31 January 2011

Fetching a rabbit money box for the year of the rabbit

(Four money boxes released by Shin Kong Mituskoshi since 2008: from left, Rat, Ox, Tiger and Rabbit)

I suppose once you've started collecting something, particularly a series of cards, models or whatever collectable items, you would definitely do your best to grab all the whole series.

Shin Kong Mituskoshi, probably the biggest department store chain in Taiwan, began to issue ceramic saving banks in shapes of twelve Chinese zodiac animals, each of which would come in twelve consecutive years. The saving banks cannot be purchased straightaway; but instead, it can only be redeemed for or bought when a customer spends more than certain amount of money.

My dear wife Fanne started collecting these piggy banks in 2008, the year of the rat, and so far we have had the rat, the ox and the tiger at home. Certainly we would like to have the rabbit. However, all rabbit money boxes were gone on the first day.

Therefore, I had no alternative but tried to hunt for one over the Internet. Fortunately, as I believe, there are always people flogging whatever items they snapped up. I made a successful bit on Ruten, an auction site in Taiwan.

Now the rabbit joins the series. There are eight more to come.

19 January 2011

The English codified, but didn't invent, football

(Cuju, depicting the emperor and royal officials playing football, by Huang Shen 黃慎, 1755. Image from ChinaArts.)

While busy marking students papers as other university colleagues would be, I manage to squeeze time out of my waking hours to read.

Last night, before taking my routine cold shower, I encounter such an interesting point given by the Irish stand-up comedian Dara Ó Briain , which came to his mind when spending an afternoon in the National Football Museum in Manchester, England.
The English didn't invent football. They codified it, which is a different thing altogether, and a less emotive thing to shout about when you next to qualify for World Cup. You didn't invent football because you didn't invent the ball, or kicking, or fields. We should only be grateful that the Victorians didn't gather together in a room and write the first rules for the use of the wheel, or fire, so that you can claim credit for that as well.

quoted from Dara's latest book Tickling the English, p 30.

Certainly Dara offered this comment in a playful manner, but he is damn right. The English are not the first to play the ball by foot. Cuju (蹴鞠, literally 'kicking ball') had been a means of military training, as well as a recreational activity for the general public, in Ancient China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).

Some regard cuju as the forerunner of modern association football, of which the history spans only about 150 years. However, cuju began to decline in popularity in China during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and finally replaced by football imported from the West.

17 January 2011

A table for a table top gramophone

I was going to fetch myself just one table for a table top gramophone, but, trapped into their promotional offer and unable to resist it—25% off on a second item of any furniture, finally ended up buying one more chair.

Since HMV 103 is designed as a table top gramophone and thus shall not just lie on the floor, I have be hunting for a proper 'table' for it. This machine measures 15" wide and 18¼" deep. However, as side tables or hallway tables usually come in no more than 15" deep, not until last Saturday, after a two-month search, did I find an ideal piece at Piin, a home product and furniture dealer who imported to Taiwan items from over 20 countries all over the world.

Now the table top stands firmly on a table befittingly as it ought, whereas its master can ensconce in this unsophisticated, elegant carved wood chair.

06 January 2011

The French adaptation of 'Auld Lang Syne'

(Listen to 'Valser Dans L'ombre'—the French 'Auld Lang Syne' in waltz, by Marie José, 1946)

In most English-speaking counties, while in the last few weeks during the buildup to Christmas, people would be bombarded relentlessly and repeatedly with tonnes of holiday songs, such as the brutal 'Jingle Bells' and 'Adeste Fideles', at midnight of the last day of a year, only one song, 'Auld Lang Syne', would be sung to usher in the new year.

'Auld Lang Syne' is a Scots poem composed, or partially composed as shown in some historical discussion, by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, sung to a pentatonic Scottish folk tune.

Although there are actually five verses in 'Auld Lang Syne', based on my five years' life experience in Britain, most people, even the Scots themselves, only remember the first one, just as most British people only remember and sing the first verse of their national anthem 'God Save The Queen' even though there are actually six.

However, whereas 'God Save The Queen' is normally delivered by a band only once on all occasions lest the vocal part become completely muted at remaining five verses, which may cause embarrassment, 'Auld Lang Syne' is usually played several times and people would still hum to the instrumental accompaniment even though they can't properly articulate every single word of the rest.

I am sure 'Auld Lang Syne' has been adapted into many different languages and used as a farewell or ending to various occasions, but I've never heard any French version until I encountered last year an interesting waltz arrangement with an interlude featuring the tune of 'Londonderry Air'.

It is on the gramophone record of a French song, 'Un Soir D'amour Sur Le Colorado' by Marie José, I purchased from eBay. As I didn't expect anything particular on the other side of that record, it really excited me when 'Valser Dans L'ombre', as shown on the paper label, turned out to be the French 'Auld Lang Syne'.

01 January 2011

Another new year has arrived

(Click to enlarge and see how I have changed over the past five years)

For the fifth time in a row since the year end 2006, I went to the fireworks display launched from Taipei 101 Tower last night.

Just as I have been doggedly keeping a handwritten diary for the last 20 years, so will I maintain the ritual of counting down to New Year at the same spot two blocks away from the 101 Tower and then taking a photo thereafter. As long as Blogger keeps its business, I shall upload a set of comparative photos every year.

I thought, when ushering in the new year last year, that one more member would join us a year later. However, tonight we decided to leave him in bed in the care of his grannie so that his circadian rhythm would not be interrupted.

As usual, we had another dazzling New Year's Eve, but I was really fed up with the warning weather forecast, which had been delivered incessantly in all media channels since last Monday, that a sharp plunge in temperature was to seize Taipei at New Year's Eve and people should be prepared for bitter cold, with a severe low of 5 °C.

However, the temperature was actually 9.7 °C at mid night. Unprecedentedly severe cold eve? I'm so glad the endlessly bombarding of weather warnings has stopped for now.