Saturday, March 24, 2012

325: 'Heil, mein Führer! Mr. Leung Chun - ying'

'Heil, mein Führer! Mr Leung Chun - ying' 

325.  The play has come to the final moment.  'Heil, mein Führer! Let's give a round of warm applause to our new CE, Mr. Leung Chun - ying' 

'There would be one day [when] Hong Kong would eventually need to dispatch the anti-riot police and utilise tear gas to handle protests' said CY - an accusation made by Henry Tang in his final rebound against his arch - rival. 

Can we trust Henry? My answer is Why not? He has come to his own political suicide anyway. There's no reason not to trust a dying person. 

This blatant tramping on freedom of speech by CY is not so surprising, after we have read Mdm. Ip's article, saying CY has always been a underground communist. 

Indeed PRC has long known how to play the filtration game. CY as underground communist can't be something too far - fetched to believe in when other scholars already explored how PRC set up parallel organisations to plant their own support ( in Associations in a Bind by Jonathan Unger and Anita Chan). 

Undoubtedly, PRC also masters the Shakespearian play within a play in writing the drama script for Hong Kong. Right of abode cases, Article 23, double - non issues and now CE election are all mini - plays within the grand play - the ultimate death of One Country Two Systems. 

Shortly gaining his chancellorship on January 30 1933, Hitler unleashed his Night of Long Knives - purging the internal dissidents and killing off other political opponents.

CY promised to pursue the matter about accusation made by Henry Tang further after the election is over. 

The only vain hope I am holding now is a deus ex machina - a totally unexpected event - that will produce enough blank votes  to make an abortive election. ABC. Anything But CY. 

This hope is, however, hopeless. The red curtain will be drawn, with blood seeping beneath it. HK is dead.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

1920s - Sophisticated Elegance

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's
Casually holding her cigarette, Holly Golightly gazes at the camera with her careless confidence. Sophisticated, elegant are the words to describe her - the exact words 1920s falls into – sophisticated elegance. 

Carefully combed hair, perfectly fit tuxedo and casual decadent flappers are only ones of the many example of this sophisticated elegance. Glenn Miller's Jazz music, Scott Joplin's rag time (e.g. the all famous  Entertainer, originally composed as soundtrack for The Sting),  Peg Leg Bates' one legged tap dancing show all the excitement and hype of the Roaring Twenties.

All these aren't too far away from us when The Artist and Midnight in Paris - all set in the 1920s - found their way in nowadays cinema

The black and white silence in The Artist does not dampen any interests but only serve to remind us in this midst of vulgar CG effect or blind production of 3D movies what we want is only sincere originality - something that long ceases to exist since the 1920s.

In a slightly different context, Midnight in Paris recounted all the buzz and noise of the Americans on the French soil. Meeting writers as eminent as Hemingway and Fitzgerald in person in the movie is like taking a trip by time machine back to the 1920s

The dazzling bright light of this Roaring Twenties casts a long shadow of decadence which is all the more attractive. I can not but to lend Fitzgerald's words in The Great Gatsby to describe it:

"Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiteer in New York -  Every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler's thumb.

At least once a fortnight a corps of caters came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough coloured lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby 's enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors - d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another. 

By seven o'clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five - piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the breach now and are dressing upstairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colours, and hair bobbed in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introduction forgotten on the sport, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names. "

The lavish waste, heavy percussion jazz and chaotic chats do not suggest any of the moral decay ( if there is such thing as morality) but only the beauty of decadence.

Reaching the peak, this Golden Age, like all other advanced civilisations, is destined to a downfall – opening the door for Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression, chaos, bloodshed and massacre from the Second World War. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Rendezvous at 謝記魚蛋 and 美而廉

This is no industrialized production of the Tsui Wah  fish noodle (翠華) - where the food ingredients are made in bundles of plastic bags at a factory somewhere in the Mainland.

