28 January 2011

Sex and the Market

I am not here to share with you the market outlook of prostitution or how that industry actually contributed to the GDP of the Village. The Chinese New Year is coming to town, so does the Flower Market. Like all the other misnomers here, the Flower Market isn't only selling flower. The newspaper report told us you can also find a pair of air-blow big tits and 1:1 Chrissie Chau cushion. And most importantly, if you spend enough at the booth, you are eligible to enjoy a 5-min preview of a Cat. 3 movie in 3D.

In this pseudo-open society, some might find it interesting, but more find it annoying and they need to get rid of it. The FEHD, organiser of the Flower Market, said due to cow crowd control reason, playing of movie will be banned. They even warned us about closing down the booth. Anything related to sex in the public is something very important to the parents in the Village. They couldn't even help themselves to mention the word "SEX" in front of their children, but openly and happily gossip about which actress is dating and having SEX staying overnight with which Millionaire(s). The reporter interviewed the Chairman of the Committee on Home-School Co-operation Professor WONG Po-choi. What is interesting here is that Home always comes first, because the parents "pay" for the service from School. Anyway, Prof. Wong said the public screening and selling of sex related merchandise is walking a fine line of morality and it's difficult for parents to explain to their children when they encounter that. He condemned the merchants for trying whatever means to profit.

Following the Home-School "cooperation" principle, Prof. Wong cooperated and suggested the FEHD to confine an area for 18+ only. Don't be surprised! In this Village, the education and protection of children are always a duty of the gov't, and the parents' role is solely to suggest, blame, and condemn because they have paid for.

This is not incomprehensible with a Red mind, of course. When all properties are public, children are public, even your wife or husband are public. The Village is one step closer to our Motherland while the Motherland is million steps closer to the world.

19 January 2011

Village Film Review: Lover's Discourse《戀人絮語》

What is love? Or what lovers experience when they are in love? We are told that the Chinese word "戀", one of the many Chinese words sharing the meaning "love", signifies what Roland Barthes might like, fragments of discourse in one's heart. From there young directors Derek Tsang and Jimmy Wan presented us with what they called "empirical examples" of what love is in Lover's Discourse《戀人絮語》.

Nancy (Karena Lam) and Ray (Eason Chan) met one evening at the crowded and confusing Causeway Bay. Like any other couples who spend their evening out, they didn't know where they should go and what they wanted to do. Unlike other couples, it turned out their romantic relationship had ended some obscure time ago. Nancy and Ray in the end both confessed that they still miss each other. In the middle of a kiss, Nancy's phone rang and it's time for her to go back to her boyfriend. What would happen even Nancy and Ray couldn't tell.

Paul (Jacky Heung) received some online messages from a stranger one evening, telling him that his girlfriend, Nancy, had been seeing another man. At the other end of the line, Kay (Mavis Fan) was in a major confusion and she needed a company in that; she felt that her boyfriend, Ray, had been seeing somebody but she was not sure. Kay and Paul decided that they would find out the truth together. The search for the truth turned out to be at the same time a search for what holds two persons together. Twelve years ago, Paul the teenager (William Chan) didn't know why his best friend's mother (Kit Chan) still clung onto the marriage, when she had known her husband (Eric Tsang) was having an affair. Paul wanted her "Auntie" to be happy; or it's more like the young Paul actually wanted her. We thought the setting was perfect for Paul and "Auntie" to make it to the bed, but they didn't.

These stories all shed certain light to the question of what makes two persons clinging onto a relationship. Is it something they miss about each other when they're not together? Is it because we do not bother moving on and finding a new love? Or is it just the confusions about everything in between, like not even knowing what to do and where to go, that fascinate us?

There was another story about a young laundry shop keeper Gigi (Kay Tse) having a crush on Paul's childhood best friend Sam (Eddie Peng), who's a regular customer. This story seemed to be the most enjoyable and funniest part of the movie, judging from the giggle among the audience. However, there's something I don't quite get. Why in Gigi's imaginations, Sam became a mannequin/puppet? Is it intended to be comical and tell us how laughable a crush can be? Or the hidden meaning is way too deep for me to apprehend? This story seems to me to be rather pointless and has undermined the depth and variety of emotions in a crush. Or, I just don't get it if they've tried. The forced acting by Kay Tse there only made the story more incomprehensible. The whole section reminded me of Kay Tse's Watson's commercial, especially with the tune she sang in the middle. To be very honest, I paid more attention to Kay Tse's costumes, which showed her suggestive pair of legs dangling the flip-flop and the figure under her tight tees more than her acting there.

