2013年2月28日 星期四

Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (普羅科耶夫: 羅密歐與茱麗葉)

Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet is one of the most endearing pieces of music he has written. It immortalizes one of the greatest love stories of all times first written of by Willliam Shakespeare in a drama of the same name in which two young lovers died because of a historical family feuds between two Veronese families, the Capulets and the Montagues in Renaissance Italy. Tchaikovsky too has written his own version of the ballet but last night I was able to see for the first time, a live performance of Prokofiev's 1938 version done by the famous American Ballet Theatre as choreagraphed by the very popular Sir Kenneth MacMillan.It gave me a much richer understanding of the nature of ballet music, which nowadays is often performed alone, without the ballet.  With the ballet, somehow, the music sounds much more moving. The prima donna role was originally supposed to be danced by Julie Kent but just before the performance was about to begin, we were told that she suffered an injury and her role was taken over by the Korean ballerina Hee So who would partner with Cory Stearns as Romeo.

The ballet was a fairly long 3 act affair: In Act I Scene 1  The Market Place, Romeo, a Montague who failed to win the love for Rosaline, was consoled by his friends Mercutio and Benvolio and got into a fight with Tybalt, a nephew of Capulet until stopped by Prince Verona; Scene 2, Juliet's afternoon in the Capulet house, when she played with her nurse after which she was presented by her parents to a suitor Paris; Scene 3, Outside the Capulet House when the guests arrived for a ball and Romeo, Mercutio, Benvolio entered wearing masks so that Romeo might continue to woo Rosaline; Scene 4 at the Ballroom of the Capulets, Romeo was attracted by Juliet's dance but was ordered to leave by Tybalt but again Lord Capulet allowed him to stay;Scene 5 when Lady Capulet stoppedTybalt from pursing Romeo as he left, then the famous Scene 6 Juliet at her Balcony in a sleepless night, she was unable to forget Romeo but to her delight and surprise he appeared in the garden below. They declared their love for each other by another dance. In Act II Scene 1, when Romeo was looking a wedding procession and thinking of Juliet, he got a letter from her nurse in which Juliet told him that she would have him as her husband. He was overjoyed. Then In Act II Scene 2, they were secretly married at the Chapel and in Scene 3, there was another fight in which Tybalt killed Mercutio and Romeo avenged him. In Act III Scene 1 The Bedroom, Juliet's parents again appeared with Paris but Juliet would have none of him, her parents, not knowing that she was already married, got mad and threatened to disown her and Juliet had to seek help from the Friar Lawrence at the same monastery; in Scene 2, at the Chapel, Friar Lawrence gave Juliet a vial containing a potion which would help her to feign death. She took it at the family tomb expecting Romeo who would be tipped by Friar Lawrence to come during the night to take her away; in Scene 3, she was found apaprently lifeliess at the family tomb and in the following scene at the Capulet's family crypt, Romeo, not having got Friar Lawrence message and having got news of Juliet's death, entered disguised as a monk, found Paris there, killed him and then killed himself by swallowing poison. Then Juliet awoke, only to find Romeo already dead and proceeded to stab herself, leaving the stage with three corpses..

The performance was extremely well done: the action and the dances followed one another seamlessly from one scene to another. The mime ballet was blended into the action without any over-dramatization or overacting. Everything looked so natural. The atmosphere in general was one of subsued understatement, helped in no small measure by Nicolas Georgiadis's costume, predominantly in brown, yellow and dull red in the public scenes, which suffused everything with a feeling of warmth and the loose fitting flowing white shirt and dresses in the more private scenes, which may suggest the sense of personal freedom. The set was realistic but not burdensomely so. And they made excellent use of stage lighting which, thanks to Lighting Designer Thomas Skelton, was simply superb.The music by HK's Sinfonietta under the Charles Barker was totally unobstrusive. The hero and heroine acted and danced flawlessly. I particularly like the performance by Hee Soo, whose body seems completely boneless and who acted and danced the part of the vivacious lovelorn Veronese lassie with incredible innocence, sensitivity, feeling and perfection. All in all, a most unforgettable visual and musical experience.  But one could not help seeing in the production shadows of the famous Nureyev and Fontyn version of the ballet done by Royal Ballet decades ago. This is meant as a compliment, not a criticism.

