Friday, August 31, 2007

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Observations on the semiotics of chopsticks: Roland Barthes

Thursday, August 30, 2007

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Ferry pier

Hong Kong: bar benders strike longest industrial action in 30 years

Hong Kong's six to eight hundred bar benders -- those are the guys who along with the welders assemble on site the girders which make possible all those high-rise buildings -- are now in their 23rd day of strike action. This is the longest such action in Hong Kong in thirty years.

The strike has now spread to around 100 construction sites -- up from 60 last week.

According to reports, members of the community, including Cathay Pacific flight attendants, have donated money, fruit and bottles of distilled water. A fund set up to help the strikers has already reached HK$360,000.

The strike pits employees against bosses. Nothing new there.

But a little bit of history might help: in 1997, the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) negotiated pay cuts down from a daily wage of HK$1,200 to the grand sums of between HK$500 and HK$800 a day.

Now, ten years later, the pro-democracy labour group Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) has got behind a workers' campaign for a pay rise: a uniform daily wage of HK$950 (that's the same rate as paid in 1994).

Plus a cut in working hours from nine to eight hours. Plus backing Nepalese construction workers who are calling for equal pay, saying their HK$450 daily pay is discriminatory. Which it is.

The two union groups have been competing to represent the interests of the striking workers. Meanwhile, the Government is desperately trying not to get involved. And the employers' representative group, the Hong Kong Construction Association? It says there isn't the money for a HK$950 daily rate. But they would say that, wouldn't they?

Anyway, to put some flesh on those numbers . . . a poem by Mr. Xin, a metal worker:
My wrath is on government-business collusion,
As we laborers toil through sweltering heat and fierce rainstorms.
Our deeds are done on dusty sites and we often work right into the night.
For the rest of Mr. Xin's poem and its literary antecedents: Alice Poon

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hong Kong: total eclipse of the Moon

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At five am this morning, the now totally uneclipsed full Moon shines silent and bright in the west-northwestern sky. (Mister Bijou currently keeps erratic hours.)

So bright the Moon its brilliance washes out all its own features: no Man in the Moon, no craters nor seas. Instead, a mute white disc shines at the centre of a faint corona. (Sadly, the photo does not do the corona justice.)

Bathed in pure light, some inhabitants of a little island in the South China Sea gear down from the night as others gear up for a new day. Still others, fitfully awake and gloriously alive, try to keep at bay niggling dawn thoughts.

Those thoughts about existence and non-existence, thoughts like the ones in Philip Larkin's poem Aubade.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hong Kong: total eclipse of the Moon

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The view from Tung Wan beach at seven pm did not look promising. Thin high cloud was slowly sweeping in from the southeast blanketing out the sky above.

But through the thin cloud a faint, rusty red orb came into sight, low in the east.

As the pale disc slowly rose further above the horizon, the thin cloud passed on. To reveal in the distance a succession of twinkling navigational lights.

Airliners, one following after the other, each making their slow descent along the same flight path to Chep Lap Kok airport.

And above and beyond them, that Moon.

In restless silence divested of its pale rust hue, become a sliver of crescent brightness.

While some us watched from Tung Wan beach.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hong Kong: total eclipse of the Moon

Tomorrow evening, weather permitting, a total eclipse of the moon will be visible from the comfort of a little island in the South China Sea.

According to Hong Kong Observatory, the earth's shadow will start to cross the Moon at 3:52pm and the total eclipse will begin at 5:52pm (Hong Kong time).

Hereabouts, none of this will be visible, however, until moonrise at 6:43pm. Which is six minutes after the middle of the total eclipse.

Still, that leaves a good forty minutes before the total eclipse ends. After which there will be a further two hours as the Moon wordlessly moves out of the shadow and back into the light. Confused? Maybe this will help: diagram

Looking to the east will help, too. Weather, as they say, permitting.

Reading matters

Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and South-east Asia, by Joe Studwell (excerpt, part 1; excerpt, part 2)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

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Saiwan: Hungry Ghost festival

In the traditional Chinese calendar, today is the fourteenth day of the seventh lunar month. Which means the Hungry Ghost Festival, and the burning of red candles and paper offerings.

Reading matters

"The Parallels!" Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges, by John Barth: context

You Don't Know Jack [Kerouac], by Matt Weiland: NYT

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mose Allison: I'm Not Downhearted But I'm Gettin' There

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

Allison wonderland:

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2007

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Out-patients Department

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

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More rain, more umbrellas

Bob Dylan: I'm Not There

Here's the trailer for the upcoming Bob Dylan bio. Directed by Todd Haynes and starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw and Marcus Carl Franklin all as Bob Dylan:

Todd Haynes: senses of cinema

Haynes's first film (1987) used Ken and Barbie dolls to tell the story of the Carpenters, Richard and Karen. Soon after the film was premiered, Richard Carpenter made sure it got buried. However, for the time being,
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is viewable. It's 43 minutes long: video google

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Eye | Land | View

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Harbour reflexion

Monday, August 20, 2007

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Pak Tai football pitch

Sunday, August 19, 2007

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gotan Project: Queremos Paz

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

Tango electronico:


Friday, August 17, 2007

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Late night cooked food stall

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Elvis: the King is dead! Long live the King!

It was thirty years ago today, that a drug-addled and seriously overweight Elvis Presley was found dead in a bathroom at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee.

Presley may have live (and died) in Memphis but he was born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi. So no surprise that he performed at an outdoor concert at the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair & Dairy Show in Tupelo in June 1956. Down at the end of Lonely Street:

Of course, it all ended in tears.

