Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bach's "Sleepers Wake" and ISF Orchestra

As I was listening to Bach's "Sleepers Wake", my daughter told me they had played it during orchestra practice. A BIG THANK YOU to Ms Howard.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Report Card

ISF is now distributing report cards by electronic means.  Despite all the emails and SMS reminders, my wife and I somehow managed to completely forget about the latest report card.  Should we declare victory over schooling or call ourselves lazy parents?

Animals Schooling

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Important Chinese Painter Wu Guanzhong (吳冠中) died at 91

Wu Guanzhong (吳冠中), important Chinese painter and a rare talent who really understood Chinese and Western art, passed away yesterday in Beijing.  He was 91.

Mr. Wu, an engineer by training, studied painting at the National Arts Academy of Hanzhou and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts.  He was the first Chinese to be made an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.  Hong Kong was home to Mr. Wu for many years and the Hong Kong Museum of Art is home to many of his paintings.  I hope the museum will very soon show his paintings in an exhibition.

Friday, June 25, 2010


I'm sure some of my readers already know this excellent article in The New Yorker by Jonah Lehrer: Don't! The secret of self-control.  It is about the importance of delayed satisfaction and explains why kids who manage to resist the temptation of a marshmallow at age 4 tend to score two hundred and ten more points in S.A.T.

I have been thinking whether adults will benefit from delayed frustration/disappointment/anger/judgment as kids will benefit from delayed satisfaction. True, life is not perfect. But, I don't know, would it make any difference if we can delay our feeling for say 30 minutes?

Even the almighty sun has its own ups and downs.

When I'm down and troubled, I'll turn to Bach for some comfort.  Let's see if this works for you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mid Life Crisis

Gweipo's post reminds me of Life after 50 - Reboot, a book by the Japanese management guru Kenichi Ohmae 大前研一 (Kenichi Ohmae's biography here).  You may not like the tone of the author but I do appreciate the 100% openness on his part.  It seems that this somewhat neglected book has not been translated into English yet.  Every man aged 40 or above who can read Japanese or Chinese should grab a copy and read it from cover to cover.

Kenichi Ohmae made the following points:
  • If you love singing/dancing/acting/painting/music performing and cannot make yourself a known singer/dancer/actor/painter/performer before 40, forget about it.  You won't be a renowned singer/dancer/actor/painter/performer.
  • If you can't make yourself a partner of McKinsey & Company, Inc. before you attain 40, you just won't be a partner of McKinsey.  Face the fact and accept it.
  • If you are over 40 years of age and still complaining about unfairness and lack of opportunities, you probably will spend the rest of your life complaining and mourning for yourself.  
  • Retirement from your present job is not a ticket to grave.  If, by age 45 or 50, you still hasn't reached the highest point you thought you would be up to, you need a mental reboot.  It's time you leave your present job behind and try something new.  Start a new venture, learn a new skill and start a new hobby. 
  • You don't need to prove anything to your wife.  If she is still with you when you are 50, she already knows who you are. 
  • If you don't need to prove anything to  your wife, you don't need to prove anything to anybody.
  • Go to the country or a smaller company.  Your skill, not the highest rated though in the biggest companies, is much needed elsewhere.  You are more useful than what you think.
  • Sell your heavily mortgaged house and buy a smaller one in the less prestigious location.  Yes, you can live in a smaller place.  No, you don't want to be bothered with mortgage when you are 60.
  • Learn how to purchase tickets to movies on your cell phone; try what you used to hate to eat; learn an instrument or a new language; learn how to swim if you cannot swim. 
  • You may not be the most charming flower in the field, but you can be the ground that nurtures that flower.  Don't underestimate the value of your knowledge and experience to the youth. 
  • By 50, you should be able to tell what you can change and can't change.  What you can't change, you can't change.
  • Do what you really want to do.  
  • You should be able to ignore noise.
  • Stay away from negative people. 

I'm just reading ahead.  Will have to live a few more years before I attain 50.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Violin Shops in Hong Kong

    Bumped into another parent who is also learning the violin after the ISF Grade 6/7 Musical and had a brief discussion with him about violin shops in Hong Kong.  Here is my list of violin shops in Hong Kong (most of them also carry other stringed instruments).

    Orfeo Strings
    I love and hate Orfeo.  Their collection is good (this is the place where you can see and try bows by Thomassin and Vigneron) but I'm really fed up with all the bullshit from one of the guys there.  Visitors to the shop who are identified as someone who can afford better instruments will be told that their children need a Laberte for grade 6 and up violin examinations, and that Chinese and Eastern European violins are for beginners.

    Hong Kong Strings
    A nice shop in Central with a fairly good collection and helpful staff.  Prices are reasonable too.  However, a neck resetting job that needed to be completely redone keeps me from rating it more highly.

    Mr. Au and his apprentices, all quiet and timid men, are extremely helpful.  They carry Chinese stringed instruments of different grades.

