NOTES 2011

I thought I would start out the new year with a new comments archive. All the images remain the product of just the camera on my iphone (except, on rare occasion, when noted).


Dec 25. Merry Christmas! There's a rather posh tradition in Hong Kong of ordering your Christmas bird from one of the hotels or social clubs. You hear stories about Dad's meeting in the Captain's Bar off the main lobby of the Mandarin for a beer while they wait for the turkey or ham (or, as in our case, one of each, and a chocolate Santa centerpiece as well). We decided that for this, our first Christmas in Hong Kong, we'd go deeply bourgeois and sign up for the local rite. I fear it was all a bit oversold. The bar was closed and the only other guy picking up a turkey when I was there was an old Chinese guy who seemed only to want to escape as quickly as possible. So I had a cappuccino at the Cake Shop by myself. When they brought out my 7 kilo ham and same size turkey, I couldn't believe the size of the "hat boxes" used for our carry-out Christmas dinner. I asked one of the bellmen to stand next to mine for a sense of scale. I think he was fairly relieved that he didn't have to carry them anywhere.

Dec 18: There's a huge wet market between Wan Chai and Causeway Bay just under the big fly-bridge that bisects the East and West ends of Hong Kong. I've never actually bought anything, but I love walking through the seafood section. A great deal of what's on offer is still alive. I was actually a little surprised the iPhone was able to catch the iridescent yellow of this tub of fish.

Nov 29: It's no doubt obvious this isn't Hong Kong. We were in Melbourne celebrating Sarah's 40th, and on the way to the airport, we found ourselves trailing along behind a merry-go-round. One of life's quirky moments that wouldn't get recorded if you didn't always have a camera in your pocket.

Nov 18: Sarah decided the big kids need some religious education. I'm a fan of any education for the kids. All the more so if I don't have to do anything for them to get it. So while Sarah takes Lulu and Tom to Sunday school, Fletcher and I take Kick for a walk. Stanley Village has recently (almost) finished construction on the new and improved plaza. The temple dedicate to the sea god Tin Hau used to be hidden behind an ice cream, but with the redesign the temple has been re-exposed. Fletcher thought it was fun to run back and forth across the facade. As with education, I'm a fan of dog walks where I don't have to walk.

Nov 14: Walking home from a friends 40th and pleased to find someone in worse shape than I was in.

Nov 8: We have had a spectacular Autumn. Crisp, cool days instead of the usual swelter. And that great, semi-filtered, nearly white light that seems to replace hard edges with a rosy glow. I took Lulu and a friend to Chung Hum Kok beach for the afternoon. The lifeguards packed up after mid-Autumn Lantern Festival -- the official end of summer -- so it was just the three of us and the mosquitos.

Nov 1: I will admit that in spite of my progressive political views, I've always cringed at public protest. They usually strike me as ineffective, nostalgic (which is in fact a conservative impulse), impotent and somehow remind me of a high school football game (maybe it's the silly chanting). So while I share sympathies with the global "occupiers" generally -- or is it vaguely? Hard to tell for a movement without clear views/goals/aims/etc -- I approach any public protest with a certain degree of skepticism. Part of my contrarian nature, I suppose. But the group, now, camping out beneath the HSBC building in Hong Kong have been protesting on a semi-regular basis since Lehman collapsed in 2008. Previously, they seemed to be demanding a return of pension monies that had been invested and lost. I don't think they're demands have actually changed. But now they have tents and a global affiliation. Power to the campers, I guess.

Oct 30: I get a call on Friday lunchtime from a friend asking if I want to go to a club downtown for a listening party at 2 that afternoon. I'm not a big fan of the BEP but my daughter is so I know the hits. But I really don't have a lot of fixed ideas about who they are, and, before Friday, would surely have failed a quiz about even the most basic knowledge of the band. But I'm curious what this sort of event looks like in HK so I say I'll go. Never occurred to me, not even after I arrived, that might actually be coming too. I just thought it would be an afternoon hipster conclave, and we'd get to play an advance copy of whatever is the new CD. As it turns out, it was a horribly managed event, sponsored by Universal Music which (I'm guessing) was intended to introduce the artist and his new record to radio and club D-Jays, Channel V people (the Asian MTV, although I think there is also MTV in Asia) and other music-area influencers. What it actually was was, about 12 office workers from Universal, me, my friend and a couple other people I know. Maybe 20 of us. So we just sat around telling stories about LA (will went to Pacific Palisades High School) and Hong Kong for a couple hours, and will played some tracks he's working on from his laptop. Not at all how I expected to spend the afternoon before the phone rang.

