Yes, there’s nothing much happening today

Strolling through a supermarket in a quiet, tourist-free residential neighbourhood of Macau over the weekend, I saw shelves of drinks, packs of toilet paper and, in the hardware section, safes. Small, hotel-room safes, medium-size safes, and huge safes you would need a pick-up truck to carry away. The weirdest thing was the price: a decent-size one suitable for an adequate stash of bullion goes for just HK$1,999, which can’t be a huge amount more than the box’s scrap metal value.

Meanwhile, in a nearby bookstore, something at the other end of the spectrum of price-to-usefulness ratios: the Encyclopedia of One Country Two Systems. No fewer than 2,700 entries (apparently), totaling 180,000 characters, indexed by Pinyin, brush-stroke number and category. A labour of love, no doubt. It is all about 1C2S as the concept applies to Macau, a city with a population just one-fourteenth that of Hong Kong. Presumably, our own One Country Two Systems Research Institute is still working on the Big Lychee’s version, which will be even more challenging to transport than one of those safes.

The highlight of the weekend was a concert by the Macau Orchestra. An innocent bystander might think that, being smaller than, say, Shatin, Macau probably doesn’t have a very good orchestra, if one at all. It is fair to say that the ensemble does not exactly rank as one of the world’s greatest, but never underestimate the spending power of the Macau government when it tries desperately to boost the seedy little town’s non-casino cultural attractions. They have, after all, museums devoted to wine, postal services, fire services, the grand prix, antique electronics, Lin Zexu and handover gifts. The troupe has a full complement of mostly Mainland and Eastern European musicians, who play with gusto.

The concert, Reflections of the National Spirit, was about as corny as you can get: Vaughan Williams, Copland and Bartok (and, for no extra charge, Samuel Barber’s inevitable Adagio), though – interestingly – no musical embodiment of the wondrous Great Wall or Sons of the Yellow Emperor. It was partly an opportunity to see inside the modest but charming Dom Pedro V Theatre, which was built in 1860 and must have seen its share of Portuguese petit-aristocratic finery in its colonial heyday.

Which brings us to the exquisite bit. The highlight of the evening (not counting the female viola player whose twisted ankle required her to valiantly hop on and off the stage) was Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No 5. The one that’s so well-known Joan Baez did it. Scored for eight cellos (they borrowed a few) and a soprano, it is essentially late 19th Century Rio de Janeiro street music done in the style of Bach, and perfect for an evening in a faded, sub-tropical, once-Lusitanian backwater.

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10 Responses to Yes, there’s nothing much happening today

  1. Maugrim says:

    When I walk past the Dom V I always think of Zorro for some reason

  2. Mary Hinge says:

    Pah! The HK Encyclopedia of One Country Two Systems may be scribbled on the back of a Mark Six ticket with a marker pen:

    1. There is only one system, really.
    2. Press freedom only allowable if the company behind the organ is Beijing-owned, and Cynthia Sze and Peter Lok can write half the letters;
    3. If Pro-Democrats stand alone for election (e.g. in a by-election), it’s a grievous waste of tax-payers money. If Pro-Beijingers stand alone for election (for CE, etc.) well, then it’s really not an issue at all.
    4. One country is a pre-requisite of two systems, er, one system.

  3. Iffy says:

    If pro-Beijingers alone stand for election it is cause for celebration at the health, vibrancy and openness of HK democracy, according to some of the driveling op ed printed in the SCMP today.

  4. gweipo says:

    Love the Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No 5. And Macau occasionally has some really good Brazilian artists in town who are well worth the trip across the pond for.

    In SG the carrefour has similar safes at a similar price – wonder who has the master key?!

  5. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Mary Hinge :

    I do like your point 3 !

    Since everything our govt spends comes from tax -payers like me, I would much rather have the govt spend MY money on by-elections / referendums where I CAN vote ( no matter how sill the pro-democrats are to call such elections , and let’s face it they often are very silly) than have them spend money on even sillier elections where I can NOT vote.

    Whatever happened to “no taxation without representation”?

    BTW: did anyone else read Michael Chugani today in the SCMP. Another excellent op-ed by him. Great stuff !

  6. Stephen says:


    Not to mention those grevious waste of tax payers money the FC “elections” Will David Li run unopposed in the banking constituency and the jailbird (with the awful combover) run unopposed in the financial services constituency ?

    Are the public demanding this loophole be plugged – yes for 20+ years and counting …

  7. Real Tax Payer says:

    What worries me most of all if Henry does stand for CE is having Stephen Lam as CS

    He will probably rule everything as in HK unconstitutional ….except paying taxes . and play “god” with evrything that we still hold dear in HK

    If Lam is the “most senior ” civil servant we have and the pinnacle of civil service competence, then I think we might do better to ask Lee Kwan Yu to come over here for a spell and act as CS until 2017.

    At least LKW has the excuse that he believes he IS God

  8. Joe Blow says:

    Michael Chugani is the epitome of self-righteousness and mis-guided liberal bias.

    Does anyone remember the TV interview with the ex-head of Mossad ? Chugani trying to corner a person with more intelligence and street-smart in his little finger than pathetic third-rate HK journo Michael has in his whole body. What a loss of face that was.

  9. Iffy says:

    RTP, regrettably this is where we ideologically part ways. Chugani’s piece was a nasty piece of mediocre filler: a few borrowed and well-worn insights undermined by a tacit assumption that we should grovel in gratitude for any small bones the bigger dog sees fit to flick our way.

    I do however agree with your denuciation of Stephen Lam, who appears to be a significantly higher grade of slime than just about anyone else I’ve come across in HK politics.

  10. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Iffy : We can agree to differ re Michael Chugani ( which is but a sideshow item)

    However, I do personally endorse the points he made in that op-ed .One must always be careful to divorce the message from the messenger : hey ! I’m beginnining to agree with a lot of what Queen Regina writes these days, even though I can’t stand the woman

    But I’m glad we agree on Lam -on-the Lam

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