Some people are better off singing than acting, some, sadly speaking, are better off not showing their faces in any screen whatsoever. Every time Jacky Heung showed his face on the big screen, he's dead seriously angry. When he's following Eason Chan, he is angry. When he's driving Karena Lam around, he's angry. When he's meeting Mavis Fan the first time in a cafe, he's also angry. Yes, we know one must be very angry when his girlfriend is seeing others, especially when your girlfriend is Karena Lam. But for fuck's sake, this is not A Fistful of Stances, you're not about to kick Eason Chan's ass when you found out the truth.

The cinematography of Lover's Discourse《戀人絮語》is brilliant. Many of the scenes in the film can be frozen and framed into good photographs. The background music, other than that cliché tune hummed by Kay Tse, and the sound effects go well with the pictures. It is a beautifully made film and I enjoyed the 117 minutes spent. Mavis Fan rendered convincingly the helpless and confused young woman. Kit Chan proved again some singers can act (while others not) and it's refreshing seeing her again on the screen. Karena Lam certainly picked a good film as her last; she's so naturally beautiful playing Nancy and she will definitely be missed.

In the end, what's the answer to the question we asked at the beginning? The film might have told you nothing other than showing you the puzzling and confusing experience you might have when you are in love. After all, as we're told at the beginning of the film, love probably cannot be reduced to neurological reactions in your brain, in that case they are much easier seen and understood objectively.

17 January 2011

Again, we are threatened by the developers

This Monday started with this makes-you-want-to-punch-the-monitor report by SCMP. The Secretary General of the all mighty Real Estate Developers Association (REDA) commented that the new government rules on floor areas would force them to build shittier flats for us, like the flats in this Village can possibly be any shittier than they are now.

The deal is something like this: since 2001, the building of amenities and "green" features such as balconies, clubhouses and wide common corridors in private housing is exempted from the calculation of the gross floor area (GFA). That means, developers do not have to pay for the land premium for building most of these features. As we all know that, these features are not the selling points of residential developments. Having a clubhouse, swimming pools, balconies, covered corridors, and gardens, will absolutely in no way boost the selling price of the flats. Moreover, developers have always made it clear what they're selling us; they never fail to fool us with the differences among "saleable area", "usable area" and GFA. Although the developers got free land for building these amenities and features for us, they never intended to use them to boost the selling price or make any profit out of it; all they wanted to do is fostering a quality and sustainable built environment for free.

Now, the all-evil government is trying to cap the size of amenities and green features to no more than 10% of gross floor area. Louis Loong Hon-biu, Secretary General of REDA, warned that they would stop building clubhouse, swimming pools, balconies, bay windows, wide covered corridors, easily accessible carparks and gardens. Do you know what that could mean, my dear readers? That means no more luxury shoeboxes for you to show off! No more bay window for you to house your friends when they sleep over. No more clubhouse to entertain your visitors with overpriced lukewarm coffee. No more swimming pool for you to check out the MILFs. No more gardens for you to jog once every six months. These features are essential, right? Villagers NEVER want affordable flats sold at reasonable price. All of us want $10,000+ psf flats with all these "features" so that we can show off. We're so in need of them! Just sell us shoeboxes in which we sit 2-foot apart from our 40" 3D TV. We don't care! But make damn sure we have those "features"!!!

Our developers just know too well what we want. We've grown tired of living in normal buildings where you have a few lifts going up and down, a lobby with mailboxes and a guard post, and a room on every floor to temporarily store the garbage. That is so sub-human a living condition, right?

REDA, we salute you.

11 January 2011

The lolz before 1997, the prophecy that came true

A lot of Villagers would probably never forget the 1990 TVB comedy show The Funny Half Show笑星救地球》that gave us 13 hours of lolz every Saturday since 6 January 1990. Apart from the lolz, if we watch the show again today, we can't help but figure how prophetic it was. The clip below told us how our Village lives would change after the 1997 handover to the Motherland. Sorry, our expat friends, you could probably only enjoy half of the lolz, as English subtitle only came after seven minutes to the clip; still I encourage you to watch it and tell us if you think this is what happened in this Village after 1997.