This is 山窿謝記魚蛋 (literally Tse Kei Fish Ball at Cave). Carefully selecting three kind of fishes, Mrs. Tse makes fish balls, fish slice and fish skin everyday which will all be sold out by midday.

The ones I like the most, and also the one I have to fight for before they are sold out again, are the fried fish balls and fried fish slice. The crispiness at the outermost layer just works hand in gloves with the fresh fish meat to produce the 'springy' texture within your mouth.

The good and old fashioned menue
Sadly, this place is going to close by the end of this March due to inflation, lack of fresh fish supply and lack of people with the same insistence to continue the business anymore.

Another truly representing Hong Kong food, 美而廉 (literally Good and Cheap) is sliding into sunset as well. In there, you see old folks running here and there, busy serving dishes, piling glass and heavy metal plate on top of their arms - an acrobatic feat akin to performances in La Cirque du Soleil. 

And here they are - delivering my mélange of sausage, grilled pork and  sirloins steak, along with a glass of lemon coke, on a hot cow - shaped metal plate. When the old folk pour the pepper sauce, the metal plate sizzles, with vapour and smoke rising up in the air.

The unpretentious melange

My mom said when she was at my age, 美而廉 was a fashionable place where young people went to have a steak after clubbing. Now the long queu of people at the front, most of them in 20s or early 30s, testifies after 20 or 30 years, this is still the fashionable place where people go to have a steak.

I look back. With briskness, the old folks move but with sadness, they’ll leave jobless, sooner or later. This place, like 山窿謝記魚蛋, is going to close soon - at late April. 

With the old culture fading, what will fill this up? With the industrialized mass production of fast food from Café de Coral (大家樂) or with the army of amorphous waiters at Tsui Wah? I know not.  

Friday, March 09, 2012

宇宙入門(A Brief History of Time)


時間簡史(A Brief History of Time - From the Big Bang to Black Holes)
簡史著書者何人?霍金(Stephen W. Hawking)也,其上智通天,沈鬱之思,自不待言,劍橋大學盧卡斯數學教授之名(Lucasian Chair of Mathematics)終不枉也。然此書非為深晦,以傲同儕,乃盡其淺白,以悅庶民。蓋宇宙演化,其良有以,百代賢達,莫不欲解。霍金曰,二千年之功,雖未之竟,亦不遠也,故欲撫今追昔,一曉大眾以天文格致之要義,使咸知大爆炸(Big Bang)夸克(quark)量子(quantum)黑洞(black hole)之為何物。

宇宙為何?羅素(Bertrand Russell)嘗授之。既畢,有老婦詰難曰:「汝言謬矣!世界實為一大平板,置於一大龜背上!」羅不以為謗訕,曰:「然則龜立足何地耶?」婦曰:「汝不知耶!龜立於龜,龜立於龜,龜龜相累,成一龜塔,世界在龜塔頂。」龜塔之說,固可笑也。然科學亦未必中。惟理以其可證偽為佳,以其基於任意元素(arbitrary elements)而能解現狀,測來者為上。龜塔未足解現狀,更弗能預知者,故非佳理也。平板之說,阿里士多德(Aristotle)早知其訛矣,一曰地影於月圓,而非橢圓,二曰極星在天,愈南而愈近地,三則眾所周知也,舟至遠方來,先見其桅,後現其身,舟向遠方去,先沒其身,後隱其桅。此地圓說之合乎現象,亦能預知舟向西行,終至原處。然阿君持地心說,日月星辰環之而周旋,直至哥伯尼(Copernicus)開普勒(Kepler)伽利略(Galileo)等方知日之為心,地之為其周旋矣。伽君又知物無輕重,墜地同速(acceleration),此為後羽錘實驗所證矣。基於伽君之見,牛頓(Newton)遂得其引力定律(law of universal gravitation),力所以變物速,非惟變動靜耳。牛君遂疑絕對位置(absolute position)之無有,卻未之敢破,為駭俗甚矣。至乎愛恩斯坦(Einstein),更破絕對時間(absolute time)之說,質能可換(見下圖),時空相關,此所謂「攣生子佯謬」(twin paradox)。愛君惡「不確定性原理」(uncertainty principle)及其所生之「量子力學」(quantum mechanics),堅持宇宙靜止,訂一「宇宙常數」(cosmological constant),成其敗筆。實則宇宙正增大也,由紅移(red shift)見得,大爆炸之說,亦由宇宙中殘存之微波輻射驗之。最可笑者,愛君所以得諾貝爾獎,為其有功於量子力學之發榮也哉!

