Category Archives: Miscellaneous musings
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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)
- Mon Oncle: my first encounter with the cinematic work of Jacques Tati; playful and whimsical – will see more!
- 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…
- 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!
My third week of the HK International Film Festival is filled with slightly more commercial choices than the previous 6 films. Religulous is a documentary directed by Larry Charles, who has previously brought us the notorious Borat movie. Continuing with what he does best – bringing out the ignorance, prejudice and bigotry in ordinary folk – he accompanies comedian Bill Maher on a trek across the world, trying to question religion. Not just the Mormon faith or Scientology, but the mainstream faiths too: Christianity bears a large part of the brunt, but Islam is not spared either. Essentially the ideas are similar to those expressed by Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion: both the film and the book shine the light of reason and science on various faiths, and find most of them to be, well, religulous. A highly entertaining film (the mere sight of the Holy Land Experience in Florida, USA – biblical Disneyland, if you will – would make one break into uncontrollable laughter) which presents its arguments effectively without being overly preachy, Religulous is definitely a laudable effort in putting faiths to the test, though I doubt that there will be many converts. The pious will choose to ignore or condemn this as heresy, whereas the doubtful will find nothing new here (other than a good laugh). One is also acutely aware of the danger of sensational documentary editing, a la Michael Moore: interviewees often sound unbelievably arrogant or ignorant, but that could be due to his words being taken out of context of the entire interview, parts of which are edited out. That did not stop me from cracking up pretty much all the way through though!
Hunger, on the other hand, was definitely not aiming for laughs. An account of a period during the Troubles of Northern Ireland, when arrested IRA members went on a hunger strike to protest against the refusal by the Thatcher government to grant them political prisoner status. The audience is confronted with harrowing images of prisoner abuse, intercut with the assassination of prison staff by IRA paramilitaries, and the emaciated body of Bobby Sands, a leader of the hunger strike. These distressing scenes are often painfully long, as if we should ourselves experience the beatings, the bloodshed and the hunger. Only by going through it ourselves can we ask the question: was all this worth it? The British government refused to back down until several prisoners died in the hunger strike, and countless other lives were of course lost in those days. And for what? If only both sides could put aside their stubborness, the human (as well as other) costs could have been much reduced. Director Steve McQueen succeeded in making a discomfiting film, evoking so much with visuals only (you can almost smell the human excrement being smeared on walls), and the cast – led by Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands – should be credited with bringing authenticity to a film that would have failed without it.
青い鳥 (pronounced Aoi tori in Japanese, meaning Blue Bird) again contrasts sharply with the films mentioned above. The story starts with a school that has just recovered from an incident – one of the students attempted suicide (and failed). The young boy mentions in his suicide note that he was bullied by his classmates into shoplifting from his parents’ convenience store, and holds several classmates responsible. Having been made to write confession essays, heavily edited by the teachers, the boy’s classmates were told that they have been forgiven for what they did. Their lives at school was to start afresh – Noguchi, the bullied boy, has since left the school – until the arrival of a substitute teacher, Mr Murauchi (the excellent Abe Hiroshi, or 阿部寬). Murauchi is taciturn, and stutters severely when he speaks, provoking many giggles in class. However, as soon as he arrives, he puts Noguchi’s old desk back in its original position before the incident, and proceeds to greet Noguchi before every lesson. “To live as if nothing has happened is cowardly," says Murauchi. One particular student, Sonobe, is feeling particularly guilty because he joined in with the bullying even though he used to be close to Noguchi. He becomes increasingly disconcerted as Murauchi continues to remind him of his betrayal every day, by greeting the empty seat: one day he asks, “Does disliking someone count as bullying?" To which Murauchi replies, “No, but trampling on someone, noticing the pain in the person and choosing to ignore the pain, that is bullying." One line that particularly moved me was when Murauchi told Sonobe, “Because of what you’ve done to Noguchi, he will never be able to forget about you; even though what you have done cannot be altered, the least you can do is to always remember (what you’ve done)." It brings to mind great historical atrocities – the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, the massacre of Chinese people by Japanese troops, all the way up to the Tiananmen Massacre – and the way that people try to rewrite history by, for instance, omitting these events from textbooks. I do hope that the director Nakanishi Kenji (中西健二) and screenwriter Iida Kenzaburo (飯田健三郎) had that in mind: the film is thoughtful but not too preachy, much to their credit. Abe Hiroshi is perfect as the almost angelic Murauchi, and the young Hongō Kanata (本鄉奏多) is precociously good as Sonobe. The film also features a beautiful song, called 鋼の心 (Heart of Steel), sung by まきちゃんぐ – one doesn’t have to understand Japanese to appreciate its sincerity (hear for yourself below). All in all, Aoi Tori is perhaps slightly cliched and proudly mainstream, but a highly enjoyable film nonetheless.
