Th-th-th-that’s All Folks!

My new blog, Spike In Manila, is now up and running.

There’s still a bit of work to do to get things working correctly, not to mention the overall look of the site. It’s progressing slowly but surely.

I hope you’ll at least take a look at the site. RSS is set up and I’ve got a Facebook page set up as well. I hope that you’ll follow me to the new page and check back there from time to time. For those who don’t check the new site – and for those who do – thanks for following me for all these years. Thanks for reading and for commenting. I’ve mostly really enjoyed the last ten years of blogging and hope to up my game (and blogging frequency) with the new page.

So long Hong Kong and thanks for all the fish!

I’m not really expecting to do any further updates here. I will probably migrate most of the content here over to there at some point in the near future.

Here Comes the Pain

This is not entirely unexpected but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant.

I’ve been using Smart mobile in Manila, pre-paid SIM card – LTE service, unlimited internet, costs P50 per day (about US$1) with discounts if you’re registering for multiple days at a time.

We went out to the house today. It’s a new house on a new street in a new phase of the subdivision. There are two wires running to the house for electricity. That’s it. The houses in the older phases have a choice between Sky and PLDT for cable and internet. The houses near me all have small satellite dishes for Cignal, a company offering most of the popular cable channels. No internet service.

I tried using OpenSignal and Speedtest to check the signal for 3G/4G at the house. No 4G anywhere. The 3G was so weak that Speedtest basically didn’t run (except from the 1st floor balcony). Using my phone as a hotspot, I was able to load Gmail and Facebook on my laptop. But  I don’t believe I’d try any downloading or streaming.

I’ve found some cell coverage maps and they just about tell the story. The red arrow is pointing  to the approximate area where I will be living. It’s borderline zero coverage.smartGlobe is ever so slightly better, at least for 3G:

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The 3rd largest provider, Sun, has no coverage for miles around me.

Even in my current service apartment, which is on a main business street in a business district, internet is not great. The building is using Eastern Telecom and I’ve got a 2 Mbps WiFi connection. But that’s giving me a download speed of an average 75 Kbps on a file that has more than 7,000 seeders. Switch to my mobile phone, where Speedtest tells me I should be getting around 5 Mbps, and torrents are coming in even more slowly than the WiFi connection. Perhaps the mobile companies are throttling on certain ports.

Meanwhile, the pricing is quite odd. At Globe today, I see they are using the label “Tattoo” for various Internet connectivity services. A pocket wifi thingie with internet costs P999 (under HK$200) per month on a postpaid account, but is capped at 5 gig per month. If Apple releases an iOS update, that’s 4 gig used in one day to update our four iOS devices. So that’s useless.

Except if one does not postpay, if one prepays – again P50 per day, P200 for 5 days, and I think it’s P999 for one month – then internet usage is unlimited.

I suspect that what I’m going to end up having to do is to hunt around near my office for the best 4G signal and then stop in the nearest coffee shop for an hour each day before going home.

There’s an answer for everything, just sometimes the answer isn’t so pleasant.

 

I’m in Manila

So here I am.

So far the move has been tiring but relatively pain free.

We ended up having 260 boxes of stuff – 1,200 cubic feet – 200 cubic feet too much to fit into a 20 foot container. If I had another couple of weeks, I’m sure I could have gotten it down to 1,000, but in the weeks leading up to the move I was busier at work than expected. I’ve heard some horror stories from other friends who made the move recently – some reporting goods stolen or broken, others saying the ship made it from Hong Kong to Manila in 2 weeks but then the goods took 5 weeks to clear the port.

At least everything went smoothly with our dog. We spent our last night in a hotel, so the dog export company boarded him that one night. We used a company based in Sai Kung called Export-a-Pet – I had used them back in 2001 when I brought my other dog over to Hong Kong from San Francisco.

We met Bogey at the airport at 6 AM and he was obviously not happy to have spent a night without us and to be stuck in that crate. He was checked through as “excess baggage”. Cathay has a special section in their cargo hold that is pressurized and climate controlled, and he was the last piece of “luggage” loaded onto the plane. I could watch from the terminal as his crate went up that little conveyor belt into the cargo hold.

Arriving in Manila, basically I was counting every second until he was back with us. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long. And customs clearance for him was a matter of minutes since Export-a-Pet had arranged everything in advance. The plant/animal quarantine lady looked at the papers, stamped them, charged us 350 pesos, and we were done.

