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2015年12月30日 星期三

A Romp Outside (出外溜 溜)

It's nice to visit one of the outlying islands.


If there's nothing else, there is at least the sea.

2015年12月20日 星期日

Weekend Fun (週末趣味)

Weekend fun has been around for quite a while. But never once has any videos been played here. As it's close to the end of the year, it may not be a bad idea if weekend fun were to go from verbal to visual. Here's something I got from the internet. Enjoy.



Have Fun.
Have a nice weekend.


2015年12月12日 星期六

Weekend Fun (週末樂趣)

Japan is a tiny country with a huge population and is the third largest economy the world, ranking after only America and China. Everything there is meticulously regulated. It appears a no nonsense country. Yet. believe it or not,Japan is just 1/26th the size of America, even smaller than the state of Montana. Perhaps out of jealousy, perhaps  because tiny Japan is the only country in US history which dared attack the USA, Americans like to joke about them. The following are taken from the internet.

1. 

Q: Did you ever hear about any Japanese winner in any international beauty contest? 
A: Me neither. 

2015年12月11日 星期五

Maryland (Disorder) (失常)

House invasion can be a thrilling cinematic experience like David Finchers's Panic Room (2002). One would have imagined that such house invasion thriller genre would normally be a male director's work. Not so, if we may judge by Maryland (Disorder)(失常) (2015). It's a film directed and co-written by Alice Winocour with Jean-Stéphen Bron

In this film a Special Squad French solider Vincent Loreau (Matthias Schoenaerts) who had seen action in Afghanstan and is suffering from Post-traumatic Distress Syndrome with occasional panic attacks and hearing noises is asked to go on leave. During such leave, he is co-copted to join in a commercial security assignment  by his buddy Denis (Paul Hamy) to protect a rich Lebanese merchant Imad Whalid (Percy Kemp) and his beautiful German-French wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and his kid Ali (Zaïd Errroughi-Demonsant) in a French estate in Southern France fitted with all kinds of spy cameras and a control room covering almost all areas of the estate called Maryland first for a glamorous party where high profile politicians and financiers are involved and later when Whalid leaves on a business trip in Switzerland, to protect just his wife and kid. 

2015年12月10日 星期四

Osaka & Kyoto (大阪-京都)


It's red leaves time again. Time to budge from my chair and my readings and talks etc.

I took to the skies again and had my last look at Hong Kong.

Quand Je ne dors pas (When I don't Sleep)(失眠夜)

It's rare nowadays to see a movie in black and white. But I saw one last night: "Quand Je ne dors pas (When I don't Sleep)(失眠夜") It's the second feature by Tommy Weber (his first being Callao 2009), who co-wrote it with actor Mohamed Kerriche, a film inspired by J D Salinger's prize winning short novel in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye麥田捕手》about the which started the now common practice of wearing a baseball cap backwards by teenagers and some ex-teeangers. 

When the film opens, we see a teenager Antoine (Aurélien Gabrielli) asking for the price of a train ticket so that he may to go to see the northeastern coast of France, but he appeared to have no idea which town there he wanted to go to, nor what hours he wanted to go. From the converation, which was not well taken by the train ticket clerk, we learn all he got in his mind is the simple idea of wanting to go to look at the sea the following morning. He asked the clerk which town he could go to and was given four or five names, he just randomly picked one and then asked for the time of departure and then the price. When told it cost $30 Euros. He said it was too expensive because it far exceeded what he got in his pocket and left. He had a problem coming up with the money. So he went to Diego ( Mohamed Kerriche) a friend whom he knew was in the business of selling maijuana. He was given a number of packets which he was told cost $15 Euros but that he could sell it in the market for $30 Euros and split the profit 50: 50. 

2015年12月8日 星期二

The Alpha and Omega of Beethoven's Symphonies (貝多芬交响樂之始末)

It's always interesting to see someone develop. It is a heavenly experience if that someone happens to be a proto-romantic who revolutionized the way 18th century symphonies are written, someone typically represented in books about him with a pair of angry eyes and crazy frizzy hair sitting on a huge round forehead, like that of a lion. We had that experience at the Cultural Centre last Saturday. Classical symphonies are always quick, gay and stately but when Beethoven tried his hands at it at the turn of the century, about a decade after the French Revolution broke out and Europe was afire with new hopes, you can be sure that not a little of the spirit of rebellion would somehow find its way into the music, especially when it came from the hands of that eternal rebel. It's nothing like those delightful symphonies written by Mozart or Haydn, but not entirely unlike them either. We got the quick tempo and gayness but mixed into that is a certain force, a kind of defiance which you'd never find in the symphonies of his predecessors, in the form of what is later to become his trademark hammer like sound from the whole orchestra with the help of the timpani as they wham down three or four or even more times without any prior warning or preparation amidst otherwise softly flowing and beautiful melodies, with such patterns being repeated time and again with slight variations but each time progressively louder and more complex than the previous. You can already hear too in Beethoven's first symphony that massiveness in the way he develops the sonic structure of his sound of his principal and secondary motifs. .



2015年11月29日 星期日

Beethoven Nos. 2, 4 & 5. (貝二,貝 四, 貝五)

It was quite an earful. Three Beethoven symphonies for one evening at the Cultural centre: his No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5

Beethoven's No 2 written in 1802, in Adagio--allegro con brio, Larghetto, Scherzo-Allegro-trio, Allegro molto is a relatively happy symphony is very different from his first. In this symphony, Beethoven shows that his break with the classical style has become irreversible: he used more musical instruments in this symphony than the first, made their sound more heroic, employed more contrasts, gave it a more severe structure, used stronger rhythm. Its second movement boasts a lovely melody with plenty of decorative features. The third distributes variation of the main motifs by different sections of the orchestra and is brimful with joy and humor, a theme which continues into the final movement.

Beethoven's No. 4 which premiered 5 years later abandons the heroic theme of the third, and places much more emphasis on the vitality and joy of life.  It  has a tenderness not possessed the previous symphonies and its the fast pace in the final movement is probably intended to reflect the passionate happiness the composer felt during this period of his life.

The No.5 returns again to the hero theme of the third and has the famous 4 note introduction in its first movement which anybody who has ever listened to his music can repeat and which some say suggests "Fate knocking at the door". Whether or not that is so, this is certainly the most popular of all his symphonies and constitute one of his most exciting and most passionate symphonies.

The HKPO under van Zweden Jaap is simply superb. The hesitation and imbalance in the sound which I felt in the No. 6 has completely disappeared. I left the concert hall a very happy and satisfied man indeed. I can't wait for Nos 1 and 9  on the 5th December, 2015. I'm sure that they will probably be even better.










Valley of Love(愛之谷)

What is the boundary between reality and illusion, between truth and self-deception, between fact and fiction, between the past and the present, between indifference and love, between life and death, between death and resurrection, between living and ghostly living. These are questions which surface in my mind as I watch Guillaume Nicloux's Valley of Love 2015.

It's a simple story, Gérard (Gérard Depardieu) meets Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) at a motel in Death Valley, California because 6 months ago, each received a letter written by their gay photographer son Michael just before he committed suicide, telling them that they should meet for a week there and visit various spots in the Death Valley. The two had not met for years after their divorce, each now remarried and lead separate lives.

2015年11月28日 星期六

Un Homme Idéal (A Perfect Man) (完美的男人)

The title of my next film at the French film festival may not be all that we initially think: Un Homme Idéal (A Perfect Man) (完美的男人). Directed by Yann Gozlan and co-written by him with Guillaume Lemans and Grégoire Vigneron and starring the award winning Pierre Niney as Mathieu Vasseur, an aspiring and then a famous writer and Ana Girardot as his wife Alice Furnac, the principal protagonists, the story is about how a nobody working as a house-moving laborer who dreams of becoming a novelist actually became one by stealing the memoires of the Algerian War in 1957 and 1958 in manuscript form (before he was born) written of one of his company's customers during one of the removal exercises and passing it off as his own work.

