27 Feb 2007

The Pearl of the Orient, I love Hong Kong

Hong Kong is amazing. It is still the Pearl of the Orient!

My main purpose for this trip was to see a Kunqu performance "The Peach Blossom Fan", which is done beautifully, and I am so glad I saw it. Of course, shopping is a must do thing for me. After spending four days there, I must say I really like Hong Kong, and I would love to relocate there if possible. Hong Kong has excellent transportation system that makes life there so easy and convenient.

It is such an urban city where you can find whatever you want from the inexpensive to the high-end. Everything is grouped in the northern part of the Hong Kong Island and in the south of Kowloon. Walking in this area, you get to see the latest trends. It is new, urban, and international. This is the glamorous outfit of the city that presents the city as the superstar and attracks our eyes. This is the modern and trendy Hong Kong, a top city that competes with New York, Tokyo, and London.

In the meantime, you also see something that is so old and traditional in the small alleys behind the new, tall, and glassy buildings. These alleys are where you can discover and experience the old but true Hong Kong. It records the history of the Pearl of the Orient and supplies the city with rich cultures. Its existence seems to contradict the new look of the city, but it is this contradiction that highlights the advantage of Hong Kong and makes Hong Kong an interesting place to walk around. It is a place that offers both the new and the old and blends cultural differences.

Indeed, Hong Kong is so small with so many people. If the crowd really annoys you, you can always go to the south of the Hong Kong Island or other remote islands. I spent a nice afternoon just strolling around the beach in the south of the Hong Kong Island. Then my friend took me to Stanley Market just a bit further south for shopping. This Market offers a wide range of selections. I truly enjoyed my time there, and the inexpensive clothes there were very intriguing.

Talking about shopping, I think I should live in Hong Kong. It has everything I need. We spent a lot of time in Central, Causeway Bay, and Tsim Sa Tsui. Though the discount season is finished, I still had a great time doing window shopping. My friend also took me to the west of Hong Kong Island for shopping in warehouses. (In fact, it is my request) There you can find warehouses for Joyce, Bluebell, Lancrawford and Prada. To my surprise, there were many people, especially foreigners, in this kind of residential and kind of industrial area. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed because there were not many items left after the discount season.

The food in Hong Kong is just amazing. My favorite is Dim-sum. It is good to travel with a local. My friend insisted that I must try Dim-sum at Maxim's Palace in the City Hall. The place was packed with people, both locals and tourists. I guess Lonely Planet must have listed this place in its Hong Kong guide. It is truly worth waiting. I have also tried the Dim-sum and the food in Yong Kee Restaurant(鏞記酒家), but I prefer Dim-sum in the City Hall. Yong Kee Restaurant is one of the world's best restaurants, and their food really tastes divine. I agree with my friend that the service and the ambience of Yong Kee Restaurant is way better than the one in the City Hall.

I love local food, especially the everyday food. My friend took me to a breakfast place close to my hotel, and I just love their ice milk tea. It tastes so different. You can never find them anywhere else. In addition, they serve macaroni in clear soup as breakfast. It is in fact a bit strange to have macaroni in the morning and in clear soup. This is Hong Kong where what used to be considered as western has been adapted to be a part of the culture of Hong Kong. I also had my afternoon tea in Hong Kong. My friend took me to Amber at the Landmark Madarin Oriental for afternoon tea. It was fantastic! They got extremely delicious sushi topped with fresh sashimi. The afternoon tea provides a good selection of cakes and chocolates, which is wonderful because I am a big fan of them. The quality of food and the service of Amber have proved that Landmark Madarin Oriental is truly the world's best hotel.

I stayed in L'hotel Causeway Bay Harbour View, which is a very nice hotel. It is new and clean, and the price is good. Though the view of my room is blocked a bit by the other buliding, I still had a good view of the Victorian Park. It is located right across from the Tin Hau tube station that makes it very easy for tourists. This area was a small fisherman's village, but you don't really get that ambience now. There were two nice old temples right in this area, one is the Tin Hau Temple dedicated to the goddess of the sea, and the other is the Lotus Temple dedicated to the goddess of compassion. They are both historical sites for tourists and are both the spiritual home for local residents. Religions are very important to Chinese, and temles usually serve as a community centre where local residents meet and chat.

