Coca cola; just what the monkey ordered.

Filed in Photo of the Day

A family of five monkeys travels in a circle through the bush around our villages. A couple of weeks ago when they arrived back near our home, I followed them with my camera. Trying to get good photographs of the monkeys wasn't easy but I managed to get a couple. I hope you like them.

Monkey with coke

The monkey found the coca cola in a rubbish bin, pulled it out, moved to the tree and began drinking through the straw! How did he learn this?

Another photo, this time a different monkey, without the coca cola ;-)

Monkey in tree

Found and lost (The pup, Part#3)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives

A week and a bit ago, I received a phone call from a caucasian man (we'll call him J). He asked if I was Charles to which I replied 'yes'. Charles is my middle name. I use it frequently in Hong Kong because many local people have trouble pronouncing my first name Gregory. They usually see the g's and r's and assume that it's George. They never have trouble with Charles because everyone knows Prince Charles, so I use Charles to make things convenient for everyone depending on the situation.

Anyway, J told me that he recognised the pup and knew the owner. I was cautiously optimistic. I didn't want to get my hopes up to much just in case he had mistaken the identity of the pup. After all, a lot of dogs have one droopy ear and that's one of the things he based his claim on. J was busy that day so we organised to meet the next day.

The next day at lunch, J gave me a call and drove over to our village. He lived not too far away so it was possible that the pup had run away from home or gone wandering and become lost along the way although that's not very likely for any dog with even a hint of dog sense. Most dogs can find their way home without any help. I walked up to the car park with the pup and Batty, saw his car and identified by his actions that we wasn't sure if he was in the right place and was about to phone me for instructions. I walked on over and called out to him.

Pup with Charlie

J looked at the pup and confirmed that it was indeed his neighbour's pup. The pup also appeared to know him. Before the pup had been lost, J had often fed the pup dog biscuits, so he took out a packet of dog biscuits and offered one to the pup to see what his reaction would be. The pup sat down and took the biscuit. At this point, the man was almost definite it was the neighbour's pup and things were looking more and more promising by the minute. I remained cautious though just in case things didn't turn out.

J opened the door to his car and Batty immediately climbed in. That was unexpected but not all too surprising. He loves to ride in the car but I'd never expected him to get into someone else's car. I tried to call him out of the car but he refused to budge. The other pup got into the car with a little pushing and shoving and they were off back to the J's village to visit the original owner. I raced back to my car and followed as quickly as possible, not sure what Batty would do when they arrived at their destination without me.

There was no need for concern. When I arrived at the village, the man was holding the door open and Batty was climbing out cool and calm. I was pleased.

We walked down to the neighbour's house. It was a typical village house with three stories and a garden area around the ground floor. This is normal for Hong Kong. Most people either try to live in the ground floor to get the garden area; usually for barbeque reasons; or the top floor because it comes with a roof area. All village buildings; ie 村屋; in Hong Kong have a floor area of 700 square feet. Buildings allotted to village natives as a birth right; ie 丁屋; may be 500 square feet in area but everything else is normally 700 square feet.

As we approached the village building, the pup walked up as if he knew the place. J opened the gate to the garden and the pup trotted in and around the house, knowing exactly where he was going. He was home.

We walked around to the front of the building. The owner's wife was washing clothes and the owner was inside the building. They were an old couple; retired. One of the reasons J had called me was that since losing the pup, the old man had become despondent. The only thing that kept his spirits up was the pup. He didn't have a job, he didn't have responsibilities, and he didn't seem to have any respect. The pup meant the world to him. I imagined the joyous look that would appear on his face upon seeing the pup again. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out as I had imagined.

In the month that we had looked after the pup, he had grown. His hair had changed in colour and he had become taller and bigger. The old man's wife flatly refused to acknowledge that it was their pup, even while he drank water from a bucket next to her as she washed the clothes. The old man also refused to recognise him.

It turns out that the old man's family didn't want him to have the pup. Before living with us, the pup was too rough for the neighbours and their children. It used to bark and the neighbours; including four of the man's children now grown up with their own families; considered the pup to be a nuisance. It didn't matter that the pup was the man's best and perhaps only friend. So they took the pup away, dumped it in our village and then told the old man that they had given it to someone many many miles away in the New Territories in a town called Lau Fau San.

People basically come in two flavours. Some people see animals as an object, a living object but something akin to a large insect without thoughts, without character and without a soul. Then there are the people like my father and myself who see everything human in the animal. We can see their emotions, when they're happy, sad, troubled, worried, distraught, envious, and many other emotions typically seen in people. It's not just dogs. We can see these things in all animals. Hence, I prefer to refer to animals as little people rather than animals. It is because of this that I cannot mistreat an animal in any way. Unfortunately, most people today only see animals as cute furry objects to have fun with. They don't see the little person within and it makes it easy for them to give up on the animal and cast it away without much thought. That's basically what this man's family had done.

