M’goi

There are people outside of Hong Kong who think that Hong Kong is a part of China like it is actually a part of China.  For instance, I have a friend who posted a picture of the awe-inspiring skyline of Hong Kong Island, and above it the status read: “I am in China!”  I also have friends asking me on Messenger, “How’s life in China?” Sure, geo-politically, Hong Kong is indeed part of China.  Culturally, however, many Hong Kongers proudly identify themselves as non-Chinese.  Ever since the takeover, the Hong Kongers have been desperately trying to maintain their identity by fighting to keep Cantonese in the public arena.  Many Hong Kongers are resentful of the Mainland Chinese speaking Mandarin and trying to impose on them.  In previous posts, Wes and I had discussions about how Big Beijing try to assimilate an area by reducing the local language to a mere dialect.  Today, I experienced a Hong Konger’s passive aggressive attempt to maintain his cultural and linguistic identify in a rather perverse, but in some ways, charming, manner.

It was pouring rain after Thomas and I had lunch at this crazy spicy noodle place in Sham Shui Po. Since I didn’t have an umbrella, I decided to buy one at the Circle K at the end of the block.  I walked into the little cramped store, and there was a young man working at the counter.

In Mandarin, I asked, “Do you sell umbrellas?” I learned very quickly when I first started to work in Sham Shui Po that people’s English ability is limited in this neighbourhood.  In fact, many looked relieved when I switched from English to Mandrain.   As a result, I automatically speak Mandrain when I conduct my daily business during the work hours.

The young man working at the counter looked to be in his early 20’s.  He  looked at me as I was speaking to him, and he nodded his head ever so lightly.

“How much is it?”

He mumbled something in Cantonese under his breath.  I shook my head and gave him a quizzical look.  He looked up and without looking at me, repeated what he had said previously in an annoyed, louder tone, as if my presence was bothering him.  I’ve had this experience with other Hong Kongers; they seem to believe that by speaking louder, this imperial language speaking fool would instantly understand what was said.

At that moment, Thomas came up closer to me.  He is a tall, good looking white guy.

“How much is it?”  I said, in English this time.

The clerk noted Thomas’ presence.  “The big one is $49 and the small one is $42.” He spoke back to me in English, his tone audibly calmer and more pleasant.

“May I see them?”

He turned around and bent down to reach the cupboard  to fetch the umbrellas.  He then put them down on the counter for me to inspect.

“I will take this one.” I said as I pointed to the small umbrella.

As I was groping around my bag for my wallet, the clerk carefully cut off the tag on the umbrella for me.  Then I gave him some money and he gave me the change.

“Thanks” I said as I picked up the umbrella from the counter, and walked out the store with Thomas behind me.

I opened my brand new Circle K umbrella as I stepped out into the rain.

“Did that just happen?” Thomas asked.

I laughed.  “Yup, it sure did.”

My lazy unwillingness to learn Cantonese had made me appear to be a Mainlander speaking the imperialistic language imposing on the local population.   Next time, I better greet the store clerk with, “M’goi.” Then I can speak whichever language I want without coming across as an imperialistic fool.

An Open Letter to the CCP Concerning Press Freedom in HK

Dear Chinese Communist Party,

I’m not one of those Americans who thinks the way we do things in ‘Murica is always better than the way others do them, but when it comes to propagandizing and controlling its population…well…USA #1!.  Comparing the elegant sophistication of the US authorities to the brutishness of the Chinese is like comparing a samurai sword to a meat cleaver.  US propaganda is so good that many Americans don’t even think of their media as propaganda.  Not so in China, and increasingly not so in HK.  So my advice to my current masters is to be a little more like my former masters (or HK’s former masters).  Try a subtler approach when it comes to HK people.

