A surprise encounter

Filed in Entertainment Ind., General, MiscellaneousTags: ,

It was just after the new year, early in January.

I was taking five of our kids for a walk up our favourite hill. We turned around the corner at the round-about near our home and began walking toward the bus stop where the trail up the hill begins. Half way to the bus stop, one of the kids needed to relieve himself. I bent down, wrapped his bi-product in newspaper and stood back up ready to continue down the road.

I was suddenly aware of someone standing on the sidewalk just before the bus stop. He stood motionless, dressed in dark sport clothes, both hands in pants pockets, a pastel blue flat soft hat on his head, standing with one leg vertical and the other slightly leaning outward. He was motionless, and he was watching me, intensely.

I sometimes have a vivid imagination and it began to work at this moment. I had no idea who the man was. He was too far away to recognise. He stood directly in the middle of the sidewalk and his demeanour looked menacing. I wondered if perhaps he was displeased that my kids and I were taking up the whole of the sidewalk. I didn't want trouble so I decided that if necessary, I would direct the kids to the road and walk around him when we reached him.

We kept walking. He remained motionless. We kept walking. He remained motionless.

We were almost there. I was getting ready to direct the kids to the road, making sure that there were no cars approaching, when the man suddenly outstretched his hand toward me, offering to take my hand in his, a handshake. I looked closer. He was smiling at me. I looked closer. I wasn't sure. It was near impossible to believe that I was seeing who I thought I was seeing. I looked closer. It was him. It was him!

We shook hands. He wasn't even the slightest bit nervous of the kids. We talked for ten to fifteen minutes. He asked me a few questions and asked for my phone number. Suddenly, he opened the boot of his car and took out a camera. We crossed the road and he very quickly took two photographs of the kids and me (you can view one of them here). We talked a little more. A few people across the road recognised him and called to him. He replied with the politeness and respect that he is famous for. We talked a little more and he left.

The kids and I continued our journey up the hill. I was in a dream state. I felt like I was floating. It was so hard to believe that I had actually met and talked to this man. It was so surreal!

Yesterday morning, the first day of the new Chinese lunar year, my wife and I were at the theatre watching "Night At The Museum". When I watch movies, I always set my phone to Silent. Even if it rings, I will not be aware of it. I'll then check the phone for missed calls and messages after the movie has finished. This time was no different. After the movie, I checked my phone and noted that there was one missed Unknown call and one message. I rang the message centre and listened to the message. It was him!

He had called to wish me a happy Chinese new year, and to arrange a meeting to give me a copy of the photograph he had taken. He'll call again, probably after the Chinese New Year holiday. It's going to be an anxious week for me. I usually turn my phone off during "They’re Playing Our Song (2007)" rehearsals but I'm going to have to leave it on for a few days in case he calls. I don't know nor need to know his number so I'll just have to wait for him to call me.

We all have our idols, people we admire and look up to. Some people admire Stephen Hawking. Some people admire Li Ka Shing. Others admire movie stars and celebrities. I have no idols, but rather a few select people for whom I hold high regard and esteem. I don't respect people without integrity. I don't respect people who don't respect others. I don't respect people simply because they have money. I respect people who have talent. I respect people who worked hard to get to where they are today. I respect people who have earned my respect. He is one of those people.

He is 周潤發 Chow Yun Fat   ;-)

They’re Playing Our Song: Tickets now on sale!

Filed in Events, They’re Playing Our Song (2007), Work

Tickets go on sale today!

You can buy tickets at any Urbtix outlet. (direct link to show listing)

Remember. The McAulay Studio is a small theatre. It only seats 90 people and we're only doing 10 shows, so if you want to see the show, don't wait too long to buy your tickets.

Note. The play is in English with Chinese subtitles.

Show times:
March 16-23 nightly at 8.00pm
March 17,18 extra matinée shows at 3.00pm

A Prisoner in My Own Home

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, Events, They’re Playing Our Song (2007), WorkTags:

The benefits of this play are many.

After completing part two of an interview with 大公報 at lunch time, and filming 奸人堅 today at TVB in the afternoon, and having 'dinner' at Starbucks this evening, I returned home with a goal in mind, one which I wasn't really sure I would actually complete. I often have goals in mind, and more often than not, they evaporate. This one actually happened: weight-lifting!

