Friday, 3 July 2015

Feel the What?!

When I was driving to work the other day, a bus pulled alongside me with an advert that certainly caught my attention, even if I only found out later what exactly it was advertising. Or rather, I should say, what type of business was running the ad, as the precise purpose of the poster passes me by even now.

Anyway, on the left is the name of the advertiser, "World Fishing Centre", and on the right a photo of a happy looking fellow on a boat with sunglasses on his face and what looks to me like a yellowfin tuna on his hook.

Under the fisherman and his prey is the baffling tagline "Feel the earth." (complete with full-stop). Now, I know that the yellowfin is much prized on Japanese tables, much pursued by the unregulated Chinese fleet and, as a "near threatened" species, much defended by bleeding-heart English rags, but what I don't understand is what - on earth - the tagline means.

Answers on a post-card...

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Gareth Southgate Epitomises England's Problems

"We want our young players to develop and being able to handle the ball is an important part of that." 

No, Gareth, that would be rugby, you plonker. 

No wonder England's overpaid muppets continue to make an early exit at every competition they enter.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Round-the-world Motorcyclist Loses Time on Hong Kong Leg

You're three hours behind the Harleys, sir

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

China’s Response to Hong Kong’s Electoral Reform Vote Demonstrates its Commitment to the Closed Society

Among the various pronouncements emanating from Beijing that could just about be made out above the wailing and grunting of Hong Kong’s Neanderthal pro-establishment camp in the aftermath of last Thursday’s loony walkout, one stood out for the insight it gave into the anti-freedom mindset of the corrupt and crazed cadres up north.

Of course, someone might object that any time an individual or group of individuals in a totalitarian state with interests only in consolidating their power and increasing their wealth make pronouncements about things they know nothing about, for instance, values and virtues, then they will end up only drawing attention to their moral bankruptcy.

While that is of course true, from time to time something especially egregious in terms of the commitment to the cause of closedness and servitude slips past the ranks of public relations professionals who are employed to try to make sure that the leopard’s spots are as well hidden as is possible when you have despoiled the natural law environment to such an extent that no undergrowth is left to provide effective cover.     

Thus it was that this gem slipped past the wakeful dragons last week, as the dedication of a group of power-crazed, stultifyingly wealthy individuals to continuing in the state to which they have become accustomed gave us the delicious idea of the right to vote being “enforced” on a populace:    

"The [31 August 2014] decision shall continue to serve as the constitutional ground for Hong Kong in the future as it enforces universal suffrage in the chief executive election."

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Hong Kong Government Trials New Green Transport Option

                                           We're really stuck on it

Monday, 22 June 2015

Friday, 19 June 2015

Pro-Democracy Cause Given Shot in Arm by Pro-Beijing Bullies

Well, well, the pro-Democracy camp have no better publicists than the pro-establishment lot, after the stunt they pulled in Hong Kong’s legislative chamber yesterday. With so much riding on the undecided group of citizens with voting rights, whom both sides will be trying to claim as their own in the next few years (decades? yawn), this stupid childish action – akin to the playground bullies refusing to continue their game of football because they're losing the match – is likely to be something that comes back to haunt the pro-Beijing muppets over and over.

We have, quite simply, seen their true colours, and they are various hues of yellow, not red. After all, red is the colour of human beings with at least a shred of principle and honour.

As for freezing out eight of their own number in order to settle scores (primarily with James Tien, whose one surviving brain cell met up with the vestiges of his conscience last October and quite liked what it found), this only goes to highlight the splits within the pro-China mob, most of who can’t abide CY Leung anyway.

But what really intrigues me is why exactly the neanderthals (and indeed the eejits in Beijing itself who feed them their lines – when they can remember them) are so upset that the chief executive “election” package they introduced back in 2012 with so many glowing comments will be retained for another “election”.

You’d have thought they’d be dancing in the streets of Zhongnaihai. Aren’t they always calling for stability?

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Greek Finance Minister Invokes Aristotelian Ethics

I have a moral obligation to keep paying myself and other civil servants top dollar with German money

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Hong Kong Police Comment Further on Bomb-making Raid

                           We're treating it as a dangerous plant

Friday, 12 June 2015

Motorcyclists Hatched, Matched and Despatched

Each morning on the way to work, I must run the gauntlet of the local motorised cycle brigade - the shorts, T-shirt and flip-flop clad men and women who opt to ride a variety of Vespas and pseudo-Vespas, some of them mutant varieties with two wheels at the front, others - the result of lab experiments that went frighteningly wrong - with roofs. None, sadly, come with a built-in computer which renders the rider unnecessary.

