Friday, July 30, 2010

Important artefacts from a relationship by Leanne Shapton...

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

A person becomes an intellectual...

A person becomes an intellectual...

... Not when she/he gets a primary degree;

... Not when she/he gets a Master's;

... Not when she/he gets a PhD;

... And not even when she/he's a fully-employed academic, with more than one PhD.

A person becomes an intellectual...

... as soon as she/he starts asking, Why?

A person becomes a
better intellectual...

... as soon as she/he starts also asking, Why Not?

Anyone can become an intellectual...

... So long as she/he is prepared to question,
what is taken-for-granted in our universe and in our lives.

A person is merely an academic...

... when she/he is content to stay within established ways of thinking;

... when she/he is happy to defend established ways of thinking as Truth with a capital T, one that brooks no re-interpretation by anybody;

... and when she/he scorns others for merely raising a foolish question

Such as, Why?

Or Why not, indeed?

Copyright Snowdrops 2010. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Haikus...


一班細路Wee Wee嘩

More summer musings (in less than 20 words) from other bloggers, please go here.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Thoughts on Online Intellectual Exchanges... [updated]

[Warning: This is destined to be a long, rambling post, written in both English and Chinese. 無他嘅,因為有些諗法係同一些用中文的網友交流時啟發的。又,由於我的中文程度差,所以白話和書面語會撈埋一碟。敬請見諒。Thank you in advance for bearing with me.]

So anyway, this is something I've meant to write about for quite some time. In fact, I think I had some earlier drafts of this post lurking somewhere on my blogger dashboard.

What brings me to write this finally is a recent exchange I had with a fellow blogger (which I would get to later on in the post). Don't get me wrong, it was a pleasant exchange, and the blogger is extremely civilised. But the thoughts and feelings that the exchange prompted had been building up in me for quite some time. So, perhaps it's time I let it out.

Readers would, hopefully, therefore forgive the fact that this post may come across as a bit of a rant (per my usual blogging style), with nary a coherent structure underpinning my rambling thoughts (again, per my usual blogging style). As I mentioned previously on my blog, blogging is a way for me to let off steam, as well as to put down all these higgledy-piggledy thoughts I had in my head as I found them. To find order among such chaos depends entirely on the patience of an indulging reader. And if you happen to be one of these rare souls, I'm eternally grateful.

Okay. Here goes. My basic thesis (if it could be called as such) is that there are very notable differences in online exchange of ideas between those whose cultural backgrounds are based in the West versus those who are based in the East. But here I already run into immediate problems even just stating this simple proposition. Perhaps it's not really to do with one's cultural backgrounds as such, perhaps more a sort of cultural identity that one subscribes to, consciously or unconsciously, which may or may not have a direct relation with where one is brought up (as I suspect, a lot of it is to do with how one is brought up -- and on this score, I may be bringing shame to my Chinese family if I imply that perhaps I hadn't been quite brought up properly. 其實係我自己嘅問題,唔關家教事,一人做事一人當。). And "East" and "West" are such totalising categories anyway -- maybe I should restrict them to just "Hong Kong" and "Irish"?

Anyway, what I want to say is, 有好多我認為是『港式』交流方法我是非常不認同的,甚至覺得頂唔順的。這樣說我是會俾人打,甚至被雷劈。唉,係都無辦法,死就死啦。。。

1. 排輩論級
Over here (Ireland, Europe, the West, what have you), the intellectual ideal is that one would win or lose an argument simply on the strengths of the argument alone, or lack thereof. If there are merits to your arguments, supported by logic and/or evidence or hopefully both, it should not matter if you are an up-start, marginalised outsider; or a well-established, well-connected insider. In this view of intellectual endeavour, expert authority is meant to be the LAST resort, and would be frowned upon if it is the sole criterion determining the quality of an argument, especially when one rely upon it at the expense of searching for logical coherence or for supporting evidence. That's the reason why we have double-blinded peer reviews -- it should not matter WHO says it, but WHAT is said, and whether what is said made sense, theoretically if not empirically.

Yet a curious thing occurred to me when I see ideas being exchanged on some blogs within the Hong Kong/Chinese blogosphere (whether the bloggers are themselves based in HK or overseas). To me it seems that, to many HK/Chinese bloggers, expert authority comes FIRST in any sort of intellectual exchange. People would preface their arguments with (what I'd consider to be irrelevant) details like where they had studied or who they've worked with or been taught by, or how long they have been in a foreign country or working in the field or how often they had come across other experts in that field. Okay, so authority based on hard-won field experience is indeed important and persuasive, but only in the limited sense of supporting one's personal opinions. After all, personal experience is STILL anecdotal evidence where rigorous scientific investigations are concerned, unless the topic is indeed concerned with the lived experience at the personal level itself. Yet it seems quite a lot of bloggers think it appropriate to elevate such anecdotal evidence to the level of 金科玉律. Whilst there is nothing wrong with being interested in personal experiences, after all, we are all just shooting the breeze; what annoys me is those who would choose to privilege certain personal opinions above others, and certain personal opinions over objective empirical evidence, because of that person's seeming expert credentials.

