A very cute Hong Kong resident

Filed in Digital Hunter, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags: ,
Cute Squirrel!

I was able to get several good close-up photographs before he/she got nervous and ran away to the next tree over. This is one of the better ones. Is he cute or what?

For a 340x510 version, click here.

A couple of weeks ago before coming to L.A. while completing some chores in and around Causeway Bay, I was waiting in my car at a red traffic light when I suddenly saw something in the trees ahead of me. I immediately backed my car into the striped stopping zone behind me, picked up my camera and raced over to the trees.

In the 19 years that I've lived in Hong Kong, I've only seen these cute animals once, for just one glancing second in a tree near a friend's home in Repulse Bay. That was when I first realised that we have squirrels in Hong Kong. We don't have squirrels in Australia; we have wonderful possums but no squirrels; so getting the chance to photograph one in Hong Kong was a big thing for me.

I should have used a higher ASA speed but the photos turned out ok anyway.

L.A. — First (second) impressions

Filed in L.A. (Sept 2006), Travel

Six days. That's how long I've been here in L.A. It feels like forever. I can hardly remember getting off the plane at LAX and catching the buses to my motel. Did I say buses? Yep. Three to be exact, but I managed to get to the motel for only US$5.50 instead of US$50 or more if I'd caught a taxi. I'm a student here, and I therefore need to keep my expenses as low as I can although I still occasionally spend a little more for better food.

L.A. is not an attractive city to me personally. I much prefer Hong Kong, or Brisbane (Australia), or the beautiful Blue Mountains (Australia). My home in Hong Kong is surrounded by bush and country. My home in Australia is also surrounded by bush and I grew up in the country so it's only natural that I prefer country to the city. For me, the city is an impersonal place where many people live superficial lives, where what you wear and what you drive (and how large your -silicon- breasts are while the rest of your body remains as skinny as possible) identifies who you are rather than the real person within you, and where people compete nonstop to better each other in financial and status terms. It's not a good way to live.

L.A. is also a city where many of its inhabitants have come here hoping to be tomorrow's superstar, the next big TV celebrity, America's next millionaire. The sad fact is that most people fail and resign themselves to 'ordinary' lives here with 'ordinary' jobs, assuming that they can even find good work at all. What a lot of people don't realise is that more than 5000 people come into L.A. every week hoping to be the next big thing. That's a lot of people. Unfortunately, to get any decent chance of succeeding in the entertainment business, it is essential that you have an agent. However, most of the agents are very full; i.e., no vacancies; and unless you're incredibly special, or very sexy, or can get wonderful inside references, there's very little chance of getting an agent. It's therefore near-on impossible to get anywhere in the business here. Does that mean that people shouldn't try? If I didn't say No, I'd be a hypocrite. How could I, someone who flew on a one-way ticket from Australia to Hong Kong with the dream of becoming a Cantonese pop singer, tell others not to try when success is so remote? How could I, someone who has not given up after 19 years in Hong Kong tell others not to try? I couldn't. The truth however is that it's very difficult to succeed in this business and if you're not ready for hardship, then you shouldn't try.

There are many things I don't like about L.A., but here are some of the things I do like about it.

The public transport system is actually pretty good. Armed with a portable computer and omnipotent access to the internet (in my case via T-Mobile at the Starbucks cafes), you can practically get to any place in the city. Simply log in to www.mta.net, specify your from and to locations and voila, MTA tells you how to get there, and all for a maximum of US$3 per day if you buy a Day Pass.

For me, the blue skies are very special. The horizons are usually brown with pollution but the middle sky is almost always blue and clear of clouds. After living in Hong Kong where the sky is more often than not white or yellow-brown, blue skies are a real treat.

The trees here are magnificent. They're old, huge, wise and majestic. They're wonderful to admire and respect. (The Mexican gardeners here do incredible work with the flora. Their tree trimming skills are truly admirable.)

Wildlife is far more limited in this city but I've already been enchanted by the squirrels and the humming birds. I already have a few (good) squirrel photos. I hope to get photos of the humming birds but just like the Sunbirds back home in Hong Kong, they're small, very quick and rarely stay in one place for more than one or two seconds. They're also not as common as I'd like so it may prove very difficult to get good photographs of them. But the way they fly and hover is hypnotising; absolutely amazing.

I'd like to post one or two of my squirrel photos but my 'clamshell' iBook (mine is Lime running OS X 10.4.7 on a 466MHz G3 processor with 320MB of RAM) is far too slow to process my photographs so you'll all have to wait until I get back to Hong Kong to see them. I'd like to get a new MacBook Pro but I'm waiting until Apple upgrades them to use the new Intel Core 2 Duo chips that they're now using in their iMacs. It'd be a shame to buy a MacBook Pro now only to see Apple release new MacBook Pros in two or three weeks for the same price but 15 to 20% faster.

