30 July 2010

Friday Pub Talks: What is up with all these handbags?

Wesley: Thinking about last Friday's pub talk, I think this food photography fetish is indicative of a broader cultural difference. I need to get a little academic to explain where I'm coming from, so bear with me. There's this political scientist, Ron Inglehart, who wrote a bunch of books all explaining this one fairly simple observation: in the US and Europe, where people have achieved a certain amount of material security, there is this trend toward what Inglehart calls "post-materialism".

Inglehart hypothesized that once people achieve a certain amount of material security, and don't have to worry about starving to death or dying from lack of health care, their values change: they go from materialist to post-materialist. Using survey data from the US and Western Europe, Inglehart shows a trend, starting in the 1950s, where people are less concerned with economic and physical security and put more emphasis on autonomy, self-expression and quality of life.

This question that has been lingering in my mind since I got here. You can see it lurking behind several of my posts like this and that, so I figured it was time to tackle this issue more directly, if only for my own sanity.

Why hasn't HK, which has a level of material security much higher than most places in the US and Europe, transitioned to post-materialist values? Obviously, some Hongkies have post-materialist values, but I'm constantly baffled that this an urban, affluent, cosmopolitan population can't see through the obvious manipulation of European fashionistas and American gadget designers. Why would Hongkies rather have an LV bag (which does nothing to improve their quality of life) than clean air (which would make everyone healthier and happier)?

Henry: Wes, you really got me here. This is more puzzling than the food photo phenomenon. But I see that more people in my generation have woken up and are looking at values beyond materialism. The so called work-life balance is what lots of HK people are going after. Older generations think we're simply lazy, but we started to feel we should say no to 12 hours of slavery everyday. On the other hand, I agree that we are still very vulnerable to consumerism. I may be cheap, but paying 10K+ for a bag when most of the clerks here earn 9K to 11K per month sounds ridiculous to me.

What is your theory Wes? -isms coined by Westerners don't apply to Chinese?

Wesley: It's good to hear that Hongkies are fighting for a more reasonable work-schedule. But still, this obsession with these handbags is really crazy. Like really crazy. In the US and Europe, poor people, or even middle-class people, would never consider wasting their money in this way. And only the worst, most shameless rich people buy this kind of crap would buy this type of crap.

So why this difference? I really don't know. Five years ago, I thought that the obsession with expensive European brand names that I observed in Beijing and Shanghai was a product of China's unprecedented economic growth (the nouveau riche do stupid things with their wealth, like give it back to the Europeans who took it from them in the first place). So I wasn't ready to see 10 times the number of LV bags on the streets of HK than I would see on the streets of NYC. Perhaps because I've read too much political science/sociology nonsense like Inglehart's post-materialism theory, I was expecting HK to be a little more like Europe and a little less like China since HK became rich after WWII just like Western Europe. Like I say, I don't really get it. But that doesn't mean I don't have a few half-baked theories. Here are a few of them:

1.) For whatever reason, advertising seems to be much more effective in HK than in the West these days. Perhaps this has something to do with a difference in orientation to authority?

2.) Perhaps these European bags are just more "exotic" to Hongkies than they are to Americans? When an American has a bag like that, they are advertising the size of their bank account, nothing more. When a Hongkie has a bag like that, maybe they see it as advertising their cultural sophistication in a way that Westerners don't?

Henry: I agree that HK people are easy targets for advertisers. Just look at how unimaginative the ads here are but they still manage to sell! We're sort of educated to bow to authroity and trust anything said on TV and magazines.

But, cultural sophistication...that might not be the case. Using lots of LV bags and stuff could be considered redneck somehow here.

Wesley: Ok, so I'm wrong on that, but that's interesting...maybe I get it now. Is this what my coworkers are talking about when they say somebody looks "MK"?

Henry: Yeah, those young girls who match their LV or Gucci bags with bleach-dyed hair and filthy and tasteless clothes; those will definitely make William's eyebrows raise.

Wesley: Yeah, so I guess this is sorta like poor people in American ghettos wearing lots of gold chains and diamonds. So maybe this really isn't a difference after all....but wait. In the US, it's dudes who wear all the bling. They do it to attract women, which makes some degree of sense. So the difference here seems to be more about gender than anything else. I don't quite understand what women get out of these bags. I can't imagine that they actually attract men. In fact, it should repel any reasonable man.

So maybe post-materialism has reached HK. I was just blinded by the bags. But still this gender reversal seems weird. I think low-income Hongkies are actually much more secure than low-income Americans (much less violence, more access to affordable health care here than in the US). It seems like that might have something to do with it.

I tend to look at human behavior from an evolutionary perspective. When males are faced with a high risk of death at a young age (like men in American ghettos), their sexual strategy changes: they begin to pursue short-term mating solutions (meaning lots of women and low investment in them). In HK, even low-income men may prefer a longer-term strategy, which involves investing in one female, having a low number of children with her, and investing highly in those children (or child). With these bags, could these women be trying to signal that someone has already invested in them (and thus they are worth of more investment)? The curious thing about a handbag, unlike a dress, is that it doesn't actually make the woman look sexy, doesn't show off the goods, if you will. In the States, low-income women signal their fertility by wearing revealing clothes (thus signaling that they are a good choice for the short-term mating opportunities that the dude with the gold chain is looking for). In HK, could they be signaling prior investment by another male? This is still very strange to me. What do you think?

Henry: Bags do show investments on girls, not to males but to other females, I imagine. Let's put it this way, if you're a woman and you don't have a brand handbag with you everyday when you go into an office where all other women do, what does it say about you? Your man is a poor guy. On the other hand, if you're a woman with lots of brand bags, what does it say about you? Either you're a bitch who drains your man dry or you're single and staying with your parents, so you have all the money to spend on brand stuff. If there's a competition, it's one among the women. Men only play the part by paying.

Wesley: Ok, but when men compete with each other, they're ultimately competing for women. So when women compete with each other, I assume they're competing for men. This is making more sense though, so thanks. I really should consult local wisdom more often, rather than ruminating in the eco-chamber of my own brain. Looking at another culture through the lens of your own only takes you so far.

28 July 2010

Yellowish Pearl - what the Book Fair tells us

One of the biggest events of the year, the Book Fair, just ended this Tuesday in this Village. What got reported most were not the electronic readers, neither the popular Chinese blogger Han Han nor any seminars held during the Fair, but how TDC banned all autograph signings of young models, the exhibitors' sales turnover and the growth of the number of visitors.

This Village used to be proud of its openness to any cultures, ideologies, people, etc. TDC, a quasi-govt organisation, banned young models' autograph signings during the Book Fair on the grounds that, first, the Book Fair is open to all Villagers of all ages. Secondly, their photo albums are bad taste and will harm the reading atmosphere. Finally, they claimed that this decision was a response to public comments. I would like to say that it's not for you, TDC, to tell our Villagers if something is bad taste or not. Though there are some comments saying that these models shouldn't be there, there are at the same time comments saying that the Book Fair should be an open platform for any publication and people so that they can choose what they want and exchange views. If TDC is determined in banning the models, they could have done it in a smarter way without getting the blame put on themselves: simply submit those albums to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for classification. With the "good taste" of those adjudicators, the albums would definitely be classified as at least Class II. TDC could then officially ban them from the Book Fair as it allows only Class I publications. Of course, TDC didn't get it. Maybe we shouldn't expect TDC to have the courage and vision to do anything cultural in the first place.

