Friday, February 28, 2014

They Can't Kill Us All: An Attack on an Editor in Hong Kong

In an earlier post about people voicing their desire for democracy at a Hong Kong Lunar New Year fair I wrote "But many Hongkongers are not content with the additional freedoms they enjoy, some of which are deteriorating or are threatened." The last part of the sentence linked to an article about journalists marching "through Hong Kong to oppose to what they say is the 'rapid deterioration' of freedom of speech."

Around the same time I was writing the post, there was darker news:
The former chief editor of a Hong Kong newspaper whose dismissal in January stirred protests about press freedom in the Chinese territory was slashed Wednesday morning, the police said.

Kevin Lau Chun-to, the former chief editor of Ming Pao, was slashed three times by an attacker who fled with an accomplice on a motorbike, said Simon Kwan King-pan, the chief inspector of the Hong Kong police. The attack happened shortly after 10 a.m. as Mr. Lau was walking from his car in the Sai Wan Ho neighborhood. Mr. Lau was listed in critical condition at a local hospital with a wound in his back and two in his legs, and doctors said he faced a long recovery.
Although the attackers remain unidentified, many in Hong Kong believe the target of the attack was not a coincidence. Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported:
Two police sources said the nature of the attack on Lau left little doubt that it was designed as a warning.

One said: "If they had wanted to kill him, they would have." The other added: "It was a classic triad hit. They went for the back and legs to warn him."
Despite concerns the attackers will not be brought to justice, "Hong Kong journalists have vowed not to be intimidated". Journalism educator Yuen Chan documented some of the response from students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Chinese University of Hong Kong students holding sign reading "They cant kill us all"

The attack has received attention in Hong Kong, abroad, and to a degree in parts of mainland China, but it's a different story in Hong Kong's neighbor, Guangdong province:
News of the violent attack on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to was conspicuously absent from Guangdong media yesterday because of a gagging order from the party censor, according to several editors.
Lau's condition has stabilized, and hopefully he makes a full recovery. But whether or not police identify the attackers and determine their motive, the vicious assault on Kevin Lau Chun-to has brought yet more uncertainty to Hong Kong.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hong Kong Gets Crafty

After reaching the bottom of Hong Kong's convenient Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system one day, I saw a man holding a sign.

man wearing HK Brewcraft shirt holding sign reading "Home Brew Supplies"

I froze. Although Shanghai and Beijing have seen their craft beer scenes notably improve in recent years with places such as the Boxing Cat Brewery, Hong Kong had seemingly been left behind. This man gave me hope things had changed.

The man confirmed that HK Brewcraft sold craft beer in additional to brewing supplies and said the store was nearby. Having walked around the area on a number of occasions, I was surprised I could have missed it before. It turns out it is not so easy to notice--one of the reasons he was standing there with a sign. So he kindly escorted me to the street underneath the lowest level of the escalators.

lowest level of the Central--Mid-Levels escalators

And we entered a building.

entrance to the building housing HK Brewcraft

After walking up one floor of stairs to an elevator (the elevator does not reach the ground floor) and taking it to the fourth floor, I met his son and store founder Christopher Wong.

owner of HK Brewcraft

His Washington Huskies shirt gave me hope our tastes would share some common ground. I took a look at their area for classes.

class area at HK Brewcraft

I also perused their selection of craft beers from around the world.

beers for sale at HK Brewcraft

After enjoying a couple of tasty, hoppy beers I had never tried before, they recommended I visit a not-so-far-away bar to try a locally brewed beer. So I headed back up the escalators and found The Roundhouse - Taproom. Once there, I basked in the sight of their 25 craft beers on tap.

taps at The Roundhouse - Taproom

But I had come there for something specific, a beer from a new brewer in Hong Kong--Young Master Ales.

taps for Young Master beer at The Roundhouse -Taproom

I chose their Island 1842 Imperial IPA and was not disappointed. Good hoppy stuff.