So, when any sort of debates/discussions are being held, there is always a meta-exchange going on in addition to the points being debated, a jockeying of positions in establishing the degree of one's authority on a given subject among the various participants. Not only that, but this exercise in 論級排輩 is done so in a way that is full of false modesty from all involved. Lots of self-deprecating addresses like 小弟、小妹、鄙人、不才、晚輩, etc. are being used, even when one professes oneself as a 老人.

I'm not saying that one shouldn't be modest, not at all. There is a certain decorum to civilised academic exchanges that we could all do well to observe. But for God's sake, could we not lower ourselves in such an artificial manner especially when we are at the same time trying to set out our stalls in demonstrating our so-called expert credentials? If you must engage in credentialing, could you please just say that you're indeed knowledgeable about the subject, or that you are adopting an outsider's viewpoint, and proceed to share your thoughts. Don't pretend to be modest when you're clearly knowledgeable about the subject, and especially don't try to be modest when in the next breath you're busy establishing your credibility on the subject. It's hypocritical and even smacks of schizophrenia (especially if you describe yourself as 不才, but then when you proceed to share your analysis / viewpoints, it's clear you're quite pleased with yourself to have come up with those angles, which in turn suggests that you don't actually subscribe to the idea of yourself as 不才 at all, and so in that case, why pretend?)

False modesty reeks just as bad as self-aggrandizing bravado, it really does. At least to me. (So maybe it's really just my problem).

2. 設法摸你底
A corollary to 論級排輩 is of course trying to get as much information as one could on fellow debaters' backgrounds, because, again, establishing WHO others are is way more important than listening to WHAT they have to say in these types of Hongkong-style intellectual exchanges.

Now, again, please don't get me wrong, there are times when someone is genuinely interested in your academic backgrounds because of what you have already said. Unfortunately, it is far more often the case that one is trying to establish your background to better adjust how receptive he/she is going to be towards your ideas/arguments. As after all, they aren't just prepared to listen to anybody. And hey, if you happen to be considered a heavyweight by dint of the reputation of your school, Congratulations, everything you say would be taken as gospel. The most mundane of your observations would be whole-heartedly embraced by everyone as extremely enlightening.

On the other hand, if you're unfortunate enough to be slaving away at somewhere considered lightweight and 不入流, then I'm sorry, but you may as well just save your breath. Because, you know, you are not considered worthy to even have a debate with -- because some Hongkongers are quite clever in that they will never actively teach someone they don't consider worth their while: "嘿!入錢落你袋,咁我咪好蝕?" They don't believe in arguments for arguments' sake, and debates are not meant as vehicles for trashing out ideas. No no no, they are deathly afraid that they might accidentally "teach" someone if they deign to explain their ideas even just a tiny, tiny bit. And if they do have objections to the "silly" ideas propounded, they would show only their distaste, but not the rationales behind their objections. Because they are too high-minded to bother to explain what must be obvious to everyone.

So, it doesn't matter if they profess they love engaging in debates or discussions, because they would only do so with people they consider their intellectual equals. Somehow, it has never even occurred to these people that they too just might learn something themselves if they expose their ideas to others, even apparently ignorant outsiders and upstarts. You know, the story of the Emperor's new clothes and all that?

這會不會就是所謂的『門檻觀念』呢?那麼我們常引用孔夫子的教學理論:『有教無類, 因材施教』又怎樣呢?



It appears that some Hongkongers actually believe that there IS such a thing as a foolish question. Over here though, we are taught that there is NO such thing as a stupid question. Maybe that explains why Hong Kong students are (in)famous for being quiet in class and never participate in Q&A sessions in lectures?

I have thus been quite wary about giving out information relating to my academic backgrounds, in spite of the many times I have been accused of having studied certain subjects (one of the earliest examples, see here; and one of the more recent ones, see here) [Oops: I have to clarify these are merely instances when I have been asked about my academic background, not as examples of arrogant bloggers.] Because, you know, people don't consider that your thoughts and ideas are worth any discussion if you don't happen to have earnt an actual PhD in that precise topic. I thus always wonder, as one's PhD could only be on a very circumscribed topic, how Hongkong bloggers could ever manage to exchange any ideas at all on any given subject? Why would anyone bother when we have to go through a cloak-and-dagger ritual to establish who has the most authority on a given subject before we could even begin chatting, every single time? And forget about trying to cross-pollinate ideas across intellectual fields. That's "bastardising" academic knowledge and, you know, not appropriate conduct for a pure specialist (and apparently everyone could only be a specialist if one is to be considered a serious intellectual -- they must have forgotten that in Germany, there are medical generalists as well as medical specialists; and in Ireland and the UK, family doctors are referred to as GPs, "general practitioners"). I therefore seriously wonder if any interdisciplinary research ever gets done in Hongkong, simply because I'm not encouraged by the kind of ideas exchange that I've seen online among many avowedly cerebral Hong Kong bloggers. Many are busy comparing the size of their brains (or more correctly, they were comparing the prestige of their schools / their disciplines, which they take as proxies for the size of their own individual intellects) rather than to actually debate ideas.