Besides driving with their various headlamps and foglamps on full beam, and sitting five yards behind you in your blind spot, local motorcyclists have a penchant for driving across hatch markings if the alternative is to drive properly. This happens each day where the slip-road from Fo Tan Road merges with Tai Po Road (westbound) not far short of New Town Plaza. This morning, two Vespaboys and one Vespagirl slewed into the slip-road in front of me before proceeding on their merry way.

Only today was different because the boys in blue were waiting for them. Two miscreants were flagged down before the New Town Plaza turn-off, while the third was collared on the Sha Tin Heights section of Tai Po Road by a copper whose BMW was scrambled from the wasteland near the Tsing Mun Tunnel Y-junction. 

And here's what happens when a car going too fast on the Tuen Mun Road meets a motorcyclist with supernatural powers, who knows he can change lane at speed without looking and emerge unscathed:  

Friday, 5 June 2015

Sepp Blatter Identifies Main Problem with FIFA

                        It was staring me in the face all the time

Thursday, 4 June 2015

We Will Remember Them

More than a quarter of a century on, and there has been little or no change within the China Communist Party, AKA government, in terms of the will towards an open society. 

More pertinently perhaps, it is a moot question whether the majority of the people in the PRC, as well as indeed in Hong Kong, really want the kind of change that accompanies openness. 

As one door - the front door, the opening of which brings light and a refreshing breeze - opens, many other doors - those which lead to dank dungeons, where treasure is kept, or thought to be kept - after all must close.

Is there the will for life without corruption and equivocation and all the benefits they bring to so many? 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Bloomberg Flies Flag for Freedom as Locals Try to Revise Verdict on June 4th Event

This year, Hong Kong will dutifully follow the Mainland (when does it not?) in observing a public holiday on 3 September - which is a Thursday if any Aussies out there want to start planning their long weekend.

While the HKSAR Government trotted out the official, Beijing-mandated line (the day-off is designed "to facilitate community participation in various commemorative activities" - which I reckon is code for "No horse-racing that day then", but we shall know for sure when the Hong Kong Jockey Club publishes its 2015-16 calendar), Bloomberg showed commendable independence in respect of the press release that hummed down the wires.  

The American news service amended the Central Government's latest effort to shift attention away from its own problems and onto an external enemy, changing "70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese people's war of resistance against Japanese aggression" to "70th anniversary of the allied victory over Japan", presumably after dipping into the history books or watching Spielberg's Pacific.

The power of language was brought rather closer to home (or rather the office) this morning when I was the recipient of a press release issued by a local - clearly "patriotic" - company giving details of measures it was taking to deal with this year's June 4th gathering in Victoria Park. They must have received a memo, because what had previously been referred to as a "public meeting" had become a "convocation".

If that comes as a surprise to anyone who thought a convocation was a degree ceremony, a meeting of the clergy or, in the local context, a body comprising all graduates and teachers of Hong Kong University, then he needs to think again.

In the meantime, the gathering which has been held in Victoria Park since 1989 - in its first year to show support for those seeking reforms in the Mainland, and subsequently to mourn and memorialise those who were killed on the streets of Beijing by their own Government on 3 and 4 June 1989 - will go ahead as usual, as a candlelit vigil.

And the structural and systemic problems the people of China were seeking to address 26 years ago - corruption, waste, injustice and all the other effects of a closed society - are as much an issue today as they were more than a quarter of a century ago.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

FIFA Adamant that Coronation Will Go Ahead as Planned

I have the support of five of six continents. If Antarctica had delegates to bribe, I'd have their support too.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Creation Returns to Hong Kong in Triumph

It must be twenty years or more since I last heard The Creation performed in Hong Kong - an experience that left me feeling underwhelmed and a little short changed, since only Parts I and II of the three-part work were offered.

