots, and Mr Wu's long-suffering wife: youtube

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Laurie Anderson: Smoke Rings

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

Well, I had a dream and all the girls were named Betty:

Friday, June 01, 2007

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Cooking-oil men

Hong Kong: Jimmy Lai on Hong Kong after the 1997 handover

Jimmy Lai? Founder of the Giordarno clothing chain, Jimmy Lai mass-produced t-shirts supporting the students and workers occupying Tiananmen Square in 1989. Soon after, Lai set up the weekly Next Magazine.

The magazine's formula? Two magazines published together: one section devoted to tabloid sensationalism and lifestyle, the other one full of hard-hitting political and business reporting.

Unrelenting in his support for democracy, Lai remains critical of China:
In a 1994 newspaper column, he told the Premier of the PRC, Li Peng, to "drop dead," and called the Communist Party of China "a monopoly that charges a premium for lousy service". As a result, most of his publications remain banned in mainland China. China's government retaliated against Lai by starting a shut-down of Giordano shops, prompting him to sell out of the company he founded in order to save it.
Source: Wikipedia

(Giordano has continued to grow and currently now has 1,700 stores and sales points in Hong Kong, China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, India and the Middle East.)

Knowing that 1997 was imminent, in 1995 Lai started up a newspaper, Apple Daily. Like the magazine, Apple Daily has been very successful -- despite physical attacks as well as financial blockades and supplier and (continuing) advertising boycotts.

In 2001, Lai started up a Taiwan edition of Next Magazine and followed up with a Taiwan edition of Apple Daily in 2003. Again. as was the case in Hong Kong, both publications -- despite strong local opposition -- have proved immensely successful.

Now in Apple Daily: Hong Kong Ten Years After The Return To China, by Jimmy Lai. English translation courtesy of ESWN