2013年10月29日 星期二

2013年10月28日 星期一

Autumn in Kadoorie Farm (嘉多利之秋色)

Sunday was sunny but cool. Perfect for a day at Kadoorie, which I haven't been for quite some time. How are the flowers, ferns, shrubs, bushes and trees, animals etc there?

     A fallen leaf

2013年10月26日 星期六

Saturday Fun (星期六笑話)

It's rare nowadays to have a day in Hong Kong without being flooded by what passes from the mouths of our politicians and our inept political "leaders". But we're probably not alone. Perhaps the only difference between us and people elsewhere is that they can still have the heart to joke about it. Well, so can we, about their politicians and their politics! Here are some quotable quotes:

1. The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.' --Will Rogers

2013年10月25日 星期五

Dresdner Philharmonie in HK (德累斯頓愛樂在香江)

Hong Kong is really blessed. As the Tao Te Ching says, "bliss may be based on blight the way that blight may result from bliss." Despite its inglorious past, it's now a thriving commercial and a financial hub (fast losing the glitter of its status as the so-called "Pearl of the Orient) at the mouth of the Pearl River Estuary in South China, having been exposed to Western influence since the mid-19thC. People blithely forget that Swire and Jardines, two of the biggest English hongs here, started out as drug pushing smugglers trying to openly "sell" opium into China  and when stopped at Tun Mun by General Lin, the British Empire declared war on the then decadent and corrupt Tsing Empire in the iniquitous Opium Wars following which Hong Kong was ceded "in perpetuity" to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking 1841. Whatever its past might have been, we can often benefit as one of the stops of a greater East Asia tour including Japan, Taiwan, Korea, China, by famous European orchestras and other artists.  We had one such at the Cultural Centre last night. It came from Dresden, a German city which established a philharmonic orchestra as far back as 1870. According to the programme notes, the Dresdner Philharmonie had had as its guest conductors such notables as Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvoràk, Strauss, Jochum, Kleiber, Nikisch, Järvi, Marriner, Masur, Torteliar  etc.  So I had great expectation of this rare appearance.

2013年10月24日 星期四

Balkans 10: Sarajevo (巴爾幹半島之行10 :沙拉熱窩)

After Belgrade, we had to go to another city, Sarajevo in Bosnia, the following morning

The sky looked promising. But first we had to have dinner

2013年10月23日 星期三

The Waters of Wu Kau Teng, Lai Chi Wor & Luk Keng (水水水:烏蛟籐、荔枝窩、鹿頸)

It's a long time since I went to Luk Keng, that part of Northeast New Territories facing Shenzhen. I've already been fascinated by the variegated landscape leading from Bride's Pool or Wu Kau Teng to that remote and unpolluted part of our fast vanishing country park.

I started off at Wu Kau Teng and had first to cross a stream.

2013年10月21日 星期一

The Eternal Beethoven, Schubert & Strauss (永恆的貝多芬、舒伯特和史特勞斯)

Van Jaap is back again last Saturday. This time with Schubert's and Richard Strauss's lieders and Beethoven's "Fate" Symphony, all equally moving, each in their own way.

Schubert has often been called a composer's composer. He's known not only for his piano works. He simply loved little songs. He wrote more than 600 of them in his life! And some say that one can even detect a song-like quality in his piano music. In his songs, his piano does not serve merely as an accompaniment: it's an active part of the song, introducing it, supporting it, varying it, giving it a proper emotional context, contrasting it with the singing parts, complementing it and sometimes paralleling  the relevant lyrics, often based on poetry. We had 4 such pieces that night, An Silva (Who's Sylvia) D891, a song in praise of a lady beautiful both in appearance and in heart, Grensengesang (Song of Old Age)  D 778 about an old man whose house is covered with snow but whose blood has gone from his face to a heart which beckons him to close the door to the world of reality so that he may the better preserve the fragrance of his dreams inside, Im Abendrot ( At Dusk) D799, a song about  how a man finds the golden beams of beautiful red clouds in a sunset shine into his  heart and how he feels united to God and Tränenregen (Rain of Tears) D795 No. 10 about how a man looks into his lover's eyes and sees not the reflection of moon, nor the stars which had already came out and how he saw the blue flowers on the bank and then everything melted when she said, "I'm going home", filling him with tears. They were sung for us by baritone Matthias Goerne from Germany, who is now in the middle of recording an 11 CD collection of Schubert's songs. He's got an excellent baritone voice, clear and warm and what's most important, he sang from his heart. An Silvia came from the words of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Something New yet Old--The Opening of HKPO's 40th Season (雖舊猶新--港樂四十週年開鑼)

