Expat@Large

Singapore Blogger’s Blog Fiddling Sends Internet Into Tailspin

Posted in blog fiddling, lack of talent, my friends can be dicks, stupidity by expatatlarge on July 31, 2012

Silly moi. If you kept getting a redirect notice when you tried to get here, as I just did, it was because I was fiddling the other day – not knowing WTF I was doing of course. Nothing new there.

It put up what I thought was an internal, i.e. Blogger, redirect command to double up on the instructions I had made elsewhere, that was supposed to send you FROM “expatatlarge.com”, should you try to get a website of that name, to here, viz: “expatatlarge.blogspot.com”.

However it looks I sent you the other way.

Because “expatatlarge.com” (for which I pay $20/year) already had a redirect command to send you to “exapatatlarge.blogspot.com”, the entire internet went into a closed loop and nothing never went nowhere… I presume this is what caused the blackout in India, yesterday.

Oops. Wondered why my hits went down.

OK, I think it’s sorted now, so get back to enjoying the magic and mystery, the wonder and the witticisms, the whinging and tales of whoredom that is (are?) this blog.

~~~~~~~~~

And to my friend acquaintance J******n who admitted, in his cups on Sunday afternoon(!) – in vino veritas – that he doesn’t read my blog anymore because the writing is crap, I’d just like to politely point out that your lack of appreciation of my prodigious talents makes you a:

I hope there will be lots of questions about America in the pub quiz tonight so you can demonstrate to us all once again your profound ignorance of your own country.

“Which Thursday in November is Thanksgiving?”

“Der, I dunno… The fourth?”

&#171Crowd slaps forehead.&#187

— Joking mate, I still love you, and I mean that most sincerely.* Seriously, I have nothing but respect for you. Nothing but. And not much of it either.

E@L

*And I mean that most sincerely.**

** And I mean THAT most sincerely.***

*** And…ad infinitum… or until you believe me, whichever comes first.

The Butcher of Panzano, Dario Cecchini

Posted in breakfast, chianti, food, holidays, Italy, meat, pig fat, tuscany by expatatlarge on July 29, 2012

Tuscan morning sun, we’re under its power. Danijel is feeling burnt before breakfast. We’ve walked to the table on the lawn and set down the dishes – cheeses, fresh Roma tomatoes – my god they taste of tomatoes! – and green peppers, and scrambled eggs with caramelised onions and a lot more of those tomatoes, chopped into the mix.

Then we rest…