We knew for sure by now that the pup was the man's pup. He wasn't convinced though. As J put it, the man had been brain washed by his family. The old man decided to go and see the person who had given him the pup when it was really small, so he walked off up the road and down the other side. And you know what? The pup followed him. Ten minutes later, the old man came back with the pup trailing behind. He hadn't been able to find the person who had given him the pup and he was still pretty sure that it wasn't his pup. His own pup's tail was big and fluffy. He wasn't so big. His hair was lighter. He would run into the kitchen as soon as he came home.

While giving these justifications for refusing to acknowledge the pup, the old man's wife was standing behind a gate with the pup on the other side of the gate, sitting down, looking up at her, panting happily and wagging his tail so hard that his whole bum was moving from side to side. And she still refused to acknowledge the pup.

There was nothing we could do. If we had left the pup with them, they or their children would have taken the pup away again, this time to a place much further away. It wouldn't have worked out well for the pup. So I brought it back home.

We've had the pup for almost two months now. I'm not going to keep it. We still haven't given it a name. I'm not game to because once it has a name, it becomes even more personal and harder to part with. I took him back down to our neighbours home for a second look. They were astonished by how gentle he was compared to the first time they saw him. He was just lying down in front of them, wagging his tail and chewing on a leather bone while they looked at him and marvelled. But they were still concerned about their baby boy and there were new possibilities about leaving Hong Kong that made it even harder for them to take in and raise a new pup.

I'm giving the pup five more days. He's a wonderful pup and loves to play all the time. Almost all of his nipping habits have gone and he's just fun to have around. But we can't keep him.

I'll be printing photos of him and placing them on all the cars in the car park over the next couple of days. Hopefully, someone will take him in before the allotted time runs out. After all we've done and after he's changed so much, I wouldn't want to see him put down. It simply wouldn't be fair. I don't care if the world is frequently unjust. Some things just have to have good endings.

明天的蘋果日報

Filed in Food & Drink, Press

明天的蘋果日報有我,還有我們兩隻狗,Dallas 和小白! (不是訪問而是介紹吃品的照片)

FYI:
所有對白是記者編寫的
我不喝酒更沒有蒲吧之習慣
我當天所吃的食品都不錯 ;-)

Where has the clarity gone?

Filed in Hong Kong

Since owning the Canon 350D camera, I have been taking many more photographs than I've taken in many years. I have also had to spend an inordinate amount of time loading them onto my iMac, converting to tif and then touching up and converting to jpg (in three sizes). By touchup, I don't mean opening the photos in Photoshop. In fact, I don't own Photoshop. All of my touchups are done with a scanning and image processing software called SilverFast, developed in Germany and sold around the world. A lot of professional photographers know about the software; many non-professionals don't, only aware of Photoshop which by the way is too complicated for me personally; it's true.

My touchup only involves improving the colours, contrast, colour range and lighting of the photos. Sometimes, I need to adjust the white balance which in itself is a topic I plan to discuss some time in the future. It's while making these adjustments that I have become aware that almost always, nature in Hong Kong doesn't look as beautiful as the photos. It's a shame but true. The biggest factor is contrast and clarity. They're simply not there in nature.

I remember back in the days of SARS, the scenery in Hong Kong was fabulous, better than anything I'd seen in all the years I've lived here. I had to wonder why this was so and the only answer I could come up with was pollution. At the time, masses of people were staying at home, afraid to go out. Most people would continue to work to continue providing for their families but going out for entertainment or food was simply out of the question. Combined with the effects of the economic depression in effect at the time and you get a situation where the number of cars on the road at any one time was only a fraction of what would be normal.

Driving to work in the Tseung Kwan O industrial estate, the hills were green, the sky was clear blue, and sea was crisp. Just looking at everything around me was a pleasure in itself and gave me a great feeling. It's a shame it couldn't last although nobody obviously wanted SARS to last.

Pollution in Hong Kong is pretty serious now. The Hong Kong government has a rating for air pollution levels throughout Hong Kong but they are a comparative rating from low to high (the Disclaimer is interesting). The common person is never told the actual levels of chemicals and pollutants in the air. I remember a few years ago that some interest groups in Hong Kong were complaining about the rating system compared to the actual levels of pollutants. They were especially concerned about crowded popular shopping areas like Causeway Bay. People were actually advised to stay away from these centres because of the pollution levels. I haven't heard similar warnings since but can only imagine that they'll reoccur soon with the increasing pollution and extreme heat that we'll see in the coming months.