As its name suggested, Hong Kong Trade Development Council care only about how many business they do in terms of figures. Number of visitors, average spending of visitors, etc. Yes, those are most important to them, 920 thousands visitors means 23 millions dollars of income from ticketing. What is more important than money in this Village? Yes, more money. A two percent growth from last year!!! The adult ticket price is now $25 and it's a 25% damn increase since 2007 from $20!!! At the same time, TDC cashes in from the exhibitors' rents. They also manage to increase the rents every year. I still remember there were some small second hand book shops in the Fair 10 years ago, but you see now, super big bookstore chains take all the best positions and occupy a few columns each. Who can do business more aggressively than property tycoons? It's the govt itself, or those quasi-govt organisations that are not responsible to the govt. By the way, readers, three of the biggest bookstore chains in Hong Kong are under the same company. Our choice of reading is more or less in the hands of this company. Just like Maxim's, the local catering giant that sells us all the food we need day and night.

The Pearl now is losing its shine and becoming yellowish because the spectrum of light spotting shifted; it's no longer in a balanced position where all wavelengths of light converge. Think again, who should be blamed on this? The govt? Or the Villagers ourselves?

Switch off your idling engines; kick start your idling brains

On Monday, Edward Yau and a bunch of useful LegCo members toured around the Village to have a taste of the hard lives of our taxi and minibus drivers. This PR stunt was a reaction to the reactions of the professional drivers to the Motor Vehicle Idling (Fixed Penalty) Bill introduced by the government. Drivers claimed that asking them to switch off their engines while waiting for passengers or queuing up for taxi or bus stands can be fatal. A 81-year-old minibus driver possibly suffered from heat stroke and died after he voluntarily switched off the engine while waiting. Another bus driver of a non-air-conditioned bus also fell ill while driving; he was a bit luckier and managed to take his bus back to the terminus before he was taken to the hospital for treatment.

That's why Edward and the legislators were invited to have a taste of the NDE our pro drivers will experience everyday if the Bill got passed. News reports showed video clips or images of Edward sitting inside different public vehicles sweating and listening to the rants of the drivers. He wore a tasteless tie and a shirt with the car windows closed, showing the usual poker face you get from any government officials. Now some of our villagers will think, "Ah...this proposed law is really murderous!"

I don't even want to guess what happened to that poor old minibus driver, but I do remember when I was a young boy, most of the public transports in Hong Kong didn't have air-conditioner. As far as I remember, nobody dies from driving or riding on public transport except there's a car crash. I still remember there're little fans installed at the driver's seats and the passengers would bring their own little fans on-board if needed. Villagers managed to survive and so did I.

I also like to think nobody would ever stay in a car with windows rolled up and let the heat kills them. I thought the drivers were trying to murder Edward Yau and the legislators by forcing them to do that on Monday. And if you've ever tried once waiting for a bus in a terminus, you can tell that bus drivers for years have been switching off the engines at termini and let the poor passengers stand and wait, no matter if it's hot or cold, raining or thundering. Drivers get on the bus right before it's time to go, switch on the engine, passengers rush on-board, then the bus gets going. Nobody dies. Of course, Edward and those LegCo members probably know nothing about these ordinary lives of millions of villagers, or else they can easily ignore the taxi and minibus drivers and refuse to fool around with their stunt. And for fuck's sake, my Honourable legislators, nobody will ever stay in the upper deck of a bus without operable windows under sunshine even for 20 seconds. What we normal people do in this village everyday would be trying to get the fuck out of the bus as soon as possible once it reaches the terminus. You're only killing yourself doing that, idiots!

After all, it's the people working on the streets who will gain the immediate benefit if this bill gets passed. If everybody switches off their idle engines, there will be some, if not a lot, improvement of the roadside air quality. There will be far less heat released from the engines running for nothing, so everybody from the shopkeepers working close to taxi ranks to the drivers and workers in those minibus stops can work in a much cooler environment. Another bonus would be seeing those tycoons sweating in their 50-thousands dollars suits when they get on their Rolls Royces because their chauffeurs will have to switch off the engine while waiting!

Think again, white-collars like Edward Yau and basement dwellers like me should probably forget about the bill and let those on the streets fucking die a slow death if they so desired.

Maybe Edward Yau should talk to the triads that control 90% of the local minibus operations instead of fooling around with those drivers who think they will lock themselves to die under heat. I think the triads can be slightly more intelligent than that.

27 July 2010

Loyalty? What's that?

Earlier this year, a few colleagues recommended the movie Hachi to me, the 'tear-jerking' movie about a Japanese dog who waited at the train station every day for 9+ straight years for his (dead) owner to return.

Everyone who watched it had apparently cried their eyes out, while I only managed to squeeze out half a tear (if that). Call me cold-hearted, but I just didn't see the point in Hachi waiting around his whole life for nothing when he really should've just moved on and tried to enjoy himself, dammit!

I was especially surprised to hear everyone gushing about Hachi's incredible sense of loyalty, since I would have never guessed that it was a value that Hong Kong people held dear to their hearts. I mean, Hong Kong is a city of cheaters, in every sense of the word!

We already know that many (if not most) Hong Kong men keep mistresses in China, boarding the so-called 'Concubine Express' every Friday to spend some time with their second wives across the border.

But besides cheating hubbies, there are also a lot of cheating customers out there as well! Just think - how common is it for someone to stick to a particular restaurant, product or service in HK out of pure loyalty?

Even if they were so-called 'loyal' customers, it's probably only because they like the food, the product works and/or the service is cheap! But, what happens when something tastier, better and/or cheaper comes along? That 'loyalty' disappears faster than an approaching typhoon on a weekday.

Why is this, you ask? Just walk down any street and you'll see, if you survive the mob of middle-aged ladies threatening to paper cut you with their assortment of promotional flyers. With the intense competition in HK, restaurants, salons and shops need a way to lure you in, which they usually do with fantastic offers aimed at first-time customers.

Nail salons, for instance, usually offer manicures and pedicures at nearly 50% off regular prices exclusively for first-time customers, and most beauty salons do the same with facials. So, what incentive IS there to sign up as a regular customer only to start paying full member prices? If you ask me, I'd much rather try out a different salon each time for variety AND to save some money too.

So, let's be honest, Hong Kong. You're just not a place for any kind of loyalty. There are just way too many products, restaurants, services and people to try out, which is why there will probably never be a Hachi in Hong Kong (except for the ones coming out of your nose! Haha, lameness intended...)

Read all the fun stuff at Miss Fong in Hong Kong.

26 July 2010

On Streets

Think of the connecting bridges that ferry our consumerist souls across Central. Rather than enduring the intense sunlight, these bridges suggest that we can take an alternative route in order to steer ourselves away from the crowd and traffic lights. We may embark on our journey from Landmark where it allows us to see a more enchanted world through the shop windows of Paul Smith, Marni, Dries Van Noten, and the likes, wandering towards Alexander House where we betray none of the rituals and sacrifice our credit cards to Dolce & Gabbana, then taking a stroll to the Prince Building, hovering a variety of products, among them expensive mattresses, incense sticks, and Nigella Lawson's kitchenwares, through the hallway surrounded by Giorgio Armani's, passing by The Exchange Square, and finally settling for a film at IFC Palace. How one might easily be seduced to be the victim of consumerism through the human invention of what we call the air-conditioning.

Between the intervals of these bridges, there lies a modern invention called mall, an architecture endowed with a form of utilitarian beauty that conspires to offer all the possible solutions to the human conditions. Though malls may be able to satisfy all our material needs, why are we carpeting the landscape of Hong Kong with works of architecture that only allow us to perform the necessary shopping rituals?