Sept 5: Labor Day isn't a holiday in Hong Kong. But I decided it should be. Not what sure to call this concoction which is (mostly) vodka, lemon juice and some strange blue syrup I bought from the Japanese section at a market in town. There's nothing in translation on the label except for a picture of a snow cone. Makes a delicious cocktail. They should have a picture of that on the bottle!

Aug 31: Hong Kong's best kept secret is that more than 80% of the island is undeveloped greenspace. The peak I'm standing on looking out over Stanley Village is a 30 minute walk (all uphill) from our house. Unfortunately, this was the last clear day of the summer. Since I took this picture, the wind patterns shifted and we've had horrible air quality. It was the only thing we were nervous about when we decided to move here. But until the past week, we've hardly noticed the pollution. But the past week, we have definitely noticed.

July 26/28: Someone, small and with good climbing skills, scaled the back wall of our building, pushed in the exhaust fan in our bathroom window and reached in through the hole to unlatch the window and let himself in. He grabbed some cash and a few odd items of jewelry, some rubber bands, buttons and a ball of string. And I slept through the whole thing (Sarah was in L.A. for work). I only discovered the break-in the next morning when, a little incredulously, I was trying to figure out why the bathroom window was open (it's NEVER open).

Given the small size of the window and the acrobat dexterity required to shimmy up a drain pipe to a 4th story window with a very, very narrow ledge, I think it's obvious that the little Chinese guy from Ocean's 11 should be taken in for questioning.

I mentioned my theory to several of the more than 30 police officers who traipsed through my house at various points during the morning, including the head of the Southside Robbery Task Force. They seemed to neither share nor appreciate my suspicions.

June 8: Trail run plus light rain over slick rocks equals 8 new stitches in my lip. Six on the outside and 2 on the inside.

June 6: This weekend, we shot what will ultimately be about 70% of the final pilot. Essentially, we did all the talk show elements -- welcome, special guest interview, comedy sketch with the panel and the musical guest. Terence Yin, who is a pretty big movie star in Cantonese-language films, and Ghost Style, from the local HK band 24 Herb, were kind enough to come in and perform a Dylan classic for us.

May 31: There's a lot of neon in Hong Kong. And this sign is no more special than the thousands of others. But I just happened to catch it at twilight when the neon light was really jumping against the fading day. I took a few from the sidewalk, but they didn't look right. I wanted the sign framed against the sky. I was nearly run down by a taxi getting this image from the only available angle -- the middle of the street.

May 24: This is an ode to my Jr High art teacher. Not only was this a cool and typical Hong Kong city scene -- with skyscrapers framing little downtown cafes -- but it's also a "found example" of complimentary colors (cfr:

May 15: This is literally a back-ally pawnshop. Hong Kong has two, competitive bus companies that run mostly overlapping routes. Both are profitable without government subsidy. Although I think I read somewhere that they do get some tax abeyance, but, if their profits exceed the rate allowed by their municipal charter, they return funds to riders as discounts and rebates. In spite of having two bus companies, there is also a thriving mini-bus operation. Mini-buses operate between and around the routes maintained by the big companies. Why all this bus info? Because I shot this at the place where you catch the mini-bus from Causeway Bay (a big Central shopping district) to Repulse Bay (where I live). The circle with crown design denotes pawn shops all over town. I was struck the way the brightly colored icon jumped against the drab background of the dilapidated backs of buildings.

May 8: Practice, practice, practice...  actually, given that everybody in the cast and on the crew are volunteering their time to make our pilot presentation for the networks, we have had very limited rehearsal time. Which, hopefully, is for the best. Wouldn't be good if the show felt overworked and lacked any feeling of spontaneity. Pictured here (L to R) are Jason Godfrey, Lisa S and Jason Tobin.