2015年11月27日 星期五

Marguerite et Julien (瑪格麗特與朱利安)

Incest is always a controversial subject. Although habitual among the families of ancient Pharaohs in Egypt and among Sassanian royalties in ancient Persia, it has always been looked upon with horror by Christian Europe, especially in late 16th/early 17th century France, a time when such corporal intimacy was considered both socially scandalous and legally criminal. Julien and Marguerite died on December, 2, 6013, after their sentence was commuted by the then King of France from death by hanging to death by decapitation and were buried in the same tomb in the castle of Tourlaville. They were brothers and sisters.

This was the subject of Valérie Donzelli's film Marguerite et Julien (2015), adpated from the novel Julien et Marguerite by Jean Gruault and first offered to but rejected by François Truffaut in the 1960s. The brother Julien de Ravalet (Jérémie Elkaïm) and sister Marguerite de Ravalet (Anäis Demoustier) were the beloved children of Jean de Ravalet (Frédéric Pierrot), the lord of Tourlaville and Madame de Ravalet (Aurélia Petit) had been inseparable since infancy: playing, drawing, studying, riding, sleeping together and as children they swore to each other that they will always love each other and will never abandon the other. But when they reach puberty, Julien was sent with his elder brother Philippe (Bastien Boulllon) to England, Holland and Germany to receive training in finance, commerce and weapons. When they returned, it was time for Marguerite to get married. On the day of the arranged marriage, first Julien excused himself from the dinner table in the middle of the wedding reception, then Marguerite did the same shortly thereafter. After an unduly long time, the family of the bridegroom stormed out. The brother and sister were subsequently found at the stables by Madame de Ravalet, in the middle of an intimate game of guessing the word written first on the palm and then on each other's back. The word got around and no further suitors could be found and finally Marguerite's parents married him to the only available choice, the very wealthy local tax inspector Lefebvre (Raoul Fernandez), at the family chapel by their paternal uncle, the Abbé de Hambye (Sami Frey), Julien absenting himself from the ceremony.

2015年11月26日 星期四

A Trois, on y va (All About them) (三人行)

A third person in a relationship invariably creates problems. What happens when the third in a relationship is simultaneously in love with the original two? This seems to be the theme explored by director Jérôme Bonnell, in A trois, on y va (literally "Three together, let's go") ("All About them")  (三人行)(2015) directed co-written by him with Maël Piriou. A Trois, on y va is a light comical look at the complicated romantic and at times erotic dilemmas that can result when the three are mixed up in such a complex game of musical chair, given the law of Newtonian physics that a person can only be at one place at any particular point in time.

2015年11月25日 星期三

Floride (Florida) (佛羅里達州)

Old age or senility has always been a problem. Perhaps less a problem in previous ages because even as near to now as just about a hundred years ago, the average life expectancy of a typical human seldom soared above 50. Even in ancient China, when there was much less polluted food, polluted water, polluted air etc, 70 was already considered a very "rare" age for the typical Chinese man or woman to attain. When one reaches 80, that seemed incredible. But not now. According to the figures released by WHO for 2013, the average man in HK now lives up to 81 and the average woman 86. And for France the corresponding figures are 79 and 85.  So, what may happen? That's what Philippe Le Guay's Floride (Florida), adapted for the screen by himself and Jérôme Tonnerre  from a prize winning play "Le Père" by Florian Zeller is all about. 

2015年11月23日 星期一

Une histoire américaine (Stubborn) (一個美國故事)

There is no rhyme or reason to pig-headedness. But when pig-headedness is wedded to an entirely one-sided unrequited love, it can appear alternatively as engaging, endearing, irritating, annoying and enraging and pathetic or a messy mixture of such epithets. That appears to be the theme of "Une historire américane" (Stubborn) (一個美國故事) of Armel Hostiou.

The story traces the wanderings of Vincent (Vincent Macaigne) through Brooklyn, Coney Island, China Town and Manhattan, New York in pursuit of an impossible love ( an "amour fou") whose ending he doesn't seem able to accept. When the film opens, we see how he dogs Barbara,( Kate Moran) a French speaking American girl, to the seaside of New York city, professing his undying love for her, begging for a chance to resume their relationship because he finds her incredibly beautiful and that he could not live without her, no matter how determined she was to in breaking up with him and despite the fact that he know that she is now living with her new lover, an American doctor.  He would say or do just about anything to have a chance to be with her again. But she remains unmoved. She buys him a plane ticket to go back to Paris. But Vincent would not listen. When she leaves, he wanders about aimlessly in pubs, discos, and cafés, showing  his photo of Barbara on his mobile to any stranger who care at all to talk with him in his almost heavily French accented and barely comprehensible English. He continued to follow her, to an art exhibition, to her boyfriend's clinic and their house but got nowhere.

Caprice (她的名字叫 <任性>)

It is easy to say that all men should be decisive in their love life and stay faithful. But life has a way making it difficult for them both through their own weakness and by the kind of tricks chance plays upon them. Is it any different for a woman? Emmanuel Mouret who wrote the dialogue and directed the film Caprice (2015) created slightly less than two hours Sunday entertainment out of that theme.

Clément Dussaut (Emmanuel Mouret), a sensitive lover of the theatre is a patient and conscientious primary school teacher, whose wife Claire (Gabrielle Atger) left him for another man and to him the joint custody of their kid, and who likes the play which figures Alicia Bardery (Virginie Efira) which he would see time and again, happens to sit besides a young aspiring actress who sees him full of tears during the last scene and who happens to bounced into him for the third time in the same theatre then develops an instant affection for him and tries her best to get him interested in her but fails. Then by another accident, Alicia, who has just broken off another unsuccessful relationship, goes to Clement's school to look for a private tutor for her nephew and after seeing how Clément work with some of his pupils, decides that he's the right man.

2015年11月22日 星期日

Weekend Fun (週末趣味)

It seems that many Americans don't like France. Perhaps that may be because the French won't bow to the American political agenda as easily as the American government would like them to whether it be in Europe or in the Middle East. Whatever the true reasons might be, I find lots of hostility towards the French in American jokes about France.The following are from an internet website on jokes on the French.

1 . 

Q: What's the difference between France and Quebec?
A: Quebec has prettier women and colder beer.

2015年11月21日 星期六

La Duchesse de Varsovie (The Duchess of Warsaw) (華沙公爵夫人)

My second film at the French film festival is a jewel hidden in dark hall of the HK Film Archive. It's one of the sparest films I've seen: just two live characters who move about and had some brief conversations amidst painted cardboard figures with voice overs and static painted scenarios of Paris plus readings at the end of the book sometimes by one and sometimes by the other from a book which had not been published and an excerpt from a black and white film. Yet there was never a dull moment. We were kept on tenterhooks because of two dark secrets: why one young painter couldn't paint and why one old lady, his grandmother, was completely silent about her past.

La Loi du Marché (The Measure of a Man) (市場機制)

It's not often that you get a film about working class people without some bit of implicit moralizing or spirit boosting on how the lowly hero struggling against impossible odds finally pulled through to reach a very much needed and longed for happy ending. But rare though it is, Stéphane Brizé managed to do so in  La Loi du Maché (literally, the law of the market) ("The Measure of A Man") (2015) which he co-scripted with Olivier Gorce.