If we are prone to shopping in malls, it is perhaps because we have been inspired by an American sentiment that suggests we could fix our somewhat deeply flawed lifestyles in a compressed environment through consumerism. Our obsession with malls hence reveals our distaste for streets and favours a succession of identical shops rather than fashionable boutiques. It ceases to give birth to what is special and unique and limits our physiological behaviour within a narrow range of already known items, thus once we examine the shops in Tsim Sha Tsui, it might be deemed unnecessary to venture into Causeway Bay.

Streets, on the contrary, tend to surprise us, rather than asking us to circle each floor and encounter the same sets of escalators in the same manner, the main street will deviate itself away and send off many other possible streets that take their own ways. They never cease to surprise us of what is around the next corner or what may be unfolding after our next left turn, as opposed to the predictable nature of malls. Moreover, though with the same type of rubbish bins that devour our used bottles and cans and the same design of traffic lights residing rigidly in the corners, streets could colour the area which makes no allowance for shops, which are identical to those in the malls, but rather, boutiques, which indicate style, that are designated to suit this particular area only, as part of the landscape, instead of being independent of it.

It is, perhaps, easier to draw wisdom from the metaphorical war between nature and technology. Though the modern era seems to have proved that technology has triumphed and that technology and nature are inherently incompatible, but through all works of design, we seem to discover ways to reconcile both, a balance between free will and tyranny, love and civilisation. To extend the analogy, the difference between malls and streets could easily be seen as the difference between what is inside and what is outside. While malls disconnect us from the outer world, namely, the reality, streets seek to reconcile utopianism with realism. Streets may act as a medium, rather than strictly confining us to the utopia where perfect figures are modelling the summer collection, they draw us back to the reality in the midst of delusion that may fool us into thinking that we could carry the clothes as perfect as the models. They create the discrepancy of entering and walking out, allowing us to invest our hope in what is perfect, yet stopping us from losing sight of what is real.

The American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once in his essay "The Poet" introduces us to a succession of alternative forms of beauty, that is, the beauty of warehouses, railways, and factories. The American artist Edward Hopper also portrays a succession of paintings about cafe, gas stations, trains, and cars. Rather than laying down their judgements of beauty and ugliness according to a traditionally superficial aesthetic logic, they have redefined what is beautiful, ascribing a more "just" and "accurate" aesthetic value to what is common.

I wish to imagine one day which we could appreciate paintings and poems that could portray the same spirit as those made by Emerson and Hopper. We need art that could function for our times, that it could remind us of the gravity of streets, that how the rampant creations of malls may soullessly destroy our love of novelty and steer us away from the real world. We need art that could remind us that our ancestors had once caressed the nature and how malls will shut us out from the reality and damage the value that should be preserved within the human hive.


23 July 2010

Friday Pub talk: photos and food

Wesley: I know this is a cliche, why do Chinese people take so many pictures when they go out to restaurants?

Henry: It could be cynical to say so, but I think food has become something to brag about for Hongkies nowadays. Since there's Openrice, everybody has started to feel that they should never be late for the "top food". They all flock to the top restaurants on the website and feel good about just being there. And the proof? Photos of course!

Thanks to Openrice, we now came to the point where we consult the site before going into any restaurant. And you can always end up getting into the worst part of the vicious circle; lots of those restaurants simply cannot handle the flock and become really bad very quickly.

Back to the photo thing. A friend once joked that he had been kind of worried that he would puke all over his Macbook for seeing all those food photos in Facebook. At first, I'd like to blame digital photography like everybody else. Film and developing costs are simply non-existent now, so people don't have to think before shooting. But then shooting 200+ photos over a dinner is a bit bizarre...it's an average 1.6 photos every minute for a 2-hour meal. I wonder if they eat at all.

Wesley: I don't think internet food ratings and digital cameras explain this Eastern food photography fetish. After all, we have the internet and digital cameras in the West as well, but we prefer enjoying a meal to documenting it. But I agree that it does seem to be about status on some level. On Lamma, I notice that people don't take pictures of their food at the Chinese restaurants, but take thousands of pictures at any restaurant that has non-Asian food on the menu.

Henry: So we can safely assume it's more about showing off?

Wesley: Yeah, I guess I was hoping for something deeper than that...there does seem to be something highly visual, rather than verbal about the culture here. In the States, people will talk about their restaurant experience the next day, and “show off” that way, but it would be considered too pretentious to take photos at a fancy restaurant, plus you ruin everyone else’s dining experience. It’s just so weird how everything needs to be documented with photographic evidence.

Henry: Talking about eating, Wes, have you had your first chicken foot eaten? If not, I am going to make you eat your first when we have our dim sum lunch. What's the difference between that and the chicken breast anyway?

Wesley: I haven't eaten any feet yet, chicken or otherwise. That's really the one thing I can't bring myself to put in my mouth. What's the difference between feet and breast? Well....let's just say I'd rather put breast in my mouth any day. I guess it's about time I tried it though, let's just hope I don't develop a foot fetish in the process. What's the difference between feet and feathers? Feet and beak?

Henry: Come on, Wes. On the chicken feet, there's at least something we can chew off and digest, namely the skin. We can't possibly chew on feathers and beak. Let alone digesting them. But honestly, I know a lot of locals who can't eat chicken feet as well, and of course other feet. Many of us can handle feet, but some of us certainly can't. And we grow and learn and stop eating certain things. I must have fed many times when I was young and ignorant soft-shell turtles and frogs; but no, I cannot eat them anymore...not a slim chance.

But the question remains, what's wrong with chicken feet? I thought if you can eat something, you should be able to eat all parts of that thing digestible...

Wesley: Even though my appetite disagrees with you, my brain doesn't. This Village can be incredibly wasteful at times, but if you're gonna eat animals, it's definitely most efficient to eat all parts of it that are digestible. This is one area where Westerners, and particularly Americans, are particularly wasteful (just don’t get me started on shark fins). So let's eat some feet. You're buying, right?

(For the record, when Wesley and Henry met for dim sum, Wesley did not try chicken feet, but only because Henry chose not to order them.)

22 July 2010

Do skinny Hongkies need nutrition labels?

Recently, one retarded government ad has amused me a lot. It’s about the introduction of nutrition information labels on pre-packaged foods starting from 1 July 2010.

In this television ad, seven children and a young girl are dressed in white tight polyester jumpsuits. Each child represents a type of nutrients to be included in food labels and the young lady represents “energy”. The lot keeps jumping and cheering around the corners of a supermarket and triggers my body’s defensive mechanism as they resemble sperm cells.

According to the advertisement, the introduction of nutrition labels is to enable us to compare nutrient contents in food and make healthier food choices, so that we won’t get obese, heart attacks and cancer.

The idea of nutrition labels always sounds Western to me. My first encounter with it was from a pack of Hershey’s chocolate chips. The label says it contains nuts as if it was a big deal. Then I saw nutritional claims like “wheat-free”, “gluten-free” and “dairy-free” on Western foods, which I bought after reading Nigella Lawson’s cookbook and attempted to cook to get laid (which I failed like most readers, I mean, the cooking part).

Thing is, in our culture, people don’t care that much about food allergy or the food pyramid. When our stomach feels funny after eating, we simply solve the problem by excusing ourselves to the bathroom. And maybe because we are born with the skinny gene and eat rice instead of chips, we seldom consciously calculate our calorie intake. In fact, before implementing the scheme, the government only took reference from the experiences of the US, Canada and Australia, where my chubbiest girlfriend would be the skinniest among the locals there. It failed to take our dining habit into account.