2013年2月23日 星期六

Saturday Fun (星期六笑話)

Musicians are a special breed. Some don't seem to need any sleep at all and some do little but eat, sleep and booze. And they play all kinds of strange contraptions called "musical instruments". But do you realize that the Pentagon website contains this surprisingly un-PC sub-section listing of some more obscure WMD's (Weapons of Mass Destruction): The following is a list of more obscure forms of domestic "Band" Weapons of Mass Destruction. These are the most insidious and dangerous weapons of all. To the common layperson, they appear innocuous and non-lethal, but in the right hands, they present a threat of incalculable proportions. Please read the following and heed all precautions therewith.

PICCOLO: the minute dimensions of this weapon make it especially lethal as it is easily concealed and can be set off just about anywhere. As a solo weapon, this device emits a high-pitched squeal that directly targets the inner ear. The application of this tone temporarily disorients its intended victim rendering him unable to react. The natural reaction of covering one's ears to reduce the intense pain causes military personnel within a 100 yard radius to drop their weapons leaving them defenseless to further attack. Applied in concert with a second piccolo of slightly higher or lower pitch, the weapons produce the effect of an ice pick through the eardrum and may cause profuse bleeding of the aural cavity. These weapons are constructed in three forms; metal, composite materials, wood, or any combination of the three. The all-metal piccolos are especially lethal. The only countermeasure to this weapon is to apply psychological warfare in the following manner. Compliment the musician on her: clothes/hair/shoes. This will distract the musician(s) from emitting her deadly tones and cause her to gab endlessly about herself. This in itself takes us to another problem man has dealt with for a thousand years and to which there is no antidote. Good Luck!

FLUTE: Slightly less effective as the piccolo but still nothing to be trifled with. The flute possesses the same destructive qualities as the piccolo but is required in greater numbers to do so. Sixth and seventh grade females are especially effective with this weapon and are to be approached with extreme caution.

OBOE: This weapon may appear harmless at first sight. The instrument's stealth qualities lure its intended victims into a false state of security, and then hit them without mercy. The oboe itself is a harmless composite or wooden conical tube. Once the ordnance (reed) is inserted, it is a weapon of tremendous power. One comforting factor is that the oboe is only as dangerous as the musician who wields it. At first glance, the operator of the oboe appears sweet, demure, and quite approachable. Do not be fooled by this deception. The oboist is actually a very high strung and temperamental foe. This mania is caused by the perpetual search for the perfect reed, which we all know doesn't exist. Those who play on plastic reeds are the bottom dwellers of the oboe world and are especially dangerous. The oboe is capable of producing a tone of laser-like quality. The sheer capabilities of volume produced can overpower an entire concert band. The resulting backpressure produced by over blowing has a two-way effect. It allows the musician to play seemingly forever on one breath resulting in sympathetic vibrations causing bulletproof glass and diamonds to shatter into deadly flying shards. The warning signs of impending doom occur when the musician raises the body of the instrument to her mouth to blow dust from under a key. This is how the weapon is cocked. If you ever see an oboist do this, run for cover my friend, for all Hell is about to break loose. The second effect of this weapon's backpressure is to cause its owner to eventually go insane. On rare occasions an oboist's head has been known to explode while firing their weapon. The only countermeasure to this weapon is to remove and professionally destroy the ordnance (reed). Doing so will also incur the wrath of its owner, so use extreme caution. The first master of the oboe as a weapon was Melvin "Schwartz" (Oklahoma All-State Band 1982), name changed to protect the guilty. He single handedly destroyed a performance of the Howard Hanson Romantic Symphony Finale under McBeth with his laser-like tones and inconsistent attacks. To this day, he has a bounty on his head and was last seen tending bar in Tijuana.

