Count your lucky stars (The pup, Part#1)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives

Count your lucky stars that you're not married to me. My wife has a hard time putting up with my idiosyncrasies, habits and overall behaviour. She puts up with it because she loves me. There's no other way she could stay married to me for these seventeen years.

Case in point: Tonight, I finished "Perfume" 香水 rehearsals (you remember, the play that you're all going to see because you just know it'll be great!) and was home in time for dinner. My wife though had spent the day out and wasn't home yet. It was also our maid's day off so there wasn't any dinner to speak of. I knew this in advance though and had already planned to order pizza from PizzaBox where I can always get a large pizza for half price as long as I pick it up myself. It's a good deal.

Anyway, on the pavement next to the main road just beside the car park, I noticed a scruffy dog sitting there, apparently waiting for its keeper to come home. I tried taking a couple of photos with my new Canon 350D and then drove off to get the pizza. The photos didn't work out because it was far too dark for the camera to catch anything without blurring.

A few hours later after our family had finished our pizza dinner, we took our dogs out for their nightly walk; five at a time (only possible because we use Gentle Leader collars; not to be confused with the Halti which I don't like as much). Upon returning home with our five dogs, the other five were already home, standing at the fence and barking down the back path. I've heard their barks enough to recognise which barks mean what. Based on their barking, there was probably a dog down the path. I looked and sure enough, there was a dog lying on the paved path down near the neighbour's house.

Wild dogs and semi-wild dogs would not sleep on that path. It's too exposed and insecure. I suspected that the dog was weak. I also recognised it as being the one I saw earlier up on the road near the car park. So I gathered some dog food and took it down to him.

I'd never seen the dog before, and even though he was wearing a collar, there was no way to know if he was friendly or not. You have to be very careful when approaching strange dogs, and you need to note all of the signals that dogs give off to each other. This dog stood up as I approached but he wasn't scared; just a little nervous. When I put the food down in front of me, he started eating almost immediately.

The path was rather steep at that spot and the food bowl was round so it needed supporting to prevent it spilling over. As I stretched my hand to steady the bowl, the dog curled its lips and gave a soft growl. I knew this message but I wanted to steady the bowl anyway. He took a soft nip at my hand. Note the word 'soft'. Dogs have excellent control of the pressure they use when they bite. He nipped my hand with just enough pressure to warn me off but not enough to hurt me in any way. He had proven that he was friendly.

While feeding him, I noticed two patches behind his head and down his back where the hair was wet, matted and sticking up. It wasn't a good sign. If the wetness was from rain or water, the hair would be wet and flat, not sticking up. Sitting there a few minutes was more than enough to expose me to the smell that the dog was giving off. Something was very wrong.

I grew up on a farm in a small town called Gympie in Queensland, Australia. Growing up on a farm in the bush, you soon learn to recognise the smell of death; ie, the smell of rot. The smell coming from this dog was not the same but it was similar. Combine the smell with the wetness and the way the dog shook its head every few minutes and you could almost be sure that he had a case of flesh-eating-flies; ie, Screwworm Maggots 舊世界螺絲蟲蒼蠅(蛆症金蠅).

After eating the food, he became very friendly, so much so that I was able to coach him back to our back yard and get him into a steel cage we have there. I gave him some water and he basically settled down. Our dogs didn't exactly like having a strange dog in the yard but they can't do anything while I'm around. Beethoven; our #1 dog; has stood inside our door looking out at the cage outside at least three times tonight though so he's really keeping watch on the new dog.

So what to do? He'll need surgery. He might need to be put down. Last year, our vet told me about the maggots. Whatever you can see on the surface, you can be sure that the damage is three times as bad inside. I remember seeing a dog die just over a year ago in another village where we lived. It died from maggot infection which was so bad that one of his back legs had literally fallen off. Flesh-eating-maggots are a real danger for wild dogs because they are sure to get involved in fights and there's no one around to cover up the wounds after the fight; perfect targets for maggot carrying flies. (See this "Kit for Detecting Flesh-Eating Maggots" article by the U.S.A. government to get an idea of the severity of the problem and danger. See also this note on Hong Kong's government site.)

We'll have to take the dog to the vet tomorrow. There's no question about that. We'll probably have to give him sleeping medicine so that we can carry him to the car and to the vet. Then we'll have to see what the vet says.