Besides, who actually buy food for their high protein or low trans-fat contents, as the food labels claim? We buy food because we love it, just like we love a person despite the fact that he gives us stomachaches and heart attacks. We only care about sodium intake or cholesterol when we are almost dead. Whether we will die of heart attacks or cancer is mostly determined by genes anyway.

And maybe because we are part of Big China, we have the habit of not trusting anything by its descriptions, from the cute bag that claims to be Chanel on taobao.com to the law book that claims to give us universal suffrage. Even if the pre-packaged food is staying true to its words, it never stops giving us surprises, like a few tiny drops of mercury in a can of pork.

So once more, our Village leader, thank you very much for wasting money on something we don’t need.

21 July 2010

Minimum wage?

Before the LegCo summer recess, a controversial bill of minimum wage had passed last week. The Economist also reported this with a title "End of an experiment", an experiment as Milton Friedman once described "the world’s greatest experiment in laissez-faire capitalism." But obviously, laissez-faire capitalism is not helping our people in this twisted small economy, or simply this Village is no longer a true laissez-faire capitalism economy.

This law intends to protect workers from being enslaved by working 12hrs or more a day, 7 days a week (yes, labours are supposed to have 1 day off after 7 days work by law, but still they are working non-stop for a month) earning just $3000-$4000 a month. Such low salary may be unbelieveable, ask any street cleaner you come across or security guard at your building, they will tell you the truth.

However, can minimum wage alone improve their living? I do agree on protecting anyone's basic living, this is the right everyone has. Is minimum wage the straightforward solution to end proverty? NO WAY! First of all, those receiving low salary are unskilled, old, and with low mobility. They simply have NO bargaining power against the employers and fewer alternatives, as Hong Kong is a one-dimenional economy dominated by property tycoons and the financial industry. Secondly, the wage level is essential. If it's too high, employers may go for more capable and productive workers and the existing workers may lose their jobs. If it's too low, it defeats the purpose of protecting basic income. Thirdly, any legislation process always lags behind the situation, the wage level will always be either too high or too low.

I am not against the idea of social protection to the low income people or the less capable. The problem here in the Village now is that the economy is so twisted, small medium enterprises (SMEs) have very difficult time doing their businesses due to high rent (high land and property price). Big enterprises control most of the supply chains and they have all the say on goods price setting. Can you imagine the profit of selling an estate (a few blocks) can be higher than the annual profit of a major airline? The margin can be as high as 50%. As I said previously, tycoons come here to slaughter the goose that laid golden eggs and leave us with some goose shits; or like a swarm of locusts, they come, eat and leave.

Hope the Village's government can do more on improving our villagers' living; social protection is one thing, there are many more here who do not necessary fall into the protection nest but are still suffering from the tycoons' torture. Like yours truly and my fellas in the Pub.

20 July 2010

Smiles for Gay

Nowadays, you get something worth reading in SCMP only once in a blue moon, and I seem to have luck yesterday. This report about the Facebook project "Smiles for Gay" by the Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association certainly made my day.

The project is a simple but forceful activity where every heterosexual can participate easily. Simply take a photo of yourself holding a message of support and acceptance to the LGBT community and upload it to the project's Facebook page. Tell the whole Village that there're heterosexuals who can respect choices different to their own in sexuality.

It's difficult for the homosexuals to come out about their sexuality. What makes this project valuable, I think, is the fact that it's even harder for the straights to stand up for the rights of the gays. Most of the straights, even if not being homophobic, would think that it's solely the gays' business. However, in reality, acceptance always starts from the other side. If the heterosexuals carry on refraining from confirming their acceptance to the alternative choices in sexuality, homosexuality would forever remain an alleged fetishism that nobody can understand.

This project is not just another fucktard Facebook page like "I believe I can find 100,000 people who hate the Libertines Pub" or "Unfriend Henry C. for the f-words he used". It matters and it calls for someone with courage to support and participate. I know our readers are no idiots in these matters, so here's the deal. We're giving you some incentives on doing something thousands times more meaningful than harvesting your Farmville. The first three of you who accomplish the following get a Free Beer each at the next Libertines Pub contributors' gathering:

  1. Successfully upload a smiling photo with a message of support and acceptance to the LGBT community at this Facebook page;
  2. Email the Facebook link/name to the said photo to editor at libertines.hk;
  3. Comment on this post to indicate that you have done steps 1 and 2.

Make sure you can tell the difference between a "smile" and a "smirk". For any dispute, our own Ms Cherryboom will be the final judge on your face, so make sure you know well about her taste.

Smile, say yes to gay and get a free beer!

19 July 2010

On Travel

This particular time of the season, though accompanied by a severely hot weather, often draws many of us away from what is familiar and invites us to harbour a wish to get a decent massage in Bangkok, give a boost to the Japanese economy during Tokyo's sale season, or ease ourselves in a Hokkaido's hot spring. Though we frequently venture to explore on a different continent once in a while, few of us bear in our minds the notion of travel once we get off the plane, let alone the questions why and how we travel.

If we are kept ignorant of the art of travel, it is perhaps because we are often in muddle of the distinction between travel and tourism. Tourism invites us to set foot on a place where our actions are often governed by guidebooks and leaflets offered by the hotel which suggests that there are churches, museums, shopping malls, statues, and the likes that are in need of our company, conspiring to give weight to our vacuous schedule. While museums and churches might fulfil our spiritual needs, the very essence of tourism also seduces us to lend a fair portion of the schedule to the sacred shopping rituals. It seeks to remind us that our homes are the anchors of identity and products that are remote from our homes can fix us to a version of ourselves we want to side with. It urges us to take pride on our current identities. It refuses to evaluate the fundamental values that are in ourselves, so that we can acclaim with confidence that our very selves rest on a good foundation, that they can be perfected merely through material possession.

Travel, on the contrary, disobeys the guidance of what we should be curious about in guidebooks. Rather than submitting our geographical interests to what tourists should like, travel suggests we should rank the city's offerings according to a subjective hierarchy of interest. Though the Tokugawa Castle in Kyoto should be the highlight of our trip, a neighbourhood restaurant or even an ordinary backstreet might trigger our curiosity far greater than a well-known aesthetically constructed architecture. Though we are expected to appreciate the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the absence of our necessary receptivity to such architecture prompts us to admire a violinist who plays Beethoven's on the street instead.

If a neighbourhood restaurant proves to be more fascinating than a work of architecture, it is because one can venture alone into the very root of the city's culture at its fullest rather than a place where it is easily spoiled under the threats of massive tourists. It takes away what is habitual from us and encourages us through the changes around us, forcing us to form a new vision to look within ourselves. Because only through something that is completely foreign to us, we start to generate new assumptions that allow us to appreciate things in a different and a possibly more honest perspective.

Though travel is distinctly different from tourism, there lies a common ground for both activities- that we long to change ourselves. We get fed up with the monotonous routine of our everyday life and frustrated at the heaviness of inhibiting the same bodies again and again. Behind the same mortal bodies that bear our different torment souls, we tend to harbour a confused faith that there is yet another part of us that remains undiscovered, that our going away from home might summon the long-forgotten selves within us.

