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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 Roaring Sixties, and hinted at the radical approach of seeking a separate black state. The political underpinning of her music alone, to say nothing of her talent, was enough to make Nina Simone one of my favorite singers/songwriters of all times.



Simone’s singing style was eclectic, combining elements of jazz, soul, blues, gospel, R&B and pop. Though her vibrato was often loose and her high notes pitchy at times, these flaws did little to detract from the hypnotic power of her music. As a pianist, she drew from her classical roots honed at the venerable Julliard School in New York and infused her playing with grit and fervor. No single song captures her vocal and instrumental style better than the riveting “Sinnerman.” With apocalyptic words and dark exuberance, the ten-minute epic was a somber warning to all mortals, black or white, that they can neither run nor hide from the Lord’s watchful eye.



Nina Simone left America in 1970 and never returned to her motherland. While some say her self-imposed exile was for tax reasons, others believe that the songstress grew tired of the constant fight for acceptance in America. Simone would spend the next two decades drifting between the Caribbean, North Africa and various parts of Europe before settling in Southern France. In the semi-autographical and deeply nostalgic “My Father,” released in 1978 on my favorite album, Baltimore, the protagonist reminisces over her childhood in Ohio under her father’s care (Simone grew up in Tryon, North Carolina, with her parents). A blue collar negro, her father dreams of one day sailing on the Seine. Here, Simone offers yet another plausible explanation for her decision to leave America: to fulfill her childhood dream of escaping from the South and living in Europe free from the scars of slavery. With sultry lyricism, the protagonist laments:
My father always promised me
That we would live in France
We’d go boating on the Seine
And I would learn to dance
And I live in Paris now
My children dance and sing
Words of a miner’s tongue
Language they have never sung

I sail my memories of home
Like boats across the Seine
And watch my father’s eye, watch the setting sun
As it sets in my father's eyes again



Nina Simone died this month six years ago in Carry-le-Rouet, France, leaving behind a discography of 50 albums and inspiring a generation of R&B singers, including Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and John Legend. She lived through one of darkest pages in American history and spent the second half of her life a musical gypsy on the other side of the Atlantic, bitterly looking on at the racial divide in America. It is a shame that Simone did not live to see her country elect the first African American president and how a man, so “young, gifted and black,” puts a spell on the nation reeling from financial ruin and injured pride. The high priestess would have been so proud.

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About the Author 關於作者

Born in Hong Kong, Jason Y. Ng is a globetrotter who spent his entire adult life in Italy, the United States and Canada before returning to his birthplace to rediscover his roots. He is a lawyer, published author, and contributor to The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Free Press and EJInsight. His social commentary blog As I See It and restaurant/movie review site The Real Deal have attracted a cult following in Asia and beyond. Between 2014 and 2016, he was a music critic for Time Out (HK)
Jason is the bestselling author of Umbrellas in Bloom (2016), No City for Slow Men (2013) and HONG KONG State of Mind (2010). Together, the three books form a Hong Kong trilogy that tracks the city's post-colonial development. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies. In 2017, Jason co-edited and contributed to Hong Kong 20/20, an anthology that marks the 20th anniversary of the handover. In July 2017, he was appointed Advising Editor for the Los Angeles Review…

Seeing Joshua 探之鋒

“We are here to visit a friend,” I said to the guard at the entrance. 
Tiffany, Joshua Wong Chi-fung’s long-time girlfriend, trailed behind me. It was our first time visiting Joshua at Pik Uk Correctional Institution and neither of us quite knew what to expect.

“Has your friend been convicted?” asked the guard. We nodded in unison. There are different visiting hours and rules for suspects and convicts. Each month, convicts may receive up to two half-hour visits from friends and family, plus two additional visits from immediate family upon request.
The guard pointed to the left and told us to register at the reception office. “I saw your taxi pass by earlier,” he said while eyeing a pair of camera-wielding paparazzi on the prowl. “Next time you can tell the driver to pull up here to spare you the walk.”
At the reception counter, Officer Wong took our identity cards and checked them against the “List.” Each inmate is allowed to grant visitation rights to no more than 10 friends and fam…

What’s Killing Hong Kong Bookstores? 誰令香港的書店滅亡?