So actually collecting our 4 bags from the conveyor belt, getting our dog and getting him cleared – from the time we got off the plane until we were outside the terminal loading stuff into the van we’d already booked took 45 minutes at most.

Last night we went to a nearby supermarket to stock up our kitchen. I found Hebrew National hot dogs! But the big surprise was that when the guy boxed up all our groceries and we told him we were going to get a taxi, he asked where we were staying and said he could deliver it for us. “How much is the delivery charge?” “No charge.” “When can you do it?” “Right now.” He even said he’d bring over the bags of stuff we’d just bought in the department store (other household items we needed right away). (Of course we tipped him.)  Need I mention that the supermarket was about 3 times the size of a Hong Kong supermarket and had much greater variety of stuff on the shelves?

I’m Almost Gone

One day down with the packers and movers, one more day to go.

Despite getting rid of the fridge, oven, sofa, dining room set, outdoor furniture set and assorted other stuff, they’re guessing now that everything will not fit into a 20 foot container. Given another week I could probably get rid of enough stuff to make that happen, but I don’t have another week.

Then I come to the madness of Philippines visas. The tough part is trying to get information. So, for example, if you go to the website of the Philippines consulate in Hong Kong or the Philippines Department of Immigration, it will tell you all about how to apply for a 13(A) visa (the one I need). But nowhere does it tell you what that visa gets you. Nothing about how long it’s good for, nothing about the right to work once you’ve got it. Zilch. I should probably have done the visa three months ago but other things were taking up my time and attention.

Search around the web and one gets conflicting information. As near as I can figure it out, the first visa is good for one year. After that it gets renewed, either for ten years or infinity, that’s not so clear. Some sites indicate you can work with that, others indicate that I would still need to obtain some sort of employment visa or certificate. And then apparently I will need to get an ACR I-card, some ID card with a smart chip that all foreigners resident over one year are required to carry.

Here’s where it gets really kind of wacky. If you’re already in Manila and you apply there, apparently it’s a painful process that can take several months. If you do it before you get to Manila, it’s a different story – just a few days once you have all of the papers assembled.

The first painful bit is that they require a certificate of no criminal conviction from the police. You can’t go to the HK Police and just ask for that. You have to get a form from the requestor, then go to the police HQ. They will not send it to you and will not notify you when it’s done. You just have to wait 3-4 weeks and go back to the consulate to ask if they got it yet.

But it’s more painful to do that from Manila because the police require you to send in certain kinds of ID if you’re not applying in person. For example, I’d have to find some place in Manila to fingerprint me and attest that they’re certified to do so and swear that they are my fingerprints. Stuff like that.

The other annoying thing is that they request a significant medical exam – that’s what it says on the form, “significant,” without giving any definition of what they mean by that word, except to say that they want blood, stool and urine tests and a chest x-ray.

I couldn’t do it in Hong Kong (yet) because all of our original documents were sitting with a bank in Manila while our mortgage application was being processed. I only just got them back last week. The police form has been applied for here. So it appears it would actually be less painful for me to travel back and forth, HK/Manila, to complete the process here rather than starting it all over again there.  So while I wasn’t originally planning a HK trip until March, it looks like I could be back for a short visit in February.

Fun, fun, fun.

This will be my last post as a Hong Kong resident. I expect there will be one or a few more posts here until I get the new site set up.

 

Less Than a Week to Go

I’m having a hard time believing that in just 5 more days we’ll be boarding a plane to Manila and Hong Kong will no longer be home. I’m excited about the move, of course, but also anxious to get it all over and done with.

It’s been difficult to finish off everything that I need to get done in what’s an increasingly short time while balancing that with seemingly never-ending demand in the office. Fortunately I’ll get back to Hong Kong at least every other month, so there will be other opportunities to get stuff done.

It’s mostly done though. I’m looking down my task list and see all that remains is the local gas company, one of the mobile providers (Three being slightly more of a pain to deal with than SmarTone or even PCCW, believe it or not) and my MPF.

On Friday I did my final clearance with the HK tax folks. That went kind of funny. I was unable to do any sort of calculation in my head of how much I might owe and I was afraid it could end up being six figures, which would have been inconvenient. On the other hand, I’d already paid my tax bill for the prior year at the beginning of the month, but I didn’t recall how much of it was for the prior year and how much for the year ahead. So after I submitted all of the forms and they asked me if I wanted to come back on Monday to settle the bill or wait for one hour, I chose one hour (my office is just a ten minute walk from Revenue Tower).