~~~~~~~~~

No, hang on, that was yesterday. For today’s breakfast Izzy (so domesticated these days) has set the table and is bringing some brewed coffee (Bosnian style – boil water, put in coffee, boil again. Sludge.) Vicoo has a plate of those tarts we purchased at the market yesterday The tarts are vanilla with almonds, wild forrest berries, lemon and powdered sugar. They are delicious.

~~~~~~~~~

E@L had never heard of this place, Panzano-in-Chianti. Why would you? Look at it. It’s tiny.

But Izzy and Danijel had seen something on an episode of an Anthony Bourdain show about an amazing butcher in this tiny town just past Greve-in-Chianti. Butcher? We’re going to a see a butcher? (E@L checks online and makes a booking at the Solociccia [trans: only meat] restaurant for a pig-fat Tuscan degustation.)

We drive along the country roads of course, view after view, this is not on the A1. The Tuscan countryside is not spectacular, it is older, gentle, comforting, calming* – reminds me of Colac. Greve is perhaps the biggest town we drive through, and that takes two minutes to negotiate in and out of – turn left here. The smaller towns are not much more than a haphazard collection of towers, castles, churches, and houses that narrow the road down drastically. The houses encroach on, sometimes replace, the footpath; bottle-necking the traffic with blind corners, and then there are the dozing animals, on-coming traffic, rickety bicycles, grandmothers (not wearing scarves, thankfully it’s not that clichéd) walking oblivious, men in singlets (OK, little bit cliché) and children playing unconcerned. E@L has to slow down to 20km to get around these safely – he is a cautious driver. Terrible, but cautious.

As we start to wind around another hill, vineyards, cypress trees, stone houses, roofs the color of flower pots below us on the right, the gentle uphill rise on our left, there are parked cars by the roadside. Lots of parked cars, cramped together under trees for shade, a dozen cars here, around the next bend two dozen more. We still haven’t seen anything like a town yet. “Should we park,” asks Izzy. “Why?” But then the first few houses appear and the cars are parked thick along the road shoulder. Suddenly we are in the centre of town. An intersection and a market up a lane way – “that’s it,” calls Iz. “Up there!” But place is jammed, we have to drive on, we can’t stop here, and we’ve passed. And immediately we are out of town.

We have to keep going a bit further, there is nowhere to turn. Around the bend there is a new housing estate up the hill on our left. We turn up, get lost, turn back once, turn uphill once more into more narrow streets, and hey, we find the last vacant parking spot in town, no shade of course, and sit for a moment. “This is it, I think,” says E@L. This way? That way? Fuck it’s hot. The sun, so bright and E@L has no hat. Luckily, the ozone hole is over Sydney and not Panazano. We walk up over a crest, and it slopes down again, directly into the market that we had seen. Perfecto.

The market is small, really, it’s not a fresh produce market, but there are jars of sauces and condiments, cakes and cheeky tarts, lots of wines, schlongs of salami, rounds of cheese, perfect. But there are lots of people milling, as people do when they get the chance, by the stalls. Look at them: mill, mill, mill.


(beware – LOUD music)

The market stalls concentrate in front of his shop and restaurants, where else would you place them. His shop is rocking, seriously rocking, It is crowded, dense-packed with people holding up small glasses of chianti or or of grappa, pinching bread with lard between thumb and fingers, holding greasy chunks of pig fat from fresh roasted rolled pork stuffed with rosemary.

And Dario is an amazing person, a celebrity butcher who stands tall amongst celebrity chefs.

E@L can hardly get in to the shop, but they have a reservation at the restaurant in 5 minutes. Is it in this shop, at the back maybe? He squeezes through, shouting to Danijel over the blaring music and the heads of the young and old people taking all that bounty on offer, free and gratis. Incredibly loud A/DC is pumping, Angus’s guitar ripping, so inappropriate, but it isn’t it always and is there any other way to play it but as loud as possible? He calls again to Danijel to wait, but the others have already picked up a Chianti, bread, pig fat, and are bopping, lost down somewhere in the crowd (OK, E@L can see Danijel, he’s 6’7″ and has a pony-tail.) Up high in the corner in a shelf over above the butchers’ display, there is a large valve-powered amplifier.

Dario is bopping behind the meat counter, and his associates are cutting more pork, scooping out more lardo. Dario has a huge grin, he is sharpening his knives to the beat of the music. There is a large statue of the Minotaur standing at one end and looming over one of the feast-loaded tables…

E@L manage to find a lady in a white (blood smeared) apron who seems to know what she is doing right at the back of the store. She understands English well enough (Dario, doesn’t speak English) and tells me that we are booked at the “other” restaurant. A wave of worry rises up (E@L panics easily) – OMG are we in the wrong place? But no, she says, it’s just across the street, past the wine stall. E@L, claustrophobic (pig-fat-phobic? NEVER!), squeezes back out to check if ha can find it.

Outside, blazing sun still. Is this perfect weather ever going to stop? Another of those ladies who seems to belong there is being interviewed on the ramp by a sweaty chubby guy whose hair is a suspiciously deep shade of black, holding an iPhone up betweeen their faces. Vicoo is sitting on the edge of the ramp with a glass of chianti, listening in, grinning at E@L, who stands with her to grab some of the sound bites… She is perhaps Dario’s wife, and he is praising the hell out of the place, she is agreeing, what more can she do? Did someone say that Wolfgang Puck was here last week?

There is a door. Unmarked. E@L asks the women there, “Is this…?”

“Yes,” she answers, before he has finished his question. “Do you have a booking?” She is checking her watch, like a school ma’am.

It’s time, we just made it, 1pm on the dinger. E@L has to drag Danijel and Izzy away from all that free Chianti, grappa and pig-fat in the butcher shop as we have seats over here where we have paid for Chinanti, grappa and pig-fat. A cheery waiter, experienced judging by his age, very experienced, takes us down two flights of steps
into a stone cellar where several others are already seated around a large table and the meal has already begun. We squeeze past – it is a tight package. A mature (maybe a little older than E@L) English couple from Gigglesoworth (IKYN), an hungry English man and his Irish wife with two kids, two young (hipster?) Italians, blend with an Australian, a Bosnian and two Singaporeans. Don’t mention the war. Which war,? Any war.

At first we are all shy, but as the dishes keep coming down, carried by our ever cheerful, overly generous waiter and we pass them around, we gradually open up. Theres plenty of wine and chilled water as well as the food. Simple peasant fare, fresh ingredients, simply handled and presented, nothing flashy, lots of it. Just meat and more meat, lots of meat. But first just some crudités and (stale, oh well) foccacia with olive oil, balsamic and the most amazing spiced salt (Danijel bought some jars of that, but E@L didn’t get to take any home – see another blog post).

Then thick slices of roast beef, grilled, fried meat balls with frittered vegetables, rosemary up your bum (lightly seared tartare nuggets with a sprig of rosemary insterted in a red and juicy hole. The table has way too many plates of food on it, we can’t eat all this, but it keeps coming. Slow stewed beef shanks, with the meat on one plate and the fatty skins and tendon on another. It’s floating in the jus with soft potatoes slices (it took a few bites to recognize them!) and onions. This last one sounds terrible (it also looked dubious), but for those who braved it (on bursting stomachs) it was an wonderfully rich and satisfying dish that would have been devoured completely and exclusively by E@L if it had been brought out first. The chianti kept flowing, but as E@L was the designated driver for th week he could only take a sip or several – he watered it down, the Italian way.

The feast continued for two hours and then we were, reluctantly (there was still wine), kicked out so they could prepare for the next sitting in the evening, We rolled up the stairs with bloating bellies and greasy, satisfied smiles.

Back across the street now, Dario’s butcher shop was much less crowded even though the music was still on full rocking mode. Dario was out mixing it with us, a bottle of grappa in his hands and that radiant smile on his face. We saw now that he was wearing a trousers in the Italian colours (Italy lost the EC later that night) he was rocking his sholder in a happy dance. He poured E@L a shot of grappa even though E@L indicated he was driving. We all took photos with him, he loved to pose with Izzy and Vicoo in particular, funny that, and for everything was fun and games.

Giving away wine and food, just giving it away, heaps of it. The man is genius, we all love him, he loves to love us all back and this is just a ball. Get moderately pissed, put on AC/DC blast your walls into powder and dance with a bootle a grappa in your hand – maybe then you’ll get an idea of this place.

Danijel was wondering if anyone could be as happy in his work as Dario obviously is. He doesn’t (seem to) give a fuck about micromanaging and monitoring the margins, money is coming in, everyone ends up buying something, small or large, lots or a little and he gets back what he gives away tenfold. Brilliant. “He doesn’t use SAP I’ll bet,” says E@L.

What he gets back is more than money, he thrives on the fun that he is bringing to all his customers. I can’t describe this, it’s mind-blowing. We love this guy, he is best person E@L has ever met. He can’t speak English, we can’t speak Italian, but we know what we all mean, and so much more than the general symbiosis of proprietor and patron: There’s instant camaraderie thanks to the obvious honesty in his enormous generosity. Either that or he’s faking it pretty fucking well.

We head back to the car, our arms full of meats and cheeses and those tarts for breakfast tomorrow, and a few bottles of Chianti to make up for the drinks E@L had to forego. The thermometer in the car reads 46degrees. Yes, it is hot. It takes 5 minutes for the air-con to fight against the stifling air in oven/car. We stand around, raving about this afternoon.

Then, sated and thrilled in equal portions, we wind back through the Tuscan hills back to our villa (also overlooking rolling hills and vineyards) and jump into the infinity pool (so Tuscan), laughing and splashing.

Brilliant day, one of the best, thanks to the big smiles of Dario Cecchini.

E@L

* Where there is Nature, there is meaning. Robert Walser.

Beautiful Ice-Cream – Ugly Baby Jesus – Unwell E@L

Posted in art, heart attack, Ice-cream, Italy, tourists, ugly jesus by expatatlarge on July 25, 2012

In the town of San Gimignano there are a lot of towers. It’s famous for its towers. There are a few museums (like the Torture Museum, that I missed) and there are the some bloody good ice-cream shops.

This one sells the World Champion Gelato.

And just a few metres away, this one sells The Best Ice-cream in the World. Spoiled for choice.

The pistachio ice-cream here in the second place was truly beautiful and a joy to the palate. Miraculous.

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In the next square is the Museo Civico in which there is quite a collection of frescoes of the Madonna with particularly unattractive baby Jesus’s*, so E@L wandered around snapping pic after pic…

And E@L’s personal favorite (this one is from the Duomo in Siena…)

When he left the museum – the three story part in the middle here, with the crenelated rooftop – he decided, after all those earlier misgivings and the others refusing to climb it, that it would not much of a problem after all for him to climb the Torre Grossa, (as seen in Assassin’s Creed II apparently) on the right, and go way up there, 57m (177ft)… No problem…

Smart?

No.

Problem. So here’s E@L on the top of the tower having some pretty fucking severe angina.

Famous last words? “Great view from up here!”

Cue: Ambulance to Siena, angiogram, stents, hospital for a week… And associated drama of logistics, etc… for Izzy and Danijel and Vicky… and then for myself to get home as I was not supposed to fly for a week after discharge.