HK Brewcraft, The Roundhouse - Taproom, and Young Master Ales are all relatively new to the Hong Kong scene, and together with some others they mark a significant change that will make my stays in Hong Kong all the more pleasurable. I could opine further, but for more see a recent article on Time Out Hong Kong about "The Rise of Hong Kong's Brewing Scene". Apparently I'm not the only one enjoying the change.

I'm glad I saw Mr. Wong holding that sign.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Voices for Change and Democracy at a Hong Kong Fair

Booths selling flowers, food, stuffed toys, creatively designed bags, spices, and other items filled Hong Kong's Lunar New Year Fairs last month. The fairs I visited shared some similarities with one I visited 3 years ago in nearby Guangzhou. But one category of booths at Hong Kong's Victoria Park left no doubt that I could not be in mainland China.

At many of these booths, people used microphones to loudly express themselves and attract attention.

woman speaking into microphone

young woman speaking into two microphones

And volunteers handed out informational literature.

older man handing out flyers

The booths' messages varied in some respects and the people running them ranged from student groups to political parties, but they held in common a belief that a select few unfairly controlled too much power and money in Hong Kong and that democracy could greatly benefit the Hong Kong people. With details for planned elections in 2017 soon to be announced, several weeks earlier people marched in support of full democracy for selecting Hong Kong's leader.

The booths sold items expressing messages in different manners and with varying degrees of explicitness. One notable item was toilet paper with current Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's face printed on it.

Woman displaying toilet paper with Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's face

The alpaca-like grass-mud horse--a symbol of protest against censorship in mainland China--was a popular offering, even at booths which overall did not appear political in nature.

stuffed toy alpacas (grass-mud horse)

Shirts with a variety of designs were also available.

college students hold shirts with a variety of messages including "From the Masses" and "Drive HIm Away Reclaim Our Gov"

shirt with words "People Power" and image of a raised fist

people in front of hanging shirts

shirts with "Democracy" and "We Cant Lose Hope For Democracy"

For example, a large "Z" in one design represented the idea that people needed to "wake up" if they wanted democracy to take hold in Hong Kong.

three college students holding bags with a large letter "Z"

One university student explained that the less explicit designs took into consideration the discomfort some in Hong Kong feel expressing themselves directly on such issues. On a related note, as I stood talking to one group of students, I observed a number of older passersby discreetly slipping money into donation boxes without saying a word, stopping, or making direct eye contact. The students made no effort to interact with these people, and there was no sign any acknowledgement was expected.

clear donation box with money inside and labels reading "We Are All Equal"

All of the organizations lead broader efforts, and they don't expect it will be easy. A few people told me they expect a substantial struggle will be required.

shirt with faces of famous global activists and the words "Civil Disobedience"

Much of what was occurring at these booths would not have been allowed at the Lunar New Year fair I saw in Guangzhou due to greater restrictions on expression, especially when organized, in mainland China. For me, the contrast was unmistakable. But many Hongkongers are not content with the additional freedoms they enjoy, some of which are deteriorating or are threatened. The 2017 election presents a dilemma for China's Communist Party: "shackling the territory’s democracy could pose as much risk to Beijing as agreeing to a truly free vote". It's not just about Hong Kong. People elsewhere are watching as well.

The people I met at Victoria Park face imposing obstacles. It's not clear whether they'll be able to rally the type of support and action that may be required to achieve their goals, if possible at all. It would be easy to bet against them.

But even though they may be unsure of what the future holds, they aren't saying, "I don't know a way to make it happen." They have hope, and they are trying.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Longer Than Planned Note About Embedded Tweets

A timeout for blog-related technical issues:

For some readers, embedded tweets from Twitter may not appear as intended and lose some of their effect. "Selfless Selfies" is an example of a post with an embedded tweet. If you didn't see a photo in that post, then you didn't see a fully rendered embedded tweet which should look like this:

A non-functional image of a fully rendered embedded tweet

Instead, you probably saw a stripped-down tweet with links to relevant material, such as images and the original tweet on Twitter, like this:
What do you call a selfie taken by someone dedicated to overcoming selfhood?
— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) February 24, 2014
Seeing the stripped-down version is often due to viewing the post through an RSS reader*, viewing the post on a mobile device, having JavaScript disabled, or being blocked to Twitter's content by China's Great Firewall**.

