Archive for April, 2009

Best of the 80’s (danish children’s films)

April 7, 2009

Danish films are famous for being a bit whacko. Just think of the Green Butchers or Idioterne. But a link on my mum’s blog threw open childhood nostalgia for danish childrens films, and on revisiting with older eyes, I’m convinced their pretty damn special. Denmark has a long history of producing serious, funny, magical, understandable films for kids, which don’t shy from the harshness of reality, yet are full of random brilliance. Here goes three clips selected from the many I enjoyed while growing up in Copenhagen.

For starters, we have the mad walrus song from Samson og Sally, about two cute wee whales. Its a bouncy skat with background of ocean life being destroyed by nuclear waste. The film also features oil spills, harpooning, and other horrors of evil humans. Don’t worry if you don’t speak danish, the song is almost entirely in gibberish. And stay tuned for a twist at the end.

Next up a jazz song – this time from Fuglekrigen (The bird war), which was my favorite film for several years. This would NEVER have made it past the kiddy-censors in anglosaxon countries, methinks. (This can be appreciated from the visuals alone)

Finally, the opening section of Valhalla, total epic and translated into many languages included English. It’s a story of children in the land of the norse Gods, with some pretty scary bits. You can watch the whole film on youtube if you wish, complete with English subtitles. Go on, go on go on go on,you know you want to. We had to study norse religion for a couple of years at school, and I still remember lots of the stories. And do you know how many english days of the week are named after norse gods? If you’re pressed for time, skip to 3:40, this is where the real action starts!

It just occurred to me that all three chosen are cartoons. This isn’t entirely representative, since loads of good Danish kids films are life-filmed. If I had longer, I could go on and on… Snøvsen, Otto er et næsehorn, Gummi Tarzan… Fraekke Frida, Krummerne, Anton… What’s YOUR favourite 80’s (or 90’s, or any other ‘s) Danish film?

Also, I’m trying to remember the title of a film I saw in a cinema in Denmark around 1995, about a troll and a human who fell in love and completed some kind of troll ring that brought peace and love and some such… can’t find it anywhere!


Inside the London Climate Camp (Borrowed Post)

April 6, 2009

Post copied from my friend Ruth Cape’s blog 

Climate Camp in the City – A view from inside

Weaving through the concrete maze of London city, the sun beamed down and glanced off our watches as we approached the crisp, glassy sheen of the European Climate Exchange offices. Six of us hung back on a corner and waited for the ‘swoop’. The odd badly ‘dressed down’ business man walked briskly by and the street was quiet and warm. The clock hand ticked to 12.30. We began to move off and the air rushed with excitement. Suddenly swarms of people emerged from the woodwork. Within seconds the street was awash with colour, energy and purpose which turned the corner and flowed into Bishopsgate. A moment of questioning glances. Calls of ‘tents!’. Bright, canvass molehills sprung up among the crowd. One collective effort and the camp was established.
Within half an hour the place was transformed. A positive space created from and emanating an intense and positive energy. Hope, peace, solidarity. Banners popped up, chalk decorated the pavement, messages shouted from tents: “Another world is possible” “Be the change you want to see” “Live simply so others can simply live” “Social change not climate change”. A buzz whipped through the crowd to the beat of the samba drums. People danced, sang and shared their care for each other and the world. Workers watched from above, peering from behind dark windows. Down below multi-coloured windmills whirled, poets recited, friends were met and made and the message was strong. Money cannot make the world go round. Climate change is happening; it’s devastating consequences will affect us all and are already affecting so many. Priorities need to be changed and real action needs to be taken.

I remember watching as a couple of policemen crossed to the other side of the street  – they picked their way between tents, rugs and people and their apparent respect towards the space and what was within it felt like a significant gesture. Sadly this wasn’t to be the lasting image of our guardians of law and order.

The sun began to lower and as the air became cooler, a fresh chill of uncertainty crackled through the camp. Police lines thickened and demonstrators held up their hands in a gesture of peace and non-violence. Soon it was clear that access both in and out of the camp was blocked. Suddenly our freedom and control was snatched away and as soon as it became a ‘them and us’ conflict, heightened emotions began to surface. Two completely incompatible sets of people were suddenly pitched against each other and with group mentality, on both sides, it’s near impossible to see the individual spirit of any person on the ‘other’ side.  They work top-down and solid; one command fits all with no questions asked. We work by consensus; all opinions are taken into account and a decision is reached collectively. These systems cannot coexist so when it becomes a struggle of one against the other, it is not a fair fight. The former will always hold the advantage of being quick and impenetrable. 