Earlier this month, Page One unceremoniously announced the closure of its megastores at Harbour City and Festival Walk, ending the Singapore bookseller’s nearly two-decade stint in Hong Kong. The news came less than two years after Australian outfit Dymocks shut down its IFC Mall flagship and exited the city.
Reaction on social media to the loss of yet another bookstore chain was both immediate and damning. While some attributed Page One’s demise to competition from e-books and online retailers, many put the blame on the lack of a robust reading culture in Hong Kong. Still others pointed their finger at greedy landlords and the sky-high rent they extort from retailers.
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E-books
The technorati have long prophesized the end of paper. Portable and affordable, Amazon’s Kindle and other e-readers are the physical book’s worst nightmare. But are they really?
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Join the Club 入會須知

You have reached a midlife plateau. You have everything you thought you wanted: a happy family, a well-located apartment and a cushy management job. The only thing missing from that bourgeois utopia is a bit of oomph, a bit of recognition that you have played by the rules and done all right. A Porsche 911? Too clichéd. A rose gold Rolex? Got that last Christmas. An extramarital affair that ends in a costly divorce or a boiled bunny? No thanks. How about a membership at one of the city’s country clubs where accomplished individuals like yourself hang out in plaid pants and flat caps? Sounds great, but you’d better get in line.

Clubs are an age-old concept that traces back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The introduction of coffee beans to England in the mid-17th Century spurred the proliferation of coffeehouses for like-minded gentlemen to trade gossip about the monarchy over a hot beverage. In the centuries since, these semi-secret hideouts evolved into main street establishments t…

Media Attention + Upcoming Events 媒體關注 + 最新動向

2017 and upcoming events and speaking engagements


Keynote speaker at Leadership & Social Entrepreneurship Program graduation ceremony co-organized by Wimler Foundation and Ateneo University Venue: TBD Date: 22 October Time: 9:00am to 1:00pm

Guest lecture at Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong Course: International and regional protection of human rights
Topic: Universal suffrage and free expression Venue: Centennial Campus, Pokfulam Date:16 November
Time: 6:30pm

Legal workshop for foreign domestic workers at University of Hong Kong's Domestic Workers Empowerment Project (DWEP) Topic: "Understanding Hong Kong Culture" Moderator: Dr. Michael Manio Venue: Ming Wah Complex, University of Hong Kong Date: 19 November Time: 1:30 to 4:00pm

Talk at Independent Schools Foundation Academy
Topic: No City for Slow Men
Venue: Telegraph Bay, Pokfulam
Date: 30 November
Contributor to HK24 (2017 Anthology by Hong Kong Writers Circle) Release date: December

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Maid in Hong Kong - Part 1 女傭在港-上卷

Few symbols of colonialism are more universally recognized than the live-in maid. From the British trading post in Bombay to the cotton plantation in Mississippi, images abound of the olive-skinned domestic worker buzzing around the house, cooking, cleaning, ironing and bringing ice cold lemonade to her masters who keep grumbling about the summer heat. It is ironic that, for a city that cowered under colonial rule for a century and a half, Hong Kong should have the highest number of maids per capita in Asia. In our city of contradictions, neither a modest income nor a shoebox apartment is an obstacle for local families to hire a domestic helper and to free themselves from chores and errands.

On any given Sunday or public holiday, migrant domestic workers carpet every inch of open space in Central and Causeway Bay. They turn parks and footbridges into camping sites with cardboard boxes as their walls and opened umbrellas as their roofs. They play cards, cut hair, sell handicraft and p…

The Moonscape of Sexual Equality - Part 1 走在崎嶇的路上-上卷

There are things about America that boggle the mind: gun violence, healthcare costs and Donald Trump. But once in a while – not often, just once in a while – the country gets something so right and displays such courage that it reminds the rest of the world what an amazing place it truly is. What happened three days ago at the nation’s capital is shaping up to be one of those instances.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 5-to-4 decision on same-sex marriage, the most important gay rights ruling in the country’s history. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy wrote, “It would misunderstand [gay and lesbian couples] to say that they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find fulfillment for themselves… They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” 
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The Hundredth Post 第一百篇

This month marks the third birthday of my blog As I See It, a social commentary on the trials and tribulations of living in Hong Kong. The occasion coincides with the 100th article I have written under the banner. Having reached a personal milestone, I decided to take the opportunity to reflect on my still-young writing career and wallow in, dare we say, self-congratulatory indulgence.

It all started in November 2008 on the heels of the last U.S. presidential election. I was getting ready to create a personal website as a platform to consolidate my interests and pursuits. To do that I needed content. That’s how my blog – or my “online op-ed column” as I prefer to call it – came into being. 
Before I knew it, I was banging it out in front of my iMac every night, going on and off the tangent and in and out of my stream of consciousness about the odd things I experienced in the city, the endless parade of pink elephants I saw everyday that no one seemed to bat an eyelid at. Though singi…