A New Weather

Paul Strand: Young Boy, Gondeville, 1951

I buried the noun; I planted
the verb. What on Earth could I harvest
from the hard word?
I wondered.
Winter — the year’s chill hinterland —
makes no promise to anyone, even
to green thumbs. Spring —
season of profuse adjectives
unfurls everywhere its exuberant-convoluted foliage
in contrast to my fr-agile, tender rhythms,
to all my seedling grammar.

Learning Cantonese: Capturing the Sky

This is a very short video again featuring the Hong Kong landscape painter 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun Hei. The moral is simple yet profound, and is summed up in the final sentence: 或者喺你觀察到其他人去畫天空呢一啲作品之後|可能令到你產生咗一種 | 「原來唔係咁單一」嘅觀察嘅方法嘅,咁一樣嘅 (you can find my rough English translation below).

The Cantonese titles of the video differ in interesting ways.  The words 自在風景 literally mean “free and easy landscape”, but are rendered in English as “the breath of landscape”, while 凝聚天空, which makes use of the verb 凝聚 yìhng4 jeuih6 = “(of vapour) to condense”, becomes “capture the sky”. In other words, we are dealing here with different versions rather than direct translations.

For a Cantonese learner, the joy of this video is Wong’s one use of 埲 buhng6, a classifier (or “measure word”) specifically for walls. I don’t come across it very often; generally 幅 fūk1 seems to be preferred. Actually, within the span of his 1-minute presentation, you’ll hear Wong use both, one more reason to fall in love with Cantonese all over again!

There is also a very nifty item of vocabulary: 順住時序 seuhn6 jyuh6 sìh4 jeuih6 = in chronological order. Combined with the verb 排列 pàaih4 liht6, you get one way of saying “to arrange in chronological order”.

Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in English and Standard Written Chinese). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Caption: 自在風景 | The Breath of Landscape

Caption: 凝聚天空 | Capture the Sky

黃進曦:其實我由5月份開始呢 | 其實就去唔同地區啦 | 二十間中小學就去做一 workshop 嘅|主要呢,就係同佢哋去畫當日個天空 呀|其實呢一埲牆呢,主要就係嗰二十間中學嘅作品|噉我排列個方法呢,就其實係順住時序嘅 | 另外呢一幅牆呢 | 其實就係藝術館呢一個位呢 | 現場我再一啲唔同嘅朋友過一齊 | 去畫天空嘅一個作品嘅 | 透過呢個workshop 之後 | 或者喺你觀察到其他人去畫天空嘅呢一啲作品之後|可能令到你產生咗一種 | 「原來唔係咁單一」嘅觀察嘅方法嘅,咁一樣

● 中小學 jūng1 síu2 hohk6 = primary and secondary schools | ● 埲 buhng6 = a classifier for walls | ● 排列 pàaih4 liht6 = to arrange; to put in order | ● 順住時序 seuhn6 jyuh6 sìh4 jeuih6 = in chronological order cf.  時序 = sequential timing | ● 觀察 gūn1 chaat3 = to observe; to watch | ● 單一 dāan1 yāt1 = single; unitary; perhaps even “homogenous”

Stephen Wong Chun Hei: In actual fact, beginning in May, I went to various different districts, doing workshops in twenty primary and secondary schools. What we did mainly was to paint the sky on that [particular] day. The paintings on this wall here are mostly those by students at these twenty schools. My way of arranging them was according to chronological order. On this other wall over here, here in this part of the [Hong Kong] Museum of Art, I got a number of my friends together here together, each one of them painting a picture of the sky on this spot. By means of these workshops, and after looking at the skies painted by other people, perhaps it might make you think to yourself [產生咗一種] “Well, there’s no single way of doing it” when it comes to how one looks [at the world].

Sure Fire

It burns the hands and fingers certainly;
the slightly blistered skin soon after starts to heal;
scars fade; but all conviction born of heat
cannot go cold — in fact,
against the grain of things — it grows.
Where sensibility happens to have to brave
random intensity’s flare,
insight and hexafoils may spark up out of nowhere,
utterly more powerful
than power, prestige, peace or unanimous fortress
comfort, till we can never turn back to that uninflammable kind of being
we once thought we were —
shallow second-hand desires like so much sheet thin asbestos —
and oblivious to wild human nature’s gorgeous pyrotechnical flair.

