Friday, April 21, 2006

Trackbacks from the Past...

Recently I discovered a whole bunch of Hong Kong bloggers who are like long-lost friends to me in the way they write and feel about Hong Kong.... "Omigod these people are ME" was my first reaction when I started reading their posts and profiles. All these bloggers have the great good fortune to be real life friends with each other - I know this because all their blogs are linked (that's how I found them one by one, by clicking on their links) and the fact that many of the posts on these blogs referred to the things they did together, as well as the messages they leave on each others' blog. It's almost enough to make me green with envy because these people would have been my very dear friends too if I had the fortune to grow up in Hong Kong with them, for the simple reason that they think and feel about events in Hong Kong and the world pretty much as I do and their passion for art and literature and the fact that they are sensitive to, and are earnest about, social and political issues of the day.

Reading their posts have been opening up a whole new world for me, helping me to connect with Hong Kong in a way that no email/letter correspondences with my childhood pals ever could. This is especially precious to me because I have been away from Hong Kong for so long - almost seven years, in fact. (It's pretty scary when I do count up the years - I feel so old... and so out of touch almost...).

I made some comments on SeeChuen's blog in particular that I want to link back here, for they captured some of my precious memories and feelings about Hong Kong...

"Like many of the posters here, the Tianamen Square massacre is not something that I could easily forget, especially because I was at such a young age (11) at the time.

I remember the 1 million people march in support of those student protestors, the patriotic and pro-democracy (these two concepts are not mutually-exclusive you know) song that we learnt from our teachers in school (anyone remember the "Love Freedom, For Freedom" song?), all the white-on-black stickers around the lifts in the lobby of my housing estate, the t-shirts with the pictures of the student leaders' faces on them, the "Statue of Liberty" made by the student protestors themselves (the workmanship of which I remember as being quite rubbish frankly)....

More importantly however, I remember how shocked I was, how we all were, by the actual massacre of the student protestors by their own government. In addition to the above iconic scene, I remember the sound tapes from someone inside the Square that captured the panicked screaming of the students as the tanks began to arrive. I remember how the news described black smokes rose from the Square shortly after the massacre, that the many many students trapped in the Square were simply vanished, as no coffins were brought out, only smoke... I remember how the government tried to clamp down on any news coming out of Beijing. I remember the four-word editorial in a Leftist newspaper, that gave voice to the speechlessness we all felt. I remember how there was no schools on that day.

The key thing I remember, was the deep deep shame, even as an eleven year old, of being Chinese. "Chinese won't fight Chinese" is something that I was taught, but it clearly wasn't the case there. For the government to turn on its people in such a brutal way, no amount of white-washing of history afterwards would cover those "blood-soaked colours"....

History is often a story of the victors. To bid us to forget brutal history, as recent as something that happened only 17 years ago, is to bid us to forget that there are multiple sides to historical events. That's the reason why we must not forget June the Fourth. The state might like us all to gloss over that black dot of history in building up its narrative of a stronger and better China, but to forget history as sordid as that of the Tianamen Square massacre to fit historical events into this state-sanctioned narrative is to deny the sacrifices made by the students and residents of Beijing for a better China - one that is progressive and humane precisely because it does not forget."

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"But I'm soooo jealous about all the books you have. I kind of pride myself on keeping up with reading quality Chinese lit even though I live overseas (Ireland to be precise), but I haven't got any of the books that you've up on your bookshelf. The closest I came to is Eileen Chang's, I have about five of her books but not "First Pot of Incense"... This is one of the times when I feel I really miss HK, wondering what I could have been reading all these years if I hadn't moved overseas....."

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An Easter reminder...

The last Easter weekend must be one of the most wasteful long weekends I've had in my so-called life... Over the four-day holiday I did little but hang around Guardian's Comment is Free site in spite of the ton of work that I had to do. The sad thing is that I didn't use my time to really enjoy or indulge myself either, just laze around doing precious little and feeling little zest for life during a holiday that's meant to be a period of renewal... I hadn't even got a proper Easter egg.... so these Easter eggs on the left are a little reminder to self: Next time, must try harder!

The only meaningful thing I did that was Easter-related at all was to attend the Eucharist service with friend E at Christchurch in town on Thursday early evening, immediately after work. And I only went because I was almost dragged there by E, who thought that if we didn't get there by 5:30pm for the 6pm service we wouldn't get in at all (when truth be told, we were the EARLIEST eager-beavers and the service didn't start until almost 6:15pm, with less than a fifth of the pews filled). It was my first time to go inside Christchurch actually, and it is a really lovely Cathedral, with intricate carvings and elaborate brass ornaments inside a cavernous but well-lit hall, all of which I attempted to look at through the "symbologist" eye a la Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code (sacrilegious, no?). It's a real pity though that the state of my contact lenses didn't quite allow me to admire the stonework and the stained glass in any great detail...

