Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Friday, March 16, 2007

Last Stand

"The World will know that free men stood against a tyrant, the few against the many, and before this war was over, even the God-King can bleed." -- Leonidas 300 is a good movie. It's very American, but it actually got something to say. War movies are cool. Killing and blood and adrenaline rush are certainly guys' things, but those aside, War brings into question the relationship between Citizen and the State. When Leonidas, the Spartan King who led 300 of his finest soldiers in the Battle of Thermopylae, was forbidden to bring his Spartan Army against the Persians, his questions and actions brings out a ethical question: What do you do in face of the injustice of your own country? Do you confront? Or do you obey? Funny enough, Socrates, one of the Athenians that Leonidas described as "Philosophers and Boy-lovers", asked the same question before he was prosecuted by his fellow Athenians and died. And then there is the fighting shots choreographed by computer graphics, so visually entertaining they even decided to sync it with the heavy-metal music in the background. Honestly, it looked more like video-game in Matrix style. And at one point, I got my eyes tired. Not like they were dry or what, but I thought my vision was so bombarded with visual excitements that I was like "woo can I pause this or what?". Maybe it was because I watched it in the biggest cinema in Hong Kong and the screen was too big. But as I was in the movie, it was entertaining I would keep asking for more of the fighting. As you could see from the poster the movie is full of gimmicks. Not only men in Speedo everywhere (for that I thought the movie took care of women and certain men audience), but Leonidas eating an apple after having killed hundreds or thousands of Persians like he was camping was pretty wicked. The best though, goes to the Persian King Xerxes. The Brazilian dude who played this role managed to look like Prince (the singer).(And the only thing I could think of was Chappelle's Prince sketch: "Ball, blouses" and "Would you like some pancakes?") I'm serious! I can't say 300 was an epic, but it was certainly better than Sin City.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bring It Back