All this just reminds me of a time, ages and ages ago, when a Hongkong blogger -- a creative who graduated from Central St. Martins in London -- was being demanded by some commenters to put his portfolio online, and when he didn't, some of them then proceeded to unilaterally 起佢底. These sick people somehow got the idea in their heads that, if the blogger could somehow be shown up as an inferior creative himself, then all his witty and insightful criticisms against the dearth of creativity in Hong Kong could automatically be rendered null and void, because then he would no longer be considered an expert and thus become a fraud by default. Please read the actual exchanges (here and here) between this blogger and the commenters to see what a really, very, deeply sad state of affairs it was (And I'm of course referring to the credential-demanding commenters as the sad sacks rather than the blogger himself.). Unfortunately, much of the intellectual exchanges I observed online among Hongkong bloggers retain echos of this unseemly exercise -- unseemly in that parties to a discussion are more concerned with determining the worth of a person by dint of who s/he is, rather than with weighing up the merits and demerits of the actual arguments being put forward.

Even if people don't accept that a person's background is irrelevant for the sake of determining the quality of one's argument, few would actually consider that there exist also other valid reasons for NOT sharing one's intellectual heritage or academic credentials online. A key one of which is personal privacy of course. Especially if a blogger, like me, has occasionally moaned about her workplace on her blog before. Would someone in my position then want to disclose where she had studied or what her disciplines are so that one could go and search online and find out which department she works for and who her colleagues are? Of course not. Get real. A fleeting taste of power and credibility in an online debate is no incentive for potentially jeopardising one's academic career. So until the day when I'm ready to actually become a public intellectual, I will keep my disciplinary backgrounds under wraps, thank you very much.

3. 猛拋書包,亂掉jargons.
I don't mind people 猛拋書包 actually, in fact, I love it when they do! I love love love bloggers who cite sources in support of their ideas and who further intellectual debates by bringing in facts and theories taken from textbooks and journals, and the more obscure the source the better, as the debate becomes more educational and interesting! This kind of 猛拋書包 could really open our eyes to the wide variety of viewpoints out there on a given subject and I love it for that reason.

What I can't stand though are people who 猛拋書包 in such a way as to merely show off their academic credentials, especially when they proceed to throw in jargons without explaining their relevance to the topic at hand. What's the point of throwing in terms and references if you aren't then going to bother to explain how they support your argument? Are your audience meant to do your work for you and come to their own conclusions themselves? But have you forgotten that it is your argument, and that it is your job to explain and expound, not your audience. Why should we be impressed that a person could throw out a particular term or concept or reference if s/he does not actually use it to support a point of contention?

In fact, more often than not people don't even attempt to try and formulate an argument as such, just throw a few key words here and there and be pleased that they have fulfilled their side of the discussion bargain. As if speaking one more word on the subject to form a semi-complete sentence, not to mention a semi-coherent argument, would have meant that the blogger has unnecessarily taught the undeserved something they should have figured out for themselves.

Oh I get it, it's again because it is only important to establish WHO one is by way of one's academic credentials (evidenced by the few terms one bandied about). Nobody is meant to care WHAT one's arguments actually are, or what logical and empirical grounds actually exist to support such assertions.

I really am such a silly, silly sausage to have cared about the substance of such intellectual exchanges online. Apparently I should have been grateful already to know that I was in the presence of the "greats". And who am I to argue with them, much less challenge?

And as I said, 這篇文章是找死的!Please God help me face the inevitable backlash when it comes. Amen.

Actually, if you do disagree with any of the above, I would be very grateful to hear your views. I'm being absolutely sincere about this. I also understand that I might have caused grave offence in what I wrote above, and if so I sincerely apologise in advance. Again, this is not just fake polite posturing, I'm sorry if I'd hurt anyone's feelings. These are merely my observations, and I would be happy to stand corrected. More likely than not I am just 以小人之心,度君子之腹. Yes, that's probably it indeed. Please be kind enough to forget any nonsense I've written above. It's the mere ramblings of a mad woman.