~~~~~~~~~

Sigh. Why did E@L climb that fucking tower? What was he thinking? Maybe he was thinking that the PET stress test he’d had done two weeks earlier showed normal cardiac perfusion is maybe what he was thinking.

Cardiologist in Singapore yesterday says, “Mmm, that normal test, very high predictive value, this shouldn’t have happened.”

E@L says, “No it shouldn’t have.”

~~~~~~~~~

Expect E@L to be going on about this incident a lot in the near future…

* Not to be confused with uglyrenaissancebabies.

Hamburg Street Conversation

Posted in germans, WTF by expatatlarge on July 20, 2012

I’m well rugged up and walking, my daily mild exercise, around the tree-lined streets of the Blankenese suburb in Hamburg close to the Elba (across which is the A380 factory). I stroll past some magnificent Hansel and Gretel mansions in large, lost in the woods gardens – this is millionaires row, billionaires, whatever.

A well-dressed man, a bit older than myself, is crossing an intersection coming towards me. He slows down as he approaches me and it seems he wants to talk.

He stops, so I stop. Germans are so polite when they are not trying to take over the world. So, thinks: I’d better do the same (it’s a tit-for-tat utilitarianism thing). I wonder what I am up for here. Have you heard the word of the Lord? Some pfennig for the old guy?

He starts talking as I take my left earphone out. In German of course.

“Nick sprecker Doych”, I say. “Ick hab kynner Doych.” In my impeccable accent.

“Ach, vot language? You speak, what do you…”

“English.”

“Ach, good.”

I take out my right earphone and raise my sunglasses to look him politely in the eye.

He is wearing a classy red windbreaker (I can’t make out the brand) over a warm jumper as the summer in Hamburg is not all that impressive this week; cloudy, blustery, cool (14deg), a spit of rain today, pouring yesterday. He has what look like expensive-frames on his thick-lensed square glasses, and he swipes the air with a thick cigar stub that trails noxious fumes that dissipate quickly in the breeze as he speaks to me. He might live in one of those billionaire houses.

He says: “You know, I have stopped you to talk because, one, you have your sunglasses on; two, you have those… he waves his cigar around… those things in your ears; and three, because I wish to ask you a question.”

The man is, I am confident now, not a complete nutter, but pushing it. Eccentric billionaire.

“Der built zeitung, you know?” I must have looked blank because he asks again. “Der built, it is the, vat you say, newspaper?”

Ah yes, Bild. I recall some German scandal rag like that.

“The very first word in der Bild today, do you know what it was? The very first word?”

Naturally I did not know. I shrug.

“The first word on the page. It is bordell.”

“Brothel?”

He doesn’t seem to have heard me because he repeats, “Bordell. You know where women sell themselves. A bordell!”

“Brothel.” Yes, I know them.

“Yes, yes, a brothel. The very first word! What do you make of that? What is your opinion?” He holds his cigar up at his face, takes a puff, as he waits for my answer.

I smile as I consider what his opinion no doubt is.

“Well,” I say, “Germany is a very open minded country, a very broad minded country.”

He tilts his head back a little, looking in my eye with a bit of sparkle as he contemplates my answer briefly. He then points his cigar at me with slight gesture and gently smiles.

“Thank you”, he says emphatically. And walks on.

E@L

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream

Posted in hipsters working in bookstores (or restaurants), Ice-cream, Italy, waiters by expatatlarge on July 15, 2012

I was in this ostentatiously unpretentious Osteria in Sienna tonight, Bongo Della Fuckit, got the sense of it being somewhat hipsterish, but then everything Italian looks hipsterish to me. I was going vegetarian tonight as approved by my cardiologist* – not sure if the almond bisuits dipped into a glass of vin santo (sticky wihte) is vegetarian or not – when there was some slight commotion on the table behind. It seems there was nothing “kid friendly” on the dessert menu for their young son – maybe 5 or 6 years old.

The waiter had to sort this out! So he went to the front door, called the kid over, took his hand and led him outside. A few minutes later the kid almost ran inside again, smiling right from tragus to tragus, bearing in front of him a large cup of multiple flavours of gelatti, wafer triangle poking out the top, from the gelatteria across the small lane.

The waiter had paid for it. All part of the hipster service – they were being nice way before it was cool to be nice.

E@L

* Not only did none of the Doctors give me any rehab exercise suggestions or any diet suggestions on my checkout, not one of the staff introduced themselves before they stabbed me or stripped me naked in front of the open doors to the busy corridor, bathed my balls or wiped the shit from my arse (when I could get them to.)

It Was The Salmon Mousse!

Posted in Death, fuck I nearly died, heart attack, holiday, Italy by expatatlarge on July 14, 2012

There was a small area at the bottom of the window, exactly at eye level, where I could see out, watch the not particularly interesting side of the road panoramas fly past. I was bemused, somewhat, as they say. Look at that high grass, those telephone poles, the square blocks of untended trees (perhaps olive trees), a nondescript building here and there. Not much of a view of Tuscany to take with you, wherever you are going.

It was cramped, my legs too long for the trolley, had to bend my knees a bit for the doors to be shut. The paramedic was chubby and was sweating, but she was nice. She told me her name. I can’t remember it. She was fighting my adipose insulation to find a vein somewhere in my arm. Left, right, it didn’t matter. I had them veins well hid! Something went in painfully and eventually some fluids started dripping in. (I am 30% bruised by area on both arms now). One of the fluids going in was morphine. Nice. It didn’t even touch the sides, as they say, but nice.

I was calm. Unnaturally calm, you might say. Those were tough minutes, or should have been, but I was almost smiling. Maybe part of the sense of relief I had was due to the unassailable position I held, that this was not the end. Just a bit of chest pain. No collapse. No clammy sweating. No shortness of breath. Just a tightness, an interior tightness that is hard to describe. There was no elephant sitting on my chest, it didn’t feel like that, it just felt like a bad back, but in the middle of my thorax. It was instantly worrying, but not threatening. Know what I mean? No? Neither do I.

There was also a touch of the SEP feeling. Whatever happened to me, it would be someone else’s problem from here on in. I would be completely out of it. Something of the feeling I had when I left school and vowed that I would never attend church ever again and finally convinced my sceptical friends that I was unequivocably and inveterately atheist. All those pin-headed angel problems are not mine anymore. And so now. Porn on the hard drive? Meh. Weird porn on the hard drive? Meh. Three thousand books that nobody would want? Shrug. (Hey those Patrick Whites are all 1st Editions!) Burial arrangements: where, how? Surprise me.

However as I watch the concerned faces on Isabella, Danijel and Vicky disappear as the door to the ambulance closes, I sigh and I shrug. Guys, I didn’t want to do this to you. To leave you in the Tuscan holiday idyll lurch like this. Shit, I feel my pockets, I have the car keys. These are problems I don’t want to leave behnd. They are 60km from home. Danijel has not got a licence. The rental car is in the carpark, but I have the keys… My stuff is in our place (near Incisa Dell Arno – or something like that) and nothing is packed and we were to move to Volterra next day and OMFG…

But I am calm. There’s nothing I can do, why fret overly?

I was calm, too, at the top of the tower, the tower we had all agreed not to climb. But I passed the gate to it as I left the chapel and museum (at least a dozen ugly renaissance baby Jesus’s) and I just thought, hey, it can’t be all that bad. And besides the cardiac stress PET scan I had last week was normal. It can’t be that high. But it was, and higher. I made it: legs fine, breathing fine. I took a few photos and then the tightness began. It didn’t go away. I sat down and waited. It didn’t go away. It didn’t get any worse. I thought, well, fuck them carrying me down 54 metres inside a 14th century, tight fit stone tower, I’m going down mysef as far as I can. If I feel faint, I’ll sit down. I didn’t feel faint at all. I started sweating heavily, but it was 36degrees and I had just climbed up the top of a mother-fuckin’g big tower. When I arrived at the reception, I told them to call a doctor. And my friends, call them please – the tall Bosnian hippy-looking dude, the small Chinese girl sketching the piazza, another one fast asleep on a stone alcove in the shade. They were found. Amazing.

Soon enough the ambulance ripped into the gelatteria (the best in the world, two of the shops proclaim) crowds, pistachio ice-cream fying, and took me away.

*insert Solzenhitzen’s Cancer Ward*

So here I am, looking from the patio of my Sienna hotel, feeling fine, apart from the back cramps I’m gettting whilst typing on this awful chair, and looking at the Tuscan twilight panoramas with a shot of grappa.

And I do care. Mostly.

E@L

Fire From The Sun – Why I Dislike Prometheus

Posted in movies, pseudo-science, rants, reviews, Ridley Scott, science by expatatlarge on June 24, 2012

A god and hero, stealing fire from the sun [like the sun would even miss it] was only one of his accomplishments. The creation of man out of clay [sound familiar?] was another pretty big one. He MADE mankind. No-one seems to remember that part of the Bible. What? It’s not in the Bible? Go figure. Quick question: if he had stolen fire and not created mankind, what then?

A trickster, like Loki in The Avengers but, unlike Loki, a lover of mankind [well he made us, all makers love their creations, right?], patron god of scientific inquiry – what’s this sun thing made of? – and advancement, antecedent of Dr Frankenstein (“Prometheus Unbound”), he was condemned by Zeus, who obviously wanted us to freeze, and eat carpaccio and sashimi forever, to have a quickly regenerating liver that was pecked out every day by crows. Bound and struggling, trying unceasingly to escape from the limitations of his captivity (a metaphor) but never giving up, and no doubt in desperate need of a blowjob (not a metaphor).

Prometheus was an awesome dude.

The movie? Not so much.

Please make sure you get the correct reference here: it’s the origin of mankind part, not the fire-theivery that underpins this movie.

But let me give you my opinion of the movie straight up. Ridley Scott, maker of such flops such as A Good Year and, um, others, has over-produced Prometheus into an overflowing chariot of horse-shit. This ridiculously expensive, overdue, over CGI’d, over-thought-out waste of time has no redeeming features. Whatsoever. Ah, yes, like John Carter, is does serve as an example of what not to do. Over this, over that, and I was very relieved when it was over.

Listen to me: Anyone over 12 who liked Prometheus is an idiot. [Harsh, E@L, harsh. But fair.]

~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t have the movie in front of me to correct the errors which might creep into this post, as the torrents are currently in Handicam versions, but several egregiously execrable scenes and irrational concepts have burned themselves into my psyche the way X-raying my first corpse or losing my virginity (the first time) did. (Equally nauseating and frightening experiences. They were not on the same day nor in the same place fortunately for the corpse.)

