Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bras Bas

After six months off, I finally went back to work. My brain was ready a long time ago, but my body is still not ready to dance again. I'm working on it, but in the meantime, I needed a job. Since those who can't do, teach, I'm now teaching ballet to children.

There's been a surge in dance schools over the last few years. I don't know why. Someone told me it was because of that Black Swan movie, but that was not much of a hit here, and I doubt it would have inspired very many children anyway. There was also that Ballerina cartoon last year, but I don't even know if that played in China. If it's not Disney or DreamWorks, don't expect to see it on screen.

I was offered a teaching job a few years ago, but I was busy at the time. And that was for adults. I don't really like the idea of teaching an adult class. They're not as serious, they miss more classes and it's more of a hobby than something they have a deep, internal drive to do.

Children are just better students, in general. They're used to being students all day, so whatever classes they take after school are just more of the same. Adults have to shift their focus and that's hard to do when you're set in your old routine.

For the most part, children show up for every class. They usually don't have any choice. Their parents make them go, whether the children want to take the class or not. Adults can skip a class whenever they want, often for no reason at all. They simply don't feel like going. Children almost never have that luxury.

I also prefer students who take it seriously. I'm sure every teacher does, and I'm just as sure that I'll lighten up after a while, but I'd much rather have a student who wants to be the next great dancer than someone who's just killing time before their favorite TV show starts. If you want to be the best dancer the world has ever known, you have to start very young. Most students will never become great, and I'm not good enough to teach the best, but it's a million times easier to teach someone who has a burning desire to learn than someone who doesn't care.

When it comes to ballet, most students will drop out. That's the way it is and that's the way it should be. It's not for everyone. It's hard work in the beginning and even harder when you start to understand what you're doing. Even if you love it, you might not be right for the part. I wanted to be a ballerina when I was younger. I took as many classes as I could and I busted my butt, and more than a few toes. I had that burning desire. I simply wasn't good enough to be the principal or even the coryphée. At most, on my best day, I could join the corps.

Fortunately, there are other forms of dance. One of my first ballet teachers suggested I study lyrical and/or jazz. I can't be sure, but I suspect she knew I was never going to be a ballerina, but thought I had some potential somewhere. I was only a child, but in a lot of ways, she saved my career. I hope I can do the same for some of my students some day. I'd be surprised if any of them become ballerinas in the distant future, but maybe one or two might become professional dancers. Even if they're terrible, I don't want to be the one who dashes their dreams. In life, there are always plenty of people waiting in the wings to do that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Festive Lanterns 5

Everyone likes dolphins.

Dolphins, as everyone knows, play the piano upside down.

Their flippers are terrible for a drum set, but they're great with congas.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Festive Lanterns 4

I heard somewhere that owls are especially lucky. They're also popular lanterns.

Magic owls

Violin owl. Why not?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Festive Lanterns 3

Other animals are always popular in lantern form. I don't know why there were so many birds.

Birds guarding the castle.

Dancing birds.

It's a little known fact that birds use snail drawn carriages when tired.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Festive Lanterns 2

There were a lot of dog lanterns. Most of them were pretty straightforward. A few were kind of weird.

The theme is love, but since it's a bunch of dogs running around, I assume they mean platonic love of animals. Although there is that guy in the corner trying to get it on with a bear. I don't know what that's about.

Don't all dogs love to take bubble baths in a turtle shell?

This just seems to be a mix of various brown animals.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Festive Lanterns

I never went out on March 2nd, the actual day of the Lantern Festival, but I braved the crowds the day before and looked around some of the preview areas.

There were a lot of Snoopy lanterns, partly because copyright and trademark laws mean nothing around here and partly because this is the year of the dog.

Snow White and the Seven Anthropomorphic Woodland Animals

This was labeled as Cinderella's horse, but didn't her Fairy Godmother turn several mice into horses and her actual horse into the stagecoach driver?

Avatar might not seem like it has anything to do with ancient Chinese history, but the computer animation used Chinese locations for some of the landscape images and China has always had dragons.

Another Snoopy. This one was decorated by the designer of a little girl's bedroom in the 1970s, apparently.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Lantern Festival 2018

Chinese New Year started on February 16th. There were parades through Tsim Sha Tsui and lion dances at just about every shopping center. I never planned on going to see the fireworks over Victoria Harbour, but they were canceled this year as a show of respect for a bus accident on February 10th in Tai Po. One of the deadliest car accidents in Hong Kong's history, it killed 19 people and injured 65. Most of the time I feel like a foreigner here, but I was a proud Hongkonger when the lines at the Red Cross went around the block and they had to stay open late because so many people wanted to donate blood.