Eb CLARINET: The Eb clarinet is the Tasmanian Devil of the woodwind family. Entirely uncontrollable and unpredictable, its blunderbuss like emissions can occur without warning. It is as much a danger to its owner as it is to the intended victim. For this reason the Eb clarinet is not in wide use today and only used by highly trained professionals and circus band daredevils.

Bb CLARINET: As the flute is to the piccolo, the Bb Clarinet is to the Eb Clarinet. The only time a Bb clarinet is considered truly dangerous is in the hands of a saxophonist doubling on clarinet. His seemingly lacking ability to adjust his air to the clarinet causes a tone so forced and horrific that decorum prevents me from continuing.

ALTO, BASS, CONTRA BASS CLARINET: The Scud missiles of the clarinet family. Considered low-grade weapons, these clarinets are of limited lethality due to the extreme geekiness of their operators.

BASSOON: This is a weapon designed to start wars. Used primarily indoors, this weapon's unique tone can cause great embarrassment in social situations. Also known as the "farting bed post" the bassoonist will hide behind a set of curtains at an official state dinner or similar function. With the help of a diplomatic operative during the meal, the intermittent flatulent tones emitted by the bassoon can be blamed on certain visiting high government officials, causing great embarrassment and the possible beginning of hostilities between two countries. The best countermeasure to the bassoon involves lighter fluid and matches (you fill in the blanks).


ALTO SAX: Originally invented by Adolph Sax as the result of an evening of much cheap wine and a dare by a drunken horn player, the instrument he produced is neither brass nor woodwind. The only intended victim of this vile weapon is the concert band French horn player. Nothing is worse than hearing a great brass lick only to be obscured by the overly reedy tone and wobbly "vibrato" of some half crazed alto sax doubling the horns and overplaying them. Composers and arrangers are to blame as much as the alto players. Older players unable to temper their 1940's swing band vibrato are also a danger. The only counter measure is to question their manhood by daring the player to play Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" at 230 beats per minute. That should shut 'em up!

TENOR SAX: (See Alto Sax) Counter measure, throw down the gauntlet with a dare to render John Coltrane's "Giant Steps".

BARITONE SAX: A tenor or alto wannabe, this instrument is flaccid and harmless unless played in the style of Stephen "Doc" Kupka (Tower of Power). His sporadic well placed grunting and punctuated style, when discovered by young players, can cause discomfort among the average school director. The only counter measure to this is self-medication by the teacher in the form of tequila shots or similar substances.

TRUMPET: Obviously one would think that a trumpeter's greatest weapon is his ability to play high notes at great volume. This misconception has been perpetuated unwittingly by great performers like Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie. The danger is not in the player who can play high. The danger lies in the player who THINKS he can play high. A young player's incessant caterwauling and inflated ego are a danger to himself and all those around him. The most effective counter measure is to allow the player to continue his high note practice (even encourage him to go higher and louder) until his lips explode or he cracks a tooth jamming his face into the mouthpiece.

FRENCH HORN: French horns thankfully are a danger only to a small group of people, as their bells point in the wrong direction. They are only a danger to those unfortunate enough to have to sit behind them. Their intonation problems and constant cracking of pitches is of great annoyance to those brass players sitting behind them. Though lately the introduction of Plexiglas reflectors has reduced the danger to those behind the horns, unfortunately it presents a greater danger to the players themselves and those in front of them. Upon hearing their actual tones coming back at them, some hornists have been known to actually vomit on stage due to the hideousness of their own tone.

TROMBONE: A unique application, the instrument itself is not the real danger. The person playing the instrument is what is truly dangerous. The trombone and its player are the original "smart bomb." This weapon is most effective in high tech warfare areas. Insertion of one or more trombonists into a warfare computer center instantly lowers the aggregate I.Q. in the room. The trombonist's incredible stupidity is a lethal bio weapon that spreads at an incredible rate. Within 5 minutes of exposure, all computer operators within a 50-foot radius are reduced to drooling idiots incapable of the simplest motor functions and bowel control. Use of trombonists as weapons was outlawed by the Geneva Convention in 1999 after an ugly incident at a Dixieland convention in Sacramento.