~~~~~~~~~

Ron Cobb, who designed the interiors of the Nostromo ship for Alien, has as interesting opinion.

I resent films that are so shallow they rely entirely on their visual effects, and of course science fiction films are notorious for this.
–Ron Cobb on his designs for Alien.[my emphasis]

This is part of the reason why Prometheus fails for me, why I resent it. In Alien the visuals were awesome, gritty and real, and somehow tacit. In Prometheus, they have tried to do this in the ship scenes but the outside scenes of giant CGI visuals are completely distracting and unnecessarily overwhelming. Oh, look giant human-headed pyramid that no-one seems to cares about, ho hum, WGAF, it’s merely CGI.

~~~~~~~~~

Woeful science in a science-fiction story grates on me. Scientists who behave illogically and without a Skerritt (sorry) skerrick of scientific objectivity and respect for scientific method drive me batty.

My disbelief has this thing about being suspended, particularly when bad science is combined with 2D characters in 3D movies doing silly and just wrong things, things a sensible or real person wouldn’t ever do. In Alien, the characters moved cautiously, everything was weighed, considered, discussed. In Prometheus, people act randomly, independently and irresponsibly.

No1 Son, who has a similar if not quite as rabid as opinion as his dear old dad on this, pointed out how the scientists in good old The Andromeda Strain (which he had first seen only a few weeks earlier) acted like perfectly normal scientists. They didn’t run around screaming, they were methodical, careful and observant. If science had advanced to the degree that is required for background inventions, etc… in Prometheus to work, then future scientists would have to be as just as careful, methodical and cool-headed. Unfortunately these were not the type that clambered aboard The Prometheus.