Earthquaver


I was in aftershock: the roof had boomed with galvanized thunder directly overhead. Do eagles at night sometimes, I thought, crash-land heavily? I saw no tell-tale outstretched feather silhouette by the satellite dish. My mind was tempted (the tug was forceful) to make believe in the same old nothing, but a something — a second thought — intervened: is this how a shift deep in the Earth’s crust throws its seismic voice out into space? Vis non terra sed deo est.

《新心界》: 第七章 「散塔露淇亞!」


● After his collapse during the Cantonese Speaking Contest, 陳之一 Chan Chi-yat is in a very bad state. 阿綠 Ah Luk decides to take him back to Sha Tin by taxi just to make sure that he returns safely. In his flat, she discovers how simple Chan’s lifestyle has become in recent times. What does it mean? She also hears Chan talking in his sleep. Does this crazy, fragmented speech reflect a deeply traumatised psyche, or does it suggest that Hong Kong itself is on the brink of some kind of breakdown?

Soundtrack: “Protection


阿綠同阿奇一齊扶住陳之一孚翠就負責揾翻一架的士,但係佢零舍、四圍亂行,仲感受到「想搭的士時,就一定揾唔到」呢個定律。揾咗好耐,終於揾到,佢哋三人合力將澳洲幻想者推上的士,然後經過一番討論,最後決定

阿綠一個人送陳之一返沙田屋邨單位,孚翠同埋阿奇就趁機搭地鐵去蘭桂坊飲酒,藉此放鬆一下岩岩拉到好緊嘅神經(另外,孚翠覺得嚟自紐西蘭嘅阿奇應該會比較鍾意作為紐西蘭人嘅阿奇應該比較欣賞喺咁樣嘅環境裏邊消磨一段時間)。跟住,阿綠就坐進的士,用身體緊挨喺陳之一側邊,令到男人能夠得穩陣啲。講低目的地後,阿綠就餵陳之一食頭痛藥,希望舒緩到佢嘅不適。當時半睡半醒嘅男人十分狼狽,對周圍嘅一切都冇任何反應,正因為咁,阿綠嘅心裏邊忽然湧現出一股特別熱烈嘅慈悲感。的士駛入海底隧道,終於離開港島,兩個人綳緊嘅神經先得以慢慢鬆弛過嚟,將啱先經過港島情景隨即忘得一乾二浄喇。

入𨋢後,二人粒聲都唔出。𨋢本身就係一個密封嘅空間,因此佢哋可以暫時享受搭𨋢專有嘅安全感。但一瞬間就到達阿一所住嘅樓層,行到鐵閘前,男人好辛苦咁由口袋裏拎一抽鎖匙出嚟,遞到阿綠手上。步入屋内,男人便即刻去睡房瞓低,而綠色頭髮嘅女人就行入厨房,打算為二人沖茶。因為男人過年嗰陣認真進行大掃除,全間屋都執得整整齊齊,雜物甚少!;另外呢度又冇乜人氣,幾乎可以令人以為係「吉屋」;唔使講,厨房亦唔例外,除咗一枝家用紅醋之外,工作枱空無一物。當女人望住呢枝紅醋時,忽然醒起陳之一成日將自己形容為「半瓶醋」,於是忍唔住細聲笑咗出嚟(不過,阿綠無法知道,醋瓶入面所裝嘅唔係普通醋,而係由粉嶺「添仔蝦餃」度特登買返嘅喼汁!)。喺櫥櫃入面摷嚟摷去,女人終於揾到一罐綠茶茶葉同埋兩個杯仔。用電熱水壺煲水時,全屋只有開水初初滾起嘅聲音,單位顯得更加冷清 。

