Monday, December 26, 2011

Movie Review: 龍門飛甲 (The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate)

The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Director: Tsui Hark
Cast: Jet Li, Zhou Xun, Chen Kun, Kwai Lun - mei and Li Yu - chun
Overall: 7.5/10
Spoiler Warning: Minimal. 

Continuing his theme in Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame last year,  Tsui Hark in The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate tells us one simple truth: power corrupts and perishes while trust and love, the Wuxia values, last.

In contrast to the all too realistic fighting in Ip Man, you'll see swords, flying daggers, chains and sharp silk lines whirling in the air. As Wuxia master, Chow Wai - on (Jet Li) elegantly fights with sword, while the devious Eunuch Yu Hua - tian (Chen Kun) hides his sword under his flipping robe. 

Still the beautiful Tartars Princess (Kwai Lun-mei) close - fights with a style akin to the Mongolian wrestling and also fights with a crescent that again tries to engage enemies as closely possible. Further, Gu Shaotang (Li Yu - chun) threw daggers that fly in a predictably unpredictable course. 

All these are done under the 3D effect which is not great, but acceptable. The 3D is still crude and undeveloped and it can hardly accomodate all the spinning and swirling of weapons and people. Nevertheless it does give some eye - opening surprises, particularly when Chow broke through the flag to kill  the Eunuch at the opening. 

Despite the martial art and the 3D effect, the plot is so weak that it renders all the characters as two - dimensional flat sheets. We never really know what has happened in the love story between Chow and Ling Yan - qiu (Zhou Xun), nor do we know how others have come together for the treasure hunt. 

Fortunately this did not stop Chen Kun playing the scheming Eunuch on one hand, and the blissful Wind Blade, on the other. The parts where Chen imitated the Eunuch to fool other people has added much lively element in the middle of the movie. Kwai has also unusually plays well the passion of the Tartars people.

Tsui interestingly put the very traditional Wuxia music, Dagger Society Prelude (小刀會序曲), at the opening and closing scenes, perhaps at a tribute to old Wuxia movies. 

The movie ends with the Eunuch, symbolizing lust for power and wealth, buried deep in the sand, while Chow has taken his turn to find his love, Ling, till the end of the world. In the world of Wuxia, love is perennial. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Story of Nutcracker

My collection of nutcrackers 
During Christmas, Santas Claus, Christmas trees, bells and the three wise men begin to appear on the streets and we all know where they originate from. How about nutcrackers? Where do they come from? That's the question. 

The historical origin of nutcracker is quite murky. Before the present - day soldiers and kings,  nutcrackers has existed in many forms and many have indeed been beautifully crafted into wooden sculpture. It is said that one times in a German village, a group of soliders have done grave injustice but unable to do anything more, the villagers crafted soldiers as nutcrackers to ridicule them.

In another source, the Dictionary of Brother Grim (authors of Grim Fairy Tales), described nutcrackers as 'a misshaped little man whose opened mouth, or lever, broke open the nut'. It is without question, however that William Fuchtner was the first to commercialise the nutcrackers production. 

The Nutcracker from Hong Kong Ballet 
It has eventually found its way in The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by the greatest German fantasia writer, E.T.A Hoffmann. The story begins with Marie receiving a nutcracker from her grandfather, Drosselmeier. At night, she hears noise and is surprised to find her dolls fighting against the mice, with the nutcracker as the commander. She later learnt that the nutcracker was, in fact, the man who has sacrificed to save her life.

Though the story itself is rather plain, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the great Russian composer who has also written scores for The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, adopted the story into a two - act ballet. I have watched the one produced by Hong Kong Ballet with Liu Yu - yao playing Sugar Plum Fairy and Huang Zhen as Nutcracker Prince.

Though never an artist nor a musician, I still find every act in ballet dance always full of grace. In one move, Liu spins spectacularly with only her toes on the ground. The movie Black Swan made me to pay even more respect for all the hard work that ballet dancers have put into the performance.

The music, though composed at the end of 19th century, is never out of date. I especially like Dance Of The Reed Pipes where the lively tone is accompanied by elegant dance of a group of delicate ballet dancers.

Nutcrackers remain to be our favorite decoration in Christmas. It is also my favorite collection of figures and the above picture has shown part of my collection. What it symbolizes, however, is not only the rich European culture but also the fun and joy that Christmas brings to everyone.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


As a little digression, Hoffmann has written better story in The Sander which is adopted as Coppélia ballet by Arthur Saint-Léon and Léo Delibes. The father of the little Nathanael told him that children who don't sleep at night will receive a visit by the legendary Sandman who steal their eyes to feed his own sons.  Nathanael came to associate his father's nightly visitor, Coppelius, as the Sandman. In one night, his  father died because of an explosion in an alchemist experiment with Coppelius, who then vanished without a trace.

After years, he found another man called Coppola and recalled his childhood fear of the Sandman when this Coppola offers to sell  'pretty eyes! pretty eyes!' which turns out to be telescope. Nathanael bought one to look at a young woman Olimpia opposite his house who was beautiful but rather emotionless and mechanical.

The mysterious beauty in Olimpia's eyes made Nathanael so totally obsessed that he eventually proposed to her. To his shock, he sees Coppola fighting with Spalanzani, the guardian of Olimpia. Coppola fled, carrying Olimpia under his arms. Spalanzani revealed to Nathanael that Olimpia was, in fact, a machine created by Spalanzani to fool other people with his impressive creation. Nathanael collapsed.

It was revealed Coppola was Coppelius. In his madness, Nathanael saw Coppelius on the street, shouted 'pretty eyes! pretty eyes!' and jumped down.