BARITONE/EUPHONIUM: This is a weapon of mass confusion. Euphonium players are the Rodney Dangerfields of the brass world. Young players especially don't know their place in the band. They double French horns, trombones, saxophones, tubas in octaves, bass clarinets, bassoons...yadda, yadda, yadda! Euphonium orchestral parts are played by the second trombone or worse, the tuba player! For this reason most euphonium.........baritone...(WHATEVER!) players resort to doubling on trombone. This is when they become dangerous. (See trombone.)

TUBA: This is a sonic weapon that when set off can produce sub sonic tones causing a general feeling of uneasiness and queasiness to those within its effective range. In addition, one may attach a sousaphone to a marching column of soldiers. As all tubists drag, the ever-slowing performance of um-pahs will eventually reduce the marching soldiers to a snail's pace causing them to be late for a battle or not arrive at all. The most effective countermeasure is to feed the tubist with great quantities of beer (imports if you have them). It won't improve his playing but makes him more enjoyable to be around.

SNARE DRUM/TRAP SET: This weapon affects only a very small demographic: teenage girls and the fathers of these girls with steady jobs and liquid bank accounts. The snare drummer and the jazz/rock variety of set player act almost like a computer worm. The drummer will attach himself to an unsuspecting teenage girl and milk her and her father's finances in such a way as to not be noticed by the father until it is too late. Drummers are the leaches of the music world and can only be countered by being forced to get a real day job. This will reduce the drummer's "coolness" factor and the daughter will immediately lose interest.

Perfect Unity (完美的統一: 幻想古提琴室樂團)

It's not often that one achieves perfect unity. I experienced one at the Academy of Performing Arts tonight. It was a performance by a small group of string artists playing music at the start of the English Ressassance, called the "Phantasm Viol Consort" from Albion. When the four men and one woman appeared on the stage, they appeared in monochrome: uniformly black.The monotony was broken only above the men's heads: two had hair, two not. When I looked at the stringed instruments which they played with a bow, I was surprised that their handles were fitted with frets, rather like the lute or the guitar. Their instruments look all very similar: and except for their frets, they looked like down sized cellos, called viols, some smaller than others. The artists were Laurence Dreyfus (treble viol),Jonathan Manson (tenor viol), Emilia Benjamin (tenor viol), MIkko Perkola, (Tenor and Bass viols) and Markku Luolajan-Mikkola (bass viol)

When I turned to look at the Programme Notes, I discovered that they would be playing pieces written for the viol in the so-called "English Consort Tradition"  which purportedly "surveys some 150 years of a highly contrapuntal repertory which marked a break from the purely vocal models of polyphony in the genres of In Nomine and Fantasy--music freed from a text and open to suggestion from the imagination--but also cultivated a dance music by developing stylized instrumental versions of high style dances--especially the grave Pavan and the high-kicking Galliard."  In fact, what we had was Christopher Tye's (1505-1572)  in Nomine a5 (Crye), Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder (1543-1588)'s In Nomine 2 a5, Robert Parsons (1515-1571)'s In Nomine 3 a5, William Byrd (1540-1623)'s Prelude and Goodnight Ground and Pavan and Galliard a5, Jon Ward(1589-1638)'s Fantasia 12 a5(Leggiada sei), In Nomine a5, Fantasia 13 a5 (Non fu sense), William Lawes (1602-1645)'s Consort Sett IV a5 in F: Fantasy, Paven, Aire, John Jenkins (1592-1678)'s Fantasy 13 in D a5, Fantasy 15 in D a5 and Pavan 1 in G a5, Orlando Gibbons (11538-1625) Fantasy IV a3, In Nomine a5 (MB 28), Henry Purcell (1659-1595)'s Fantasia 9 a4, Fantasia 12 a4, Fantasia upon One Note, William Lawes' Consort Sett a5 in C: Fantasy, Paven and Aire.  When I first looked at the programme, that certainly appeared to me a fairly impressive number of pieces from different periods and different composers. I don't know how it may sound to others. But when I got down to actually listening to them, they all sounded pretty much the same to me: there is remarkably little change of speed and rhythm, in the volume, in the pitch, in the way the different viols are bowed and in the pattern and the overall texture of the sound..One could very well have listened intently and with full attention for the first 5 minutes, then doze off, wake up again to catch the last dozen or so bars of the the last piece of music and not have missed much. If that is subtlety, then I'm afraid that subtlety is completely lost on me.  It's not often that I felt the urge to leave a concert hall in the middle of a performance. I'm afraid that I felt the strongest urge to do so a number of times during the performance. The music proceeded in a kind of dull drone from start to finish. Perhaps when England first emerged from the Middle Ages, life in general was extremely boring and if so, that boredom was certainly "perfectly" reflected in the lack of change in its music. There's perfect unity at the concert hall: the perfect unity of a total lack of change and for me, perfect boredom. Perhaps those who planned the program may derive some profit from the old saw that there can be too much of a good thing and pay a little attention to the operation of the psychological law of antinomy,

