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July 5th, 2004

The Past and Present
and the Beginning of the Future

     Warning: unchecked rambling ahead.
     Life with Kozo is an oddity. Basically, it's a series of columns where the Webmaster AKA: Kozo AKA: Me discusses topics ranging from the current status of my website—
which if you haven't heard of it, is called—to the fantastic bagel dog I had just the other day. Topics usually have had something to do with how I feel about my website, though the occasional serious issue (the passing of reviewer Lee Wong, as well as the various surprising celebrity deaths over the past two years) has made an appearance.
     Inevitably, however, the columns are usually one or the other: a somber postmortem to surprising tragedy, or a snarky diatribe filled with questionable wit and wisdom. Given the polar extremes in tone, it's logical that only one or the other type of writing gets play. Jokes during a postmortem are the height of bad taste, and serious thought during an article on my Ekin Cheng-related hate mail would just be stupid. Mixing and matching these two types of writing just seems like a bad idea.
     Screw it: I'm going to try anyway.
     Recently I've been drawn into a mini-war with certain readers over the fate of the infamous reader polls. For those not familiar with them, they're usually short, semi-serious questions about everything from celebrity gossip to film quality to the contenders for the recent NBA Championship (The Lakers lost, woohoo!). The polls were never to be taken seriously—their function was purely entertainment, which should have been obvious from the frequent "joke" choices on each poll. When one of the possible answers to the question, "Which Twin do you prefer?" is "I like bacon", you should know not to get riled up over any possible disagreement. If anything, who cares? An opinion is an opinion, not everyone will agree with you, and that's just the way it is. Deal.
     However, things went sour for the polls very quick. Aside from the occasional sniping between readers via the optional "poll comments," there were a few awesome people who decided it fell upon them to critique the quality of the polls themselves. "Idiotic" and "a waste of time" were some of the words bandied about, which angered me so much that I considered getting a decaf Frappucino instead of the standard caffeinated variety. For those who don't understand my sense of humor, here it is literally: I don't care whatsoever what people think of the polls. Don't like them? Fine, then don't pay attention. As long as I don't hurt anyone—and I doubt I do—I'll continue to run the polls every week.
     Sadly, it was another part of the sudden caustic nature of the poll comments which made me send them packing. Besides attacking me or the site, some commenters began attacking each other with frequent misunderstanding and ignorance as their chief weapons. At that point I decided enough was enough: the polls were sent on indefinite vacation. If people wanted to rattle illogically without fear of consequence, I would prefer they do it somewhere else, and not here. Yes, has a forum, and yes, lots of debate occurs there, but usually those forum faithful are a little more sensitive of other people's feelings. They certainly wouldn't tell someone to "kiss my ass", or start throwing around four-letter words like badges of unearned authority. And if someone on the forum did mouth off in a way unbefitting a rational human being, usually that's what would get attacked and not the fact that they happen to dig Aaron Kwok. Opinions are cool; disregard for the opinions and feelings of others most certainly is not.
     Not that what I say should matter, because anyone I would direct this diatribe at probably could care less what I have to say. Which is fine. Despite my all-powerful position as webmaster of, I cannot predict the rational abilities of the people who drop by this place. All I can really do is take responsiblity for what I say or do—which has its own share of bumps and bruises. Recently I received an e-mail which took me to task for my "emotional" response to people who like Future Cops. At the end of my scathing review, I proclaimed to the world that (and I paraphrase) "if you like Future Cops, then I hope never to meet you." Someone thought I was being way too harsh, and told me so. Their message: don't be so damn mean.
     In truth, I probably deserve censure IF you took my words literally. Well here's what I think: people shouldn't take all my words literally. I was basically kidding; I know many people who find Future Cops to be a gas, and I have yet to sever personal ties with them as a result. I write the way I write, which happens to be in a weird, somewhat facetious manner which attempts critical thought without ever removing tongue from cheek. Most of the time I think it works, though it's apparent that my efforts are lost on some people. Not that there's anything wrong with that; if my writing does not entertain or inform you, then I guess that's just the way it is. Sorry I couldn't help you. To take it further, they might want to seek out a film reviewer that they actually have a rapport with, i.e. someone who speaks the same language. I speak my own language, which is probably understood by about thirty-odd people worldwide. Bottom line, if my writing annoys you, then that's too bad. The world is not a perfect place, and I can't be responsible for everything everyone thinks or feels. I could probably try, but it'd likely drive me insane.
     If I were younger, this would probably be another story. Ten years ago, when I was in college, I made it my business to try to be responsible for the feelings of EVERYONE around me, an experiment in personality that failed spectacularly. Aside from the fact that it was metaphysically impossible, it annoyed me so much that I became a nightmare of a human being to be around AND I ended up feeling like complete and utter crap. I learned my lesson, but there was collateral damage to spare. I'm sure there have been many weddings I was not invited to.
