30 January 2007

Yummy Berries

This just in from Greenpeace China,

"Hong Kong- Fruit samples were found for the first time by Greenpeace to contain methamidophos, a banned pesticide of high toxicity, including on popularly consumed strawberry and tangerines. One sample was even found contaminated by 13 types of pesticide. Greenpeace strongly condemns the repeated omission of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), and urges the Government to announce a timetable for food safety legislation in order to stop pesticide contaminated fruit and vegetable from coming to Hong Kong."

Crap, I just ate a strawberry the other day... It'll fit nicely in my system with the high levels of toxic carbon related subtances from the air.

29 January 2007


From 'The Standard'

"Being overzealous in saving the past may hurt Hong Kong's competitiveness, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen warned Sunday, but he pledged the government will "keep pace with public sentiment" on heritage preservation."

Being overzealous requires there to be an amount of any zelousness to begin with.

But he said Hong Kong's development is "in danger of being hampered by insufficient and slow public investment" and argued that continued economic prosperity depends on new buildings being built and old ones replaced."

The only thing endangering Hong Kong's development is mulit-national corperations pulling out because they can't stand the air pollution. Oh wait that's already happening...

28 January 2007

Go For The Jackpot!

On the Slop Machine.

I have developed a really good eye for finding funny typos. Photo courtesy of Mai's cell phone.

25 January 2007

Rent Controlled

It turns out that the rental fee for our flat is not going up after all. I guess our current landlord thinks we are good enough tennants that he wants to give us reason to stay. This is good news, as it means we can take our time deciding when and where we want to move. The rent is still not cheap by any stetch of the immagination (we could have a penthouse apartment in Calgary cheaper) but by Hong Kong standards we're roughing it, haha. Sort of.

Also Chinese New Year's is fast on it's way. I like this holiday even more than Christmas in some ways, because it means a whole tonne of time off, and less work for me. In China, this is the biggest holiday of the year, that goes without saying. The school I'm at Tuesdays and Thursdays is basically having one big party for the next month, so I don't have actual classes for awhile. Woo! It's tradition to wear red clothing, so I might have to go get some new shirts to keep up with local superstition.

Hong Kong is not cold, but having no indoor heat makes for a very chilly evening. The cat hogs the the space heater. I use 3 thick blankets and am still cold, brrrr. Kind of like camping in the Rockies.

23 January 2007

Someone invent teleportation now!

Travelling almost and hour and a half to work on Mondays is starting to get to me. And I only go for 3 hours of class at the school! Agg!

There is also no possible method of getting there sooner. If I had a car, and Hong Kong had about 7 million less people, I could drive there in 25 minutes probably. The transit system here is good, but with so many people going different places in the morning, it just takes forever to get across Hong Kong. Where's Scotty?

In other news:

Mai and I were looking for a new apartment recently. Until we found out it would cost us approximately $40000HKD just to move and pay deposits etc. Here's why. Main reason > Hong Kong rent is rediculously expensive. Also when you move, you have to pay 2 months rent as a damage deposit, your first month rent, moving fees for a furniture etc., and you also have to pay the real estate people who helped you find the place - they ask for half of one months rent. So it's stupid. Im already sick of moving, and having to pay such a huge amount all at once seems unreasonable.

We were trying to find a cheaper apartment, but Hong Kong has none. The cheapest rent you can find here for anything somewhat decent is about $1500 CDN. In Calgary right now I could rent a huge penthouse apartment for that much. Here all that gets you is about 600 sq/ft.

So as much as we want to move, where we live now is sort of 'cheap' it just takes forever to go anywhere.

Someone forgot the doughnuts!

Rugby Update:

We lost. To the police. Who forgot the glazed bribes?

