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June 13th, 2005

Lost in Hong Kong Part 3:
Accentuate the Positive
or It's Really Not That Bad

     A couple of weeks ago I published a Life with Kozo column about how
I don't know Cantonese, and yet here in Hong Kong everyone seems to expect that I do. Aside from the waiters, waitresses, DVD store staff, and my parole officer, there's my coworkers (Some of whom are Ekin Cheng fans. Hmm...awkward.) and even some readers, who question how I can review and/or enjoy Hong Kong films without knowledge of all the slang, multiple tones, and ways to say "rat bastard" in Cantonese. Well, I won't dispute that my Cantonese needs work, and I won't dispute the fact that my understanding of HK Cinema is worse because of my Cantonese-deficiency. All I can say is that I do what I do here on, and the fact that some people seem to respond to it tells me that it can't be all that bad. Maybe they think I'm a nice guy.
     But another thing occurred after the last Life with Kozo column: I got a bunch of e-mail all bearing the same message. That message: "Cheer up!" True, there were one or two "Stop whining" e-mails mixed in there, but I largely received e-mail from people telling me to take my time and let it flow, and sooner or later things will work out. From a positive thinking standpoint, it was all very nice, and I appreciate each and every one of those e-mails. I'm honestly flattered that people would write in with messages of hope. I'm also somewhat embarrassed when I say that maybe those e-mails were not totally necessary. I appreciate the thoughts, but I don't want to misrepresent myself too much. Yes, moving to HK can be tough, and not knowing the language can be tough, but there are good things going on too.
     Basically, it's really not that bad. My job, despite the fact that it keeps me too busy to properly work on, has been largely pretty good, and the people have been supportive. Since arriving in Hong Kong, I've met numerous readers of the site - some Asian Cinema diehards, some merely casual fans - and each has had a new and interesting perspective on Hong Kong film. One person I recently met just got into Hong Kong Cinema five months ago, which is, frankly speaking, pretty damn awesome. I genuinely envy this person, who gets to discover all the classic films of the past two decades without having to sit through Feel 100% 2003. They'll be smart enough to avoid Where's Mama's Boy, and will concentrate on seeing first rate or at least desired cinema. When you get to the point where you pick up PTU Files: Death Trap just because it's a Hong Kong movie that got released in one theater, then you know that you're getting desperate. I really wish I could return to the old days when I could pick and choose. Then I might have skipped The Spy Dad.
     Okay, that sounds a bit negative. Time to back up.
     Writing is a weird thing. Seldom is it possible to encapsulate a person's entire being into 1500 words, but when I write one of these columns, I seem to be attempting that. I spin words out of some subconscious pit, hoping that it registers somewhere and actually means something. Unfortunately, I inevitably draw upon emotional states or thoughts that are easily put into words. A lot of things can be put into words - thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, happiness, pain, sports statistics, and soup recipes among them - but when it comes to writing these columns, I inevitably lean towards the negative.
     Why? Well, it's easier to write about. It gives form and direction to a blank page, and gives me the opportunity to make witty remarks and/or snide commentary about all things Kozo-related. And hey, there's nobody I enjoy roasting more than myself. (Yes, even more than Ekin Cheng.) Negativity is much easier to work with when writing, and attempting a sunny personal column is difficult, not to mention possibly facetious and even boring. Who wants to hear about how happy I was when I bought a couple of Star Wars toys? That's right: nobody does. It's just not that interesting, and will probably be so self-indulgent that it ultimately grates on the reader. The same thing occurs when movie geeks talk about how they "geek out" in the theater before the latest Spider-Man sequel. It's great that you had an orgasmic rush before the movie ever began, but is that really what I want to hear about? And don't tell me about the sandwich you had before the movie, either.
     Besides, from a selfish point of view, writing negatively can be fun. It can be much funner to rail on stuff, or to attempt amusement via pithy commentary on sad or pathetic thoughts. If anyone saw the recent film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, they'll tell you that manic-depressive Marvin the Robot was probably the funniest thing in the movie. His droll "Everybody hates me" attitude is fun stuff in a movie, and by extension it can be funny in a column, too. Sarcasm and bitching can be dynamite stuff in print, though in reality I'm sure most people would prefer it stay far away from them. It's ironic how so many things that we enjoy in films (mass rebellion, the challenging of authority, irreverent dudes who speak their mind inappropriately, Jim Carrey) would probably annoy us in real life. In life, everyone wants things to be set and solid. Drama, rabble-rousing, or general obnoxiousness is frowned upon from the moment we take our first breaths. Basically, fly under the radar and shut up, and everyone will go home happy. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. That could be in the handbook to well-adjusted living.
     Leaning towards the negative can also be helpful when writing a film review, though it's probably not fair to the reader. If someone reads this, they might think they've discovered the secret of my film reviews: "Ah ha! Being negative is easier! That's why he hates so many films!" Er...I would actually disagree with that, as the goal in most of my film reviews is actually to talk about both the positive AND the negative. Every film, including probably the best film ever made, has its debits, while even the worst film ever made has its positive points. However, it is true that going to town on a movie can be cathartic, and make for some fun writing. But it can go too far, which I did when I wrote my review for China Strike Force some five years ago. I said some stuff in there I'd like to take back, though at the time it sounded funny to pound on the film like it truly deserved it. Hell, it really does deserve some scorn because it's not a good movie, but in no uncertain terms should I have suggested that Stanley Tong return to America to make Mr. Magoo 2. That was just uncalled for, and is the mark of a writer who got so into the name-calling that he went too far. I've tried to rein it in since.
     That said, I probably did go overboard with the negativity in my last Life with Kozo column. It wasn't my intention to get too unhappy, but when I read the column later it sounded like I might be using my 41st floor apartment to attempt some street diving. That will not happen. For one thing, I imagine I would bounce off the building a few times, which sounds pretty damn painful. Also, it's not that bad. Honestly, there are many cool things going on here in Hong Kong. Some I outlined above. Besides meeting new HK Cinema fans, I recently had the opportunity to meet site reviewer Sanjuro for the first time, plus a few of the forum regulars who I've conversed with over the years. And, being in Hong Kong, the place featured in all the wacky movies I cherish (and sometimes demolish), is in itself a rare reward. I know of people who have worked very hard to get the chance to live here, and I basically had it handed to me without a whole lot of effort. Let me say this: I am an extremely lucky human being, and though I probably will never find that waitress I so adored at the Hard Rock Cafe in Tsimshatsui (see a very old column for that story), I'm glad to be here. Even if I never learn Cantonese, or meet Mrs. Kozo, or take that photo with Ekin Cheng, I'll view this as a very special time in my life - even after they deport me.

