Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Every city has one.
Their clothes are garbage but elaborately put together.
We had one in the village where I grow up.
We called him Midnight Victor.
We'd normally find him sleeping in some ditch on our way to school.
We were not afraid of him. He never did any harm.
Some kids were more harmful. To him.
They begged him for money.
I met my second stitch-man when I moved to Gothenburg.
Instead of shoes he had layer after layer of plastic bags wrapped around his feet.
Which made his feet look enormous.
He was always pushing a shopping cart around.
He collected bottles and cans. 10 cents in return for each.
Rumors had it he'd amassed a little fortune after a life of bottle collecting.
But that he was too cheap to ever use any of the money.
Amsterdam has one.
I asked him to be in an ad once.
It turned out he had been in advertising himself.
Before booze, Dutch weed and laziness took over.
I am pretty sure he didn't lie about that.
He seemed to know the names of all the big stars in American advertising.
And a few less known one.
Why would a bum bother to learn such things?
Or lie about it?
He didn't lie about his alcoholism and drug dependency.
New York has one too.
Or two. Or more.
I used to see mine around Union Square.
Close to where I worked.
My job was to make ads.
His job was to sit there and advertise his misery.
He was a pretty savvy ad man if you ask me.
If he'd dressed better and shaved more often
he might not have got his hat filled with money as quickly.
He was done by noon as far as I could tell.
Never saw him afternoons.
Maybe he went home, took his beard off,
changed into something passable,
and went for lunch at a decent restaurant.
What do I know?
About these men.
Well, I know there was one in Tokyo as well.
On weekends I used to take my kids out to a playground near our place.
That's where he would sit.
He never seemed to beg for money though.
Perhaps they don't in Japan.
What people don't know is that there are in fact homeless people in Tokyo.
They live in groups.
In tents made of tarpaulins, or in card board boxes.
Little villages of homeless people hidden away in the corners of some parks.
I think my Japanese stitch man lived on the playground though.
Now I've discovered one in Hongkong.
Monday, October 29, 2007
I'm in advertising.
i hate most advertising.
It's stupid, intrusive and everywhere.
It's become so ubiquitous that i don't even notice most of it of course.
Only the absence of it.
I no longer see much of a difference between road signs,
or gigantic murals
with beautiful people
in Armani suits.
If you thought New York with its Time Square was
commercialized then come and take a look at Hongkong.
Armani alone occupies an entire shopping center,
with all of its sub-brands in different store spaces.
There are several huge malls where only the most exclusive
and expensive brands are allowed to rent space.
Wonder when they are going to enforce a door policy?
No unshaven middle aged men with pot bellies allowed.
Other than in company of a huge wallet.
The street is a bit more democratic.
Armani might have to accept being squeezed in between baby powder from J&J and Tiger Balm.
No escaping that if you buy a tram.
They used to be green.
As far as I can remember.
There was something discreet about them.
They'd sneak up on you, almost camouflaged.
And just before you were about to get overrun and killed they rang their bells.
Now they're screaming loudly.
Lucky Brand Jeans for example.
A ride from one end of the island to the other takes about 45 minutes or so.
It costs the equivalent of around 30 cents in US currency. HK$2.
I reckon advertising makes the reasonable fare possible.
It's okay they're no longer green. Far better than if they were no more at all.
A tram ride is an antidote to the hectic street life of hongkong.
The green was never racing green.
Now covered by more advertising than a Formula One car.
Still Formula Zen.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Or is it what we all should strive for?
What will come to your mind after years sitting on
a mountain-top thinking about nothing?
The ferry to Lamma Island takes about 30 or so minutes,
give or take.
On the way out the skyline of the Hongkong island is on the left,
and the ever growing skyline of Kowloon on the right.
Kowloon is Hongkong, but across Vixtoria Harbor seen from the main island.
Kowloon is classic land, with hotels like the Peninsula.
And soon the tallest building in Hongkong.
It takes just half an hour to travel years and decades back in time.
Sok Kwu Wan is one of two villages on Lamma where ferries stop.
It's just a tiny little village with a handful of buildings.
A row of seafood restaurants along the shore. Sitting on stilts.