I'd like to upgrade my Canon EOS 350D camera too. The new 400D is a very nice camera but it unfortunately doesn't offer everything I need. I'm particularly in need of a brighter and larger viewfinder. Much of my bird and animal photography requires manual focussing and the small dark viewfinders of the 350D/400D make it very difficult to focus accurately. Happily, the introduction of the 400D means that Canon will upgrade the 5D soon and when that happens, I'll upgrade. With any luck, the 5D will be upgraded around the beginning of 2007.

More later.

On vacation?

Filed in L.A. (Sept 2006), Music, Travel, TVB (H.K.) 香港無線電視, WorkTags: , , , ,

It's been a while since I've posted any articles here, but you can be sure that I'm still here, and you can be absolutely sure that I've read every one of your comments, even if I haven't responded. And I appreciate the comments. Even if it's not obvious, your comments are important to me and provide an important source of support.

In the time I've 'been away', I've filmed a new series at TVB. The name of the series is 寫意人生 and I'll talk more about that in a later article. It was a pretty busy part, including two sessions of five nights of continuous studio filming involving nine to eleven hours of filming each night.

Strange and interesting things have happened in the least few months. Perhaps the most important event is my decision to go back to Hollywood for more training, this time for singing ;-)

From September 21 until October 15, I'll be in Hollywood, taking daily singing lessons with a teacher who I have come to know by chance. I'm nervous, apprehensive and excited all at the same time. Daily lessons will be tough. It's also difficult to know how much I'll learn during my stay there, but it's possible that I'll make a break-through in my singing technique (two break-throughs would be better) and that would make me the happiest guy alive, if only for just a short while until I begin fighting for the next break-through.

In my lifetime, I've known a few singing teachers. I had two teachers in Australia when I was small but those teachers did nothing for me. I had another teacher here in Hong Kong and she did nothing for me either. I even had a few lessons with the incredible Roman 羅文 but learned very little even though I enjoyed my time with him.

Not every teacher is right for every student and finding the right teacher for you is normally hit-and-miss. I was lucky. After having had so many not-so-helpful teachers, I finally met one who helped me a lot. 鮑老師 took me on as a student after I was introduced to her by another of her students/fans. She took me on even though she was retired. After teaching for more than 20 years, she just wanted to relax and enjoy herself, but she took me on anyway, and I learnt more from her than from any other teacher I'd had. I only had the occasional lesson with her but every lesson was full of information and techniques which required time to absorb, understand and practise and over the three years or so that I studied with her, my singing improved immensely. I'll never be able to thank her enough.

But you can't learn everything from one teacher and a few months ago, I decided it was time to take the next step and find my next teacher.

It was difficult. Finding the right teacher is a case of chance. Only one of my friends has ever had singing lessons and she wasn't enthusiastic about the teachers she knew. Historically, I feel that there are many 'self-qualified' teachers in Hong Kong who either developed their techniques themselves or became singing teachers because they themselves were successful singers. Neither qualifies these people as real teachers and I felt that it would be difficult to find what I needed here in Hong Kong.

I should emphasise though that this situation of 'self-qualified' teachers exists all over the world, ironically possibly more in Hollywood than anywhere else.

In any case, I was considering finding a new singing teacher; possibly in the U.S.A.; when out of the blue, I received a phone call. A director in Hong Kong wants to stage an English musical here next year, and he wants me to star in it!!! As far as I was concerned, that was the sign that my decision to go to the U.S.A. to study singing was the right one. If I was going to do well in the musical, my singing would need a lot of work.

I have more than a few problems with my singing. My biggest problems are that I know very few songs, that I get extremely nervous in front of an audience, and that my voice gets raspy after the second or third song.

I have been working on the first two problems by going to a local karaoke three times a week. The more I sing and rehearse the songs, the easier I'll remember them, the better I'll sing them and the more confident and comfortable I'll be in front of a crowd.

My karaoke sessions are very unusual. People often ask 'how can you sing by yourself for 2 hours?'. It's easy actually. I love singing and when I find a song that entrances me, I will sing that song four, five even eight times before moving on to the next song. I do not get bored repeating the same song over and over again although I'm sure anyone else in the room would. Some of the songs on the top of my list are 你把我灌醉, 該不該, , , 愛如潮水 and 愛如刀割. One day, I'll have enough for a concert ;-)

The karaoke sessions have also helped with the raspy problem. Singing for two hours three times a week helps to strengthen the voice but I'm also looking forward to my lessons in Hollywood where my technique will be further improved and I'll be able to sing better for longer.

Anyway, you can look forward to more updates on my blog. While in Hollywood, I will probably have lots of free time, time that I'll use to learn more about the basics of music and music theory, work on a pet proposal of mine, and write more for my blog ;-)

In the meantime, I've encoded and uploaded my guest performance in the Teresa Tang 50-year Memorial concert, held at the Cultural Centre in Hong Kong in 2003. I hope you like it, and hopefully I'll have more clips for you in the future.