One would be fooled by the sophisticated decor to think that Christchurch is Catholic, however. I didn't realise that Christchurch was not Catholic (!) but actually Church of Ireland, and that none of the really famous Churches in Dublin city centre (e.g. even St. Patrick's Cathedral) are Catholic! I really would have never guessed, and after all my years in Ireland I would never have known this little fact if I have not been enlightened by my devout Protestant friend from South Africa. Without E, I wouldn't have known that the Christchurch Cathedral itself had been home to a former Catholic Church - hence the elaborate decor with flying buttresses and so on - but that when the English took over they took over Christchurch and turned it Anglican.

About the service itself, I am pleasantly surprised that a proper service programme was given to attendees as they came in, so that even a religious-ignoramus such as me could follow the service and able to recite and reply to the priest's sermon (I did have certain hesitations about following the script however, and had remained silent for some of the passages, see below for reasons why). I love the choir singing, the voices were really quite divine and the hymns were beautiful. I also rejoiced at the fact that, by reading (and listening to) the Lord's prayer in English, I could now remember the full Lord's prayer in Chinese, something which has been drummed into me from a young age at morning assemblies for six years of my primary schooling in Hong Kong, and which I thought I would never forget until I moved to Ireland and have forgotten parts of it within two years. I had regretted not remembering the prayer because it had been such a key part of my HK upbringing, even though the religion side of things have dropped by the way side in my life ever since I grasped the pointlessness of organised religions and the evil havoc they could wreak when combined with politics...

This brings me to several things that were quite jarring to me about the service itself, like the fact that a black altar boy was holding a holy book in supplication, with head held low and hands outstretched, for the white priest to read out loud to the congregation. I suppose I wouldn't have made such a mental note of objection if the altar boy in question hadn't been black, but race is a matter in a largely mono-cultural Ireland with paternalistic latent racism being the norm rather than the exception, and to pretend to be colour-blind about these things is to be wilfully racially-ignorant in my not so humble opinion. For some reason, I can't get over the impression that the white priests were mighty pleased about the fact that they had the black recruits and have them (there was also an Indian girl with an American accent) perform duties at the service to demonstrate their racial cred. (Actually, E did say that you're not supposed to call the young ones "altar boys", as they don't have them in Protestant churches... I don't remember what's meant to be the correct term for describing these young ones though).

Another thing that really, really disappointed me about the service, was how the priests preached not about the war crimes that have been committed in the name of Christianity in recent world events, especially the whole clash of civilisation talk about Christianity versus Islam; but rather, seemed to me to offer placid support to the "spreading" of so-called "freedom and democracy" by the Americans and the British, no matter how many lives were taken in the illegal war and how much blood was shed.

It was really this that helped me make my decision to not to receive communion at the service. I was struggling with the to-go-or-not-to-go decision about 25 minutes into the service, when I realised, from reading ahead of the service programme, that communion would be involved. At first I felt that I should take it, because I was in Church and should do what the Romans do, especially as I do believe in God and felt that maybe I would be betraying Him (how genderised is my thinking after years of indoctrination) if I don't take it after all the support that I have received, and continue to receive, from Him over the years. But then I also felt I should not take it because I no longer believe in the Christian (or any religionised) version of God, and that I don't believe in empty ceremonial gestures for what should really be a matter of my heart and soul. I was still quite undecided until I heard one of the several priests spoke about the bravery of those who engaged in spreading so-called freedom and democracy and the Christian message in the world - I realise then that I don't want to be in communion with a group of men who could talk about freeing fellow men by dropping bombs on them and spreading democracy while bullying the elected candidate, without having the conscience to critique their own actions and the heart to feel ashamed.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A book description...

★ 35歲前不得不做 / 35歲後還可挽救?
書 籍 簡 介

├ 書 籍 詳 介
第01種態度 用笑容和讚美打破僵局
第02種態度 以「誠」為自己加分
第03種態度 做人要有點「厚黑」
第04種態度 別讓毒舌毀了你 

第05種態度 珍惜人生旅途中的重要過客
第06種態度 付出就不要想回報
第07種態度 不要輕信眼睛所看到的表象
第08種態度 讓積極左右你的行為

被譽為「態度之星」的凱斯.哈瑞爾(Keith Harrell)在其著作中指出:要培養態度,首先必須先找出人生「目標」與點燃生命的「熱情」。如果,沒有「目標」與「熱情」,人很容易就迷失了方向,深陷於挫折中。
第09種態度 看見別人的優點,學習它、擁有它
第10種態度 不爽和憤怒別發洩在旁人身上
第11種態度 擁抱生命中的不完美
第12種態度 走路之前,先學跌倒
第13種態度 說「不」,就能跟麻煩拜拜
第14種態度 退後是為了之後能向前

第15種態度 夢想要與現實合為一體
第16種態度 留意人生時刻表,緊握「機會」單程票
第17種態度 行動別被成見「恐固力」
第18種態度 勇猛衝鋒,也要懂得激流勇退
第19種態度 丟掉舊包袱,挑戰新極限
第20種態度 轉個彎,路更寬
第21種態度 以平常心看世界