You see, HK people are not like Mainland Chinese people.  I know, you guys like to think the difference is that they have been conditioned by the British into believing in all this civil liberties crap, but the history is a little more complicated than that.  When HK people were rioting in 1967 and China Commie sympathy was reportedly prevalent in the colony, the British behaved very much like you might have: they locked up journalists and closed down newspapers.  But they quickly realized that this did them more harm than good.  Tony Elliot, the political advisor to HK at the time, stated, “The experience of the last six months has shown that interference with the press produces more violent reactions than anything else.”  HK got freedom of the press because the people fought for it, not because the Brits wanted them to have it.  Press freedom was the lesser of two evils for the British authorities, and I believe it is the lesser of two evils for Big Beijing as well.   You know that anti-subversion law that you’ve been trying to pass for so long?  You know, the one that HK people protest every time you try to pass it?   My advice is to drop it, and control the press in ways that won’t stir up so much animosity.  The more bluntly  you exert control over the HK media, the less useful that control becomes.

The way they do things where I come from is less obvious and therefore more effective.  The rulers of my country are the financial and corporate elite; they control the politicians and they control the media, and they do it mainly by (quietly) giving gifts.  You guys could totally do the same thing; a “free press” and “democracy” make control easier, not harder (I’ll explain the democracy part in another post).  In my country, we have a “polarized political debate” because Republicans and Democrats shout at each other on Fox News and MSNBC.  We have “liberal” newspapers like the New York Times, and “conservative” ones like the Wall Street Journal, but when something is really important to the political elites, as during the lead up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, everybody falls in line.  Then they go back to shouting at each other over gay rights and abortion, while both sides support the same basic foreign policy and economic agendas.  This “polarized” political climate makes anyone who speaks outside of these bounds look like an extremist, and extremists/dissidents are better ignored than brutalized (compare Amy Goodman/Ai Weiwei).  In the US, the mainstream (note the adjective, meaning not extremist but also meaning constrained by the profit motive) media are controlled through advertising and ownership.  Nothing that’s against the interests of corporate/finance hegemony can be published by the mainstream media in the US, because nearly 100% of advertizers are corporations.  Questioning corporate hegemony is simply not profitable, no conspiracy, no corruption necessary.  I notice that you guys have gotten into this game too, and that you’re pretty good at it in fact.  Unfortunately for you, some people in Taiwan have also noticed your press control prowess.  Again, a more patient approach will get you more of what you want, in the long run.

That article I just linked to is instructive, not because it documents how the CCP influences media outlets around the world by withholding advertising, denying visas for foreign reporters, and rewarding loyal journalists in HK and Taiwan while using China’s economic might to punish disloyal media groups (of course y’all know all about that).  It’s instructive because the institution that wrote it (Freedom House, a “Non-Governmental Organization” financed largely by the US government) would never be so impolite as to turn such analysis against its sponsors.  See how that works?  The US can criticize you, and it looks like an impartial NGO is doing it.  But when you criticize the US in your state controlled newspaper, the propagandistic nature of the criticism is just too obvious to have any effect on people (like those in HK) who grew up with a “free press.”  Speaking through state-controlled media detracts from your message, completely overshadowing the legitimacy of many of your claims.  What you need is an institution with a reputation for objectivity and independence.  There are no such institutions in Mainland China.

The other thing that detracts from your message is your tone.  You see, to those of us with Western sensibilities the way  you write just sounds childish.  So let me give you some advice that I give my students.  Be judicious with your adjectives and adverbs.  Just as the use of “very” tends to weaken whatever it was intended to strengthen, when your propagandists write something like, “China on Friday responded to the United States criticism and irresponsible remarks of its human rights situation by publishing its own report on the US human rights issues,” the sentence is rendered ineffective as propaganda by the word “irresponsible.”  It just makes it too obvious that the reporter is not objectively reporting what the CCP says, but is actually a mouthpiece for the CCP.  This is why the South China Morning Post is a much more useful propaganda tool for you than is the China Daily.  The fact that the SCMP is published in HK, and is at times mildly critical of your policies is precisely what makes it more credible.  Notice that the New York Times was so much more useful to the Bush administration in making its case for the invasion of Iraq than was Fox News, which was too obviously allied with the Republican party to be taken seriously by anyone who was the least bit skeptical in the first place.  To liberal-minded Westerners, the China Daily and Fox News sound exactly equally ridiculous.