(Just half an hour ago I typed up like two paragraphs in word here only to discover my lovely Intel Mac crashes when saving word documents. Neva thought it would happen even I heard about it. If it had happened in lectures… I would’ve been so pissed. Turns out, changing some setting in preferences would help. Punk ass Microsoft) It’s almost 3:00am on 31st December, 2006. Some 20 hours before 2007. Scary. Can’t believe 2007 is here ‘cause 2000 was like yesterday. Or really. And because I can’t sleep I thought might as well use this time to reflect. Trying to do it right. True I haven’t updated this blog for so long. Too long sometimes that I don’t even want to touch it. But that isn’t because Hong Kong has been the perfect place to live on Earth and I just got no materials to write about. More because I got too many things happening in my life, that I can’t write about anything I used to able to think about. Not only time wise I can’t afford to do so, mentally I can’t. I wasn’t feeling it. If this blog was meant to evolve with me and document the change in me, then the time I didn’t write about anything would be the period I couldn’t figure out where I was at. But now I want to write about Hip Hop. I meant to do it in summer, but I was caught up with something else. Now’s this is it. I’m with it. But the reason behind is not very convincing: I just watched the DVD that came with Common’s last album Be (I had this album like, last year, but randomly I decided to watch the bonus DVD tonight when I wasn’t feeling anything else), and there was this last scene when he went to a junior high in South Side Chicago, where they had a group of young students doing poetry, led by Common and the teacher. This little boy, must be like 13, spitted fire. And what he spoke wasn’t about how he looked or was better than somebody else; it was just about him and GOD, and finding himself. Few lines, but that was the moment that should impact anyone who claims they love Hip Hop. At least, it moved me. What is Hip Hop? In North America, it’s about the bling. Selling. Business enterprises as Jay-Z and Russell Simmons said. In fact, so weird that on any MTV compilations lately you’d find Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson then followed by Pharrell. Or Jadakiss featuring on Paris Hilton’s single (When I saw Jada doing that, I was like… yo, is this a joke? Funny for the rapper who thought he knew how to ask WHY). In Hong Kong, … screw that. You either get kids who admire Hip Hop because of the look of the clothing and being a B-Boy. Or you get them clubbing kids (and middle-aged men) who “dance” to the top 40’s Hip Hop, including Pussy Cat dolls. In the magazines here, they still try to preach them kids on historical facts of Hip Hop like “in the 70’s in Bronx, New York, a bunch of teenagers started this music when they move to a beat called Hip Hop, with other elements like break-dancing, MCing, and graffiti. These are the four pillars of Hip Hop”. And you flip the page, there’d be lists of clothings and accessories for you to “look” “Hip Hop”, with the names of stores and addresses (Come on kids, Hip Hop is not even an adjective). Yeah, they aren’t incorrect things to say, but before anyone want to say anything about Hip Hop, they should ask themselves this question: does Hip Hop move you? Do you feel it inside? To go back to why and how Hip Hop came about got to do with black history, the roots of black music from Blues to Jazz to Funk (just to name a few), and I ain’t even qualified to talk about it ‘cause I ain’t expert in it. But I know this: Hip Hop is the music you pop your head to when you feel it. You rhyme with it when it came right. You break and pop-lock cause that’s the moment. You put that scratch to your mix cause you got beat right. What else? Just having fun man. Doing your thing. It’s that simple, so simple that it speaks for itself. You don’t really need to wear Air Force 1’s. You don’t need to wear baggy jeans if you ain’t feeling it (for y’all Hong Kong kids, stop saying you "gotta wear baggy jeans to look like a B-Boy", and give dumb reasons like "because that’s how young black people dress... because back in the ghetto they used to wear clothes that were given to them even though they didn’t fit". Just don’t say shite like that). You don’t even need bathing ape. Hip Hop isn’t about how or what you dress, but about who you are. I know this statement, by simple logic, doesn’t really make sense: if you are just trying to be YOU, why you have to listen to Hip Hop or even take part in it? Then you are like anyone else (like the classic statement: I’m just trying to be different, just like everyone else!). And the answer to that, simple: because Hip Hop music allows you to be creative, unique, individual, with style. It’s because I love Hip Hop so much that it hurts me when I see people misunderstand Hip Hop. Some think it’s immature. Some think it has no content. Some think it’s only cool if you talk about gunning down somebody else. But to me, that’s just the music I can relate to, and it’s almost spiritual when I can relate to it. Then there’s the aspect of empowering oneself with Hip Hop, that goes beyond any sort of looks or clothes that one can buy. It’s about the strength when you express yourself. It’s about the creativity. About speaking out. About being proud of yourself, because of who you are – and that’s why I think, at this stage, it’s so hard for Hong Kong people to “feel” Hip Hop, because we are even confused about our identity. Or as professor Ackbar Abbas said, when Hong Kong people are in face of China’s quasi-colonialism, it’s not about nonrecognition of who we are, but misrecognition, like reverse hallucination in Freudian sense. Or maybe it’s because our colonial history was bloodless with no struggles, or our struggles used to be in the form of economic success, that collectively, we are having a hard time finding an identity – if that’s the case, who are we to be proud of? Still today, a lot of us in Hong Kong finds our own identity in shopping – yeah, and that makes sense, because in the post-modern world people define their own identities by consuming. That’s why consumerism and capitalism solves our identity crisis, because it’s more than just a therapy – it’s a chance for us to get a “sense” of us. When individuality is submitted to consumerism (and likewise other mechanisms of ideologies) as a way to solve identity crisis, where is the place for Hip Hop? I agree with Chris Rock: “Love Hip Hop music, tired of defending it”. That’s why I give it up to artists who are still true to themselves today: the Roots, Mos Def, Kweli, Common, Kanye, Madlib, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, the Perceptionists, Dead Prez, De La, Jazzy Jeff, Primo and Guru… yo I can go on and on. And Dave Chappelle, for having brought us the Block Party that not only brought Lauryn Hill and the Fugees back, but to tell us how a concert is supposed to be a party, ‘cause it’s about the fun and vibe at the first place. (… and he also brought us Rick James, Prince, and Byaaaaaah!) R.I.P. James Brown.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Guerrilla Monsoon

