Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Handy Torrent Trick

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Maybe all of you reading this already knew this one. I certainly didn’t – until this week.

Usually I don’t do any torrent stuff until after I get home from work in the evening, which can be as late as 9 PM. But what happens if there’s something to download that I’d like to have available as soon as I get home? I found the answer (sorry, can’t provide a link/credit as I don’t recall where).

Many torrent clients can be set to watch a specific directory and automatically start downloading any torrent that shows up in that directory. So set it to watch your Dropbox (or Google Drive or Sugarsync or whatever you have) folder. The next step is to set the torrent client to start downloading immediately – mine (I use µTorrent) would always pop up a little confirmation window, so it took me a few seconds to find the setting for that and disable it.

So now … let’s say I’m in the office and it’s lunch time so I’m on a break and I’m doing a bit of browsing on my own behalf and I come upon an interesting torrent. Rather than save it for later, I immediately save the torrent to my Dropbox folder. (And yes, this does mean that you need to leave your computer running when you go out, and your torrent program as well.)

And when I get home, voila!, it’s done and it’s there and it’s ready for me whenever I’m ready for it. Really I should have thought of this on my own. Facepalm.

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We Like It Hot

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While it used to be next to impossible to get decent Sichuan food in Hong Kong, it seems to me that in recent years hole-in-the-wall Shanghainese restaurants have added Sichuan dishes to their menus and are doing a pretty good job of it. I’m no expert on Shanghai food but I’m somewhat certain that super spicy isn’t a part of it.

This place in Mong Kok is one of our current favorites.

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The English sign, as you can see, says “The Best Shanghai Fusion” while the Chinese name is Ho Ho something or other. They appear to have two shops on the same street, Fa Yuen Street (aka Sneaker Street) just off the corner of Dundas. This is the larger of the two locations and is the one we always eat at. They have an English menu, lots of photos, and some of the staff speaks English, so dining here is easy. It’s also fairly cheap. We’ve eaten here several times, just usually I forget to take pictures.

We started off with wontons in a very spicy sauce:

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I’ve eaten this in a lot of places. I can’t say that it’s any better or worse here than at others. What I can say is that it probably took us less than 60 seconds to polish this off. (Okay, we were hungry and this is the first dish that arrived at the table.)

Next we went for the king prawns in “extreme hot chili sauce.”

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Well, as you can see, I’m still learning a new camera and I thought I was focused on the bowl but somehow only the toothpicks up top are in focus. Here’s the big sign for the dish on the wall.

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The most expensive dish we ordered, at HK$118. It really did have 8 big prawns in it, and they really did taste fresh.  My tolerance for spicy isn’t as high as my gf’s – she started slurping the sauce with a spoon.

The last dish was a spicy chicken with cumin.

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I know, it looks pretty good, but we probably wouldn’t order this again. The taste was okay but I didn’t care for the mushy texture of the chicken.

The place also has a selection of “special drinks” – bubble teas, fruit punches and the like, but we didn’t go for that. If our time in Mong Kok wasn’t so limited, perhaps we would have relaxed there for a spell.  Other people certainly felt free to, like this guy who took off his shoes and put his feet up on the bench. How droll.

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Maybe it’s because I can’t afford the ritzy joints of Lan Kwai Fong or Soho, but lately it seems as if many of my favorite restaurants can be found in and around the Yau Tsim Mong district (Yau Ma Tei, Jordan, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok). There are some streets in Tsim Sha Tsui that are positively bursting with some good food deals – I’m thinking of Ashley Road and those streets running between Nathan Road and Chatham Road South (especially Hart Avenue) in particular.

Mong Kok is of course filled to overflowing with restaurants of all shapes and sizes. Open Rice currently lists 1,785 places there. We had a favorite hole in the wall dim sum place there (not Tim Ho Wan) but it recently closed. There’s this cheapo Vietnamese place that doesn’t serve banh mi (none of the HK style Vietnamese places do) but has this butter fried chicken wing thing to die for (and with all the butter that’s in it, and then deep fried, it probably is heart-attack-inducing if you indulge too often).