It would be an understatement to say that it's a razor-sharp look at the life of a 51-year-old crane operator more than a year after he was laid off by a 700 worker factory. When the film begins, we see Thierry Taugourdeau (Vincent Lindon), a married working class man on $500 Euro a month unemployment benefits arguing with some of his ex-colleagues about the point of suing for redundancy payment against those in control of his bankrupt company, discussing with the a job counselor (Yves Ory ) at the local government department of employment about the point of a further re-training course when the first one seemed to get him no where, talking about the possibility of selling his home nearly paid off except for another 5 years with a bank credit officer (Catherine Saint-Bonnet), undergoing a job  interview on video camera by Skype in front of a desk top computer  for a position as a Version 8 crane operator when he was only familiar with version 7, taking time off to learn rock 'n roll with his wife (Karine de Mirbeck) at the neighborhood community centre, washing his engineering college ready polio-stricken teenage son (Matthieu Schaller) in the bathroom, haggling over an unacceptable  reduction of selling price of his mobile home from $7,000 Euros which the prospective purchaser (Roland Thomin) had previously agreed on the phone to $6,000 Euros on the pretext that his home did not have a view on the sea when none of the mobile homes there had any and on a minor damaged electrical appliance, how he was mercilessly criticized about his body posture, his tone of voice, his way of presenting his bios on a video'd record of his mock job interview by a group of fellow students, Dahmane Belghoul, Florence Herry-Leham, Agnès Millord,  Irene Raccah, Christian Ranvier, Cyril J. Rolland, Sandrine Vang according to the principles they learned from the employment interview technique instructor (Tevi Lawson ). We see how he struggled to take the humiliating battery of criticisms, valid or justified or not with calm, with repressed pain, with dignity.

2015年11月19日 星期四

van Zweden's Beethoven's Nos. 6 & 7 (梵志登的貝六貝七)

Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 , the "Pastorale" was one of the first classical music discs I heard when I was a teenager. The moment I heard it, I was transfixed. I thought to myself, "how could music be so beautiful yet so powerful, all at the same time?" I was hooked, forever.  Since then I do not know how many times I heard it, as performed by different orchestras and different conductors, Gergiev, Kleiber Abbado, Klemperer, Karayan, Bernstein, Mehta, Celibadache, Barenboim, ...

Last night I got the chance to hear it again This time under Jaap van Zweden as part of his Beethoven cycle. The symphony was first premiered in Vienna in December 1808 when Beethoven described it as "more an expression of feeling than painting." He could not have been more correct. Of course, he wrote it! I learned from the Programme Notes that he modeled the symphony on The Musical Portrait of Nature by J H Knecht published by the publisher of his music at the end of the 18th century and that he regretted having given each of its 5 movements a programmatic title: I Allegro ma non troppo (Awakening of Cheerful Feelings upon Arrival in the Country) II Andante molto mosso (Scene by the Brook) III Allegro (Merry Gathering of Country Folk), IV Allegro (Thunderstorm)  V Allegretto (Shepherd's Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm). But I don't think he's entirely right. Our senses don't work in isolation: words may suggest images, images may suggest color, color may connote feelings... feelings are synthetic and operate on all our senses at the same time, thus enhancing our enjoyment, more or less the way different sections of the orchestra playing the same theme or motifs with its characteristic sonic texture, its transients, its overtones, its harmonics in isolation and in combination and thus heighten our enjoyment of the music through parallels, contrasts and variations etc. producing a kind of very complex and delightful unity through variety. Beethoven, however, is not entirely wrong either because his music does speak for itself and after all, if the complexity of music could be completely rendered in words, then what's the point of listening to it. Whatever the truth may be, I think that ultimately the test of the pudding is in the eating. Nothing could ever replace that! So let's listen, not just with our ears, but with our imagination and our heart. The brain is optional because what's the use of the ladder when we're already over the wall?

The version I love best is Furtwangler's. It wouldn't fair if I were to ask van Zweden to be Furtwangler, whose version and interpretation of this great symphony could not have been more different. But I could not help feeling that it would have been perfect if van Zweden were a little less forceful and a little less structural when he came to the soft and lyrical passages. It seems that somehow the words "pianissimo" and "mosso" couldn't be found in his musical dictionary. But of course, that just my peculiarly personal and probably entirely opinionated view. 




2015年11月17日 星期二

Munich 14.On the way to Nymphenburg (慕尼黑. 14:在寧芬堡宮路上)

Traveling can be tough at times. Often, for the sake of not missing a train, you may only have just enough time to grab a sandwich and a coffee or anything else which will fill your stomach without adding too much poison into your system in the process. 




My grub at the train station



German ad at the tube station

2015年11月16日 星期一

Munich 13: Schloss Blutenberg.3 Exhibitions: Astrid Lingren & Ilon Wikland (慕尼黑.13 :布魯登堡城堡.3:展覽 )

One of the things which gave me the greatest pleasure when visiting the Blutenberg Castle  was the chance to see two of the exhibitions there, one about book illustrations of children books and the other on the theme of war and world peace in the eyes of children. 




All children and those who have not yet forgotten that they were once children are welcome here. The International Youth Library organizes many types of activities for children.The “Lichterhäuschenbasteln”( lit cottage in velvet ) in the childrens´ library have already become a regular event: childrens and parents have been invited to make their own little lanterns when they arrive in the evenings of November 21st, November 28th and December 5th later this year.

2015年11月13日 星期五

The Immortal Beethoven lives on (不朽的貝多芬再出台了)

In a thunderstorm on 26th March, 1827, Ludwig von Beethoven died, aged 56. He died according to history. Yet, he never died for me. He is still very much alive and kicking, in his music. He was resurrected, twice last night, first in his Symphony No. 8 and then again in his Symphony. No.3 under the baton of Jaap van Zweden.

By all accounts, Symphony No. 8 in F, Op 93 in Allegro vivace e con brio, Allegretto schezando, Tempo di Menuetto, Allegro vivace, is a light hearted symphony, written very quickly by him immediately after he finished the 7th at a time when he had just succeeded in forcing his brother to marry the girl with whom he had been fooling around in bed for a long time and putting an end to the family scandal which had infuriated the fiery composer  for quite some time. Some even say that certain passages in the symphony were meant to be deliberately humorous. As usual, Beethoven started the symphony with great force before moving into a lyrical passage by the winds, repeated by the strings, interrupted without warning by huge thumping notes which remind one of the opening theme, again and again in waves after waves. One cannot but be amazed at the force of Beethoven's indomitable will and the respite from its action from time to time in the lighter passages. I really like the delightfully short second movement, moving around in a sort of almost classical mechanical rhythms led by the woodwinds, followed by the strings which alternated between light and heavy sound. This was followed by the courtly elegance of the menuet in the third with its constant repetition of the its main motifs without forgetting the flowing theme of the first. The constant comical imitation of each others' phrases by different sections of the orchestra and the sudden explosion into loudness and the unexpected abrupt dropping back into soft notes in the middle of such loudness in the 4th movement before it continues its energetic course to the finale makes it a truly memorable experience. I don't know how it is for the others. For me, perhaps it's such romantic reversal which is the secret of its endless fascination which keeps me coming back again and again for another listening.





2015年11月12日 星期四

Munich 12: Schloss Blutenberg.2 : James Krüss Turm & Michael Ende Museum (慕尼黑.12 :布魯登堡城堡.2)


The Blue Bus by James Kruss, a children's book, displayed at the James Krüss Tower at Blutenburg Castle, a museum dedicated to him.