One better than the other or equally good at least.
Live seafood kept in water tanks. Prices half compared to the city.
The pace is slow. The only rush might be to catch a ferry back.
Miss one and you'll have to relax for another hour or two.
The nature on Lamma is almost impossible to penetrate.
As everywhere in Hongkong.
The mountains are high, and covered in dense brush and bushes and trees.
The ground is rocky, the hills are steep.
To make things easier for the sneaker clad, backpack carrying, crowds, there are walkways everywhere.
Cemented pathways around, and crisscrossing, the island.
Toilets strategically placed together with first aid stations.
Special dog toilets too. Square sand pits where they can do their stuff.
It's a rugged life.
There are no cars on Lamma.
A Buddhist temple on the top of one of the mountains.
A wind machine to provide electricity.
Beaches where swimming and picking clam shells are the only available attractions.
To be half hour away from one the world's most commercial cities
it's rather devoid of commerce.
There's virtually none. Other than a few shops on restaurant lane just off the ferries.
It was a nice escape.
My camera lens instantly took on a more positive mood.
I think it registered a postcard-like image as shown above.
It's amazing what some fresh (almost) air can do.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
An hour and 45 minutes between ferries.
To Lamma Island.
Half an hour and you're far away from the bustling, crazy city of hongkong.
Half hour away from the depressions of a city too polluted to be humane.
That's what we do to ourselves. We humans.
We make our lives miserable in the race to get bigger, better, richer and presumably happier.
We are just hostages in the cities.
Some live up in the hills or on top of the cloud scratching towers, with pools and gardens and helipads
Remote controlling the crowds down here in the streets, in offices and factories.
We're just face less characters in a video game.
Presumably devoid of feelings.
They glide by in chauffeur driven Roll Royces.
Some have pink ones. Not chauffeurs. But Rollses.
They drive through crowds as if the people were invisible.
Forcing their way.
Let the shiny bullies through.
The windows are always dark.
Hiding the smirks. Or maybe they just ignore us?
The ones who are praised for their contributions to society.
Fine noble citizens above the man in the street.
Plaques in the fine club houses. Donation here, donation there.
Admiration. Invisible hats doffed wherever they appear.
With money stolen from 1 dollar an hour workers.
Most of which couldn't afford the ferry ride to Lamma Island even if they'd gotten this far.
14 hongkong dollars, and 80 cents.
Not quite two US dollars. One way.
I missed the boat.
Perhaps a metaphor too.
But I do have 1,80.
Next ferry in an hour and a half.
The waiting hall is empty.
It won't fill up until just before the next ferry is due.
I'm going to Lamma to walk in the mountains.
Eat some seafood down at the jetty restaurants, Drink a beer.
Escape for a moment.
I don't earn a dollar an hour.
But I don't have a rolls.
And i don't live up in the hills.
which is why we can be kept prisoners.
There are levels.
So there's hope.
Happiness comes from within.
The empty waiting hall doesn't feel like an escape.
More like the isolation cell in the city that keeps you hostage.
I'm not going to Lamma to escape the masses.
That would be impossible.
Hundreds of city dwellers on each ferry just want to get out of the city for a bit.
So there's company right there.
The nature is a bit too inhospitable to be navigated freely.
Or without getting bitten by some surprised snake.
One follows cemented walking paths around and crisscrossing the island.
Hongkong is full of these walk-about cement lanes.
On the main island itself. On most outlaying islands. in Kowloon, and in the New Territories.
Sitting there alone in the empty terminal I look at the world through my camera lens as usual.
right there, right then, it's bleak and lonely, albeit only a short walk away from the crowds and the glittery and the glass towers and the trams and the Rolls Royces.
Here it's relatively quiet.
Funny, I never hear music in the mix of sounds that is HK.
Only at night, in my apartment can I hear people singing. Out of tune. Karaoke.
Getting closer to the departure of next ferry more people appear.
I know the light is not changing. But the view through my lens seems brighter.
I'm not sure the expression on the other escapists are brighter than mine.
But I'm trying.
What right do I have to be gloomy?