    Andre Jutras
    A small one-man operation in Wanchai.  A French husband to a Chinese lady and father of a teenage girl who is also playing the violin, AJ is one of the very few violin makers here.  These days he is more a dealer of Chinese instruments than a maker/restorer but he does more than just buy and sell.  He will make sure that all the instruments that leave his workshop are properly set up and in playable condition.

    Solo Strings
    Another no-fuss and honest violin shop in Wanchai.  The shop that I now go to for repair and maintenance.

    Some violin shops are less honest than the other.  So be careful.  An unlabeled instrument that is sold for less than US$400 in a Tarisio auction may somehow find its way into a shop in the New Territories and become a HK$50,000 violin with an Italian label.

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Vadim Mazo First Recital in Hong Kong

    Just back from Vadim's mini recital at the newly opened Geofferik Studio in Causeway Bay.  (Something about Vadim here).

    The programme:

    Prelude and Allegro (Kreisler)
    Sonatina in 4 movements (Dvorak)
    Romance in F (Beethoven)
    Meditation from Thais (Massnet)
    Etude (Fiorillo)
    Fishermen Song (Koichi Kishi)

    Violin: Vadim Mazo
    Piano: Li, Geoff Erik

    The Etude by Fiorillo is added as a reminder to the students that an etude is a song, not an exercise, and should be practised and played as a song.  The Fishermen Song, Hong Kong premiere probably, is a song written by a Koichi Kishi, a Japanese composer who died in the US at the age of 29.

    It is indeed my great pleasure to be at the recital.  I came to know Vadim two and a half years ago when he came here to teach.  We became good friends during our week's stay in St. Petersburg in the Summer that followed.  Vadim is the most devoted and passionate music teacher I have ever met.  Educating the younger generation and passing his knowledge to them is his priority, an self-imposed task, a mission and an uncompromisable part of his life.  Despite his not very good health, he is back to Asia with his violin and his passion for music and life.

    Vadim is also bringing Tomoko from Japan, an adorable violin teacher whom kids really love.  He says he needs to learn a few things from her as to how to deal with the younger violin learners.  Tomoko is arriving in Hong Kong on Tuesday and we will be having dinner together on Thursday after my daughter's lesson with them.  Can't feel more happy and excited.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Application for Permission to Date My Daugher

    This post is not original, but who cares, this is an EMERGENCY SITUATION.

    Mr you know who you are, please read this very carefully and follow the following instructions and rules strictly.

    Note: This application will be incomplete and rejected unless accompanied by a complete financial statement, job history, driving record, family lineage and current certified medical report (including drug test) from doctors nominated by me.

    By submission this form, you understand that your application will not be processed until my daughter is 16.

    Name: _________________________________

    Date of Birth: _________________________

    Height:_____ Weight _______ I.Q. ______

    Passport/HKID # ________________________

    Drivers License # ________________________
    (If you are not old enough to hold a driving licence, wait until you get one)

    Highest rank reached in school ___________________________________________

    Lowest rank reached in school ____________________________________________
    (Give full particulars, when, where and why)

    Email Address _________________________________

    Facebook/Twitter/Other social Networking accounts: __________________________________________________________
    (You warrant that you don't have any other social networking accounts except the above and undertake to add me and my wife as your "friends".)

    Do you have one Male and one Female parent? If No, Explain_________________________________________________

    Do you have a tongue ring, nose ring, belly ring, nipple ring or a tattoo? ______ If “Yes” please discontinue application and leave.

    Are you sure you understand what does “Don’t touch my Daughter” mean? __________

    In 50 words or less, what does “Late” mean to you?

    In 50 words or less, explain how to achieve peace in the Middle East.

    Name of Church you attend ___________________
    How often ___________________

    In 50 words or less, explain why you bother to attend a church?

    In 50 words or less, explain why you don't go to church?

    When would be the best time to interview the following people?

    Your Father ______________ AM or PM, Best Contact Phone _______________

    Your Mother _____________ AM or PM, Best Contact Phone _______________

    Your Minister ____________ AM or PM, Best Contact Phone _______________

    Your School's Head ________ AM or PM, Best Contact Phone _______________

    Answer by filling in the blanks. Please answer freely. ALL answers are confidential (That means I won't put them on Youtube without the permission of my wife, or my dog).

    If you were shot, the last place on your body you would want wounded would be:

    If your were beaten, the last bone you would want broken would be:

    How private should private parts be:

    Things I hope this application does not ask about me is (must name at least three):

    When I first meet a girl, the first thing I notice about her is:

    I swear that all information supplied above is true and correct to the best of my knowledge under penalty of death, dismemberment, Native American Red Ant torture, Electrocution, Chinese Water Torture, and Red Hot Poker Treatment.

    Signature (that means your name in cursive)

    Thank you for your interest in my daughter. Please allow 4 to 6 YEARS for processing. You will be notified in writing if you are approved. Please DO NOT try to call, email or write. If you do attempt any communication before your application is approved, automatic disqualification will result.

    Do you still want to date my Daughter?

    _________ Yes, please submit my application (I agree to the attached “Rules.”)

    _________ No, I have the wrong house, I am terribly sorry to disturb you.

    Accompanying Rules for dating my Daughter:

    (1) If you pull into my driveway and honk, I will assume that you are delivering something, because you are not picking anything up.