The only lively piece in the evening came at the last few minutes in the form of the encore piece, the Aire in G by William Byrd. When the concert ended, I was so glad to get out for some fresh air! The air conditioning inside the concert hall of the APA was simply appalling!  For sitting through the entire concert I think I fully deserve at least 7 years parole from penance at purgatory.

Normally I would post in my blog all the pieces of music I heard during the concert. But as I have no intention of bringing tears to my reader's eyes or a yawn from their mouth, I would just post one this time.When you've heard one of them, you'd have heard all. I'm sure that were Nietzsche still be alive, he would have found in such music the most eloquent proof of the truth of his theory of "Eternal Return" of the Same!

There's some consolation through. I took some photos at the APA. Here they are.

The rear of the APA

An obscure corner of the APA

2013年2月21日 星期四

Airport Tit Bits (機場點滴)

Airports are strange places.Every minute, all kinds of emotional dramas
are unfolding there: the reunion of long absent relatives and friends,
farewells of loved ones, the nervous anticipation of the excitement about seeing exotic corners of the world or embarking upon a course at a
foreign university or taking up a new overseas posting, the hopes of possible new orders at some trade affair or the esteem
of a well received intervention at an academic or professional
conference etc. But for me now, it's something much more mundane: it means
little more than long hours of listless waiting before boarding a plane. To
while away the time, I would take up my camera and wander aimlessly
at whatever airport I find myself in, hoping to find something interesting to click on my camera shutter.
Often there would be more surprises than I dare hope for. Perhaps that's
one of the advantages of being a hyperactive person.

Arriving at the HK International Airport

A last look before getting in.

The arrival area

The departure hall

The waiting area

A odd combination of an old aircraft model against the background of a wall of tower blocks

a row of plane awaiting take off or disembarking at Chengdu Airport

People getting off

People waiting for their friends or relatives?

A row of people awaiting check in

Seats at airport at Jiujiagou

An unexpected pattern I found there

A room at an airport

A wine ad at the airport

A wine ad at the HKIA

An airport shop

Dirty floor. The sky looks blue, but becomes a completely different sky on the floor. We got dirtying feet!

2013年2月18日 星期一

First Concert of the Chinese New Year (新年首個音樂會)

My first concert of after the Chinese New Year proved a rewarding one. We had two pieces both conducted by Jaap van Zweden who continued his very personal style of whipping up our HKPO into a very energetic performance.