~~~~~~~~~~

Here are the 26 Things That Bugged Me Most. Don’t worry, there are others.

~~~~~~~~~~

a) “Don’t come in to the ship!” yells the completely unnecessary [as a character, apart from the sweaty push-ups at the start – I’d do her at this point] Charlize Theron. And then SHE OPENS THE FUCKING HATCH in order to threaten them with one of left-over prop flame-throwers from the original Alien! WTF? “Hey, don’t come in through this large and impervious door which I have now opened in order to tell you not to come in through it.” Just leave the fucking hatch closed you blonde idiot. Seriously. Who wrote this shit?

b) The prop flame throwers in Alien were wired together in desperation. Dallas and Ripley hope that the unlikely possibility they might work against the invisible beast might lift morale a bit. That and a holiday in Phuket. In Prometheus: “Hey, pass me the standard issue flame-thrower.”

c) What’s with Elizabeth wearing noting but a surgical gauze bikini. Gauze? Gauze? I mean, seriously, GAUZE? Has she grazed her nipples from running in a marathon without band-aids over them? Apart from being a corny stunt, why bother? We know from TGWTDT that Noomi Rapace has no tits whatsoever, so who gives a rats about her thorax adherent nipples [nipples WTF, male v female, worthy of a blog post]?

d) Geologist? Complete and utter fuckwit. More on this later.

e) How much did they pay Dr Manhattan to play the giant, unfriendly precursor human?

f) Surly red-headed guy with raptor haircut. A complete arsehole from word go. Don’t they do psychological assessments before these long flights? The guy should be in a nuthouse, or a prison, not in a confined spaceship with people he obviously detests. The surly crew in Alien [Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphett Koto, whom this character is meant to parallel, no doubt] were troublesome to a degree and certainly disrespectful, but psychopaths?, no.

g) That spaceship is covered in awkwardly jutting spars and omnidirectional antenna like every movie space-ship since Alien. It’s a future-gothic thing I guess. What’s wrong with the sleek lines of The Enterprise, which was an magically simple, and the iconic design of Discovery One, whose construction made sense: living quarters at front, storage quarters middle, nuclear reactor as far away as possible. Inverse square law. The Prom is just a big brother of the CGI helicopters from Avatar, but is the ride comfortable?

h) Ignorance, and/or the ignoring, of the basic laws of physics abounds. Why are the spaceship’s engines running all the time? [A common Sci-Fi movie error.] No friction in space, people. Momentum, one blast at the start will do it unless you are accelerating or decelerating, in which latter case the rocket thrust should be directed FORWARD [in the movie, it’s not]. Did no-one on the set study Newton’s first law? BTW did anyone check the gravity of this 1000 light year away planet (see next criticism) before we left, to check it we could get anywhere near its surface without getting crushed on landing or if we can generate enough thrust to get to escape velocity?

i) Two years asleep? Some have said that this would put them only halfway to Alpha Centauri, but that it true of you are referring to two earth years, that is, for the people back on earth. Assuming the Prometheus could approach the speed of light, to say 90% [its mass would more than double!], and overlooking the year or two of acceleration and then deceleration it would take to get up to that speed and then slow down without intolerable G-forces ripping everyone apart, one year on earth would equal slightly less than one day for the actors astronauts. Therefore, in their relativistic perception, Alpha Centauri is only 4 days away. Two years asleep at that speed? That would mean that back on earth it is now close to 1000 years later.

I shouldn’t be too critical here. 2001, Alien, Aliens and Alien3, and others no doubt, all suffer from this flaw. It’s a shrug now, right? It has become a cinematic cliche to put long-haul astronauts into the freezer. Shut the fuck up E@L.

If you want accurate relativity physics in Sci-Fi space-travel, read Forever War by Joe Haldeman. A big sigh coming up. Ridley Scott, sigh [there it is], has the film rights to this book and it is slated for release in 2013. Please don’t fuck it up, Sir Rid.

j) I hate inappropriate adrenalin manipulation in intrinsically unexciting situations. Everywhere, but most ridiculously, when the Lunar Rover vehicles and their adherent tricycles, as seen from a soaring overhead CGI shot, seem to RACE to the big-headed pyramid to the thumping stress-inducing half-diminished sevenths and the walking tritones [duh duh DUH duh…duh duh DUH duh…duh duh DUH duh…] of a Hitchcokian horror fillum. Why? They are not being chased by anything, they are not off on an urgent mission to save humanity before the self-destruct sequence is finished or Harvey Dent blows up. They just charge out full-tilt for no reason. What is the fucking RUSH? This aeons old pyramid is not going anywhere in the next few minutes. And shouldn’t you be looking out for everyone’s safety and confirming that these convenient “roads” are safe to travel on at any pace? And if they are, who’s been maintaining them over the millenia?

k) Why are the spacesuits more advanced than those in Alien? Lightweight and clear bubble-helmets? Luckily they knew that the planet would be relatively pleasant. Oh, look we can take out helmets off inside the cave so the audience doesn’t have keep up with whether the condensation inside the mask has been wiped off recently or not. Or has the “problem” of condensation itself been solved by this time and yet forgotten by the time Alien comes around.

l) Ditto the stasis (suspended animation) pods, much sleeker. I am never a fan of suspended animation though. Do you need it? See above re: time compression. And yes, well, show me a cure for frost-bite first and I might suspend my disbelief for this. [BTW I have looked very hard the for the first cut of the equivalent scene in Alien, where they were all naked. Or was that an apocryphal story meant to tease old pervs like me…]

m) OK. Listen This is the one that completely kills me. Inside the cavern/spaceship under the giant yet ignored head, the geologist guy is hanging with red-head anti-sidekick (what does he do again?), and says in effect: “Oh look, a cute little alien eye thing on a stalk [cue: War Of The Worlds] has emerged from the black oily slime [cue: The X-Files], which itself oozed from metal canisters in suspiciously good condition considering their 30,000 years of existence in an oxygen rich environment, and this goo’s sudden obsidian oleaginous icky appearance was most sinisterly triggered by our mere presence. Isn’t it cute? Maybe it is friendly and speaks English.”

This geologist, consummate idiot, against all laws of scientific inquiry and common sense, [I shake my head], then smiles like a moron and leans forward into the standard Leap Into My Mouth You Snake-like Creature position. Wrong! SO fucking wrong. ‘Run Away’ is the correct scientific response in this situation. Like the others RUN!

n) What is it with the fucking alien crappy hologram things running through the tunnels? Seriously, what? Seriously, why? BTW there is zero dramatic tension is this entire cavern sequence.

o) What’s with fucking holograms altogether? They didn’t need them in Alien.

p) Girls, girls. Listen. When a large hoop-shaped spaceship is rolling on its edge towards you, run… to… the… side…

q) Hey, fellow pilot, let’s commit suicide cheerfully for reasons we don’t fully comprehend because we were in the frackin’ main cabin the whole time. I for one wouldn’t do this.

r) Why is Michael Fassbinder so much more handsome than either Ian Holm or Lance Hendriksen [who isn’t?]? Who later decided ugly androids integrate better than cute ones?

s) If Fassbender only needs his head to function, why does he need the rest of his body in the first place?

t) Where did the medical team appear from? Didn’t Theron yell out, “Get a medical team down here!” at one point? Where did they go afterwards? And why would she not know their names? “Get Dr Frankenstein down here now, and make sure Cloris Leachman comes too.”

u) Jesus, what happened to Guy Pearce? Did he fall face first into a bucket of half-set play goo?

v) Why the fuck would the do-it-yourself home-surgery machine have a set of delivery forceps as its default tool? Stunned by the inanity of this.

x) It’s not just me: according to NYT’s A. O. Scott – “But the virtuosity on display makes the weakness of the story — the screenplay is by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof — all the more frustrating. I’ll avoid spoilers here, but “Prometheus” kind of spoils itself with twists and reversals that pull the movie away from its lofty, mind-blowing potential… There are no revelations, only what are called, in the cynical jargon of commercial storytelling, “reveals,” bits of momentarily surprising information bereft of meaning or resonance.”

y) Why? Ridley, why? Alien was fine. Leave it alone! Get back to Forever War!

z) The giant Navigator’s mask isn’t a hood or respirator. The dude snores like fuck: it’s a CPAP mask

~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of illogical crazy SciFi movies, 5th Element was sooooo wrong, but it had the enormous advantage of taking itself 0% seriously.

It all boils down to this – Prometheus is neither Blade Runner nor Alien.

There are no moments of “It has acid for blood!” dread, no completely unexpected chest-burster scared shitless moments, no touching, awe-inspiring “Starships on fire over the belt of Orion,” moments…

It’s just… Not. Good. Enough.

E@L

The Eye Of The Storm

Posted in family matters, growing old, personal, security/insecurity by expatatlarge on June 18, 2012

The doorbell rings just once, a short single “ding”, rather than the distinctive tri-tone that is supposed to sound. It is 4am. My mother is startled awake.

About two weeks go by.

The doorbell rings just once, a short single “ding”, rather than the distinctive tri-tone that is supposed to sound. It is 6am. My mother is startled awake. She is not sure if the security light has come on. She claims she can’t remember. She, who calls me Greg, or Tim, or Doug.

About three weeks go by.

The phone rings in the mid-afternoon. It is a man’s voice. My mother listens, but doesn’t hear much at first, it was difficult to hear him, he is mumbling something. It is a young voice, a strange voice, sort of clouded, perhaps a teenager with his voice breaking. Then a few words come through more clearly – “I bet you’re frightened now…”

