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Showing posts from 2011

NEWS FLASH: Website Launched! 快訊: 網頁發放!

Dear Readers, My personal website , designed by award-winning, UK-based creative technologist Edan Kwan , is now up and running. Check it out and I hope you find it informative!!

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. The original version of  As I See It , created in 2008 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 elep

Unfaithfully Yours 愛偷吃的男人

What do Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common? They are all American icons who use their celebrity status to make our world a better place. Yawn. They all have promising young daughters who are destined to follow in daddy’s footsteps and achieve great things. Yawn again.  As if the column title hadn’t already given away the answer, all three of them are powerful men who, at the pinnacle of their careers, put everything they had on the line and cheated on their wives. Powerful men who fell from grace For every Bill, Tiger and Arnold, there are hundreds other famous men who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. At times it seems that the more successful a man gets, the more willing he is to throw away everything for a fleeting moment of carnal pleasure.  According to a 1950s study on American men by the Kinsey Institute, there is a one in two chance of indiscretion occurring during marriage. In the Information Age where you can

The Moose, The Gap and the Apple 麋 、溝、蘋

Determined to reclaim Hong Kong from European powers, the Americans are sounding their battle cry and marching into the city to pomp and circumstance. I am not talking about the type of invasion unleashed on Qing China by the Imperial West; I am referring to the almost contemporaneous arrivals of heavyweight American retailers in our city beginning this fall.  Abercrombie & Fitch , Gap and the Apple Store are all set to squeeze into the city’s already crowded retail space, promising to shake up our cityscape and transform our shopping routine. The good news is that we no longer need to travel to Tokyo or New York to get our hands on anything with a moose logo.  The bad news is, any Joe Blow – make that Joe Ho – in Hong Kong will soon be able to walk into these new stores and walk out with the same pair of jeans you had once begged a co-worker to bring back from the States. Globalism can be such sweet sorrow. Foreign invasion Not since the coming of European

I Was There When the Sky Fell 當日我在場

The No.2 train slowed to a halt. Inside the subway car, the overhead florescent lights went out for a moment and flickered back to life. The middle-aged Caucasian man standing next to me heaved an impatient sigh, bemoaning the frequent interruptions of an antiquated transport system. Suddenly the train doors parted and the crackling PA system issued a dispassionate instruction: An emergency has been reported in Lower Manhattan, all passengers must exit now . 14th Street, where I got off the subway train on September 11th I climbed two flights of stairs and came out of the 14th Street station. It was one of those beautiful September mornings in New York . Cloudless blue skies and a few falling leaves. I looked to the south and there it was, the reason why my train had stopped: plumes of heavy smoke were billowing out of the World Trade Center. I walked into a nearby Citibank branch to find out what had happened. “Some fool flew their plane right into the building, sweethea

Pirates and Hidden Treasures 海盜和寶藏

Six miles off the southwestern coast of Hong Kong Island is a piece of rock smaller than New York’s Central Park. Shaped like a dumbbell, Cheung Chau – or literally Long Island in Cantonese – was once a strategic hideout for ferocious pirates who ruled the Canton coasts.  At the turn of the 19th Century, these pirates of the South China Sea, our very Jack Sparrow and Captain Hook, terrorized seafarers and threatened the Qing court . The most prominent of them all, Cheung Po Tsai (張保仔), famously bisexual and captain of a vast and formidable fleet, was a staple among local legends. With all the eye makeup and flailing hand gestures, Johnny Depp might have had a certain Chinese pirate in mind when he crafted his character. Aerial view of Cheung Chau Cheung Po Tsai was only 21 years old when he took over the pirating business from his adoptive parents. During the short period between 1807 and 1810 – the year he capitulated to the Qing court and became an imperial navy co

