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December 27th, 2004

Night and Day
and the Loss of Words

     Last March Kozo AKA The Webmaster AKA Me went public with the awful truth about it was a sinking ship. At the time I was running out of cash, the site traffic had grown beyond my control, and spending time working on the site was becoming somewhat of a questionable choice.
When I started getting hit with three-figure bandwidth overage charges, I knew something had to give. That something was my pride, and I asked the readership to send me a little cash to keep the site online. People did, the bandwidth bills got paid, and the site had a little over $500 left in its treasury to insure a future of snarky goodness. I was grateful then, and I'm grateful now. The kindness of strangers should not be taken for granted, especially when you make a habit of bashing their favorite actors or actresses. To the people who donated: you are truly angelic folk.
     But that was then, and this is now. Then I was at the end of my rope, and I asked the readership to cut me some slack. Now I have too much rope, and the fear is that I'll get tangled up in it. In case the metaphors are annoying you, I'll cut straight to the chase: is a resounding success...for what it is. Put simply, it's a website that talks about movies many people have written off as dying and/or quality impaired. On a weekly basis, it entertains, informs, and sometimes enrages a readership of thousands, which is probably more people than I'll ever know in my lifetime. Some of those people couldn't care less who's running the show as long as they get a Hong Kong movie fix, but others have gone out of their way to show their appreciation. Some people have even decided that maybe the guy behind the site can do more than just run a weekly Ekin Cheng roast.
     Which leads us to 2005. Starting sometime in the new year, I'll be dropping the life of a freelance contractor who specializes in witty smackdowns on bubblegum pop duos. Instead, I'll take on a full-time job, which will be to enhance the English language content of a website that sells products from those same bubblegum pop duos. That site: The job: assisting in the development of English language content on their site with the hopes that it will improve and/or make the site a friendlier place for those who can't read Chinese. Not that it already isn't friendly towards the Chinese-illiterate, because at this time they do happen to be the world's foremost Asian Entertainment retailer—though Miramax probably wishes that title were theirs. However, the assumption—or maybe the hope—is that my immersion in Hong Kong Entertainment will translate into a good match with their business. I think it will, though I've been wrong before.


Life with Kozo

  The Featured Graphic
It's two of the Webmaster's favorite people: Charlene Choi, the talented but near-insufferable taller member of girl group Twins, and Ekin Cheng, who needs no introduction to anyone anywhere. After the Webmaster moves to Hong Kong, he hopes neither will hire a hit squad.

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The opinions expressed within are merely the musings of the Webmaster, and as such should be taken with the requisite grain of salt. If you disagree with an expressed opinion please feel free to contact him here. If you feel he has insulted your favorite popstar, you can still contact him. However, your chances of receiving a reply will be reduced by half.