~~~~~~~

My mother hung up. Her heart was racing, anxiety. She had the presence of mind to call my sister immediately. My sister called the police. She called me. I called my mother. She sounded very distracted, confounded. She didn’t know what to do, where to go, how to act in this situation. She was indeed frightened by now – well wouldn’t you be? The door bell rang, the complete tri-tone. There was an authoritative knock. But my mother was still talking to me and this sudden perception of threat upset her more, frightened her more. Of course it did.

Who was this at the door?

“I don’t want to answer it,” she told me. The door knock came again, even on the phone I could hear a voice calling, “Mrs E@L’s Mother, are you there?”

“Relax, Mum. It’s the only police, answer the door, answer it. It’s only the police.”

“Are you sure?”

She put the phone handset down (somewhere in the lounge) and I can only imagine how reluctantly she would have walked to the door, the anxiety that must have been reaching a crescendo as she unsnibbed the lock. Or perhaps she was more calm than I can imagine.

It was the police of course. I could hear just one man talking to Mum. I’m not sure if there was another policeman, perhaps one was in the car or looking around outside. I could hear the two of them talking softly in the electronic distance. I could hear the policeman being reassuring, Mum sounding a little lost for words at first. Well, wouldn’t you be? He was asking her questions, gently, with a pleasant, let’s-not-take-this-too-seriously attitude. But he was solid, firm, I could hear that. A you’re-safe-now, I have the solidity of society behind me here voice. This had the desired effect and it sounded like she was calming down. Mum was repeating hesitantly what she had just told me. Their voices faded as they walked away towards the phone station when he suggested checking for caller-ID (there was none).

Mum had forgotten that I was on the other end of the line. Well, wouldn’t you?

I hung up.

~~~~~~~~

Mum, who is 87 and had been living independently in her house (all paid up) forever, is currently staying with my sister. But that can’t continue, not for much longer. For a variety of complicated reasons (I’ve counted 12 so far) that must be redacted for issues of personal, let alone national, security. It’s complicated.

More complications – me living in Singapore, aiyah! That distance doesn’t do much to ease the burden on my sister’s straining shoulders.

However, surprisingly good timing, I was able to visit them for the last two weekends as I have been working in Australia and New Zealand for three weeks. (Perth, Melbourne, Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, Sydney.) We could talk, we could reassure her, we could map out the future, we could hammer through the options… Over a nice cup of tea.

We sat in my sister’s over-heated lounge room where it felt colder the closer you stood to the gas-fire, even though it was hotter (think simmering frog), and we tried to discuss what we could do, should do. And when to do it.

There are good humour, lightheartedness, and just maybe a smidgen of sarcasm in our family. It’s a common enough Aussie trait, but not universal. We all have it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we know when we are being serious about serious issues, even if we speak lightly of them and joke around. We get it from Mum.

And so Mum was sitting there between us, in the most comfy chair, as we discussed into which hell-hole of a retirement lack-of-concentration camp we should dump her. Which Aged Don’t-Care, Mis-Managed Care, house thieving, pension-cheque extorting, food pilfering, illness ignoring little slice of heaven was in her (and ours, don’t forget) best interests.*

~~~~~~~~~

But Mum scoffed at us, ignored us, her eyes and ears were on the TV – a movie.

Judy Davis, Charlotte Rampling and Geoffrey Rush in The Eye of The Storm. From the novel by Patrick White, Australia’s only (so far) Nobel Prize for Literature winner (don’t hold your collective breath for E@L’s!) Directed by Fred Schepisi – remember Roxanne, Six Degrees of Separation, a few others.

Patrick White – expect upper-class skewering, expect working-class ambivalence, expect bitterness, expect irony. Expect a touch of humour and the odd flash of soul-piercing humanity. Expect to be confused and confronted now and then as well. Expect something powerful.

Just don’t expect us to be watching movies in the middle of our serious discussion. Except that…

Charlotte Rampling is Mrs Hunter, the very rich, snobbish matriarch of an Australian family, her mind fading, her body fast failing in her exquisite Sydney mansion (no doubt based on the White family home). The long-absent family vultures come to feed. Sir Basil, the famous thespian, star of stage and, well, stage mainly. There’s no money in that, what? Princess Dorothy, the society belle from last decade, still pretentious, still parlaying tres bean French. Both broke. They need that inheritance.

But Mrs Hunter, just to be a bitch one assumes (correctly), favours her maid, the German dancer. Or does Mrs Hunter now favour the warm, caring lawyer (whom she bonked once) who handles all her affairs with punctiliousness and with scrupulous honesty?

It was bloody complicated and we all enjoyed it immensely.