However similar the motive behind travel and tourism, while tourism rests on an optimistic attitude towards our practising lifestyle, travel favours pessimism, inviting us to change our ourselves in a more fundamental way. It strives to challenge the very essence of identity, the notion of "i". It confronts us with a complete opposite scenario which the values we inherently uphold might be fallacious, that these values that precisely identify the "i" have surrendered to a fundamentalist logic which ought to be corrected. It suggests that we should forget ourselves once we get on the plane. We need to unburden ourselves before we can fully enjoy the food offered by a neighbourhood restaurant and appreciate a beautiful work of nature because we are no longer critically dependent on the previously known assumptions about ourselves.

Unfortunately, many people of Hong Kong have clung obsessively to tourism rather than travel. They are unable to forget the virtue of haste, therefore make their vacations as strenuous as work and end up as exhausted as they have been at work the whole day. If life is defined by a succession of lightness and weight, why can't we say the same for travel? Only we get on the plane with a sense of lightness, we can come back full of weight.


16 July 2010

iPad! The cure to our environmental problems!

During the LegCo Q&A session on Tuesday, our honourable mayor of Village Donald Tsang was seen using an iPad on the podium. Although he should have been one of the busiest men in this Village, Donald was too excited about his coolness that he updated his blog only two days after. He told us, first, the iPad was bought on his own cost. No worries, it's not the public money. Secondly, he was not trying to act cool. He said he used the iPad to store his speech, all the meeting papers and data related to the meeting, so that he wouldn't need to print them all out in paper. He is doing his part, by means of an iPad, to save our environment.

He further explained that there's been a "technological revolution" within his cabinet. Since November last year (yes, 2009, 16 bloody years after the invention of the PDF format), they started scanning all the papers and news cuttings into PDF files instead of tabling them all in hard copies. You may wonder how they managed to be that late when most of us have been using the PDF format for ages. Donald explained, because finding the right scanning machine is soooo difficult. People in the government's Information Services Department spent lots of time and Herculean effort in sourcing a scanner that will scan the news cuttings into perfectly readable e-copies. So I imagine what happened was like this: after rounds and rounds and rounds and rounds of feasibility studies, policy proposal drafting, implementation planning, sourcing strategy review, price comparison, field testing, users feedback study, retrospective strategic critical structural systematic analytical review, our efficient civil servants finally came up with a scanner that will scan and a stunt involving Donald bringing an iPad to the LegCo chamber. And Hong Kong is greener now.

Thank you Donald and your team! After reading your blog post, I feel so refreshing and think I breathe in much cleaner air this morning! Should we announce the conclusion of the Environment Bureau and the lay-off of the nature loving Edward Yau now? Let's check what we have achieved so far.

Since the introduction of Action Blue Sky in July 2006, blue sky has been long forgotten and giving way to other more important initiatives like high speed rail and electoral reforms. The 25.5 degrees Celsius air-con standard became a joke and we still got freezer buses and overheated MTR compartments. EPD keeps writing letters after letters to SCMP explaining to those clueless gweilos that they're actually doing something and shifting the blame to the factories in the Motherland, when different studies have shown that a significant amount of pollutants is local. Euro II and III buses are still around our Village, but KMB bought FOUR Euro V buses this year, among the 3,906 buses they are using. I'm not even sure if we're doing any better than developing economies like India in terms of emission standards. The government is still "exploring the chance of having electric car charging stations for public use" after years of mere hope of introducing electric vehicles in Hong Kong. All in all, when the EPD claimed that most of their targets were achieved and some even exceeded, we should stop complaining and instead feel that Hong Kong has cleaner air and a greener environment.

Donald, please carry a freshly brewed cup of Starbucks with you next time. Together with your iPad, you will become a complete douchebag, both in look and at heart.

15 July 2010

Who's more superficial?

As a non-local girl in Hong Kong, I'm constantly shocked by the types of gifts that my local friends receive from their boyfriends/husbands. "He bought you WHAT?!" I'd say with wide eyes as they listed out their latest gifts (e.g. iPhone, netbook, a weekend trip to Thailand, pedigree puppy, etc.) "Meh," they'd reply nonchalantly. "It's nothing, really..." Really? I'd be ECSTATIC if anyone ever bought me such extravagant gifts!

Digging a little deeper, I also found out that in local-local relationships, it's always the guy who pays for meals, hence the term "long-term rice ticket" (長期飯票). What this means is, once this wealthy guy (aka. "ticket") is found, the girl never has to pay for a meal ever again in her life!

So far, it doesn't sound like such a bad deal, right? A guy who pays for all your meals AND spoils you with expensive gifts every now and then? Not bad, not bad. Some girls even go so far as to say that, since there's a 50% chance the relationship won't work out, why not get some freebies while you're at it to at least make it worth your time.

Superficial? Perhaps. Practical? Quite! I mean, why work so hard to buy something when you can get someone else to buy it for you? I'm sure guys would do it too if they could (here's how). But, before we all run out to nab ourselves a local guy, we'd better swing by Wellcome first to buy some paper bags (sorry, guys!).

Unfortunately, Hong Kong men are not known for being 'HOT', which is why we tend to see beauuuutiful girls with men who are old, fragile, geeky, fat or simply skeletal, with bad hygiene, gross teeth, pot bellies, balding combover, etc. Sure, they may have money, but they are definitely lacking in the looks department.

What I wonder is, don't these girls care how their man looks? Or is it just me who thinks that looks matter? Call me superficial, but I'm more attracted by how a guy looks than what's in his bank account. And fellow ladies out there, I urge you to join me in being just as superficial when it comes to looks.

Why do you think some men can get away with being so fugly, yet still be able to bang a model, whereas a fugly girl can't get none? Why do we have to spend hours at the gym and beauty salons making ourselves trim and pretty, while they sit at home on the couch eating chips and growing their big beer bellies?! It's cuz we let them!

The stricter we are about dating only good-looking guys, the harder men will try to make themselves look good for us. Maybe THEN they'll be the ones slaving away at gyms, joining slimming salons and getting waxed (yooow!!). Don't let them take the easy route of using money to buy you out. Together we can make Hong Kong men become more attractive!

Read also the fun stuff at Miss Fong in Hong Kong.

14 July 2010

What our parents really care about education in the Village

In the last decade, there have been a few major changes in this Village's education system, e.g. the Medium of Instruction, the new Academic Structure reform. My impression, however, is that parents care more about what language the school use for teaching rather than the reform of academic structure and curriculum.

It's not quite an issue for most of the countries to choose what language should they use in schools. In the old days, we used to use Cantonese with English textbooks. Now, some schools promote themselves for teaching Chinese subjects in Putonghua and others in English. The hardship these schools face upon recruiting students is quite a strange phenomenon in a place where over 90% of population speak Chinese as their mother tongue. The cause of this phenomenon is that parents prefer "English Schools" (to be an English School, it's required by the Education Bureau to use English as medium in all subjects except Chinese); they believed that a good command of English is the key to their children's success. They work around sending their children to an English School by any means, including buying address in the district and renting a flat in the district for a few months.

But they don't care much about the more important and more profound changes in Academic Structure reform and curriculum reform. The milestone of the reforms in this year is that we'll have the last batch of Form 5 students taking the HKCEE and a new public exam HKDSE will be introduced in 2012. Secondary and tertiary education will become 3+3+4 (3 years each in junior and senior secondary, 4 years university) instead of 5+2+3 (5 year secondary, 2 years matriculate and 3 year university). At the same time, a new subject called Liberal Studies was introduced. I can assure you less than 50% of parents know what that is, not to say the syllabus. But it's a compulsory subject like Chinese, English and Mathematics.