    (2) You do not stare at my daughter. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off my daughter, I have your authority to remove them, and I will.

    (3) I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don’t take this personally, but you and your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be open-minded. So, if you come to the door with your underwear showing I will take my electric nail gun and fasten you trousers securely in place to your waist to ensure that during the course of your date your trousers do not come off.

    (4) I’m sure you have been told that in today’s world, sex without some sort of “barrier method” of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate. When it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

    (5) It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics and other current affairs. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. The only information I require is what time I can expect my daughter to be home safely, and the only acceptable answer is “Early.”

    (6) I have no doubt that you are a popular guy, with many opportunities to date and flirt with other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little princess, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you.

    (7) If you make my little girl cry, I will make you cry.

    (8) As you are waiting in my front entry for my daughter to appear, and some significant time goes by, do not sigh or fidget. If you want to be on time, you should not date my daughter. My daughter is putting on her makeup, fixing her beautiful hair and choosing an outfit that will pass my inspection. Instead of standing there, please do something useful, like mowing my yard, taking out my trash, or changing the oil in my car.

    (9) Do not lie to me. I may appear to be advancing in age and intelligence, but I am all knowing when it comes to my daughter. I have a shotgun, a shovel and some extra land. Do not mess with me.

    (10) The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter:

    Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool; places where there are no parents, policemen, or pastors in eyesight; places where there is no presence of light; places it is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops or anything other than overalls, a sweater and a goose down parka zipped to the top; movies with romantic themes; places where there is dancing, holding hands or happiness; places where alcohol is provided.  Please note that the above list is not exhaustive. Additions to the list may be made retrospectively and without notice at my absolute discretion.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Eva Cassidy's Fields of Gold

    Every now and then I get haunted by tunes that keeps replaying in my head.  It can go on for hours, and sometimes on and off for a couple of days.  It may well be due to a disorder with a fancy name that one of the patients of Oliver Sacks was found to have suffered, as described by Sacks in his interesting book Musicophilia.   This morning, awaken by the rain at 3 a.m., my brain decided to play Eva Cassidy's Fields of Gold.  And it is still ringing in my head now.  Although I really love Eva Cassidy's cover of the song (I hope I won't get stoned by Sting's fans - I love it more than Sting's version), I don't feel like Eva Cassidy right now.  Hey, my dear little brain, whatever your reason for playing it, please stop.

    Eva Cassidy's Field of Gold from Live at Blues Alley (a great album by the way)

    Wednesday, June 02, 2010

    On Fatherhood

    No babies, thank you.

    My wife and I had decided not to have any kids.  So it was a not so pleasant surprise to us when we found out during our holidays in Provence that she was pregnant.  How could I handle a baby?  I was among those men who would actually step back on seeing a crawling toddler, or leave a restaurant immediately if there was a baby-like creature in it.  Our apartment was a no-baby zone and my friends had to drop off their carry-on babies and have them checked in somewhere before they came in.  I did, once, foolishly agreed to allow a toddler girl in our place for some six hours, and, consequently, I had a fever in the six days that followed.  Seriously, I did not like kids. They scared me.

    My wife was not fond of babies either, but she did not hate them.  My serious allergy to babies nevertheless, we accepted the surprise and got prepared for changes, and things changed indeed...

    A man (masculine includes feminine) is a dot on a piece of paper, or a plane.  As the man grows older, he becomes a circle.  With time, knowledge, experience and maybe some wisdom throwing in, the circle gets bigger and bigger, and bigger.  One day it may evolve into a giant circle.  Glaring and admirable as it may be, it remains a circle, spinning around its centre, its own self, on a plane.

    Things get interesting when the circle meets another circle.  Both will have to give up part of themselves.  They are no longer separate circles - no more spinning around one's own self.  The intersection brings along sparks, dynamics, provocations, good times, not so good times...  Life is simply more interesting and fulfilling.

    Still, the two circles are circles on a 2-D surface.

    When a child is born, it's all different.  One cannot live only with the rules of the 2-D world.  It's a 3-D world.  One does not choose the sex, personality, degree of intelligence, etc. of the child as one chooses the other circle.  You take what finds you, come what may.  There is nothing but rethinking and relearning and rethinking, struggling and letting go, accepting and compromising.  Life is 10x(square) more rich and full.  Never has the silly circle realised that watching another circle grow can be so satisfying.  Never has it viewed things from so different an angle.  And never has it experienced the unspeakable joy of looking into itself and watching its own centre, the very same centre it used to cling onto, diminishes.

    I just love the world more with the coming of my girl.

    Although I do sometimes get overwhelmed by the privilege of being your father, my dear girl, I promise that I'll keep my sanity, remain aloof and won't let what I aspire to be or long for becomes your burden.  So profoundly enriched my life you already have, there is nothing, absolutely nothing that I can ask of you.  This is your life, your world.

    Handy Recorder

    It's amazing what US$99 can buy these days.  I'll order one when it is out.  Details here.

    free counters