Elvis's Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich:
Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread and mashed banana on the other. Press the slices gently together. Melt butter (or Elvis's preferred bacon fat) over low heat in a small frying pan. Place sandwich in pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. Eat it with a glass of buttermilk.
Pig out on a dozen or more such sandwiches and also chuck down a large handful of prescription uppers and downers. Repeat until dead.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

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Tristes tropiques

Reading matters

A Blow To Hong Kong's Toy King, by Shu-Ching Jean Chen: forbes
The Forbidden City of Terry Gou, by Jason Dean: Wall Street Journal

Monday, August 13, 2007

Eye | Land | View

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Waterfront cooked-food stall

Sunday, August 12, 2007

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Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Reading matters

Best and Edwards: Football, Fame and Oblivion, by Gordon Burns: Guardian

The Road to Clarity, by Joshua Yaffa: NYT

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Konono No.1: Mama Liza

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

Bazombo trance, Kinshasa congotronics:

Have a great weekend.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Eye | Land | View

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Ferry pier: commuters stream home

Hong Kong: severe tropical storm Pabuk (part 2)

Tropical depression Pabuk over and done with? Not any more. Things have changed. Tropical storm Pabuk is heading back this way:
At 2 p.m., the centre of tropical storm Pabuk was estimated to be about 40 kilometres west of Hong Kong Observatory (near 22.3 degrees north 113.8 degrees east) and is forecast to move northeast at about 8 kilometres per hour skirting Hong Kong on the west.
Pabuk is now very close to western part of Hong Kong. The Observatory will issue the no. 8 gale or storm signal shortly.
The rain bands of Pabuk are also bringing heavy rain with squalls to Hong Kong.
Winds at seas of southern Hong Kong were significantly higher than the general wind condition over the territory, reaching gale force. In the past hour, winds of about 94 km/h were recorded respectively. People in that area/those areas should exercise great care if they are out in the open.
The Hong Kong Observatory announces that the tropical cyclone warning signal number 8 is expected to be issued at or before 3:30 p.m. today (10 August 2007). Winds locally will strengthen further.
The government advises members of the public with long or difficult home journeys or having to return to outlying islands to begin their journeys now. The government is now making arrangements to release its employees accordingly.
Stay safe, whoever and wherever you are.

issued at

Thursday, August 09, 2007

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Street cleaner

Downgraded from a severe tropical storm to a mere tropical depression, Pabuk is heading west and skirting the western coast of Guangdong province. At 11am this morning Hong Kong Observatory lowered the No.3.

Hereabouts, the winds have died down. But there is the occasional bout of torrential rain. It's like the major downpours in any film by Kurosawa or that short story by Somerset Maugham. . . awesome. Forecast for the weekend? Rain, of course.

The local street cleaners are paid a pittance, work in all weathers, do a wonderful job, and for the heavy rains use the tools of their trade to rig up their own Darth Vader costumes. Respect.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hong Kong: severe tropical storm Pabuk

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Late this afternoon, Hong Kong Observatory raised the No.1. The Obs says it will "consider issuing a No.3 during the overnight period". Weather by numbers? What those numbers mean and what the Obs says we should do: Tropical Cyclone Warning Signals

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

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The endless patience of light

Monday, August 06, 2007

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Waterfront: Cantonese opera recital

The temporary bamboo and tin open-air stage erected on the waterfront late last week has hosted a series of evening recitals of Cantonese opera. Tonight was the last night.

Apparently, the event may have had something to do with celebrating the birthday of second century (AD) Chinese military general, Guan Yu (關羽).

The general's status has escalated over time so that these days he is, among other things, the patron saint of policemen, and criminals.

A French intellectual: "Professional criminals are artists; policemen are their critics." Bob Dylan: "To live outside the law, you must be honest." Discuss.

Hong Kong weather? There's a lot of it about

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After twelve stable, sea breeze, high visibility, low humidity, gloriously fine Hot Weather Warning days and nights -- thanks to a huge ridge of stationary high pressure to the east southeast-- the summer rains and thunderstorms are back.

Mustn't grumble, the rain cleans the streets, great sound and light show, et cetera. Flashy: HK Observatory Lightning Location Information System

Sunday, August 05, 2007

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Waterfront restaurant

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Billy Collins: Now and Then

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

This poet of the Sung dynasty. . .

Have a great weekend.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Eye | Land | View

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Pak Tai basketball court

Reading matters

Stung: Where have all the bees gone? By Elizabeth Kolbert: The New Yorker

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Summer breeze: the yo-yo red and green

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This has been the pattern for at least the past two weeks: the yo-yo red and green.

Just before daybreak the temperature (red) drops to 28C or a tad below, and then it starts to climb so that just around the end of lunch it is hitting 33C. Meanwhile, the humidity (green) drops in inverse proportion. So although it is hot, it is not wretchedly hot + humid. The wind coming in from the west-southwest also helps keep it pleasant.

Hong Kong Observatory says July was the driest July they have records for. And that Total Bright Sunshine Duration was 16% above normal.

Cloud patrol: Tung Wan beach

Mister Bijou believes there was even more TBSD on a little island in the South China Sea. There have been some distant but mighty fine clouds to regard, but nary a thing above our heads but a blue sky and the invisible (by day) firmament. So it goes.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

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Bamboo scaffold scaffolders

Michelangelo Antonioni: RIP

The final seven minute tracking shot from Antonioni's 1975 film professione: reporter (aka The Passenger, starring Jack Nicholson and the funky Maria Schneider):

A Chronicler of Alienated Europeans in a Flimsy New World: NYT

Hong Kong: Central Street Market

Central Street Market? It covers the area of Peel Street, Graham Street and Gage Street. This looks good, in English and Chinese, and there's a petition too: save the street market Thanks, Barb and John B!

For further reading, a good place to start is Jane Jacobs' 1961 opus The Death and Life of Great American Cities: Jane Jacobs

Reading matters

A Defence of the Book, by Alan Wall: ready steady book