So, as you might gather, after watching this 105% appropriately-timed film, absolutely NO issues were resolved at home that night. How could we? The coincidence killed it.

~~~~~~~~

Mum is still with my sister for the moment, until she feels confident enough to go back home. And so she is gathering her strength and her will by working in the garden, weather permitting, doing little old lady things around the house. Laying new roof-tiles. Putting up the ceiling roses, finally. Re-stumping the extension. I asked if an internet linked security system will make her feel more safe. A friend’s husband installs them. “It’ll be too late by the time you see me on the internet! It’ll all be over. Don’t waste your money.” Sigh.

As you can tell, it is coming along, her strength, along with her sense of humour. She was almost ready to go home last weekend, she told me. She is talking herself up. She reminds us of great strength she showed in coming to Geelong alone with two young kids after our Dad died.

“I was strong wasn’t I?” she asked. “I must have been stupid,” she added, only half joking, so we half laugh.

She wanted to bring us up away from the influence of her father and brothers on the family farm (one brother overly authoritarian), and she never married again. This was at the end of the ’50’s, can you imagine it?

~~~~~~~~

Of course we don’t want Mum gathering dust in some sterile, penny-pinching retirement village, no matter how close to my sister’s place (where-ever that may be after those unmentionable complications are sorted). I wish is was more simple at my sister’s place. I would like them both in control of their own kitchen and their own life.

We would like all, save a couple, of Mum’s old friends not to have died.

We would like to be young again ourselves, not teetering the tipping point of cardiac risk and hepatic injury. We don’t want to grow old. We want to live forever.

We want our Mum to live forever as well.

It’s complicated. It’s always complicated. It’s been a difficult few weeks for all of us, my sister in particular. Despite all those other issues, she has been a rock.

~~~~~~~~

But it’s calm now. It’s very, very calm.

E@L

* A nurse I once knew was managing an aged-care centre, and she ended up in jail for her heartless treatment of the people supposedly in her care. She lived on their pension cheques, took the food that was allocated for them home to feed her family, let them wallow in pissy sheets overnight, you name it. Bitch.

And this sort of stuff hasn’t gone away, and the management in the most disreputable Dickensian (Whitean?) places now only get mildly spanked for their transgressions.

viz: A Life So Luminous

Posted in Uncategorized by expatatlarge on June 15, 2012

My sometime flat-mate (a week, maybe 2 or 3 times, every few months) Cara has a great talent for drawing amusing doodle characters. She always leaves little (or big) whimsical, amusing, thought-provoking messages in cartoon form around the house. Things like this…

I mean, how could you not love her back?

Her daughter must have been long aware of this talent and she gave her a notebook for Christmas last year, I think it was, to scribble these doodles in, as a diary. Each evening *without fail* (would-be writers take note) she has been analyzing the events of the day and, instead of plodding out more words (she talks for a living), she sketches out a cute little comic that pins that day down.

When I first noticed her doing this she showed some and they just cracked me up. They seemed to be banging right on the head of some incident’s nail, not that I knew what had actually happened during her day necessarily. I loved the way she appeared to get under the skin of the facts of the day and reveal in her cute illustration the soul and the heart within – they are about inter-personal politics and that ineffable wind-across-the-wheat-field subtlety of relationships about which most blokes would just go. “What?” Blokes such as me. But I found them damn amusing. Know what I mean? No? Cara could do a scribble and doubtless render a visual explanation far better than this tongued-tied stuff.

Point of post – last time she was here, she was experimenting with a new gadget (it must be contagious, come to my place, need to purchase technology), one of those things that clip onto the end of a notepad and track your pen movements across a page and then sends them off to her iPad (or wherever). She was struggling with it, and swearing at it, and rebooting this and rebooting that until, just before booting it out the window, she got it going as its designer had intended. Now she can put her stuff into The Ether (as we once called The Cloud) as well into her physical diary.

Yes, you guessed it, she has a blog now where she puts up some of her more philosophical little pics. Check it out, she has something new up most days.

It’s called A Life So Luminous.”

There are posts with words too but, hey who reads these days?

~~~~~

She already gets more hits per day than E@L did back in his peak, when he was a naughty boy in school.

Needless to say, she is very good at that DrawSomething game.

E@L

What To Do In HK – An Expat-Tempore List

Posted in beach, expats, food, hiking, Hong Kong, tourists by expatatlarge on May 20, 2012

A friend asked E@L to suggest some things for a buddy to do while he was in Hong Kong. E@L has no idea how long, if not forever, his buddy would be there.

This prompted a quick thought and an even quicker burst of the automatic writing that E@L used to think he used to be infamous for… Gods of Blog Spontaneity be damned, there has been quite a bit of editing from the original e-mail, for obsfucational clarificational purposes in the vain hope of making it more understandable/coherent.

This means that while there are still plenty of errors, distortions, misrepresentations, exaggerations and arguably hypocritical opinions and comments in this list – not to mention geographical fuck-up – E@L holds these truths be evidence of his experiences there.

E@L apologizes in advance to local experts and tourist-guides for making the wrong call on so many things, but this is how he remembers it… Many of the local bloggers would scoff at and deride E@L for this superficial list, but as they don’t follow him anyway, eh, who really cares?

~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~

Hey friend, person of ill-repute,

An embarrassingly incomplete list of gwailo/tourist things to do in Hong Kong for your buddy – not in any order. Choose any four.

The Peak – make sure it is clear weather (i.e. winter) or forget it. This time of year, dodgy. Take the funicular tram up. It is steep, about 45deg. Goes past my old place. If you want to have a baby, Matilda Hospital up here has the best views of anywhere on the island.

Walking/Jogging Path – Bowen Rd path on Midlevels (where I used to live – merely coincidence that my first two recommendations are for nearby). There is a 4km track level path straight across the hills above Wanchai to Causeway Bay. Goes past the enormous mansion of Feng Shui master guy who earned (cough!) billions from “eccentric heiress” (batshit crazy rich bitch) Nina Wang by a) telling her where she should put his water spout to best effect, and b) forging her will. Great story there, someone should write a novel. About 0.5km along, climb up to look at Lover’s Rock. Rock, yeah, right, bit of mis-spelling there. But first, look down over the fence to see if the heroin addict guy who tends the rock still lives there. Keep an eye out for some little statues and joss sticks every now and then along the path. Forest gods, IKYN. The jogging path around The Peak is also nice (when the weather is clear!!!)

ICC building – The 100th floor viewing platform on the big fucking building over Kowloon MRT (118 stories!) Same weather warning. When it is clear you can see the other big fucking building (IFC2) quite well from here. My buddy Spike, former Wanchai Vortex ™ surfer and now camera geek, has taken some great nighttime pictures of HK, btw.

South African Food (wtf?) – The Stoep on Cheung Sha beach Lantau island is something of a hazing ritual for tourists / new recruits. The lamb shanks, what can I say? There might be time for this after checking out the Big Buddha. Ditto warnings with the weather.