James Krüss (1926 – 1997) was a German writer of children's and picture books, illustrator, poet, dramatist, scriptwriter, translator, and collector of children's poems and folk songs and the winner of Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1968 for his contribution as a children's writer, had a very untypical life, full of changes. He was born on Heligoland but in 1941, the island had to be evacuated because of military reasons and his family was resettled first in Arnstadt and later to Hertigswalde near to Sebnitz in Saxony. After graduation, Krüss taught high school first in Lunden, then in Ratzeburg and then finally in Brunwick. In 1944 he volunteered for the German Air Force and was stationed in  Ústí nad Labem, now Czech Republic, where he stayed until WWII ended, when he moved with his parents to Cuxhaven. It was in 1946 that Krüss published his first book Der goldene Faden and in 1948, he moved to Reinbek, near Hamburg where he founded the magazine Helgoland for the expropriated inhabitants of the island and stuck with it until 1956 when he started writing audio dramas for children and children's poems together with Peter Hack and in the same year, published The Lighthouse on Lobster Cliffs. During the period, he travelled to Italy and Yugoslavia. It was another two years before he published his now well-known picture book Henriette, whose eponymous protagonist is an anthropomorphized steam locomotive-hauled train, and which started a small series of similar, related picture books.After a reading of My Great Grandfather and I (which won the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1960) in the Tagesschau in 1960, he became  famous. In the same year he bought a house with garden in Gilching, Bavaria. Too years later, published his most famous book Timm Thaler (entitled in UK as" The Boy Who Lost His Laugh) which was turned into a mini-TV series in 1979 directed by Sigi Rothemund. In 1965, he moved again, this time to Gran Canaria where he died from heart trouble after three decades, in 1997. He was buried at sea on 27 September near Heligoland. Krüss was a good storyteller in the oral story telling tradition and his fantastic and whimsical tales are deeply rooted in folk tales. Many of his books are actually collections of tales held together by a frame story e.g. My Great Grandfather and I (1959), based on his own experience of growing up in Heligoland with which he won the German Prize for Children's and Youth Literature, with its sequel My Great Grandfather, the Heroes, and I (1967). 


2015年11月11日 星期三

Munich 11: Schloss Blutenberg.1 (慕尼黑.11 :布魯登堡城堡.1)

Germany is land brimful with history. It's full of architectural relics from different ages of its checkered history, some going back to the Middle Ages. One such relic is the Schloss Blutenberg (Blutenberg Castle) built in 1438-39 by Duke Albrecht III, Duke of Bavaria, on the banks of River Würm west of Munich upon the foundations of a 13th century moated castle burnt down in a previous war. Originally used as one of his hunting lodges, it later became his home. His son Duke Sigismund of Bavaria, who abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Albrecht IV in 1467, extended the castle in 1488 and continued living there with his wife Agnes Bernauer until his death in 1501, not however before he had added there in 1491 a beautiful chapel in late Gothic style with three paintings on the altar by Jan Polack, which are still around now.



In front of the Blutenberg Castle is the peaceful lake-like moat



The castle was drowned in the morning mist, like the mist of history: it was laid waste during the Thirty Years Wars (1618-1648)  and was'nt rebuilt until 1680–81. It's still surrounded by a ring wall with three towers and a gate tower. From 1983, the castle has become the home of the International Youth Library (Internationale Jugendbibliothek) with concerts there every now and then at the chapel.

2015年11月9日 星期一

The wine of music from Itzhak Perlman (伊扎克.普爾曼之音樂釀)

Itzhak Perlman (b. 1945) is one of my best loved violinists along with such giants as Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrach, Yuhudi Menuhin and Nathan Milstein although they play in vastly different styles.I was so happy I got the chance to listen to him last night, not 10 feet away from him. I saw  the 70-year-old virtuoso in action, in a glistening red Chinese style silk "sam", live, on his scooter! I saw the very relaxed way he hugged his face over his violin over a white handkerchief, the way his head and his body swayed during various passages along with the music, the way he handled the bow, the way his fingers flitted across the finger board, the way he plucked at the strings, the beautifully even way he played double stops and I finally got to know how it was that he could produce the kind of very delicate, almost silky sound from his violin in the soft passages in a way which few other violinists could do. But I don't know enough about the violin to be able tell whether he was playing the Soil Stradivarius violin of 1714, the Sauret Guarneri del Gesu of 1743 or the Carlo Bergonzi 1740. But whichever it was, it was an unforgettble evening of great music and that is ultimately what matters.

The first piece Perlman played for us last night was by Louis XV's court orchestra master and violinist, Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764): his Violin Sonata in D, Op. 9 No. 3 in Adagio molto maestro, Allegro, Sarabanda: Largo, Tambourin: Allegro vicace, a piece said to combine the Italian and French traditions of music making.




2015年11月8日 星期日

The Ferris Wheel of Music (音樂摩天輪)

Music seems impossible to delimit. There are all kinds of music: classical music, pop music, serious music, light music, vocal music, instrumental music, solo music, ensemble music, long music, short music, operatic music, film music, ceremonial music and festival music, folk music, world music, electronic music and live music and music which seems to be a bit of every genre, music which cuts across the different genres, which we now call cross-over music, the music of our so-called "postmodern" world, where time seems no longer to matter, only the flattened space of the here and now. Yet we can love them all.That's why listening to music can be such a liberating experience. For an hour or two, we immerse ourselves into a world completely different from that of our "normal" everyday world. We experience joy, sadness, tenderness, hopes, fears, anxieties, nostalgia, longings, excitement and serenity. It's as if we were taken onto an emotional roller coaster, up and down and round and round, like life itself, through just sound and if it's live, assisted by sight as well. Perhaps tha';s the secret of its fascination. Perhaps that's what draws me to the Cultural Centre, the City Hall and other venues wherever music is played week after week, month after month, year after year. I can never have enough of music. It always beckons with its special magic and its unique charms. It's irresistible. That's why the last few weekends found me at the Cultural Centre, again and again.

2015年11月5日 星期四

Munich 9 : A stroll in the city (慕尼黑.9:城市閑溜)


Munich is one of the most habitable cities in Europe.



It's got a huge fountain at Carlsplatz right in front of its Federal Court building.


 
Another view of court building

2015年11月4日 星期三

Munich 8. A Brush with German Justice (慕尼克.8:與德國法治擦身而過)


This is a building very close to the Hauptbanhof, a building I saw the first day I arrived in Munich. But I did not find out what it was until the day when I was on my way to the Marienplatz. Its a building very much like that of the toy museum there but it was built for a purpose very far from that of providing fun to children. It's one of the law courts.

Unlike in Hong Kong, which follows the common law system of England and Wales with originally three sources of law: the common law, the rules of equity and  statue law and from 1983 on, the Basic Law (the source of our written constitutional law), German law is subject to many different influences: until the Middle Ages, early Germanic law was derived from the laws of the Salian Franks and other tribes but from the Renaissance on, Roman law as set by Justinian in the Corpus iuris civilis.became increasingly important as the basis of its common law (Gemeines Recht) in most parts of the German speaking world and the same prevailed far into the 19th century. As the Holy Roman Empire was a multi-racial and multi-cultural aggregate, there were numerous local variations according to the different local traditions and religions and such laws were eventually codified into some 3000 sets of local rural Weistümer (aka Holtinge or Dingrodel) laws and only in the superior imperial courts of justice, the Reichskammergericht,  were there procedural codes in addition to those of Corpus Iuris Canonici (Canonical law) which formed an important source of the ecclesiastical laws and courts, the old Corpus Iuris Civilis. (civil law). In the 18th century, Prussia established an innovative code of laws with the Allgemeines Landrecht für die preußischen Staaten (General National Law for the Prussian States), a law which
after the July Revolution of 1830,adopted some of the Code Napoleon  which itself was split into the Code civil, the Code pénal and the Code d'instruction criminelle, sources which  strongly influenced the German legal tradition, especially in the Grand Duchy of Baden. For two decades after the unification of Germany in 1871, major legal reforms were instituted to standardize the criminal and procedural laws of different parts of Germany, culminating in the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (Book of Civil Law or "BGB"), some of which are still in force today. But the various states still managed to retain some of their own local laws, now incorporated under the the Basic Law.