We’ve mostly explored the streets south of Argyle Street and mostly had very good luck walking into places just because we like the look of them. There’s lots of nice places right on the street with Ladies Market, just hidden behind the stalls. I think now it’s time for us to start looking north of Argyle as well.

Any and all restaurant recommendations gratefully accepted!

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Killing Time With Hong Kong Celebrity Gossip

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I’ve got several blogs in my RSS reader that provide translations of the current stories making the rounds of local celebrity gossip.   I have zero interest in Canto-pop, I don’t watch local TV shows and I believe that, Johnnie To excepted, Hong Kong simply isn’t turning out the same quality of films that it did back in the 80′s and 90′s.  I don’t deny it, I look at this stuff because I enjoy looking at photos of attractive women.

For the most part, HK celebrity gossip is every bit as silly as the American stuff but there are extra dimensions to it.  One is that the public morality is the equivalent of the US in the 1950s.  All Hong Kong stars are publicly chaste – this despite the Edison Chen scandal from a few years back that showed (gasp!) that attractive young people enjoy sex.   Beyond that, while I’m extremely grateful that people are taking the time to translate this stuff into English, sometimes the translations are just plain funny.

Anyway, here’s a random selection of items that caught my eye from the past several weeks.

Owodog has not dated in five years.  This guy’s English name is Owodog?

In the film many actresses appeared in bikini. Owodog honestly said that he was very nervous. He did not dare to look at them directly and felt very embarrassed as he did not know where to put his eyes. Did he like girls with fuller busts? Owodog said that he admired more talented girls, being able to play the piano or draw was more important than a full figure.

Carina Lau denies finding surrogate mother.  When the story broke a few days earlier about Lau and husband Tony Leung finding a surrogate mother in the US, all I could think was, “Is this how low they need to go for publicity?”  But maybe it was the press just making up something to sell more magazines?

Kenneth Ma rarely brings women home.  Apparently in this case it means “rarely brings women home to meet his parents.”

Niki Chow picked up after work by boyfriend in an expensive car.  Wait!  A gorgeous Hong Kong star is dating a rich guy?  Stop the presses!

Jessica ends 2 year relationship.  First of all, Jessica Hsuan is 40 years old and damn she looks mighty fit.  “Always keen to settle down, Jessica had been in a stable relationship with South African origin and vet Ruan. They have been together for over 2 years. Back in April, there were rumours that she invested in a 1,000,000 Hong Kong dollar property as a love nest for them both and wedding plans for next year.”  I’m scratching my head over what she could have possibly bought for HK$1 million – I think that would get you 700 square feet in Yuen Long or a closet in Soho.

Linda Wong gets mean to keep an eye on her father. Her father’s been ill so she yells at him every time he tries to drink a glass of wine.  The way she’s wearing that dress, she can be mean to me anytime she pleases.

BOY’Z announces reunion, invests 6 figures in an all new album.  Apparently they’ve now changed their name from “Boy’z” to “BOY’Z”.  Seriously.

Anyway, bonus, here’s a pic of me with Boy’z back in 2004 at the premiere of Harry Potter 3:

Fala Chen Afraid of Filming Kiss Scenes: Saliva is Unhygienic.  Seriously, where to even begin with that one?

Mavis Pan: Everyone Treats Me Like a Prostitute.  Mavis always turns up in the gossip pages.  More on her further down.

Linda Chung’s Heart Toyed by Lawyer Boyfriend and Unwittingly Became Third Party. ” Shockingly, Linda’s lawyer boyfriend already possessed a long-time girlfriend, Joyce, who was also a lawyer.”

Edison Chen Turned Black-Face Upon Hearing Cecilia Cheung’s Name.  Cecilia of course was one of the women whose pictures turned up on Edison Chen’s computer.  She’s married to Nicholas Tse and the disintegration of their marriage has been playing out in the magazines on an almost-daily basis for the past several months.  Now I don’t know what the original Chinese headline would have been, but assuming a direct translation, and trying to wonder how quickly any reporter in the US would be fired for using a phrase like “turned black-face.”