Further reading (feel free to compare and contrast):
"問題周而復始,每隔幾年都有淺白生動的評論,卻未見對症下藥的專業思維和知識。再叫人對話,也無法回應「80後」。 礙於時勢、學者迫不得已暫代「大部分人」發聲,聯合學界和公眾,向政府施壓——大抵造成日後的「誤解」,讓人以為教授身分,就是在下放研究知識,不知道原來可能是個人分享。港人治港了,即使跟中央尚在磨合,政府也應重新尊重本土知識,建立知識鏈。如此,公共討論才會出現精細研究和思潮辯論: 研究型學者,研究問題,非研究青年,解決問題,非解決青年;公共型學者,引介理論刺激公眾思考,非以修辭隱藏個人理論框架,造成誤讀。香港不乏健筆,卻欠為本土指路的學術研究。沒有研究、盲目相信任何主觀看法,才是「管治失效」和「暴力」的起源。"




懂與不懂 (read the article and the comments)

一個哲學讀壞了人的例子 (read the article and comments)

他曾向我表示,由於文化水平的限制,他無法使他的思想系統化,因此渴望能夠上大學。 我不無理由地判斷,他的那種偏執症和自大症未必是病理性的,因而知識視野的拓寬可能會把它們治愈。 更重要的是,他的事例向我們提示,在社會底層生活著一些執著於精神事物並且具備相當才能的青年,他們在其生活的環境中完全得不到理解,社會有責任為他們開闢獲得理解的渠道。 我設想,有一天,在中國社會科學院的講壇上,他們中的佼佼者為何不能坐在哈貝馬斯曾經坐過的位置上,向職業學者們報告自己業餘思考的心得呢? 如果有那一天,我一定破例改變一次晚起的習慣,做一個準時出席的聽眾。


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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Leung Man-Tao: We are All Sloganeers... [Translated Article]

[This is a translated article by me. Original article in Chinese by Leung Man-Tao published in the Apple Daily on 18th July, 2010. Version available from the Commentshk blog here] [Emphasis added in bold-type by me.]

A while ago, I helped a website make a podcast of a series of chat shows about the World Cup finals, with Mr. Yik Chung-Tin (易中天) invited as a guest for one of the sessions. Mr. Yik is an interesting guy in that he doesn't pay any attention to the latest hot gossip among the popular masses, and on the show he raised the question of why so many are interested in the World Cup. I wasn't sure if he was joking or otherwise, but he actually asked me during the show, "Oh so China didn't make it to South Africa? Why didn't China play in the World Cup?" Aside from this slightly cringeworthy ill-informed quip, the discussion we had was extremely civil and civilised, concentrating mainly on history, and touching on sportsmanship and the idea that there are noble rules of engagement even when it comes to competition. Later, when I browsed online, I discovered that the show had been dubbed, "Yik Chung-Tin Talked With Leung Man-Tao To Protest The Nation's World-Cup Fever." "Protest"? Had our conversation really come to that? On second thought, never mind, it was only a way for websites to garner eyeballs online. I understand.

The next day, I was browsing an online forum that I occasionally visit, and found an even more sensationalist headline: "Why Yik Chung-Tin Trashed Leung-Man-Tao As A Fake Football Fan." When I clicked on the article, I learnt that, incredibly, Mr. Yik Chung-Tin, who didn't even know if China had made it through to the World Cup finals or not, was apparently having a heated debate with me about the style of Brazilian football. Even as a person who readily admits to having a poor memory, I could easily recognise that this non-existent dialogue was pure fabrication.

Although China didn't qualify for the South African tournament, this didn't stop members of the Chinese press from filling the World Cup with their own saliva, turning Nelson Mandela stadium into their personal playground. Click on any respectable-looking website, and one would find lots and lots of attention-grabbing headlines, such as "Evil Star Lurks in the Uruguay Team, Even 梅西 [footballer name] Has To Look Up to Him". Apparently "Evil Star" denotes anyone who had ever scored a goal, and "Look Up" is a verb that appears in the top-ten list of most used phrases, so that one would be left with the impression that there is a bunch of footballers with nothing better to do than to sit around all day looking up to each other. Crazy.

Within this ocean of words sloshing around the Chinese online media, every single news item and every single piece of commentary are busily screaming "Look at Me! Look at Me Quick!" Sometimes this craving for attention even gets a bit schizophrenic, as when a loud declaration that "The German War Machine Can't Be Vanquished" the day before could swiftly be replaced with "The Strength of the German Team Is Clearly Faked" the next. It is already exhausting to watch more than thirty days of football non-stop, but these sloganeers are afraid that that would not be taxing enough, and so they added kilos of artificial flavours to their headlines to ensure that our minds stay constantly at their most excitable and most on edge.

Chinese people are smart. Only a couple of years ago I was complaining about how everyone wants to be an author, that no-one is willing to be a reader these days. Almost everybody is shouting loudly, but nobody would, nor indeed could, listen to what others are saying. Very quickly though, we found a genius solution to this problem: Forget about trying to say something, just concentrate on shouting. You don 't need to know the content of what I'm saying (probably because I don't know myself what I'm saying), you only need to hear that I've shouted (because all I ever wanted is for someone to hear me shout).