     Luckily, despite my misadventures in growing up, I still managed to make a few very good friends during my college days. One of them was a guy named Barry Long, who worked the counter at Kim's Video in New York City. Aside from being a nice guy, Barry was also the world's biggest English-speaking advocate of Hong Kong film. The guy devoured the stuff with a passion that makes me look like a casual fan. I went into the whole HK Cinema thing with only John Woo and Jackie Chan as my references. Barry introduced me to Stephen Chow, Wong Kar-Wai, Peter Chan, Stanley Kwan, Johnnie To, Wong Jing, Brigitte Lin, Tsui Hark and other names that constantly pop up on this site. My burgeoning interest in the cinema had no focus. Barry pointed me in all sorts of directions, never once mistaking his own tastes for mine, or vice-versa. We disagreed on some films (Barry happened to find Future Cops amusing), but that never stopped us from being friends.
     It's rather sad, but I lost touch with Barry after I left New York City. In 1996, I returned to California and began my illustrious career as a video buyer for some dinky San Jose home theater store. I created a Hong Kong Cinema section, found laserdisc rental stores in the area, and generally kept up using all the tools Barry had given to me. We spoke once or twice after I returned, but as with many things, you just lose touch. I currently speak to no one from my college years save two people, and of those people I've only seen one since I left New York. Since creating, a total of two other people from my college years have contacted me. Sadly, neither of those people was Barry. I had always assumed that this website would one day catch his attention. After all, if he still had any interest whatsoever in Hong Kong Cinema, I figured he would run across the site someday.
     Unfortunately, I will never know if he ever found this site. I learned recently through a friend of a friend that Barry had passed away. Grady Hendrix over at the Mobius Home Video Forum gave him a touching eulogy which perfectly encapsulates what it was about Barry that made him different. Unlike a lot of people, Barry believed in the films he loved, even if nobody else could see what made them so enchanting to him. When faced with something as assailable as Hong Kong film—and let's face it, when you factor in all the tasteless Category III shlock and wacky comedy, Hong Kong Cinema seems like pretty strange stuff—Barry would promote the stuff like it was his purpose to do so.
     Hell, Barry thought Chiu Yen-Ping had talent, which is something I would never, ever agree with, but give him credit: Barry would tell you this, and then show you scenes from Flying Dagger or China Dragon to illustrate his point. My reaction was to lose my lunch, but Barry was never embarassed or annoyed that I didn't agree with him. Our disagreements didn't matter; what mattered was that we both cared enough about Hong Kong Cinema to even bother having a conversation about Chiu Yen-Ping, or Wong Jing, or even those terrible "Shaolin Popey" kids. You remember them: the kung-fu fighting one, Sik Siu-Lung, and the little fat one, Kok Siu-Man, whose primary shtick was to run around naked showing off his hairless privates to middle-aged women everywhere. Yeah, I won't be revisiting those films anytime soon.
     But Barry was a guide for me, and showed me pieces of Hong Kong Cinema that would determine my viewing habits and film choices for the next ten years. Knowledge of stars, directors, and the minute pleasures of HK's commercial cinema were all things that Barry imparted upon me, just as he did for many other people who walked into Kim's Video. He even gave me a job at Kim's, and after he left the place, I made the Hong Kong Cinema section my new responsiblity. It's safe to say that I did nowhere near as good a job as Barry, and my HK Cinema disciples at Kim's probably never numbered more than three. I didn't have the charisma or personality to invite people into Hong Kong Cinema with the confidence that Barry did. In a fair world, should have been Barry Long's website.
     For better or worse, though, it happens to be my website—a fact which probably entertains some and annoys others. But if any one person were to receive credit for this site existing, it would have to be Barry. Learning about Hong Kong Cinema according to Barry Long is what led me to this point. That I would even attempt to qualify HK movies in a rational, discursive manner are a product of the hours spent discussing HK films with Barry. The fact that the site ever came to be is something I attribute directly to my friend. In every way, the critical eye and loving attention paid towards a film as culturally insignificant as Protégé de la Rose Noire is a product of that man's same affection towards that which is Hong Kong Cinema. It may not seem like much, but it's something.
     I'm not sure if it's a compliment, but I consider Barry Long to be the soul of Yeah, I run the thing, but as some readers have been all-too-willing to point out, a bunch of monkees could do what I do. I'm not sure those same readers could do it, but if they think they can then more power to them. I'll just continue to keep this thing running, week after week, month after month, and hopefully one day it'll all make sense. I sincerely hope that Barry—wherever he is now—approves of and whatever meager things it tries to accomplish. As it is, I plan on doing my very best to make sure that it stays around for quite a while.
     Unchecked rambling off.

-- Kozo, 7/05/2004


Life with Kozo

The Featured Graphic
It's Hong Kong megastar Andy Lau, making some sort of puckering face, which means one of the follow things: A) He wants to kiss you. B) He just ate something sour. C) He's turning into a fish. Regardless of which option is true, there he is. Rejoice.
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