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Showing posts from 2012

A Farewell to Arms 永别了,武器

America is a bizarre country. To be an American — or to live in America — is to accept a few things that defy common sense. For starters, pizza is considered a “vegetable” under federal law. Two tablespoons of tomato paste on the dough is enough to make the pie healthy enough to be served at every public school cafeteria. Speaking of health, emergency rooms across the country routinely turn down trauma patients who fail to produce proof of health insurance. Facing skyrocketing healthcare costs, the uninsured are left for dead and the insured are worried sick about rising deductibles and annual premiums. Not bizarre enough? Here's another good one: gun shootings have become so commonplace that the evening news no longer reports them unless they are deemed a “shooting rampage.” And each time after a massacre, gun enthusiasts line up outside Wal-Mart to stock up on assault weapons for fear of tougher gun laws. That’s right, in America you can buy a military-style semi-automatic rifl…

Just Us Two 二人世界

One of the advantages of living in the 21st Century is that we get to choose the way we live our lives. When it comes to love and marriage, some stick to the white picket fence, while others cohabit without ever tying the knot. Still others stay blissfully single for life, free as birds. Same sex couples, ever the scourge of conservative society, can now legally marry in eleven countries and several American states. It is therefore all the more surprising that, in our age of live-and-let-live sexual liberation, one segment of society continues to be stigmatized by a stubborn social prejudice: married couples without children.

I am not talking about infertile people who can’t bear children — they get their fair share of pitiful looks from friends along with unsolicited advice on how to raise their sperm count. I am referring to married folks who, for financial, emotional or philosophical reasons, decide to stay child-free. While no one ever questions why we want children, those who c…

New Year in November (Reprise) 十一月的新年(重奏)

Four years ago, I wrote an article titled New Year in November about Barack Obama's historic victory. That's what it felt like — a new beginning, a rebirth – even to a blogger half the world away. Four years flew by in the blink of an eye and the president was up for re-election this month. This time I wanted to be there — in America, in the thick of things. I planned my annual home leave in the second week of November and arrived in New York just days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast. Expecting the vote count to last all night, I stocked up on junk food in my hotel room in Midtown Manhattan. I had my laptop showing the electoral map and a calculator to tally the votes. I toggled back-and-forth between CNN and Fox News on the flat-screen TV while posting the latest election results on Facebook. I was a ready for a showdown.

I’m not an American citizen and so I can’t actually vote. Even if I were, my vote wouldn’t have mattered much because New York is what they ca…

Calling it Quits - Part 1 劈炮唔撈-上卷

It’s 9:30 on a Monday night. You are waiting for the bus to take you home after another long, dreary day in the office. Your head droops to the side, your shoulders slump, and your leather briefcase sags with the weight of existential angst. The woman in front of you pulls a soggy pastry out of a wrinkled Starbucks bag and takes a bite. You think to yourself: I can make a better one and sell it for half the price. The dream of running your own bakery and wallowing in patisserie bliss once again rushes to your head. No more 14-hour days, no more suits and ties, no more crowded buses and microwave dinners. Leather briefcase be damned!

What you just read is a familiar scene to many salaried men and women. Tired of the ball and chain of a desk job, you fantasize about a “Plan B” to take you out of the rat race and put your God-given talent to use. If baking is not your thing, then it may be designing jewelry, becoming a wedding photographer or running an event planning service from home.…

Are You Being Served? 服務為先

I had been sitting at my table for 15 minutes, with neither a menu nor a glass of water. For the fifth time I put up my hand and waved at the waitress who pretended she hadn’t seen me. When our eyes finally met, I gave her a big smile and mouthed the word carte. She gritted her teeth and said: “Monsieur, je n’ai que deux mains.” Translation: “I only have two hands.”

To many frequent travelers to Europe, my rather unpleasant dining experience at the Parisian restaurant is all too familiar. From store clerks in Rome to bus drivers in Geneva and airport security in London, customer service personnel in Europe are trained to be rude... _______________________ Read the rest of this essay in No City for Slow Men, available at major bookstores in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.



NEWS FLASH: Blogger Joins SCMP.com 快訊: 博客加盟南華早報

Dear Readers,
I am now a "resident blogger" with SCMP.com focusing on lifestyle, travel, social issues and current affairs.
Future postings will be fed to the newspaper's website. That means followers of my op-ed blog As I See It and my review blog The Real Deal will be able to read my articles either here or at SCMP.com. See also the author's page.

The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's leading English language daily newspaper, has completely revamped its website with mobile versions for iPhone and iPad. The new site was launched at midnight on 31 August 2012. Subscribe today!

Martians and Venusians - Part 2 火星人水與星人-下卷

From New York and Tokyo to Shanghai and Hong Kong, single women in big cities around the world are united in their gripe about being luckless in love. Educated, intelligent and financially independent, they excel in everything in life except for the one thing that really matters to them: finding Mr. Right. The twin goals of marriage and motherhood – things that women a generation ago took for granted – have become ever elusive. Cinderella and Snow White might have had their fair share of heartache before they got hitched, but all the chores and poisoned apples in Fairyland pale in comparison to the blood, sweat and tears of the single woman in the real world. For who wants to die alone in a musty apartment with five cats and a ball of yarn?

