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Archive for the ‘Old Cake Cantopop’ Category

Old Cake Cantopop: Mother’s Day 2010 Edition

A special Mother’s Day edition of Old Cake Cantopop today as the blog joins in on the celebration of mothers and motherhood.  Try to remember the sentiments of the day if you ever find yourself in a tiff with your mother.  Try thinking: “This woman gave me life so … ultimately, she has no one to blame but herself for this predicament!” :-)

Josephine Siao in NOBODY’S CHILDPerformed originally by Josephine Siao Fong-Fong in the 1960 release NOBODY’S CHILD (苦兒流浪記; trans. TALES OF THE WANDERING ORPHAN), the song 《媽媽好》 (Mom Is Great) has become a lullaby/nursery rhyme in Chinese culture. It’s been covered by the likes of Teresa Teng and versions of the song have even been done in Japanese and Vietnamese. Since 1960, various incarnations of the song have appeared numerous times in many films and television projects.  If you saw the 2004 film PAPA LOVES YOU, you may recall the song being played in the background when rambunctious schoolgirl Ellen (Charlene Choi) thinks about the sacrifices her father (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) has made for her.

What follows are my rudimentary translation of the lyrics for the song, a link to the Hong Kong Film Archive page for NOBODY’S CHILD, a YouTube clip of Josephine Siao performing the song in the film and other related links.

Happy Mother’s Day everybody!

… and, yes, I realize the song isn’t sung in Cantonese so it isn’t exactly “Cantopop”.  Just get in the spirit of the holiday - OK? :-)


Lyrics and Translation for 《媽媽好》

“Old Cake” Cantopop: Richie Ren’s 《對面的女孩看過來》 (Girl Over There, Look Over Here)

I’ve been streamlining my stuff recently, paring down my possessions, hoping to do the responsible thing by reducing my ecological footprint on the planet …

… actually, that’s not exactly true.  I’m not a pious environmentalist, I’m a cheap bastard trying to reduce potential costs in case I have to move someday.

What does that have to do with the entertainment circle?  Nothing really.  It’s just the lead up to my latest excuse for delaying the long promised blog post on TVB’s GREEN GRASS OF HOME.  If I delay it one more time, I may have to start a new blog category: “TVB Post Delay Excuses”.

Anyway, part of my streamlining process includes getting rid of my cassette tape (yes, I’m an old fart) and CD collections.  As a result, I’ve been converting my favourite tracks to mp3s so that I can sell/donate/give away my tapes and CDs someday.  While converting some selections from my “Rock Records Hit Songs Collection” CD, I came across Richie Ren’s  《對面的女孩看過來》 (Girl Over There, Look Over Here) and I thought it was a good candidate for an edition of “Old Cake” Cantopop — despite the fact the song isn’t THAT old and that it’s actually sung in Mandarin and not Cantonese.

Richie RenWritten and performed originally by Malaysian singer Tan Kheng Seong (陳慶祥; Chan Hing-Cheung aka Ah Niu; 阿牛), the song exploded in popularity when Richie Ren (Yam Yin-Chai) covered it for an EP in June 1998.  Featuring a charming folksy sound, the song tells the story of a young boy trying to catch the attention of a girl he sees in the distance.  The popularity of Ren’s cover version got Tan a Taiwanese record deal which helped him become known beyond the Malaysian market.  Not only did the song help establish his singing career, it gave him a little bit of a film career as well because Tan got a movie role when 《對面的女孩看過來》 was featured in the Richie Ren-Sammi Cheng romantic comedy SUMMER HOLIDAY in 2000.  Tan parlayed that performance into two roles in 2001 movies: a supporting role in the Aaron Kwok musical PARA PARA SAKURA and a lead role in the inspirational comedy/drama TAKE 2 IN LIFE.

I’ve done a rough translation of the lyrics (see below) and uploaded the karaoke videos for both the original Ah Niu and Richie Ren remake versions.  As always, you can buy CDs that feature this song from YesAsia (Richie Ren, Ah Niu).


- In the Ah Niu version, the spoken parts have Ah Niu saying that he is “very ugly but very gentle”, a girl calling Ah Niu “crazy” and, at the end, a girl saying that Ah Niu is “gross”.

- In the Richie Ren version, the spoken part at the end has Ren sighing and saying: “forget it, let’s go home”.

- While Ren definitely delivers a more polished performance, there is an otaku-like, underdog charm to Ah Niu’s version that makes it, to me, the better version.  That said, it’s a great song and both versions are enjoyable.