May 4: Tom, our 5 year-old, takes after his dad. His favorite apps on my iPhone are hipstomatic and quadcam. Often he sneaks my phone to take pictures and I don't realize he's done it until I sync the phone with the computer. He snapped this one while I was watching a movie during an Easter weekend flight to Singapore. I thought it was a cool image and so have borrowed it for my own purposes.

April 11: I've been developing an English-language talk show for the Asian cable television market and we've just started production on the pilot. We call the show, a panel comedy and variety show, IT'S ALREADY FRIDAY IN ASIA. It's The View meets Saturday Night Live. Sort of. In the photo, Chaand, an Indian kid who's 4th generation Hong Kong, is playing cards with the Filipina domestic helpers who gather on the causeways every Sunday on their day off. On the show, he plays an intern who's always making audition tapes in an effort to make it onto the main panel. He's an amateur actor and comedian. As far as I know, he's never done anything like this before. He was hilarious. And fearless. So I didn't bother telling him I'd never directed before either. No reason to undermine his confidence.

April 4: Bridal photo shoots are an itinerant fixture in Hong Kong. Rarely a day goes by that I don't wander past a shoot. Usually they're near the beach, or in the manicured, old colonial grounds of the Repulse Bay Towers. And you certainly see some brides and grooms going for more urban looks in Central. But why you'd want to remember your big day (or the couple a weeks run up to the big day when you shoot all your photos) in front of a pizza place is beyond me. They might have met there? But I doubt it. I think they were just happy to found a wide swath of sidewalk.

March 27: I think BMWs local ad campaign speaks volumes. Keep up the Joneses? F--- that, I'm buying the Jones' house, kicking them out and parking my new Beemer on their front lawn.

March 24: Dai pai dong are food stalls that serve fish balls and noodles. They used to be everywhere in Hong Kong but are now nearly extinct. A few holdouts have managed to keep going, like this one in Soho (Hong Kong's hip, restaurant, gallery and club area).

March 21: Temples are everywhere. Big ones the size of village churches that house the massive joss cones I featured on January 17. Small ones along the roadside that are smaller than the car you're in. They're in town, on the mountain-sides and at the beach. Especially at the beach. Hong Kong is an island and so Tin Hau, the goddess of the sea, gets a lot of play along the shore. This one is perhaps the smallest I've seen, and it's adjacent to a larger temple dedicated to the sea goddess in Stanley, an old fishing village that's now a tourist shopping spot on the South side of the island. I liked the way the roots seem almost a black and white image, all gray tones, so that the tiny temple pops in a burst of color.

March 9 & 14: I can't get over how cool Beijing was. Admittedly and importantly, there was almost no pollution in the air during the few days I was there, so my take on the city is no doubt biased to the positive. We stayed at a boutique hotel on "embassy row." I'm typically not all that impressed by hotels. But Opposite House is stunning. The architectural features are big and dramatic. The lobby is like a cathedral. And the espresso in the coffee shop was good too. So what's not to like?

March 4: The first ever THIS IS MY (HK) video! Same rules. Shot this (obviously if you watch the reflection closely) with my iPhone. I've been working on an English language comedy recently, and we've been filming rehearsals with an iPhone. The results are astonishing. So I've started shooting more abstract/experimental video as I'm wandering about. We'll see if I come up with any more. This was shot in Beijing. I tagged along with Sarah so that I could meet the CAA guys in China and to talk to a couple production companies about filming in the mainland. It's my first trip to Beijing in 20 years. The bikes are gone. Cars dominate the traffic now. The city is densely strewn with hyper-modern skycrapers. It is very, very hip. I was blown away by how cool it all was. A few more images of Beijing coming soon.

Feb 27: I was waiting for Sarah outside a restaurant in Soho, Hong Kong's trendy bar and restaurant section, and spent the time shooting traffic. The blurred effect is intentional. I shot about 20 of these until I got the right framing and blur.