A free press in HK can be useful to you, but only if you use a softer touch.  If you want to be able to effectively influence media savvy people all over the world, the legacy of press freedom in HK is your most valuable asset.  Currently HK’s reputation for press freedom is depreciating so quickly that the credibility of its independent papers may reach the level of the China Daily or Xinhua.  Once lost, it will be nearly impossible to restore.  So use your financial muscle to encourage self-censorship, but be patient.  Use the carrot, avoid the stick.  Eventually, you’ll find that journalists have subconsciously adopted your frames to the point that they don’t even think of it as self-censoring, and the public won’t either.  But if you’re too eager to take control of HK, you risk destroying the very institutions you wish to control.

In exchange for what really is my bestest most honest advice to you, all I ask for in return is a better CCP troll.  I don’t want to sound ungrateful.  Kayo and I were flattered that our lowly blog had enticed a seemingly enthusiastic Commie troll to comment on our posts about attitudes toward Cantonese as a language!  But that guy was a bit of an amateur.  No offense.  With his emotionally charged anti-Cantonese bigotry, he did such a good job of making himself look foolish, I felt like there was nothing left for me to do!  So if we could have a slightly more culturally sensitive troll, that would be super duper awesome  (for all involved parties) 🙂 🙂 Promise we won’t censor 😉

-W

Press Freedom or Tourist-free Trains?

In Taiwan since March 18th, 2014, student protesters have been occupying the main hall in the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.   They are protesting against the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA), which is a part of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).   The CCSTA is a reciprocal trade agreement between China and Taiwan, which opens various Taiwanese sectors of the service industry to China.   This is an extremely controversial pact as it is seen as a threat to Taiwan’s political and economic autonomy.   President Ma, along with the Kuomintang (KMT) are seen as evil doers selling Taiwan to China.   The student protesters who are backed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), are demanding the KMT to not implement the agreement until it was considered in the legislature and reviewed clause-by-clause in public hearings, with consultations with academics, NGOs, and the representatives of the sectors that stood to be affected by the pact. Hong Kongers have been showing their support for Taiwan in various forms:

support

It makes me feel warm and fuzzy that Hong Kongers are supporting the Taiwanese people, but there is an element of ridiculousness and triviality to their complaints.  For instance, a Hong Kong based blogger, badcanto, who writes for Dictionary of Politically Incorrect Hong Kong Cantonese, posted an item about Hong Kong tourists in Taiwan.  Hong Kongers are encouraging Taiwanese people to be strong, and not to become a ‘Second Hong Kong”, which I totally agree with, but I do find this statement amusing: ” In Hong Kong, I’ve to wait for four trains before getting on one.  However, in Taiwan, even during rush hour, I can still breathe.  I feel very grateful.”  Basically, what this tourist is implying is that if the Taiwanese don’t hold their ground and fight this trading pact, the country is going to be overrun by Mainland Chinese, which seems like the only thing this individual was concerned about.  He didn’t mention any other consequences other than crowded public transportation… like, what about the the loss of freedom of speech and free press?    In Hong Kong, three journalists have been attacked in the recent weeks.  On February 26, a notable journalist Kevin Lau, former editor-in-chief for Ming Pao, was stabbed as he was getting out of his car.   On March 20th, two more journalists were attacked in Tsim Sha Tsui.  These attacks have been regarded as a threat to free press in Hong Kong, which I believe should be a far more concerning issue for the Taiwanese people to think about than the prospect of too many tourists from a particular country. While it seems that the majority of the people in Hong Kong may support the student protesters in Taiwan, the view of mainstream media is a little vague (perhaps a sign of shrinking press freedom and its subsequent self-censorship).  The South China Morning Post has an article today titled, “‘This isn’t the democracy we want’: Some Chinese dismayed by Taiwan students’ occupation of legislature”.   While the author agrees that most Hong Kongers support the Taiwanese people, she had chosen some provoking images to represent the student protesters.  In one picture, the students are seen drinking beer, and in another, two gay men kissing. Instead of openly being critical of the movement, the author had chosen a passive-aggressive tactic to discredit the whole event.    Why don’t you just tell us what you really think, SCMP?