Listen to a heartfelt song about how Villagers felt around 1997, sang by hosts of the Show Mr Liu Wai-hung and Mr David Wu here.

07 January 2011

Sensitivity Issues

It was late Sunday night, and I walked the dog down to the little store down the street from my apartment. It's a family-owned shop, with mom, dad, grandma and daughter each taking turns working the register. My girlfriend and I had just spent way too much money eating at a Suburban-American-style restaurant in Discovery Bay, so I went with the cheap stuff--a cute little brown bottle of San Miguel. I brought the bottle up to the register, and as the store owner made the "open?" gesture, pointing toward the bottle, my nose made a little sniffle. Before I even noticed that I needed one, the owner quickly pulled out a box of tissues from under the counter. He didn't say a word, just looked at me and at the box, implicitly offering me one.

This type of kindness is unheard of in the US. Even the nicest store owner in some small Midwestern town would never be so sensitive to my tiny sniffle, no matter how well they knew me.. Entering my second year in the Village, I'm slowly beginning to acquire a superficial understanding of Chinese culture and morality. I've often complained about what I perceive to be insensitivity on the part of Villagers: they don't pay attention to others when they walk, waiters ignore me in restaurants, they honk their horns obnoxiously, etc.

There's this seafood restaurant that my girlfriend and I have become regulars at. They treat us wonderfully: they give us special deals, tell us what dishes are really good that day, let us bring our own bottle of wine and waive the corking fee. When they see us on the street, they smile and say hi to us.

The lady who sells fruit on the street also treats us really well. She always give us a big, hearty hello when she sees us. When my girlfriend bought some chestnuts but then forgot to take them with her, the fruit lady remembered and gave her roughly the same amount for free the next day.

Living on Lamma has allowed us to see the other side of Chinese culture, the sensitive side. Everything changes when people know you. I'm not religious, but living in Asia has helped me see how much my morality is a Christian morality. My Methodist grandmother taught me to treat everyone the same, to pay attention to everyone and give people I don't know the same respect I would give my friends (because we're all God's children). This is very much a Christian ethical standard, and so I shouldn't be surprised that the Chinese have a different standard. We're learning that once Chinese people know us, the level of kindness and consideration they give far surpasses what you would expect of a store owner, or waiter, in the West.

I think we might be establishing guanxi, or something like that.

7 tips to getting me ignore you on facebook

Sorry, can't help posting it. (yum yum...)

Have you watched the movie “The Social Network”? Pretty cool movie, right? The moment when Mark Zuckerberg was named as TIME Person of the Year 2010, I can’t help wonder how much facebook has impacted on my life. Yes, his impact on me is greater than Julian Assange. So anons, stop whining.

During my three years of facebooking, I met someone whom I couldn’t have met in real life and later regretted it. Though his avatar spoke like Don Juan, the chemistry between his real person and I just wasn’t there. Many of my social gatherings have evolved into Vogue photoshoots since facebooking. Everyone is so obsessed with looking like having fun in the facebook photos that in return dilutes the fun itself. I also have to advance my makeup skills so as not to look too raw in the photos tagged by my high-maintenance friends.

To learn from my experience, this year I decided to restrict my usage time on facebook and trim down my friends list to 300. I conjure up the following checklist to remind me when to push the “not now” button or simply refuse to comment.

  • Send me a friend request with a profile picture which shows only part of your facial features – If you’re ashamed to show the full face of your avatar, I don’t think your real person is very presentable.
  • Send me a friend request when your friends list is less than 50. – Apparently your avatar is starting a new life, a life where you are fresh, single and adventurous, and which excludes your old acquaintances and wife.
  • Send me a friend request when our mutual friends happen to be my hottest girlfriends. – Sorry, hun. I’m not one of the stamps you’re collecting.
  • Send me a message with the subject “Friendship”. – If you deliberately highlight your humble wishes, it usually means your true intention is something else. Plus, the opposite sex and I seldom agree on the definition of “just a friend”.
  • Send me a message like “wow I like you wow I like this please give me your yahoo or hotmail address”. – read stalker. Plus Yahoo and Hotmail are so 2001. Libertines.hk is the new black!
  • Quote sad songs lyrics on your status – a sign of attention-seekingness and apparently you are too ashamed to mention what you did in details.
  • Bombard me with pictures of every shopping mall and restaurant you visited. – Do you want me to leave the comment “boring and pathetic”?