I guess we've been lucky so far this year. The extra rain would have taken a lot of the pollution out of the air and washed it away.

Industry hasn't increased in Hong Kong in the recent years so where's the extra pollution coming from? Apparently, it's coming from China, places like Gwangdong. When asked about the pollution problem, officials replied there was nothing they could do. Every developed country had gone through a highly polluted industrial development stage and China was no different. Hong Kong would simply have to put up with the pollution while it's parent grew and developed into something better. Regrettably, it's true. We'll have to wait; maybe another twenty years or more. Development takes a long time.

China has rules and measures in place to reduce pollution from factories and industries. Some of these require the use of catalytic converters to change the pollution into something friendlier to the environment and to people. Unfortunately, the catalytic converter systems are expensive to maintain and run so many of the factories in China turn them off at night to save money. At night time, the dirty pollutants can't be seen by the average person so nobody's going to report the factories for violating the rules.

Today in Hong Kong is a wonderful day. The sun is high in the sky and there's a breeze blowing through the air. Unfortunately, the hills only a kilometer away are slightly blurry to look at simply because of the pollution and there's nothing we can do;

except touchup our photos on our computers to make the world appear better than it actually is.

It’s noisy but who cares!

Filed in Music

My wife and I are at the Robin Gibb concert in the HK Exhibition Centre. We arrived half an hour late much to my wife's chagrin. I planned on parking beneath the new extension but after half an hour of queueing in traffic finally arrived at a full car park. We had to swing around and park in the car park next to the hotel and walk over instead. Whoever designed this exhibition centre should be shot. They should have planned for large numbers of people parking here. It is after all an exhibition centre.

So we finally made it to the concert, albeit late.

My impressions? This place wasn't designed for concerts. The sound properties are terrible. Add to that the loud volumes that the speakers have to produce and substandard sound mixing and you end up with a lot of noise where Robin's voice is sometimes hardly discernable.

Robin's voice is raspy and the chorus is sometimes off key. The music is over-bearing and the orchestral music arranger succumbed to the common temptation and musical sin of using as many instruments as much of the time as possible.

The floor of the hall is flat so people at the back have a hard time seeing Robin on stage, and because all sound is produced by the speakers in front, people sitting in the front section are getting blasted as if they were in a rock concert.

But the songs are great, and the Bee Gee fans? Well they're having a fantastic time!

Time to sign off and listen to the music ;-)

E.T. go home!

Filed in Photo of the Day

He's a small praying mantis that I found in our flat. He wouldn't survive inside so I took him back outside. (Click here to see other web sites with amazing photos of praying mantii and stick insects)

I've been told by someone at Kadoorie that Stick Insects and Praying Mantii are the same, except that one is male and the other is female. I don't believe that's true though. There are structural differences which make the two insects too different to be related.

He's cute!

A cute praying mantis

For a close-up shot of the praying mantis, click here.

「情迷黑森林」 Thomas and I

Filed in TVB (H.K.) 香港無線電視, WorkTags:

This is a photo of Thomas Lui and myself. Thomas is the chief pastry chef at the Marriot Hotel. He's a great guy and incredibly talented when it comes to pastry and chocolate. Every cake and chocolate creation you see in the show was made by Thomas, with great attention to detail. He loves his work and he never settles for less than perfect.

I remember one night filming at the studio. My scene was the second-last scene of the night but rather than leave and go home straight away, I decided to wait until they had finished the last scene so that I could get one of the cakes that had been made for that night's shooting. Sure enough, after every scene had been filmed, I was able to leave with half a cake; the producer took the other half. It was no ordinary cake, not the fluffy kind you normally see in shops and restaurants. This cake was made of yoghurt and something else that I can't remember at this point. You'll probably see it in the series. The cake was absolutely heavenly to eat. My family loved it as much as I did. It was possibly one of the best cakes I've ever eaten in my life!

By the way, the orange 'wall' that you see in front of Thomas and myself in the photo is in fact a sponge cake! All of the cartoon adornments on the front of the cake are made of chocolate, made by Thomas of course.

Thomas and I

One more thing. If you watched the first episode of the TV series, you should have seen the cake that 高根 made for his son. It was a taxi cake. Thomas in fact made a taxi cake for his baby boy a few years ago, so you can see where the idea came from. In Thomas' case, the taxi was full of chocolates and other nicities. Thomas has also made a Kowloon bus cake for his son's birthday. He's an amazing guy.

「情迷黑森林」宣傳#2

Filed in Events, TVB (H.K.) 香港無線電視, Work, 中文文章Tags:

我們「情迷黑森林」的人明天(六月五日禮拜天)將在尖沙咀再做宣傳活動,下午二點三十分在美麗華酒店對面的柏麗大道。