Feb 20: This is the last of my Chinese New Year images (actually, there's more but it's time to move on). Chinese New Year is like a blend of Christmas, New Years' and Thanksgiving and as big (if you can relatively size holidays for cross-cultural comparison) as any combination of two of these together. As a holiday, the Lunar New Year (Q: What do they call Brazil nuts in Brazil? A: Nuts) is officially two days. But practically speaking, it's a two week holiday. The lion dancers, shown here in warm-up, offer a glimpse into an explanation about why Cirque de Soleil's stage show in Macao is a commercial disappointment. Why pay for acrobatics when you see this kind of thing on a street corner? High on poles, two, three four guys bounce around on the narrow platforms in ways I couldn't even without what is effectively a giant mask and bed linens on my head.

Feb 15: Yup. I finally resorted to the Hipstomatic app for the iphone. I suppose it was inevitable in a way. My little photo diary shares an ethos with hipstomatic; although much less religiously and in my own way I'm skeptical about the nostalgia involved. But then I'm always skeptical about nostalgia. If you're unsure what I'm talking about, hipstomatic is a retro-camera app that digitally renders photos as if there were taking with film and lenses of 30 year-old cameras; nostalgia is a prime component of fascism, and, less hyperbolically, almost always a conservative force. But that's a bigger discussion than we have time for. More relevant to this image -- which is one of scores of very strange and elaborate installations celebrating the Year of the Rabbit that I've seen the past month -- is the fact that I'm finding less to photograph. In part, some of the novelty of Hong Kong has faded. I've been here 6 months now -- no, nearly eight! It's grown less exotic, less foreign. It's home. Another problem is the season. I find winter light ornery and difficult. We get our share of fog and smog as well, so it's tough to find good images in a gray-toned world. And of course my own sensibility has changed. Eight months in, and I have higher expectation for what counts as an interesting image. So... hipstomatic to the rescue? We'll see. At the end of the day whether I'm writing or snapping pictures with my phone, I'm drawn to social realism. The retro-glitter gets annoying. But I thought it worked pretty well for the giant rabbits on the lawn at a friends apartment building.

Feb 7 - 11: The Lunar New Year is like Christmas, New Year's and Thanksgiving combined around here. It's THE big holiday of the year. Even though it's technically just a couple of days, it really lasts a couple weeks. The whole things kicks off with a big parade (Thursday) and then fireworks over the harbor (Friday). Four massive barges are positioned in the middle of the harbor and the fireworks are like one enormous grand finale that goes on for 25 minutes. The explosions echo off the buildings on either side of the harbor, so it feels as much like aerial bombardment as anything.

The three images are, in order, my favorite, the one that turned out the best, and something that reminds me of those Deep Space photos of galaxies forming.

Not sure whether it's the end of novelty as I get used to my surroundings or the fact that I've been busy and so have less time to just wander about looking for images, but I don't seem to be collecting pictures at the same pace as before.

But Chinese New Year has provided a few, even beyond this triptych of fireworks, so stay tuned...

Jan 28: This is from the Kowloon ferry terminal looking back into Central.

Jan 17: I'd finished a meeting in Wan Chai early and decided to walk around the neighborhood. My wanderings carried me along through a section of short (by Hong Kong standards) residential buildings where all the ground floor shops seemed to be auto repair places. The street turned up a short hill and I found myself at a very large (by Hong Kong standards) temple. There were the usual sand-filled urns with incense sticks burning as offerings (see my very first photo:, but in a back room, there was an alcove dedicated to these massive, bell-shaped coils of incense. I couldn't get through the language barrier to discover how much one of the big coils cost, but I did communicate enough to learn there is a wait-list for hanging space.

Jan 10: Okay, so this is totally cheating. I did not take this photo with my camera. I didn't even take the photo. But one of the guys on the Thailand trip had an expensive SLR that took rapid-fire action sequences. I thought it only appropriate to put it to use doing flips off the Aman junk in the Andaman Sea. There's another photo in the sequence that shows, painfully, how I over-rotated the flip. Didn't land this one with much elegance.

Jan 3: I originally posted this as "Gekko". Clearly, it's a frog. This was also a photo from our trip last November to Thailand. At night, the frogs would hop out from wherever they were and plague themselves about our villa. This frog had settled onto a rain cover, and I shot him in almost total darkness. When I pulled the shadows out in iphoto, I was left with a strange image. Reminds me of those dumb Charles Schwab commercials where people have been cartoonized as they talk about their retirement plans...