The HKPO started its new concert season,more than a month ago, its 40th.  It opened under the able baton of Jaap van Zweden and our new concert master Jing Wang with something new yet old: Bright Sheng's Shanghai Overture.

Sheng (b 1955) is a new style Chinese composer who first trained as a pianist and then composition with more than 200 works for the stage, chamber orchestra, voice as well as for the full orchestra. He's the Founder and Artistic Director of The Intimacy of Creativity by the HKUST and has just recorded with the HKPO the 3 concertos he wrote.

2013年10月19日 星期六

Saturday Guitar Fun (週末結他樂)

It's all guitar sounds in my brain now, perhaps a "hang-over" from last night's concert? Whatever it maybe, here's some more guitar fun.

The Inimitable "Swing" of The Colonel and the Governor ("上校"與"老總"無可比擬的〝搖擺〞)

How would you like to hear Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, B B King and many other blues, rock, jazz guitarists play together? That's what I got last night at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, a venue I seldom go to except for the odd big-size seminars. Tommy Emmanuel (The Colonel) and Martin Taylor (The Governor) are in town. They just finished a tour of China. I don't know how they did there. But I'm quite sure that how ever it was, it must have been great unless the people there know as much about jazz guitar as say about a  phenomenologist like the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty but China having been open to the West for nearly 4 decades now, that'd be a most doubtful proposition.

The pair of guitar duo, one a tall, lank, talkative Aussie full of zest, the other a short, plump, slightly and laid back jock, played for us a great number of songs: some blue grass, some boogies, some swings, some blues, some rock, some fusion, some standards, some not so standard, some fiery, some meditative, some in duo and some solos, certain numbers written by themselves, some by others but if the latter, they'd always manage to re-arrange them with new intros, some extra flourishes, some improvised cadenzas, some extra percussions etc. and turn them into "their" music!

2013年10月18日 星期五

Ai Wei Wei--Living Art (艾未未--活生生的藝術)

Ai Wei Wei, born in Beijing China in 1957, is a fearless artist. To him, art is about life. In a sense, art is his life. He can turn practically anything he encounters in his life into art: he does everything including painting, architectural and other forms of art designing, photography, documentary film making, pottery, metal sculptures, conceptual art, installation art and works on all kinds of materials, curating etc .and God knows what he'll do next. He is open to life's challenges and the hazards of fate. He trusts in his own instincts. He believes in what he does. His mind is always working, so is his imagination and above all, his heart. Perhaps, A Danto is right when he says that after Duchamp, Andy Warhol etc, the boundaries of what is art and what is not has been forever broken and art has regained its "freedom" and the vista in front of it has become as "open" as  Life, as open as man's imagination. In being so fiercely individual, he exemplifies in a sense, every human being in this world whose mind, whose heart and whose body is not yet numbed by all the forces working ceaselessly to "turn" him into what a particular society wishes to mold him into. He resists all such forces. He is Sisyphus. He is a true man, not just an artist. Perhaps he is an artist because he is first of all a man, a man true to himself.

2013年10月12日 星期六

Saturday Fun (週六樂趣)

 Ah Saturday! For some time now, Saturdays have meant a mix of apprehension and a certain expectancy. Time for fun sure! But to be delivered by me! But there's always help. The internet. What would one do without that wonderful invention. So a few quick hits on the keyboard and there's more than I can chew. Here're some quotes by the famous and not so famous, the most intelligent and not so intelligent minds around .