2015年11月3日 星期二

Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) (海街日記)

There are many things I don't like about the Japanese but Japanese films don't figure amongst them. Japan has produced many excellent film directors. One of the directors I love best is Yasujirō Ozu (小津安二郎)(1903-1963). He does not appear to be particularly fascinated by big epic heroes. He interested himself in the ordinary folks, the kind of people we meet in fast food shops, in the neighborhood coffee bar or some out of the way little towns, the kind of people we meet in buses, trams, undergrounds and ferries, the kind of people who don't normally attract a lot of attention to themselves. But they do not on that account appear any less real. Perhaps precisely for that very reason, we feel there's more flesh and blood in them  and somehow we feel that they are much closer to us, each with our own petty hopes, fears, quirks and foibles and our little successes and failures. I believe that I have just discovered one of Ozu's possible successors. He is Hirokazu Kore-eda(是枝裕和) (b. 1962) and last weekend, I went to his latest film, "Little Sister" or "Umimachi Diary" <海街日記>(2015.)He directed and co-scripted the film with Akimi Yoshida (吉田秋生) a female Japanese Manga (漫画) artist. 

2015年11月2日 星期一

Lies, Lies, Damned Lies (謊言, 謊言, 要命的謊言)

Lies are endemic, not only to humans, but to animals as well. Lies and disguises are one of evolution's ways of ensuring that individuals will somehow survive. Human beings are experts in camouflage, deception, hypocrisies and lies. We lie to our superiors, our subordinates, our colleagues, our enemies, our friends, our parents, our children and our mates. Worst of all, we lie even to ourselves.  In Why We Lie (2014) David Livingstone Smith says,  "Deceit is the Cinderella of human nature; essential to our humanity but disowned by its perpetrators at every turn. " He adds that it's" normal, natural and pervasive." If I may judge from what Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006) and The Son of No One (2011)) is doing in his latest film Boulevard (2014), starring Robin William, (his last film), it certainly looks that way.

2015年10月31日 星期六

Saturday Fun (星期六趣味)

The way the Germans deal with prostitution is more or less the way they deal with their BWM's and Mercedes Benzes:  pragmatically, systematically and seriously. But there's a sense in which prostitution is anything but serious.


1.


Q: Did you know that O.J. Simpson, Monica Lewinsky, Ted Kennedy, and President Bill Clinton are all avid golfers?
A: O.J.'s a slicer, Monica's a hooker, Ted Kennedy can't drive over water, and Clinton can't seem to hit the right hole!

2015年10月30日 星期五

Munich 7: The Hauptbahnhof (慕尼黑. 7: 中央車站))

I had long heard about Heidelberg University in my studies. I know that it is the oldest university in Germany (established in 1386!) and the 5th oldest in Central Europe and that it's situated in a very picturesque part of Germany So, maybe I could kill two birds with one stone and pay it a visit. But first, I got to go to the train station. 


This is the Hauptbhnhof (Main Station), Munich's central railway station, one of the three in the city for long distance train (the other two being München-Pasing and München Ost. ) and handles some 450,000 passengers a day. It's a station first built in 1839 and first opened at the current site in 1849 and has since been rebuilt a number of times, the last being in 1987  and now has 32 platforms. It is also served by the underground S-Bahn ( for both urban and suburbs) with 2 platforms and U-Bahn (for the urban districts) stations with 6 platforms. And a second S-bahn station has been planned to be in operation in 2020.




The station from another angle

2015年10月29日 星期四

Munich 6: Between Heaven and Hell?(慕尼黑. 6:天堂與地獄之間?)

After visiting the Residenz, it was quite  close to 6 p.m.



On the way back to the hotel, I passed by the Hugendubel ( in business since 1893), a famous chain bookstore with branches all over Germany, more or less like Barnes and Noble in America, now selling all kinds of books for young and old and CDs and DVD's and E-books, including even English books. Like Barnes and Noble in America and Eslite in Hong Kong, it has a part of its premises specially set aside for beverages so that book lovers can take a sip of tea or coffee whilst browsing over their favourite kind of book. Germany is a country of avid readers and its annual Buchmesse (Book Fair) in Frankfurt is the largest in the the world.


Germans love to eat, especially candies, dried fruit and nuts. And there are 82 million of them, the richest consumers in the Europe. Everywhere you go, you find food stalls like this on the roadside.

2015年10月27日 星期二

Munich.5 The Residenz: Alleheiligen-Hofkirche, The Royal Bed Chambers, Antechambers, Audience Chambers (慕尼黑5: 教堂, 寢室, 前堂, 會客廳)


  
This is the Fountain Courtyard


At one side of the Fountain Courtyard is the Church of All Saints built by King Ludwig I (reg. 1825-1848) between 1826 and 1837. In the latter part of the king's life, he became a religious recluse. Originally, it was a Byzantine style chapel whose walls were decorated by colorful frescoes on a gold background by Heinrich Maria von Hess but during WWII, it suffered extensive damage and it had to be rebuilt with great loss of its original flavor. This is a photograph of what the Church used to look like. The idea for the church was sparked off by the king's visit to Palermo in 1823, when he was still the Crown Prince, after attending a midnight Mass in the palace chapel there which was built in a mix of Norman and Byzantine styles. He was  so moved that he exclaimed: "That's the kind of court chapel I want!" To comply with Ludwig's wishes, his architect Klenze took St. Mark's in Venice as his model because he saw this as a quintessentially Byzantine building, but  he interpreted it in terms of classical antiquity. The original floors were colored marble and its wall imitation marbles.

2015年10月26日 星期一

Munich.4 The Residenz: The Royal Bed Chambers, Pottery and Miniature Collections(慕尼黑4: 王宮: 寢室, 瓷器及袖珍畫藏)

After seeing the Antiquarium, I stepped into what appeared to be a courtyard and an exit into the streets and so made my way back to the entrance of the Antiquarium but was told there by a surprised staff that I should go and visit the other parts of the Residenz which is behind and above the Antiquarium. So I retraced my steps back into the Antiquarium until I reached that same court yard where some repairs were going on. I discovered a flight of steps. 



I reached what was called the "Black Hall", built around 1590 by Duke Wilhem V. The hall  got its name from 4 black scagliola portals erected in 1623. It got a painted ceiling which contains what appeared "real" architectural features, destroyed during the bombings in WWII and was only reconstructed in 1979 to the original design as done by Hans Werl in 1602. 


The ceiling with "false" architectural features.

2015年10月25日 星期日

German Jokes (德國笑話)

Sociologists tell us that all groups like to stereotype others who don't belong to their group. One of the best ways of seeking confirmation of that may well be through the the kind of jokes different ethnic or national groups tell about each other. The following is from someone who claims to be married to a German.

1. 

Q: What is the difference between a French pensioner, an English pensioner and a German pensioner?

A: The French pensioner drinks a glass of wine for breakfast .
The  English pensioner reads The Times while eating breakfast and then goes to the golf club.

The German pensioner takes a blood pressure tablet and sets off to work.


2. 

A German and an American placed bets on whose house would be built first.
Four weeks later the American said ‘Only 14 days and I’m done’
The German said ‘Only 14 more forms to fill out and then I can start!”

3.