06 January 2011

On Pornography

It must be admitted that watching pornography is time-consuming business for men. One can easily locate a liar within a flock of men when he confidently remarks that pornography has failed to inspire glimpses and enlarge his sexual imagination during his teenage. In the age of liberalism, a restriction on pornography not only offends our sexual interests, but it also hints at a refusal to enrich our sexual lives by doing away our erotic fantasies. But whatever pornographic interests we may have, does liberalism necessarily suggest our erotic imaginations should flow freely within the fabric of our consciousness and intentionally leave the unconscious ones unguarded? What might be the limits and consequences when we liberate them to their maximum potential?

If pornography not only suffices as a visual medium to unleash our suppressed sexual desires, it is perhaps because pornography is as well a contemporary incarnation of Kama Sutra, where it infinitely extends the pages of the age-old "science" of love and fills up the empty pages of positions and foreplays that might have been neglected or undiscovered centuries ago. Many romantically deluded teens look to pornography not just for masturbation, but also for sexual guidance, for it makes up for the lack of dynamics and drama in the uncreative moves that are only allowed to perform in their beds. How easy we might enrich our sexual lives by streaming a few pornographic films online.

Perhaps this is it. For many teens, physical intimacy might be the very reason why they embark on a romantic journey in the first place. How complicated and time-consuming when we realise that there is much money and sense of humour involved just to woo someone into bed; how life would be much easier if we could monitor the dating process on a screen where we can push the fast forward button and skip the foreplay whenever we please and push the play button at the precise sequence to render our latent desires visible. Yet if there is something interrupting this Eden, it is because pornography has risked harbouring an illusion so strong that we might be fooled into thinking that we are actually in love, because we are already having sex. The act of sexual intercourse forcefully and immediately suggests psychological intimacy that binds us with another person.

Hence, if we follow strictly the teenage logic, we only need sex instead of appeasing our romantic yearnings. Love is something that needs to be chipped off its edges, polished, and distilled to reveal its essence. It is only a by-product of sex. It clouds us with a romantic illusion that lure us into believing that there is someone we should actually caress for and die for. There comes the time when sex should become a sport, merely for pleasure and health, just like one is working out in a gym to assure one has a robust buildup and a better immune system.

However, sex is not merely done merely for the sake of pleasure. If there is something neglected during the act of intercourse, it is because we are still at heart obsessed with the age-old distinction of the body and mind which we unfairly consign love to the mind and sex to the body. Behind the act of intercourse lies a psychological aspect longing to be satisfied. While love doesn't necessarily go with sex, sex, however, always goes with love, for love grants us permanent access to certain emotional textures which may seem forbidden during intercourse. With love, we have sex not for pleasure, but for intimacy. Our partners are not merely at our service, but to be loved.

Sex is founded on our longing for intimacy. Love, unlike sex, is not merely a desire, instead of being a means to possession, it allows us to escape from loneliness to which our greatest unhappiness is anchored. Hence physical intimacy suggests a material articulation of what is affectionate. However, if sex is stripped of its association with the desire of bonding, while it may offer physiological delight, it hardly deepens our sense of intimacy, for psychological intimacy requires communication and understanding whilst physical intimacy is rooted in the art of seduction which is founded on the display of our finest qualities. Therefore, psychological intimacy aspires to the witness of one blowing his nose aggressively without a handkerchief whilst its physical counterpart stems from a rather superficial appreciation of the perfect contour of female body and her skin texture. Only through the language of love, sex can harbour a psychological fulfilment to the instinct.

Thought might be antithetical to pornography, for sexually arousing mediums are meant to be intuitive, spontaneous and unreflective. To meditate on the role of pornography is to mitigate the depth of our sexual satisfaction may aspire to. But this is precisely where the danger of pornography lies. It pays too much attention to positions and styles and is entirely lacking the psychological flavour of sex. Greek philosophers had contemplated much on the topic which Plato, in "The Symposium" remarked that desires should be directed to the right end at the right place, at the right time, and at a right degree. Rather than liberating our sexual desire to its maximum potential, we should instead cultivate it. Not only we need to keep an open-mind on sex itself, but also we need to learn the art of watching pornography to ensure we are actually having sex properly. Because pornography is risky.