- On a tangential note, a testament to Sammi Cheng’s immense popularlity during her run in the early part of this decade was that she remained a box office queen in spite of the fact that she played some really despicable characters in her movies.  She was an unpleasant workaholic in SUMMER HOLIDAY, a mean-spirited bitch in FIGHTING FOR LOVE, a golddigger in MARRY A RICH MAN and yet another bitch in MY LEFT EYE SEES GHOSTS.  It’s actually quite remarkable because those aren’t exactly Charlene Choi, Hong Kong’s sweetheart type roles.

Lyrics for 《對面的女孩看過來》

Image credits: Richie Ren’s Blog (Richie Ren)

“Old Cake” Cantopop: Sam Hui Kwoon-Kit’s 《學生哥》(Brother Student)

With the arrival of September and people shuffling out of “summer mode” and back into “the routine”, I’m delaying the TVB post one more time in favour of a post on something timely but a little offbeat for a HK entertainment blog: students going back to school after the summer holiday.

But first (TMJulie Chen), a couple of reader interaction tidbits to take care of:

- To Jo who asked me about the TVB series I’m going to post about, it’s THE GREEN GRASS OF HOME (緣來自有機).  I’d like to say that IChristine Ng Wing-Mei watched it because I was curious to see how TVB handled the environmental themes but honestly it’s because Christine Ng Wing-Mei, at the relatively advanced age (for a TVB starlet) of 39, is “still gettin’ it done”.

Actually, looking ahead, I may be delaying the TVB post one more time because I plan on seeing how Charlie Yeung Choi-Lei fares in the BANGKOK DANGEROUS remake sometime this weekend.  Of course, this means I’ll have to somehow tear myself away from the TV and opening weekend NFL action.

- While writing this post, I started to wonder how “summer holidays” work in the Southern Hemisphere.  Do people in places like Australia and New Zealand synchronize their holidays with North America and Europe or do school kids down under get December or January or February off?  Yeah, I realize that I could easily get the answer from Google but I’m a lazy, lazy man.

On to the business of the day …

Even though I haven’t attended school since the days Confucius taught classes on the Five Classics under the large scholar tree in his courtyard, I still get a bittersweet feeling when the calendar rolls around to September.  I think it’s because the whole “back to school” rigmarole that takes place in the culture and the slight chill that creeps into the air in the mornings and the evenings signals that the lazy, hazy, carefree days of summer are over and that it’s time to get serious again.

The “back to school” milieu also brings to mind the Sam Hui Kwoon-Kit song 《學生哥》 (lit. Student Brother) where Ah Sam exhorts kids, through a catchy tune, to study hard in school so that they can one day become independent.  It was released in 1978 on Hui’s album 賣身契 (THE CONTRACT).  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sam Hui, he — along with James Wong Jim (黃霑), Joseph Koo Ka-Fai (顧嘉煇) and Lo Man (羅文, Roman Tam) — helped transform Cantonese music from the literal, classical Cantonese Opera form that dominated Sam Hui Kwoon-Kitthe HK music scene until the early-1970s to the colloquial, informal Cantopop of today.  While Wong, Koo and Tam did it primarily through television theme music, Hui helped popularize Cantopop through songs that spoke directly to Hong Kong people by addressing the issues of the day in the vernacular of the day.

Showing a wide artistic range, not only could Hui be topical [as shown in the song 《話知你 97》 (trans. Could Not Care Less About 1997)], he could also be philosophical [《世事如棋》 (trans. Life Is Like A Game Of Chess)], satirical [《打雀英雄傳》 (trans. Mahjong Playing Heroes — a spoof of the theme song to a 1970s TV adaptation of Jin Yong’s LEGEND OF THE CONDOR HEROES)] and comical [with the aforementioned 《賣身契》 (trans. Contract Of Indentured Servitude), a song about how people enter into life only after signing a contract of servitude with God … or the Great Whatever of your particular religion].  Western audiences are most likely to know of Hui through the song 《最佳拍檔》 (trans. Ideal Partner) — the theme song for the ACES GO PLACES movies.  If you would like to learn more about Sam Hui, a substantial biography of Hui can be found at Sam Hui Online.

《學生哥》 shows Hui’s philosophical and topical sides.  In it, he uses plain, everyday Cantonese to tell school kids to study hard so that they can make something of themselves in life.  I’ve done a rough translation of the lyrics (see below) and I’ve uploaded a clip of the song that you can check out here.  If you want to check out the song in its entirety, a four CD set of Sam Hui’s greatest hits can be had at YesAsia for a fairly decent price of US$21.49.