The experience isn't entirely broken when the embedded tweets aren't fully rendered, and it's not very different from simply quoting a tweet. So I use them even though I realize many readers won't see them in their full glory. Writing this, though, makes me wonder if in the future I should "pull out" images from tweets so more people can easily see them, which I think is how I did it long ago. Embedded tweets are great when they fully render but ... reality and all that.

While I'm taking this timeout, I'll mention a somewhat related topic: I've noticed that in some RSS readers the formatting of my blog posts does not appear as intended, especially in regards to captions for images, and odd spacings appear. I'm not sure whether it's an issue with the RSS readers, Blogger, me, or something else. Like with embedded tweets, one possible "fix" is to view the posts at the blog website. If you know of a fix from my side, though, please let me know.

Anyway, if you didn't know before, hopefully now you understand a bit more. If the above has entirely confused you and you weren't aware of any problems, fear not, this post is nearly finished. But seriously, feel free to contact me if you have questions. It's possible I have answers***.

Enjoy ...

* Some RSS readers, such as NewsBlur, offer a view where embedded tweets can appear as intended.

** My blog as a whole is partially blocked in China due to being hosted on Blogger.

*** Or more questions.

Selfless Selfies

"Is the self identical with the body?" ~ a question Buddha refused to answer

A Drone Spotted in Hong Kong

man operating a small quadcopter drone as adults and kids watch
In Nam Sang Wai, Yuen Long

I think the remote controlled vehicle in the air is a DJI quadcopter with a camera. Perhaps there's not much to spy on in Nam Sang Wai, but the open wetland area is probably safer for flying a quadcopter than dense urban areas of Hong Kong such as Mong Kok.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Canal Road Flyover Public Restroom in Hong Kong

My experience at a public restroom under the Canal Road Flyover on Hong Kong Island highlighted some of the differences between the typical public restrooms I've encountered in Hong Kong and those I've encountered in mainland China. It also says something about how my perceptions can change. I'm reasonably sure that when I first came to China my focus would have been on other attributes of the restroom. So, for the first time ever here, a public restroom review:

public restroom under the Canal Road Flyover in Hong Kong
Exhibit A: The outside of the public restroom

I didn't think much of the public restroom's appearance from the outside, though its location under an elevated road gave it a special ambience.

The surprises came inside.

two rolls of toilet paper next to a squat toilet
Exhibit B: Inside a bathroom stall

My friends who have never left a country such as the US may have thought "Whoah, a squat toilet!"

I thought "Whoah, TWO rolls of toilet paper!"

In mainland China, most public restrooms I've seen* do not contain toilet paper. Exceptions are most common in upscale malls (and I'm being generous including these in the category "public restroom"). Typically, though, you need to bring your own toilet paper (small packs of tissues are standard) or buy some from somewhere nearby (sometimes at the public restroom itself).

In Hong Kong, toilet paper in public restrooms is a more common sight, but I noticed it is not a given in public restrooms at parks or sports grounds.

But two rolls of toilet paper in a squat toilet stall in a public rest room? This was a first for me in China.

After departing the stall, I had my second surprise.

soap dispenser filled with pink soap and a sink
Exhibit C: A sink

My friends who have never left a country such as the US may have thought "Whoah, the sink looks really grimy!"

I thought "Whoah, hand soap!"

In a country so concerned about contagious diseases such as the bird flu, it still amazes me that public bathrooms in mainland China typically do not have soap. Sometimes, public restrooms there will have an empty soap dispenser that shows signs of having been previously filled, perhaps when it was first installed. It's hard to know how long any soap may have lasted, since even when there is soap, I see very few people ever use it.