 “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.”
― Marjorie Pay Hinckley 

“Everybody knows if you are too careful you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something. ”
― Gertrude Stein

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”
― Elbert Hubbard

2013年10月9日 星期三

Balkans 9: Belgrade 2 (巴爾幹半島之行九 :貝爾格萊德之二)

After lunch, we were taken to one of the most famous sights of the city, the Fortress complex known as Kalemegdan (Kale=a Turkish word meaning "fortress" and "megdan"=battlefield) in the old town. As the city had been razed to the ground 44 times because of various wars, the abstract "horrors of war"  suddenly took on a "concrete" form for me when I visited it.

Flowers at the entrance of a park before we reach our destination

  To reach the Fortress, we need to first pass through a huge park.

2013年10月5日 星期六

Saturday Fun (開心週末)

Autumn is a great time. No more sweaty shirt sticking to your back. You won't be caught  by an unexpected shower with neither raincoat nor umbrella just when you need most to cross a street for a meeting you can't afford to miss. You don't have to emerge from the cool interior of an air-conditioned building into another big "sauna" room without walls outside....It's also time for some reflection upon the season of pumpkins and pears. Here are some.


Autumn -- time to drag out your winter clothes and see what kind of summer fun the moths had.


The autumn leaves are a lot like raising kids. First they turn on you, and then they fly away. And next thing you know, you look out the window and they're back!


I got tired of looking at all those leaves in my yard, so I got up off the couch and went into action. I closed the curtains.


I can hardly wait until all the leaves turn brown to match the grass.


Autumn is a great time for decision, like whether or not it's too late to start your spring cleaning.


It's fall, that time when the colors change form green to red to gold -- and that's just the gunk in your swimming pool.


A couple goes to an art gallery. 
They find a picture of a naked women with only her privates covered with leaves.
The wife doesn't like it and moves on but the husband keeps looking.
The wife asks: "What are you waiting for?" 
The husband replies: "Autumn."

It's sunny and cool out there, go out and have some fun.

2013年10月4日 星期五

Balkans 8 : Belgrade 1 (巴爾幹半島之行8:布爾格萊德之一)

After a long day, a soft and comfortable bed following a nice hot shower seems just the thing one needed most. 
This is the reception entrance of the hall of Westin Hotel where we stayed. We had to get up early to go to the next city, Belgrade

2013年10月3日 星期四

Balkans 7 : Zagreb (巴爾幹半島之行7:札格勒布)

We were next driven to have a short tour of the capital of Croatia, Zagreb.

In the middle of the square is a monument to the Assumption of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Facing the monument of Mary is the famous Gothic Roman Catholic Zagreb Cathedral, the tallest building in the city, dedicated to the Assumption of Holy Mary, to Kings St. Stephen and St. Ladislaus of Croatia. Originally built in 1093, it was destroyed by the Mongols in 1242 and later rebuilt and in the 17th century a fortified watchtower was added to its south side, to be used as a military observation point because of frequent Turkish invasions. The main nave of the Cathedral collapsed in an earthquake in 1880 and it had to be redone again when two spires of 324 feet were added to its western side. You can see that some restoration works are now being done. No photos of its interior is allowed. An image of the Cathedral is printed on the 1,000-Kuna Croatian banknote issued in 1993.

2013年10月1日 星期二

Balkans 6 Plitvice Lakes (巴爾幹半島之行 6: 普萊維斯十六湖)

 After visiting the Postojna caves in Slovenia, we were driven back to Croatia, where we were taken to the famous 73,350- acre Plitvice Lakes National Park  (Plitvička jezera), the oldest national park in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia situated along the north-south D1 Zagreb-Split national route joining the interior of Croatia to the Adriatic, some 34 miles away.

Founded in 1949 in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia bordering Bosnia-Herzegovina, it's been one of UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1979 with more than 1.2 million visitors per year. Commonly referred to as the "16-Lakes" in Chinese tourist literature, its cascading lakes with an area of 2 square KMs, descend from 2,100 feet to about 1,650 feet and are formed by the confluence of several small surface and  some subterranean karst rivers straggling over a distance of some 8 KM and are broken up into numerous natural dams of travertine formed by the joint action of moss, algae, bacteria, sun, air and water, which accumulate and grow on top of each other at the rate of about 0.4 inch per year.The water from the lowest lake flows into the Korana River. Like the Jiuzhaigou of Sichuan, the lakes are renowned for the vivid colors of its water from azure, to green to yellow depending on the season, the color of the vegetation, the quantity of minerals, organisms, the weather and the angle of sunlight. It got its name from a Croatia word "pličina" or "plitvak", meaning "shallow basins filled with water." but others argue that it got its name from the River Plitvica which flows into it but a nearby village also bears the same name.