Oh well. We're pretty much guaranteed to meet them in the semi-finals anyway regardless if we beat them or not, because the two of us are going to finish 2-3 in our division, and the lower teams haven't beaten any of the top 3. We(Typhoons) have also not beaten the top 2 at all. Hence we, the Phoons, are still stuck in 3rd. No worries. Our strongest members were either damaged or out with poor rubbish excuses. The final score was something like 21-7ish, so not too terrible. I'm quite bad at keeping track of the score for some reason. Also it seems like whenever our team falls behind we tend to loose any effort we had going. Possibly because my team is all old farts. At 24 I'm the youngest by at least 3 years I think.

Next game. Gai Wu! The crazy kamikaze Japanese. We will most likely win, but probably half our team will go down with broken ankles beause these guys are insane.

19 January 2007

Canadian Content

Why do I loathe Candian Art writers? The following from a CBC.ca article entitled, "Young Canadian scores solo show at U.K.'s National Gallery" is a perfect example.

The first thought that came into my mind, was that 'hooray, a young artist from Canada actually got mentioned in a Canadian article!' Trust me it doesn't happen often. I was soon dissapointed. Turns out that this so called 'young' artist is none other than 34-year-old Tim Gardner. Since when is 34 young? It's not even remotely young!!! This is why the art scene in Canada ranks pretty damn low compared to most other developed nations. You have to be 34 to be considered a young artist!? So what happens to all the genuinely young artists, you know, the ones under 30! That's what young is! Oh ya i forgot, they are all sucked dry of their money during a wasted 4 years of art school, believing that their country will give a damn about their art when they finish school. Hahahaha. Am I bitter? Only slightly.

What angered me even more about this article is the use of the term 'photo-realism.' Wouldn't that mean Tim's painting would have to be realistic? I've seen his paintings, and for one they are not even close to photo realistic, and they are no different than what every hack of a painter in 1st year art college can do. Actually I've seen more realistic work from 10 year olds.

I don't personally enjoy photo realism when it comes to paintings, so this didn't bother me as much as the attention Tim was getting for being 'young.' I'm all for artists getting support, but the ones who need it most are the ones doing work worth looking at, not the normality that is Tim Gardner's paintings. I know at least 5 friends from ACAD whose paintings are vastly more interesting than this crap.

The author of this article didn't stop at making me laugh about just the young part. He/She writes the following well known over stated fact.

"Though not well-known in Canada, Gardner has already started to make an impression in the international art world, including with his well-received debut solo exhibition in New York in 2001."

Hooray, yet another artist from Canada that had to move away in order to find success. Maybe if the Tories stay in power another term we can just ban art in Canada all together, that sounds like a good idea. I've heard people say this on a daily basis about Canada's commitment to the arts, yet nothing is ever done. Good for Tim for at least making a dime. I hope he doesn't spend any of it back in Canada because the country doesn't derserve it.

Also making me laugh was this little blurb...

"He can do anything with watercolour. He is now doing anything with pastel, in ways that are amazing"

Ooooooh! Pastels! Such an intriguing choice of medium. Come on! Are you serious??? Pastels are for kindergarten children, gimme a break!

"I think people are hungry for that pure skill in image-making"

Pure skill and pastel should never be mentioned in the same paragraph.

"In his work, the intensely shy Gardner creates snapshot-looking portraits"

Ya, maybe if you pay the dude in the back alley to do your photo finishing. Then I can see the relationship between his paintings and photos.

"The contemporary images invoke themes such as heroism, youth, masculinity, friendship, family and middle-class life.

"I see the work as my relationship with the landscape. That's why it's always — for the most part — single figures," he said."

I think I need to throw up...

18 January 2007

Typhoon Update

The Typhoons begin the next half of the season this coming Saturday. We finished off the first half with a commanding win against Causeway Bay Pirates. I believe the final score was 39-0. A fine drubbing indeed.

I played the whole game once again, as it seems we can't find any other crazy volunteers to play front row. Despite the 39-0 score, we lost one important part of the team due to yet another leg injury. It seems we are hexed, and if trends continue I'm next in line to have my legs broken. (The last two guys to go down were both front rowers, much larger than me so they fall harder I guess) So everyone cross your fingers that I manage to avoid the hex and stay upright.