One Day After Grandmother’s Funeral, Raymond Lam Went Clubbing and Hungrily Kissed Kibby Lau. Lam of course previously linked with Mavis Pan.  I’m sure he was kissing Kibby because he was in need of consolation.  And a sandwich.

Koni Lui Covers Up Chest to Avoid Public Complaints at 2011 Mr. Hong Kong Contest.  “At last year’s Mr. Hong Kong Contest, Koni wore a plunging red gown. The exposure level of her dress led to 39 public complaints filed at the Broadcasting Authority.”  Of course right now the bluenoses in the US are having a field day with Nicki Minaj’s recent wardrobe malfunction.

Mavis Pan: My First Date With Raymond Lam Was On His Bed!  And every man is thinking, “Way to go Raymond!”

“We could not go to any public places. Our first date was at Raymond’s house. We laid on his bed and chatted for the entire evening. Then we hugged and went to sleep. This gave me the feeling that he was too lewd. I found him to be very good.”

Went to sleep?  He was “too lewd”?  But she found him to be “very good”?  Uh-huh.

Finally, just some really nice shots of Li Bingbing and Jun Ji-hyun from a recent photoshoot for Trendshealth magazine, from here.  This year Li Bingbing has been showing up everywhere, from the beach at Cannes to U.S. TV.  Sometimes I look at photos of her and wonder why, other times I see photos like these:

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Hong Kong Protest

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Friday night I was in Wanchai and around 10:30 or 11 PM took a look over towards Gloucester Road and saw a solid line of bumper to bumper traffic.  I wondered if there was some connection to the annual July 1 protest march, though it seemed a bit late in the day to me for that.

(Aside – the person I was talking to started complaining about the whole July 1 annual protest thing.  “It should be a day for celebration, not for protests,” he said.  Before you ask, this person was Caucasian.  I wasn’t in the mood to debate the issue so I just let it go by.  However, in case you have any doubt about where I stand, I think that 14 years of increasingly inept government By Beijing, For the Real Estate Moguls, Of Self-Interest, is well worth protesting and what better day to do it than the anniversary of “the return” to China?)

I only look at the SCMP online and I didn’t see any news article reporting on this traffic.  However, the government’s own news site did contain a report.   And it’s an odd one at that – the first half is a half-hearted report of the events, the second half is almost an apology, a “don’t hate me for doing my job” bit.

Police this morning arrested 228 people in Central suspected of causing obstruction in a public place and unlawful assembly, including 181 men and 47 women, aged 17 to 68.

Last night, some participants of processions on Hong Kong Island occupied both sides of Connaught Road Central and part of Queens Road Central, paralysing traffic. They refused to leave after repeated Police warnings.

To resume social order, public safety and traffic flow, Police arrested some demonstrators. The officers showed restraint professionally, and adopted necessary force.

The Police respect the public’s right to express their views, and their freedom of speech and assembly. When people express their opinion, they must obey Hong Kong’s laws and social order.

The Police ensure the processions are conducted in a safe and orderly manner, and facilitate the organiser. At the same time, officers do not tolerate violent acts. They will take action to resume social order and public safety if the order is violated.

Coming from the west as I do, this continual emphasis on “social order” is quite alien to me.  I think there are times that the social order must be upended.  On the other hand, whatever the reason for this demonstration and whomever was behind it, I think it was misguided.  Inconveniencing hundreds and possibly thousands of people to make a point likely ends up making more opponents than converts.

On the other hand, I find it odd that the SCMP couldn’t find the room to report on this (at least not online).  Was it some editorial decision to deny coverage to the suffrage movement?  Or was it that thanks to their continuing budget cutbacks all of the reporters had already gone home for the night?   To be fair, Sunday’s edition of the paper does find room for not one but two articles on speed dating.   In the “Hong Kong News” section.

(Aside – One of the SCMP articles on speed dating ends with this nugget of information.  “For Leo Chung, 28, dating in Hong Kong was more difficult because the gay scene is much smaller. Still, the Hong Kong local found love and is moving to Australia to be with his partner who he met eight months ago. “Dating in Hong Kong is hard, but there’s definitely hope. It’s just seeing how open you are about different races,” he said.” Thank you Leo for overcoming your prejudices and going with a white guy.)

