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Showing posts from February, 2009

Tokyo Impressions 東京印象

Twice a year, I make a pilgrimage to Tokyo, one of my favorite cities. Like many in Hong Kong, I take guilty pleasure in all things Japanese. Saddled by the burden of history, all ethnic Chinese in my generation are taught to loathe the Japanese or at least keep them at bay. How we are to separate our sworn enemies’ heinous past from their admirable qualities continues to elude every Japanophile among us.

Moral dilemmas aside, I find the Japanese aesthetics irresistible. The marriage of Shintoism and Zen Buddhism has produced such core values as wabi (侘; simlicity and transience) and sabi (寂; beauty of age and time). They are the underpinnings of every aspect of the Japanese culture from theater and architecture to food preparation and social etiquette. A perfect storm was formed when these values collided with bushido (武士道), the strict code of conduct of the samurai warrior, resulting in an idiosyncrasy that is exacting, nuanced and immensely graceful. At once a philosophy and a nat…

Le Sacre du Printemps 春之祭

I grabbed my briefcase and stepped out of my apartment building onto the quiet street. But something felt different this morning. The thick white fog had returned and swallowed everything near and far. Somewhere in the nearby woodland, atop an aged magnolia perhaps, a chorus of sparrows chirped and worked up a Stravinskian dissonance. 
Crimson hibiscus buds, ever the symbol of renewal, adorned a stretch of wild shrubs. From a distance, roosters crowed in eager succession, evoking images of the rustic Toishanese village in which my parents grew up. 
I slowed my pace with deliberation and gazed down the distant valleys where the southerly wind conspired with the morning sun to disperse the fog. Plumes of white smoke rose from the mountain ridge before they quietly dissolved into the storm-pregnant sky, foreshadowing an afternoon drizzle.

I inhaled the heavy, humid air in a deep breath and the smell was unmistakable: spring had arrived.

The Premier’s New Clothes 總理的新衣

Last week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) made a five-day visit to Europe while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The 66-year-old head honcho jet-set through major cities in Western Europe, signing multi-billion dollar trade deals and posing with heads of state in front of flashing cameras. 
With economic growth languishing at 6.8% in the last quarter of 2008, Chinese leaders are doing whatever it takes to drum up demand for Chinese exports to keep the economy growing at at least 8% annually. A symbol of luck and prosperity, the magic number “8” is China's best antidote against unemployment and social instability. Since 1998 when the term was first coined, bao ba (保八; literally, maintain eight) has been the Communist Party’s main mandate.

Wen ostensibly skipped Paris on his tour of duty. While in London, the Premier told reporters that his omission of France was not an accident. Speaking with unconcealed spite, he said that Nicholas Sarkosy should know f…

Confessions of a News Junkie - Part 2 癮君子的自白-下卷

Lifestyle magazines often feature a section where celebrities make a list of the ten things they can’t live without. Brad Pitt goes everywhere with his Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses and Sofia Coppola her Louis Vuitton luggage. I yawn with indifference every time I come across such silliness, but only seconds later find myself mentally going down my own list: my 24-inch iMac, Octopus card, extra virgin olive oil, and of course, the daily delivery of The New York Times.
The Times is hands down my favorite news source. Averaging only 18 pages, the newspaper can be read cover-to-cover in a single sitting. From politics and business to travels and arts and entertainment, “all the news that’s fit to print” is packed into a single fold. The paper’s editorials and op-eds, written with old-fashioned gumption, always pack a punch. Daily crossword puzzles edited by word wizard Will Shortz get progressively difficult as the week matures and provide a workout for the brain that at once entertains and…

Confessions of a News Junkie - Part 1 癮君子的自白-上卷

I am addicted to news.
Everyday I devour The New York Times more enthusiastically than I do my lunch. At the gym I work out to 60 Minutes and CBC’s World At Six instead of the Black Eyed Peas or Beyoncé. After a day’s work, I risk motion sickness on the minibus to watch Katie Couric and Brian Williams at their anchor desks on my 3.5 inch iPhone screen. 

When I finally get home, I change out of my work clothes in front of the television playing pre-recorded evening news on TVB, a local television channel… _______________________ Read the rest of this essay in HONG KONG State of Mind, available at major bookstores in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.