Rather self-explanatory: an interesting take by BBC News’ Clive James on what porn is for…!
Though unintended, inclusion of the word “porn" here will no doubt boost this blog’s number of clicks…
My much-delayed return to the gym has had a rather inauspicious start: I fell off the treadmill. Yes, I was happily trotting along when I suffered from a lapse of attention (I can’t recall what caused it), and the next minute I was already at the back of the belt, and thinking “oh shit". It must have looked rather hilarious from the side, but I ended up with both my arms on the rapidly rotating belt. I managed to quickly recover myself, stand up and switch off the machine, before a concerned-looking member of staff approached me to see how I was. She sat me down, quickly arranging 2 other colleagues to come and attend to me: I felt like I was in primary school again, with people sterilising and dressing my wounds for me (I scratched my left arm, left knee and right wrist pretty badly). The lady actually gave me a pat on the shoulder and said “don’t worry about it", as if to remind me how much of a fool I looked like. Not that I’m unaccustomed to looking like a fool anyway. The staff were very kind and genuinely concerned though, for which I am truly grateful.
Remarkably, one of my first thoughts after falling was actually a line in the song 跑步機上 by 容祖兒 – 一追不到會在滾筒跌下! As in…
曲: 王雙駿/詞: 黃偉文/唱: 容祖兒
來吧來吧 來吧來吧 來吧來吧 來吧來吧 捱吧
Yes, I am rather obsessed with lyrics, having once dabbled with writing lyrics for music written by friends: so much that I’ve decided to launch a sister blog that will be about pop lyrics that I love/hate/wrote, exclusively written in Chinese: 詞、筆達意, at http://alyricist.wordpress.com. Right now it is still in development, but it’ll open for business very soon. Please do visit! Right now I have another song in mind that is rather appropriate for my situation now (my life is starting to feel like 頭條新聞 now):
Below is a list of books allegedly compiled by the BBC (probably not true, since nowhere to be found on BBC website), who estimated that the average Brit would have read 6 of them. A fun exercise that I’ll gladly indulge in…
* have read: 35 out of 100
# loved reading it: 25 out of 100
+ want to read: 40 out of 100
x started but failed to finish: 8 out of 100
1) Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (+)
2) Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien (*)
3) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (+)
4) Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (*#)
5) To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (*#)
6) The Bible (x) – oh come on!
7) Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (*#)
8) Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell (*#)
9) His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman (*#)
10) Great Expectations – Charles Dickens (+)
11) Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12) Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (+)
13) Catch 22 – Joseph Heller (+)
14) Complete Works of Shakespeare (x+)
15) Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier (+)
16) The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17) Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18) Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (*)
19) The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger (*#)
20) Middlemarch – George Eliot
21) Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell (+)
22) The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald (+)
23) Bleak House – Charles Dickens (+)
24) War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy (+)
25) The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (+)
26) Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh (*#)
27) Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (+)
28) Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (+)
29) Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (x+)
30) The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame (+)
31) Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (*#)
32) David Copperfield – Charles Dickens (+)
33) Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis (x)
34) Emma – Jane Austen (+)
35) Persuasion – Jane Austen
36) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis (x)
37) The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini (*)
38) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere (*#)
39) Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden (*#)
40) Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41) Animal Farm – George Orwell (*#)
42) The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (*)
43) One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (*#)
44) A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45) The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46) Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47) Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy (+)
48) The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (+)
49) Lord of the Flies – William Golding (*#)
50) Atonement – Ian McEwan (*)
51) Life of Pi – Yann Martel (+)
52) Dune – Frank Herbert
53) Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons (+)
54) Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (x+)
55) A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (+)
56) The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (+)
57) Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens (*#)
58) Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (*#)
59) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon: (*#)
60) Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (*#)
61) Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (+)
62) Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov (*#)
63) The Secret History – Donna Tartt (+)
64) The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold (*)
65) Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas (+)
66) On The Road – Jack Kerouac (*)
67) Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy (*)
68) Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding (*#)
69) Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (+)
70) Moby Dick – Herman Melville (+)
71) Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens (+)
72) Dracula – Bram Stoker (+)
73) The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74) Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75) Ulysses – James Joyce (x+)
76) The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (*)
77) Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78) Germinal- Emile Zola (+)
79) Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray (+)
80) Possession – AS Byatt
81) A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (+)
82) Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell (*#)
83) The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84) The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (*)
85) Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (*#)
86) A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87) Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88) The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89) Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (x+)
90) The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91) Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (+)
92) The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery (*#)
93) The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks (+)
94) Watership Down – Richard Adams
95) A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96) A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97) The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98) Hamlet – William Shakespeare (*#)
99) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl (*#)
100) Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (+)