At least the SCMP does publish something on the weekends.  The sub-Standard (which is free – you get what you pay for) doesn’t bother with editions on Saturdays and Sundays.  Although there could well be a “Mary Ma” editorial on Monday deploring the actions of these protesters.

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Hasa Dega Eebowai

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If you haven’t already heard, Trey Parker & Matt Stone, the mad geniuses behind South Park, now have a smash musical running on Broadway.  It’s called The Book of Mormon and if I’m remembering correctly, this year it has received 14 Tony nominations, more than any other show.

Listening to the cast album, I had to wait till the 4th song to find out if there was going to be an equivalent song to “Shut Your Fucking Face, Uncle Fucker.”  In this case, it’s called Hasa Dega Eebowai and you’ll have to wait until around 1:55 for the joke to really kick in.  This Youtube clip just has the song, no visual except the poster. it’s well worth 4:25 of your time.

 

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For the last two weeks, my mobile phone has been getting calls from a blocked number 5 or more times per day, at times of day ranging from 8 AM to 11 PM.   Often I’d answer the call and there would be silence on the line and then it would click off.  Sometimes I would hear the tail end of a pre-recorded message and on some occasions the entire message.  Two or three sentences in Cantonese, including a phone number, and then it would click off.  This has been an annoyance, to put it mildly.  I couldn’t get the whole number because the voice is talking very fast and usually the call would come when I wasn’t near a pen or a piece of paper.  So after awhile, any time a call came up as “blocked,” I’d simply reject the call.  Except that lately I am expecting calls from people and companies that block their number.  So I had to start taking the calls again, just in case.

This morning, a call from a blocked number and an actual person on the line, asking for a Mr. Leung.  “Wrong number,” I told him.  And he hung up.  This afternoon, I was able to get the entire phone number when “blocked” called again.  So I called them back.  The call went something like this.

Me:  What company is this?

Them #1:  Who are you?

Me:  I’m not telling you who I am until you tell me the name of your company.

Them #1:  Um, there are many companies here, who are you?

repeat several times and then finally:

Them #1:  Hold on.

Them #2:  Who are you?

Me:  Who are you?  What company is this and why are you calling me 5 times a day for 2 weeks?

Them #2:  Sorry, your number is XXXX-XXXX?  We already know that Mr. Leung is not at this number and we will not call you any more.

Me:  You just did!  I’m still getting calls.  I got a call from you just 5 minutes ago.

Them #2:  That was a mistake.

Me:  If I get one more call from your company, I’m filing a complaint with the OFTA.  [The OFTA was the first government agency that came to mind, although I realize that the OFTA only handles complaints regarding telecommunications companies - mobile operators and such - and not collection agencies abusing the phone system.]

Them #2:  Sorry. [click]

End of call.

Guess what?  Tonight at 10:45 PM, another automated call from them.

Clearly this is some kind of collection agency and this Mr. Leung owes them money.   But I have had this phone number for more than 3 years.

But apparently they think they have the license to keep calling me multiple times a day without confirming who I am.  Two weeks of automated phone calls before a human thought to dial the number and check.  And how long for them to update their computer systems to remove me from the system?

So who do I complain to?  The police?  Or is there some other government agency that would handle this?  I suppose it’s the police.  I’ll be calling them in the morning.

In the meantime, for those of you desperate for entertainment, feel free to call the number above and order a pizza or offer them a discount on yoga classes or anything else that comes to mind.

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Recent Movie Notes

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Five Easy Pieces is part of the Criterion boxed set America Lost & Found: The BBS Story that I recently received for Christmas.  Bob Rafelson’s second film as a director (after Head) and, perhaps more notably, Jack Nicholson’s first major starring role, the film was huge in 1970, no doubt helped by the chicken salad sandwich scene that “went viral” before the term existed.   When it was first released I was 16 years old and studying piano and found something oddly romantic about the notion of a talented piano player walking away from his talent and family, taking on whatever odd jobs he could find.  The presence of Karen Black, Susan Anspach and Sally Struthers didn’t hurt either.  Forty years later, I’m astonished at how well the film holds up.  On a personal level, it really resonates with me.