The charged up policemen (and women) prioritised asserting their own power over guarding the calm and non-confrontational atmosphere of the camp. They exuded the desperate feeling of a need to ‘save face’; to appear to be ‘keeping things under control’ when in fact there is no doubt that under their intimidation and pressure, fear and panic were planted and exacerbated. The atmosphere very tangibly changed.  I witnessed people who I know to be calm, rational and honest being hit with batons, thrown against walls, dragged, laughed at and utterly demeaned. When attempting to find out the details of a policeman who had acted completely inappropriately, a demonstrator was chased with a baton. Where is the humanity in all of this? Where is the respect for fellow humans? How can people end up with such power and arrogance that they can degrade and abuse others and not be held accountable? As the police begun to cut away and wheel off inobstructive bicycles, they seemed to be thriving on committing crimes that no citizen out with ‘the force’ could get away with. It worries me that these people who did not act responsibly or honourably are supposed to be the upholders of justice, safety and, essentially, peace. 

Dusk deepened into night and though the camp strove on – with the help of a ceilidh – confidence waned and, with police now allowing people to leave, numbers dwindled. The walls of police on either side moved in and riot police wavered on the edges. With demonstrators feeling smothered by confusion and apprehension, it is hard to keep the original objectives in mind. It felt ironic that we are trying to fight for something which affects us all – even those making it difficult for us to be heard. We are calling to the world’s leaders to take sufficient and responsible action on climate change. They are accountable to us; this message which is about bringing peace and safety to the world and the world’s people should not be silenced.

Though there were strong feelings that we should stay, it became clear that the camp was not going to make it through the night. However reluctant to go on their terms, I packed up my tent and made the decision to leave. As we walked out, the line of police jeered sarcastic comments with the artificial smugness that comes with winning a game by cheating and force. I could not look at them but was determined to keep my head held high. They had no right to turn it in to a walk of shame. As peaceful demonstrators we know that there is no pride or value in goading the police. But they goad us. Who should be ashamed?

As the bitter icing on the cake of frustration and disillusionment towards the system that rules us, I met a girl wandering the streets in search of somewhere to safely spend the night after being turned away at the train station. Protesters, apparently, were not allowed on the train and – identifiable by a splash of face paint and a flower in her hair – she was refused her passage home. I cannot understand how leaving a young woman alone at 3am in the centre of London with nowhere to go can be justified.

Despite the unnecessary overreaction and disappointing aggression shown by the police, the action – overall – was a positive one. We remained peaceful and the aim remains strong. And what have I taken away from the experience? It is so important to stand up for what you believe in. We should all be fighting for what we think is right for the world and stay positive and strong in the face of injustice. Question. Don’t be complacent. Don’t just accept that the way things happen now is the way they should or always will happen. 

Have a vision. Stay hopeful. Get active.

Goodbye Mary, hello Matilda!

April 6, 2009

Queen Mary has been scrapped. Enter Matilda (hospital). For the first time I have experienced private health care, and I can’t deny being impressed. Shame that only such a slitherous fraction of the world’s people enjoy such luxury in sickness. In my friend’s case, she paid for the right insurance company. 

The trouble with QMH is that it’s simply over-stretched. She ended up in a crowded ward full of elderly patients choking like trout on land or tied to their bed as they tried to stroke people, with harassed-looking nurses and a doctor reluctant to part with any information at all. The final straw was that she didn’t have a proper bed. But the insurance company paid to transfer up a class. Public to private. Plebs to Posh. And with the choice, and her health at stake (still very unwell, no sign of diagnosis), there was no hesitation. 

Matilda feels like a retreat for the rich and decadent. The corridors have that countryhouse feel about them, the wards like a classy hotel. And the view is the staggering. Yup I never thought my first visit to the Peak (one of top Hong Kong tourist destinations) would be three months after arriving here, for a hospital! From her dorm the hills of HK fall away below, green and sculptured, with an elastic jumble of coast and islets, everything scattered with white gleaming skyscrapers and sticky-boats below. Birds of prey glide past just metres away. It’s a bit like one of those paintings in fantasy books, which you can fall into and get transported to a different world.

My poor friend is not at all well, and tonight is her third night in hospital. They were meant to go back tomorrow, but flights have been changed. And now I’m getting slightly ill too. Not nearly as bad of course – or I wouldn’t be typing this – just a raised temp and one of those rasp-cough-throats. My neighbour heard the hacking I’m-going-to-die noises and has kindly leant me her entire collection of chinese medicine, in particular, 潘高寿 pan gao shou!


Lack of camera meant I downloaded random image of tinternet

Lack of camera meant I downloaded random image of tinternet

Let’s hope it helps. And that much sicker friend is well again soon. At least here she can get 5-star treatment unavailable to the residents of Yunnan, as well as 6 matching disney paper-clips which I got free from 7/11, and have attached to her bedroom curtain.

Update: and many thanks for awesome Dutch Tatelog throat sweets too!!

Queen Mary’s Hospital Take II

April 4, 2009

It seems only yesterday that I was the patient, having “alien objects” firmly removed from the ear. Now, I’m back.