The summary here is grossly simplified and I strongly recommend everyone (especially lovers of Edgar Allan Poe) to read Hoffmann's words. This story show his ability to explore human psychology so ingeniously that Freud  has devoted a whole essay, The Uncanny, to analyze the theme of 'eye' as man's fear of castration. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Life will go on as it has always gone on – that is, badly." - Animal Farm

Animal Farm

In Animal Farm, Benjamin, the donkey,  said enigmatically 'Life will go on as it has always gone on – that is, badly.' At the end, the animals overthrew Mr. Jones; pigs rule; Napoleon became the supreme leader; then things went on as usual as before the overthrow of Mr. Jones - that is badly and yet along with another equally enigmatic principle: 'All animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others.' 

This principle applies with the same force, unfortunately, to Hong Kong. We are promised with universal suffrage in the Basic Law. We are promised that 'river water won't mix well with well water'. We are promised with One Country Two Systems. We hold great hope for our future.

Now Beijing delayed universal suffrage till 2017. The media exposed two 'independent' district councillors to have belonged to the Communist nomenclature. Votes come from a flat of 13 voters with 7 surnames. Most of us are equal; some are more equal when they can vote for the next CE in the 1200 members Election Committee.

The article Two Systems Becoming One: The 2047 Timetable by Suzanne Pepper ominously predicts that the development is still at an early stage. Eventually the Hong Kong district councillors system will nicely fit into the People's Congress System that also has grassroots foundations.

As I said previously, the Communist Chinese genes have their way to filter through. They then begin to reproduce in mass number, until every sperm and egg become red. 

Last Thursday, Professor Choy has written an insightful article saying when this city dies, a diagnosis will find silence and indifference as the causes. He cited a quote from Dante; 'The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality'. In short, we are all accomplices. (article here)

Hong Kong is not Banana Republic, springing from nowhere. It is an international city with rule of law that we all cherish. If we all stay silent as Professor Choy said, this city is not dying. It is dead.

After all, Benjamin is only half - right. Life will not go on as it has always gone - that is badly. Life will only go on worse but for our neutrality. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Movie Review: The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn

Tin Tin and Snowy

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jamie Bell (as Tin Tin), Daniel Craig (as Red Rackham), Andy Serkis (as Captain Haddock)
Overall: 7/10
Spoiler Warning: Minimal

Born in Brussels, Tin Tin is a young intelligent journalist who undauntedly goes up to space and down to the ocean for the quest of truth. Unlike the flying batman, swinging spiderman or the ultra muscular superman, Tin Tin possesses no special talent but his insatiable curiosity and enormous courage to find the truth. This pretty much represents the down to earth Greco-European culture, in stark contrast with the vulgar American culture

It is then ironical for Spielberg, the all famous American director, to breath new life into Tin Tin from Hergé's renowned two dimensional ligne claire into three dimensional quasi - animation.

Spielberg and Peter Jackson produce an animation so realistic that it can't really be called an animation. The use of performance/motion capture technique (or mocap) literally captures the live movement of Jamie Bell (as Tin Tin) and Daniel Craig (as Red Rackham) that melts effortlessly into the animated background. It is  also a delight to see how the computer - generated water react realistically with the computer - generated cloth in the movie. 

The Star Wars saga music composer John Williams (another American) has also appropriately departed from his grandiose style in Star Wars and Harry Potter and has instead incorporated many lively elements. The musical theme accompanying the appearance of Thomson and Thompson is particularly relieving and can be a perfect piece of atmospheric music in a lazy afternoon.

The only drawback, as a lover of Tin Tin since as a child in Montreal, is that everything is real, all too real. The realness achieved by mocap is itself the greatest defect that renders one of Tin Tin's most famous characteristics; namely the two dimensional ligne claire void.

After all, it's not so ironical for an American to make an essentially European cultural icon into movie; the Europeans create the culture, only left to the Americans to destroy and (hopefully) remake. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Chinese Selfish Gene

Chinese Selfish Gene
Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins argue, as its title speaks for itself, every gene is inherently selfish. The cultural parallel of a gene is meme where a unit of idea can spread from one generation to another through writing, speech or even gesture.

An interesting example of meme is when a macaque, the red - face Japanese monkey, has learnt to wash a potato and then season it in salty water. Others started to copy him and then this trait even passed from one generation to another.

The Chinese race has its own selfish gene. 2000 years of dynastic rule ingrain people with a sense of obedience. This meme is so strong that it not only imprints into the Chinese gene but has passed to the Chinese generation in the 21st century. If you understand that, then you won't be surprised to see the news saying a man not daring to utter a sound when he witnessed his wife is beaten and raped by a police (news here). After all, just stay obedient and silent. 

Another characteristic of the Chinese selfish gene is the stress on collectivity. When the Westerner first came to China in early centuries, they were amazed by the immense irrigation system that the Chinese collectively built. It's almost a cruel irony when it is precisely this collectivity that achieve the greatest selfishness. A collective love for everyone means a love reserving for no one (just like collective responsibility means no one is responsible)

This is the reason why the 18 bystanders in Foshan can stay unmoved when they saw a 2 year old girl get ran over two times by vans. (news, here and video, here) After all, who cares? Someone will take care of that.

In 1949 October 1, this gene has mutated into the Communist China, inheriting all the dynastic meme and continuing to spread them under the name of 'people 's dictatorship'.  This gene does have strong adaptability. 