I've mostly avoided the New Year crowds this year. China is a loud place at any given time, but downright intolerable during the New Year. Between the music blasted at full volume, the officials screaming into loudspeakers at full volume, the salesmen screaming for everyone to buy their wares at full volume and the people screaming into their phones at full volume, I have to wonder if the Chinese are so loud in public because they are going deaf or if they are going deaf because they are so loud in public. It would be a nice time to live in Hong Kong with ear plugs.

But I do go outdoors from time to time. At this time of year, New Year decorations are unavoidable. Some of them are amazing. It's all about bright colors. March 2nd is the Lantern Festival. In addition to bright lights, bright lions, bright dragons and bright dogs, there are bright red and gold lanterns everywhere. Some bring wealth for the new year. Some bring good health. They all bring good luck. Every fortune teller, fortune stick and fortune card says nothing but good things will happen to you in the coming year. No one ever seems to have bad luck. At least not until after the year starts. None of the lucky signs ever warned me that last year would suck.

I might go out and brave the crowds on Friday. I like the lanterns. It's the noise I'm dreading. But, if nothing else, I have to find out how rich and healthy I'll be this year.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Hong Kong By Phone part 2

Even when I meant to take pictures while I was out, I mostly forgot about my phone camera. I'm just not used to photographing train stations I use all the time and streets I've walked a million times. I'm going to have to force myself if I want to take more phone photographs. Phonographs? That's already taken. Telegraphs?

Lily and I had some free time on Saturday. She thought it would be a good idea to go to some of the parks I don't get out to very often. When you take your daily walks in the same place all the time, it gets tedious. Hong Kong has more than enough parks to keep it interesting. Most of them require spending time on the MTR.

We went to the Hung Hom Promenade in the morning. That's a neighborhood I rarely go to, and the small promenade has nice views of Kowloon Bay and the East Harbour rather than the usual Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui. There is some construction around one of the hotels right now, blocking a few paths to get to the promenade, but the promenade itself is unscathed.

Hung Hom Promenade, Whampoa

You can easily see the new cruise terminal at the old airport from the promenade. Something I discovered about my phone is that the pictures look terrible when you zoom.

Kai Tak Cruise Terminal

We took the MTR from Whampoa to Lok Fu, which is 6 or 7 stops. The green light shows where we are, between the second and third stop. The red lights show where the train goes. The white lights show the interchange to the Tsuen Wan line and the fastest way to get from Whampoa to Central. It's all very simple and informative. I don't know why people think it's confusing.

A great thing about the Kwun Tong line is that it's not nearly as crowded as some of the others. There would be a dozen heads in this picture if it were the Tsuen Wan, Tung Chung, West, East or Island lines.

MTR Kwun Tong green line

It's an easy walk from the Lok Fu station to the Kowloon Walled City Park, which doesn't look like this anymore.

Kowloon Walled City

From exit A, turn right and make a left on Junction Rd. That's where the street ends, so you can't miss it. Walk down Junction Rd for a few minutes until you see a playground. Either keep going until you see the entrance on the left or turn left at the playground – Tung Tau Tsuen Rd – to one of the entrances on the right.

The signs in the station tell you to take exit B to go to the Walled City Park. If you follow those signs, you'll go to the bus stop, which is fine if you want to take the bus. Walking out of the station from the bus stop is complicated if you don't know the area. Exit A is signed and simple.

Kowloon Walled City Park

The Walled City mostly looks like this now, which I think is a vast improvement.

Mountain View Pavilion, Kowloon Walled City Park

Two stops from Lok Fu is Diamond Hill. Right next to the station is the Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. Both are open to the public, free and beautiful places to pretend you're not surrounded by a city of 7 million people.

Hall of Celestial Kings and Sakyamuni Buddha Hall, Chi Lin Nunnery

This is a working temple, so there are rules and restrictions, but Buddhists tend to be pretty forgiving. Unless you eat in front of one of the Buddha statues. They don't like that.

Lotus Pond Garden, Chi Lin Nunnery

Chi Lin and Nan Lian are a small bridge apart. The garden also has rules, mostly about not feeding the fish. They don't even want you to have a snack near the pond, which is understandable. I'm sure people feed the fish all kinds of poisonous crap.

Blue Pond, Nan Lian Garden

The Pavilion of Absolute Perfection has kind of an arrogant name, and is too gold for my tastes, but it looks nice in the middle of all that green.