So we know that one of these days, if you got the fame and money, you can become singer -- not by singing per se but by making CDs with very nice covers and put them in the store for the "best-buy" price. And this is a global phenomenon: it happens every other day in Hong Kong, and, unfortunately, it happens in N. America (or, the U.S. and UK charts) as well. Yeah you know who, it's Paris! And she can't sing for SHXT! Oh wait... she doesn't actually sing on the album. But moaning words like 'i'm so sexy' to a could-be top 40 club beats occasionally. And worst of all, I can't even hear what she speaks. Yeah the fact that it's happening really sucks. We all hate it. But have you ever thought of doing something about it, other than not buying it? Well, someone did. This artist in UK called Banksy "bombed' some of the stores by replacing Paris' album with his own homemade spoof. Check out the link here with a video documenting how he did it. This guy is guerrilla. And no wonder why they say artists keep activism alive. Props up!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Rear Window

People like to look into other people’s life: to see it, to know it, to feel it, to experience it, because they feel like they are part of the person they want to be. It’s a desire to possess, to satisfy oneself while fully knowing the limit of this desire – that you can never physically “own” the person you are watching, or be the person you want be. It’s this desire among of us that keeps the paparazzi fed. A couple of weeks ago in Hong Kong, an extremely popular cute-sy female singer/actress, Gillian, got on the cover of a magazine. And it brought on some serious heat among the local community on how the law should protect people’s privacy, including showbiz celebrities’. Why? Because the photo on that magazine was a snapshot of this actress changing when she was on tour in Malaysia. The photo was clearly taken by paparazzi with some sort of hidden camera. It was actually, voyeurism. But that’s not the first time, was it? The paparazzi invades celebrities’ everyday life, home life, vacation life, to a point that I start to wonder if these celebrities would be known if their private issues weren’t covered. After all, these mag’s look like a big ass piece of entertainment – there are hardly any words in them anyway. I have been hating this kind of reporting by tabloids and “people” magazine all my life: since high school I have expressed my opinions on this entertainmentization through writings that school. But this trend never seems to die. In fact, with the photos of Gillian in changing room released, this entertainmentization has finally hit the threshold that it was never supposed to hit – body. In Foucaultian theory, our sexual experience and perception of which in everyday life is the window to relationship between us and the power under which we live. In a way, power and subject – or us – is shown through sexuality. This cannot be more obvious in Hong Kong: Celebrities’ private life could be shown all on paper, taken as the accepted norm, so long the sex part – which is symbolically represented by the body – is not touched on. Once this sex part made public in Hong Kong, the threshold is reached and all of us criticize those who report such unethical stuff – even we all have enjoyed those photos of others’ private life, the evidence of intrusion, the proof of the repression. Every issue of these magazines is about boobs, about body: before Gillian’s photos were on there had been tons of almost-nake photos of women all over the covers. You got ex-pornstar in bikinis, celebrities promoting slim products and show their cleavage, slip of gowns when some women go to galas. I mean, the bombardment of “sex” has always been there, the culture of voyeurism has always been going on. So why now? Because looking through someone’s rear window while they change is more wrong that take pictures of topless models sun-bathing? If what’s wrong is the fact we have intruded others’ privacy, then it really doesn’t have to be a “more-wrong” incident to make it “ah, now you are finally proven wrong”. Regardless of what’s on the cover this issue, the interesting part is that we always like to touch on sex in such public domain, just to flirt with the taboo, without really thinking about why we are interested in this anyway – why boobs out of million other things out of million other things you can talk about? – and that’s the dangerous part of our collective mindset. If we have been all wrong anyway, because we have always liked to look into other people’s life with all the little bit of details that didn’t really matter to us at the first place, then maybe we have all been a little retarded in our responses to such “entertainmentizing” way of reporting. Because the truth is, some of them celebrities need to have snapshots of their private life exposed – if objectifying me gives me to fame to sustain the life I been living, why not? I ain’t justifying the act of voyeurism. It’s wrong. Period. But it’s not really about blaming on the one who took or release some sort of photos, but to think about this question: what has gotten all of us to be so interested in someone’s body at the first place? Right now, the chief executive has said he would take care of it, the head of police in Malaysia has said he would investigate Gillian’s case. But what Mr Donald Tsang did not tell us is that it would be hard for him to put a stricter pull on the laws that protect privacy: because two months ago he himself was still talking about giving the police in Hong Kong more executive power in monitoring phone calls, emails and so on… (Yes, US Patriot Act Hong Kong version, though the target of patriotism is this vague image of Beijing up north of us). If law prohibits such acts of voyeurism by reporters, then how could the government check up what you just bought today? What a challenge for those politicians with mediocre political intelligence. And everywhere you continue to look, it's absurdity.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Trust me, this video is better than any of those clips of Bush stupid moments. This song featuring Dave Matthews Band is from Jurassic 5's new album Feedback, which didn't really impress me when I heard it at HMV, even it got Mos Def on one joint -- until I saw this video. Jurassic 5 has always been my favorite Hip Hop from the West Coast. Originally from Bay Area, they are one of the best hip hop groups out there. I remember I first heard their song in HMV Shibuya during a trip to Japan in 2000. I was shopping, and they were playing at the store songs from their first full-length album then called Quality Control, and I thought "man, this sounds like De La Soul with West Coast rhymes!". So I put my yen down on the counter without even thinking about it. (And glad I bought it, 'cause the same album was only imported in HMV Hong Kong like 6 months after I bougth it...) And come on, how cool is their name -- Jurassic 5. (apparently they were 5 people when first started and became 6 as DJ Cut Chemist joined after and remained the same name -- I think -- but Cut Chemist just left the group this year.) I think I like J5's first album so much that I haven't really liked anything else they produced after that. Their second album Power in Numbers wasn't as good as I thought it'd be (but again, cool name tho'). So far as this new one goes, I'm really thinking about it -- at least, we got it at HMV not that much later than the US release.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