Hong Kong fortunately has been purified with some rule of law and has been taught with some more civilized meme. But after 1997, this Chinese gene and has found its way to filter through to invade. Let's stay vigilant against it. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why I am so Smart (or so Stupid)

Why I am so smart and so stupid 
The news on this Wednesday reported a child at fifth grade primary school (P5) hid in the toilet for a long time. The Filipino helper knocked on the door. Silence. After 10 minutes, A cry was heard. It was found out the child had jumped out from the window and died. (news here)

He is the fifth victim since this September, joining the other four students who also jumped down the building to suicide. (source here)

Despite school works, children commits themselves (willingly or unwillingly) to extra - curricular activities that completely fill up their schedules. The child in the news studied at China Kei Wan Primary School (中華基督教會基灣小學)  - not only a famous Band 1 school but also one that requires every student to learn at least one musical instrument or to join some form of activities outside of school.

Parents' cares start when the children are just babies. You will notice that when the TV keep showing funny ads on how the phD milk powder can enhance child's brain development (does that mean the one who don't get it will become brainless because of little development?). I can't stand the one interviewing the parents why they trust the brand for making the feaces soft; I mean who cares?

Their cares do not stop but reaches till university. It's amusing to read how Professor Choy talks about the 'Monster Parents' during the student information day in the Chinese University. In one demonstration of science experiment, parents participated, made notes, video - recorded it and then show it to their children at home. (article here) I wonder, who is the student? The parents or the children?

In fact, I found it funny when I happened to join a trip to visit the organic farms and a staff was showing how to make cookies, the man beside me, holding his 2 year - old child, translate all the procedures into English for him.

Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), I don't have all these opportunities to learn during my childhood. I was sick for most of the times and so staying at home was big part of my life. When I was not sick, i went out to play, throw snowball or make snowman.

In Halloween, I disguised as vampire and played trick or treat in the neighborhood. I would have a large bag of candies that took me around a month to finish it.

Now I am in my 3rd year, studying Government and Laws Degree in the Hong Kong University. 

Why I am so smart or so stupid? Because I didn’t take any phD, DHA or β-Glucan milk powder when I was small. Or does it matter? 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I feel disappointed to Alan Leong

Alan Leong doing a radio programme in his Chambers office

The curtain for DC election has been drawn with the Civic Party (CP) losing 4 seats, leaving 7 seats. Party leader Alan Leong explained the 'smear tactics'  and the overwhelming power of the Central Liaison Office in planting votes and unleashing the mechanism's mobilisation have caused this election failure.

Further, if district works remains to be snake banquet, it would prove wholly impossible for a CP  district councillor (DC) in another profession (lawyers, engineers) to stay in the district for up to 10 hours a day. 

Alan Leong has been my mentor and inspirator. In 2011 March 1, it has been an awakening when he told me ' Rule of law is the hallmark of Hong Kong. Without it, Hong Kong is no different than one of the many Chinese cities'. His charisma as guardian of the rule of law has caught me but his explanation to the failure  of election caused me unease.

The CP and news media widely attributed the low - voting rate to the party's support to the two controversial legal issues in the right of abode for foreign helpers and environmental permits for the Hong Kong - Zhuhai - Macao bridge (HKZM bridge). But really? 

Professor Choy Chi - keung (蔡子強) has rightly pointed out these merely act as excuses for the fact that the CP has never been keen in working at the constituent district. It is also at odds when Alan Leong confessed the impossibility for a CP DC to stay a long time in the district when this is what DC exactly does - to serve the people in the district as a full profession, not a part - time job. (Professor Choy has written a number of articles on this, the most recent is here)

It is the sad political reality that people do not realize rules in laws. First a barrister has no choice but to represent a client for a field he is competent at. This is the cab - rank - rule to ensure fairness, so even a powerless person can get a lawyer. So CP did not tell Philip Dykes SC to represent Chu Yee - wah in the HKZM bridge. Legal duty obliges Dykes to represent her for the sake of the rule of law, so even the powerless minority can get a lawyer.

Also the Court decides whether to accept a judicial review, not the CP, as Ronny Tong explained in our lecture. The Court accepts the review only when the matters concern the public. Denouncing judicial review is equivalent to denouncing fairness of the Court.

Secondly even CP member Gladys Li represents Vallejos, so? Barrister acts independently. No one can force a barrister to do something unwilling.

Sadly people don't take time to understand all that. Or rather, they don't need to. Dislike is dislike. They'll show it in the votes. (Shih Wing Ching 施永青 here has said exactly what people erroneously think). Perhaps Chip Tsao (陶傑) is right; rule of law? Nothing. People just dislike Filipinos. (article here)

CP must either explains the laws to the people or to bend to the reality. For the former, the CP has not done much, except one or two appearance in news. For the latter, Alan Leong has partially done so when he made a partial retreat in clarifying the CP's position of not supporting the coming of Filipinos into Hong Kong.

I fully support Alan Leong to fight for the rule of law in Hong Kong. But I am deeply disappointed how he has led the party.

It is time when Alan Leong and CP must drop down the overt elitism and work more in the district. It is time for CP to help people unlearning the unenlightened (DAB's) welfarism and to help them learning what rule of law is. 

Saturday, November 05, 2011

'Voting not required'

'Voting not required'

The Hong Kong media keeps reporting on a CE election that 99.9826% of the Hong Kong population can not vote (alternatively, an election that only 0.0174% of the population can vote),  while the election by universal suffrage in District Council receives scant attention.

When you receive a post saying 'voting not required', you'll understand why the media has done so. While the CE election is choosing the best of the worst, still, some gossip here or there (funny claim that CY 梁振英 beat his wife or 感情缺失 by Henry Tong - what do you mean?)  provide topics during tea - time.

For DC election, what do you have? Well, talking how many candidates get elected automatically. 76, most of them either DAB/LP or other covert pro - China independents/parties. The end of topic.

Ma Ngok said politics in districts become mere 'interest dispensation' (here). By this, he means the 'snake banquet' or the 'seafood trip' offered by the DAB.