Pavilion of Absolute Perfection, Nan Lian Garden

Lotus Pond, Nan Lian Garden

I think this might be the first video I've ever taken with this camera. Taking pictures with a phone is strange enough. Taking video phone videos is too science fiction for me.

Chinese Timber Architecture Gallery, Nan Lian Garden

Kwun Tong is close to the cruise terminal and a few quick stops from Diamond Hill. It's also an authentically Hong Kong neighborhood. When I took this picture, a few people stared at me and then stared at the street below the walkway, probably wondering what on earth I was looking at.

Kwun Tong, near Tung Yan St

We went back to Hung Hom for dinner. Food is everywhere in Hong Kong, but the Whampoa shopping area is ridiculous. If you ate at a different restaurant for every meal, it would take years to make your way through it all.

Taku St, near Hung Hom Pancakes

Above all the restaurants and shopping malls are thousands of apartments, instead of the usual office buildings and more shopping. The shopping malls are mostly underground.

Bulkeley St at Taku St

Some apartments are nicer than others.

Hung Hom Rd at Tak On St

We had dinner near one of the last phone booths in the city. There are probably others somewhere, but I can't think of any. Why would anyone use a phone booth in this day and age? For the Wi-Fi, of course.

Man Tai St, near a Wellcome

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Hong Kong By Phone part 1

My new phone has a camera, just like everyone else's phone. But I almost never use it as a camera. Taking pictures with my phone is still strange to me. Even when I see something I might want to photograph, it rarely occurs to me to use my phone.

On Friday, I was headed to Sheung Wan and for whatever reason, I realized I had a camera in my purse. Before taking the MTR, I went to the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade. It's a nice looking waterfront park, but they're redecorating for the New Year, so some of it is closed off and there are cones and tape everywhere.

West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade

The park borders the Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter off the west coast of Kowloon. The typhoon shelter is easily visible from the ICC, Kowloon Station, the Arch, the Cullinan and my apartment – which is in none of those astronomically expensive buildings. But I can see it in this picture.

Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter

Kowloon Station, Cullinan, Arch, ICC

You have to cross a busy street to get to the MTR from Nursery Park.

Western Harbour Crossing

Once inside, there might be a few people. Especially on a Friday. Or Saturday. Or Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Kowloon Station

Two MTR stops later, I was in Sheung Wan. I was picking up some snacks. This is exactly the kind of street that has some of the best snacks in Hong Kong.

Wing Wo St, just off Des Voeux Rd Central

From Des Voeux Rd, you're going to pass the Grand Millennium Plaza to get to the MTR. At least if you're on that side of the station, exit E2 - I think. I was just passing through, and I remembered about my camera, and they always have one holiday display or another. I'm not really sure why anyone would go there otherwise.

Grand Millennium Plaza, Sheung Wan

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hailey's Novel Diary – 2/6/18

Acting Like Adults comes out on Wednesday, with a full release of all formats on February 14. Everyone should buy a copy before the movie comes out and they change everything. Then, buy another copy to see all the differences. I would recommend buying multiple copies of each edition. Sometimes you lose a book or loan it out to a friend and they never give it back. Just to be safe, maybe buy a dozen or two. I've been out of work for a while.

Acting Like Adults is about a group of people in Los Angeles who follow their dreams and want to make it in the entertainment industry – movies, music, TV, theater. Most of the story is how they go about getting there. Some of the characters are more successful than others. Some have more experience. Some have less. People betray each other and their own principles. There is plenty of rivalry, competition and backstabbing. Relationships come and go. Friendships are made, strained, twisted and torn apart. All that good stuff.

Part of the story involves a Harvey Weinstein character. That's a coincidence. A coincidence with really great timing, but still a coincidence. I created the character right before the whole Weinstein thing exploded. He never crossed my mind when writing the character. I knew about some of the rumors, and wasn't at all surprised when everything came out, but I didn't know any details.

My Weinsteinish character is a movie producer who treats women deplorably. He could be based on any number of Hollywood power players over the years. Harry Cohn used to brag about bedding every ingénue on his payroll. Sexual harassment in corporate America is nothing new. He only seems like Weinstein now because of current events. Had this book come out a year earlier, people would think the character was based on someone else.

I think it's a pretty good book. Obviously, I'm not an impartial observer. When you create fictional characters, it's easy to form an attachment to them that the general public might not see. But I've read the book several times and there are still parts that make me laugh, a line or two that makes me feel nostalgic and a couple of scenes that piss me off. With movies, you can have a preview and see if the audience laughs and cries in all the right places. With books, you never know how the reader feels. I hope someone out there reads it the way I do.