      The positives here are obvious. For the first time since September 2001, I'll be drawing a regular paycheck, which means no longer will I have to scrounge for freelance work or sell my bodily fluids. Things like food, housing, and transportation will be taken care of, provided I don't get stupid and buy an H2, or decide that I must live in a luxury condo. I'll also be taking on a job that came to me expressly because of, which qualifies as the official dream for anyone who runs their own website. The feeling that my online hobbies have resulted in this job is one that cannot be easily described. I feel a sense of accomplishment that I will be working primarily on writing. I feel gratified that actually opened doors for me beyond the "Please plug my website/film project/DVD release/bathroom tissue/pharmaceutical dispenser" variety. And most of all, I feel relieved that I can stop calling a waste of time.
     But there's a catch. A number of them, actually, which invokes the mixed metaphor that asking for the moon and getting it will open up a whole new can of worms. I look at my relationship to Hong Kong Cinema as something akin to a marriage. Once I began to review a majority of the stuff released out of Hong Kong—regardless of filmmakers, production size, or quality of talent—I basically put myself into the "for better or worse" category. I was willing to subject myself to whatever Hong Kong produced in order to further the site, my interests, and hopefully the entertainment of those who actually check in on a weekly basis. Now the marriage has produced kids, namely this new job, which comes with this major catch: I have to move to Hong Kong.
     Now, to some people this "catch" is probably a dream come true. "Hell, what is this Kozo guy bitching about? He gets to move to Hong Kong! Screw that guy! And be nicer to Edison Chen!" A part or perhaps all of that above quote could be issuing from the mouths of some people reading this, and if it is, then I don't blame them. Hell, making a guy who loves Hong Kong Cinema move to Hong Kong sounds as awful as making a Twins fan own all their albums, including second editions, third editions, and special CD+VCD packs that also include a lock of Charlene Choi's hair. Every day of every week I'll be surrounded by that which populates all these trippy movies that I watch—with the possible exception of flying martial artists. Sorry, nobody in Hong Kong will be announcing their jiang hu rank publicly, or getting in a fight with me just because I looked at them wrong. Hell, I'll probably never see a triad knife fight, or meet a sassy Asian girl who'll kick my ass and steal my heart. No, I have to move to Korea to get that.
     But hey, just because I watch all the movies doesn't necessarily mean that I want to be in them 24/7 for the rest of my existence. If you can't tell from my attitude, language use, and/or general demeanor, I'm very American, albeit of the Blue State variety. Even though I'm Asian, have Ekin-style hair, and know what "face" is, Hong Kong will be an extreme culture shock for me. Getting mobbed simply shopping for clothes is not my idea of a cool time, and the fact that I can't read or speak Chinese is guaranteed to make me look like a total doofus 80% of the time that I open my mouth in public. Sadly, I will probably eat at McDonald's occasionally, if only because it'll feel like "home". However, they also have Starbucks now, so I can probably skip McDonald's and go to Starbucks if I want to feel like I'm back in America. And when they open Hong Kong Disneyland, I can go there and feel the full-court pressure of brand-name capitalism. Or I can simply stay in my rented 200 square-foot flat and pwn people online in "Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory". There are a variety of options.
     Still, the fact remains: I'll be stuck in Hong Kong, away from the people who can actually put up with me, and rubbing shoulders day after day with people who laugh at Wong Jing movies. The good news is that I can virtually disappear in Hong Kong, and if I create a routine that requires me to speak as little as possible, I can probably get by without looking like a doofus. Unfortunately, people do need other people, and this is true even for me. Despite wanting to remain anonymous and unobtrusive, I'll probably end up getting lonely on more than one occasion. Yeah, there's the Internet and a variety of wacky chatrooms to occupy my time, but honestly, that doesn't really appeal to me. Neither do large crowds and attempting to live in a place I know mainly from the movies. If Wong Kar-Wai would have us believe him, the big city is already an alienating place, where people can gain, lose, and barely miss chances at happiness in just the blink of an eye. Since I'll be in that big city, won't know the language, and will likely have a skewed worldview of the general populace (as much as I would like to believe otherwise, My Wife is 18 was only fiction), I may be aiming for some sort of urban alienation triple crown. If I don't suffocate first, I could end up drowning.
     However, it's doubtful that the majority of people who read this care about my feelings towards moving to Hong Kong. No, they're probably still stuck at, "What's his problem with moving to Hong Kong? Screw that guy!" And again, I wouldn't blame them. If anything, they're probably a little more concerned about what moving to Hong Kong and taking on a true full-time job will mean to The answer: unknown. Once I settle in, find an apartment, and figure out what my daily routine will be, I expect that running the site will continue—with the added benefit of reviews focusing on actual new Hong Kong movies. In all likelihood, I'll actually be able to review stuff before it hits DVD, which will raise the overall ranking of from the 437th most popular Hong Kong Cinema website to probably the 121st. I expect to have the social life of roadkill during my initial months there, so finding the time to run the site after work hours will probably be easy. Go to work, go home, eat dinner, watch a movie and/or review it, then go to sleep. Rinse and repeat. I could end up writing five reviews a week.