From my experiences working at DAB last summer, it works like this: Having finished the seafood banquet lunch for 50 dollars (HK), the people, old or middled aged, were taken by travel bus straight to the Victoria Park - to support the Constitutional Reform Package in 2010.

Most 'iron votes' for DAB come from places where immigrants newly arrive. DAB works hard to attract their votes by organizing activities and improving the districts (well, as minor as removing two dogs on the streets - hugely celebrated in banners on the road) through the generous unknown fund of 4 million dollar. But do not forget they are also the most vocal against new immigrants from China in 1999,  against Chinese pregnant women and now against Filipino.

Treasure the vote in your hand. NPCSC's decision in 2007 held Hong Kong 's CE election in 2017 may be implemented by universal suffrage. I hope no one will ever receive a 'voting not required' post at that time. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

'Don't shoot me' , pleaded Muammar Gaddafi on 20 October 2011

'Don't shoot me'

'Don't shoot me' is the last words of the 42 - year ruler of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi.

Reports can 't even agree how Gaddafi gets killed. Some said he was shot dead by one soldier. Others said he was beaten to death. A video shows the surrounding people pushed Gaddafi around and beat him with boots - an act of extreme humiliation reserved for slaves and prostitutes in Arab culture. Already half covered in blood, Gaddafi stumbled, fell down, pleaded his last words 'Don't shoot me'. 

What is confirmed is his public display in a freezer, not in a crystal coffin like Mao. The purpose, according to the authority, is to let the public views his dead body to confirm his death and this attracted people driving hundreds of mile to view it. This is the destiny of a leader who ruled Libya for more than 40 years. 

What does it mean? It's a triumph of people. The Jasmine Revolution shows dictatorship regime is like tofu, collapse by the slightest exertion of pressure, either internally or externally. It shows the power of the people in overthrowing a regime of dictatorship.

This is not a mere orthodoxy because I heard people around me saying it was Americans who stirred up all the trouble. In fact, it was America who lost out the most for losing Gaddafi, a stable ally, for providing steady supply of oil. While NATO did orchestra air strike campaigns, it is the people, armed with nothing but dignity, who started the revolution. Those who denies this capacity of people speak with their Qing pigtails still on their heads.

This triumph, however, is not spotless. The ways Gaddafi died left a deep black hole in this triumph. It amounts to a disgrace to how people, in the midst of euphoria, can humiliate and execute a helpless human, like cats ripping open a struggling rat.

What will the future be depends on people. With this displayed cruelty, Chip Tsao (陶傑) humorously commented that Libya will need her colonial lover, Italy, to bring back some democracy, instead of following the old unenlightened path of tribalism and racism (the article is available here)

His idea is not without merits. Only through genuine representative democracy, Libya can achieve a better future. 

Pacman: Strategies

Pacman is a deceptively simple game.

The four corners and the bottom line are the most dangerous places.
You guide the pacman inside a maze to eat all the 244 pellets and avoid the four ghosts. When you eat one of the power pellets at the four corners of the maze, the ghosts turn blue and you can revenge by eating them back. 

Pacman has a clearly advantage that the ghosts never have; it is controlled by a superb human mind. You can move left or right and up or down. You can reverse direction and predict the ghosts' movement  (as long as you know their psychology, discussed below). The ghosts are programmed to move in one direction. While you have the false feeling of getting chased by one of the ghosts, keep calm, reverse the direction and you'll find yourself safe.

Pacman can out - run Clyde
Further, Pacman runs faster than ghosts. On the left, even when Clyde is chasing right at your back, you can be confident you can out - run him.  The ghosts immediately slow down when they enter the two side - tunnels at the middle but Pacman is immune from this penalty.

Only under one circumstance Pacman has no way to escape: concerted attack by 2 or more ghosts.

You can prevent this from happening by not going to areas where there are little escape routes. The four corners and the bottom line are the most dangerous place and you should eat the pellets there only when the ghosts are scattered or you can catch a timely power pellet.

There is always a way out
When you find yourself under attack though, again, don't panic and keep calm. Observe their movements, and more than often you can find your way out. On the left, you still have an escape route, even when blinky and pinky are trying catch you from both fronts. 

Know your enemies: blinky, pinky, inky and clyde. Blinky is the most aggressive and will chase you to death when he has decided to do so. Pinky can either act independently or more often work with Blinky to make a concerted attack.

From left to right: Clyde, Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Pacman

From my experience, Inky is the least predictable because she might sometimes chase you like Blinky or might just wander off. Most of the times, he seems to just frighten you off. Clyde is the least dangerous because of his targeting scheme. He only chases Pacman when it happens to have come close to him. The beauty of their psychology is sometimes they are predictably unpredictable and at other times, unpredictably predictable.

Arming with this knowledge, you won't stay long when Blinky and Pinky are together and going to box you in. When Inky chases you alone, you won't feel threatened, since she usually unpredictably wanders off. It shouldn't be a problem to avoid Clyde, but just beware he is as dangerous when he cooperates with his other three colleagues.

Lastly, there are areas where the ghosts can easily gang rape you. I have mentioned the four corners and the bottom line. One commentary holds the two connecting side - tunnels are safe for Pacman because he is immune from the speed - down penalty. However very often, the ghosts can easily entrap you from both sides.

One safe zone is the area around the ghost house where there are 6 escape routes, making it harder to for ghosts to trap you.

I hope some of the strategies and techniques mentioned here can be a guide for all beginner to enjoy playing one of best game in the world - Pacman.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rule of Law in China = Battered Lawyers

Rule of Law in trash 

'Arrogantly make a fool of yourself because others are but mere humans and you the Barrister, is the enlightened Supreme Being' said my mentor.