YouTube is full of surprises. I randomly typed in the word "Sugarhill Gang" cause it came to my mind, and I got this video, which is, as said by the person who posted it, "the video that started it all". 'nuff said. This song Rapper's Delight was the first Hip Hop song that made it to the radio in 1979 and got a multi-platinum sale. Maybe something other than this song got big in Bornx back in the day as well, but this song made Hip Hop known to the world. (Oh of course I wasn't born. Too bad I wasn' there.) The group made some hits after this, but none of them came close to the exposure this song claimed. Everytime I hear this song I feel like I know why people first got into Hip Hop: it was about the fun in the funk man (did you know that the word "funk" originally means the stink of sweat from the club back in 70's, when people were dancing to Funk music?). It's all about the groove, the beat, the shake. That's why I'm still diggin' old school classics time to time, from Run-DMC to Afrika Bambaata to Beasties Boys. Everything that makes me feel like breakin'. (Though I don't really do that anymore.) But it's the feeling of something moving you, that makes you realize: man, this is what Hip Hop should sound like. Yo, read the comments for this video as well. You got a 19 year-old saying how he appreciates it and a dude saying he was from back in the day when this video went down..... and everything in between.
I'm getting hooked to YouTube man.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


DJ Shadow is in town this friday, playing at Western Market, Hong Kong. No, ain't no joke. The legedary 7-inch wax destructor is here. When I was in Junior High this man was claimed the Best DJ on the planet. And then there was Entroduing...., an album that blew my mind. Till today. Let alone the first class price I might be paying for this show, coz money ain't a thing here. The saddest of all is....... I'M FLYING TO BEIJING THE SAME DAY. and there seems no way i could change my flight cause things are all fully booked. Is someone up there trying to play a trick on me? This is gonna be the second time I miss DJ Shadow's live. The last time, I think, happened when I left Montreal during summer. I wanna punch something now, I'm serious. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ After a three weeks of not writing anything at all because I have been so preoccupied with the AMSA conference, here I'm again typing and talking to myself. What a good feeling. Doing something that I believe in. It seems like I need some time to take in what I did with the conference and all that. and that's exactly what i will do in Beijing. It's only through question that we grow.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Marxist Divide in a Communist World