One hour later, the first sheet of paper the woman handed to me showed that I owed HK$139. “I love you,” I blurted out before I could even stop myself. But then, there were two more bills (for reasons that I won’t go into), each one higher than the one before, the final one in the low 5 figures. “I don’t love you any more,” I said. “Your choice,” she said.

I paid off the bills and then collected my release letters to give to my company and to the various banks that have my various MPF accounts (I was too lazy to ever consolidate them). The MPF money will take 30 days to collect.

Then Friday night we did our unofficial going away party. 5 or 6 hours hanging out at Joe Bananas (chosen because my wife used to work there and they’ve always been very nice to both of us). I wanted to get that done with because time will be very tight in the coming days. Just one or two more farewell lunches to go.

The movers are here Wednesday and Thursday; I’d say we’re more than half packed already. The dog gets picked up on Thursday and spends the night in a kennel while we spend our final night in a hotel. Then we have to be at the airport 6 AM Friday morning, get our dog checked through, get all of our other (probably excess) baggage checked through.

On the Manila side, we’ve already got a van arranged to pick up us, our dog and all of our luggage at the airport. We’ll be staying in a one bedroom serviced apartment right across the street from my office until we get the basics set up in the house – air conditioners, water heaters, bed, refrigerator, stove, car, etc. Hopefully I can get all of that done in less than a month.

Yikes. I’m tired just thinking about it.

Oh, last week Saturday, I shot my final show for Underground HK, Girls With Guitars #7, at Orange Peel in Lan Kwai Fong. Here’s a few shots:

This is Jules O’Brien:

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Here’s the lead singer from a group with a Chinese name that was doing what they described as “math rock”:

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This is a group called Muffy. They had their own theme song.

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Muffy’s guitarist was not a girl but he did have all the requisite rock star moves:

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And finally a group called After-After-Party, people I knew, a new configuration, doing what I can best describe as comedy punk rock.

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Definitely go check them out if you have the chance.

I’ll try to fit in one or two more posts before I take off.

As The Days Dwindle Down

Just ten days to go before we leave Hong Kong.

Car, fridge, oven, outdoor furniture, sofa all sold off. Whatever CDs, DVDs, books not sold by now will be taken with us and we’ll deal with it at some later point. I’m only in the office this week, next week home to do final packing before the movers arrive on Wednesday.

It definitely feels weird but I’m ready for it and just want it to all be over and behind me so I can get on with things. I think most of you know what I mean.

Stress? Yes, a bit.

My Countdown Continues – 16 Days to Go

Just 16 days before I leave Hong Kong and fly off to Manila.

Most of the important stuff is done – movers booked, including the export service that will help me bring Bogey (my dog) with me. Service flat is arranged, so we’ll have a place to stay until we get the basics installed in our home. A good percentage of the things we’ve been trying to sell off have been sold, we (and when I say “we” here I actually mean “my wife”) started the packing, and we’re also giving away and throwing away stuff like crazy.

But there’s too much that I didn’t start on soon enough. I won’t have my resident visa done for the Philippines for at least another month. I should have my taxes all closed out but won’t be able to collect my MPF funds that soon either. (The banks want to snail mail checks in HKD to me in Manila. Great.)  I haven’t even started to deal with PCCW yet – I’m sure that will be fun.

Not to mention that things at my day job are so busy that I don’t have as much time yet to help around the house getting ready for the move as I’d thought. I’m going to have to take off the entire week before the movers arrive.

This week I did my sworn declaration that I’m leaving Hong Kong for good. And I went to the Certificate of No Criminal Conviction Office, which is located in the same place as the Sexual Conviction Record Check Office. I  made certain not to sit near anyone else while I was waiting for my number to be called. Next I need to figure out where to do the medical check required for the Philippines visa, or maybe I’ll just get it done there.

I was supposed to shoot Avenged Sevenfold tomorrow night but that won’t happen. I may go to one more Underground event before I leave – Girls With Guitars, this Saturday night at Orange Peel.