During the game our new addition Dean nearly took the head off the oposition at least 3 times. He's quite a huge monster, and he's quick. I'm glad he's now on our team, we need some strength to match the fat Police. We play the Police this Saturday. It's a good time, because it's the only chance you have to beat up on the cops without penalty of jail. Unfortunately the Typhoons lost to 'em last time, but we were very weak that game and the ref was rubbish. We'll probably just forfeit this time if it's the same moron, and save some energy for drinking beer later.

Also coming up is the Tequilla Mockingbird tour to Guam. Tequilla Mockingbirds? Yup, that's the extremely unoriginal name the Typhoons came up with for the travelling team. We get new jerseys and everything for this trip. I haven't mentioned much about it yet, because I really don't know anything about it other than we're going to Guam for a weekend. The plane leaves on Feb 2nd I think. The tour manager has arranged an 'itinerary' of shinanigans and other bad behaviour I'm sure, so there will be some stories to tell.

14 January 2007

New Year Blue Skies!

On New Year's Day Mai and I went on a small walk up the mountain beside our building. It's a nice little walk, there isn't any actual climbing, it's a paved pathway. It was a very nice, and the skies were the nicest I'd ever seen them in Hong Kong. The time of day we went was perfect lighting, as the thin clouds shaded the bright sun just enough. Mai brought along her pet bird, Takuro-Chan. He really enjoyed it as he was singing along with the wild birds at one point sort of.

I have concluded I have the best eyes out of anyone I know. I managed to spot this lizard about 20 metres away in a patch of green and red leaves. The lizard is also red and gree, thus it was nearly impossible to see. Somehow I spotted it, and zoomed in enough with my new lens to get a decent enough photo. There were actually two, and they darted off shortly after I had spotted them.

11 January 2007

Maple Leaf in Hong Kong

I feel really Canadian today. I taught my little kids what a 'touque' was. Eh?

10 January 2007

Yuen Po Bird Condo

Mai and I went to the Yuen Po St. Bird Garden. The birds there are fancy, they live in condos.

Occupation: Professional Clown

"They're Christians, they have to be nice."

Ha...nice one! That's the line I got from one of my supervisers today. I thought it was rather funny. She said this in reference to the teachers at the school I was just "fired" from. Yes I still have my job at Language Tree (language centre that sends me out), don't worry. There's so much for me to rant about, I don't know where to start.

First I'll admit, there have been a few bumps along the road seeings how I had never taught English before coming to Hong Kong. Language Tree has been very accepting of this, after all they hired me full knowing I had never taught. What I'm slightly upset at is that a few of the schools I have been sent to work at, did/do not know this is my first year teaching. Maybe it would make sense to them a little more that I could possibly use a little help rather than just complaining to my boss without saying anything to me first. Silly me, I forgot that in Hong Kong, you get no training whatsoever from your employer.

So here's the story. I went to the 'office' after my final class today to pick up some new material and books for my following week/end. Usually this consists of about 5 minutes, and all is well. Not today though. Today I had a meeting with my supervisor (not the one who hired me) about my classes and where I am teaching etc. It seems that a few schools have been complaining about some things related to how I teach or how I don't teach in their minds. This despite not one single teacher has ever said a thing to me about being unhappy with how I do things. They have suggested a few very minor tips, but nothing that would suggest they want me out. So as my supervisor explained some of the problems I began to laugh more and more. What a joke. The Hong Kong education system is so unbalanced it's not even funny. Most of my schools love me, they have no problems with me at all, I'm like a celebrity. I have been invited to the teacher only end of term party at some fancy hotel for one school; they love me! The ones I was being told about today however, don't like me (at least behind my back). One complaint was that,

"I was being too nice to the students and being really energetic with them, but I didn't pay much attention to the other teachers and had a lack of communication."

Huh? Maybe because I'm being paid to teach the kids, not the English-illiterate teachers who sponge off me rather than getting their own lessons. I have not been nd will not be removed from this school, but I think the teachers are slightly jealous of my popularity among the children. After all, it's my job to be a clown. Now for the comments about the schools I have been removed from.