It's not uncommon for Villagers to have their priority wrong; it's like taking a bus not knowing their route but just caring about whether the seats are comfortable.

13 July 2010

Yes, I'm a whore. So…?

Last week a famous Hong Kong actor openly criticised those hot teen models as disgusting. He even went this far to call them whores.

Judging from the actor’s bad-boy image and his history of being outspoken, I don’t find this news particularly surprising. What actually amused me was the models’ feedback. They were upset and denied that they were whores. They claimed what they had been doing was just having some photographs taken and that's not immoral at all.

Thing is, what’s the big deal about being called a whore? If I were them, I would take it with self-respect because:
  1. Being called a whore means I got paid for hard skilled work.
  2. It means I’m pleasing people and people find me pleasing.
  3. It means I’m someone who actually lives in the real world, not like those basement dwellers who keep whining about how unfair the world is and how universal suffrage can solve their problems, from housing to finding a date.

At least for me, being a whore is more respectable than those “empowered” chicks who hang around in some “trendy” membership clubs, thinking they worth a billion dollars from bankers, but end up giving them sex for free. Whores are at least more realistic than those wannabes, who invest for the future by sleeping with a random guy who claim himself to be a photographer/director/Feng Shui master. Whores make business travellers’ lives easier. Authentic Kong-gals simply can’t pick up the hints when these lonely roamers mention the time of their flight and the hotel they are staying.

And by the way, I’m also an attention-seeking whore, a photo whore, a chat whore, a Facebook whore, a blog whore and an office whore (um, I mean, I sold my body to the office from 9am to 6pm, Mondays to Sundays but my soul is barely there). In the broader sense of the word, everyone is a ho in some way.

That’s why I begin to adore Crystal Chow Ching, who earlier admitted she had worked for a nightclub as a “dance girl” (which, in Cantonese, hints at a young girl selling sex with or without intercourse), though I think she’s plain at the beginning despite Henry’s favour. She stays cool with her confession as she regards her work history as neutral as yours and mine. A chick with attitude.

As a final note, let me quote my favourite author of the 50s, Eileen Chang, here: “Marriage is just long-term whoring.” So ladies, stop worrying.

12 July 2010

On Wearing Less

If teen models are denied entry to the book fair, it is perhaps because the notion of wearing less centres on a peculiar moral landscape that differs from the one the majority uphold, hence rendering the book fair a bit more "cultural". Behind such condemnation, there lies a tension between nudity and modesty, a boundary which teen models have endeavoured to obscure. However distinct the boundary between nudity and modesty, the majority have risked inspiring an unfair neglect of the inevitable connection between nudity and fashion and a misguided enthusiasm for coverings. Is wearing bikinis or lingerie more morally offensive than a virtuous McQueen's dress?

While many consider bikinis offending garments, women are also denied the liberty to admire their own physical candour. Rather than allowing them to take pleasure in their physical forms, a naked body should not be conceived as something to unnecessarily parade in public areas or in front of the media as if showing oneself naked is to reveal an area of potential shame. The body must therefore be viewed in a self-hating mood that suggests a state of vulnerability where one is stripped of defences and susceptible to exposing one's weakness, thus rendering the most unfavourable judgement on oneself.

If there is a long-standing tension between modesty and nudity, it is because the notions of covering and revealing are often examined in a paradoxical light. Contemplating the history of fashion, it is not uncommon to recognise a tendency to both reveal and shield our body. Particularly in women's fashion, it strives to maintain its aesthetic side on partly uncovering the body. The modern pioneer of wearing less was perhaps Rita Lygid who was the first one who wore a dress that was bare at the back to the waist in public. As the feminist movement was gaining its gravity in the 70s, the sizes of female clothes shrunk accordingly. We are living in a previously unknown skinnier era where women wish to bring out their feminine side by means of diet. Small wonder why stripteasing is always appealing.

If bikinis and lingeries and the likes are included in the realm of fashion, then perhaps they are often worn to bring out the virtues latent within women: the masculine side, the feminine side, women emancipation etc. They might as well suggest values that women uphold, the kinds of values that they wish to express privately in public. It is a material articulation of who they are or what they want to become. Instead of considering part nudity in an erotic light, it is a manifestation of the "i-confirmation", carrying with them an assurance of their own identities. They are not afraid to reveal their more intimate selves and reluctant to cover up all the weaknesses we ascribe to the species of what we call human, hence fearlessly collapse a private life into its public dimension. Aside from this process of self-actualisation, there also lies the courage for not being laughed and afraid of their bodies being used as physical evidence against them.

The evolution of fashion suggests there is no proper distinction between nudity and modesty today. What is modest in women's fashion constantly involves with the active participation of nudity. It once again invites us to consider the paradox of seduction and intimacy. Bikinis, like other forms of fashion, aim at uncovering the best of women yet retaining a distinctly confusing part of them to be uncovered only by their most intimate partners. They wander at the interval between seduction and intimacy that harbours what is most attractive within a person.

The teen models are not as morally offensive as the majority suggest. Rather than challenging the views of most women's rights organisations, they actually embrace them. Bikinis offer substantial female confidence. They are the epitome of the greatest female achievements. Teen models are feminists in the deepest sense of the term.


09 July 2010

X from the Future

This guest post by Fila will be about WWFETS. And this will either send shiver down your spine while you're watching the game on coming early Monday, or will give you a good laugh. Free WWFETS apéritif from the Libertines Pub, baby!

While you think Paul the Octopus is freaking great by successfully predicted Germany losing the WWFETS semi-final game vs Spain on Wednesday, an obscure guy from a well-known Chinese forum Baidu predicted on 13 June 2010 - Yes, one month ago! - the result of World Cup final would be Netherlands 2:1 Spain.

This guy called him/herself "X from the Future". As he/she knew no one will take the prediction serious, X decided to give more details of the game:

Wesley Sneijder will score one. The other one is not that famous.", said "X from the Future", "I will be back a month later and hope you will believe in me by then."

Hm~~~ looks like a stupid lucky guess?! Huh?! I read this at noon yesterday and checked the odds at Hong Kong Jockey Club, Netherlands 2:1 Spain is x13. An hour later, the odds dropped to x10. Am I not the only one taking that serious? Ha!

If you search "X from the Future" in Baidu, you will find another topic posted on 19 June 2010, "It would get very busy in the second half of the year. Be prepared." What the hell? Who is going to be busy? What is going to be busy? How is it going to be busy? Nothing follows afterwards. I don't wanna make any guess on that. But I am sure that "X from the Future" will be very busy if his/her prediction on World Cup final result comes true.

Why don't we place a bet on the Netherlands? Let's see what will happen on Monday. If we win, should we then start to worry? Huh~

Bonus food for thought: If this is no bulls, why Chinese would be the first to come back from the Future? Would this technology be first invented by our Great Motherland?

Read Fila's original blog post in Chinese here.

08 July 2010

Anglo-American Relations (in HK)

The English are furious with the Americans over this British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the last few months, I've had several conversations with our former colonial overlords, and they're pissed off. They're furious with Obama for refferring to their beloved state oil company as British Petroleum (rather than using their greenwashed acronym that apparently stands for nothing, BP). They're furious at Obama for "forcing" British Petroleum to pay into this $20 billion fund to compensate victims of the tragedy, and "forcing" British Petroleum to cut dividends, thereby endangering their precious pensions that are heavily invested in British Petroleum stock.