When holidays come, temples are always packed with people who come to pray for good luck. I went to the Huang Da-Xian Temple(黃大仙廟)long time ago, and I think it was a good idea to check out that place agian this time. Huang Da-Xian temple is a very famous one in Hong Kong. Actually I think it may be the most famous temple there. When I got there, I found the area has changed a lot, and the temple seemed bigger now. Due to the Chinese Lunar New Year, there were so many people in the temple, and I had to queue to get in. Of course, it is impossible to really pray in a proper way, which means to hold incense sticks and pray. All I could do was just following the crowd. I did not stay long there because the buring incense was so strong that I had to leave for fresh air.

This is really a fun trip. I did not expect that I would have such a great time in Hong Kong. I thought four days would be way enough for this trip, but I was wrong. In fact, my firend told me that there are still a lot of places that I should check out, especially the remote islands where I could find nice and quiet beaches. Maybe I should plan another trip to Hong Kong again. Or maybe I should start looking for a job in Hong Kong and relocate there.

16 Feb 2007

Happy Pig Year

Tomorrow is the last day of the year of the dog. Time really flies. I wish I can live like a pig in the year of the pig. Eating, sleeping, playing. No more worries!

Pig is the last birth sign of Chinese horocsope! I guess it means that the year of the pig is the last chance for everyone to be fully prepared for the new cycle, new challenges!

It also means that whoever is ready for the new cycle will be greeted with pure happiness in the year of the pig. Isn't it just nice to live in the state of pure happiness?

I believe all my endeavour in the past few years has equipped me with necessary tactics to handle both my everyday and professional life. Though I am not yet fully prepared for the new cycle, I will grasp this last chance to make it. That is my goal for the year of the pig.

Will I live in the state of pure happiness? I don't know, but I have the faith that if I try my best, I will definitely reach my goal. Happiness will come when I achieve my ideal way of living, and because I am trying to achieve my ideal of living, the process of it is in fact a process of pleasure and satisfication. Isn't this the state of happiness?

Happy Pig Year

15 Feb 2007

We Are All Sexual Beings: a journey of Shortbus

Shortbus (2006), Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell, Official Website: Shortbus

Indeed, those who criticise Shortbus as obscene are right on the target. Is it porn? The scenes of auto-fellatio, rough sex, shocking orgy, and explicit gay sex, all these have clearly answered this moral question. They are all real sex presented through the camera lens. Does it matter? I guess it does when we look at it with a conventional ethical mind.

Ethics, what an important idea concerning the function of a society! Its existence reassures our moral beliefs. It sets up rules, standards, and limits. I don’t deny its importance, but its existence certainly hinders our hope for new possibilities. We can only follow the rules ethics set up for us, and we should only carry on our everyday life in such a manner. Everything ethics denies should be abolished! Because of it we restrict ourselves from exploring what is tabooed. As a result, we never think if what is tabooed is in fact something unavoidable, something we live with in our everyday life. Ethics has become an obstruction that blocks our journey for identifying our true self. It suppresses us from seeking new possibilities. We are all manipulated by it, and our everyday life is only a combination of dull and sad experiences.

Why can’t a film talk about sex, especially about happy sex? Who will be happy when his/her sex life is a failure? Should we talk about our sexual and emotional frustrations? Isn’t an honest discussion the best remedy for problems? Living in this society in which ethics is dominating our way of thinking, sex has become the taboo. In fact sex is unavoidable, and we should not forget that it is also a part of our everyday life. It happens when two (or more) people are sexually attracted to each other. Isn’t this the real everyday life?

The main problem concerning the ethical remarks of Shortbus is on whether sex should be presented explicitly on the big screen. The director says in the interview, “why not explore sex in an American film in a context that can be, I hope, amusing and thoughtful? … Sex is certainly something to be afraid of, but not something that can be avoided”. If a film is simply focusing on sex scenes without giving references to the plot and the emotional development of the characters, in other words aiming only at giving eroticisation, then I agree it is just pornography which lacks ethical and artistic values. Shortbus does not aim at giving erotic quality. Its intention is to give us a chance to face our real and unavoidable problems in everyday life. This intention has clearly distinguished Shortbus from pornography.