It’s been more than once that I said China is only Communist by name (as the party goes). Now, I don’t want to comment on its good or bad. But I can say one thing: the new capitalistic, economic movement we have seen in China in the past 20 years, has yielded us both big leap in GDP and an expanding gap between bourgeoisie and proletariat prophesised by Marx – that’s how you get a growing middle class in a communist country. Doesn’t that sound odd to you?

But wait, our government don’t just bear the name. We do the real shit to make sure the people is suppressed to achieve a common good. It’s some real hustlin’ aight?

Check out this article on Project Syndicate, which I thought was a pretty brief but good comment on what my country is doing to my people. Our very own people. Yeah I know some of this stuff – I have probably said it somewhere here – but yo, I need somebody who can tell me things in an intelligent, academia style so that I feel like things can get out of my chest.

Here, let’s have a nice quote from Minxin Pei’s article:

“When things go wrong – as is likely, given mounting social strains caused by rising inequality, environmental degradation, and deteriorating public services – China’s alienated masses could become politically radicalized. And, unlike past protests, which have usually been allied with students or members of the intelligentsia, popular disaffection might not have the virtue of rational leaders with whom the government could talk and negotiate.

If you talk to a 65-plus old folk in Hong Kong about this, his likely response would be “Hey that’s the way it is. It’s the leftist. They can do whatever they want.”

And that’s exactly where it’s going wrong: we are so desensitized to the problems in China. Not only we don’t hear everything about it, ‘cause not all are reported. But the situation is so chaotic that damn, I get tired thinking about it. So at the end, “that’s just the way it is”.

And here we are, living in Hong Kong, where most people – and I mean the people who influence this city politically and financially, like that someone who made a well established medical school go by his name with his 1 Billion HKD check – tend to think that in order to continue with our declining prosperity and economic success, we need to work closely with China. We need communication with our motherland. We need to rely on our roots – and that, implies not going up against it. Stability comes first. So that when business in Hong Kong starts to get a little better, they can come out on 1st of July and say: “Democracy ain’t as good as stability. Watch some soccer and enjoy yourselves. It’s celebration, bitches”.

Well, this stability might just be the “delayed inevitable”. Bitch.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Road Less Travelled

Same road, two parties. Parade in the morning, march in the afternoon. Patriotic before 3pm, opposition after 3pm – nonetheless, they gave the same sweat.

Today is the 9th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, which is the also forth 7-1 March on the streets of Hong Kong, ever since the half a million that was mobilized on 1st July, 2003. The latest figure said about 36,000 to 43,000 joined the March today, and this is ironically contrasted to the figure of 50,000 during the parade in the morning – a parade organized by all the patriotic (or Left, by the Chinese government standard) parties and labor unions, to celebrate their supposedly happiest day of the year.

Of course, joining a March is not about who and how many are in it, but about why you need to speak out, why you need to take it to the street. In 2003 and 2004, it was about the resignation of Mr Tung Chi Wa, the historic but proved-to-be incompetent first Chief Executive of Hong Kong. I missed those two years ‘cause I was in Montreal. Year 2005, after my graduation, I joined. It was about the hope for universal suffrage in the 07-08 year, ‘cause according to some inside source that was promised by the Beijing government way back when the Basic Law was drafted, and 2007 would be the year the second Chief Executive to be elected – or should I say assigned? (I don’t have the source, but I read it in two different newspapers in two different years, so I assume it didn’t come from nowhere.)