等待茶葉正泡開時,阿綠覺得應該去睇一睇男人,睇吓佢係咪已經瞓著覺。行近睡房嗰時,就聽到房内傳出輕微噱噱聲,其實單憑呢個就可以估到陳之一冇可能想飲茶。不過,為防出錯,好細心嘅阿綠輕輕地推開半開嘅門,望一望房内情況:房内相當幽暗,窗簾被緊緊拉上,不過阿綠仍然能夠辨認得出床上仰臥嘅陳之一。令到阿綠驚奇嘅係,除咗張床,睡房中並無其他傢俬!「嘩!呢個人真係深受古希臘斯巴達人嘅影響,生活方式實在太過簡樸啦 . . . 」然後,為咗唔想嘈醒阿一,佢就輕輕咁用腳尖行去客廳,拎起男人喜愛嘅一張木櫈,再拎住水杯放喺張床側邊。阿綠終於可以安頓落嚟,慢慢飲住茶,陪伴低聲打鼻鼾嘅「普通話漢奸」。

喺呢間黑沉沉又唔熟悉嘅睡房内,阿綠突然醒起陳之一演講期間選用「障礙物」呢一個詞語。女人心諗:要深入了解另一種文化其實好困難,佢仲記得之前喺佛羅倫薩讀書時,日常生活經常會遇到語言障礙。不過,對阿綠嚟講,呢類障礙」或多或少數都有得意嘅成份在内,甚至乎會為人生添加唔少樂趣、魅力、人情味。連生活中最微不足道嘅活動,譬如買麵包、喺咖啡室叫嘢飲、同生埗人問路、向別人解釋點解呢朵花靚過嗰朵等等 . . . 都超乎想象、竟然可以得到前所未有嘅詩意。好多時因為生活環境太過舒適,我哋好容易對周圍發生嘅一切變得麻木不仁;日子過得重重覆覆而變得模糊,注意力亦被分散得好犀利;尋日,今日同聽日基本上係一模一樣長年累月,最終生存空間已經冇辦法帶嚟半點新鮮感。母親將呢種恐怖嘅生存困局形容為「七色均黑嘅彩虹」,係人生中非常可怕嘅經歷。

當阿綠諗到呢度,陳之一就無啦啦、細細聲咁發起開口夢。頭髮染綠色嘅女人嘅思路被迫打斷,無奈要返到眼前眼前嘅現實世界。一開始,男人講出嘅説話非常之亂,支離破碎咁,毫無邏輯,好易令人懷疑佢心裏深埋藏有一啲嚴重嘅創傷:

「. . . 人為錯誤 . . . 選民登記冊 . . . 視如草芥 . . . 一國一點五制 . . . 粵音朗讀測證 . . . 犀牛角切件 . . . 劏房調查 . . . 處於半失業嘅狀況 . . . 重金屬甲基汞 . . . 電表房 . . . 釋除疑慮 . . . 冬季流感節 . . . 孚公道,為民生 . . . 首宗非洲豬瘟 . . . 喺私地建丁屋 . . . 放款引入海外醫生 . . . 」

一開頭,阿綠就以為男人純屬於亂翕,但係聽咗一段時間就意識到,呢啲單詞同詞語都同四、五月嘅新聞報道有關,或者呢啲都係陳之一最近學識嘅詞彙。之後阿一繼續發開口夢,果真證實呢個揣測:

「. . . 三個發起人 . . . 罪名成立 . . . 聽取求情 . . . 串謀 . . . 作出公衆妨擾 . . . 煽惑 . . . 判詞 . . . 公民抗命 . . . 寒蟬效應 . . . 監禁 . . . 彰顯法制精神 . . . 政治武器 . . . 社會撕裂 . . . 罪魁禍首 . . . 極大不理想 . . . 「港獨」邪説 . . . 邪説 . . . 邪説 . . . 」

跟住,一片沉默。然後,阿綠耳邊再傳嚟一連串新聞單詞。再一段徹底沉默。再然後,陳之一居然唱起歌嚟,只有短短嘅一部分: 「散塔露淇亞!散塔露淇亞!」阿綠當然好熟悉呢首意大利歌,甚至知道「散塔露淇亞」又係地名,又係一位女性聖人。另外,因為「露淇亞」本來具有「光明」嘅意思,令到發暗家嘅佢聯想到類如「神光」、「天澤」呢啲喺香港天后廟常見到嘅字眼。

