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July 31st, 2006

Lost in Hong Kong Part 6:
One step forward, one sharp drop

     There is no goal for this column. Specifically, I have no goal in sitting down to write it. Life with Kozo is not meant to be planned. I can plan certain things, e.g. what I plan on eating tomorrow, or what movie I plan on seeing this week. (It's Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest, which is only getting a Hong Kong release a full month after its North American debut. This international release date stuff is crap, I tell you.) However, I can't really plan how things will go. I don't know what the weather will be like in a week, nor do I know what wacky changes my life in Hong Kong will experience come September 1st. I have no control over the people who wander by, nor what they do while existing somewhere around me. Maybe they'll do good things. Sadly, they can also do bad things. Sometimes, these bad things can lead to other bad things. It's all cyclical.
      A full five years ago, I lost my job. I used to work at a home theater store in Northern California, where I ran their computer systems and worked on their now-defunct website. That store is now closed, having gone out of business a few years after I left. My leaving had no impact on their closing; if anything, it was just a sign of the inevitable. What wasn't inevitable was that I had to go sometime. I simply chose the wrong time to do it. The actual details are probably not worth going into, but back then I was exceptionally angry with my job, my boss, and some of my co-workers. I wasn't happy doing what I was doing, and I continued to stay there unhappily. I had my friends and supporters at the company, but in the end, my attitude was not something to be celebrated or condoned. No, I needed to get the ax.
     Which I did, on September 12th, 2001. If anything, the actual timing of my dismissal really put my personal issues into perspective. If I was going to get angry over my crappy job just one day after something of such global magnitude as 9-11 occurred, then I was seriously twisted. I could have used a break -- and I got it, in the form of a forced vacation without pay. It was really a good thing, and even though I was filled with bile and bitternerness back then, I too knew it was a good thing. Sometimes a divorce is necessary, and if you can't do it yourself, hopefully someone has the guts to do it for you. This may not apply to everyone out there who gets terminated from their job, but it definitely applied to me. I simply should not have worked at that place any longer than I had. Hell, I should have left a full year earlier.
     But thanks to getting the ax, I had time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. Running systems at a small store wasn't going to cut it, especially since the bursting of the IT bubble meant marginally skilled people like myself would never find a job. To make a long story short, I screwed around, took some writing courses, founded this site, developed it, and ended up coming to Hong Kong a little over 3 years later to work at Blah blah can get the full lowdown if you read previous Life With Kozo columns. I swear I could just copy and paste old columns, reorder them, and then pass them off as new work. It would probably amount to what I usually do when I write a column, which is basically talk about the same old stuff in a new form. I think my standard topics are A) should I quit this website, B) I'm a lucky guy, C) downloading sucks, and D) some NBA basketball references. I figure I'll definitely cover A in this column. I'll try to avoid B through D, though B usually sneaks in anyway. It's hard to talk about ending up in Hong Kong without talking about how lucky I am.
     Hell, let's just go straight to B. I know I'm lucky, because I was hired to be an English Editor at despite having no formal experience or training as an Editor. Basically, I was hired because I wrote a wacky website about Hong Kong movies, the rationale being that if I could string all these words together, publish them, and keep the mistakes to an acceptable minimum, then I could probably do the same for I assume I was able to do that, because since then I've received two promotions. In practical terms, that means I now have absolute power over a 1 inch space on every product page -- the English pages, anyway. But merit isn't the main reason for my success, if you could call it that. Both times I got promoted, someone above me either left the company or opted to transfer.
     What's that called again? Oh yeah, luck.
     So yes, I'm a lucky guy. There's really not another word for it. But having made it to where I am (if one could even call this "making it"), I've found myself in a very strange position. Basically, my entire reason for ending up where I am right now has all but disappeared. I no longer do much writing about Asian Cinema, and instead concern myself with new initiatives, management tasks and personnel issues. That last responsiblity has its own pitfalls, because sometimes you end up having to say or do things that you simply do not want to do. You also have to make judgements that you don't want to make, and essentially put larger issues in front of the standard afterschool special stuff, like feelings, fairness, and friendship.