 A guest arrives at a restaurant and decides to order his meal.
The waiter arrives promptly to take his order.
The guest asks: ‘Do you have frog legs?’
The waiter answers: ‘No, that’s just the way I walk!‘”

4.

Three astronauts from Russia, America and Germany were discussing who is the most adventurous in space.
The Russian said ‘We are, as we were the first country to go into space’.
The American argued ‘We are, as we were the first to put a man on the moon.’
The German said ‘We WILL be as we will be the first to land on the sun.’
The others said that this isn’t possible as it would be too hot.
The German argued “We have already thought of this: we will fly at night!”

5.

This question was presented to a German national: 
‘What do you think is the biggest problem in Germany? Uncertainty or indifference?’
 He answered: ‘I don’t know and I don’t care!’”

6.

Q:  What is the difference in Germany between a Turkish person and a Bavarian?
A:  The Turkish person can speak better German!


7.  

An American, a Frenchman and a German were sitting in a pub.
Suddenly, Jesus appeared.
The American said ‘If it’s true you can work miracles, can you please cure my injured knee?’
The Frenchman asked Jesus ‘If it’s true you can work miracles, can you please cure my terrible backache?’
The German then looked at Jesus and said ‘Stay right away from me, I’ve just been signed off ill for six weeks!’”

8.
 

Q:  On which day do German civil servants work the most?
A:  On a Monday.  They need to cross off two days on their calendars!

9.

Man: 'Boss, is it OK if I finish work two hours earlier today as my wife wants me to go shopping with her?
Boss: ‘Absolutely not.’
Man: ‘Thanks – I knew I could count on you!’”

10.

A German Judge says to the accused: ‘You are charged with luring your neighbour into the forest and then savagely beating him. Do you not think you went a bit too far?’
Accused: ‘Yes, you are right. I should have done it much earlier. In the meadow before I reached the forest!’”


11.
 

Hairdresser to customer: ‘Your hair is going grey’.
Customer: ‘I'm not surprised. You take so long to cut it!’”

12.

"Two Martinis, bitte."
"Dry?"
"Nein, I said TWO!"

Have a nice week ahead of you.

2015年10月24日 星期六

Munich.3 The Residenz: Treasury & Antiquarium (慕尼黑3: 王宮: 寶藏廳與古董廳)


This is the Bavarian State Theatre, about 15 minutes on foot far from Marienplatz. It forms part of the complex called the Residenz first built in 1508 but added to by successive  kings and which served as the seat of royal administration until 1918. Not many know that it was Ludwig II, who sponsored the buidling of the  Bayreuth Festspielhaus or Bayreuth Festival Theatre specially for Richard Wagner who wanted to combine art, music and drama into one combined art form  which he called Gesamtkunstwerk (or total work of art), a project supported by Friedrich Nietzsche before he fell out with his idol upon the opening of Wagner's inaugural production there, the first part of the Der Ring des Niebelungen (The Ring of the Niebelung) for which Wagner wrote not only the music but also its libretto. The Germans love the music and opera. This is where the music lovers of Munich flock to.. This is the base of the Bayerische Staatsoper ( Bavarian State Opera)  first established in 1653 and has had as its directors such illustrious conductors as Wolgang Sawallisch (1971-1992), Peter Schnieder (1992-1998), Zubin Mehta (1998-2006), Kent Nagano (2006-2013) and thereafter Kirill Petrenko whose appointment  was just confirmed earlier this month to be extended to 2021.In 1875 the Munich Opera Festival took place for the first time. It is  now one of the most important opera festivals worldwide.



A monument to Max Joseph or Maximilian IV, (1856- 1825) as Prince-Elector of Bavaria or Maximilian I (as King of Bavaria) erected since 1818, at the centre of the Max Joseph Platz, when the National Theatre of Bavaria Building was opened but was not revealed after his death in 1835 because he resolutely refused to be portrayed sitting down instead of standing up.

2015年10月23日 星期五

Munich.2 Marienplatz (慕尼黑. 2. 瑪利亞廣場 ) 




Germans love their trees. Wherever possible, they'd keep them, even in the middle of a clump of buildings. Here's one, right in front of the house and growing as tall as the house itself.

2015年10月22日 星期四

München (Munich) (慕尼黑).1


München or Munich, with a population of some 1.5 million ( and nearly 6 million including its suburb towns), the capital of the state of Bavaria and the third largest city in Germany (after Berlin and Hamburg) was founded in early 12th century by some  Benedictine monks:(the city's coat of arms still figures a bald-headed monk in a habit right under the city gate) and has been the seat of the Bavarian Dukes from 13th century on and in 1506 became the sole capital of Germany. It was also the centre of of Catholic Counter-Reformation ( the Catholic League. led by the Jesuits, was founded in Munich in 1609) intended to stem the rising tide of the Protestant Reformation movements started by such figures as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, Martin Luther and which eventually led to the so-called Thirty-Years War (1618-1848) which devastated entire regions of Central Europe, something which contributed to the break-up of the Holy Roman Empire. Its ruler gained the status of an Elector in the 17th century (1623) (one of 7 to heads of European states who were given the right to elect the Holy Roman Emperor). But a third of its population was wiped out during the bubonic plagues of 1634-35. From its founding until the end of the first World War in 1918, it was ruled by the influential Wittelsbach family of the Duchy of Bavaria and in 1314, Duke Louis IV, a native of Munich, was elected German king and 14 years later crowned as the Holy Roman Emperor. It's a city with a very complex history and has been a centre of arts, culture and science since the early 19th century, with the founding of the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1806 whose kings like Ludwig I started putting up some of the finest buildings and boulevards in the city we now see. But in the latter part of the 19th century, his son Ludwig II who also sponsored the works of Richard Wagner, preferred building fairy castles in Munich's outskirts.  For a brief period after WWI, in February 1909, the German communists proclaimed the establishment of a Bavarian Soviet Republic in the city but it was quickly suppressed by the Freikorp after three month and since then Munich has become the hub of the conservative Nazi movement and was called Hauptstadt der Bewegung. Munich became the headquarters of the NSDAP (Nazi party) which seized control of the German government in 1933 and it was at Dachau, some 10 miles northwest of Munich that the Nazis built their first concentration camp for the Jews. It was also at Munich that Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister agreed shamelessly to the annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland region into Hitler's Third Reich. During WWII, Munich was subjected to heavy bombings by the Allies ( 71 air raids in 5 years) but recovered quickly enough to become the host city of the 1972 Summer Olympics, where the members of the Palestinian  terrorist group called "Black September" perpetrated the so-called Munich massacre. Munich is also the home of BMW and the world renowned beer festival, the annual Oktoberfest. 


The Deutsches Theater,  a building built in the neo-Baroque style, close to my hotel, first opened in September 1896 was originally built for vaudilles and popular comedies and folk plays, balls and carnivals but was re-designed in 1939 by the Nazis but was partly destroyed by bombings during the WWII and only re-opened in 1951 and since the 1960s has been used for classic drama, ballet, operetta and classial concerts in addition to  musicals.