This is certainly true where the rule of law reigns. Where her sovereignty ceases, lawyers become battered hopeless creature (if not be too exaggerating to borrow from Hobbes - living in solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short life).

This Tuesday, a criminal defense team of four lawyers in Guangxi has been arrested for suborning perjury (i.e. inciting clients or witnesses to commit perjury.) Briefly, they spotted holes and inconsistencies in the prosecution's accrued evidence against four defendants involving death case.

It is suspected the local government in Beihai, eager to keep the record - breaking report card in resolving homicide cases, attempted to silence them through these arrests. (The full news can be read here - Chinese version or here - the English version)

This amounts to a public showcase to how China see the law - as a maid to the executive expediency when a shining report - card can trash over innocence of four men, plus another four lawyers. When law serves as the executive's extended arm, no one's rights are guaranteed, not even the lawyers, let alone the people.

What is ironical is when Premier Wen said in last month at Da Lian that the party must separate from politics and law to prevent absolute corruption flowing from the absolute power. What the Beihai government now has done seem to slap right on Premier Wen's face.

Last month, a draft of amendment to Criminal Procedure Law has proposed to add 99 more articles (from 225 to 285), relating to rule of evidence, coercive measures, criminal defense and representation, investigative measures, trial procedures, enforcement and special proceeding. What the Beihai government now has done has shredded those papers into trash.

Rule of law is not empty words, along with a speech from this or that official (not even Premier Wen's speech can be counted on). Rule of law at least mean an independent judiciary and a group of lawyers who don't need to be afraid of get beaten this day, and arrested the next.

Even if the words on paper prima facie ensure protection for victims, like the additional grand proposed 99 articles, how do we know they are followed? The police can still happily stand a strong light against the 'witness' for hours until coercing a 'desired' statement, without letting anyone know.

We can't hold any complacency here in Hong Kong. Do not forget our small island constitute an 'unalienable part' of this imperial empire. Following the precedence from Ng Ka Ling, NPCSC's arm has again successfully encroached Hong Kong's rule of law in the Congo case. Space here does not allow a full explanation but in essence, NPCSC rules Hong Kong will be governed by absolute immunity, in contrast to restrictive immunity practiced by the common law world, marking another blow to Hong Kong's autonomy under One Country Two Systems.

I have recently finished reading a book on 1911 Revolution and realize revolution is not just about Sun Yat-sun but the people. It is the people who made history. Now, we, and the four arrested lawyers are part of the history in retaining the rule of law. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"I was really afraid" - Donald Tsang

"When the egg was thrown at me, I was really afraid"
"I was really afraid" (Donald Tsang 2011) should become a golden quote, commemorating how afraid he really was when Long Hair threw the egg on him. 

It is almost a cliché to recount how George Bush has reacted to the (two) shoes thrown at him. He avoided 2 times and afterwards joked: "If you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe at that he threw." No matter how much I dislike this cowboy, what he said has certainly cracked a smile from me. 

Another cliché to recount is our dear Terminator - Arnold Schwarzenegger who also get thrown by egg and said "This guy owes me bacon now. You can't have egg without bacon". This sense of humour has defied his robotic image from the Terminator. 

Now in Hong Kong, we did not fall behind. We have Donald Tsang saying "I was really afraid" when he visibly (and should also expectedly, as happened many times before) see Long Hair throwing the egg at him, from such a distance in the new Legislative Council, and was really afraid. This strikes a sense of humour as much as the cowboy and the Terminator, well in another way. 

What kind of people produces what kind of things. A timid Donald Tsang produces a timid proposal; one that lacks a planning, a vision. The only effect I can see in giving every senior a 2$ ride for MTR and bus is giving them a chance to make more living by crossing several more districts, then collecting some more old cans and free newspapers for sale.  

What I want is not some cheap acts of mercy but a complete review and implementation of a pension scheme for all retired old people. What I and everybody in Hong Kong want is a vision. 

Donald Tsang does not need visions anyway. He proudly said he has worked in the government for 44 years. Yes, a 44 years of working in close door and taking instruction from the seniors (and in these recent 7 years, from China). 

Now he is leaving. His legacy is certainly impressing; his golden quote "I was really afraid", along with a whole bundle of problems. 

Let's hope the next CE will bring Hong Kong a vision. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Movie Review: 白蛇傳說 (The Sorcerer and the White Snake)


Director: Ching siu - tong
Cast: Jet Li (as Fa Hai), Eva Huang (as White Snake), Charlene Tsoi (as Green Snake) and Raymond Lam (as Xu Xian)
Overall: 6/10
Spoiler Warning: Yes

The very story incurs me to make a comparison with Green Snake, directed by Tsui Hark starring Joey Wong as White Snake and Cheung man - yuk (or Maggie Cheung as she is now better known) as Green Snake.

Both basing their movies on the classical Legend of the White Snake, Ching tries to visualise all the supernatural powers, tsunamis, fights of the Fa Hai with the giants monsters and snakes with the CG technology but end ups with crude visual effects that almost wreck the movie altogether. The half - human half - snake looks of Eva Huang and Charlene Tsoi are horrible sights to human eyes.

During the time of making his movie (in the 80s), there wasn't so much CG technology available and so Tsui Hark relies on light, colours and illusions to beautifully show the mystical atmosphere throughout the whole movie. While Ching hopelessly uses the computer technology to present realistic scenes, Tsui unscrupulously perpetuates mysteries in a myth.