For instance, Twitter and other microblogs started off as a way for a group of friends to exchange daily gossips and share their fleeting thoughts and feelings with each other. In the hands of the Iranians, microblogging began to show its promise for instantaneous news dissemination and became a vehicle for grassroot revolution. But it's left to us Chinese to finally exploit the medium's full potential -- turning it into an online version of Pop Idol. What used to be just a tool for communication and exchange amongst ordinary folks, became a new platform for "microblog stars" when the service providers dreamt up their "celebrity verification" function, nominating a list of microbloggers whom they deemed to be worth our rapt attention. The original purpose of the microblog was for people to record what they want to say succinctly in less than 140 characters; now the goal is for people to compete against each other for any degree of online attention they can grab.

I only got one microblog account, which I left unused for ages (even though Sina and other service providers just went ahead with opening accounts in my name without my permission, and some even automatically created a few entries on my behalf). Personally I don't like speaking so fast, nor reacting so quickly. However I discovered that there are plenty of people who can readily adapt to such speed and frequency in communication, and they always have something to say, from dawn to dust. Gradually, some people become used to the rules of the game, and begin writing their microblog-posts (or "tweets") as if they are writing news headlines -- the more shocking, the more sensationalist, the more controversial, the better. This way they could attract more fans and increase their degree of online celebrity, and thus having their taste of fifteen minutes of fame.

But is fame really that great? Is it really worthwhile to have that much online attention? Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that it is one thing to be given attention by others, it is another thing entirely to use the attention others have given you. I really admire some of my friends who have the ability to use their microblogs to really disseminate important news far and wide, or who could write pithy observations that really get people thinking using the shortest of lines. But I have also met some celebrities, with whom I had taken part in televised debates, and they would often announce beforehand what their positions would be. Let's say it was: "Chinese would not allow the arrogant Yanks to conduct military exercise in the Yellow Sea." When the programme started, the person would indeed proclaim that, "China would never allow American troops to mess around in the Yellow Sea." Fair enough. But then what? We would all be waiting for the person to further expound on his thesis, keen for him to share with us his unique analysis. But actually, nothing more would come. That was it. He's finished what he had to say. And so I finally understood -- he was not here to engage in debates on international affairs, he was here to tweet. What he had was not a viewpoint, but a headline slogan. If this debate session were to be conducted online, I'd imagine it could well be tweeted as, "XXX Tells the Yanks: Come and I Shall Destroy You."

Snowdrops Translation 2010. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010


From this:

And this:

To this:

Basket of baby rocket leaves grown from seeds :) 真是親手種的一籃菜呀!就算未食,每次見到都好開心!

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Fingernail Polish: Lilac Gloss from Urban Outfitters
Toenail Polish: Turquoise Matt from Urban Outfitters (not shown! too much of a scaredy cat after all :P)

Have not had a chance to paint my nails for ages and ages. In fact, I hardly paint my nails ever. It's one of the few pleasures of being female that I don't particularly get, in complete contrast to my mother, who sticks religiously to her appointments at her local nail bar. And so my hands have almost always been bare, with no adornments whatsoever. Doing one's nails seem like such a complete indulgence, a past-time befitting only well-to-do ladies-who-lunch who have plenty of time on their hands (literally), and thus is not something that I -- busy intellectual woman with no need for such frivolous things -- should have the time or inclination to do.

Or at least that was my reverse snobbery excuse. The truth is that my nails don't take too well to conventional pinkish nail colours (with the exception of French manicures, but then this is something I really don't have the time for, and is a strict indulgence for me only on special occasions), and I abhor anything dark, as well as anything red/orangey. Somehow these colours just make my fingers look really short, which is the last thing you'd want your nail polish to do to your hands.

But then I came across these lovely colours in Urban Outfitters and I just could. not. resist. I'm so glad I gave in to my impulse. I now finally understood where I had gone wrong before -- instead of looking at anything pinky or peachy, or any shades that reminds one of Lady MacBeth, both of which made my fingers and thus my whole hand look horrible, but in different ways; I should instead have been trying out purple-y lilac-y tones, which I had honestly never put on until now.

The actual colour of this fingernail polish is slightly more vibrant and just a smidge more purple than could be captured in the above picture, but basically I found that what suits my nails (i.e. what compliments my skin) are cool shades (bluey purple-y colours) in pastelly/light tones, rather than warm shades (pinky red colours) in jewel/dark tones. Now I'm absolutely LOVING these -- every time I type I can't help admiring my new lovely lavender nails :D

The turquoise for my toe nails was also a bold try, and I'm glad it worked out really well. I would have preferred if the shade had come in gloss rather than matt, but I'm not complaining :D Especially when I'm wearing my peep-toe sandals and am no longer ashamed of only using clear nail varnish!

And yes, I have different nail colours for my hands and feet. They are dramatically different colours but they are of the same pastelly tone, and purple and green are such lovely complimentary shades (think lavender and sage). I really like that my nails don't match but still look good together somehow. But would this be considered a serious fashion crime, on a par with white socks in black brogues? You tell me :P (I got complimented on them over here, but what do the Irish know about fashion anyway eh? Even John Rocha came from Hong Kong).