It has been years since I weight-lifted, but my dance routines in the play will look better if my tummy is flatter and stronger, and certain steps involving lifting Sompor 蘇芯寶 will be better performed if my muscles are tuned. I don't need nor desire big muscles. I simply need muscles adapted to and ready for rapid and strong movement.

If you've ever seen movies or television series involving prisons, then you've probably seen scenes involving the prisoners working out with weights in a gym. I felt a little like them tonight. While I was only lifting the lightest weights I have as opposed to the big heavy superhuman weights the prisoners are usually lifting, I was in fact in a virtual prison.

Here at home, we have three sets of foldable fences used to keep one or more of our kids separated from the others during meal times. Without the separation, the kids tend to noisily guard their food or try to steal food from others. The other guy's dog food always tastes better, or as they say in Chinese, 隔離飯香, so the fences are invaluable during breakfast and dinner time, and serve to keep the troops at peace.

Our kids love me, big time, and they'll lie, sit or stand by me and paw me or snuggle up against me or rub their heads against me or perform some other affectionate motion any chance they get. Some of my favourite memories involve lying on the tiled floor just outside our flat in the warm afternoon sun with seven or more of the kids lying down next to and around me. It's a wonderful feeling. When I'm weight-lifting though, I can't afford to let the kids near me. They'll either obstruct the weights and disrupt my motions, or they'll get hurt by the weights, so… I erected a fence around the weight-training equipment and worked out 'in prison'. A couple of the kids still attempted to get in or reach over the fence to me but they eventually gave up and resignedly lied down outside the fence, waiting for me to finish and release myself from the prison gym.

High-repetition, light weights. Two to three sets of 30 to 40 repetitions per set. That's a lot of repetitions but it will tune my muscles relatively quickly and help me to burn off more of the fat that I hope to lose in time for the public performance. I'll be sore tomorrow but that's an insignificant price to pay for the eventual improvement.

Those of you coming to see the play will probably get to see me in the fittest condition I've been in for years. From physiological depression in 2001 to this: what a comeback!!!   ;-)

It’s Not a Narcotic

Filed in General, LifeTags:

It has the affects of a narcotic but it's not a drug.

When I have it, I'm happy.

When I am about to be separated from it, I feel upset and frustrated.

When I am without it, I am mildly depressed, unhappy, lethargic, restless. I want it back. I think about it. I dream about it. Its influence and its absence can lead me to do things and make decisions that I would not otherwise do or make.

And yet, it is not mine to control or own, and it cannot within sane reason be a part of my life for it would disrupt what I already have. It might evolve to bring pleasure but it would more likely bring disorder, perhaps even disaster.

Logically, I should minimise my exposure to it, but its affects are so strong and desirable that this may be impossible for me to do.

One future day in my acting career, I will hopefully be able to recall and use the collection of feelings that this thing produces in me. For the time being though, I must wrestle with it, analyse it, accept it, refuse it, ignore it, and eventually move on.

It is not love. It is not sex. It is not a narcotic, nor is it a drug, at least not the kind that we normally associate with the word. And while in many ways it may be similar to caffeine, it's effect is far more virulent.

Fortunately, it will not be here forever, and once it is gone, I will be freed from its spell although even that event itself will bring me some sorrow.

Life. What an adventure!

Working hard to impress the girls

Filed in Digital Hunter, Entertainment Ind., Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the Day, WorkTags: ,

It will be a busy week with "They're Playing Our Song" rehearsals every day, TVB dubbing tonight, TVB filming on Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and a special appearance at the Mongrel Adogtion function at the City University on Friday.

But the weekend was a break and a welcome one.

Sunday morning, noting the wonderful weather and hearing the sounds of the local white wagtails (just one pair) which I have not yet been able to photograph, I grabbed my camera and went outside. As I left our gate, I noticed the flicker of a bird on a nearby flowering bush. As I walked over, the bird saw me and left but the sunlight was perfect and the bird or other birds were sure to return if I sat still. So for the next hour and a half, I knelt as steadily as I could in front of the flowering bush. Nothing came!