I’ve been removing most HK blogs from my RSS feeds and adding in Manila blogs. Sad to say that most Manila food bloggers appear to be as useless as most HK food bloggers – badly written rave reviews about meals they got for free. Quotes from a review I read today, yes this is all from the same review: “Crystal Jade Dining IN is known for truly authentic yet contemporary Cantonese cuisine … I go for a refreshing Grape Shake … Our feast started with a uniquely Singaporean dish … the combination of ingredients also presents unique and rich flavors … The dish is prepared by Crystal Jade Dining IN’s staff [who the fuck else is going to prepare it?????] … the feast rises up another notch as we eagerly await with anticipation … a rich and contrasting blend of crisp fresh vegetables and soft and chewy preserved vegetables. The diversity of flavors reflect the rich culinary traditions of Cantonese cuisine, recreated in every dish at Crystal Jade Dining IN … Hearty and comforting noodles for long life, prosperity and abundance … ”  Was that a review or was it just retyping a poorly written press release?

Anyway, as I said, just 16 days to go. Tons to do. Can’t wait till it’s over and done with.

And when I’m gone, I’ll stop following the SCMP and will miss nonsense “news” like this thing they published today:

A prominent businesswoman and close friend of Li Ka-shing, Solina Chau Hoi-shuen, has made rare comments about Hong Kong politics – as well as Asia’s richest man, who she believes is too open-minded to ever enter politics.

On a political role for the tycoon, she said: “Mr Li has often said he might try to enter politics to make a greater contribution if he had a choice. But he is an unusual person. He must not enter politics. He is too open-minded. He never cares about criticism against him.”

He’s 86 years old and he’s going to “enter politics”? And her English name is Solina. Presumably because she’s so lina? (Solina is a village in Lesko County, Subcarpathian Voivodeship, in south-eastern Poland. It is the former seat of the gmina called Gmina Solina.)(Voivod was a pretty decent band I must say.)(I wonder if Solina is a fan.)

The businesswoman echoed Li’s hope that lawmakers would pass the electoral reform package, which she believed would create a platform to overcome political disputes.

And just what is that belief based on, pray tell?

Chau said: “It is important for Hong Kong to be part of the political progress of China. I personally want to see the reforms passed, and I think they should be passed with all legislators voting for them.”

Because everybody voting the same is real democracy, eh? Yes! We’re all individuals! Yes! We’re all different! Yes! We’ve got to work it out for ourselves! Now what was that bit about blessed are the cheese-makers? What’s so special about the cheese-makers?

“If the reforms are passed … it can encourage more of those who want to serve Hong Kong to run for [chief executive].

“Without [a platform of universal suffrage], every day when we watch TV, there is only noise and lies … It is like almost all people are telling lies. Aren’t you tired of it? Don’t you want to turn off the TV? … These things repeat and repeat.”

It’s almost like Solina is telling lies, saying that universal suffrage combined with a system where the only candidates on the ballot are those approved by the CCP would be a cure-all for Hong Kong’s woes. The thing is, plenty of people believe this. And she might actually be one of them for all I know.

Put one million Dr. Seuss’s in a room with one million typewriters for one million years and they still wouldn’t be able to come up with blather like that.  Who needs Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck when you’ve got this?

Music – The Stuff I Liked in 2014

(UPDATE: Somewhere the proper version of this post has fallen in between the cracks. This one here is slightly different and closer to what I intended than the post that got published a week or so back. One thing I need to add, among others, is that I’ve finally gotten around to listening to War On Drugs and it’s fricking wonderful.)

And now for something completely different. I’d meant to do this post up all nice with album cover photos and affiliate links to Amazon that no one would click on, but with my move now less than 3 weeks away, I’ll never get to it. So here it is, raw.

I spent far less time listening to music in the past year than I probably should have, and much of that listening time was devoted to stuff that was familiar and comfortable rather than exploring the new.  So here’s my quirky list of new stuff, reissues, things I have marked as “spend more time listening to this” and other bits and bobs.

Adam Cohen – We Go Home – this past year I’ve been re-obsessed with all things Leonard Cohen. Adam is one of his kids and may not be as exceptional as his dad but works a similar vein and doesn’t insult your intelligence.

The Allman Brothers Band – The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings – great to get all of these complete sets and sounding so good, but one thing it makes clear is that they picked the right versions of these songs for the original release.

Annie Lennox – Nostalgia – I was depressed thinking that after a gap of so many years, the best she could come back with was this album of 12 covers, most of which are songs that have been covered too many times already (Georgia on My Mind) or seem inappropriate for a wealthy white British woman to be singing (Strange Fruit). But I’ll say this – she sings the hell out of these songs.

