Saturday, 26 December 2009

Unboxing Girl Friend Day

RIMG8495 (Medium)^The EVF comes with a leather case while the lenses and external flash with their own pouch.

Now that the Christmas holiday is over, the busyness subsides a bit. On Boxing Day, what's better than posting some photos of unboxing the GF-1 and the paraphernalia on loan to us?

So here are photos of the GF-1 and some comparison photos of it versus other serious compacts.

Compared to LX3

The GF-1 is bigger in all dimensions.

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Compared to G10

G10 is larger in size than the GF-1, except for the extra size of interchangeable lens.

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Compared to GX200

The GF-1 is bigger, taller but as wide in length. When the GX200 is attached with the wide converter, both cameras are almost comparable in size.

R0011501 (Medium)R0011502 (Medium)R0011504 (Medium)R0011506 (Medium)GF-1 with the external flash on

Obviously, GF-1 becomes quiet big with the external flash on.

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Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas with Girl Friend no. 1

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Merry Christmas from GX GARNERINGS to readers from around the world!  Whether you're having a Christmas celebration with friends or having a family get-together today, don't forget to make use of the opportunity to take great photos.  If you're using Ricoh cameras, be sure to send one to ricohforum for the photo contest for December themed on Christmas decorations.

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If you're observant enough, you'd have noticed that the photos here were taken with the Pany Girl Friend 1.  GF-1, that is.  I am carrying around the camera and testing it.  There are some gobsmacking and, naturally, gripping aspects as I can see having used it for a while.

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After thoroughly testing it, I'll find time to write an user's impressions in a journal sort of way.  For the time being, I still have days to…well…play with the Girl Friend.  My thanks go to Hong Kong's sole agent of Panasonic cameras for the loan.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Be Still, Busyness

R0018560 (Medium)^I like the wide perspective of this image with the blurry motions of passers-by.

The incessant preparations for the Christmas Party and presents have been  going on for some time.  What a paradox we are so busy preparing for a festival of peace!

As usual, I carried my camera around to the shopping, with the 19mm wide converter attached to it.  If you are using a camera with the possibility to add on a wide converter like my 19mm one, I'll surely recommend you to go for one.  It'll afford the images what I think a penetrating perspective into the scenes.

R0018562 (Medium)^Decorating the street is a character from the book of a famous Taiwan Cartoonist Jimmy.

At the same time, I looked for scenes to shot some photos about Christmas decorations for the monthly photo contest organised by ricohforum.  Oh, if Hong Kong is the hub of anything, it is first and foremost the hub of Christmas decorations.

So despite the busyness, it is a season of peace.  But if you are doing shopping, thinking about what food and presents to buy while looking out for a good scene for a proper photo for a contest, you'll very likely ending up in a fight with the one doing the shopping with you.

So I put down the camera and tried to have peace.

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^A giant rabbit character from the works of the same cartoonist.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Let's Go to Hell

Christmas is a festive time to think about nativity and religion. In this city which is now a part of China, it is fitting to talk about the Chinese religious culture. The photos in the post are all about death in a way, mostly the unique paper offerings which you may not find them around unless you befriend a local who knows the way.

This is the third post of an educational series to give you a glimpse into China's mysterious colours of folk religious beliefs.  You may be also interested to read some related old posts are here, here and here.

R0014899 (Medium)^Look what the dead will get from the paper offerings…sodas! Heineken! 

The concept of hell in Christianity is for the unconverted whereas the Chinese version of hell is a place for all the deceased to "check in" (more on this later). Most interestingly, this hell is open for the living people from the temporal world to visit (Do the ghosts throw parties for the open house?).

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Therefore, unlike the hell in Christianity which is a painful…well…hell, the Chinese religious system depicts the hell as a rather bustling place for the living people to learn about morality. Until some ten years ago, there was a private garden in Hong Kong built by a big-name business man showing the scenes in the hell, which was open for the public to visit.

« Paper offerings in box sets include a hand-made paper fake LV wallet.

Why the hell is for the deceased to "check in"? The Chinese folk belief has it that a ghost is a fit of wind as a brief continuum of life going to dissipate in the end. That is why the Chinese has the concept of "new ghosts are bigger while preceding ghosts are smaller". In this connection, the Christian notion of soul doesn't exist in the Chinese religious culture. The Chinese common saying goes, "A perished man is like a dead lamp fire". It means nothing will be left of a dead man.

R0015092 (Medium)^Paper toys for those deceased at a very young age?

This makes the burning of paper offerings more puzzling. The whole thing just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. How can one believe in reincarnation, nothing left of a dead person and offer burnt offerings to the ancestors in  the afterlife?

R0015091 (Medium)^See the paper electronic fans?  Simply unbelievable craftsmanship.

Such is the appealing diversity found in folk custom. This is true for the old cultures, and valid for the present-day folkways.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A Potluck to Serve the Dead

Christmas is a festive time to think about nativity and religion. In this city which is now a part of China, it is fitting to talk about the Chinese religious culture. The photos in the post are all about death in a way, mostly the unique paper offerings which you may not find them around unless you befriend a local who knows the way.

This is the second post of an educational series to give you a glimpse into China's mysterious colours of folk religious beliefs.  You may be also interested to read some related old posts are here, here and here.

R0017457 (Medium) ^A paper Mercedes (Be a posh ghost!) the length of a man's height.  The plate says 168 which is the homonymic to "get rich all the way" in Cantonese, the language spoken in Southern China.

Under the influence of Buddhism, the majority of Chinese people believe in reincarnation. At the same time, they hold dear the long tradition of ancestral worshipping passed down since around the founding of the Han Dynasty (founded 221 BC). In effect, they fuse two contradictory beliefs together.