Summary: This public restroom is not going to win any glamour awards, but at the time I wasn't looking for anything glorious--just the basics. For a public restroom under a bridge in China, I give it a hearty salute for its toilet paper and soap. The automated water faucet is also nice, though those are rather common in China. The bathroom was one of the grimier I've experienced in Hong Kong, but that's exactly what made the toilet paper and hand soap all the more remarkable to me. And when it comes to a public restroom, I'll choose hand soap over a sparkling sink any day.

I'm sure readers familiar with China's public restrooms appreciate there is much more to say about them and there are nuances to some of my claims. Feel free to share your thoughts. There will be more on this topic later.

*Yes, for obvious reasons, the distribution of samples in my "research" leans heavily towards men's bathrooms.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dinosaurs in Hong Kong

If you walk down Chatham Road South in Hong Kong, you may wonder if there has been a dinosaur invasion.

large dinosaur outside the Hong Kong Science Museum
Fortunately, we all know such things are more likely in Japan.

Instead, what you're seeing is part of the Hong Kong Science Museum's current exhibition Legends of the Giant Dinosaurs. With 500,000 visitors in just three months, there can be long lines to see it, especially on weekends. I was able to go on a weekday, though, and happily entered without needing to stand in line.

On another day the line extended far away from here.

Once inside, you can watch a brief introductory video.

movie of ancient landscape with text "160 million years ago in China..."
First they told me I only needed to understand 5,000 years of Chinese history...

Then, before you know it you're gaining first hand experience with dinosaur excrement.

"Pile of Poo" with sign saying "Touch 3 weeks worth of Europlocephalus poo.
There's a lot more than what's in this photo.

Europlocephalus with poo underneath it
In case you didn't make the connection

And in the same spirit, how can one refuse the opportunity to make a Triceratops fart?

Kid pressing a button at the Farting Triceratops display
Although I love immersive learning, I'm glad they didn't try to replicate the smell.

If you're looking for something more intense, perhaps an interactive Tyrannosaurus rex will do the trick. [spoiler alert: a "secret" about this exhibit is revealed below]

Tyrannosaurus rex
Yes, something is looking at you.

A nearby sign explaining image recognition technology asks:
Is this Tyrannosaurus watching you with the 'image recognition' system'? Reveal the secret at the Tyrannosaurus Command Centre.
When I approached the T. rex and looked it in the eye, it let out a loud snort. I'll admit I was slightly startled. It is a T. rex after all. Curious to learn about its apparently effective image recognition system, I headed to the Command Centre where I learned I should have paid more heed to the quotation marks in the sign.

boy at the Tyrannosaurus Command Centre playing with controls and looking at live video of the area around the Tyrannosaurus
The kid who "attacked" me had already fled the scene.

To top it all off, what could be better to teach your kids than how to anger a Velociraptor?

Sign reading "Let's play with Velociraptor" next to a boy poking an animatronic velociraptor with a stick.
The Velociraptor's mane reminded me of something. It took me a few minutes, but I think I figured it out.

In addition to these and other interactive exhibits, there is also an excellent collection of dinosaur fossils, many of which were unearthed in China.

Juvenile Protoceratops
Juvenile Protoceratops

Jintasaurus meniscus with a Suzhousaurus megatherioides, Beishanlong grandis, and Lanzhousaurus magnidens in the background
Jintasaurus meniscus with Suzhousaurus megatherioides, Beishanlong grandis, and Lanzhousaurus magnidens

Xiongguanlong baimoensis with a Jintasaurus meniscus and very large Daxiatitan binglingi in the background
Xiongguanlong baimoensis with Jintasaurus meniscus and a very large Daxiatitan binglingi

The well-designed mix of fossils and interactive exhibits can keep both kids and adults amused. Like the Zigong Dinosaur Museum I visited two years ago, I enthusiastically recommend a visit if you're in the area. Just make sure to catch it before Legends of the Giant Dinosaurs becomes extinct in early April.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Connected Balancing

To continue the "balance" theme in the previous post, here is a scene including some wobbly, connected planks at Fung Tak Park in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong:

people playing on a row of wobbly connected planks at Fung Tak Park in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong

The boy on the right joined uninvited and discovered balancing on these planks is especially challenging for two people at the same time.