Ching made attempts to integrate some western elements in this Chinese myth. Turtles, rabbits, giant bat are all examples. The fight between Fa Hai and the giant bat monster in the volcanic mountain reminds me of the one between Gandalf and Balrog in the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings (but again, the CG effect seriously hampers the quality). It seems quite refreshing at certain times, especially the scene where Xu Xian goes to see 'relatives' (the badly disguised rabbit, turtle, and reptile) of White for marriage. But at other times, the overall effect is weird and even quite anti - climatic, like when the rats easily break the spells of the monks by biting them.

(Green Snake)
Instead of putting something else into a melange, the Indian ball dance in the opening scene already shows how Tsui Hark merge exotic elements with the seductiveness of snake. Rain with lightning, the strange metallic Indian music coupled with the laughters of men and women arouses Green from the deep lake to crawl onto the roof to have a look inside. Eager to participate, she transformes into human form, half naked, and danced with the other Indian dancers (This scene is still available in YouTube, here). This is one of many other scenes to show how seductive the snakes are (especially Maggie Cheung at her prime time) but also the decadences of the people at the time.

Time and space only permit me to compare the visual arts. Let me deal with the character and plot in the next entry. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Keep our knee straight. Do not Kowtow to China.

The banner reads: 'Maintain One Country Two Systems. Promote Hong Kong's Long - Term Prosperity and Stability' 
- What a joke

Since this month or last, radio and TV talk a lot about the 1911 Revolution. As a person living in Canada for almost ten years and never having a chance to study Chinese or Hong Kong history, I never realized that Hong Kong has had such an intimate relationship with the efforts of Mr. Sun Yat - sen and his colleagues in organizing this historical momentous revolution. 

Hong Kong was, of course, unique to offer such a chance where Sun Yat - sen and other revolutionaries could arrange meetings in a relatively safe environment, distribute pamphlet on ending slavery under imperialism, publish newspapers about democracy and liberalism. This has all been possible only because the Qing dynasty ceded Hong Kong to the United Kingdom in 1842 (Hong Kong island), 1860 (Kowloon) and 1898 (New Territories). With Hong Kong at his base, Sun Yat - sun ended the 2000 years of kowtow. 

During my job - shadowing with Mr. Alan Leong, senior counsel barrister - at - law and leader of the Civic Party, has told me 'Hong Kong since the time of Sun Yat - sun has been a breeding place for liberating political ideas and a place where people can enjoy liberty and rule of law. 

Rule of law is a hallmark of Hong Kong. How long and how much we can maintain this precious rule of law depend on how much autonomy we can still enjoy under 'One Country Two Systems' (OCTS) - 100 years after Sun Yat - sen planned the revolution and overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911. 

Jiang Zemin promised the Mainland Communist China and Hong Kong will be like river water and well water that won't 'mix with each other'. The 14 years of OCTS have shown that the two waters are, in fact, quite well - mixed. 

In the legal field, the NPCSC's interpretation in 1999 about Ng Ka Ling showed CFA was incompetent to interpret the Basic Law. Professor Albert Chen, law professor in the Hong Kong University, explained this was the power vested in the Basic Law and that NPCSC has the full jurisdiction to do the interpretation. Despite how the Basic Law should have been drafted in the first place, Chen's explanation overlooks the full political impact it entails. 

The interpretation by NPCSC implies the hollowness in the notion - 'Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong people'. It shows, in the eyes of NPCSC and China, how incompetent Hong Kong people are in handling our autonomous affairs. Ronny Tong, barrister - at - law and also member of Civic Party, commented Ng Ka Ling and Chong Fung Yuen hampered the democratic development, since we, Hong Kong people, can't rule ourselves.  

In the social and economic fields, China's rise in the recent decades open new enterprising opportunities for Hong Kong to ripe. The Chinese scheme to let more mainland tourists coming to Hong Kong and the CEPA scheme after 2003 should have been optimistic signs but my feeling grows somewhat easy after reading Identity, Sovereignty, and Economic Penetration: Beijing's Responses to Offshore Chinese Democracies by Guoguang Wu. He said in that article Beijing used economic penetration, such as effort to integrate Hong Kong into the Pearl River Delta, to curb the demands for democracy with businesses and monies.   

Our rule of law has come to another critical moment. Vallejos Evangeline Banao has won a temporary victory in Vallejos Evangeline Banao v. Commissioner of Registration and Another but she has a long way to go. What I can't bear the most is the demonstration by the DAB yesterday. Beside demanding the HKSAR government for a quick appeal to CA, they even demanded HKSAR government to ask NPCSC for interpretation in case the government fails in CFA. 

Where is the rule of law? Do you throw it away so easily when it is the value upholding Hong Kong? Do you let our autonomy reduce to ash?

I left those question for them to answer, while I thought demanding the government to ask NPCSC for interpretation is equivalent to selling out our rule of law and our authority. 

At the end of the day, it is us, Hong Kong people, to defend our own core values. My heart sinks further when my Vice - Chancellor and President of HKU, Tsui Lap - see, said 'The Hong Kong University has ceased to be a university of Hong Kong but has become a university of Hong Kong in Chinese soil', at the exact place where Sun Yat - sen 100 years ago was learning and organizing his revolution against the imperial China. 

In 1911, Mr. Sun Yat - sun ended 2000 years of kowtow under the imperial dynasty. Now 2011, keep our knee straight. Do not kowtow to China. Hold the rule of law in our hearts and defend it at every moment.   

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review: Why We Get Fat: and what to do about it

'Why we get fat?' or more specifically 'Why I get fat?' is the question I ask every times I look at myself in the mirror before shower. 

The answer has come timely when I shopped the library two weeks ago and found Why we get fat: and what to do about it by Gary Taubes in the new books collection. He has written another book called Good Calories, Bad Calories which seems to be quite successful (New York Times best seller), so I am expecting this new book to bring forth some good advices. 