     Once upon a time, I thought I just wanted to be everyone's buddy. Of course, that's impossible. Hell, having this website has taught me that. I still get e-mails blasting me for my opinions, and of course saying what I say probably earns me no friends in the Hong Kong Entertainment circle. Sometimes I wonder if it does me any good at all. Recently, I've been looking at a lot of other websites, and what I've discovered is that my writing has not improved in the last 1-2 years. New Asian Cinema sites are cropping up all the time, and this one is stalled because I spend only a fraction of the time that others do working on it. Since working at, I've discovered that there are actually webmasters out there who make their living running their websites. It's a full time job for them, from licensing out their content to earning affiliate dollars and advertising revenue. Given's traffic, I could probably do the same thing, meaning I could load up the site with ads, and apply to every affiliate program known to man, from to [insert competitor site here] and [insert other competitor site here]. I could make this my fulltime job.
     Except it brings me back to the original problem: I'm not sure what my writing skills really are. I don't have much experience writing features, nor am I exceptionally good at writing news. Even my review skills are a bit suspect, as I'm not an academic, and instead choose to approach stuff from a fan point of view. In many ways, I consider myself an amateur. I never planned on being a writer or film reviewer, and instead choose to do it because at the time, I didn't have anything better to do. I'm now five years older, and I live in the country that spawned this whole mess in the first place. Sadly, the cinema is rapidly dying here in Hong Kong, and new releases are few and far between. The reason for this is the usual: reduced profits, illegal downloading (Editor note: I just referenced Standard Topic C), no new talent, etc. Hong Kong Cinema is a shadow of its former self, though I still watch whatever comes down the pipeline, even if those films include Dating a Vampire and Half Twin. I'm not sure if I'm dedicated or just stupid. Surely there must be better things to do with my time.
     But there aren't, actually. In many ways, I would consider this website the only thing I've ever achieved because really, I'm not sure I've achieved much of anything else. I have been exceptionally lucky, because I got to this point with absolutely no planning or forethought -- which is actually scary if you think about it. Back when I got terminated from my previous job, I also had no plan, and simply existed day to day, earning my paycheck and grousing over how things at my company were not being done in the way I thought they should. After a while, thoughts like that will make it to the top, and when they do, there will be consequences. If I had thought about my plans, about my future, maybe I wouldn't have acted so short-sightedly. Maybe I could have planned for a career in systems adminstration, or simply left the job earlier because I realized that there was nothing left for me there. At that job, my luck ran out, and when it was over, all I had were my savings, some hard lessons, and the raw skills to put together this website.
     I guess it's turned out okay, but if I've learned anything all, I should think about what the next step is. Should I continue to do things the way that I've done them: take my job as it comes, accept whatever new responsiblities arise, and run this questionably relevant website on the side? Or, should I reformat my thinking, find a goal, develop whatever skills I think I have, and try to achieve more? Does that goal even involve After all, it's no longer the #1 Asian Film Site on Alexa, and has lost relevance because it doggedly covers a cinema that is considered a joke in many parts. I actively ignore the obviously superior quality of current Korean and Japanese cinema for films like Lethal Ninja, We Are Family, and -- coming to a review page near you -- Midnight Running, Without Words, and maybe even A Wondrous Bet. None of those films is going to be playing a festival anytime soon, and if I actually love one of them, I'll be the most surprised person in the room.
     But I'll probably still review them. Basically, that's what I do: watch everything even though quality and actual enjoyment is a fool's dream. Even the worst movies that come out Korea look like gold thanks to the beautiful production values and polished technique. Here in Hong Kong, we have Kung Fu Mahjong 2, which features an apartment set that looks worse than the apartment I currently live in. If that's not a warning sign, then I don't know what is.
     But for now, I guess this is where I am. I'm not holding my breath that these movies will be that great, but at the very least I want to be there when they actually do get better. It's not what I want to be doing 10 years from now, but it's good enough for the next six to eight months. Until I think of something better, holding out hope for Hong Kong is as good a goal as any.

-- Kozo, 7/31/2006


Life with Kozo

  The Featured Photos
More photos from Hong Kong. At top, it's lovely Portugeuse-flavored Macau. Photo #2 is of Stanley, a popular tourist spot on Hong Kong Island. In the picture of Stanley is Flat Stanley, the flattened hero of children's books who gets sent around the world as part of numerous school projects. Photo #3 is of Kozo's former workstation, before he changed seats a few weeks back. Photo #4 is a shot of Tai O, located on Lantau Island, which is also known as the location of both Case of the Cold Fish and Dragon Reloaded. Photo #5 are those pesky Twins, seen here hawking mobile phones in Taiwan. And finally Photo #6 is a required shot of stuffed simian KK Jr. hanging out with Kozo's PVC statue of Batman, made by those fine folks at Kotobukiya. In Hong Kong, gimmicky schwag is everything. If I wanted to, I could start my own blog on all the crap I own. It may actually be more popular than this website.

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