 The lyrics:

Lyrics for Sam Hui’s 《學生哥》




老餅 or “old cake” is Cantonese slang used to describe people of a certain age (namely old farts like me).  It’s slightly more polite and affectionate than 老柴 (lo chai or “old firewood”).

Image credits: TVB (Christine Ng), Polygram Records (Sam Hui)

Thoughts on HOOKED ON YOU


I’m ready to share some thoughts on HOOKED ON YOU now that I’m back home after a trip to the St. Annie Cake Shop where I redeemed my cake coupons before the store went out of business.


Official Site:
Director: Law Wing-Cheong
Cast: Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah (Miu), Eason Chan Yik-Shun (Fishman), Stanley Fung Tsui-Fan (Miu’s Father)

Synopsis (from Yahoo! Movies Singapore): Miu (Miriam Yeung) works as a fishmonger at the Fortune Market to pay off the debts of her father (Stanley Fung). She gives herself three years to settle her father’s debts, leave the wet market and find a man worthy of her. At the market, however, she finds herself at loggerheads with Fishman (Eason Chan) in the neighbouring stall. A fierce battle ensues but the two are forced to work together when a new supermarket threatens their business at the Fortune Market. Will Miu find her Mr Right, or is he a figment of her imagination?

PRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS: I can’t imagine myself disliking this movie. The always reliable Johnnie To is the producer and it stars Miriam Yeung and Eason Chan — two very affable personalities that I’ve liked for years. It’s not an elaborate martial-arts costume epic engineered for the international market or an art film designed to appeal only to film sophisticates. There’s no way this film can turn out to be a stinker — right? The probability of Athena Chu Yan showing up at my front door in a short skirt and a long jacket has got to be higher than the probability of me sitting on my couch disappointed and angry after watching this movie.

AFTER THE MOVIE: As I hoped, HOOKED ON YOU did not disappoint. While a few cheesy elements and some overplayed scenes keep it from being a masterpiece, the movie is thoroughly entertaining and exquisitely captures the bittersweet sentiments of the 1970s classic Cantopop song (”When Change Occurs”) that it bases its Chinese title upon (see below). For the most part, it manages to maintain the delicate balance between being entertaining and being thought-provoking. As a result, it should please both the “artsy” crowd looking for insight and the “fartsy” crowd who just want a good time at the movies.

MORE THOUGHTS (WARNING: Contains spoilers): To me, the most remarkable aspect of HOOKED ON YOU is that it takes what is basically the setup for a disposable light-comedy TVB drama and manages to subtly deliver astute observations about the bittersweet nature of life. The effective incorporation of benchmark events from the ten years of Hong Kong history since the Handover help to highlight the theme that time passes, changes occur, there will be ups, there will be downs, you’ll win some and you’ll lose some so all you can do is move forward and not dwell too much on the past, just cherish the good times and remember the bad times. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by this result because I was expecting a regular, good-ol’ romantic comedy — a well-made one — but routine nonetheless. I envisioned myself sitting on the couch and going “awww, what a nice love story” as I was switched off my DVD player. I was not expecting to be dazzled by philosophical insight.


I’m certain that the “when changes occur” message refers not just to an individual’s life but extends to Hong Kong as well. Clearly, Fortune Market is a metaphor for the Fragrant Harbour. As I don’t live there anymore, I don’t have any sort of feel for day-to-day life in Hong Kong. Therefore, I’m not going to embarrass myself by attempting to explain how the film’s message applies to Hong Kong. I do recognize that it’s there and I’m sure that it resonates somehow with the local audience.

While its philosophical accomplishments are impressive, there are flaws in HOOKED ON YOU that make it just miss the mark of being a pantheon Hong Kong film. The TVB-style setup at the beginning robs the film of a bit of the gravitas required for pantheon status. The Fishman character starts out as a caricature. Miu’s character, and her hard-luck story, come straight out of the TVB drama writer’s handbook. You also have the loveable but irresponsible parent and the local dai lo. I’m not knocking TVB and its dramas. Of the three major forms of HK entertainment: movies, TV serials and Cantopop, TV serials — especially the ones by TVB — are my favourite. If I was an emperor, then TV serials would be my empress while movies and Cantopop would be consorts that I occasionally hang around with. I’m just saying that the low-brow setup and thin characterizations rob HOOKED ON YOU of some credibility preventing it, just barely, from being thought of as a great film. It’s very good and I’ll remember it fondly but I wouldn’t categorize it as a classic.