I think I laughed at most once or twice while watching Dinner for Schmucks, a Jay Roach film that’s supposed to be a comedy.  My laughs came mostly thanks to supporting players Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement (from Flight of the Conchords) and David Walliams (Little Britain).  Aside from the lame script, I have this problem with Paul Rudd, whom I find competent but mostly  unmemorable in every film  I’ve seen him in, and this is no exception.  Steve Carell is also a let down; I don’t think anyone had a good handle on what his character was supposed to be, aside from the obvious ticks and quirks, and we end up with something that might have worked better in a 5 minute TV sketch.

I don’t think that director Darren Aronofsky has lived up to his potential yet.  Pi and Requiem for a Dream were pretty darned amazing.  The Fountain was an embarrassment.  The Wrestler was a commercial hit yet it struck me as filmmaking-by-the-numbers, taking on an established genre and not doing all that much new with it.   With Black Swan, Aronofsky has the balls to go after The Red Shoes, the greatest ballet film ever made.  Like Red Shoes, this is the tale of a dedicated young ballerina (Natalie Portman) striving for success, dealing with an imposing director (Vincent Cassel) and her rivals past and future (Winona Ryder and Mila Kunis).  That’s where the resemblance ends, because this is the tale of a woman going insane, and the film moves from subtle to lurid in its shockers.   Oddly, for a ballet film, the dance sequences are short – perhaps Aronofsky thought audiences wouldn’t have the patience for long ballet sequences? – and what glimpses we get of Cassel’s supposedly more lurid and visceral Swan Lake make it seem pedestrian.  Portman’s amazing performance is sure to get her at least an Oscar nomination.  In an exceptionally weak year for films, this rates as one of the best.

I tried to watch Reign of Assassins but turned it off in disgust after about 30 minutes.  While it’s co-directed by one of my favorites, John Woo, I suppose the emphasis is on the “co-”.  The other “co-”
is Su Chao-Bin, who also wrote this, so I’m going to assume that the blame lies with him.  Incapable of telling its story directly, the action sequences are so poorly edited, in a modern rock video-ish style that obscures details rather than letting us revel in them.  Anyway, I got to this bit about a woman warrior going for plastic surgery – a thousand years ago?  The doctor explains he’s gonna put poisonous insects in her and they will eat her cheek bones and then he’ll slice her face open and remove the insects and sew her up with golden threads.   No, they don’t show any of this on screen.  But I think they spent more time coming up with that method of plastic surgery than any other facet of the dumb script.

We watched the extended edition of Avatar today on Blu-Ray.  Not having seen the film in a year, I was newly impressed with the special effects and how packed with detail each frame was.   But overall, I liked the film even less than when I saw it in the theater.  Watching at home, I didn’t miss the 3D at all.  (There is a 3D Blu-Ray version of this film available in the US but you can only get it when you buy a 3D Panasonic TV.  I understand the disc is going for more than $300 on eBay these days.  Feh.)

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Two Really Bad Meals

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I was on my own last week, on holiday at home and also on a budget.  I’m far less ambitious when eating on my own.  For me, one of the joys of a great meal is being able to share it with someone.

Wednesday night was little bits of food here and there and it ended with me deciding to try a slice of pizza at Uncle Hiro’s, the place that’s taken over the old Cul de Sac location on Luard.  I believe they are owned by the same company that owns Ebeneezer’s and Subway (and most people I’ve spoken to have agreed with me that the quality of Ebeneezer’s kebabs has fallen off a cliff in the past couple of years).

This was without a doubt the saddest slice of “pizza” I have ever eaten.   They have this dough sitting there already cut into small triangular sections.  I suspect it was frozen.  It was grey and crying to be put out of its misery.  Then the guy spreads a spoonful of the sweetest pizza sauce it has ever been my misfortune to eat, sprinkles some cheese and 4 tiny slices of pepperoni and sticks the concoction into some sort of counter-top oven.   This is $28.   About the same price for a 12 inch slice on fresh made dough with imported cheese and generous piles of pepperonis that you can get from Paisano. And they charge $32 for a hot dog?  They have one of those metal rotating things with dogs on them, looks as if they were sitting there for a week.