Then in the afternoon as I was returning from grocery shopping with my wife, we passed the same bush and I immediately noticed a sunbird in the bush. I was a little concerned at first because there appeared to be a yellow lump on its back. It was either injured or it had some flowery object stuck to it. I had my camera and asked my wife who doesn't like waiting without a definite deadline to continue home on her own; just a few steps away.

I've been trying to get decent photographs of the local sunbirds (again, just one pair) for more than a year. They're extremely difficult to photograph because they're very small; around two inches long; and they never stay in one place for longer than one or two seconds; extremely hard to photograph.

This time in spite of the now far-from-ideal sunlight, I was lucky and managed to come home with a few very nice photographs; not perfect but good enough until next time. As I was photographing the sunbird in the bush, I soon realised that he was courting a nearby female and that the yellow object on his back was a special feather reserved specifically to show off to any attractive girls that he became interested in. The feather is normally hidden beneath his other back feathers which is why I've never seen it before.

So without further ado, here are a selection of the photographs I came home with. Note: all of the images have been cropped. Time issues and location didn't allow me to get the positioning I would have preferred in each photograph.

Male Sunbird on Fence

Fork-tailed Sunbird (male) 叉尾太陽鳥

(Aethopyga christinae)

Date: 4 February 2006, Location: Clear Water Bay

The male sunbird is a very colourful bird. Personally, I believe Hong Kong's sunbird is related to America's humming bird. They're very similar in size and shape.

If you look closely at the middle of his back, you will see the bright yellow of his courting feather.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

For yet another photo of this sunbird, click here.

Female Sunbird

The girl that he was courting. For just three seconds, she flew over to a flower less than 4 feet away. I was able to get two photographs of her in that time. One was blurred. One was near perfect making me one very happy photographer.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Male Sunbird Courting

The male sunbird in his courting pose, showing as many colours as possible including the special yellow feather in his back, the red in his chest and two deep blue stripes down each side of his chest. It takes a lot to impress the girl.

Sacrifices

Filed in Events, Life, They’re Playing Our Song (2007), WorkTags:

Dreams don't come cheap. They require sacrifices. It's up to you whether your dream justifies the sacrifices.

"They're Playing Our Song" is definitely a big part of my evolving dream. Stage musicals, although a very small part of my early school life where I was invariably a chorus member, were never part of my goal in life. Singing was first, and acting came second, although more accidentally than intentionally; TVB was an accident, a happy lucky one.

Through the years, my preferences for acting and music have changed, and now I find myself yearning for the satisfaction that can come from a well crafted stage musical, such as "They're Playing Our Song". In recent years, I've participated in three stage productions. I danced in 「上海之夜」 (Magic is the Moonlight) and sang in 「鄧麗君,但願人長久」 (Teresa Tang Forever), but except for Perfume 香水 (2005), I was always a rather large extra in the story. Perfume was my first role as a co-star, working with three other respected professionals, none of whom thought of themselves as better than any other. In fact, in this respect, I have again been fortunate. In none of the stage productions that I have worked with have there been any actors or actresses who thought they were above everyone else, including Cass 彭羚, a world class singer who because of the Teresa Tang musical became a personal friend of mine.

And now I get a starring role. It only took 20 years to get here.

The automatic presumption of most people who hear that I'm starring in a stage production is that I'll be making a good deal of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. None of the three primary participants in this production are going to make very much money, if any at all. It's a production of love.

"They're Playing Our Song" will be performed in the McAulay Studio theatre which seats less than 100 people (the front rows are just a few feet from the stage). There will be ten shows. Do the math and you'll quickly realise that the potential income from this show is very limited. Then remember that we also have to pay the creators of the play for the right to perform it. And there are props to buy, composers to pay, sound studios to rent, and other employees and technicians to pay.

I drive to rehearsals. If I were to take public transport to the rehearsal location, it would be one hour there and around an hour-and-a-half back. That's a lot of time to spend standing in a crowded compartment, and no fun at all after rehearsals have drained all of your energy. With petrol, parking and food costs, I'll be surprised if I come out of this adventure with any financial profit at all.

