Category Archives: Hate

Angels and Demons

angels_and_demons

Finished the book, which has given me mixed feelings.

First, I miss Rome. Just like Da Vinci Code made me miss Paris (I read the book shortly after a trip there). Reading about the famous sights – St Peter’s Basilica, Piazza Barberini, Piazza Navona, Castel Sant’Angelo – made me very nostalgic. I adore the city, so enriched in history and heritage: wish I could be there now.

Second, the twist in the end was ludicrous (the Pope was killed by his own son born of IVF!) – as melodramatic as Korean soap operas. When I read this part on the MTR, I couldn’t help but say aloud, “Come on!" It was utterly unnecessary and ridiculous.

Third, Dan Brown could weave a complex plot, but his writing could be so damn patronising. At times he seemed worried that his readership might have learning difficulties.

Fourth, the plot was vaguely believable and even riveting in the middle part, but with the red herrings such unlikely villains, the mastermind behind the plot was pretty obvious rather early on. An insider with access to the Pope – it was kind of a no-brainer (perhaps my suspicion of all overtly religious people also helped). Maybe the author intended to boost his readers’ ego by making this detective game rather easy.

Fifth, I was rather disturbed by the whole idea of fabricating an apparent “act of God" in order to restore hope and faith. The author almost went as far as to condone it: the hero intentionally kept mum about the truth, that it was all a lie, that several people were murdered and science villainised for the sake of reaffirming the Christian faith. It was disgusting.

And finally, the borderline pornographic denouement was a rubbish way to wrap the novel. Granted, the book was more entertaining than The Da Vinci Code (even though it predates the latter)…

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受保護的文章:Diary of a Naïve Postdoc

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Filed under Hate, Hong Kong, Love, Miscellaneous musings, Science

FF

FF: the often-used button on a VCR or DVD player remote control. “Fast forward". It describes perfectly the feeling of the past three months (during which I have not written anything here), even though it also felt like a lot has happened during these three months. A lot of that time was spent on preparing for my trip in June – I went to Morocco, organised a hen do, travelled around in Switzerland, stopped over in Cambridge, acted as a bridesmaid at the wedding of my dear, dear friend Y, and caught up with friends who have kindly decided not to disown me despite my inability to write or call or communicate by any means with them for a year. A very eventful trip, with many moments of joy, hilarity and surprise: so eventful that I felt like having another holiday afterwards to recover from the fatigue. That said, I will treasure the plenty of pleasant memories of this trip, and hope that I can do the same again next year…

Of course, FF also stands for Fantastic Four, of which I’ll talk more in a later post…

So let’s do some FF-ing over the pre-trip life I had, blogging Twitter-style:

  • Loved “Departures" (おくりびと): the story, the music, the message.

okuribito

  • 余光中 gave an enlightening seminar at PolyU: glad I got tickets (one of the few perks of working at a university); he shared some sagely insight into the art of translation!
  • 天下無双: a pleasing and rather touching dance/drama hybrid about friendship…loved it.

tianxiawushuang

  • 我們的華星時代: a wasteful squandering of the talents involved, with a script that had no idea where it was going. It was all rather promising before the plot crash-landed.
  • at17 “Colours Live": moved by their passion for what they do, and the “positive energy" that radiates from their music. Sandy Lam was a great surprise guest!

at17colours

  • 丑年X樣: a brave play presented by 樹寧。現在式單位, featuring the really rather weird 劉以達. Some serious themes in there, if just a tad bizarre.
  • Kay Tse’s “Yelling" concert: I fell in love with her voice…and Eason made the night complete.