Lanterns at the Man Mo Temple

For some balance, which may be needed after the previous post, here's a scene from the Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong:

Lanterns at the Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pig Snouts and Ears in Hong Kong

Can't decide between pig snout and pig ears? Well, there's an answer for that:

2 portions of pigs heads including the snout and ears
Hanging outside at a meat market

I saw the above culinary offerings in a market area on Gage Street in Central, Hong Kong. A large number of trendy Western-style restaurants popular with both Hongkongers and foreigners happen to be nearby--one of many options for food in the area if you're not in the mood to cook anything yourself.

Pig snout is allowed to be used as an ingredient for hot dogs in the U.S., which makes me wonder about KFC's pizza dogs in Hong Kong. Maybe in the KFC spirit their hot dogs are made with chicken though. Pigs can only hope.

Not Hot Dogs in Hong Kong

To be clear, I have no reason to believe any dogs were harmed in relation to the previous post about KFC's pizza dog.

Dogs eating out near Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok, Hong Kong

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Pizza Dog at KFC in Hong Kong

As I walked down Nathan Road in Hong Kong one recent day, I noticed this sign:

KFC Pizza Dog sign in Hong Kong

It was the first time I had seen mention of KFC's pizza dog. Curious about the culinary fusion, I decided to eat at a KFC in Hong Kong for the first time.

people in line at a Hong Kong KFC

Amazingly, I didn't see a single person order a pizza dog while I was in line. That didn't discourage me though. When it was my turn to order I said with great confidence, "One pizza dog!". I could tell the cashier was duly impressed by the conviction in my voice.

She then asked, "What would you like with it?"

With conviction again I replied, "I just want a pizza dog. Nothing else." She then told me I had to order something else with the pizza dog. The cashier pointed to the promotional sign which listed three different options and explained I would need to at least order a drink as well.

This requirement threw me for a loop, but life is life. And I now really wanted to try the pizza dog.

So I looked at the options, which appeared to be mostly Pepsi products. There is (or was) a building at Disney World's Epcot park in Florida where Coca-Cola offered free samples of its drinks from around the world which are not normally available in the U.S. Unfortunately, I didn't see anything equally exciting at the Hong Kong KFC. I went with a Diet Pepsi. I figured I was already taking in enough extra calories for the day.

Very soon after paying, I had a tray with a pizza dog (and a Diet Pepsi).

KFC pizza dog

The pizza dog didn't look as glorious as it had in the sign, but at least it came in a big basket. Based on the texture of the cheese and its temperature, the pizza dog appeared to have been sitting at a lukewarm temperature for a while. I don't think they even bothered tossing it into a brick oven to reheat it. It tasted pretty much like a hot dog pizza without much tomato sauce. I wouldn't call it incomparable, but it was OK. I only ate half, but that's mostly because I wanted to save room for a more proper Hong Kong meal later.

Like McDonald's special Prosperity Burger, I have not seen the KFC pizza dog in mainland China. I don't think I'll go out of my way to eat one again soon, especially since I still need to try the squid ink hot dog.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Genuine Placebo Store in Hong Kong

If you already have strong expectations your next pair of shoes will be great, there may be no better place to buy them than here:

Placebo shoe store in Hong Kong
On Soy Street near  Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok, Hong Kong

One introduction to the store (in Chinese) indicates that the store's name was thoughtfully chosen. You can find them on Facebook here. If you enjoy their page, remember that the feeling is all in your head.