Actually all that has happened is me and one other teacher are switching places. I will actually make more money this way, and I now have Friday afternoon off, so I don't mind. Usually I teach Saturdays, and the principal at my regular Saturday school has decided I did "not know what I was doing the first half of the term." Hmmmm, you think? Maybe because yours was the first ever class I had taught. And I was teaching Drama classes to 3 year olds at 9am on a Saturday!!! If they even opened their eyes I was happy. Still, she did not witness the 2nd half of this past term, where both I and the students showed great improvement. What makes me laugh is that half of the class missed the last session this month, and so they were not able to partake in the video taping of the Drama for their parents. The principal had told me this was the most important date the whole term, haha, good job lady. So now they will never know what they were doing. And it's my fault they don't see results, mmhmm.

As I mentioned above I now have Friday afternoon off. This is because the Christian kindergarten alledgedly does not like me. You'd never know from all their fake smiles every time they greeted me, and said how good a job I was doing. Liars! That's all I'll say about that.

I can't say I'm really upset about either re-location, I had been led to believe I was done at the Saturday school anyway, so it came as a surprise that I was actually supposed to have been there the 2nd term as well. Oh well, they were annoying rich kids anyway. The new school I am at on Saturday is closer, it starts later, and the classes are smaller. Win win for me. One class is ages 1.5-3 years old, and there's only 2 kids. Wow, I better practice my baby talk. Like I said, I'm a professional clown.

08 January 2007

Things that make me laugh.

1. Monkeys 'attacking' people.
-A large group of macaque monkeys alledgedly rushed a bus load of passengers in Lion Rock Park. hahaha. Good for the monkeys. Read more here.

2. Hong Kong's newest movie theatre.
-Guess what? Some moron of a foreign investor decided to open a drive-in movie theatre in Hong Kong. Ya, ridiculous. Anyone who has ever been to Hong Kong knows that the thing people hate the most in Hong Kong is being outside. Besides the pollution, it's usually just too damned crowded outside to feel comfortable. Unless you climb to the top of the mountain, perfect place to suck in all that beautiful brown air, haha. Back to the theatre. Surprisingly I read this article on Macleans.ca, but it mentions the theatres website as well. Whoever wrote the theatre's website has also never been to Hong Kong. This is such a bad idea. I don't know where to start.

I'm sure they have good intentions (the website says that it will give people a chance to get away from the regular busy congestion of Hong Kong), but I imagine this place will go out of business very soon. First of all, it has 200 parking spots. 200? That's it? That'll fill up rather quick in a city with 7-8 million people. Also, with the price tag ($100 per person) no one will pay that when they can sit in a well ventilated theatre with leather seats for $80. There's a reason this is the first drive-in theatre in Hong Kong. It's a dumb idea.

The wbsite boasts of being able to watch a movie "under the stars." Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Stars? The lights at the top of IFC Centre do not count as stars! Hahahahahahaha. That's about the only light in the sky you can see in Hong Kong. With the amount of smog in TST (where the theatre is) you can barely see across the harbour most days. Stars? Hahahaha, get real. Even where I live, in the farthest point from Central, you can see maybe 5 stars at night. And they're probably satelliltes. Oh boy, stars, ya, hahaha...... Gimme a break!

The atricle says this 'could be expensive' in Hong Kong. In reality you could probably buy an NFL team cheaper. The rent this guy pays must be insane. Even if the theatre charged $1000 per car I doubt it would pay the bills. I think they forgot that Hong Kong gets up to +35 in the summer, at night! I can see it now, people in the 5th row complaining because the exhaust from all the cars running their AC is smogging over the screen. Hahaha. Dumb dumb dumb...

Here's the article.

3. Jackie Chan commercials on the bus. It's just funny.

4. Cantopop. It's so amazingly bad, you can't help but laugh at it. Cantopop is just another word for Karaoke. None of the 'pop' stars here actually sing their own music. It's all ripped off from American 'talent' (wow that was a stretch).