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Monday, July 12, 2010

How I came to be killed on microblog [Translated blog-post]

[This is a translated article. For the original blog-post in Chinese by Kursk, please click here]

On July 10th, 2010, my microblog account was killed off by the service provider. To me this was not unexpected, but what surprised me was the fact that it took them this long.

I registered with the Sina microblogging site (the mainland Chinese answer to Twitter) since it first became operational. Later I came to have my online identity verified as a Hong Kong blogger. This verification could be described as a sort of special treatment -- once your online identity has been verified, there is less chance of your account being deleted unilaterally.

During my days of microblogging, there were times when my posts got deleted because they touched on topics that are considered politically sensitive. My strategy was to try to push the boundaries as much as possible, like playing a game with the online editors of the microblog service in testing the limits of their political tolerance as far as possible.

About a fortnight before June 4th (the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre), most of my boundary-pushing posts didn't escape the fate of deletion. Then I received a private message from an online editor, asking for my views to see if there is a way of arriving at some form of mutual resolution.

As the authority for deletion rests with them, I realised that there was not much point to continue posting the way I did, and so I decreased my frequency of blogging such boundary-pushing posts. Later I got in touch with one of the Sina online editors through MSN, and I understood more from him their policy of managing politically sensitive posts, while he also learnt more about the thinking of Hong Kong-based users from me (especially in relation to June the 4th, as well as our general political beliefs and ideologies). At the end I told him that many Hong Kong users will continue to blog about politically-sensitive topics, even when knowing full well that these posts will be taken down.

According to these online editors, there are dedicated Sina editors specially tasked with monitoring politically-sensitive posts, with the authority to delete individual posts or entire accounts as they see fit. I asked them if they would be overwhelmed with too many politically-sensitive posts to be able to deal effectively with all of them, and he replied in the negative, saying that they have plenty of resources at their disposal, both technological and human, to deal with all the online traffic. Moreover, they are not the only ones participating in Internet policing, as the relevant government departments are also involved. As regards 'boundary-pushing' posts, they have many years of experience in dealing with those.

If they are not seen to be policing the micro-blogosphere effectively, their company could easily follow in the footsteps of those who had had their entire operations shut down by the authorities (such as 飯否, 校內網, blogbus).

Finally, when June the 4th arrived, there was indeed an online battle waged between microbloggers and online editors lasting over ten hours (for details please see my previous "Epilogue from the First Microblogging Battle" blogpost). Lots and lots of posts got deleted, lots of accounts were also deleted, and even emoticons (a.k.a. 'smilies') were prohibited from being shown. As a result of this battle, I arrived at several -- not absolutely proven, it must be said -- conclusions:

1. Politically-sensitive words are automatically filtered.
2. Some users who are recognised as keen "boundary-pushers" (those who are savvy enough to not use actual politically-sensitive words, but make use of metaphors and other subtle references), will be specially monitored to see if they are indeed making politically sensitive posts.
3. When your posts have been continuously filtered a number of times, there will be a period when all your posts are being pre-moderated before they could be published.
4. Once your filtered posts reach a certain number, your account will be purged.
5. If the account belongs to a specially verified blogger (i.e. those with usernames ending in "V", such as those of media personalities, stars, academics, celebrities and well-known bloggers, etc.), the chance of account deletion is very small. The most that would happen is for posts to be withheld and remain unpublished.

As mine was a verified account, I thought the chance of it being deleted was quite small, especially as the politically-sensitive month of June was already past. Thus it was a total surprise for me to wake up one morning and discover, completely out of the blue and without any prior indication, notification or consultation, that my account was deleted. Over on Douban net, at least they would tell you how many chances you have remaining for rules infraction before they would permanently delete your account. Not so for Sina. I made some enquiries, and the response I got was that official scrutiny was getting much tighter these days, so much so that a rival microblogging site (搜狐微博) had their entire service shut down by the authorities, and so they have to be extra vigilant. As I had previously blogged too many politically-sensitive posts, word came from on high that my account had got to go.

I reflected at length, just what had I been posting lately that could conceivably lead to my account being purged?

After some deliberation, I think it might have to do with the following. There was this photo I posted about two weeks ago that depicted Tiananmen Square the day before the June 4th massacre (see below picture), which didn't attract that much attention and had never been deleted. And then on the first anniversary of the Xinjiang riots, I asked simply on my microblog, "Does anyone remember what day it is?" Perhaps the post that raised the most ire of the authorities is the one where I had subtly indicated that a Tibetan Buddhist leader has recently opened a Twitter account to disseminate news in Chinese.

My verified Sina account being killed off is thus probably due to a combination of the following factors:

1. Probably because I don't have any modicum of fame to speak of (other bloggers and media personalities shouldn't have to worry too much as long as they have a certain level of renown);

2. Probably because I managed to blog three boundary-pushing posts (as mentioned above) within the space of one month that escaped the initial notice of the online editors, and so somebody got blamed and then my account got the boot (so if you no longer blog about June the 4th or ethnic issues you should be fine);

3. Probably because I re-blogged a picture showing a group of protesters wearing V-for-Vendetta masks facing off a line of police, which in turn got re-blogged many times by many others (so you should be safe if you don't post images depicting acts of popular uprising that attract a lot of eyeballs on the Internet).