The first piece of the evening was a most popular piece by Mozart(1756-1791), his Piano Concerto No.21 in C K 467 in Allegro maestoso, Andante in F major and Allegro vivace assai, which he completed in just under a month after his previous one in 1875, shortly after his admission as a Freemason. It's dream-like second movement, which is one of the most delightful and relaxing pieces of music ever written was immortalized by the the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan by1967 Swedish film directed by Bo Widerberg it's a film about how a Danish tightrope dancer Hedvig Jensen working as the star attraction of her stepfather's travelling circus under the stage name of Elvira Madigan, recovered her identity as a human being, not just a circus performer. In the film, she ran away with Sixten Sparre, an army deserter who shared her dreams of finding himself. For a time they lived happily because they had each other, although neither money nor any future, selling such fish as they were able to catch in the Danish countryside but grim reality struck: they had no other viable option except death. The piano solo was done by the very talented 18-year-old Conrad Tao, now studying piano and violin at Columbia-Juillard School and learning composition at Yale  He has a very forceful style. My friends said that that might not be Mozart's original intention. But to me, the score is just a bit of paper with musical notations upon it and whilst the composer's directions there should be given the greatest respect, the important thing is the music itself which can only come alive in its actual performance. The music is not just the sound. Its power resides not just in some vibrations of the the various musical instruments at different frequencies, at different rhythms and intensities but in what it does to the audience, in its power of evocation of their emotions, a co-creation which requires imagination both on the part of the performers and the audience There should be lots of room for "creative interpretation". Obviously, Conrad Tao's interpretation is not and should not be that of Maria Pires, nor of Lipatti's, nor of Horowitz etc To me, the artist should contribute his unique personality to its interpretation, otherwise, he becomes just a soul-less musical technician!.For me, his treatment might be a bit too heavy at certain passages, yet that's the way he is. And we should be grateful. As encore, he gave us one of Lizst's virtuoso pieces, which does fit his style very well.

Then we had Symphony No. 1 in D major by Gustav Mahler  he second part of the evening's programme was Mahler(1860-1911)'s Symphony No.1 in
D, firrst described by himself as a tone poem and popularly known as the "Titan". in Langsonsam, Schleppend, Kräfttig
bewegt, doch nicht zu schell, Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
and Stütmisch bewegt. Besides his innovative use of orchestral color,
the symphony began most unusually with just one A note played
sustainedly for some quite considerable time to simulate the awakening
of Nature, then there were some rustic dance themes, then a funeral
march theme etc. Some say that there are some biographical elements in
the music in that it describes a failed love affair of a young man in
the third movement contemplating death. But it's always more than that.
Music simply is not a prose narrative. It moves directly through its
sound and the suggestiveness of its sounds. Although the start of the
symphony by the HKPO sounded a bit "disconnected" to me, it became
better and better until the final movement which is absolutely
marvelous. As the programme note says, in the final movement, the music
rose from "Inferno to Paradise".  I could feel the joy!  

2013年2月16日 星期六

Saturday Fun (星期六笑話)

This year, we got the Chinese New Year between two weekends. So adding in a couple days more, smart guys and gals will be soaking up lemonade and sun on some tropical beaches or dancing their heads off amidst the din of heavy South American rhythms in some exotic night clubs. Travelling nowadays is no longer a "luxury". More a "necessity"! So, let's have some traveling fun.

1. Crossing the border

While crossing the US-Mexican border on his bicycle, the man was stopped by a guard who pointed to two sacks the man had on his shoulders. "What's in the bags?", asked the guard.
"Sand," said the cyclist.
"Get them off - we'll take a look," said the guard.
The Cyclist did as he was told, emptied the bags. They contained nothing but sand. He reloaded the bags, put them on his shoulders and continued across the border.
Two weeks later, the same thing happened.
Again the guard demanded to see the two bags, which again contained nothing but sand.
This went on every week for six months, until one day the cyclist with the sand bags failed to appear.
A few days later, the guard happened to meet the cyclist downtown.
Say friend, you sure had us crazy", said the guard. "We knew you were smuggling something across the border. I won't say a word - but what is it you were smuggling?"

2.  A Helpful Wife

A police officer had just pulled a car over.
When he walked up to the car a man rolled down the window and said, "what's the problem officer?" To which the policeman responded, "I stopped you for running that red light behind you."
Just then the man's wife leaned forward from the driver's seat and said with a very loud voice, "I told him to stop at that light. But did he listen? No. He just kept right on going."
The man then turned to his wife and yelled "Shut up stupid!" The policeman continued, "And just before the light I clocked you doing 50 m.p.h. and the speed limit is only 30."
His wife then leaned forward again and squawked "I told him to slow down. But did he listen to me. No! He never listens to me."
And again the man shouted at his wife "Listen stupid, I told you to SHUT UP!"
The policeman then looked at the woman and said "does he always talk to you this way?"
The woman budged in:"Only when he has been drinking."