2015年10月20日 星期二

A Pilgrim's Progress (朝聖步履)

Germany is a country known for its methodical efficiency and precision, its technological advance, its wealth and its emphasis on the importance of music, literature and the depth of its philosophy, psychology and theology. One can hardly think of serious music without immediately calling to mind such names as  Bach, Haydn, Handel, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Bruch, Richard Strauss, Wagner, Mahler. Likewise one can't think of psychology without thinking of Freud, Horney, Jung, Fromm, Erickson, Katz, Eysenck, Arnheim , Goldstein and its philosophy without recalling such illustrious names as Leibniz, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kant, Husserl, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Scheler, Jaspers, Marcuse, Gadamer and such social philosophers as Dilthey, Marx, Weber, Horkheimer, Habermas, Benjamin, Spengler and such logicians as Frege, Carnap etc and theology without thinking of Luther, Tillich, Schleiermacher, Bonhoeffer, Barth and Kung.  Who hasn't heard of such authors as Goethe, Herder, Schiller, Hölderlin, Mann, Hesse, Frisch, Grass, Dürrenmatt? One can't think of painting without thinking of Dürer, Kandinsky, Macke, Ernst , Klee and performance art without thinking of Beuys and of course, its most notorious  "forger" Beltracchi. One just can't imagine what the modern world would be like without the contribution of the Germans.  And one could never forget that brief but dark episode in its recent history when it was overwhelmed by the ideology of the National Socialists or Nazis which caused such untold suffering to the Jews and the rest of Europe. Yet, until the Renaissance, the Germans were considered barbarians and it wasn't until 1870 that the modern German nation was born. For a long time, German culture is something most puzzling and fascinating to me.  And in every October, there would be two great festivals there, the beer festival and the book fair. I was just in time to be late for the Oktoberfest in Munich but I managed to catch a glimpse of that other famous event called the Buchmesse in Frankfurt. 



When I went through immigration at the airport at Munich, I was subjected to the most thorough security check in my entire life. I had to take off everything: belt, wallet, jacket and shoes but I did not expect that I had to hold up both my hands above my head for a photograph too. I felt like I were some kind of criminal! But upon seeing that they did exactly the same thing to the native Germans as they did to me, I felt a little less offended. At least there's equality of treatment! After that ordeal, I could finally go out and have my first glimpse of Germany: the luggage reclaim area at the Munich Airport: clean, spare, quiet and efficient.

2015年10月3日 星期六

An Uyghur Wedding (一個維吾爾族的婚禮)

  On our  way to the Black Oil Mountain ( 黑油山) after our breakfast at the hotel, we stopped at a park originally as a piss stop but unexpectedly ran into part of an Uyghur wedding celebration.

The Uyghurs are a central Asian ethnic group living in Xinjiang, numbering more than 10 million in 2009, when for every 39 Han Chinese, there were 46 Uyghurs. They are one of China's largest ethnic minorities. There are also Uyghurs in neighboring Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Uzbekistan and some in Turkey. The Uyghur (or Uighur or Uigur) language is a Turkic language very similar to Turkish and the term "Uyghur" means simply "united" or "allied" .


In an
cient times, Xinjiang was called Western Region (西域) and the region was populated by nomadic tribes. During the Han Dynasty, (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.), Han Chinese fought with the Xiongnu (匈奴) tribes who originated from current-day Mongolia on and off until 60 B.C. when the Chinese won. The Uyghurs were the first Turkic group to shift from being nomads into settled farmers. During the late Tang Dynasty, (618-907 AD)  when the Buddhist Uyghur Empire was at its height, the Chinese enlisted their help to fight off other border tribes in return for trade and marriages between Chinese nobility and Uyghur leaders but by the mid-800s AD, the  Uyghurs Empire had declined and in the 10th century, were converted to Islam but even today there is still a group of them called "Yellow Uyghurs" or "Yogurs" who maintain their Buddhist belief.

During the Qing Dynasty, led by the Manchus, Chinese forces took control of the region and in 1884, renamed the  region  Xinjiang. In the period after the Nationalist Republic of China was established in 1911, the Uyghurs have staged several uprisings and in 1933 and again in 1944, established an Eastern Turkestan Republic Republic but both were overthrown by the Soviet Union.

During the civil war between the KMT and the CCP, the region came under Communist control which they have retained until now. Because of massive state-encouraged Chinese migration in the late 1950s and since 1978, voluntary economic migration, there are now rising tension between Han Chinese and Uyghurs, some of whom,  trained by Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have resorted to terrorism like the 1992 Urumqi bombings, the 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings, the 2010 Aksu bombing, the 2011 Hotan attack, 2011 Kashgar attacks and the 2014 Ürümqi attack.  As a result of such terrorist activity, security relating to our entry into Urumqi Airport was very strict: we had to take off everything, including our shoes, belts and jackets. But again, these are activities of extremists. The Uyghurs we met at this wedding were very friendly indeed.


.

This pair of best man and bridesmaid were obviously happy to be dancing together

2015年10月2日 星期五

Karamay or Kelamayi (卡拉瑪伊)

Some 60 years ago Karamay 卡拉瑪伊 didn’t exist. In 2012, it became the richest city per capita in the whole of China, overtaking even Shanghai. BMW, VW , Honda have all got showrooms in this little town. The reason? Oil was discovered here in 1955. For quite some time, an old man on a mule had been selling an oily black oil liquid for use as fuel to villagers at the local fair. But he kept the source of his income a closely guarded secret. Then those with a nose for money paid other villagers to discreetly track him around and eventually discovered the second largest oil reserve in China. This happened in 1955. When the oil drillers first came, they had to live in tents and travel around on the back of camels. Experts say that its proven oil reserve stand at around 3 billion barrels. China National Petroleum Corporation and other oil companies in the region are now producing some 290,000 barrels a day. This year, Xinjiang-Uyghur is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the autonomous region.  So is Karamay three quarters whose population are either Uyghurs or Hui and the rest Hans. 

And in August this year, some 20 agreements worth USD 1.6 billion had been signed here between Pakistan and China and the two countries made a joint "Karamay Manifesto" on building a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major project in China's Belt and Road Initiative, with promises of continued co-operation in industrial, health, educational and regional  co-operation, especially on energy.
The CPEC will link Gwadar Port, Pakistan, with Xinjiang through a network of highways, railways as well as pipelines. It is among the six economic corridors crucial to China's Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. But what matters to our tour group has got nothing to do with such grand projects.



What interest me more are the flowers growing outside our hotel are cockscomb flower ( Celosia cristata)(雞冠花, 雞冠頭花、雞冠莧雞花、雞冠頭、雞髻花、雞公花、雞米花、雞骨子花、雞角槍、白雞冠花、紅雞冠花、 紅雞冠、大雞公莧、海冠花、家雞冠花、塔黑彥-色其格-其其格、老來少)

2015年10月1日 星期四

From Place to Place (由地方至地方)

There are a million and one things we may complain about our civilization. But there is one thing we can hardly complain about. We can now hop from place to place in the space of one third of a day. That's how I felt as I moved from Hong Kong to Shenzhen (深圳) then to Chengdu (成都) in Sichuan (四川) and then to Urumchi(烏魯木齊) of Xinjiang (新彊), all within about 8 hours. It's part of my photo-trek to some of the most beautiful places in that far away place about which I knew hardly anything except that it was where we had the best Hami melons (哈密瓜) and fine white grapes (白葡萄). 



 This is the first place I went to when I reached the new Shenzhen Airport(深圳機場).

2015年9月16日 星期三

Horrors of Motherhood (恐怖之母性)

We are all accustomed to think of motherhood as sweet and the birth of a baby a God-send which will elicit production of incredible amounts of the magical caring hormone called oxytocin which will turn otherwise egoistical, hard-hearted, no-sense beasts into loving parents. That may not be false but if we may judge from Italian director Saverio Constanzo's film Hungry Hearts (幸福魔天輪),  there may well be another side to this common belief.


As the film starts, we find two characters meeting in the most unusual circumstances: Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) got into the male toilet by mistake where another guy, Jude (Adam Driver) was relieving himself from a particularly bad case of diarrhorea. The embarrassment and the unutterable stench inside a tiny and stuffy New York Chinese restaurant toilet the door to which got stuck may not be the most auspicious beginning to a romantic relationship. But strangely, one developed. And before long, we hear weddding bells because Mina was pregnant and the surprised Jude decided that he must take it like a man. This is where the film started to be interesting.