As the saying goes, you get what comes with the territory (出得嚟行,預咗要還。). Having opened my microblog account for well over half a year, in the process getting to know many kindred spirits online, and having escaped so many previous "content harmonization" Internet purges before, I count myself lucky to have survived this long. As I've often said before, Pity the poor editors. I guess this time the online editors and the relevant authorities have finally rid themselves of a nuisance.

I have since opened another account (, please feel free to add me). The former Kursk who communicated with the online editors got purged. This time I wouldn't be so kind. At worst they would kill off my account again, and I would just re-open another account again. I am not scared of being invited to tea with the authorities anyway -- let them try and catch me in Wanchai and extradite me to the mainland if they got any balls.

Something funny just happened also: I was using my new account to announce the fact that I had been killed off and have now reincarnated, and even this new post got deleted. Now I am really pissed off: Dear oh dear editor, aren't you just getting a tad paranoid?

Having said all that, I'm sure someone would come along and comment on the fact that the online editors themselves are only doing their jobs, that I shouldn't insist on being such a party pooper. I don't agree with this view at all, not when every day there are bloggers in mainland China who got fired from their jobs, who got sent down to the countryside, who got invited to tea with the authorities and who got arrested for simply following their conscience and disseminating news online. Here we have the freedom to say what we want, are we to shut up just so that the Internet police can have an easier job? If we were to do that, how could we in good conscience face those mainland bloggers who got jailed by the authorities?

And perhaps someone would say, Look at you lot of good-for-nothing idealistic Hongkongers, what right have you to comment on the affairs of mainland China? To this I would say, we have plenty of fellow travellers in mainland China on the Internet, and we also have plenty of fellow travellers in mainland China in real life. The voices of these people are not yet entirely extinguished online. Those who are oppressed to within an inch of their lives by corrupt officials, police authorities, city-planners, and property conglomerates, as well as those who sympathise with such oppressed -- these people are calling out every day, and this government is hell-bent on silencing their voices. We live on a patch of Chinese soil that happens to be free, so that it is easier for us to hear their voices, and so we have an even greater duty to help them spread and broadcast their words.

Today I was murdered, tomorrow it could be you.

- - -

Original article by Kursk, 10th July, 2010. Translation by Snowdrops, 12th July, 2010.

[Again, for the original blog-post in Chinese by Kursk, as well as the photographs mentioned, please click here]

Further reading:

一個容不下微博的國度 (from 森之星球)


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Saturday, July 10, 2010























Copyright Snowdrops 2010. All rights reserved.

Further reading:

發展路上殺人的推土機 (from Little Oslo)
Warning: Blog-post contains extremely disturbing, graphic images.

啟蒙一課II (from 森之星球)
"人大了,我越發地更深入地去對許多事情關心了起來,更深地感受到這句話所延伸出來的意義。 當我們忽略一些當前對自身利益無關的事情的時候,我們會否終將有一天會因為這些事情傷害到自己。"

從倒下的那刻開始 (from 森之星球)
"打從那天女神像倒下,自由民主什麼什麼的一切都幻滅在這土地上。 於是我們只好開始習慣,一直習慣,習慣地活在這片沒有這些的土地上,讓自己去好好適應它。 要生存,的確需要那麼一點法則,妥協的法則,起碼讓自己好好過。 過多一天,便是一天。 當我們都覺得自己適應了,其實沒有它們生活也還是過得去,心底里那一點兒奢望就開始完全殆盡了。 是這樣麼?

興許有人不敢興趣去談六四,但總有別的事情會迫使你忍氣吞聲,當地震把人們變成災民以前,當奶粉把嬰兒變成結石嬰兒之前,他們也沒有想過會有如此冤屈。 別看這些事離你我很遠,我總相信這個國家會有無數的災難在前頭等著你和我每一個人。"

廿一年前,廿一年後 (Precious photos included, from 森之星球)


記住,有千萬個理由 (from 森之星球)













Further viewing:

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

原地 ¦ 踏步















Copyright Snowdrops 2010. All rights reserved.

註: 這詩是寫於二零一零年六月廿三日,但因筆者不希望這首詩的意旨被誤會與當時的香港政治熱門話題有關,所以押後發表至今。詩的靈感完全源於『原地踏步』這個四字詞語本身的詩意,跟香港目前的政治發展無關,因此希望讀者不要以為此詩是用作什麼明喻或隱喻。

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Oh. My. God.


The 2010 “Dance Your Ph.D.” Contest

The dreaded question. “So, what’s your Ph.D. research about?” You take a deep breath and launch into the explanation. People’s eyes begin to glaze over…

At times like these, don’t you wish you could just turn to the nearest computer and show people an online video of your Ph.D. thesis interpreted in dance form?