Ever since Sex and the City glamorized the life of the bachelorette, being female, single and over 35 has never been so cool. But behind the martinis and witty one-liners, the girl power and lipstick feminism, is the lingering fear of spinsterhoo…

Only Fools Rush Up 愚公爬山

I was having way too much sake that night.
At a noisy izakaya (居酒屋) on a Tokyo backstreet, my friend Yuji and I kept refilling each other’s cups. After we graduated from college, Yuji moved back to Japan and I to Toronto. Clinking cups with him that night took us back to the days when we used to do silly things together.

I quaffed another shot of the potent junmai-shu sake (純米酒) and blurted out: “You and I, let’s climb Mount Fuji tomorrow.” It was the alcohol talking.
Yuji, his face as red as a ripe tomato, hit back with the two most dangerous words in the English language: “Why not?”
That’s how it all started, 15 years ago – on a dare.
Hours later and still nursing our hangover, we boarded the earliest bus from Tokyo to Kawaguchi-ko (河口湖), the most popular starting point for the climb.
Mount Fuji is divided into ten “stations” from base to summit, and there at the fifth station base camp we found hordes of climbers warming up for their ascent and stuffing supplies into their ba…

Martians and Venusians - Part 1 火星人水與星人-上卷

When New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin led his team on a seven-game winning streak in the 2012 NBA season, he started something he didn’t expect. The so-called “Linsanity” phenomenon catapulted the 23-year-old Taiwanese-American into the national consciousness and captured the imagination of the entire Chinese speaking world. At the same time, Lin’s meteoric rise from zero to hero touched off a torrent of public debate on a subject that has hitherto received little attention: the image deficit of the Asian Male.

When asked to comment on Lin’s sudden fame, NBA royalty Kobe Bryant said, “His skill level was there from the beginning. It probably just went unnoticed.” Kobe was spot on. Until his accidental NBA debut, Lin was underestimated and overlooked. Despite having led his high school team to the California state title, he was routinely snubbed by college recruiters and NBA scouts. Unlike Yao Ming... _______________________ Read the rest of this essay in No City for Slow Men, av…

Ninety-nine Years of Worry 長憂九十九

This November my parents will celebrate their 25th year in Canada. For two and a half decades, they have lived out their retirement dream in a quiet Toronto suburb, a world away from the humdrum city life they left behind in Hong Kong. Scattered around the world, their five children and half-dozen grandchildren take turns visiting them. I, for instance, take the 16-hour trans-Pacific flight from Hong Kong to spend a week with them every winter. In their house, they have kept my room the way I left it 15 years ago. When I go to the kitchen, I will see my name written on the wall calendar in bright red ink, with a squiggly line that runs across the days of my visit.

When I am in Hong Kong, I am supposed to call my parents twice a month. There is always an excuse not to: the twelve-hour time difference (or is it thirteen?), my travel schedule, a writing streak that cannot be interrupted. It doesn’t bother my dad nearly as much as it does my mom. Indeed, every phone call she picks up beg…

Why Shop When You Can Taobao? 購物不如淘寶

Imagine you wanted to show up at work every day carrying a different Hermès handbag. Imagine you had a six-month-old baby at home who was in constant need of diapers and baby formula. And imagine you had just bought a new apartment and you needed to furnish the whole place from living room to kitchen. Don’t go looking at the Landmark, Watson’s, or IKEA, because retail shopping is so 2007. Instead, you can stay right at home and start treasure hunting online at Taobao (淘寶), the world’s biggest marketplace. It is Shopping 3.0.


Taobao is the Internet’s best kept secret. The site, which literally means searching for treasures in Mandarin, is a combination of Amazon and eBay. It is increasingly the first place Chinese shoppers look to for clothing, cosmetics and everyday household supplies. If you can type it in Chinese, they will sell it. Some of the strangest items sold include... _______________________ Read the rest of this essay in No City for Slow Men, available at major bookstores i…

NEWS FLASH: New Blog《The Real Deal》Launched! 快訊: 新博客發放!

Dear Readers,
My brand new blog The Real Deal (http://realdealhk.blogspot.com) is now up and running!!
The Real Deal is a comprehensive review site that offers straight-to-the-point opinions on the dernier cri in the city's leisure scene: restaurants, movies, hotels and stores. Each "bite-sized" review aims at giving you the lowdown on everything you need to know to seek out the city's best kept secrets or before you step into the next tourist trap. Combining wry humor with razor sharp observations, the blog serves to inform and entertain.

Funny Valentine 可笑的情人

Valentine’s Day is, for many, the most dreaded holiday on the calendar. Those who are already spoken for go along with it and pretend to enjoy it. For 24 hours, they act as though their love were as sweet as Godiva chocolates and their lives as rosy as an Agnes B flower bouquet. Singles, on the other hand, are relegated to spending the night alone at home with a tub of Häagen-Dazs in front of the television or meeting up with other singles to commiserate the way the years have slipped through their fingers. No one wants to be a wall flower or shrinking violet.

Valentine’s Day is a quintessential Hallmark holiday. It was conceived, created and blown out of proportion by florists and chocolate makers. Originally dedicated to the Valentine of Rome, a martyred priest in the Middle Ages, the holiday was later removed from the Christian calendar because there wasn’t much to celebrate... _______________________ Read the rest of this essay in No City for Slow Men, available at major bookstore…