2015年9月15日 星期二

Cirque de la Symphonie (交響馬戲團)

Throughout the history of the circus, music has been indispensable. We would see acrobats perform the most incredible feats, often with comical antics, trapeze artists  with or without balancing rods, walking the tightropes two or three storeys above ground, others doing double or triple mid-air somersaults on flying swings before being caught by their partner's precisely timed hand grips, with and sometimes without safety nets, wild beasts like elephants, tigers, leopards, lions doing balancing acts etc often to the sound of drum rolls at climactic moments and then more relaxing but lively music before and after those unbelievable feats. That would normally happen under huge colorful tents and later under the canopies of giant stadia. But last Saturday, the context seemed completely reversed. We had the downsized HKPO members playing various pieces of French and Spanish music (written by French and Russian composers!),Russian ballet music and German light music on a stage which was specially fitted with two huge metal frames more than a hundred feet high so that at the time that we heard the music, we would also be regaled by the spectacle young body contortionist artists doing their incredibly difficult tricks sometimes on one and sometimes on two huge pink silk ribbon(s) high up in the air or on a hastily assembled and dismantled wooden platforms. Music combined with new style animal-less circus, instead of the traditional circus with music!

Conducting for us was the versatile Australian media writer-conductor Guy Noble who already has 12 CD's under his name and entertaining us were Aloysia Gavre, Jaroslaw Marciniak, Andrey Moraru, Alexander Streltsov, ElenaTsarkova, Vladimir Tsarkov, Dariusz Wronski, Christine Van Loo, all members of the Cirque de la Symphonie, the only circus company in the world which performs exclusively with live symphony orchestras which they have done with more than a hundred different orchestras in all parts of the world. As its manager William Allen writes, they add "energy" and "excitement" to the concert experience.

2015年9月14日 星期一

Lanterns before the "Cirque de la Symphonie"(交響馬戲團外的花燈)


Sometimes it's a good to be a bit early for one's concert.


One can certainly snoop around to see if there's something interesting. This is a wishing tree at the ground floor foyer of the concert hall of the Cultural Centre , shaped like dragons and sheep (which has the more or less the same sound as the word "blessing" in Chinese)

2015年9月12日 星期六

Saturday Fun (星期六趣味)


Just visited one of the neatest temples in Hong Kong: a Buddhist temple in the Tai Po area. I am most impressed. There we were given an initial taste of what Buddhism is all about. The staffs and volunteers there are most pleasant. Perhaps the only thing missing  from them is a sense of humor. But there can be humor not only by but also about Buddhists and Buddhism.



1.

Q: Why don't Buddhists vacuum in the corners?
A: Because they have no attachments.

2015年9月11日 星期五

The Photographic Leftovers (攝影雜碎)

In the world today, a world of abundance, it often happens when we prepare a meal, we always make slightly more than is enough for the total number of diners,  so that by the time the last diner has taken his or her last mouthful, there are left on our dining table various leftovers from different dishes which it would be a waste to throw away. This often happens during festive meals like Christmas and New Year etc. For the thoughtful family cook, often such leftovers may be re-cycled and turned into a new dish or for the lazy French housewife who wants to eat but who does not want to engage in any more time-consuming new cooking with fresh ingredients, simply jumbled up together into a  non-descript pot of mixed meat and vegetables called a "potpourri", which literally means, a "rotten pot". Sometimes, the same thing may happen to a lazy photographer. I've got some spare photographs which I hope may be sufficient for a new blog of "photographic potpouuri". 


This is my free Café Latté

2015年9月10日 星期四

A Peek at Tsz Shan Monastery (慈山寺一瞥)

Intrigued by the blog of fellow blogger Tsz Mei, I thought I'd visit one of the newest and most beautiful temples in Hong Kong, the Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po


My very first view of the head of the Koon Yin in the path leading to the temple. it felt really odd to see a slightly bent head in white between tree tops and electric light poles!

2015年9月8日 星期二

Tan Dun's Opening of our 2015 HKPO Season (譚盾之港樂2015樂季"開鑼" )

Tan Dun comes from Hunan, a province which I just visited. There I found numerous men who share his roundish head.  Some of them are so round that you could easily imagine that if they were not heads but balls on the ground, they could be kicked hither and thither without the slightest difficulties. But that's probably where their similarities end.  No, may be not. I'm positive that Tan Dun hasn't lost his predilection for chillies.  How could he? There's hardly any dish in Hunan where you would not find in varying quantities those long tapers in red, green, yellow and even white which burn your tongue and your throat. But apart from those, they can't be any more different because to me at least, there are hardly any contemporary Chinese composers who are bolder and more innovative than Tan in seeking out the sonic qualities of all kinds of musical instruments or even non-musical instruments like tyre-rings  capable of producing percussive sounds ,even folded paper which are blown and water which drips and  somehow incorporating them into his music.  So I arrived at the concert hall last Saturday full of expectations because the HKPO 2015 season would open with two of his works: Symphonic poem on three notes and Nu-Shu: the secret songs of women.

2015年9月7日 星期一

A roving camera (不停走動的鏡頭)

Color is something very strange.


Often, it will be much affected by the surface from which light is reflected.

2015年9月5日 星期六

Jokes which are no jokes for this weekend (是週末笑話的笑話)


September 3 , 2015 is a special day. On that day, the PRC staged its first military parade in its 66-year history to celebrate the 70th anniversary of China's victory over the Japanese invaders. Whenever we see Chinese soldiers in smart uniforms marching in perfect unison and rows and rows of military trucks and armored vehicles smoothly following one another and jet fighters flying in well drilled flight formation, it's difficult not to be impressed by their magnificence. But once I realized that they are all moving like perfect robots, including our head of state and chief of the nation's armed forces crying out in a tired voice on an emotionless face time after time the standardized greetings "How are you, comrades" alternatively " Comrades, it's difficult on you" and that all such uniformed troops and weaponry are nothing but killing machines, created for the express purpose of  destroying lives and properties of flesh and blood human beings and thoughts of maimed bodies and of the unconsolable cries of thousands of mothers, wives and children witnessing or being told about the deaths and injury of their loved ones surged up in my mind, a chill went down my spine. It's a parade of the angels of death! Hardly a cause for celebration. The thoughts of Laotzu sprang up in my mind: "He who has exterminated a great multitude of men should bewail them with tears and lamentation. It is well that those who are victorious in battle should be placed in the order of funeral rites."‧Cap 31 (殺人之眾, 以悲哀泣之, 戰勝以喪禮處之). September 3 should be a day of reflection and mourning.  So this week, I shall post 5 jokes which are not jokes by a Chinese historian by 馮學榮 in his blog post dated 9th April 2015. I apologize for spoiling your fun. My heart is heavy. I fear for China and its billions of innocent and not so innocent people. My only consolation is that on that same day, our head of state announced cutting our military forces by 300,0000

It is
well to remember what Hemingway who fought for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War said:
"They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason."  Albert Einstein, the discoverer of the formula of E=MC2 which helped create the world's first nuclear bombs had this to say about war: "He who joyfully marches to music rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.” Samuel Johnson says it most succinctly: "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."

Patriotism alone is bad enough but a patriotism built on ignorance of the facts of history may be fatal, not only for the people but for their nation.



國人歷史觀的幾個笑柄   201549 16:29

文/馮學榮,作家,著有《日本為什麼侵華》、《中國歷史的側面》、《親歷北洋》等