What is troubling is how Hong Kongers aid the media in trivializing the student protests in Taiwan, whether they intend to or not.  While Hong Kongers are supportive of the Taiwanese, and urging them not to end up losing control over their country as they had, the Hong Kongers show their support by focusing on petty issues, such as having the public transport system overrun by Mainland Chinese tourists.   Hong Kongers are not articulating their issue and their demands to each other and in the media.  There have been emotionally charged protests taking place that are targeting Mainland Chinese tourists and shouting at them in public places to go back to China.   These anti-Mainland sentiments are ineffective in enabling Hong Kong to be more autonomous, and they end up making Hong Kongers look ethnocentric, which hardly generates as much international sympathy as would protests about press freedom.  The rhetoric of bigotry is harmful because the purpose and the demands of the political activity can be easily discredited.   I hope Taiwanese people take a cue from what’s been happening in Hong Kong and employ a different tactic.  They should articulate their demands as they have been doing, hold their ground, and do not let emotions and bigotry get in the way of the issue at hand, because if they do the press controlled and influenced by Beijing will be ready to pounce.  Go Taiwan!

Ain’t nothing logical about yellow fever…it’s BIO-logical.

My yellow fever wasn’t a choice.  I was born this way.

But I didn’t start out this way.  I used to date white women, be attracted to white women.  So far as I knew, I didn’t have any real racial sexual preference.  But 5 years ago I started dating an Asian-American woman, then I moved to Hong Kong.  By the end of the first year here, I found myself very rarely attracted to non-East Asian women.  So how did this happen?  And why do I say I was born this way when I didn’t manifest any yellow fever symptoms until my 30s?

My sexual orientation hasn’t changed since moving to Hong Kong.  What has changed is my environment.  As a straight man, I’ve always been attracted to neoteny.  East Asians have more of it than anyone else, and now I’m surrounded by East Asians.

Neoteny is “the retention by adults of traits previously seen only in the young.”  Neoteny has been a major driving force in human evolution, so much so that it’s fair to say that humans are basically neotenized chimps.  The list of neotenic traits in humans includes, “flattened face, broadened face,large brain, hairless body, hairless face, small nose, reduction of brow ridge, small teeth, small upper jaw, small lower jaw, thinness of skull bones, limbs proportionately short compared to torso length, longer leg than arm length, larger eyes, and upright stance.”  This list can describe the difference between humans and chimps, the difference between women and men, or the difference between East Asians and other humans.  East Asians are hyper-human, East Asian women (and Betty Boop) are hyper-feminine, and it’s all about neoteny.  chimps100px-Betty_Boop_patent_fig2

Who we find attractive is conditioned by who (and what images) we are surrounded by; this is known as the contrast effect.  The contrast effect is likely responsible for the high divorce rate among secondary school teachers and college professors.  Kanazawa and Still hypothesize that male college professors have a high divorce rate (and tend to stay unmarried) because they are subconsciously affected by being surrounded by women at the peak of their fertility.  Heterosexual men are programmed to choose the most fertile and otherwise high-quality mate they can find, and when their environment consists of a disproportionate number of young women, they will subconsciously downgrade the attractiveness of older women.  (This is why it’s probably a good idea for men to reduce their exposure to media images of impossibly attractive women.)  I think a similar phenomenon occurs with white men in Asia, which explains why so many of us become less attracted to white women when we move here.  It’s not that living in Asia has caused me to be unattracted to all white women, but there is something about being surrounded by women with that neotenous East Asian bone structure that makes the average white woman’s face appear more masculine to me than it did when I lived in the US.   What this means is that for the most part, the white women I’m attracted to are out of my league, but the Asian women I’m attracted to are closer to the mean, and therefore more likely to like me back.