If he eventually recovers, we still can't keep him. We already have ten dogs and that's bordering on crowded in our 700 square-foot home with a 1000 square-foot garden area. No, we'll have to find him a home or give him to the SAA. The SPCA is out of the question. Friends have told me that the SPCA routinely hands unattractive and sick animals over to the Agricultural Department which normally has them put down within days of receiving them. You'll never read about this though because they have an excellent marketing department and tight control of the press in Hong Kong; unfortunate but true. The SAA on the other hand has an excellent reputation, especially among the artists and animal lovers at TVB where I work.

So you can imagine what it's like to be my wife; or maybe you can't. A stray animal approaches the house and I'm concerned about its well being. Fortunately, the three pups growing up next to one of the car parks in our village are doing extremely well with help and food from other people in the area. In other words, there are many other people that care as much as I do. That's a good thing.

We'll know the condition of the dog better tomorrow, providing I can get some sleeping medicine for him. I'll keep you updated.

In the meantime, go and see our play "Perfume" 香水 if you have time. I think you'll enjoy it. The whole team has done an excellent job with this play.

The big 40!

Filed in Life

My birthday is just one day away. On Saturday, I will hit the big 40.

I don't know if I should celebrate or not. 40 is a big number. Fortunately, many in the Chinese culture believe that 40 is just the beginning of a man's life. I tend to think that this will be true for me too, with far more opportunities and experiences to materialise in the coming years. Call me an optimist (and a cynic but that's another topic) but that's what I feel.

So, Happy birthday to me, and also to Esther, a good friend whose birthday is also on Saturday, just a couple of hours before or after me; not sure which.

Stage vrs TV

Filed in Work

I've just returned from another rehearsal for "Perfume" 香水 (which by the way is now being advertised with huge posters in many of the Hong Kong MTR stations). Five days away from the premier performance and we continue to improve our performances and the play as a whole.

That's the interesting thing about plays. Because you're working on the same thing every day, the dialog gets out of the way very early on and you become familiar with the 'life' within the dialog. The life can be intepreted in many ways and it's not uncommon for the intepretation to change with every rehearsal, or even while the play is actually running.

When I was working on "Magic is the Moonlight" 上海之夜, I remember changing the life and approach of one scene at least five times. As the actor becomes more familiar with the scene, the director begins to see alternative intepretations and opportunities to improve the scene. It's a truely evolutionary process.

The development and evolution of life within the play is probably one of the reasons that so many television and film actors try to get back to the stage between their television/film schedules. The constant attention to the same scenes allows the actor to develop their focus and acting skills and it benefits them in many ways.

This kind of development is not possible with television, especially the television series made at TVB. We, the actors, are never given the time to develop the scene. We do our homework and analyse and visualise the scene before we get to the studio but that doesn't do much to prepare us for the affects of the set and of the other actors. And it's never enough to allow us to evolve and develop the life between the dialog. The actors at the TVB are pretty damn good and they do extremely well under the circumstances; working 18 hours a day with little or no sleep every day for three to five months straight, sometimes getting the script on the day of filming. It would be interesting to see what they could do if given the opportunity to perform on the stage instead.

I think "Perfume" will be a great production. I was going to say "in its final version" but stage plays never stop evolving so there's never a final version.

In any case, I think it'll definitely be worth watching; even if I do say so myself.

中文很難

Filed in 中文文章

中文絕對不容易。雖然我已經說廣東話說了十九年多,不過還有困難,可能是因為廣東話有那麼多音調。雖然如此,通常我跟朋友談話的時候,說話絕對沒有甚麼問題,而看香港中文報紙也沒有問題。

寫中文對我來說比較難。看的時候,那些字已在你面前,你只要認得它們就可以。但是寫的時候,每個字每個筆畫要完全記得。

現在,我打著這編文用著國語拼音輸入。唯一的問題是很多拼音打了已後要揀字,很花時間。將來,我會考慮用倉頡或者手寫板。倉頡比較快但也很難學。用手寫板對我寫字會有一定的幫助。但是國語拼音輸入對我說普通話也肯定有幫助。怎麼辦?

下次告訴你們。

‘Perfume’ coming soon

Filed in Events, Perfume 香水 (2005), Work

The stage production "Perfume" that I am working on will be showing very soon, at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. If you can read Chinese, there is more information over at Spring Time Productions and at the "Perfume" site.

Perfume, playing soon

This will indeed be an interesting experience. It only occurred to me last week that this will be the first time in my eighteen years of acting that I've had a main cast role so this will be an important mile stone for me.

It will also be interesting because the whole play only involves four actors and a small stage surrounded on all sides by the audience. I think it'll be great and I'm getting more excited with each day that passes.

There are going to be nine shows. One show is already fully booked. If you'd like to see the play, be sure to get your tickets soon.