Now you can. And while you’re at it, you can win $1000, achieve immortal geek fame on the Internet, and be recognized by Science for your effort.

How to enter:
1. Turn your Ph.D. thesis into a dance.
2. Get the dance on video.
3. Put the video online.

"Immortal geek fame on the Internet"? Eternal shame and damnation more like! (Well, at least to a total dance klutz comme moi...)

Okay, to be honest, I am really really really intrigued. Could there be any way in which my thesis could be interpreted in dance form? Hmmm, what a fascinating idea! Probably need the help of dance professionals (I'm thinking, Mad Dog :P!!)

Could I just show this video (IF I'm doing one) and have it as my viva presentation? Or I could do a live dance in front of my two examiners! What fun!

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

A Summer Day...

In a fit of madness,
We abandoned the chance to watch that all-important match
Between the Germans and the Argentinians,
And opted instead to don our very own runners
Going rock-a-climbing
One beautiful, summery day.

There were just the five of us in the room
Looking up the three-storey blue-grey monstrosity with awe.
Everyone else had gone to the pubs.
The friendly trainer smiled at us,
And helped us put on our basic harnesses,
As we pretended to be sportive and, yes, committed.

There were different levels, grades and routes:
Some with fewer grips; others had a protruding cliff.
We'd done the baby climb last time,
And came to better our chances at this second try.
Flexing sinews and muscles in surmounting a wall
Is better than banging our heads against the proverbial wall.

When you go and grab that grip and make a start,
Much of your previous strategizings' been blown apart,
You have your fingers, your wrists, your arms and your legs --
Sheer brute strength to hang off the side of a cliff.
But you need also to engage your brain and think on your feet,
And most important -- that simple will to live.

I went up past the red line, easily enough
I was only just getting warmed up.
Next I started losing track
Of my right and left and where my foot could find a tread.
There was an unfortunate two way dialogue going on
Between my confusion and that bloody wall.

But then all my family started
Shouting up loudly at me and commanded:
"Right foot on pink. No. THAT pink!"
"Grab that green piece on your left. That's the one! YES!!! "
As well as all the "Well done!"s and assorted encouragements.
And suddenly, that overhang, I could actually heave myself past it.

But unbelievably, the worst was still to come
Even though I had only a smooth stretch in front.
I felt my arms and wrists being completely overcome
With exhaustion, and my will was soon undone.
Yet far, far down below, the trainer piped up,
"Go on, you could do it! Just try standing straight up!"

"No," I said, "I'd have to come down."
But everyone shouted, "NO! YOU CAN'T GIVE UP!!!"
"You only have a few more to reach the top.
Don't give up now! Give it one more shot!"
I looked very briefly down, and then looked up.
Yes, just one more, I tried and stood straight up...

...And grabbed that pink piece, which looked out-of-reach before.
Now that my grip was steady, I helped myself right up
And summoned the last of my strengths, and climbed a little more.
And rather miraculously, I was able to reach the top!
I settled back and smilingly, looked down,
There were hearty cheers all around.

The descent downwards was very sweet,
Now that I know I could pick myself up from defeat.

It was certainly a much more personal victory
Than the Germans winning four-nil over their Argentinian nemesis.
All of us surmounted our rocks with flying colours
And all of us are smiling -- even with very, very sore fingers.

And did I tell you?
It was a really beautiful, summery afternoon.

Copyright Snowdrops 2010. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Some things...

Some things in life are very small --
A glance, a murmur,
An involuntary shake.
They are often hard to discern,
Though they could somehow still be felt.

Some things in life are very big --
A war, a revolution,
A mighty call-to-arms.
These are huge events, so big
They could easily sweep us all away.

Some things in life are not so small --
A career, a home, our health, or someone,
We would call our own.
These are immense and significant,
Though only to us and our loved ones.

Some things in life are not so big --
A flower with bumblebees, a fallen twig,
A brook that burbles and teems with fish.
These are oh-so-quiet and mundane,
We hardly pay any heed, until...

They could no longer, anywhere, be seen or felt...

Copyright Snowdrops 2010. All rights reserved.

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If I were...

If I were to ignore all the slights and poison darts,
If I were to survive the innuendo with a dignified stance;
Then I'd have to first get in front of a crowd and scream,
Scream and scream about the injustices that are unseen.

If I were to abide by the treachery of false friends,
If I were to unceremoniously and unscrupulously be screwed;
Then I'd have to be entirely frank with all and sundry,
Before I'd let my name in muck be dragged through.

If I were to refrain from making the tiniest noise,
If I were to be denied a fair hearing of my voice;
Then you'd have to physically kill me,
Before I'd allow your lies to do me in.

If I were to measure out my life in coffee spoons,
If I were to be out to the pastures, unjustly put;
Before I'd allow you to pin me in your injurious vice,
I will clear my name and kick up a right royal fuss.

Just watch.

Copyright Snowdrops 2010. All rights reserved.

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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?