So far as I can tell, my yellow fever primarily affects my limbic system (the more primitive, or “reptilian brain”), leaving my neocortex relatively unscathed.  In other words, it strongly influences who I find sexually attractive, but not who I find intellectually, culturally or emotionally appealing (when we say men are thinking with their penises, we really mean they are thinking with their limbic systems, rather than their cortexes).  The limbic system has a powerful impact on motivation, but it’s not subject to a great deal of conscious introspection.

This is all terribly unfortunate for me, and that’s the illogical part.  My genes programmed me to maximize my inclusive fitness, not to maximize my happiness.  I’d almost surely be happier with a partner who is more similar to me, something a gay friend of mine finds hilariously ironic.  But alas, I was never attracted to men, and now I’m not attracted to white women unless they’re way too hot for me.  Though I find neoteny physically attractive, I’m not a big fan of it as a cultural phenomenon, and cultural neoteny is much more prevalent in East Asia than elsewhere.  I don’t know if biological neoteny plays a role in Japan’s Kawaii culture, or East Asian adult’s disproportionate love of Disney and Hello Kitty, but it’s possible there may be some gene/culture coevolution going on here.  I guess I should learn to embrace the cultural cuteness of East Asia.  In China, even the bears are cute.  Maybe that’s why Hong Kong is so safe?

The Korean says that those of us who suffer from yellow fever are just racist, and he says the same thing about Asian women who are predominantly/exclusively attracted to white men.  It’s arguments like his that made me hesitant to post this; I certainly don’t want to be labelled a racist, or worse, a pedophile.  So let me be clear, I’m not into the infantilized China doll look.  I’m not into girls.  I’m into women.  I just prefer certain facial features that are indicators of youth (which is a proxy for fertility).  What it feels like is an infatuation with a particular facial bone structure.

If I could choose who I was attracted to, I might make a different choice, or at least a more inclusive one.  But this is the curse of the 21st century 30-something straight male (it’s just particularly acute for culturally Western men in Asia with yellow fever).  We’re surrounded by media images that make us less happy, if only slightly and subconsciously, with the women we’re with.  I guess we should just grow up, and stay away from the likes of Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, or Zhang Ziyi.

imgres

The one saving grace of yellow fever is that many Asian women who I think are beautiful do seem to like me back, and some of them are culturally and intellectually appealing to me as well.  Since I’m not an Asian woman, I’m not going to try to explain why some Asian women prefer white men, but my fellow blogger here is quite qualified to comment on that phenomenon, since she’s one of the data points in it, just as I am in the yellow fever dataset.  I’ll leave that to her.

Cantonese is just a dialect… or is it?

In his last post, Wes asked: when you believed it was true that Cantonese is a dialect, not a language, what did that mean to you?  What was the truth that sentence got at? Honestly, before we had this debate that spanned across multiple drinking sessions and all-day iMessage arguments, I had never even thought of it.  It was always something I knew, something I never questioned.  The Anglo-Canadian part of my brain has been probed throughout my life- through education, media and talking to people like Wes.   On the other hand, the Chinese side of my brain has been left uneducated and uncritical.   Having left Asia at a young age, with Mandarin not being my dominant language, whatever I picked up in Asia as a child and whatever attitudes or opinions my parents have on topics that are not directly related to the “western” part of my brain, have been absorbed without question. So here is me unpacking why I agree with the statement: Cantonese is not a language, it’s just a dialect.

When I think about the above statement logically, it sounds ludicrous. Of course Cantonese is a language, in the literal sense. It is a system of communication used by humans in a particular region of the world.  When Mandarin or Cantonese speakers agree to the above statement we are not agreeing that Cantonese is not a system of communication used by a particular group of Chinese people. Rather, it is a reflection of how Mandarin Chinese plays a role in our collective psyche, no matter which part of China, or which Chinese language speaking country we are from.