Beck – Morning Phase – A sort of sequel to Sea Change, this album of quieter songs (with arrangements from his dad) really resonated with me. I’ve played this more than any Beck album since, well, since Sea Change

Black Keys – Turn Blue – a huge success but I didn’t care for this as much as its predecessor.

Bob Dylan and The Band – Basement Tapes Complete – Like so many others, I’ve obsessed over the Basement Tapes for decades. Now we get everything (so they say) and we get it with the mid-70s overdubs removed. Add to that the best packaging of the year. The challenge is to find time to edit this down to a playlist of my favorite tracks – or just go with the 2 CD version, which consists of the tracks that made up the original mid-70s release.

Brian Eno – Nerve Net – a whole series of expanded Eno reissues, this one is the highlight because the bonus disc is My Squelchy Life.

Brian Eno & Karl Hyde – Someday World/High Life – the first album sounded as if they were stuck in the 90s, the second a bit of an improvement.

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes –  a patchwork and I find I’m no fan of XXX’s guitar work here.

Bryan Ferry – Avonmore. As good as any solo album he’s ever done. Ten originals, two covers and his cover of Robert Palmer’s John and Mary is worth hearing – several times.

Crosby Stills Nash & Young – CSNY 1974 – I know there are fans out there for this document of their 1974 tour but for me only the Neil Young stuff here still holds up. Everything else just seems to be dueling egos.

Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots – This is his first proper “solo” album and it didn’t disappoint me.

David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed – the 3 CD deluxe edition is the best career retrospective from Bowie yet. It runs in reverse chronological order, starting with his new collaboration with Maria Schneider. I really like the James Murphy remix of Love is Lost.

Eric Clapton – The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale – I have very low expectations of any Clapton album. This one didn’t put me to sleep and did get me to dig out Cale’s records again.

FKA Twigs – LP1 – Everyone loves this. Guess I’ll go back and play it again.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Inside the Pleasuredome. I won’t try and defend my love for everything and anything ZTT. This 7 LP set seems to collect every possible permutation of FGTH’s first album, which I still play far too often.

Gary Clark Jr – Live – His debut album was all over the map, this is more focused. He’ll be a great guitarist one day and he’s got a terrific voice. This might have been better as a single disc though.

Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours. Retro ballads from a former member of …. Kind of early Scott Walker-ish. I played this a lot but it’s not consistent – the first few tracks are the best.

Howlin’ Wolf – The Complete RPM & Chess Singles As & Bs 1951-1962 – because every record collection should have this.

Jack White – Lazaretto – I never really got the White Stripes but I’ve always admired White as “authentic” – I only became a fan after the movie It Might Get Loud – and I like his two solo albums a lot more than the WS stuff.

Jenny Lewis – The Voyager – I’ve only played this once so far but it sounded great and I need to get back to it.

Jessie J – Sweet Talker – I have no idea why, but Bang Bang is one of the few singles from 2014 that I like. I haven’t listened to the rest of the album though.

Joe Bonamassa – Different Shades of Blue – You can always count on Bonamassa to try something different and here there are more original songs and different backing musicians but in the end it’s not as good as his previous album, Dust Bowl.

John Hiatt – Terms of My Surrender – Hiatt’s got a real late-career renaissance going.

John Mellencamp – Plain Spoken – Mellencamp stays in his Okie folkie range and I played this more than his previous couple of albums.

Johnny Winter – True to the Blues – Nice to get a definitive Johnny Winter compilation, sad that he died this year.

King Crimson – The deluxe reissue overkill continued this year with 20+ disc sets for Starless and Red. My favorite era of Crimson but I just don’t have time for all of this so I’ve concentrated on the Steven Wilson remixes.

Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence – In which she not only shows that the last album wasn’t a fluke, she improves upon it.

LCD Soundsystem – The Long Goodbye – great recording of their farewell concert. This is where I finally realized how good James Murphy has been for so long.

Led Zeppelin – the super deluxe reissues from Jimmy Page. Frankly I’m not knocked out by most of the bonus material. It leaves me wondering “is this really all there is?” But the remastered sound is splendid and the accompanying hardcover books in the super deluxe box set are nice to have.

Leonard Cohen – Live in Dublin – While this duplicates a lot of the Live in London set from four years ago, there are new songs and there’s still that great band, yielding truly definitive versions of many of his classic songs.

Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems – Worth the price of entry just for Almost Like the Blues, but plenty of other good new songs to listen to and ponder over.