最後,男人只係低聲重複:「凍呀。好凍呀。凍死喇。凍死我喇。」

因為夜晚一早降臨,阿綠亦都好攰,同時又擔心男人嘅情況突然發生轉變,所以佢決定留低喺沙田,伴隨陳之一一晚。當下決心之後,佢先打個電話俾孚翠,吩咐佢幫手餵蛾鬼。跟住,阿綠連人帶衫喺陳之一身邊瞓低。男人漸漸唔再亂講嘢,但呼吸聲依然好唔安穩,有時甚至聽唔到任何動靜,冇乜氣息。喺呢間空無一物嘅睡房内,阿綠耐仔細聆聽另一個人由肺部呼吸聲,欣賞吸入並呼出氧氣嘅奇跡般工作,同一時間又聽到自己嘅沙沙呼吸聲。忽然間,女人腦海出現一首婆婆曾經唱過嘅催眠個,跟住佢就低聲哼起嚟,結果令到男人安神落去:

尋晚媽問乜野叫
蚊仔叫
蚊仔點樣叫
蚊仔 mmm-mmm-mmm-mmm
貓仔叫
貓仔點樣叫 . . . 」

過咗一陣時,呢兩種截然不同嘅呼吸節奏,喺無人聽到嘅情況下,便逐啲逐啲咁進入同步狀,相當奇妙。

當然,陳之一成晚都冇機會知道,深夜時有人發出重要電郵俾佢。

Close Calls, and Even Closer Callings

Paul Strand: Mr Bennett, Vermont, 1944

Four decades ago — tentatively — he summoned me with his nineteen years.
Who was he to know? How vague the calibre of his yearning!
Yet “vague” here is just the right verve
in the beginning
for the future fortune-telling of a whole other life to come . . .
There are times, at fifty-nine
when I would gladly swap back to his shapeless vagabond longing,
vitaller than worldly wisdom’s common commonsense
and without misadventure’s ramshackled failings.
At the next death,
as I wend my way out of this breathtaking Earth,
perhaps his will be the image that comes bashfully towards me
in greeting — some level of touching distance in his face —
and, at the moment me meet,
in turn — together — we will conjure between us an unequivocal third,
the one that language can only gnash its syntactic teeth at grimly
and that makes rude, raucous angels and devils alike
hoot aloud out of heart- and head-felt GLEE.

Learning Cantonese: 余頌恩 Grace Yu on Art as Life-force

「我覺得有生命力嘅音樂同藝術背後係有 message、有訊息嘅 | 有魄力嘅藝術家、音樂人佢哋生命都可以流露出一份有生命力嘅 message | 而呢個世界已經有太多冇生命力嘅生命㗎喇」


余頌恩 Grace Yu Chung-yan is a concert pianist and teacher at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. In her view, the reason why we need art is because it transmits生命力 sāng1 mihng6 lihk6 = “life force; vitality”. This “power of life” is essential to every human being, especially at a time when, as Yu points out, “there are already too many lives in this world lacking in vitality”. As a musician, she is also committed to the idea art as (potentially) a supremely authentic expression of life, as well as a kind of flow [流動] that enables an exchange of happiness, sincerity and love between one human being and another. Her short presentation in this video is like a whole creative manifesto in miniature.

In this Kongstories video, you will hear Yu use the structure 冇得+ Verb at 1:10. I discussed this grammar topic in the previous Learning Cantonese post on the landscape painter 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun Hei, speculating that it might be used to convey an absolute inability. I think Yu’s use of it here reinforces the hypothesis: the phrase 分享音樂帶出嚟嗰份歡樂、真實同埋愛嘅流動係冇得呃嘅 = “there can be no duplicity in the flow of happiness, sincerity and love that the sharing of music brings” does seem to indicate absolute 100% improbability.

With regard to vocabulary, there is a wonderful example of the Cantonese use of 齋 jāai1, the basic meaning of which is “to abstain from meat, wine, etc. (when offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors)”. In spoken Cantonese, the basic sense of “abstinence” is extended in some very interesting ways. 《香港粵語大詞典》gives a few examples, including 齋啡 jāai1 fē1, the word for “black coffee” with neither milk nor sugar in it, and 齋坐 jāai1 chóh5, which means something like “to sit in a restaurant without ordering any food”. At 1:10, Yu uses it to modify 彈 tàahn4, the verb used for “playing” the piano. 齋彈冇靈魂 literally means “to play abstainingly, without soul”, suggesting that 齋 also conveys a sense of something not being done to its fullest possible extent, or perhaps without giving oneself fully. I also once came across 齋聽 jāai1 tēng1 = “to listen (to a conversation) without contributing to it in any way”.