Hong Kong fishing village restaurants – There are plenty, all equally toxic exotic. Lamma island or Cheung Chau island. The Lamma one needs you to walk a bit (or you can if you want… not 100% on this?). Get the scallops with garlic – sorry I mean garlic with scallops. Also razor clams. (And WTF are those giant penis things?) Haven’t had cholera there for years now. Nah, seriously, great food. You’re more likely to get ill eating in your hotel.

Junk Trip – absolutely a must – you get seasick easily? This is the ride for you! They’re all good. Take a bunch of buddies of course, these are communal affairs, plus it’s affordable if you share.

Swimming – Are you crazy? Head out to Tai Long Wan beach way out past Sai Kung (take the junk trip!) if you want to avoid the majority of the shipping lane effluent.

Crap “Local” Food – Lan Kwai Fong’s Rat Alley is famous for its… rats. Seriously. Unbelievably bad, yet popular, like most blockbuster movies. A favorite for back-packers and poorly paid F.I.L.T.H.

Sai Kung – well worth a visit while you’re at it, as you can take a long hike to Tai Long Wan as well, if you are feeling suicidal in this heat. Or jump across to play golf on Kau Sai Chau – bring plenty of balls, it can swallow three per hole, easy. (This is not a metaphor, or do I mean not a double entrendre?)

Stanley Market – the most amazing part of this trip is the ride on the No 6X bus. Take the top deck and sit at the very front. Your worst roller coaster ride will seem dull after this. Some things are OK in the market, but a market is a market is a market. Buy books, if you must, at the Dymocks [if it is still there] that I was going to set up before I came to Singapore.

Portugese Food (wtf?) – ferry to Macau, tell the taxi driver “Fernandos” – it’s on the arse end of the other island, Coloane, past the Venetian. You’ll get just as good if not better chicken and potatoes in town but, hey, you’re a gwailo, a tourist, you have no common sense.

Chinese Noodles, etc… – the first place you come to anywhere is bound to be brilliant. OK try the Honolulu Coffee Shop in Stanley St near Lan Kwai Fong. Recommended by insert name of common friend. Unlike many of the eateries in this great former British colony [founded by and for heartless drug-runners] they have an English menu.

Dim Sum – man I love this Cantonese junk food. Noisy and very noisy are your choices for restaurants. Everybody likes the ancient, sullen aunties and their steaming trollies at the City Hall in Central, where the Star Ferry and Queens pier used to be… (gone, sad.) Get there before 10 or you’re screwed. Not the best, but hey, you’re a tourist! [Most locally patronized yum cha places are upstairs in mold-scarred buildings that certainly don’t look like restaurants from the outside. They are gate-kept at the bottom of the stairs by harsh women who speak into tiny microphones and never tell you anything. No, no English, what were you thinking! Even your Cantonese friends are scared of these women.]

Spa/Massage Parlour – the only legit spa/massage place that I know the expats go to is Sunny Paradise, in Lockhart Rd conveniently. At least that is where it used to be. Get a pork bun or two. This is not a metaphor.

Hiking – weather permitting, must walk the Dragon’s Back on HK island. It’s not a hard climb – steps all the way, great views (what did I say about weather?) and bring water, it’s frackin’ hot this time of year. Finish at Shek O and eat and drink (you’ll need a San Mig or fifteen – bottle only, never can) at the Thai/Chinese restaurant there on the left of the carpark as you enter, an excellent gwailo tradition best upheld in the partaking.

Sleazy Fat Old Men – No visit to Asia is complete without checking out the sex-tourism – oh that’s right, these are local expats, not tourists. Ah, Wanchai… (eyes go dreamy…) Want to see some feeeelthy old expats leering at local (Philippines is nearby, right?) girls? Try the Old China Hand on Lockhart Rd, there or the new Queen Victoria Pub a few bars up. However, while these are “normal” bars, yet somehow the genuine girly/stripper, feel-my-tits if you buy-me-drink bars, or the meet-market clubs at Laguna and Fenwicks along this strip seem somehow less sleazy than these two places. [Say hello to Bruce and E@L while you are there… Sleazy is fine if you are drunk, and who isn’t drunk in Wanchai?] If you pass the girly bars early in the evening, you will see (and smell) mamasan burning Monopoly money and joss-sticks in an orison for a good night.

Legit Wanchai – right next to the girly bars and sleazy old men joints are some nice bars and restaurants. Do not eat at the American Chinese Restaurant – it’s another gwailo tradition to mock it. Good rock music at Amazonia. Free mike night at The Wanch. Dance on the bar at Carnegies. Have a whisey at The Stag. Have a 3am 4am kebab at Ebeneezers.

3rd Gen Entertainment – in the hills above the tourist crowd in LKF on pissing up on Friday night, you will find Wyndham St, now the Friday night piss-up place for Execs and bankers-wankers. Don’t expect Cantonese to be spoken here. Eat somewhere near Staunton St, up The Escalator (note the capitals) to SOHO (south of Hollywood Rd). Around here [E@L is too old to have ever found out where, exactly] locally born but still expat (3rd Gen) brats hang at bars, or so I believe. Walk all the way down to Jaspa’s Restaurant, don’t eat there FFS, and turn right. There are some tiny makeshift bars here, not far at all away from the great unwashed tourists. Don’t expect English.

“Real” Hong Kong – anywhere, just not near Wanchai, LKF, Central or TST.

“Antiques” – walk along Hollywood Rd under the escalator and order antiques to your exact specifications. Interestingly, some of these places do sell genuine antiques. Those antique porcelain horses which look like they have been sprayed with mud, are really brand-new plaster horses that have been sprayed with mud. If they have these in the windows, move on.

The Dark Side – (Tsim Sha Tsui – TST) – high tea at The Peninsula (book now). Dinner of brilliant Indian somewhere in Chunking Mansions on Nathan Rd. Do not buy cameras in this area though (head back to Stanley St in LKF). After dinner drinks at the Wooloomooloo bar at The One on Nathan/Granville/Carnavon Rd, just up a bit. Awesome views at night (weather permitting), but closes at midnight. Spend lots.

More Beaches – Past Repulse Bay (get off the 6A or 260 bus on the way back from Stanley and walk or taxi the 2km down to South Bay Beach. Gay friendly, which means all the homophobic obnoxious gwailos steer clear – you’re comfortable with your sexuality, yeah? Drink four million Coronas under the faded umbrellas in the restaurant above the change rooms – just grab the beers from the fridge yourself or you’ll die of thirst. Make sure you shower if you go swimming. The water in the beach is relatively OK (shudder, for HK) but the shower is nice place to make new friends.

That is all – too much already, yeah? Geez, I miss Hong Kong.

Cheers

~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~

E@L