Sunday, April 24, 2005

Transculturation to high Tang

週末到文化博物館看看《走向盛唐》展覽。我一向不大喜歡這個在沙田的博物館,主要是位置不佳,文通亦不方便,從沙田或大圍走過去都是要十五分鐘。每次在此看完展覽都疲憊不堪。現在有了馬鐵,情況較好,從車公廟站走過去五分鐘就可以了。

我農歷年後往西安旅行時曾參觀陝西歷史博物館。西安是秦朝唐朝首都,所收藏的歷史文物以這時期較多。秦朝年代太久遠,陝西一帶出土的文物以唐代墓葬物品最豐富,反映唐朝在中原的成熟文化藝術。

《走向盛唐》展覽的主題略有不同,主要是介紹文化交流與融合,英文叫 transculturation。其中很多展品和展覽的一些重要部份描述西域對中原的影響。一些展品是在長安西面,即絲綢之路南路,武威、張掖和維吾爾族地區的貴族墓穴發現。

請看看以下幾件我覺得有趣味的展品。


這個綠釉陶樓是東漢時期文物,距今有2000年,大約在耶穌講道時,東漢人已在製造這陶樓以作陪葬之用,而陶釉在這久遠年代時已被發明。


這個隋朝的貼金彩繪菩薩石立像有1500年歷史,造工非常精細,衣物裝飾的每一個小節都看得到,石像的面容有一種寧靜的感覺,是出自大師之手。


這一個青釉鳳頭龍柄壺是盛唐時期產品,距今超過1000年。壺身的花紋裝飾很花巧;壺蓋是鳳頭,似公雞頭較多;壺柄是龍,但這非一般的龍我覺得似蜥蜴。

這次展覽康文署算造足功夫,宣傳足夠,支援服務不錯。短短兩小時內,我看見不少導賞隊伍,有長者,小學生和中學生。可能因為是課外作業,學生哥和學生姊都勤力做筆記,又積極發問。
這個展覽曾在紐約大都會博物館展出,在美國社會引起廣泛迴響,吸引了大批藝術愛好者入場觀看。在沙田文化博物館會展出至6月10日。各位如有興趣,請勿錯過。

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Stars of HK Philharmonic

今晚 (22 April 2005) 香港管弦樂團在文化中心演奏四首樂曲,為葛利格的《霍爾堡組曲 》Grieg's Holberg Suite,莫扎特的長笛及豎琴協奏曲 Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp,柏特的《空白石板》Arvo Part's Tabula Rasa 和德伏扎克的三首斯拉夫舞曲Dvorak's three Slavonic Dances。

今次節目為美樂自悠行 Simply Classics,但卻不是全部都簡單,起碼柏特的音樂很現代。音樂會的標題是港樂之星,四位獨奏者都是港樂的首席樂手,有史德琳 Megan Sterling 吹長笛,史基道 Christopher Sidenius 彈豎琴,梁建楓和范丁拉小提琴,今晚他們的演出水準都非常高。



先說 Grieg ,他算是20世紀作曲家,他的 Peer Gynt Suite 家喻戶曉。但 Holberg Suite 完全不是那一回事,因為此曲是紀念200年前的挪威國寶劇作家 Holberg 而寫;Grieg 採用200年前的風格,有 Scarlatti,Bach 和 Haydn 的影子。弦樂慢板是作品重點所在,聽來感覺非常舒服。

Mozart 的音樂不用多說,隨手拿來都是佳作,全都令人心矌神怡。長笛及豎琴的獨奏流暢之至。壓軸樂曲是Slavonic Dances,是 Dvorak 早期成名作品。他使用民族音樂元素,加上精彩的配器,把管弦樂的威力發揮得淋漓盡致。我很小的時候已有 Slavonic Dances 的唱片,今晚重溫這音樂,特別覺得親切。

我從未聽過 Arvo Part 的音樂,他是愛沙尼亞人,在 Tallinn 音樂學院畢業。我去年往 Tallinn 旅遊時亦有參觀這學院的建築。現代音樂對我來說是好壞參半,不竟近代的作品很多還未經過時間的洗禮。 但 Tabula Rasa 確實有驚喜;傳統曲式和旋律都可以免問,音效就是一切。它對雙小提琴的技巧要求很高,而樂團和一個改裝為敲擊聲響的鋼琴提供背景氣氛。第一樂章遊戲,樂團奏出一段段斷續的句子,就像電話短訊,或ICQ短促的文字,而雙小提琴在這基礎上奏出飛快和廣闊的琵音。第二樂章靜默,雙小提琴從很高的音域的泛音開始,慢慢地移動到最低音區,再交棒給大提琴和低音大提琴。每隔很多小節,鋼琴會敲出一個和弦,像遠方的雷聲,間中打破靜默。言語很難表達這些印象,如果你有興趣,可以找找 Naxos 的 CD 8.554591,是 Arvo Part 的 Tabula Rasa 和 Symphony No. 3。

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Contactless chips

An article in Wired News on 29 March 2005 on contactless chips caught my eye. It so happened that the US government is going to implant such device in passports and in the employee ID cards of the Department of Homeland Security, the anti-terrorism body. In a slip of tongue, the press release on the device mentioned that contactless chips, or proximity chips, are just another name for RFID. I have been following the RFID/privacy issue for quite some time. Those interested are welcomed to take a look at my earlier reading notes.