Actually this time the patient is my friend. But her condition is much more glamorous than mine! “Potential” tropical disease. Aiya. She and another friend arrived yesterday to visit from Kunming, having been travelling in South-East asia not all that long ago during Spring Festival. They were meant to spend three days of HK fun before returning to class. Well we’re certainly rising to the challenge of visiting unusual sights, i.e. the inside of my favorite 20-story white building, Queen Mary’s Hospital. The likelihood is she just randomly has a fever of over 40… but they’re keeping her in over night to make sure it’s not something more exciting such as Malaria. Given my Mum had malaria before, no chances will be taken. 

Not overly impressed with hospital system after said patient was made to wait four hours on a plastic chair in A&E, watching folk unloaded from ambulances and enjoying air conditioning which would make Shenzhen’s “Alpine dome” proud. I tried to entertain by recounting anecdotes from american internet sites… not sure this was very helpful. 

Until we came back at 6 or so, we didn’t realise quite how ill she was, as she’d wanted a nap and me and my other friend went out at 2 to let her rest. We mostly sightseed gastronomically – and for the palette of one living far from western comforts such as proper bread. Cantonese noodles with balls – fish balls, beef balls, tofu balls, dunnoquitewhatballs. “Choi” or green veg with some brown sauce. Egg custard pudding, DOU FU FAA! My totalfavorite (some day I will write a tribute entry specially). Dreadful Cantonese coffee. Ginger beer and good brown bread. Pain au chocolat, mango juice, roast fish sandwhich, and egg tarts. Lucky we gorged during the day as we didn’t get dinner cos we chilling in hospital.

Oh, I forgot to mention the face masks. They made all of us wear them! I’ve only really seen people wear them in Asia. At first I was told it was buddhists not wanting to accidentally swallow a fly. (I realise with hindsight I may have been gullible here). Then that it was for the pollution. Or from catching a disease. But in Hong Kong, it seems they’re mainly for sick people to not spread it. Public transport has signs saying “maintaing cough manners” with cute little pictures.


Apparently these characters are really famous but I don't know them

Apparently these characters are really famous but I don't know them

In the hospital and in other places, signs announce you must wear a mask i you have cough/fever/etc. Or if you’re with someone else who has. And so we sat there like dorks in our matching blue facemasks, speak no evil, speak no evil, and speak no evil. Sadly I didn’t get a picture – thought very sick friend wouldn’t appreciate paparazzi attempt and subsequent uploading to the infinite voyeurism of the web. 

Right well better get some sleep as heading back to the hospital early to see her. She’s being really brave and I so hope she feels better in the morn, so crap to be really ill and far from home in a new city having to mess around with airports and hospitals and locked residence buildings etc. I will fall asleep listening to the crickets from outside my bedroom window. Or is it electric wires…

A typical Thursday eve

April 2, 2009

This evening a nippy breeze blew in from the west, and delicate drizzle made people’s hair gleam. I was down at Sandy Bay for three and a half hours of rugby training for the upcoming match on the 11th. A good session, lots of girls showed up and our coach was on form. I love listening to him shouting away in cantonese, with english too (sometimes followed by laaaaa) and even the odd bit of mandarin. The only canto I understand is along the lines of green/blue cone, faster/slower, HAVE YOU GOT IT? But when I learned German it was the same too, as I pretty much started on the football pitch. Aus! Ecke! Tor! Were the first words I felt comfortable shouting. 

By the end I was shattered, and my knees rubbed pink from the plastic grass. Some of the sweet local girls are much smaller and lighter than me, yet can throw me to the ground with the effectiveness of lioness vs buffalo. And so it was time for dinner in one of my favorite parts of Hong Kong – Kennedy Town.

Kennedy Town is the West section of Sai Wan, and lies about halfway between my residence and the central area, on the coast. Its grey, angular streets are hidden with noisy wet market full of fish and carnivalistic veg, restaurants with big portions and flag-sized menus, and of course the 3am dimsum hole, haven for students and old people needing some ha gao (prawn dumplings?) in the early hours. I’ve been there so many times I know everything they serve off by heart, and fetch the crockery for our table myself.

This evening though, my friend took us to a (in my mind as yet) nameless restaurant with a low ceiling and gleaming surfaces. Raw beef Wudong for me, followed by a delicious desert of mango chunks in coconut juice with sago (white balls of rice-stuff which for some reason I think of as jellyfish eyes). Hong Kong is God’s gift to desert. Such a variety of fruits and milks and shakes and sweet sweet sweetness and best of all, Doufu Hua. I would swap my desktop light for a bowl of that right now. And so cheap! (if you’re not in one of the famous chains that is). I could have eaten two or three. 

And then we walked home through the soft night. It’s not a pretty walk – straight alone Pokfulam Road for most of the way – but it’s a comforting one, with the lights of Sai Wan and the sea blinking below, and the country park rising dark and hidden above. When it’s late the busy road which I travel along several times a day usually is eerily quiet, taxis and the occasional minibus zip past, but otherwise there are moments when you could be somewhere far away from anywhere. Its a longish walk, but a good way to warm down from a typical Thursday eve, which tonight alas has now also involved a bit too much facebook and Uncle Lim songs. Setting the alarm clock for 7.30 now. Goodnight.