My family is Taiwanese.  My ancestors moved from southern Fujian providence to Taiwan during the Qing Dynasty, specifically, in 1762.  People who moved to Taiwan during this period brought Min Nan with them, which is the language commonly spoken in southern Fujian.    It became one of the main languages of Taiwan, in addition to Hakka.  (The aboriginal people of Taiwan also spoke their own languages that are not related to any Chinese languages, how those languages are perceived and what happened to them is a whole different discussion.)   When the Communists took over China in the late 1940s, the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan.   They called themselves the legitimate government of China.  Since then, they have been “reforming” Taiwan.  One of the things they did was to make Mandarin the national language.   I remember my parents saying that when they were growing up in Taiwan in the 60’s, they weren’t allowed to speak Min Nan- Hua in school.  If someone was caught speaking it, this person was punished and publicly humiliated.  Generations of people were discouraged from speaking it in public.  Growing up, my parents spoke a mix of Min Nan-Hua, Japanese, and Mandarin at home and I developed an ear for Min Nan-Hua at a young age.   When I moved to Taichung, Taiwan with my family at age 6, the only language I spoke was Japanese. As a first grader, I was taught to speak Mandarin even though at home, my parents hardly ever spoke that. As a child, I was stressed out enough learning the new language, and I didn’t even think that it was an entirely different language I was learning.  My brother, who is a two years younger than me, stayed home more, and he learned to speak Min Nan-Hua from the family cook, who only spoke Min Nan-Hua.  Min Nan-Hua was reduced to a mere dialect 方言– associated with the uneducated and the lower class, inferior to Mandarin.

Do I believe this is right?  Of course not.  It is a reflection of Kuomintang imperialism, and I didn’t even realize that I had such a bias until recently.  My people were oppressed by members of the  Kuomintang, our national language reduced to a mere dialect… and yet, it clearly worked.  I am a well-educated individual who has lived and worked in many different parts of the world.  I like to think that I am worldly and open-minded… Yet, I am not immune to truthiness  – Go ahead Wes, make your point already.

Oh, I suppose I should explicitly answer the original question: “When you believed it was true that Cantonese is a dialect, not a language, what did that mean to you?  What was the truth that sentence got at?”

My answer is, there is no truth to this statement.  This is what the Chinese brain thinks:

Mandarin = Language

Everything else = Dialect

Is this right?  No.   What Wes struggled to understand is that there is no logic to this.  Of course we, the Western educated Chinese speakers, know the definition of language.  But when we agree with statements such as the one above, we are not thinking about the actual definition of language, we are thinking about language from an emotional place, from the depth of our collective psyche.  We are just repeating something that was told to us… like we are brainwashed to think this way.   Like I said before, it’s certainly a bias I had never thought about before.

You gotta give it to the Hong Kong people though.  Cantonese is still the primary language in Hong Kong.  They are still fighting… but I am afraid it is a losing battle.  I fear that one day, Cantonese will indeed be reduced to a mere dialect, like Min Nan Hua in Taiwan… Have you heard that they are teaching Chinese language classes in public schools in Mandarin these days?  I work in a supposedly English speaking university- instead of lecturing in English, a lot of professors are teaching their classes in Mandarin.   What I am observing, is that instead of coercing the Hong Kong people, they (Beijing) are just making small changes here and there.  Soon Hong Kong will become something that none of us recognize.

Plunge, Retake

Wes thinks we should blame Hong Kong’s lack of music/art scene and shitty dating on “women who consider the starving artist type undateable“.  Frankly, I disagree.

We can make these women public enemy #1, seek them out in Soho and throw rocks at them.  Actually, I also feel like throwing rocks at the douchy bankers these women sought after.   Now the question is, which came first, the douchy bankers or the women who find starving artist types undateable?

Hong Kong is one of the financial capitals in the world, expected to surpass London and New York in the very near future.  The city attracts and recruits the brightest and the shrewdest to work in its thriving financial sector.   As a result, it is a materialistically driven, superficial city.  People living and working in Hong Kong have high earning potential, they are able to afford luxury goods and have large, comfortable accommodations.  In this highly competitive environment, people have to demonstrate that they are the best of the best.    Men will flaunt their earning potential by wearing an expensive suit, driving a luxurious car, living in a penthouse of a fancy building in a trendy neighbourhood.  Women want men with high earning potential because walking around with expensive handbags and having the newest gadgets that you did not have to earn is high status.   Having a rich man provide for you, so you can sit around and look pretty, is high status.   To attract these men, women also need to play the part by conforming to the conventional standard of beauty.  In Asia, the golden standard of beauty is slenderness.  The mothers of daughters groom them to be submissive, uncritical, to dress and act conventionally in order to be pleasing to a man, with the dream that one day, their daughter will become a mute, beautiful trophy wife to some wealthy executive that will also look after them in their old age.   This is the Asian dream.