Conspiracy theorists and civil libertarians are very worried about the intrusion on personal privacy as a result of the use of these chips. RFIDs are now widespread in many merchandises. The purpose is to link up goods with the production, inventory, wholesale and retail systems with a view to better management and cost savings. The big worry is that RFID left on goods such as garments can be detected unnoticed and then linked up with credit card records, thus rendering the personal information and the whereabouts of a person being captured by others.

The latest contactless chips carry more information such as biometrics for accurate identification of a person. It is very useful in passports and I envisage that it will soon be extended to all sort of identity cards, HKIC included. The issue of security has been raised, especially on the employee ID card of government agents. The good news is that the Homeland Security Department's employee ID card will use state-of-the-art authentication and encryption systems to protect the department and its employees from identity thieves and spies with unauthorized RFID tag readers. The bad news is that chips on passports will not have any of those digital security features because the passports need to be compatible with as many reader devices used by other countries as possible.

RFID manufacturers are typically making radio tags for ID documents that comply with ISO/IEC 14443, the contactless chip industry technology standard. This standard limits transmission ranges to a distance of about 4 inches. Other RFID tags can be read at distances up to 30 feet, making them easier targets for identity thieves trying to capture their data. However, some tests have demonstrated that electronic eavesdroppers up to 30 feet away can capture data (including biometric records) while it is being sent by the chips to an authorized reader device. Furthermore, a Tel-Aviv University study revealed that ISO/IEC 14443-compliant chips can also be read directly over much longer distances by specially built devices.

I am interested in the RFID issue mainly because of its implication on HRM. I consider it is a duty of the HR manager to ensure that an organization make good use of the personal information of its employees while at the same time protect their personal privacy. As employee monitoring devices get more common, this will be an essential area in staff relations and staff management where managers (aka EOs) can specialize and contribute.

Actually personal privacy is not supreme and we need to release our personal information in order to survive in a community and receive all sort of services. With devices like the RFID, contactless chips, the global wireless network and many connected databases, we can be greeted anywhere by name and offered goods and services of our choice instantly. I saw the sci-fi movie Minority Report where Tom Cruise was greeted by the advertisement signboard as he approached. It recognized his identity and instantly greeted him by name and displayed the preferred advertisement for him. This scenario is not far away. Nowadays, when I visit Amazon.com, I am instantly greeted by name and the front page displays new books related to titles I bought or searched before, all because of the personal information contained in the cookie. Some people still have problem dealing with such services.

There was also an earlier article in Scientific American on considerate computing. An analogy: nowadays, even a public toilet knows that I approach and flushes for me. But my beloved computer still needs some slapping on the face before it wakes up to serve me, and only after suspiciously verifying who I am. Considerate computing starts with giving out your personal information, by RFID for example; then the computer or other computing devices can automatically serve you without requiring you to boot the device or throw a switch. This is not sci-fi. Some modern homes already have such devices. The purpose is to let the computer serves you instead of you serving it first. The catch is that you need to let the computer, and thus the computer network and then the Internet, know your personal information.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Mendelssohn in Shatin

The Hong Kong Philharmonic played Mendelssohn in Shatin Town Hall last night (1 April 2005). The concert hall, similar to the one in Tsuen Wan Town Hall, was modeled on the design of the City Hall Concert Hall. I love the acoustics of these halls, much better than that of the Cultural Centre. When I lived in Tsuen Wan more than 15 years ago, I went to Tsuen Wan Town Hall often. Shatin Town Hall is a bit far away, but it is enjoyable to spend an evening there once in a while.

Last night was an all Mendelssohn programme with only two pieces: Octet and Scottish Symphony. Mendelssohn is a composer I like, with music easy to listen and digest. He does not look very handsome in my eyes. See this portray below.


This is the first time I listened to Octet, a four-movement work played by eight soloists. It is an amazing experience as I have a favour for chamber music. The eight solo string players produced harmony not as an enlarged string quartet but as a string orchestra. I respect solo players in chamber music more as players in ensemble have others' support while soloists do not.

The Scottish Symphony is more familiar. It is a wonderful work of Mendelssohn. The music paints an image of the vast landscape of Scotland and its rough coastline. There are also images of the majestic castles and soundscape of bagpipes and folk tunes.

It is an enjoyable concert. Anyone lives near Shatin and went to this concert last night?