5. VCD's
- Just another word for FAKE. Fake. Bad Quality. Stolen. Ripped Off. Counterfeit. Illegal. Etc. etc. Yet they sell them at every major music store in Hong Kong. Even HMV. Anti-piracy? I don't think that will be taught at English class any time soon. I'm gonna head over to HMV's site and see if they have any crap about how stealing music is bad. If they do, they should be ashamed.

I could write more, but I'm laughing too hard.

07 January 2007

Happy New Year!

The net is still as slow as democracy in Hong Kong, but we'll give it a go.

The past 10 days or so I was off on holidays, and had the chance to enjoy the clear weather and a little more of Hong Kong. It has been a few months since I had more than the weekends off, and I needed a break. It's not that my work is terribly hard, it's just not very stimulating sometimes.

Let's see... With all my Christmas shopping finished early, there was no mad rush this year to get it all done. Hong Kong malls are always silly busy, but even more this time of year. I don't know yet, but I imagine it will only get worse for the upcoming Chinese New Year's. Yikes.

Everyone back home received their presents (unbroken) and I'm confident they enjoyed the uniqueness of them. Almost everything I found this year had some sort of local flavour to it. Even as a high-tech city, HK still has a lot of cool little items other than the usual big ticket gadgets you can find anywhere. Side streets are the best place to find unique or knocked off items, and it's fun to bargin, even when not buying anything, haha.

Christmas Day was very quiet, but nice at the same time. Mai and I stayed home most of the day. We had a very interesting web-video chat with my family in Winnipeg. It took awhile to figure out all the settings, but it worked well with Sykpe. It's a good service, and free, so I think everyone should sign up for it and learn how to use it. We opened our presents online, so it was almost like being home. A little odd, but funny/cheesy at the same time. My Dad also sent some photos of the snow, and I prefer pictures to actually being there. I don't miss the cold just yet. It's actually a little chilly here, so my upcoming trip to Guam should be nice. (More on that later)

Boxing Day was pretty much back to normal here. I think most locals had the day off, but you couldn't tell. Everything was just as busy as usual. Again we didn't do much, but in the evening we went to Tsim Sai Tsui to watch the crazy light show. I think I'm getting used to the neon-insanity here, because it didn't look as nuts this time. It seemed normal to me, haha. They had more lasers this time, but no fireworks. I'm still working on posting the video of the first light show I saw back in October.

The 27th was back to work for Mai, so I had another few days off alone. I slept in as usual, but managed to get out and do some things. I hiked up The Peak during the daytime, and was a bit dissapointed in the amount of smog, but not much we can do about it until China stops being China. It was still a nice view, but my new lens was somewhat wasted as even it's sharp glass can't cut through dense smog. I walked around some richy-rich areas, and up to the Peak Garden. For the effort, I would say there are other gardens in Hong Kong that don't require a long hike up the mountain and are much nicer. It is nice up there though, because you can look down both sides of Hong Kong Island, very different views.

Also during my holidays I went to the Hong Kong "Wetland Park." I should have known better by now, but I actually expected it not to be busy and full of squawking tourists. Despite the generous portion of "Please Shut Up" signs, the birds and other water creatures were fairly evasive due to the noise. I really don't understand why large groups of yelling and screaming people are allowed into an area that is advertised as a 'peaceful preserved bit of nature.' Ha! Next time I'll bring my earplugs. I could complain more, I could even write a letter, but this is just one more example of how mainland China is slowly turning Hong Kong into a polluted over-crowded Disney-eqsue theme park. Pretty soon Mickey Mouse will drive the buses too. I'm sure of it. If Donald Tsang would stop bending over for 2 seconds, he might realize that even the local Hong Kong people are fed up, not just spoiled synics from big ol' Canada.

So despite having another dissapointing adventure, I enjoyed my holidays. I've realized that the best things to do in Hong Kong are the ones that are not advertised, and they are usually free. It's back to school now, lets hope the kids remember me!