Indeed, Taubes has cleared some of our (my) misconception in weight loss. A lot of us might think that weight gain is due to overeating - eating more than the body requires. The logic behind is: overeating -->  excess calories --> gaining fat. To lose weight, therefore, we need to be on diet and to exercise more. 

However this is misleading (as most common senses are). First, our body is such a complex biological mechanism that this simple logic oversimplifies everything. Even if we expend more energy than we consume, we might still gain weight. 

The book has offered several interesting examples. In one experiment, the scientists removed the ovary of a rat. Then it eats voraciously until becoming obese. The scientist, suspecting the rat has overeaten, restricted the amount of food for the rat. Surprising, it still grows obese but has been more inactive (to save energy for making fat). 

In another example, Taubes found that most overweight and obese cases happen in poor neighborhood and undeveloped countries. If  the poor people don't have much money even to buy food, why do they grow fat and obese? Well, in Hong Kong, I have noticed that many bar - bending/construction workers are quite fat, provided they work so industrially.

So overeating and lack of exercise don't seem responsible for weight - gain. Conversely on diet and exercise won't work. Then what causes fat? 

Second, overeating what? All food? Fatty food? Sweet things? Carbohydrates? Some might indiscriminately cut all food. Some for fatty meat and others less rice. In any cases, we fail to realize how our bodies deal with those foods. 

The short answer to all these questions is insulin. Insulin activates fat - making cell to store fats in muscle and stops the body from using fat as fuel. What causes the secretion of insulin? Carbohydrates. Rices and noodle raise the glucose level that alerts the body to secrete more insulin to deal with them. 

Taubes proposes us to eat meat, all meats, including even all the fats with it, and zero carbohydrates. 

All very well, and  Taubes seems to have offered us a ultimate solution. But I do have some skepticism in his reasoning.

He said that our bodies have adapted to eating meats, rather than carbohydrates, because the pre - historic human can only hunt whatever they eat, i.e. meats and fats. But human at the time die at their 40s. Further I suspect those people simply had no choices and so they all die early. 

Indeed, in What to eat now in Time Magazine (September 12 issue), Dr.Oz has a point in saying 'I would rather follow a diet that sees me lucid and active enough to play with my grandchildren than one under which I die young but look great'. 

Taubes kept referring evidence and physicians in the 1940s/1950s and criticized the whole medical health community in the 1960s and 1970s has stuck with the old paradigm and bad science. While I don't out rule this possibility, I find it hard that the best minds in the medical community (of the 20th century) can't spot the fat - causing insulin (especially when Taubes sounds as it is a simple truth). 

Anyway, the bottom line is that we can all reduce the amount of carbohydrates in diet, but definitely not meat (if not to increase it). 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

ic! berlin

When plastic glasses swamped the market, ic! berlin has dawned upon as David against Goliath in the industry.  

A pair of good eyeglasses is critical. One times I played basketball in my PE lesson, the ball rebound from the rim of the hoop and crushed my eyeglasses into pieces. So, don't trust the brittle plastic glasses, for your own safety. 

Second plastic eyeglasses are quite artless. The worst ones are from Evisu, a Japanese company that originally produce jeans. It encroached the market with the vulgar combination of colors in plastic material and put them together into frame with screws and bolts. Ray -Ban glasses, in contrast, produce simplistic design that feature neither elegance nor minimalism. Glasses from Alain Mikli are better but the so - called design shouldn't entail and shouldn't worth the prices they charged. 

In the midst of these cheap artless plastic glasses, ic! berlin strike a light with her elegant stainless metal frame, along with her patented technology to make screwless joint. This means you can dissect the glasses  into pieces and put them together, fitly and within seconds. 

Here's the proof and what I've done with my own pairs: 

Further the frame is cut out from a metal sheet. This is not just something fancy. The flat steel frame maximizes the flexibility and so it won't break into pieces when hit by basketball (unfortunately what happened to me). Even if it disjointed, the screwless hinge and joint mean you can always put them back. The cutout from a metal sheet is evidenced by the wide - temple (the flat metal that connects the two lenses). You'll notice the ugly protruding temple in all plastic glasses. 

The metallic quality of the frame also raises an air of modernity plus elegance. The minimal design with the inherent flexibility gives out the urban modernity that other plastic glasses can never hope to rival. The recent new series it's physic!s is especially cool when ic! berlin has sought out the ways to amalgamate difference metallic materials. The uncertainty principle at the top is the one that I want to add to my collection. 

Surely ic! berlin is not the only choice to escape from tyranny of plastic glasses. Mykita, Lindenberg and Undostrial (which is a recent interesting brand with the mission to undo industrialization) all provide the alternatives. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Christian Ignorance or Ignorant Christian?

Free after lectures, I walked up from the stairs to the platform near the Run Run Shaw Building and was preparing to go through the Chong Yuet Ming Building, down to the Bonham Road to take a bus back home. Planning to have a nice little tea in 澳洲牛奶公司 at Jordan and to either have a frozen yogurt next to it or to try out the new dessert shop around there to enjoy the rest of the late afternoon, a man came up to me and asked 'Hi! Did ever think of what you want to achieve in your life?' 

Taken aback, I said 'Well, I never thought of that.' He briskly produced a leaflet from his pocket, confidently and proudly said 'God has already prepared what you want in his plan. What you need to do is to believe him.', then he quickly flipped through the leaflet and talked. Wearing his rimless glasses and with an amicable smile, he seems to conclude by saying 'No matter what your wishes are, be it academic achievement, a promising career or a beautiful partner, God has his plan for you. You only need to trust and to believe him.' 

Finally having a chance of saying something in response, I said 'But, I am sorry. I don't believe in God'. 'What do you think about God?', he asked.