If you could just free yourself from morality for a short while and let yourself flow with the rhythm of the film, you would find this film so cute, so real, and so humane. It has such a positive ending that says everything is still possible and is still full of hopes. Shortbus intends to show us that truly recognizing and then identifying our real self is the only way to happiness. When we finally have the courage to look at ourselves, we will realize that it is us who have the power to fix our inner problems. Only through the exploration of the self could we start to perceive our lived world and to positively deal with our everyday lives. All we have to do is to grasp this chance and make it work.

Seeking our true self is not a difficult idea, but it is hard to practice, especially when we are all tightly bound by ethics. Isn’t it true that the reason we cannot identify ourselves is because of the notion of taboo? Doesn’t our true self usually contradict to what we are usually told to do or told to be? In other words, when we are in the process of identifying ourselves, we start to realize the power of ethics in our lived world. This power prohibits us from discussing taboos. In fact ethics never teach us not to discuss taboos; it only ignores them. It is us who consider taboos as shameful and never have the determination to face them. Slowly, all our inner problems stay quietly in our heart and hunt us forever. It becomes an illness, and naturally we cannot live as happily as we wish but keep repeating our dull life as others expect us to be.

Sophia, James, Jamie, Severin, Tobias the Mayor, all these characters in Shortbus are vivid examples of us. These fictitious characters encounter their inner problems just like us, but they are lucky to find a shelter where everyone is willing to open their heart and talk about their problems. In Shortbus, taboos are no longer shameful but admirable. People there heighten taboos and give taboos its legitimate status. They discuss what needs to be discussed, and they do what they want to do but cannot do in real live. This is a place where you can explore your true self and be yourself, but it does not mean that Shortbus will tolerate any crime or uneasy feelings. Everyone there is highly aware that such a place is precious in our rigid and cruel society. Everyone in Shortbus is trying all his/her best to experience the real life their inner self crave for. Each one supports the other through different means, and they have constructed a positive environment where discussions are held, supports are provided, and inner problems can be solved. It is never easy for them to finally decide to release their burden. Each one of them has gone through a hard time trying every possible means to solve their problems, and finally in Shortbus they realize that their suppressed inner self is the only key to true happiness, the final goal they are aiming at.

At the end of Shortbus, when the black out comes, the film presents us a carnivalesque scene in which everyone who participates in Shortbus finally reaches his/her true happiness. Doesn’t this happiness signify the true identification of their inner self? During the black out, every perceivable thing has lost its shape and colour, and in this darkness we can finally feel free and safe to be ourselves. Sophia finally gets her orgasm and starts to explore her sexual desire, James finally sees himself and starts to go out of his depression, Severin finally receives herself and starts to build up normal relationships with people. Only when we are free to do what we want to do could we truly accept ourselves as who we are. Carnival is just a symbol that reinforces the meaning of true happiness. This carnival is in fact a circumstance in which taboos are no longer taboos, limits are erased, and hopeful human relationships are carried to its height. When the light comes back, they have already experienced a wonderful journey of being themselves, and they have found the important key to their inner problems. Though they still need to come back to their normal life in this cruel society, at least this experience has allowed them to recognize themselves and equipped them with certain tactics to deal with their everyday life.

2 Feb 2007

A Big Problem: shop for birthday gifts!

Ah, ah, ah ... My friend is having her birthday party tonight, and I haven't got her the gift yet!!!

It has been four days since I got her message inviting me to the party tonight. What should I buy? ... Really, I have been thinking what to get for her birthday, but I just could not think of a perfect gift.

I am this kind of person who is in fact a bit perfectionistic. In my opinion, a gift should reflect the receiver's style and personality, and at the same time it expresses the sender's taste. You cannot just go to the shop and buy whatever you see there. Always need to be careful when shop for gifts, especially gifts for "female friends"! So, I must be careful, or I will lose my reputation of being highly cultured and stylish. I really don't enjoy this kind of shopping.

I got a list and try to figure out which item would suit her best. However, I just don't think any of these items is her style. I guess I get so confused because we don't see each other that often. To be honest, I don't really know her that well, but we are good friends. I know this sounds ridiculous. Other than that, she is never feminine in my eyes. This is actually a compliment! She has a good personality and a big heart. I believe this is the main reason that I am not sure what to buy for her.

I have decided to check out IKEA this afternoon. She just moved to a new apartment, and I think a nice household object would be a good gift.

Still ... not quite sure if I could find a good one there that matches her personality well. I must hurry! Time is ticking away ...