In many ways, The Creation is Haydn's rather self-conscious attempt to gain himself a place in the musical pantheon. The oratorio was not written until he was well into his sixties, but if his purpose was finally to escape the shadow of his countryman Mozart - who had only a few years before succumbed at 36 to a wide variety of self-induced ailments - then it may be said that he succeeded handsomely. After writing more than a hundred symphonies and a goodly number of very serviceable string quartets - one of which was fated to become the national anthem of first Austria and then Germany - and a bunch of operas which haven't seen the light of day for many a year, it was this work that catapulted Haydn to the fame which he enjoys until this day.

Like all oratorios - as opposed to operas, where the story is typically so ridiculous that no one cares much about the words - The Creation is very much text driven. And the text of this work is rather special, as, unlike much large-scale sacred choral music, which is derived either from the Bible alone (with on occasion, as in the case of Brahms' Requiem, bits of the Apocrypha thrown in) or from the Catholic liturgy (which covers the vast majority of masses), The Creation is something of a mishmash of Milton's Paradise Lost, a melodramatic work based on Paradise Lost, and texts from the Bible (Genesis, naturally enough, and the Psalms, from which the best known piece, "The heavens are telling", is drawn).         

To my mind, there are three criteria that need to be fulfilled if one is to achieve a successful live performance of this work. The first is a grand scale. Just as debate rages about what size orchestra, and more especially choir, should be used for Messiah - Handel himself used both huge ensembles and chamber-style groupings for his early performances - so opinion is divided on the scale on which Haydn's "Messiah" (for that is how he himself saw it) should be delivered. I am very much in the "the more the merrier" camp for both works, not least because they are both what CS Lewis might have called "beer and red meat" compositions. That is not to say that they lack subtlety, rather that they are life-affirming celebrations of God and his work. This is more especially the case with Haydn's work, where the emphasis - especially in Part III - is on God's partnership with the pinnacle of his creation, Humankind. In The Creation, Man does not so much Fall as have a little slip!   
The two other criteria are related and determined by the text-driven nature of the work. The audience should be able to hear what is being sung (or "declaimed" in the recitatives), and the instrumental and choral interpretations should reflect the dramatic nature of the libretto.

So, how did this performance by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus rate on these three criteria? On the first consideration, with a choir of around 120 and a well-balanced orchestra which was responsive to conductor Brett Weymark's direction, the set-piece choruses were typically carried off successfully. One could almost see Lucifer and his cohorts fleeing tail-between-legs in the "Despairing cursing rage" section. Where the choir, which unlike the orchestra, is amateur, fell down most obviously was not in slow, quiet, sensitive sections such as the ethereal "By thee with bliss", where the interaction between Adam and Eve and chorus was almost enough to move one to tears, but in sections where precision was needed at high speed. The runs, most memorably in the last piece, "Sing the Lord", were at times all over the place. 

Finally, then what of the dramatic interpretation of a piece which is at times the musical equivalent of popular television entertainment - for the descriptions of the creation of beasts like the tawny lion and the flexible tiger, not to mention the sinuous worm (better known to you and me as the snake), you need to think David Attenborough on speed. And this is exactly what we got from baritone Andrew Foster-Williams, who hammed it up as Raphael with rolled "rs" that crossed bar lines and then as Adam with "Ohs" that could have come straight out of a 1970s' British sitcom. Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served? comes to mind. It was a wonder that Sara Macliver as Eve was able to keep a straight face, or not to flinch as he dived in so close to her at times that you wondered if he was going to plant a smacker on her cheek.

Macliver was excellent in a role that for me will always be associated with Emma Kirkby, from her first entry in the sublime aria "The marv'lous work beholds amaz'd" to the duet with Adam in "By thee with bliss". And we shouldn't forget tenor Toby Spence, who, despite drawing the short straw in terms of time in the spotlight and material to work with, gave a very fine rendition of "In native worth and honour clad", as well as delivering the line of the evening - deadpan: "He made the stars also", with a well-times pause and a throwaway "also" driving home the delicious quaintness of the words.

As a bonus to follow the review, here is "By thee with bliss" performed by the Gabrieli Consort: 

Monday, 18 May 2015

St Christine of Loh Issues Bull

All complaints about the environment should be addressed to the Transport and Housing Bureau. Thank you.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Amos Yee Bites Harry Lee

He's 16, he's Singaporean and he's proven so far to be resistant to thought control.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Kim Jong-un Fires Defence Minister

                            He couldn't take the flak