There really is no excuse for this sad attempt at food.  It’s not just bad, it’s cynically bad, it’s “we know you’re so drunk at 3 AM you can’t tell what you’re eating and by the way we hate you” bad.

Thursday night I picked up my gf at the airport.  Normally we’d stop and get a bite at the branch of Crystal Jade there but we weren’t feeling so hungry.  By the time we were getting close to home, hunger was setting in.  There aren’t many late night food places in Sai Kung, especially on weeknights, and I remembered that the two garishly lit places (seen above) on Sai Sha Road stay open late.  They’re both village houses with large patios and they’re both Thai restaurants.  They may or may not have the same owners.   They’ve both been there at least a decade.

I parked and we chose the first place, Country Inn.  What a disaster.

Sour and spicy pork neck salad – Very fatty slices of pork neck that were inedibly sour and not at all spicy.  I think I know something about proper Thai food and this was just completely out of balance. The “salad” consisted of a single piece of lettuce, as opposed to the photo on the menu which indicated all sorts of veggie goodness on the plate.

Fried chicken with chili and basil – The menu, at least the English portion of it, neglected to mention that this is minced chicken, which tasted more like pork to both of us.  It was the one dish that was okay.

Grilled beef with I forget what – tiny strips of presumably local beef with a lot of salt and no other spice, incredibly tough and chewy.

The above 3 dishes, with a young coconut and a lime soda, cost over HK$300.  The only thing this place has going for it is the large outdoor patio, which is covered and heated in winter, air conditioned in summer, and smoker-friendly.   But we will not be going back there again.

The place next door is called Sai Sha Cafe. The writing on the side of their delivery car informs us that they have “the most exquisite spicy food in Sai Kung.”  The listing on Open Rice pegs them at 17 good, 14 okay, 16 bad.  I think I’ll pass.

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LiveVibe Hong Kong

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LiveVibe is a freeform music and dance show that’s been running in London for 10 years and on December 21st, creator/choreographer Hakeem Onibudo brought it to the Jockey Club Amphitheatre at the Academy of Performing Arts in Hong Kong.  I don’t know a thing about dance but a friend of a friend was the production manager and so I went to check it out.  I loved it!

The Hong Kong show was presented in both English and Cantonese and most of the acts were local acts – and really talented ones at that.  I suppose that with all of the TVB variety shows and music videos shot here, it stands to reason that Hong Kong should have its share of talented dancers and choreographers so I shouldn’t be surprised.

Anyway, hope I’m attaching the right names to the pictures!

Here’s Hakeem:

This is the opening acts, Les Danseurs, choreographed by Vivian Chan and Tracy Wong.

Here’s the Billy Chan Dance Studio (BCDC) doing “Water in Motion”:

This is the co-host for the night, Dee Gor:

The first musical act, The Original Architects.  Sorry guys, not very good.

Another Hong Kong group, Studiodanz, choreographed by Alexey Balash:

This is musical group The Astrocytes.  Were they for real or was it a joke?  No idea.

In between acts, people were brought out of the audience to participate and show off a bit.  And a lot of the people who volunteered were pretty damned good.

Hong Kong group Since 70′s brought the fun with “Puppet Show”:

From the UK, Letitia Simpson and Duwane Taylor from Impact Dance:

And last but certainly not least, dancers from Hong Kong’s Youth Outreach School of Hip Hop put on a spirited presentation:

Following the show, the stage became one big party until folks drifted off to the after party (and I went home).

It’s really a shame more people didn’t turn out for this.  Tickets were just HK$298 and the show was incredibly entertaining.  I hope that they’ll bring this back to HK again and I’ll definitely be there if they do.

This was my first time shooting dancers and I knew it would be a challenge.  The combination of dim lights and fast movement made it even more challenging than I’d anticipated.  This is all shot at ISO 3200, and I was switching back and forth between my 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8.  Shooting shutter priority, almost every shot is at f/2.8 meaning depth of field is quite shallow.  Nevertheless, I’m really pleased with the results.  Here’s a larger gallery of shots from the night:

[flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157625668672504"]

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