Speaking of TVB, I’m sure that a graduate student in sociology can find plenty of material for a thesis if they look at TVB and Hong Kong society. While jotting down a few thoughts for this post after I put the DVD away, I couldn’t help thinking of HOPE FOR SALE (街市的童話) — a 2001 TVB drama starring Gallen Lo Ka-Leung, Christine Ng Wing-Mei and Melissa Ng Mei-Hang. In the series, Gallen Lo plays a vegetable-seller who enjoys his simple life working at the wet market while Melissa Ng plays his materialistic wife. She pushes him to “better” himself and leave the market.

If HOOKED ON YOU was a TVB drama, it would have had a much different outcome. Fishman and the way he clutches to the wet market lifestyle would be seen as virtuous while Miu’s quest to leave the wet market would be vilified as materialistic and vain. HOOKED ON YOU’s nuanced message would be replaced by the standard message from TVB dramas: 平凡是福 (ping faan si fuk or “a common life is a blessing”). As TVB is in the ratings business, it has to make product that appeals to its audience so, clearly, something about the “common life is a blessing” theme appeals to Hong Kong society. Like I said, there’s a thesis in there somewhere.



- I’m not a PETA supporter but I definitely felt bad for the eel that Miriam Yeung chops up at the beginning of the movie. Having watched Hiroyuki Sakai and Masaharu Moritomo slice up eels in IRON CHEF episodes, I thought I was de-sensitized to live eel killing but it looked to me that Miriam Yeung didn’t chop her eel all the way through. It must have been in agony as Yeung slid it into that plastic bag. Poor eel.

Jo Koo in VISIBLE SECRET 2- Jo Koo, where are you? Right now, if I could have an entertainment circle girlfriend, I think that it’d be Jo Koo (Kuk Tso-Lam). So, it pains me to say that I was surprised when I saw her name in the credits because I didn’t spot her in the movie. Does anyone know who she played?

Yes, if I could have an entertainment circle girlfriend it’d be Jo Koo and if I were a rich man, ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum. All day long I’d biddy biddy bum. If I were a wealthy man.

- Hey, it’s interesting to me! Scanning the credits, I was intrigued by the name Marie Zhuge (諸葛梓岐). Having probably spent months of my life playing various video and computer games based on ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS, I wonder if Marie Zhuge is a descendant of the legendary Zhuge Liang (諸葛亮). A Google search yields no pictures but reveals that she is a Canadian (Yeah! Fellow Canadian!) and that she belongs to the same modeling agency as Kathy Chow Man-Kei and Qi Qi. I figure she must be Fishman’s favourite prostitute, Fishman’s wife or the girl who bugs Miu about her age. Anyone know?


- Speaking of the girl who bugs Miu about her age, I liked the way the film used her to help mark the passage of time and advance Miu’s storyline. She started as a young woman cooking dinner for the first time for her boyfriend and ended up as a married woman with child. Anyone know who plays girl who buys Miu about her age?


- Funny, but the last definition of “miss” — the courtesy title before the name of an unmarried woman or a girl — never occurred to me until I read the intertitle. Perhaps it would have had my “mind voice” pronounced it HK-style: “misseee”. ;-)

Cover art from a Fanny Greatest Hits albumABOUT THE SONG: HOOKED ON YOU gets its Chinese title from 每當變幻時 (”When Changes Occur”), the hit Cantopop song from 1977 sung by Fanny (薰妮 aka Fun Nei aka Fanny Wong). As you can tell from the following translation of the song lyrics, the movie does a good job of capturing the bittersweet sentiments of the song.

A quick disclaimer, I am not an English major so pardon me if my rudimentary translation does not do proper justice to the Chinese lyrics of Jim Lo Kwok-Tsim (盧國沾). Nevertheless, I think you can get a sense of how well the movie plays upon the song’s message. For your information, the song starts playing at around 1:32:20 of the film.

Lyrics for 每當變幻時

Thanks to a box of tapes that belonged to my late Uncle Kwok-Hung and a mp3 file from my cousin, I was able to listen to both the Fanny version and the Miriam Yeung version of the song. With all due respect to Miriam Yeung, I think the Fanny version is better. The arrangement and the vocal inflections of the 1977 version suit the wistful nature of the lyrics better than that of the 2007 version.

By the way, does anyone know why it’s virtually impossible to buy Cantopop songs on iTunes? I suspect that it probably has something to do with Hong Kong music companies not being able to adapt to the times. Don’t they realize that if they make things easy and cheap for consumers, most people will take the path of least resistance and buy the songs from a legal source like iTunes rather than waste time searching for illegal downloads on the Internet?

IMAGE CREDITS: Media Asia (HOOKED ON YOU screen captures, Jo Koo), Wing Hang CD Ltd. (Fanny Wong) Copyright © 2002-2021 Ross Chen