And on the other hand...

Click here for The Yin Side where the other half of me holds forth!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Les Operas Ont Finis!

The 2009 HOT season concluded last night, with a very agreeable Carmen. What a treat; I didn't realize it was in French. I actually understood some of it,  alors, un petit peu, without relying on the translation screen.  I bid a fond aloha to the now familiar couple in the adjacent seats; we look forward to seeing each other next year. We have much in  common with the Mrs., a delightful retired school teacher, and her husband, an avid hunter of pigs, goats and deer. We shared tales of the pet cats and birds we have loved, the chickens we have raised, the venison we have cooked -- sharing our mutual discovery that it is really much less messy to skin a chicken than to pluck it.  Not that any of us do this anymore.  And this at the opera, and a dramatic one indeed.  I don't know why I should have gotten so upset with Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video--opera is equally lascivious, albeit tempered with classical music. Of course, in Carmen, Jose actually did put a ring on it, but Carmen threw it back at him, fickle hottie that she was.  Carmen is just full of tunes you know in your heart, fado-like rhythms and melodies accompanied by sexy choreography. And of course, a downright lusty and foolish tragic plot.

Lust is a key element in opera. Two weeks ago, the second offering of the season was "The Abduction from the Seraglio," which I kept calling "The Rape of the Seraglio," thinking possibly of the Rape of the Sabines.  An early title apparently was "Rape in ...," but "Abduction from" turns the story more into a rescue operation, at least for modern ears to which "rape" only connotes sexual assault or violation.  This is the opera that was the source of the "too many notes" comment by the emperor who commissioned it from Mozart.  Our  HOT "Seraglio" performance  featured Hawaii's own environmentally correct Jason Scott Lee, in the non-singing, not-too-many-notes role of the pasha. He was good at the poses.  (I don't suppose it's any stranger to have this delightful Chinese-American playing a Turk than it was to have Richard Chamberlain star in The King and I, HOT's 2006 summer offering. What a lot of interesting talent we have in Hawaii!)   

Alas, in the not-so-bitter cold of a Hawaii winter, weary and busy with Chinese painting classes, opera-going, work (especially work) and social commitments,  I missed the Westminster Dog Show, where a stalwart old non-competitive spaniel won best-of-show.  I would like to have seen it. But dogs and opera will still be linked in my memories of this season: leaving the hall last night, we followed a young couple to the parking garage. He was carrying a nice Gucci tote out of which poked the head of a maltese or shih tzu, some fluffy toy purse pooch.  I didn't recall a dog in the cast (like the Barber of Seville's wayward bulldog in 2000, I think, has it been that long?  Or maybe it was The Marriage of Figaro).  We commented that the dog was really well behaved.  "Oh we always bring him, he loves the opera, the symphony and ballet too," the young woman confided.   

That's why I enjoy the opera -- you just never know what's going to happen.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sin City?

After watching the terrific Hong Kong yin/yang cops and criminal film from 2002, Infernal Affairs, I was compelled to revisit photos from my brief August stop in Hong Kong on the way to Xian and Wudang. I surprised myself with this shot of Kowloon, from somewhere near Tony Leungs' (both Tonys) handprints on the Walk of Hong Kong Film Stars. Of course, the "SIN" in the photo is part of the signage of SINOPEC, the Chinese oil company, and has nothing to do with sin (unless you equate oil with sin.)

Infernal Affairs is a great movie, with superb acting and a thoughtful plot, (Tiny) Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Andy Lau giving a synchronized performance like Pacino and De Niro. I don't know why Scorsese had to remake it. But I also watched the same way Hawaii folks enjoy Hawaii 5-0Magnum P.I. or Lost, to see the sets as much as the action. I was a little disappointed that in Infernal Affairs, the cops/criminals never took the ubiquitous Star Ferry (see below). In fact except for a drug deal gone bad, there weren't any at-sea scenes at all.  Some nice views of the harbor, though.

Maybe it was because the whole country was holding its economic  breath for the Olympics that I was blessed during my visit with a day of clear blue skies and fresh air. The last time I was in HK, in August 2001, I was distressed at the deteriorating air quality, although some of the sunsets seemed worth it.  In late August 2008, I enjoyed stunning views of the harbor, but just three weeks later, things had changed.  Maybe sin and oil are the same thing.
Late August

Late September

Friday, February 6, 2009

He jumped a string bean*

The Yellow Emperor has become a vegetarian.

Last night while I was preparing a nice dinner of marlin, some veggies, and rice, he leapt to the counter (he is the Emperor after all), I thought for a scrap of the fish. But he snatched a green bean and bounded off with it to his lair. He toyed with it all night, tossing it in the air, hiding it under things so he could find it again, laying on top of it. I think he mistook it for a lizard. The demure Fifi ignored him; she is content with her red and green and blue tiny fur faux mice that she brings to our bedroom in the middle of the night.

This morning he was still at it with the bean. It was ragged and the stem was gone. He's been a little off his feed of Fancy Feast (he is the Emperor after all) and since he seemed to be saying "Give me a string bean, I'm a hungry cat,"** I tossed a nice fresh one to him before I left for work. He pounced on it and resumed his bean-foolery.

All of the 11 cats of my life have had perverse little pleasures --one loved hose washers, another had a Santa that he would attack if you asked him to "Kill Santa," there's Fifi and her mouse preferences, the big silver tabby who had a thing for purple pom pons, the tuxedo cat who would knock over milk cartons, lick all the milk up and give himself diarrhea. And all of my male cats have liked to eat papaya and cantaloupe. (The Wizard thinks it's because these fruits smell musky, like female cats in heat. I don't know how he would know that.) But never before have I known a cat who liked to play with string beans. He may be channeling Bob Dylan. (See quote note below.)

The meal turned out great: I coated the marlin with a special hot curry mix and sauteed it, then deglazed the pan with a splash of vermouth to sauce the rice, a microwaved leftover mix of basmati and Uncle Ben's, weird and not half bad. (Someone on one of my China retreats was horrified that I might nuke leftovers--he said the microwaves "stick to the rice." He also lamented that during the retreat he was required to forgo his daily bong hit.) As for the string beans, I sauteed and briefly steamed them with some sliced pearl onions, a bit of red bell pepper, and seasoned with a melange of pepper and fines herbes. Delicieux!

Notes about the quotes: Bob Dylan refers to string beans twice on the "Freewheeling" album, in the sung (but not necessarily written) lyrics of *I Shall Be Free, and ** Talking World War III Blues. What's with Dylan and beans? Remember the great scene in "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid"? Knockin' on Heaven's Door is what everyone remembers from this movie, but I loved the scene with Dylan's character, Alias, reviewing the cans of beans while trying to ignore something really awful happening behind him. "Beans...beans...pork and beans...kidney beans...beans." This movie is worth it just for that moment.