Michael Bloomfield – From His Head to His Heart to His Hands – Al Kooper put together this splendid retrospective, 3 CDs plus 1 DVD, with key tracks from Butterfield Blues Band, Electric Flag, Super Session and his solo work. One of the most important guitarists ever and yet all but forgotten. Anyone who loves electric blues guitar should have this in their collection.

Muddy Waters – The Complete Aristocrat & Chess Singles As & Bs 1947-1962 – just like the Howlin’ Wolf set mentioned above, essential.

Neil Young – Storytone – Sorry, I think he’s lost the plot. I share his environmental concerns but I think most of the song writing is far below his best.

The New Basement Tapes – Lost on the River – T Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, one of the Mumfords and others put music to a bunch of Bob Dylan lyrics from the 60s recently discovered in a trunk somewhere.  When I listen to it, I’m just too conscious that it’s Dylan throw-aways and while some of them are good all I can think of is, “Is this how Zimmy would have done it?”

Nils Lofgren – Face the Music – massive boxed set that makes the case that he’s not just a great guitarist and not just a great backing musician for Springsteen and Neil Young. Even if he never stepped on stage with anyone else, he’d still be worth following.

Pink Floyd – The Endless River – unreleased mostly instrumental studio jams from 20 years ago, remixed and edited, some new instruments added. It sounds like classic era Floyd but it meanders and is less than essential.

R.E.M. – A good year for them, big collections featuring both of their MTV Unplugged appearances and “rarities” from both the IRS and the Warner Bros days.

Robert Plant – Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar – I admire Plant so much for what he’s doing here. He’s still a great singer and the arrangements are inventive across the board. I just wish the songs were a little stronger.

Robert Wyatt – Different Every Time – fabulous two disc compilation that omits I’m a Believer and still seems close to definitive.

Robyn Hitchcock – The Ghost in You. Hitchcock used to be a major fave. I stopped listening to him a few years ago. This gorgeous album has me loving him all over again.

Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams – This sounds like great mainstream classic rock and I think it will sound good for years to come.

Santana – Corazon – the big guest name approach yet again, but this time on a mostly Latino album, so it’s different enough and it works. I really love his take on Bob Marley’s Iron Lion Zion, featuring Ziggy Marley.

Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused – I should give this a listen.

St. Vincent – St. Vincent – I should give this a listen.

Swans – To Be Kind – A big noise, A huge fucking noise. I didn’t think I still liked this kind of challenging music but in this case, I still do.

Taylor Swift – 1989 – I’ve never listened to her before but gave it a couple of spins since it made so many year’s best lists. I’m not sure that I’d know it was her if I didn’t already know it’s her. All this Max Martin stuff sounds alike to me.

Tom Petty – Hypnotic Eye – Wow, did the media hype this album, a return to rocking 70s form for him, they said. Not really.

Tweedy – Sukirae – I should give this a listen.

U2 – Songs of Innocence. Rolling Stone magazine named this the best album of the year. I stopped paying attention to Rolling Stone’s album reviews years ago precisely because of stuff like that.

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground 45th Anniversary Edition – Magnificent. Three very different mixes of the album. Two more CDs of live stuff and another CD with the scrapped 4th album (most of the tracks made it out over the years but they never sounded this good).

2014 was a good year for collectors as record companies continued to churn out massive box sets offering the complete output from a varied selection of artists. Often no-frills packaging and no bonus tracks but still a nice way to grab everything at once from everyone from Emmylou Harris to Rick James.

So not that much music on my list from new acts under the age of 30. I don’t listen to as much music as I’d like now because I don’t use music as background noise when I’m working or reading. When I listen to music, I listen to music. But my time for listening frequently occurs in venues where I want to hear something I already know I like – on the bus going home after a long day at work, as one example.

Plus, let’s face it, the dominant popular music remains hip hop, and as near as I can tell the dominant lyrical theme in hip hop remains “I’m so great” and “I’m so rich” and that doesn’t hold any interest for me. The indie and alternative rock bands mostly strike me as either too derivative or too discordant.

I get it. My tastes are becoming more mainstream as I get older. I used to thrill to new releases with song titles that read like calculus. Now I simply don’t want to work that hard.

Hong Kong is Now Fucked Into a Cocked Hat

Is Hong Kong going to hell?

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Surely you don’t need me to tell you about what happened in Paris with Charlie Hebdo magazine – about the murders there and then the all-out police response that brought the murderers to justice in less than three days.