…Or Eating In - Part 1 還是屋企煮-上卷

New Yorkers often joke about keeping their sweaters in the oven because they never cook. Hong Kongers would have loved to do the same, if only we had the space for an oven. The lack of a proper kitchen and the ease of dining out have made home cooking a vanishing art in the city. At times it seems like no one around us – other than those penny pinching, foldable cart pushing see lai (師奶; middle-aged housewives) – bothers to prepare a home cooked meal any more. Two see lai grocery shopping at the wet markets Cooking is time consuming. Considering that most worker bees get home just before the 9:30 soap opera starts, banging and clanging in the kitchen is the last thing on their minds. From buying groceries to all that washing, chopping, frying and steaming, the whole production is guaranteed to take up the entire evening... _______________________ Read the rest of this essay in No City for Slow Men , available at major bookstores in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Book

Maid in Hong Kong - Part 2 女傭在港-下卷

When Loretta left the Philippines in the 1980s, she didn’t have any training in cooking or housekeeping. What she did have was an eight-year-old son she had to feed back in Quezon City. Loretta got pregnant when she was 17 and soon thereafter her boyfriend disappeared. Left with no other choice, the single mother – a title she carried in her hometown for eight years like a scarlet letter – turned her child over to his grandmother and headed to Hong Kong in 1983. Chinese live-in maids with their signature cues In the past 30 years, she has served twelve local Chinese families across the city. The Chans, the Wongs and the Leungs – Loretta has seen it all. For a quarter of a century, she cleaned their apartments, ate in their kitchen and listened to the radio by herself in the maid’s quarter. Most of her employers treated her well enough, though none of them ever considered her one of their own. Not once have they invited her to eat with them, watch television with them

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. "Yes, mistress?" 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

It Could Happen to You 或許一天會是你

Last Tuesday I had dinner with a few friends at a restaurant in Kennedy Town. At precisely 9:30pm, the entire restaurant, patrons and staff alike, came to an abrupt standstill. Children were hushed, the clinking of bowls and plates stopped. Everyone turned their heads to the flat screen television hung high from the ceiling. One of the waiters clicked the remote control to ATV , an unpopular local channel that almost nobody watches. It was the live broadcast of the Mark Six draw, a three times a week event that almost everybody watches. The famous Mark Six drum By the time the plastic drum stopped turning and the seven golf balls lined up neatly on the bottom of the screen, the show was over. Patrons returned to their food and staff continued making beelines to and from the kitchen. Balled up tickets festooned the floor. But all was not lost... ___________________________ Read the rest of this essay in No City for Slow Men , available at major bookstores in Hong Kong and

The King and I 國王與我

I always find business trips a great way to catch up on the movies I have missed. On my way to a meeting in Jakarta a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to find on the in-flight entertainment menu The King’s Speech , the low budget British history drama that came out of nowhere but went on to clinch four top awards at the Oscars.  The film tells the story of King George VI, a lifelong stutterer who struggled to overcome his crippling speech impediment with the help of an unorthodox Australian speech therapist. David Seidler, who wrote the screenplay for the film, was himself a stutterer as a child and used to listen to George VI’s wartime speeches on the radio as a source of inspiration. With the help of seasoned actors Colin Firth and Jeffrey Rush, Seidler turned an otherwise little known king into a courageous hero who was able to galvanize his nation in turbulent times and, in doing so, gave eloquent voice to the stuttering community around the world. The movie poster W

Apocalypse Now - Part 2 現代啟示錄-下卷

The sakura season in Tokyo has barely began, but the city is already draped in dazzling shades of pink and white. The blossoms arrived just in time to welcome the all-important day of April 1, when, by tradition, the first day of school coincides with the first day of work for hundreds of thousands of university graduates entering the work force. Crisp white shirts, new black suits and brown leather attaché are as ubiquitous as the spring blossoms themselves. Sakura season in Tokyo This year, the triple threat of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis have cast a thick shadow on the season of hope and renewal. Each day citizens wake up to the new reality of a nation teetering on the brink of a Chernobyl-type disaster. Nearly a month after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, TEPCO, operator of the damaged Fukushima (福島) nuclear plants, remains utterly incapable of containing the radiation leaks.  To cool down the overheating reactors, sea water, fresh water and water wi