There are two facts that the former owners of the planet always bring up in these discussions: British Petroleum has more American shareholders than British shareholders, and American companies have been known to cause environmental destruction in other countries (I've yet to have a conversation with an English person who doesn't bring up Bhopal when this topic comes up). Let's examine this insights in light of the current state of events.

It's not surprising that the US has slightly more British Petroleum shareholders than the UK, since we do have 5 times their population, and a higher per capita income. But how relevant is this fact? When corporations fail, the shareholders lose, but the executives always escape with their golden parachutes. And British Petroleum's top executives are British. So feel free to include the American shareholders among the victims of this spill, though I have less sympathy for them than I do for the other victims, human and non-human. So the victims are mostly American, and those who will profit from this no matter how much damage they cause are all British in this case. What exactly is the point again?

Next, Bhopal. Bhopal was a horrible tragedy, and I would not be angry at all if an Indian were to tell me that the US owes India compensation for the damage caused. We do. But if I were talking to an Indian in the immediate aftermath of the Bhopal tragedy, I would not be looking into Indian history for an example of an Indian corporation that caused damage in another country, so that I could throw it in their face in the midst of their grief. That seems mind-bogglingly empathetic. Clearly, one defense mechanism when you know your country has harmed another country is blaming the victims. That's human nature, to a certain extent. But that doesn't make it right.

So I hear about Bhopal a lot these days. What I don't hear is "I'm sorry." This is the worst environmental catastrophe in US history. I'm often reduced to tears when watching the news of the oil leak. In terms of the damage, this is way worse than 9/11. After 9/11, Americans were greeted with sympathy and kindness all over the world. I have experienced plenty of empathy, just not from any English people. From the English, it's been all anger, and finger-pointing. It's really hard not to get angry in return, and I have. But I need to remember that, even though I have yet to come across one, there are English people who don't instinctively blame the victims, who have sympathy. My sample size is small, and it's skewed. So to those English people (I know you're out there), I'd just like to say this: go easy on US, we used to have three coasts and now we only have two. It's sort of a big deal. This damage is permanent, for all practical purposes, since it will never be cleaned up within the lifetime of anyone alive today. Try to understand and empathize rather than lash out when we appear angry over this. Think about how you would feel if Exxon had just destroyed the entire North Sea.

For your viewing pleasure,

07 July 2010

Save me! I'm addicted

One of the great, no I meant the MOST GREATEST thing about living in H.K during the WWFETS is the fact that they don't show em matches on free T.V until the semi-finals. So as my dear Cousin Bill pointed out in his Face Book rant, If you are a football follower that wishes to see the matches before the semis. You can either:

1) Sign up for a YEAR long plan with our nice cable company. Which apart from football, has absolutely nothing worth watching.

2) Try to find a table in a pub/bar/karaoke/Sauna, while paying thought your asshole for over
priced drinks.

3) Go stand with the crowd in a Shopping mall, and if you spent over certain amount of money, they might let you have a seat.

4) Hang out in the greatest charity organizer in HK, The Hong Kong Jockey Club (u see, they rob the poor, and then they...er..gives to the poor? I'm confused..)

5) Watch it online (Illegally)

As your truly is a cheap ass basement dweller, there really is only one way for me to see the WWFETS, and that's online. While the quality is not as good as standing with a noisy crowd
with the T.V some 500 meters away from me, it does give me my international football fix.
Another great thing about watching football online is I can always choose the channel to watch
from. One of my favorite channel to pirate off from is the ESPN. Not only to hear completely off the mark commentary from Ian Darke (sir, u are awful), but to also look at the amount of wacky
adverts ESPN throw at their audiences. (Shamwow anyone?)

You following me camera guy? See what I'm telling ya? Priceless.

So anyway, one night, during one of the England matches, while I was drinking heavily in order to trick myself in thinking they're good, this advert pops up and catches my eyes.

Hell yeah I am addicted! (Was my drunken reaction) To many things! and for 18.99 (Curiously it's even cheaper than Shamwow!) I can cure them all!

Hey HKGOV, enlist this book to all school kids! You don't need no damn drug test. Passage Malibu will save Hong Kong!

While proud that I've finally found the cure to my many harmful addictions, I do have a sight concern, will ALL my addictions be cured? Well, because you know, there're some that I would quite like to keep....oh I don't know (*blush)..don't ask me the specific..it's too personal to name them in the Pub. I meant, what exactly is an addiction anyway? The great source that is the Wikipedia says: Physically or psychological dependency. So is my girl friend part of my addiction? How about my love for Football? My PS3? Or my water drinking habit ( I drink tons of that shit daily) Will they all be gone after reading Passage Mailbu?

How about you guys? Does anybody reading this has an addiction that they rather like? (i.e Working, Money, shopping, photographing, bloggin etc etc.) If you do, I strongly suggest you to NOT pick up a copy of the Passage Malibu, in fact, I'm sorry that I have even mentioned that book to you. My bad.

I guess as human being, we are all born into this World having to learn and deal with addiction since a young age. I remember in an episode of The Family Guy, while being wean onto regular milk (as oppose to delicious breast milk om nom nom nom!) young Stewie realized that battling addiction is a continuous struggle and how it really is quite fucked up that a little baby have to deal with that shit.. But hey, that's life eh and while some addition may cause harm to us or those around us, well, some addictions actually is the only things that keep us going in this cruel cruel World. (i.e My GF.)

06 July 2010

Row over electoral reform successfully saved young Villagers from drugs!

I am back. Yes, after two weeks of overseas slavery, I am back.

As a responsible journalist for the leading local news blog the Libertines Pub, I quickly sat my ass in front of the computer screen and went over thousands of feeds piled up in my RSS reader. Leave this Village for a while then you will realise how nothing would happen to this city; the electoral reform proposals got green lights in LegCo, but who cares when politics is basically cock sucking. WWFETS sells booze for our local pubs as usual, and pub owners should thank Cable TV for depriving the pleasure of watching WWFETS of millions of Villagers who neither have Cable TV subscription nor HD TV receiver. Teen models got banned and unbanned in the upcoming book fair. Anybody still cares about the "book" fair anyway? When the Twilight series are considered real books, having tits in the "book" fair is not really taking it too far.

Among those thousands pieces of junk news, this one really caught my eyes though. We have all long forgotten that students in Tai Po have been tested "voluntarily" for drug use! Now the pilot scheme has concluded and the government claimed that it's a great success. Chairman of the Tai Po Association of Heads of Secondary Schools said, although no positive result was ever obtained and 11 millions dollars of our tax money were splashed out, the drug test scheme should still carry on. He thought the scheme was at least a good promotional effort.

That I can agree. Since the launch of the scheme, we have stopped hearing news about kids passing out in school for getting too high. Hong Kong is basically drug-free in the media for months. I google news about "drug" now and found zero number of them related to young people. Yes, the promotional effort works! Only at the expense of HK$11 millions and the privacy of our students in Tai Po!

Funny how, other youth problems were solved all together. We have no more compensated dating; no more girls got tortured or killed by pedobears. No more teens selling their bodies for a LV bag. If you google "compensated dating" news, they simply don't exist.

All our post 80' or 90' young Villagers suddenly became a generation of responsible and political citizens who care about the future of Hong Kong, especially about our electoral reform. They all take to the street to fight for our democracy. They're all suddenly good. We suddenly see hope in our younger generation. They're junkies and prostitutes no more, suddenly.

Thanks to our great Drug Test, it saved our entire younger generation of Villagers!