     Which brings me to this column, which is an attempt to do the exact opposite of what I normally do. That is, instead of representing annoyance, apprehension, fear, or the decline of the NBA, I'm going to try to say something positive, and I'm going to do it in a manner that is wholesome and without negative asides. What I really want to say is that there is good stuff happening to me in Hong Kong. Really. People have been nice to me, my job has been truly accommodating, and things have not been that problematic. I get up in the morning, have some coffee, go to work, solve some problems, find new ones (But hey, they can be solved!), and then go home, have dinner, and enjoy a nice ten minutes of staring out of my window before it's time to go to sleep and repeat the process. Of course, I don't have time to watch and/or review a film, which means that my next site update will be sparse and lacking in any new content, which might piss off readers, who will then defect and find a new site to regularly browse, which could reduce's traffic to 0, meaning my employers might wonder why they ever hired me, plus people will still be mad at me because I made too much fun of Ekin Cheng, and people will eventually say, "He stopped updating his site. Lazy bastard!" On the plus side, the Chinese food here is tasty.
     Bah, this isn't working.
     The lesson: stick to what you're good at.

-- Kozo, 6/13/2005


Life with Kozo

"It's okay, Kozo! And quit yer whining!"

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Andy Lau seems to think everything is okay, so it probably is for the Webmaster too. Since everything is A-OK, we should all go back to doing happy fun things like going to sing karaoke, or perhaps enjoying a fine bowl of BBQ pork over rice. If you must, you can watch a marathon of Disney animation to raise your blood sugar level. Or, if you're the Webmaster, you take a nap. Sleep delivers true happiness.

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