3. Stay over one night

A Hindu priest, rabbi and a lawyer were driving down the road, when the car breaks down. Fortunately finding a farmhouse nearby, the farmer informed them that he had only one spare room, and that it had only two twin beds.
They were welcome to it, but one of them had to sleep in the barn. After much discussion, the Hindu volunteered to go to the barn.
A few moments later, there was a knock on the bedroom door.
The Hindu explained that there was a cow in the barn, and since cows are sacred and he could not possibly sleep in the barn with a cow.
Annoyed, the rabbi volunteered.
A few moments later, there was another knock on the door.
The rabbi explained that there was a pig in the barn and that being very orthodox, he could not possibly spend the evening in the barn with the origin of pork.
Finally the lawyer said that he would go to the barn.
A few moments later there was a knock on the door.
It was the cow and the pig!

4.  16 Ways of Knowing You're in the Desert

    You no longer associate bridges (or rivers) with water.
    You can say 110 degrees without fainting.
    You eat hot chilies to cool your mouth off.
    You can make instant sun tea.
    You learn that a seat belt makes a pretty good branding iron.
    The temperature drops below 95, you feel a bit chilly.
    You discover that in July, it takes only 2 fingers to drive your car.
    You discover that you can get a sunburn through your car window.
    You notice the best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
    Hot water now comes out of both taps.
    It's noon in July, kids are on summer vacation, and not one person is out on the streets.
    You actually burn your hand opening the car door.
    You break a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 a.m. before work.
    No one would dream of putting vinyl upholstery in a car or not having air conditioning.
    Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, "What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"
    You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.

Happy Birthday. it's every one's birthday today!  Have fun over the weekend. Just make sure you're sober Monday morning.

2013年2月15日 星期五

Sunsets (夕陽餘暉)

No matter how many times I have seen the sun going down the horizon, each time I see it again, I can only stand in front of it transfixed, as if I had been hypnotized. In the course of looking for flowers and leaves  to photograph from the different islands in the so-called New Territories of Hong Kong, I have had numerous occasions to witness this wonder of Nature.

The setting sun from the side of the pier at Yung Shue Wan

The sun from Pak Kok

A passing boat in the sunset

The sun hanging upon a cable

The sun on the verge of sinking below the skyline

The sun half sunk

The sun above two high rise blocks

The sun behind high rise buildings

The sun just above the horizon

The distant sun about to sink

A sun obscured by clouds

The sun hidden by black clouds

A sun fighting against dark clouds

The same sun a little earlier

The after glow of the sun on a beach

Two girls having fun on the beach

The sun under an arch

The sun from the back of a boat

Sunset at Tai O

The sun about to set at Tai O

Same sun, different angle

After glow of the sun at Tai O

Sun at Peng Chau

Sun amongst pine needles

Sun amongst more pine needles

Sun on the tip of some architectural features

Sun setting over some decorative features at Ma Wan Park

Same sun a little later. Such a glow of gold on the surface of the sea. It has probably done that I don't know how many times. Long may it continue to do so!

2013年2月14日 星期四

Practices at Ma Wan Park (馬灣公園練習)

Photography is a hobby that calls for constant practice. One never ceases to learn. One learns not only how to take photos of flowers. One learns too the often overlooked secrets of Nature.

I started at the entrance to the Ma Wan Park. Leaves might not be as dull as one imagined. 

Differences are  what make life interesting.

One learns that even small flowers can have a remarkable variety of colors and shapes

and that they can be more intricate than one would have thought possible.

Nature is never short on symmetries. However such symmetries may not be perfect at the start.

There may be symmetries in clusters too, again never quite perfect.

Flowers may start out tiny and underdeveloped.

But even fully developed flowers may lose their colors.

Some stamens are strong and forceful.

Others, small and fragile, may hide shyly deep within the hollow formed by their petals.

But stamens too can be incredibly delicate too.

Alas, one never has enough time to probe more deeply into the mysteries of Nature. So much to savor and to learn. So little time!