'From what I read in Bible, God is rather cruel when he wants Abraham to sacrifice his own son to show his loyalty to him. Beside in the books of Joshua and Judges, God killed whoever that stands on his way.', I answered.  

'That's the Old Testament only. Have you read the New Testament?'

'The New Testament is almost a joke. Look at Chapter 1 of Matthew and Chapter 3 of Luke, they can't even agree on the basic genealogy of Jesus.' I have forgotten the frozen yogurt and the afternoon tea already. 

'It's only a matter of perspective and so it doesn't...' 

'No, story can be a matter of perspective but not facts. The genealogy of Jesus is simply a matter of fact. Have you read that before?', I snapped in. 

I felt I should stop when I saw that he lost his amicable smile and his glasses slipping down a bit from his nose ridge. 

In fact, I have encountered similar people before in the campus and elsewhere but I always find it irritating when few of them actually has read the Bible or rather,  has read it with a critical mind. They don't know beside the Gospels from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, there are also Gospel of Thomas, Mary Madgalene and even Judas. They don't know why those gnostic gospels are discarded (well, I will tell them because the early Christian leaders were already intolerant enough to burn all those books and persecute the gnostics as heretics). They don't know the Bible is more or less a melange of books that satisfy the rulers. They don't know much about Bible and the history of it. 

I always tried to discover people based on what to believe in God or in Christianity (which is not the same, as will be seen). When I tried to present my argument (if not in an overly aggressive manner, I hope), the final, if not the ultimate, answer I heard is: 'I have a personal relationship with God that I can always feel, and that I can find him as someone I can rely on'. I tend to shut up after hearing this because that seems to be saying 'Look, this is my personal feeling, and you are not going to question about that, won't you? I just believe, and you don't need to ask me with that logic that can't understand any emotion'. I don't want to say what I am going to say in their faces, as if I am Satan attacking his faith and hurting his feeling. 

OK, so you have the feeling to be in a personal relationship with God (for the moment, I don't dispute their psychological minds, although I do have a great deal to talk about, such as the possibility of some believer suffering hallucination/illusion/imaginary auditory voices. Anyway, I recommend them to read The Future of an Illusion by Freud to know more about their psychology though), how do you know even this God is the God from Christianity? Why can't He be Allah, Jehovah, Zeus, Thor or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Given numerous inconsistencies of Bible and its  bloody history, it seems that your kind and all - reliable God can't be the cruel and ruthless one that killed all the first - born son in Egypt and also the one that drove Christians in history to burn women alive. 

OK, so you are in a personal relationship with God, but it doesn't stop you from questioning what he has done and what he argued for his own existence. It reminded me of a game that I've played with my dad when I was small:

'I am the God', he said. 

'How do you prove that?', I asked, in a high - pitched childish tone. 

'Don't you just think of God just now? See, I've created that concept in your mind' 

'But fossils have existed way before you are here'

'Oh no worry, I've just created them' 

Of course, I ended being frustrated of trying to disprove him but the story does illustrate several points. Even though he is my dad and is in a dear personal relationship with me, first what he said isn't true. Secondly his relationship with me doesn't mean he can't talk about nonsense. Thirdly it also doesn't stop me from questioning him. 

I am afraid I must stop here, in case of offending someone back in the campus. I do want to apologize to the man with the rimless glasses that I should have talked in a more measured tone. But I just want you or any other future comers to really read about Bible and so we can have a more thoughtful discussion. 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Themis is Blind - Some thoughts after summer in Chambers

J, an Indian, was born in Hong Kong, just like his father, aunts and uncles and other relatives. He abandoned school at Form 4 to help his father's carpet business in which J has ended some years ago. Unemployed with his wife and two children, a boy and girl aged 9 and 6 respectively, another Indian, M, invited him to do a part - time job in a shop at Tsim Sha Tsui. He worked for about one and half month, receiving a modest wage at around 4000$/month. One night, he was arrested; charged with possession for the sale or for any purpose of trade or manufacture goods to which a forged trade mark was applied, contrary to section 9(2) as read with section 18(1) of the Trade Description Ordinance Chapter 362. It was found his shop sells faked iPhone and Nokia products.

A, a Filipino, helped her sister - in - law S, also a Filipino, to imitate the signature of his brother, S's husband, to extend her stay in Hong Kong. A's brother refused to sign for S because of their deteriorated relationship and so she could only plead A to copy her husband's signature. A was charged with forgery, contrary to s. 71 of the Crime Ordinance , Cap 200. According to the brief facts, an anonymous email was sent to the Immigration Office Department and exposed this.

E, a Filipino, was a driver in Saudi Arabia for the past ten years. Last two years, he returned home in Philippine to take care of his family. His daughter attracted a disease that will cause blindness if medical operation can not be carried out swiftly. In the urgent need for funds, he accepted an offer of a man to carry over 1.5kg ketamine to Hong Kong. He was arrested at the Hong Kong International Airport; charged with trafficking in a dangerous drug, contrary to s. 4(1)(a) and (3) of the Dangerous Drug Ordinance, Cap 134 (a minimum staring point of 10 years imprisonment after plea of guilty, according to case laws).

Law serves Justice but in the eyes of J, A and E, Justice means suppression. For J, Justice means getting into prison and to leave his wife and two children. For A, Justice means her sister - in - law should be left abused by her husband. For E, Justice means to believe fate and that her daughter becomes blind. For million others, Justice means that they should either submit to the social injustices or they will be subjugated under the sword of Themis. Themis is, of course, blind. She is blind to how people struggled to live. She is blind to how responsibly people suffer for the sake of government's inadequacies. She is blind, after all, to social injustices.