P1010858

  • Arcadia: another gem by Stoppard, performed well if slightly amateurishly. The script is brilliant, though perhaps still a bit short of the genius that is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
  • HK Art Fair: cool show, with some really big names…many intriguing pieces (more later)

P1010951

  • Mon Oncle: my first encounter with the cinematic work of Jacques Tati; playful and whimsical – will see more!

mon oncle

  • Le French May Festival 2009. 橫衝直撞偷錯情 (adaptation of French farce La Puce a l’oreille, by Georges Feydeau), performed by the HK Repertory Theatre, was performed with perfect comic timing: a real gem! Folk N Blues Moriarty: interesting if eccentric folk band – and it was good to see Chet back!
  • Loved 小人國2 – the “C9″ zombies, Angelababy/朱靚芳, and Jai Ho: fantastic entertainment, and much superior to 港女發狂之港男發瘟…

little HK

  • 情牽女人心演唱會: great songs, fantastic singers; brings back memories of school days…
  • Was a bit indifferent about “Cats" the musical: definitely not in the same league as Les Mis or Phantom. Dancing cats are not cute, and a plot is sorely missing. Why was this the longest running show on Broadway?
  • Japanese class is rather fun!
  • Hated Donald Tsang not so much for his spinelessness, but for his arrogance: “I believe my views represent those of all HK citizens." Fool!

PHEW! That’s all of April and May (and early June) covered. More soon!

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The Art of Apologising

Do Hong Kong politicians/bureaucrats/sycophants think that they can get away with murder these days? Gregory So Kam-Leung, Under Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, was arrogant enough to submit his name card as a proof of his income, when applying to extend his maid’s stay in Hong Kong: idiotic, but forgivable. Then he tops it with this insincere “apology", showing that he meant none of it (or that he is very, very bad at apologising, in which case he’d better learn quickly: he’ll have many more opportunities). Those of you who do not understand Chinese would not even realise he is apologising: he sounds more like he’s lecturing a bunch of wayward kids. He might as well be saying, “Don’t you realise that this is the way we do things? How utterly silly of you indeed." Instead of making that half-arsed attempt, he should just shove his smugness where it belongs.

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Milk

Based on the life of gay activist and Californian politician Harvey Milk, this film raises quite a few timely issues about attitudes towards homosexuality. At the beginning of the film, Milk, played with pathos and dignity by Sean Penn, moves to San Francisco with his boyfriend, an act that would change his life forever. Following a number of failed election campaigns, he was finally elected as a member of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco, thus becoming the first openly gay person to be voted into public office in the history of the United States. His brief tenure as a city supervisor, before it was interrupted by his assassination, helped a law barring anti-gay discrimination pass into legislation: a small step in the struggle for equality, but a significant step, considering that back then, in the 1970s, homosexuals either lived covert or ostracised lives, and, in the words of TIME’s John Cloud, “To be young and realize you were gay in the 1970s was to await an adulthood encumbered with dim career prospects, fake wedding rings and darkened bar windows." The film chronicles Milk’s struggles: with his relationships, his campaigns, death threats, and politics; his life was never easy, and he was far from a saint. Yet this is an inspirational figure – one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Important People in the Century – because he helped demystify homosexuality. He helped the public “adjust to a new reality he embodied: that a gay person could live an honest life and succeed." Director Gus Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (the latter an Oscar winner for this work) did Milk’s life justice, and the cast (James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Joseph Cross, Diego Luna, Alison Pill…) was a solid ensemble, with Penn outstanding and Oscar-worthy in the lead role: sincere and never overplayed. (I am still split over Penn’s Harvey Milk and Frank Langella’s Richard Nixon – both real-life personalities incidentally. Let’s wait till I see Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.)

milk-poster-sean-penn

Another step in the quest for equality that Milk played a role in was the defeat of Proposition 6, an initiative on the California State ballot in 1978 that stated that teachers could be fired for “advocating, imposing, encouraging or promoting” homosexual activity, essentially allowing job discrimination based on sexuality. It was a major triumph at the time considering the conservative attitudes of the public and the relentless campaigning of the religious right. Whilst it would be a lie to say that progress hasn’t been made, true equality is elusive: Milk came out in a year when Proposition 8, restricting the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples and banning gay marriage, passed into legislation in California. Even though at the end of the day a wedding certificate is just a piece of paper, what Proposition 8 represents is a line drawn between straight and gay people, depriving the latter of certain rights. Musician Marc Shaiman satirises the whole Prop 8 drama with, rightly enough, a hilarious musical with Jack Black, John C Reilly and others:

We in Hong Kong are several steps behind in this, and despite the distinctly secular politics of the past, we now have a vocal religious community which dominate not only the political stage but also education. This was recently brought into the limelight in the debate over the Domestic Violence Ordinance, with proposals to include same-sex cohabitants under the protection of the law. Conservative legislators have expressed concern over the “distortion" of the concept of a family by including same-sex cohabitants, even though divorced couples and (current or former) opposite-sex cohabitants (with no nuptial bond) are already covered. Frankly I am tired of these self-righteous prats pontificating about concepts of right and wrong based on that one book. I acknowledge that not all religious people are offensive: some actually practise what they (and their gods) preach, and show kindness and love for others. What I am glad to see is that others are feeling similarly irked, and have taken to the streets opposing the moral bullying by the religious right. Dissent, followed by discourse, might – just might – one day lead to progress.

Addendum: One last complaint. I spotted this ad below on my way to work, and was rather baffled at first as to what this was supposed to convey. What is the take home message from this? Who on earth decided to spend taxpayers’ money to come up with something so lame? I had to pause and reflect before I understood what the ad symbolises – that straight and gay (or “bent") people, represented by the straight and bent chopsticks respectively, can both earn their daily bread, represented by the rice with the vegetable grin. A friend makes a good point: how are bent chopsticks supposed to function? How do they compete for the rice? Either way, enough beating around the bush – if we don’t bring these issues out in the open, they will never be resolved.

discriminationad

Addendum 2: I encountered another variation of this anti-discrimination ad, this time with a bent spanner. So wrong…

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Rachel Getting Married

This week’s Movie Tuesday feature was Rachel Getting Married, a drama/dark comedy about a dysfunctional family (aren’t they all) coming together for the eldest daughter Rachel’s wedding. The story centres on Kym, Rachel’s younger sister and former drug addict, who comes out of rehab to join the wedding proceedings. She is the most watchable character of the entire film – outspoken, outrageous, guilt-ridden, an emotional train wreck. Anne Hathaway has done well shedding her Princess Diaries goofy persona, with her breast-baring turn in Brokeback Mountain and then this stellar Oscar-nominated performance. Too bad the rest of the film fails to match this excellence. Director Jonathan Demme (of The Silence of the Lambs fame) uses hand-held cameras to (maybe) heighten the reality: make it seem like a homemade wedding video, and perhaps in that way depict honesty. That said, in terms of ugly family dramas this is rather lame (does anyone remember Festen?), and whilst this is probably more realistic, it is patience-testing. (Was it intended that we should feel Kym’s boredom staying sober at the wedding?) The latter third of the film also sees Kym much subdued (and reconciled with her father and sister), which one must say makes her much less interesting. It was a nice surprise to see Debra Winger though, playing Kym’s mother and looking more beautiful than ever. The unresolved rift between mother and daughter does leave the audience with the hope that that wound would one day heal.

rachel_getting_married

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Get off your high horses

From BBC News:

Vatican urges end to Amnesty aid

The Vatican has urged all Catholics to stop donating money to Amnesty International, accusing the human rights group of promoting abortion…(to see the rest of the article, click here.)

Could the Pope and his cronies please sort out their priorities? Let’s put aside the issue of whether abortion should be advocated. By denying Amnesty International their sources of donations, the Vatican will be actively punishing the people in need of charity. These people should in no way suffer because of the stance of Amnesty International, however immoral in the eyes of Rome. At the risk of offending the Catholics, I’d go as far as to say that this is in exactly the same vein as fundamentalist terrorism, since the Vatican chooses to hold one of their religious values irrationally above the love for all mankind, ironically also preached in their religion. I hereby call on all reasonable human beings, whether or not they believe in Christ, to donate towards the honourable cause of Amnesty International, and to persuade family and friends to do the same – we can show the Vatican how out of touch they are by defying them.

Sidebar: to deny rape victims the right of abortion is the kind of by-the-book, irrational religious practice that, again, is the root of extremist terrorism.

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