The worst thing that could happen to a woman in Hong Kong  is fall in love with a man with low status.   God forbid she might have to work so her artist husband can hopefully become the next Picasso.  An artist can only gain high status when his art sells for a lot of money, like Picasso.  Before an artist becomes famous and starts raking in millions, they are undateable.  (Note the galleries in Central and how expensive bad art cost.  It doesn’t matter if the art is bad as long as it fetches a lot of dough). Artists have poor earning potential and by default, low status in Hong Kong society.   As do people working in education and NGO sectors.  The “hipster” status, the idea of being “cool”, or the idea that you might be doing something with your career other than just making money, seems impractical in Hong Kong.  It might be desirable to have a “cool” job as a game designer because you make decent money but your career is also driven by passion or a geeky niche.    Being passionate, geeky, or cool is not practical, it does not make money, and therefore not valued in Hong Kong.  This is why the creative types in general are less likely to come to Hong Kong, and this is why the music and art scenes are rather pathetic here.

I don’t blame the women who find artist undateable.  I don’t really blame the douchy bankers either, but I find their vanity plate extremely distasteful.

'nuff said.

’nuff said.

Christmas Portraits From Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, people are unusually obsessed with using their smart phones to document their lives by taking pictures of everything- performances, scenery, outings, food.  I have been fascinated with the local Chinese people taking pictures  in front of elaborate Christmas decorations all over Hong Kong (some of these decorations are just plain weird– almost like Tim-Burton weird but not quirky enough).  This is a meta-documentation of my life in Hong Kong, through other people’s pictures:

A young couple having their picture taken standing in front of bizarre Christmas  decoration in Causeway Bay.

After posting this picture on Facebook, are they going to look at it again?

Our phones are altering our memory and how we interact with the world.  Since we have tools to capture our lives quickly and easily, we now live in a state of distracted amnesia, oscillating between the Instagram and Facebook apps on our smart phones.   Who needs to remember special moments when we can take a picture of everything and anything and post them onto the collective memory… umm, I mean, Facebook?   Look how early we start indoctrinating our young:

The beginning of a digitally enabled amnesia.  Age 5.

The beginning of a digitally enabled amnesia. Age 5.

Remember back in the days when films and development of films cost money, we were more cautious about creating images?  Those days seem like a lifetime ago.  Our parents have bound albums of old photographs in the attic and we occasionally look at them.  At least with a photo album, we can just open it and browse.  “Oh, look, there’s me when I was 5 covered in jam!  How cute!”   And when our parents took those pictures, they took them with the intention of looking at them, together, and remembering.  When I look at people taking pictures today in HK, it’s hard to imagine that they have the same purpose.  By the time our children are grown, how would they retrieve old digital images from a 30 year-old portable hard drive?!?!   Our children will be inundated with digital trash in the form of hard drives…  of selfies.

Future attics will be filled with hard drives with selfies.

Selfies: trash in the digital and physical realms.

Asians are famous for taking pictures of the food they eat.  Only after taking the perfect picture, posting it on Facebook/sending it to their friends via Line, can they enjoy the food before them.   Apparently though, we enjoy food more if we don’t Instagram it.  Let’s regain our lives by not obsessively documenting our mundane lives with our smart phones.  Let’s teach our children to remember special moments by telling them a story.  Let’s not be so narcissistic, and if we must, let’s spend that energy pampering our loved ones.   Why not attach the selfie in an email and write a proper letter to that special someone in your life?  We will be happier and actually live our lives to remember each passing moment when we are not preoccupied with getting the perfect Instagram.

I propose an Instagram/Facebook moratorium.  I’ve started already.