Then there's the time involved. For more than two months, we will have rehearsed practically every day, anything from three to seven hours a day with acting, dancing and singing. And predictably, we also work on the play in our own time, when we're not running companies, or writing master-degree mid-term papers and theses, or filming at TVB.

One outsider who has benefitted from my involvement in this production is a Cantonese-speaking Caucasian actor by the name of Brian who after following my advice, was accepted into TVB as a contract artist. A few weeks ago while I was at TVB filming, I bumped into an Administrative Assistant (commonly referred to as an A.A. in TVB lingo) who cheerfully and sincerely informed me that I had been assigned a very significant role in their new TVB series, perhaps one of the biggest roles of my TVB career. Unfortunately, the demanding inflexible schedule of the new series collided directly with the equally demanding schedule of "They're Playing Our Song" and I suddenly had to choose between a major TVB role with a nice income attached to it and a stage musical with possibly no income benefits at all. For me, it wasn't a choice (yes June, you were right. I'm an idealist, albeit a complicated one). "They're Playing Our Song" was my first priority. Since I now have the contractual right to say 'no' to any TVB series I choose, the role was reassigned to Brian who is now happily thinking about how he's going to get enough sleep while filming the busy series side by side with a very attractive actress.

So why do the play? (this is true also for Henry and Sompor) Because it's a golden opportunity to work together with other enthusiastic hard working people and produce something great. Because I get the opportunity with the director and costar's participation to develop the character line by line, step by step, day by day. Because I get to act in a manner and at a level not possible at TVB because of TVB's script and time constraints. Because I get to sing and dance on stage with expression and exuberance. Because I get to push myself well beyond my comfort zone. Because I get to prove to myself and others what I am capable of and have oodles of fun while doing so.

If we were making a lot of money from this production, we'd obviously work hard to produce a wonderful show. Is it therefore logical that because we're not making a lot of money, that we work less? No. On the contrary, we work even harder because what we stand to gain from this production become all the more important, and they are learning, experience, satisfaction, and the proof of what we are capable of.

If you miss this show, you will indeed have missed a very special production.

A couple of 'post' notes.

1. At the time I bumped into the A.A.,
"They're Playing Our Song" had already been planned for close to eight months,
we had already taken several lessons with our vocal coach for the play,
the venue had already been booked,
we had already had two solid weeks of rehearsals.

As such, if I had chosen to take the TVB role, it would have caused harm to everyone involved in the play, not something I would easily agree to.

2. Working on a play improves your acting skills. Some Hollywood actors go back to the stage at least once every two years to keep their acting skills honed. It's very difficult to improve your skills while working at TVB. The whole as-quick-as-you-can atmosphere doesn't foster it.

3. I'm getting interviews with various magazines (and perhaps even a Canada-based Cantonese radio station) about my involvement in this play. I never get interviewed about my TVB work.

There will be other TVB series. There will never be another "They're Playing Our Song". The benefits of doing the play are many and significant. They're just not obvious.

Hard work, but fun!

Filed in Events, They’re Playing Our Song (2007), Work

We've been working on "They're Playing Our Song" for more than two weeks now. It's a lot of hard work because there are only two actors; Sompor (蘇芯寶) and myself; which means the two of us have to know the whole play from start to finish with no breaks, and we have to sing and dance as well. Yes, I said dance! If you come to the play, you'll actually get to see me dance. That by itself will justify the cost of the ticket ;-)

I'm very fortunate. I perhaps always have been. Every stage production I've worked with has turned out to be very good, and this one is no exception. I'm working with great people. Henry the director knows what he wants, and he knows when to ask us to try certain things; i.e., he doesn't ask for everything at once and expect to get it. Sompor is one of the hardest workers I've ever met. Whenever I feel like slowing down or getting lazy, I just look at her and keep going.

Between Sompor and myself, we have nine songs to sing. We have to dance to half of them. One of the songs is particularly difficult. I'm pretty much out of breath by the end of the song and that last sustained note is hard to maintain without breaking. It's a challenge but we'll both succeed. I have confidence that the show will be great fun, for us and the audience.

Six weeks to go…