The 16 lakes, formed at the end of the ice age about 12,000 to 15,000 years ago are roughly divided into 12 Upper Lakes (Gornja jezera) and the four Lower Lakes (Donja jezera).The two largest lakes, Prošćansko jezero and Kozjak jezero, cover about 80 percent of the overall water body area. These lakes are also the deepest, with a depth of 37 and 47 metres (121 and 154 ft) respectively. On Lake Kozjak, low-noise and ecologically-friendly electric boats are being used. None of the other lakes in the park are more than 25 metres deep. On average, the lakes got some 60 inches of rain per year, usually heaviest in spring and autumn and have a humidity of some 82 percent, with temperatures ranging from 2.2° C in January to 7.9 °C in July and August but can rise to 17.4 °C on the hottest days but it averages around 9 °C over the year as is the temperature of of its spring water but within the rivers and lakes, the water temperature may rise up to 20 °C  in summer. In December and January, the lakes freeze over. 

The 16 Lakes are heavily forested, mainly with beech, spruce, and fir trees, some up to 700 years old. With its humidity and varied landscapes, the area is covered with vegetation, with more than 1,267 different kinds of plants, 75 of which peculiar to the area, a great number of them being protected by law. Because no industry is allowed to be established in the area, so it has pretty much retained its original character, hence huge number of animals, birds, insects etc. thrive in the area. Within the national park area there are 55 different species of orchids, 321 species of butterflies ( a fifth of which are day-fliers) and has brown bears, wolves, eagle-owls, golden eagles, lynx, wild cats, and capercaillie. with about 50 species of mammals and 20 different kinds of bats. The Plitvice Lakes are also home to the endangered autochthonous trout. But there are also minnows (Phoxinus phoxinus), rainbow trouts, even European chub and common rudd  and crayfish in the caves and rivers and lakes.

The Plitvice Lakes area has been inhabited for thousands of years, in turn by Illyrians, Thracians, Celts, Japods, Romans, Avars, Slavs, and Turks. Under Julius Caesar the region was incorporated as the province of Illyricum into the Roman Empire whilst its neighbor tribes of the Pannonians, the Liburnians and Dalmatians were united into the province of Dalmatia Then the area was taken over successively by the Ostrogoths, then in the sixth century, Avars settled in this region, which were accompanied by the Croats, who eventually defied Avar control and settled permanently in this region. In medieval times, frequent attacks by Mongols posed a permanent threat to the settled population.The lakes formed part of the medieval kingdom of Croatia which in 1102 elected to be in personal union with Hungary. In 1493, not far away from the Plitvice Lakes a decisive battle took place between the Austrian Empire and Ottoman Empire, the Battle of Krbava Field, when the entire Croatian nobility were wiped out and the Turks advanced far into Croatia and Hungary. In 1527, at the parliament on Cetin the Croatian nobility elected the Habsburg monarch Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria as the new King of Croatia so as to get protection from Turkish advances but still in 1528, the area became part of Ottoman Empire and did not revert to Austrian rule permanently until 1878 For a short period 1805-1814, during the French Revolution, the area became part of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte. In addition to the native Croats already inhabiting the region and serving in the Austrian military, many central Europeans migrated to the region as did Serb Orthodox refugees fleeing Ottoman repression, who were given refuge in the abandoned areas in exchange for military service. The entire population of the military frontier, particularly the so-called frontiersmen, had the duty to protect this area of permanent unrest and terrible destruction. The region once also used to be called the garden of the devil (hortus diabolus).

