Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from April, 2009

Return of the Masks - Part 1 口罩回歸-上卷

The sudden outbreak of swine flu in Mexico has grabbed the world by the throat. A highly contagious strand of the H1N1 virus, capable of human-to-human transmission, has spread to nearly 20 countries on every continent. 
Every few hours, CNN updates its country-by-country tally of confirmed and suspected cases like an Olympics medal count. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were quick to declare the outbreak a public health emergency, just short of calling it an all-out pandemic.

This morning, Hong Kong woke up to newsstands plastered with the familiar images of worried citizens wearing those ominous powder blue face masks, except this time the epicenter was a hemisphere away in Mexico City. 
In the office, I sat through a debriefing session on our disaster recovery plan handed down from the Paris head office. At lunch time, busy salarymen slowed their pace to watch live coverage of the news story on LCD screens, united in a single thought: we’…

Why Must All Our Minibuses Be Yellow? 難道小巴總是黃色的?

You hail it like a taxi but you share it shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers as you do a double-decker bus. Sixteen riders sit snugly in cellophane-wrapped seats, their eyes glued to the flickering speed display installed by law to discourage speeding. It is the omnipresent minibus: our perky, peculiar and indispensable means of public transport.

Invariably painted a soft hue of yellow, the minibus dons a green or red top (depending on its route) and sits on four dark-skinned tires with yellow rims that match the body. So long as the fare is paid, each passenger takes up a single seat and submits to the vagaries of the unpredictable driver. It is an egalitarian experience in an otherwise stratified society... _______________________ Read the rest of this essay in HONG KONG State of Mind, available at major bookstores in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.

Riding Out the Tsunami – Part 2 渡過金融海嘯-下卷

The global recession has come upon us and no one is spared. Stock prices around the world, having lost over half of their value since November 2007, have recovered somewhat in the past 12 months. Experts are calling it a “bear market rally” and warn of a calamitous double-dip recession. 
As the news media continue to stoke recessionary fears, at some point even the most defiant among us must yield to the grim economic outlook we face. If this turn of events were God’s way of testing our faith, then by setting off the financial market dominoes at the height of globalization, He sure has succeeded in bringing the rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown, the powerful and the meek all to their knees.  Locusts, boils and death of the first-born are so 2000 B.C.!

Whatever our religious beliefs are, each one of us is trying to get through these tough times in our own way. Some choose to stay a little later in the office every night to prove themselves indispensable, while others decid…

Riding Out the Tsunami – Part 1 渡過金融海嘯-上卷

There is a new expression in the U.S. “That’s so August of you” is a jab at people who continue to spend lavishly during what has been touted as the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. 
For too long, Americans have been sleepwalking through life in the shopping mall, their bank accounts ebbing and flowing through the credit card billing cycle. From the gas-guzzling SUV to the fancy kitchen remodeling, every expense is put on the credit card or financed with a second home mortgage. “Spend within your means” is an axiom that has gone unheeded for generations.

The world’s wealthiest country has a long and dysfunctional love affair with plastic. The credit card is at once a symbol of high-rolling panache and a fuel for irresponsible spending... _______________________ Read the rest of this essay in HONG KONG State of Mind, available at major bookstores in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.

She Puts A Spell On Me 她跟我下了咒

Her skin was black. Her manner was tough. She was awfully bitter in her days, because her people were once slaves. What did they call her? 
Her name was Nina Simone.
I borrowed these lines from the song “Four Women,” a biographical sketch of four negro women growing up in segregationist America. 
Nina Simone wrote this haunting ballad in 1966 in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, two years before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Spell-binding, compelling and at times scathing and foreboding, the songstress was dubbed the “High Priestess of Soul” for her imposing stage presence and readiness to use her music to take on social injustice.

Nina Simone embarked on her musical journey at a time when racial tension in America was coming to a boil and the country could no longer turn a blind eye to the widespread oppression and violence against black Americans. In “Mississippi Goddam,” she responded to the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, one of the watershed events in the Ro…

Bangkok Story - Part 2 曼谷物語-中卷

I visit Bangkok three or four times a year. Surely the food and the shopping are great and the hotel suites and health spas are to die for. But truth be told, I go there in large part because I like being around Thai people. Gentle, patient and friendly almost to a fault, the Thai are natural born hosts and hostesses. With these proud national traits, Thailand has carved a niche for itself as one of the top, and certainly the most pampering, travel destinations in South East Asia.

Thai people are also remarkably creative and artistic, qualities that are often overshadowed by their hospitality... _______________________ Read the rest of this essay in HONG KONG State of Mind, available at major bookstores in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.