So what about Hong Kong, where unknown pieces of shit firebombed the office of Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily and the home of its publisher? And now, a police officer was run over by a man in a van after attempting to stop what appears to be a coordinated effort to steal copies of this newspaper from stalls in early morning hours as the paper is delivered.

Fortunately no one was killed.  At a very basic level, isn’t this the same thing as the Charlie Hebdo attack? A publication exercising the right for freedom of speech finding itself at the receiving end of violence because some people disagreed with what was written and were unable to respond in any way other than Neanderthal? Is the timing of this series of attacks pure coincidence? Or were the triads/billionaires/CCP inspired by events in France?

The cars that the firebombers used have been found, license plates removed. The police response to date has been, “the motive for the attacks was still under investigation.”  Given recent history in Hong Kong, one might safely assume that the firebombers were hired, that the firebombers might eventually be caught and sentenced, that those who hired them will never be known or revealed or tried in a court of law.

Meanwhile, Regina Ip, on the short list of people who might become the next governor (Chief Executive is such a stupid name) of Hong Kong and surely on the short list of biggest idiots in Hong Kong (which is how she got on the former list) has said, “oh, wait, we can’t assume that just because someone threw firebombs at a newspaper office and at the home of the newspaper’s owner and then sent people combing the city to steal copies of that newspaper that this is an attack on press freedom. Maybe it’s a, oh, I don’t know, a personal grudge.”

By the way, Article 27 of the Basic Law states, “Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike.”

But that hasn’t stopped Chinese authorities from telling HK companies that if they advertise in newspapers that support democracy that they may not be able to conduct business in China.

All of this violence and intimidation is disgraceful. It’s shoddy. It’s cheap. It’s small-minded. It is unbecoming to “Asia’s World City” and a global power. And these are not isolated incidents. They are part of a pattern of growing violence against media that does not toe the pro-Communist Party line.

Jimmy Lai’s aide Mark Simon:

“It’s just extremely disappointing that basically the only thing they got left is violence; that’s the case being made against peaceful democracy and civil disobedience. Nobody is making the argument anymore. They’re just throwing firebombs.”

It was less than a month ago that a top ranking CCP official said that Hong Kong is in need of “re-enlightenment” on “national identity”. In the past, “re-enlightenment” in China usually meant prison or forced labor. So there is that to look forward to.

This whole one country, two systems thing has been utter nonsense from the outset. President Ma Ying-Jeou of Taiwan: “If the system is good, then we believe it should be ‘one country, one system.” We have one country, two systems because one of those systems fucking sucks sweaty donkey balls, it always has sucked and it always will suck. China doesn’t have a clue as to how to manage Hong Kong and the world will keep its mouth shut as long they’re dependent on Chinese consumers to keep their economies afloat.

One of my favorite quotes from the film Ronin:

So what could have been conducted in collegial atmosphere is now fucked into cocked hat.

 

Hong Kong Tax – A Bit More

A quick follow-up to a previous post.

From the SCMP:

The government has again made a gross underestimation of its budget surplus, according to accountants who put the figure at more than HK$58 billion, compared to the government’s estimate of HK$9.1 billion.

In separate press conferences, the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants and PricewaterhouseCoopers Hong Kong respectively predicted the government would post a HK$60 billion and HK$58.1 billion surplus in the fiscal year ending on March 31 – more than six times the figure forecast by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah in February’s budget.

The accountants put the huge difference down to higher-than-expected stamp duty and income tax payments.

Stock market transactions also incur stamp duty and, along with property sales, big transactions here have contributed to the rise in stamp duty receipts, said the accountants.

“It is common to see a difference between the estimated and actual surplus, but the government has underestimated its surplus over the past five fiscal years, showing its conservative approach,” said Florence Chan Yuen-fan, of the institute’s taxation faculty executive committee. The gap between estimated and actual figures ranged from HK$26.7 billion last fiscal year to HK$100.3 billion in 2010-11.

In November, the city’s fiscal reserves stood at HK$768.6 billion, up from HK$710.2 billion the previous year.

The way I see it, John Tsang is either incompetent or evil – and I’m not saying that the two are mutually exclusive. Just what does the Hong Kong government need to have US$100 billion in reserve for? Basically they’ve got more than HK$1 million per person in Hong Kong.

I’ll take my million in $500 notes please. No $1,000 bills, might be counterfeit you know.