Already in 1861, an accommodation for travelers was erected at Velika Poljana. The local population called this accommodation the Emperor's house, since imperial military officers used to reside in this location. For the visit of Crown Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, the wife of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in 1888, the Plitvice Lakes and their surroundings were prepared for tourism for the first time in history. Two paths still bear the names of the daughters of the Emperor Franz Joseph: "Stephanie's Path" (Croatian: Štefanijin put) and "Dorothea's Path" (Croatian: Dorotejin put).In 1916, during the First World War, the Croatian parliament in Zagreb passed the Law on the Protection of the Plitvice Lakes but it did not contain adequate protective measures and is thus not regarded as the official founding declaration of the national park. It was only after the end of the Second World War, on April 8, 1949, that the Plitvice Lakes were declared a national park area and rigorous nature protection measures were established. During the 1980s, tourism was booming in Yugoslavia. Plitvice Lakes National Park soon became one of Yugoslavia's hottest tourist attractions. The beginning of the 1990s, however, marked another great turning point in the history of this national park. In March 1991 it became the scene of the Plitvice Lakes Incident (also called the "Plitvice Bloody Easter"), the first armed confrontation of the Croatian War of Independence that resulted in fatalities. The park was held by local Serb rebels backed by Slobodan Milošević and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) as part of the self-proclaimed "Republic of Serbian Krajina" during the conflict and suffered some damage in the process, with hotels and other facilities being used as barracks. During the period under the control of Serb forces loyal to Belgrade, Croats were ethnically cleansed from the region systematically. The region was retaken by the Croatian Army in August 1995 during Operation Storm, which ended the Croatian war. The number of tourist visiting the Lakes steadily increased from about 1000 in 1894 to half a million in 1989 and to more than 1 million in 2011.

There are just a few comparable kind of landscape in the rest of the world: Lake Rastoke (Slunj) at the Krka National Park or at the rivers Una and the Pliva in Bosnia-Herzegovina; the Band-e Amir lakes within the Hindu Kush mountain range; calc-sinter formation processes that have not emerged along a river flow can now be observed at the Mammoth Hot Springs within Yellowstone National Park (USA) or at Pamukkale in Turkey and also at Jiuzhaigou in the PRC.

The countryside from Slovenia back to Croatia 

Everywhere you go, you find farmers growing maize, canola, olives etc or graze cattle or sheep. 

a German style church, relic of Hapsburg rule

The storm clouds were gathering before we reached the Plitvice Lakes. We just hope that it wouldn't rain.

A map of the Plitvice Lakes. We only had time to visit the lower lakes.

Our first view of one of the lakes.

How clear is the water!

Moss and wild mushrooms growing on the bark of one of the trees there

Some of the high waterfalls

The waters were green, just like those in Jiujiagou

Reflections of the trees on one of the lakes

The first lake we saw
hills in the water?

We could walk across from one side of the lake to another

Fishes in the shallow water

Next to the bridge were rushes

Water cascading down

You can see the travertine forming

The lake seems filled with fishes

Soon after we arrived, the rains came and the fishes hid under the tree.

You can see people on raincoats and hoods

But the water was beautiful

raindrops dripping into the water from the leaves above

Reflection of leaves on the water: how different from the surface of the puddle beside it!

Water flowing over the rushes

The surface of the rocks were filled with mosses, old and new

The cataracts are thick with vegetation

Everywhere you find such platforms

The leaves almost touch the surface of the lake

The exposed surfaces of the rocks were covered by vegetation

Water rushing down the lake beside the path

Trees on an island on the lake where we took the pollution free lake ferry back to where we started

Some rowing boats for the use of workers there. At the back is the ferry we were to take.

Workers on the boats

The landing area

I like this tree: so full of life.

its bark is full of new mosses

Firs, spruce, beech growing in great abundance

Our ferry pier

There were ducks everywhere

Another small waterfall on the opposite side of the lake with ducks having fun in the foreground

I like the way the water changes colors

Mottled leaves in the park where we had our lunch

Some leaves were already turning yellow

The restaurant to cure us of our famish after all the walking and the shivering in the cold rain

A bee on the window pane wanted to share our meal?

Our lunch: roast piglets potato and bread

Our dessert

Flowers outside the restaurant

More flower on the restaurant terrace

The raincoat of one of our tour members, another girl crazy about photography: a reminder of our desperate attempt to take cover beneath an overhanging rock at the side of the path.

(To be cont'd)