If you can buy that, you can stop reading at this point; saner readers can carry on from here. I pointed out ages ago that problems with compensated dating, and most probably also with teen drug abuse, are results of deviancy amplification spiral. Nobody has the guts to say that back then and they all flocked to believe that our kids are all wasted. Now the "problems" are all solved; the media shifted their/our attention to the row over electoral reform. They now like to portray our kids as young citizens with social conscience. Drug abuse and compensated dating are out of fashion in the media. So when the media stopped hype-reporting on teen drug abuse and compensated dating, these problems stopped to exist! Now you can see who really saved our kids and only motherfuckers like Daniel Shek of the Action Committee Against Narcotics has the nerves to claim that the drug test is a great success.

Readers, now you can be convinced that the Libertines Pub is a trustworthy and honest news blog; we have better journalism than most of the news agencies in this Village. Yes, we are.

05 July 2010

On Sex Education

Enforced by the government, a great many teachers have to exchange roles with parents and impart sexual knowledge to the young. However, sex education not only reveals the government's underestimation of their physical maturity, but also renders the teachers' sexual knowledge insufficient, hence making them more liable to embarrassment. This situation invites us to the idea that perhaps the age-old ethical question "Should one have sex?" is no longer appealing to the young. In the modern era, the sexual openness of the young has enforced an atmosphere not of whether when one should have sex but rather, what brands of lubricants might enhance one's most pleasurable gratification or how long one has to endure in a romantic relationship in order to legitimately enter a sexual relationship.

But what could account for such openness? Other than the "culture" of haste and the excessive sexual suppression, what element has been at play? If sexual openness has become a necessity, it is perhaps because there lies a tendency for the young to think of sex as automatic assurance of intimacy. Skimming over the sex section of an online forum, some of the questions that have been frequently asked are whether how one can lure his girlfriend into bed and the more problematic one that why one is still denied the opportunity to rightfully explore the realm of complete privacy after being in a relationship for two weeks. The common ground of these difficult questions suggest that there is a problem without sex in a relationship and that the length of time to endure before one can make allowance for access to one's private sphere implies a significant romantic obstacle. Which ultimately suggests that intimacy can only be acknowledged by means of sex.

If the young anchor the notion of intimacy to sex, it is because they are often in muddle of the distinction between physical intimacy and psychological intimacy. What makes physical intimacy different from psychological intimacy is that the former is predominantly founded on the art of seduction. Rather than revealing one's character as a whole, the art of seduction lies only a need to reveal version of oneself one wishes to side with because it is founded on the display of one's finest qualities. Psychological intimacy, on the contrary, risks inspiring one's unfavourable judgement on his partner because love is about communication and understanding. Understanding involves not only with one's finest qualities, but also with one's vulnerabilities which one at times may be too ashamed of revealing. Therefore, while physical intimacy is based on revealing what is most attractive, psychological intimacy may involve with picking one's nose before one's beloved which must be considered in a complex, paradoxical light.

The young have hence mistakenly forged an inevitable connection between sex and love, thinking of sex as catalyst for longer conversations on more profound topics which consequently initiates an exactly opposite scenario. The relationship between sex and love has a need to be revised. The tendency of confusing sex with intimacy not only fools them into thinking that they have understood each other after a night in bed, but the danger lies in thinking sex as love. It destroys the clarity of love and sex and fails to attach a proper boundary between the two, prompting the young to make false additions to an already muddied picture. In the adult world where grand enquiries of love may often be easily avoided owing to the confusion of its nature, how one might suppose a twelve-year-old having the ability to accurately separate the the desired and the loved without guidance.

Though the question "Should one have sex?" is no longer appealing, perhaps we can revive its contemplative value by adding a "how" before the question. The question "How should one have sex?" not only preserves one's natural right to have sex, but also suggests that there is an art involving how one should do it. The young have often assumed their inborn ability to have sex, but if that is the case, why do bookstores carry countless versions of "Kama Sutra" to advise on positions to enhance our orgasmic appreciation? In the technological civilisation of ours, we are living in the era where one can legitimately skip the introduction of porn stars and scenes of foreplay in a pornographic video to the scene of what might be considered the most sexually arousing. How one can easily conclude that sex does not have to be taught?

But what is far more important is that sex education should not limit itself to its practical side, but rather, it should pay more attention to its psychological implications because we no longer have the need to submit our thinking to the traditionally dualistic separation of the mind and the body. What seems to be most intimate to the body might turn out to be intimate to the mind as well. Therefore, sex education is directly linked to the education of feelings. With the inability to distinguish sex from intimacy, there is a need to ensure one's desire should be well-directed so as to avoid confusing the yearnings of the body with the yearnings of the soul. Which leads to further investigation into sex, rather than just enquiring how one should have sex, perhaps it is equally appropriate to ask when, where, or even why one should have sex.

Sex education in Hong Kong is a failure not merely because of its limit on practical realm, but also the frame of mind when we approach the notion of sex. If sex education is to exert influence upon the young, it may include its deep psychological influence as well as a new attitude to see it in a proper perspective. In the days where the young change their partners as often as they change underwears, perhaps one should be taught to see the difference between one night stand and a stable relationship.


02 July 2010

Peace or Poetry?

The Hi-Tech Village is a place where almost everyone can have the chance to feel like a foreigner, or not. For me, feeling like a foreigner is pretty easy, and most of the city will do the trick. But like a big American city, and unlike most big Asian cities, the Village provides opportunities for the locals to step out of their comfort zones as well. In this way, HK is a New World city on the edge of the Old World.

While there’s nothing quite on the level of a Eurotown or Indiatown to compare with San Francisco’s Chinatown or other ethnic enclaves in the States, the Village has the Chungking Mansions, Discovery Bay (sorta feels like a tropical Scandinavia out there, except for all the Filipinas shepherdesses tending to the herds of blond kids) and it has Lamma (among other locations that I hope to educated on in the comments).

But the mixing of cultures has a different quality here on the edge of the Old World, compared to what I'm used to in my nation of immigrants. On the one hand, I see much less tension between ethnic groups in HK compared to the USA. On the other hand, the melting pot doesn’t seem to melt in the same way here that it does in NYC, LA or San Francisco: there doesn’t seem to be as much fusion culture being generated here.

Hip hop is the current pinnacle of American cultural fusion: there are literally no rules about what musical genres can be blended into a hip hop song, and it borrows from everywhere. What does HK have? Cantopop? I guess Cantopop has some Western influences, but the emotion of this music is so foreign to me that I literally can't understand the appeal of it, and I've yet to meet a single non-Chinese person who can stand the stuff. Not so with American music. Starting with jazz, and moving on to blues, rock 'n roll, and hip hop, American music has appealed to people from different cultures because American music has been a blend of different cultural traditions from the beginning.

I recently visited a restaurant in Knutsford Terrace that marketed itself as a "fusion" restaurant. They had Indian and Malaysian food on their menu. But the menu was completely segregated. Indian on one page, Malaysian on the other. There wasn't a single dish that was a unique, creative combination of the two cuisines. Where I come from, that's the opposite of fusion.

I've always been cynical about this vision of NYC as a melting pot, given the ethnic segregation and tension. But maybe that tension isn't such a bad thing. Creating new iterations of an old art form, sticking within your cultural comfort zone, is easy, but that "creative" process is unlikely to appeal to people from outside that cultural tradition. When cultures clash, the result isn't always pretty, but sometimes it's beautiful.

So how bout it Villagers? Where do I go to see HK fusion culture (besides the Pub, of course)? I know it must be lurking somewhere. Maybe I'm too stuck in my comfort zone to find it. Once again, the gweilo needs your help.