Friday, October 26, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Where I live, or used to live perhaps, there's a very old
and very big maple
sitting just outside the kitchen window.
Every morning she takes a long, deep, slow breath in, that lasts the whole day.
Then she lets it out, slowly, a long breath out, during night.
Where I grew up there were no trees that big.
My childhood trees were apple and pear, plum and cherry.
There was the odd old oak.
Forests of spruce and pine.
The pines could grow tall inland.
But near the coast where I grew up, the pines
were bent and crooked like old women having
worked a life in the fields.
Like bonsai trees. Tree slaves.
Trees that are not free.
The winds did that to the pines.
They were so low and and their canopies so flat that we often climbed up
and lay on top.
Zen for kids. Before we knew anything about the maintenance of a motorcycle.
We knew freedom and what it smelled like.
On top of these opressed but stubborn trees.
There was a spiritual calmness about laying there,
on a bed of pine needles,
under the sky,
breathing deeply and slowly.
watching terns and gulls chasing each other and the winds,
diving into the sea,
coming up with glittering little fish.
We would lay up there,
not very high up,
but high enough to be invisible to the occasional passerby underneath.
Quiet. Breathing. Untouchable.
We filled our lungs with fresh air from the sea.
We were invisible.
And a little like birds. Floating on top of the world.
I remember that I sometimes had dreams about flying.
From one roof to another.
Sometimes I was able to jump high up in the air,
and, like I could, by concentrating hard enough, just hang there.
An act of will.
Levitate. I could levitate in my dreams.
Now I often wake up and think I can't breath.
I have no dreams in which I fly.
I have dreams in which airplanes can't make it to the altitude.
Can't make it above the electricity pylons and wires.
I wish I could just find a flat pine,
rest on top of the foliage.
With my pockets full of pine cones that I would drop on the heads of people passing underneath.
Especially those who reject my work.
I guess flying,
or even levitating for a just moment,
is to wish for too much.
I'm taking another deep breath.
If only the air wasn't so polluted.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Beautifully pink they were.
Untouched. Those roses.
Wrapped and ribboned.
Leaning sadly against a green garbage bin.
That's not the company for a bunch of flowers still not dead.
Somebody sent them.
Every flower brings a message.
What was it?
Who rejected them?
Was it misread?
An apology not accepted?
A birthday missed?
Love not answered?
If I had spoken rose-language I would have sat down
next to the bouquet
and asked what the matter might have been.
Flowers are funerals.
I once, long ago, gave a woman a rose.
To say I love you.
She gave it back to me.
I didn't know if she meant I love you too.
Or if it was a gesture of not caring for flowers very much.
Or maybe she wasn't in love at all?
Although we didn't break up, it broke my heart a little.
She broke off the flower, and threw the stem away.
She gave the flower back to me.
Roses have thorns.
I didn't know what to do with the stem-less flower.
The rose without thorns.
Was throwing the sharp-pointed stem away a message I never quite understood?
I still don't know if my rose was in vain.
What do we do with our ultra modern digital devices?
We take pictures of the quaint.
We get all excited about what's left of what we call genuine.
That's progress. Snap a snippet in a snippety of a second.
Swish and now that little snippet of a newly snapped starlet becomes a packet.
People say Singapore is the most sterile of places.
All totally modernized and clean to a degree of being closer
to a hermetically sealed test lab than a society of breathing and breeding humans.
I don't know. Not in Orchard Road at least.
Toilet bowls are just an approximation of where surplus Tiger beer is being disposed of.
No different with Carlsberg in Copenhagen, Heineken in Amsterdam or Bud in NY.
Obviously we like filth.
Or being filthy.
Little India in Singapore is not filthy.
Not filthier than the rest of Singapore.
Probably cleaner than most of NY.
And still an opportunity to step back a little in time.
Here the music is from India. Food is Indian and most everyone in the street is Indian.
It's friendly. Charming. It's colorful.
It flirty and amusing.
My friend says it's like India Lite.
Yes, the widespread poverty of India proper is nowhere to be seen.
Neither is much of that extreme and opulent wealth
that so stands in contrast to the mundane. In India.