This year, same request of Universal Suffrage, without a time frame, I didn’t join. I didn’t join because the so-called democrats in Hong Kong, who are the major supporters of the March in terms of motivating the conscientious HongKongers, seem to be pulling all this off for votes for their party. And I am starting to doubt the meaning of taking it to the streets of Hong Kong – does the government, or China government for that matter, give a crap at all? We – as in the democrats in HK – claimed they did, ‘cause after two years with half a million people marching in the streets, the Mr. Tung resigned (somehow) in 2004. They called it a victory for the people. I call it the ultimate control – Mr. Tung resigned because the Beijing Government thought that instability that involves one fourteenth of HongKongers was deadly, and they needed to do something about it. And note, they didn’t even freak out, they made him sign off his office, gave the title to a dude called Donald Tsang, who happened to be the Chief Secretary back then and had worked for British during colonial times – all happened within a finger snap. To go with it, we added a little overriding of the Basic Law – oh, sorry, reinterpreting the Basic Law – to make sure Mr Tsang would sit in his office for only two years, instead of 5 that was stated IN THE LAW, as the Beijing would like him to go through a little probation so to speak.


In Johnnie To’s latest movie, Election 2, he used the triad as a metaphor for Hong Kong’s political situation. Being the young and upcoming boss in the triad that has believed in democracy by elites (which is Meritocracy, isn’t it?), the main character Louis Koo realized, at the very end of the movie, he was nothing but a calculated step by Beijing to gain the ultimate control of Hong Kong, with the maximum stability. He was “elected”, with the help of some Chinese agents from Canton, to be the man of his gang – if he cooperates with our “motherland”. A painful disillusionment for a man who worships cash and power – which is why Johnnie To uses this as a parallel to Hong Kong and name the movie Election, ‘cause Donald Tsang’s appointment as the Chief Executive is HongKongers’ painful disillusionment. The truth is, the real thug is government.

So in year 2003 and 2004, the Beijing gave a crap about stability in Hong Kong, so taking the streets might make a noise. Today, they don’t give a fxxk. And here are the reasons why: 1. If Beijing actually cared, Donald Tsang wouldn’t be holding a cocktail party this afternoon, telling with his empty words how we could make a change in our economic and business environment and be part of the uprising China; he’d be hiding his head like Tung Chi Wa did back in 2003 – you think a man like Donald doesn’t need to take orders? Who cares about a Harvard master degree here? 2. Beijing got the plans to distract us – the railway to Tibet from the mainland just opened today, and the whole world is after it. Who needs this people on the streets?

However, one thing I know, because when Mrs Anson Chan, the former chief secretary with the “Hong Kong conscience”, stepped onto the streets with the crowd today, she showed us this: no matter whether you are left or right, democrat or not, so long as you live in Hong Kong, your life has now been politicalized. No more escapes from politics from now on, because the woman who wasn’t (supposed to be) involved in democratic movement now step out, telling the crowd what she prefers. Regardless of her intentions (some said she wants to run for the chief executive, and she is making a show for votes), SHE REPRESENTS. And I give her that. And together with the Civic Party that just formed by a bunch of lawyers in Hong Kong, this 7-1 March is no longer driven by the same goal – that’s why I wasn’t there.

Martin Luther King would agree that social movement doesn’t need everyone with the exact same goals – you could ask for a million different things, so long as you different groups marching got one thing in common.


The political environment in Hong Kong is constantly shifting, and apparently it has become less substantial these days when one talks about “democracy” and “universal suffrage”. And I cannot help but to relate this shift we are seeing now to the consumerism-based culture we have in Hong Kong, which makes everything comes and goes so fast. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I’m not giving the credits my people deserve. But I am constantly rethinking what it means to take it out on the streets, because I realize there are “reasonable doubts” on either side of the story. So why takes a stand when I am not fully agreeing with it, though I want democracy, while taking stand means I might be categorized?

Today, some travel show on National Geographic asked this white dude what he thinks about Hong Kong, he says “I think it’s a great city to get lost in … if you like to explore.”

He’s right. Cause I’m lost.