Now if only I can find a fake Placebo store ...

Ephemeral Laughs from Yue Minjun and Roger Angell

the laughing head of one of Yue Minjun's steel sculptures named "The Laugh that can be Laughed is not the Eternal Laugh"

Earlier today I saw the steel sculptures of laughing people created in 2009 by Chinese artist Yue Minjun now outside the Macao Museum of Art. After briefly considering them, I read an informational card and learned they share the title "The Laugh that can be Laughed is not the Eternal Laugh".

After a few moments pondering the possible meaning of the title, I found humor in it and laughed. Then, listening to my laughter, I broke into a louder laugh finding humor in the idea that my laugh could not be an "Eternal Laugh".

I suddenly went silent. Recursion. Absurdity. Eternity. For a seemingly timeless period, my mind floated.

And then I walked away to find something to eat.

Due to an unrelated recommendation, in the evening I read "This Old Man" by American essayist Roger Angell in The New Yorker. The topic of laughter appeared again, this time in Angell's personal reflections on life, death, and growing old:
I get along. Now and then it comes to me that I appear to have more energy and hope than some of my coevals, but I take no credit for this. I don’t belong to a book club or a bridge club; I’m not taking up Mandarin or practicing the viola. In a sporadic effort to keep my brain from moldering, I’ve begun to memorize shorter poems—by Auden, Donne, Ogden Nash, and more—which I recite to myself some nights while walking my dog, Harry’s successor fox terrier, Andy. I’ve also become a blogger, and enjoy the ease and freedom of the form: it’s a bit like making a paper airplane and then watching it take wing below your window. But shouldn’t I have something more scholarly or complex than this put away by now—late paragraphs of accomplishments, good works, some weightier op cits? I’m afraid not. The thoughts of age are short, short thoughts. I don’t read Scripture and cling to no life precepts, except perhaps to Walter Cronkite’s rules for old men, which he did not deliver over the air: Never trust a fart. Never pass up a drink. Never ignore an erection.

I count on jokes, even jokes about death.
Angell follows with a joke he's been told 4th graders will appreciate, and then he shares another joke:
A man and his wife tried and tried to have a baby, but without success. Years went by and they went on trying, but no luck. They liked each other, so the work was always a pleasure, but they grew a bit sad along the way. Finally, she got pregnant, was very careful, and gave birth to a beautiful eight-pound-two-ounce baby boy. The couple were beside themselves with happiness. At the hospital that night, she told her husband to stop by the local newspaper and arrange for a birth announcement, to tell all their friends the good news. First thing next morning, she asked if he’d done the errand.

“Yes, I did,” he said, “but I had no idea those little notices in the paper were so expensive.”

“Expensive?” she said. “How much was it?”

“It was eight hundred and thirty-seven dollars. I have the receipt.”

“Eight hundred and thirty-seven dollars!” she cried. “But that’s impossible. You must have made some mistake. Tell me exactly what happened.”

“There was a young lady behind a counter at the paper, who gave me the form to fill out,” he said. “I put in your name and my name and little Teddy’s name and weight, and when we’d be home again and, you know, ready to see friends. I handed it back to her and she counted up the words and said, ‘How many insertions?’ I said twice a week for fourteen years, and she gave me the bill. O.K.?”
As Angel reacted when he first heard the joke more than fifty years ago, I laughed and was surprised to hear the joke in the particular context it was shared.

What does Angell, at the age of 93, believing jokes to be so important mean? What does the "The Laugh that can be Laughed is not the Eternal Laugh" mean? I'm still not sure, but where these questions lead and how they relate fascinates me.

And that I noticed a connection between Yue Minjun's sculptures in Macau and Roger Angell's essay from New York City ...

... makes part of me laugh.

the laughing head of one of Yue Minjun's steel sculptures named "The Laugh that can be Laughed is not the Eternal Laugh"