Buds of Spring

Filed in Photo of the Day

絕對值得去。不過至少要預兩個幾三個鐘。好精彩!
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Instagram image

木乃伊

Buds of Spring

Filed in Photo of the Day

Buds of Spring

Household enemy #1

Filed in Hong Kong

You know the weather is changing when the pets change the way they sleep, or rather the surfaces they sleep on. Yes, the weather has finally warmed up here in Hong Kong. The fog has left us and although we still cannot see blue skies because of the nice pollution we get from our large neighbour, the weather overall is great; not too cool and not too hot. We're averaging around 28 degrees celcius, probably warm enough to go for a swim which we probably won't do anytime soon even though we live literally 10 minutes walk from a beach.

When the weather cools, our dogs scrunch up the blankets we provide them and then sleep on the blankets. Now that the weather is warming up, they're choosing to sleep on the tiled floor instead where it's cooler, so cool in fact that considerable moisture builds up in front of their faces on the floor as the moisture in their breath condensates upon contact with the cool floor.

Mosquito Along with the warmer weather came more mosquitoes; many more. It is now one of my responsibilities here at home to scan the home before I sleep, armed with an electric mosquito swatter, pouncing on every mosquito I can find. I have the best eyes in the house so it's only natural that I'm the one to be given this responsibility.

I hate mosquitoes. In fact, they're probably the only existing animal or insect that I despise. We don't have many flies here so they don't bother me although the meat-eating flies are a real threat if any of our dogs are injured with open wounds. Last year when I was stung on the big toe by a centipede, I didn't seek to kill it or punish it. It was simply protecting itself so I accepted the warning and let the centipede continue on its way. I didn't get off lightly though because my foot and then my lower leg were in severe pain for three to four hours after the sting. It was very difficult to bear, even when iced.

I hate mosquitoes so much that I'm now quite adept at swatting them in mid-air with my bare hands. I can swat them so fast that they slam against the wall and frequently stick to the wall as their blood-filled belly explodes onto the wall. Consequently, our maid has the additional task of wiping dead mosquitoes off the walls whenever she sees them. It happens a lot.

I hate their buzzing at night while I'm trying to sleep. They don't bite me often because they apparently don't like my blood, and I also suspect that the hair on my arms and legs makes it more difficult for the mosquitoes to get close enough to my skin to actually begin sucking. However, that buzz and the mere threat of being bitten while asleep is impossible to ignore. It also annoys the heck out of my wife, and they love to suck on her blood. Unfortunately, she swells readily at each and every point where they bite, and the itching really gets to her. It can be very uncomfortable for her at the best of times, so it is doubly important that I kill as many mosquitoes as possible before I sleep.

Mosquito trap We actually purchased a mosquito trap from the U.S.A. a little over a year ago. It mimics a heart beat, releases a fragrance similar to the carbon dioxide that animals release and emits warmth just as a warm-blooded animal does. It works pretty well but it doesn't catch everything. The instructions state to place the trap away from where the people live to attract the mosquitoes away from the people rather than to them. This theory simply doesn't work in our case. With ten dogs and five people, the warmth and carbon dioxide emanating from our home is simply too over powering and attractive for any mosquito to ignore no matter where the mosquito trap is placed. After weeks of experimentation and some careful analysis of my own, I concluded that the best place for the trap was just outside our screen door. The breath and warmth of ten dogs and five people would ultimately draw the mosquitoes to the door. When they realise that they can't get to us, they'll take the next best thing; the mosquito trap. In its current position, it works really well. Unfortunately, we can't buy replacement carbon dioxide strips and sticky paper here in Hong Kong so we have to organise with friends to get the replacements from the U.S.A. whenever we can.

There are other mosquito traps available which transform LP gas into warmth and carbon dioxide and attract the mosquitoes to a vacuumed area using these attractants. These traps are apparently very effective, even more so than our current trap, but they are extremely expensive to buy here in Hong Kong. In fact, the Mosquito Magnet Liberty trap costs twice here in Hong Kong what it costs in the U.S.A. At those prices, only institutions can afford to buy them. That counts us out. So for the foreseeable future at least, I'll be the principal weapon in our war against mosquitoes.

I was going to talk about something surprising I found in a loaf of bread, but I'll talk about that another time. I'm going to brunch with friends at a friend's restaurant tomorrow morning so it would be prudent of me to shower and sleep earlier rather than later tonight. My friend's restaurant by the way is great. She cooks everything she serves, and that includes more than fifteen varieties of cheese cake. Yummy!

Till later, don't let the mosquitoes bite.