     But yes, there's a catch; two of them, actually. If my social drought ever ends, that'll officially put the kibosh on a lot of my free time, reducing to probably the fifth priority in my life. This will sadden me if it happens, though I wonder if it's avoidable. I'm actually very grateful for what the site has done for me personally. Aside from this new job, some perceived industry cred, and lots of teenagers writing to me about the Twins, is proof that I can accomplish something besides punch a timecard and help customers find a movie to rent. I will definitely keep the site online, and will try keep it updated, but once-a-week updates could be a thing of the past. Also, since my day job will be all about writing, I could end up burnt out and unwilling to write anything outside of work hours. I will try my hardest not to make those things happen, though I can't promise anything.
     Moving from the current overindulgent novella-length film reviews might also be a smart idea. Right now most of what I write ranges between six to ten paragraphs, especially for the featured review. Assuming that readers don't find a sudden reduction in the amount of words to be copping out, that may be the first and best solution to keeping the site going. Also, I'll probably have to excise crap like My Sweetie, A Wedding or a Funeral, and Dating Death from my moviegoing diet. Perhaps one or two of those films counts as major releases (My Sweetie had cameos from Ronald Cheng and Miriam Yeung, and Dating Death was directed by Hong Kong Cinema regular Herman Yau), but I honestly didn't expect any of those films to be great. Sadly, my expectations were met.
     But the second catch is potentially worse for the site. Whereas the first catch speaks of a loss of free time and an inability to update the site once a week, the assumption is that I will still update it. The second catch of living in Hong Kong is that media saturation and overexposure to a previously-removed film industry could all but kill my interest in Hong Kong Cinema. While talking to people in Hong Kong, one question I frequently got was, "Why do you like Hong Kong Cinema?" I wish I could qualify my answer with a simple "It rocks!" or "It's better than movies by Michael Bay", but neither really does my feelings justice. I can't honestly say Hong Kong Cinema rocks, though it's generally better than Michael Bay crap, and it definitely possesses a quirkiness and charm that makes it wholly unique. Hong Kong Cinema has long reflected the character and changing times of the region, and the allure of Hong Kong as a special place is something that will not diminish in my mind.
     But will the cinema be different and special anymore? Perhaps not. The allure of the culture and the city could be lost to me because I'll be getting my fix of that from walking down the street. I won't have to check out movies to see the Twins or Ekin Cheng or Sammi Cheng, because they'll be everywhere I go. They'll be on billboards, advertisements, magazine stands, in malls, on posters, and probably even on my breakfast cereal. I'll be privy to all the great gossip, and will get a first hand look at how the Hong Kong media—and its devout readership—routinely chews up and spits out actors like Zhang Ziyi, Nicholas Tse, Cecilia Cheung, Jackie Chan, Jackie Chan's big-nosed kid, and everybody else they can get their hands on. I'll also experience the depression of actually visiting the cinema, where a first-run movie could qualify as a private screening, if only because it'll be me and two others in the theater. In defense of the Hong Kong audience, Kung Fu Hustle is currently sold out until 2005, proving that sometimes an audience does exist. Sadly, that audience only comes out two or maybe three times a year, leaving all other movies virtual theatrical flops. After a few months, Hong Kong Cinema may not look so attractive anymore.
     My fear is that living in Hong Kong will make me realize that the grass is no longer greener over there. As a reaction, I could develop a greater love for Korean film, or Bollywood, or hell, maybe the fine films of Steven Spielberg and yes, Michael Bay. I can't be sure what'll happen or where I'll be in a year or two, because three years ago I would never have guessed that Hong Kong Cinema would basically chart the course of my life. I created because I had the time to do it—and nothing else better to do. Clearly, that time is over, and I'll be expected to make my main pursuit something other than my personal website—though it's effect on my life is impossible to dispute. I'll be moving to Hong Kong because of, and any expectations placed upon me will be there because of, and not my schooling, work experience, and/or nonexistent networking skills. These are strange times for me, and even though the length of this column may indicate otherwise, I'm at a loss for words. To extend the metaphor of my relationship to Hong Kong Cinema as a marriage, I'll say that it's been a pretty good ride, and one I hope to continue into the future. Still, if living with the in-laws proves to be too much, I may get a divorce.

-- Kozo, 12/27/2004

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