In addition, listen out for the following useful vocabulary items: 孭 mē1 = to carry on the shoulders; 魄力 paak3 lihk6 = daring & resolution; boldness; 劏房 tōng1 fóng4*2 = a subdivided flat, unit & apartment; 獨一無二 duhk6 yāt1 mòuh4 yih6 = unique; unparalleled; unmatched; and 呃 āak1 = to cheat; to deceive; to dupe.

Please scroll down if you want the transcription, notes and my own English translation. Otherwise, you can view the video here (subtitles in English and Standard Written Chinese). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Caption: 音樂人生 | A Life in Music

香港係其中一個最多人學樂器地方 | 你一出街,周圍都有孭住樂器嘅學生 | 但係有幾多個學上唔係浄係齋彈靈魂 | 而係尋找到屬於獨特嘅聲音同埋生命力嘅呢?| 我覺得有生命力嘅音樂同藝術背後係有 message、有訊息嘅 | 有魄力嘅藝術家、音樂人佢哋生命都可以流露出一份有生命力嘅 message | 而呢個世界已經有太多冇生命力嘅生命喇 | 所以無論係世界上唔同嘅音樂廳表演同埋講學 | 喺演藝學院同每一個學生互動交流 | 定係喺深水埗嘅劏房教小朋友彈琴 【1:00】| 都係生命影響生命獨一無二嘅機會 | 分享音樂帶出嚟份歡樂、真實同埋愛嘅流動係冇得呃嘅 | 呢啲都係生命最真誠嘅表達 | 呢個世界需要音樂,需要藝術 | 呢個世界更加需要有傳遞生命訊息嘅人 | 我叫余頌恩,香港土生土長,七百萬個故仔成就一個香 . . . 港故仔

● 孭 mē1 = to carry on the shoulders | ● 魄力 paak3 lihk6 = daring & resolution; boldness | ● 流露 làuh4 louh6 = to reveal; to betray; to show unintentionally | ● 音樂廳 yām1 ngohk6 tēng1 = a concert hall | ● 講學 góng2 hohk6 = to give lectures | ● 互動 wuh6 duhng6 = an interaction; interactive | ● 劏房 tōng1 fóng4*2 = a subdivided flat, unit & apartment | ● 獨一無二 duhk6 yāt1 mòuh4 yih6 = unique; unparalleled; unmatched | ● 歡樂 fūn1 lohk6 = happy; joyous | ● 流動 làuh4 duhng6 = ① to flow ② mobile | ● 呃āak1 = to cheat; to deceive; to dupe | ● 真誠 jān1 sìhng4 = sincere; genuine; true | ● 傳遞 chyùhn daih6 = to transmit; to deliver; to transfer

Hong Kong is a place in which so many people are learning to play a musical instrument. Just step outside your door and you’ll see students everywhere [周圍都] carrying musical instruments on their backs. But how many of these students are looking for a voice that belongs to them alone and a vitality, rather than merely going through the motions devoid of soul [浄係齋彈冇靈魂]? It is my feeling that behind any music or art there is a message. An artist or musician with daring and resolution has the capacity to reveal [流露] a message of vitality — and there are already too many lives in this world lacking in vitality, in life-force. So no matter whether [I] am performing in different concert halls around the world or giving lectures, interacting [互動交流] with every single student [studying] at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, or teaching a child in a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po how to play the piano, these are all unique opportunities for one life to influence another. There can be no duplicity [冇得呃] in the flow of happiness, sincerity and love that the sharing of music brings. All these things [呢啲都] are the most authentic expression of life. This world needs music; it needs art. Even more, it needs people who can transmit messages of life [生命訊息]. My name is Grace Yu Chung-yan. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. Seven million stories go to make up [成就] one [of the] Hong . . . Kong Stories.