Reincarnation works under a system of rewards. In essence, the more good deeds one has done in this life, the higher stratum one will end up in the next life. The marks scored are implanted into a person’s soul. The reckoning of the accumulated deeds is, like a scheduled scanning R0014088 (Medium)for a computer, done at the appointed time (i.e. when one kicks the bucket) by the deities. At that moment, much like an imaging sensor already fused in a camera, be it good or bad, you can do nothing about it anymore.

« The bamboo-stick framework of the Mercedes (Has it got the licensing permission?)

The grand total marks decide which of the six strata a person can enter in the next life: they are, in descending order of classes, the heavens, the temporal world, Asura (the half-deity and half-human form), the hell, hungry ghosts and, lastly and the least, beasts. When one pops clogs, he or she doesn’t go to the next world right away. There is a transitional period known as Madhyaskandhakaya, during when the deceased lives on incense offerings.

R0014089 (Medium)^The paper houses to be burnt by the living and received  by the dead.  What a booming property market it must be in the afterlife.

Therefore, Buddhists burn joss sticks for the spirits of a deceased person. But they don’t burn it for long because it is simply wasting efforts once the prime time for the spirits to enter the next world, which closes after the first 49 (7 times 7; coincidentally, seven connotes completion in Christianity) days, is past.

So how does this contradict ancestral worship? In ancestral worship, the deceased becomes two separate beings, namely, the windR0014086 (Medium) (soul) and the corpse (spirit). The corpse is buried six feet under while the wind is a temporary existence in space as a continuum of life. Old Chinese households placed tablets for the deceased at home whereby the wind would not turn into a “lone soul” straying to become dissipated at last (which resembles the Buddhist concept of the first 49 days).

»The workers of a paper-offering workshop transport the items from the first floor to the street level which would be loaded into a van in a moment.

In short, the gist of ancestral worship is about making the souls of all the deceased stationary with the tablets, whereas reincarnation is about the spirits moving from one life to another.

R0014087 (Medium)^Entertainment is needed too.  A paper offering depicts a racecourse.  Let's hope this will not turn any ghosts into habitual gamblers.

The combo of reincarnation and ancestral worship is further mixed with the burning of paper offerings for the dead to enjoy in the R0015094 (Medium)afterlife. So, the Chinese people have fused the concepts of the dead to reincarnate, to station in the tablet and to stay in the afterlife. But such is the typical potluck characteristic of the Chinese folk religious beliefs: making a hotchpotch of whatever beliefs are at hand.

Tomorrow we will talk about the Chinese concept of the hell, the destination on the recipient's address  for the burnt offerings of incense and paper gifts (People really do write a recipient's address on some paper offerings).

^A half finished religious item of some sort resembles a pagoda.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Entering Chinese Religious Minds

Christmas is a festive time to think about nativity and religion. In this city which is now a part of China, it is fitting to talk about the Chinese religious culture. The photos in the post are all about death in a way, mostly the unique paper offerings which you may not find them around unless you befriend a local who knows the way.

This is an educational series to give you a glimpse into China's mysterious colours of folk religious beliefs.  You may be also interested to read some related old posts are here, here and here.

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^Two almost life-size paper effigies representing a male and female servants to be burnt as offerings for the dead.

China boasts a history of over 5 000 years. In this wide span of time, religion has taken root and grown leafy in the Chinese land of diversity. Apart from the home-grown Confucianism and Taoism, as well as Buddhism adopted from India, the folk religions are what truly represent the colourful and complex system of Chinese religious culture. These folk religions are mostly mixtures of bits of Taoism and bits of local customs.

The origins of the Chinese folk religions are not an answer to be deduced from a simple equation. But one of the reasons certainly lies at the dawn of the Han Dynasty (founded 221 BC) when it saw a weakening adherence to the Confucian teachings which governs the running of the ancient imperial states.

R0015095 (Medium)^A worker is delivering some items for a religious activity of some sort. 

When a void emerged, the physical rule has it that there would be something going to fill it somehow. At that time, people started their quest for a new economy of the earthly matters, sprouting the seeds of sorcery, theurgy, the doctrine of ends and beginnings, divination combined with mystical Confucian belief, as well as Taoism.

Changes in the religious realm took place among the posh noble class too.  During the transitional period between the warring years among various imperial powers and the founding of the Han Dynasty, the royals mainly worshipped supernatural forces which they thought gave them the R0016055 (Medium) authority to rule. Over time the sacral activity was combined with ancestral worship which added a handy justification to the passing of the imperial throne from the father to the son. By the same token, the forefathers of the thrones were mystified as the protectors of the nations.

« A paper crane to be burnt as an offering.  Crane connotes longevity in many oriental societies including the Chinese.

Among the common folks, sorcery and theurgy pointed to the existence of an unseen world mirroring the physical world. This unseen world had the commanding power over the ruling class. Apart from sorcery and theurgy, people started formulating their own economy of the material world with other religious practices. Dream tellers interpreted dreams for people to keep themselves out of the harm’s way. Physiognomists read people’s faces and told them the fate so bestowed. Palm readers analysed how the material world corresponded to the natural phenomena.

R0017195 (Medium)^ A paper backyard to be offered to the deceased by burning.

These religious beliefs in their raw forms were found on the same cornerstone: the nature's law had a decisive bearing on the ups and  downs, highs and lows of a person.

R0017196 (Medium)^Next to the paper garden, it is a driveway to the paper house where a paper miniature car is parked.

With Buddhism introduced into China during the Han Dynasty and gradually spread among the people over the centuries, the Chinese folk religious beliefs carried a tinge of Buddhism too. We will continue from there tomorrow.