第22種態度 戴上專業的假面
第23種態度 尋找能同穿一條褲子的麻吉
第24種態度 多喝咖啡少聊是非
第25種態度 功勞要讓長官領,黑鍋默默自己揹
第26種態度 沒事也得要找罵挨
第27種態度 不管工不工作,都要時時學習
第28種態度 快!快!快工作,慢!慢!慢生活

第29種態度 堅持,就能找對位置
第30種態度 真的要「放棄」
第31種態度 做金錢的主人
第32種態度 生活就是要簡單
第33種態度 揮灑分享的藝術

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

I've been contributing to various blog discussions (e.g. this one) on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on Guardian's Comment is Free site, and then I read something about a singer, Jennifer John, who was selected to give a performance to Condoleeza Rice during her visit to Liverpool together with the Liverpool orchestra. They chose Lennon's "Imagine" as her performance piece, and Jennifer threatened the organisers that she would pull out if this song choice was not permitted. She said she couldn't do the performance in full conscience without making a humanitarian stand, and the orchestra backed her and chose this song with her as well.

This is so heartening to know that there are people who will stand up for human rights even when they're paid to perform in front of smiling tyrants who pride themselves on so-called freedom and democracy when what they have brought are only bloodshed and destruction.

Anyway, the piece sent me searching the web for the full lyrics and the song again, and it's such a wonderful song - so calming in the midst of all the religious flaming and hate rants that one finds on the Israeli/Palestinians blogs...

"Imagine there is no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too, Imagine all the people, living life in peace...." Amen.

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John McGahern on Writing...

Saw a very good John McGahern documentary this evening on RTE. The renowned Irish writer passed away this week.

The documentary was done at John's home and the farm he lived on. Beautiful imageries of woods and trees and apples and tomatoes inter-cut segments of interviews with John. The unwavering glare from his round blue eyes and his small chin are what struck me about his appearance. The home itself was quite modest, with bare walls painted in a bluish tone and plain furniture, but the rooms all had beautiful views of the farm, as well as shelvefuls of books.

Of his books, I only have "Amongst Women", which was given to me by the wife of a colleague a couple of years ago as a thank you for something I did for her (but I can't remember what I did now, I just remember that the gift far outweighed the little favour I'd done for her). I frankly found the book a bit boring, too "Irish" almost, but when he read out a passage from the book against the backdrops of his home and farm, the words made a lot of emotive sense and were actually quite affecting.

He said several things about writing which stayed with me. One is that he needed to have a boring life (as a farmer and a teacher) in order to write. That he needed to clear his life of as many things as possible so that what was left in his mind were all his imaginations, nothing else.

However, I am more of the school of thought that says writers must immerse themselves in the thick of life in order to have anything "real" to write about, that they won't become so detached from the world that their writings have no resonance with the people living in the outside world at all. John instead proclaimed his method as being much more laissez-faire about reality: that writing happened when he had several images in his head which he couldn't get rid of, but which he had to set down on the page.

Indeed, a lot of his writing has to do with farm life and the country and Ireland (well at least from the one book of his that I've read). So perhaps he actually hadn't quite realised the influence that his farm life had on his writing, even though he was at the same time trying to detach his writing from his life as much as possible.

Being a farmer suited him however, not only in terms of allowing him headspace to write, but it also suited his laid-back personality, and he admitted that he sometimes enjoyed the tasks of farming much more than writing. But he said, "Writing is what I do." John very clearly identified himself as a writer first and foremost; the rest - farming and teaching - are coincidentals of what he also did in life.

But the one thing he said about writing which I really want to record here, is his view that all good writing depends on the reader. That writing itself doesn't create anything - it is the reader who interprets the writing who makes it good or bad. So according to John, "All good writings are suggestions, and all bad writings are statements".

This is such a profound insight. And it is true. Well... mostly. I do remember the times when I applaud a writer because of the way s/he eloquently articulates what I have wanted to say but can't due to a poverty of vocabulary and a lack of craft over language. So I guess some polemical writings are great precisely because of their effectiveness as pronouncements, as statements that people can latch their feelings onto.

Ah, but I now see, that this still depends on the readers who willingly proclaim the author's pronouncements as their own. So in the best sense of the term such pronouncements are still only "suggestions"; whilst bad writings are statements that carry no receptacle to hold readers' feelings and perceptions but the author's own.

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Where are you from?

Que sera sera...

Feed my pet!

Currently getting stuck in...

Have just finished...

Me, Anime...

A bunch of snowdrops by any other name...

S is for Sweet
N is for Natural
O is for Open-hearted
W is for Worldly
D is for Dedicated
R is for Romantic
O is for Original
P is for Perfectionist
S is for Special
What Does Your Name Mean?