至於全書所重,霍金所鑽研者,黑洞,時間箭頭(time arrow),時間旅行(time travel)等,玄之又玄,智力所限,未得其門。諸君自探尋之。
至於宗教,霍金亦言及。時間(time)有始乎?從何而始?有終乎?至何而終?時間之為時間,自大爆炸而始,大爆炸前無時間,此所謂時間之有限而無界(no boundary condition)。故霍金笑言,天主教之曰「上帝創生之時刻」,乃一無有之概念。惟科學終未斷言「上帝」之無有。愛恩斯坦曰:
God doesn’t play dice.
To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.
結語曰:俾吾儕得一通理,而天下莫不知之,則哲學家科學家至凡人,盡可問宇宙及吾人之所以存,得之,則理智(ration)畢其全功,是知「上帝之精神」(God’s mind)也。


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Le Voyage dans la Lune

The restored version of the well - known moon with the spaceship on his eye
As the only celestial body shining as bright as the sun at night, moon has spurred imagination since the first human and many generations thereafter. The ancient Egyptians have even explained the moon wanes every night all because of a gamble. 

To win extra days, Thoth gambled with Khonsu, the moon, who lost so much light to Thoth, that Thoth used those light to gain 5 days and that, of course, explained why the moon wanes every night.

This fascination toward the moon had continued well beyond  the centuries and found its way to marry with poetic scientific spirit to produce Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and  H.G Wells' The First Men in the Moon. 

George Méliès, the French illusionist and the greatest fantasy filmaker of all time,  in turn based on these two works to make  Le Voyage dans la Lune in 1902, the pioneer of modern fantasy film, and also the origin of the most memorable cinematic picture of the spaceship landing on the eye of the moon.

In Le Voyage dans la Lune, you not only see the moon with an bleeding eye but also scientists in astronomer robes, spaceship like bullet, umbrella turning into giant mushroom and Selenites (green moon men) vanishing into red gas.
Scientists in astronomer robes

This once black and white silent film is not black and white and silent anymore when Méliès's hand - painted footage was found and was painstakingly restored into full coloured version with new original scores from the French band, Air.

Air with its already distinctive electronic music in Moon Safari seems like a little ironical twist to complete the circle in composing music for Le Voyage dans la Lune. Indeed the band fully took advantages of the silence in the film and made the bombastic music for the 'trip' to and adventure in the moon (Sonic Armada) while dream - like music for the wonder of night and stars (Who am I now?).

Umbrella turns into mushroom 
Wonderful though the music is, it can never overshadow the innovative film techniques that Méliès dared to experiment during the fin de siècle.

The special effect for which the umbrella transforming into giant mushroom and Selenites turning into a puff of red gas is done by stop - camera technique (which is to film the object, turn the camera off, remove the object, and then turn the camera back on - the object will seem disappear for the viewer)

The landing of the spaceship is done by moving the moon closer to the static camera, so that this could achieve a long forward travelling effect. All these techniques were so innovative at the time that they were comparable to the 3D effect in the Avatar. 

The actual landing of the moon in 1969 (67 years after the film)  has done nothing to dampen imagination toward the moon (for example - Apollo 18 made in 2011, a movie about alien life on moon). The moon voyage goes on.