Nevertheless. Every third store seems to be a gold and jewelry business.
And there are other gems. such as quaint posters painted on walls.
Modern. Fashionable. Latest. They say.
And perhaps it's true. What do I know.
I know I can't snap out of my modern behavior and just relax.
I just bloody have to use my digital and shot it and put it on this bloody blog.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The door is solid.
A futile demonstration of fury or frustration or both
and 50 more things to get upset about including my inability to effortlessly
float through life on a vapor cloud of charm and ease.
I don't break plates.
Greek do when they are happy.
I only throw soft things around me. Don't want people to get hurt.
But I hurt myself without hesitation.
Like trying to drive a fist through a solid hard wood door.
Or kicking my foot so hard into a door post that I ended up with a cast, and crutches.
I've gone through different periods.
Already as young i did. I had periods when I was nice and reasonable.
It was a choice. i like it nice.
The world isn't quite like that. Turn the other cheek and you get smacked again.
My nice periods where among my toughest.
People take advantage of nice people.
Or try to.
At least of me when I'm nice.
When I decided to be unreasonable, people backed of, gave in, gave to me what I wanted, listened to me, followed me.
And paid respect.
I have changed personalities a couple or so times in my life.
But every time I've been the nice guy I've failed. Not to be the nice guy, but to get anywhere. I've felt miserable because people see nice as harmless.
You get run over. Pushed aside. Lose.
Meek is weak.
Right now I'm furious. Out of frustration.
I'm doing my job to the best of my knowledge.
I may even go as far as to claim I think the work I do is pretty professional and quite good.
It will work.
I've practised for almost 30 years. Learnt from the best. Taught others.
Never before have I got so little respect for the stuff I know.
Now I'm up against some huge force called the smallest common denominator.
It's been like that since I got here.
Of course, I've been tangled up in that net many times before. It happens in our job.
But never before have I encountered a smallest common denominator as puny as this time around.
I like this place. I like the people here.
I hate my job here.
I hate my life here.
I'm starting to walk out of meetings. Smacking my real fists into real thick doors.
My hands hurt.
Banging my head against thick walls.
Or against thick heads perhaps.
My head hurts.
Am I going mad? Or just mad at the way things are?
One thing is for sure. My skin doesn't get any thicker.
Maybe it's about time I start to become really unreasonable again?
Friday, October 19, 2007
Graham Street market stretches three blocks south from Queens Road's exclusive office towers.
South is up the hills and feels like north to me.
The buildings are old and the land is valuable.
The market is fighting for its survival.
New tony office towers and exclusive apartment buildings want to take its place.
The narrow street is packed with stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat, live fish, knickknack, flowers, and tofu.
I pass through every morning when going to work.
I get my breakfast there. A banana and a cup or two of freshly squeezed fruit juice.
7 eleven down on Queens Road also sells fruit juice.
That's the way it goes.
Who needs a quaint fresh market nowadays?
Let's can the whole thing.
Oh, that was a cheesy pun.
The fight has started. A private group of residents have gathered and is bidding for the property.
With the promise to keep the market if they prevail.
7eleven carries marshmallows. Not handmade tofu.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I do that a lot.
Not because it's itchy.
Not the hair.
I'm itchy. In a different sort of way.
I'm a nomad.
I tend to find myself wandering the earth.
Lived in 7 countries.
As a kid I hitch-hiked to get out of the village I was born in.
My first real job was on a ship.
Yesterday I was in Hongkong.
And I work for Tomorrow. Honestly.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
White bed sheets on laundry-lines.
Flapping in the wind like sails.
An armada of ships ready for
adventures in far away places.
Take me with you.
Mother and I stretching the sheets between us.
Folding them neatly.
The scent of fresh laundry.
Butterflies fluttering and flirting.
Bees dancing between flowers.
That was then.
Then came now.
Chores. Washing. Cleaning. Ironing. Folding, Hanging. Cleaning. Washing. Ironing, Folding, Hanging. Washing....
Until a far away place where I found a man who never forgot the joy.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Like sails, all those umbrellas.
A light drizzle.
The winds are a little too light for the competition to take place.
This is just practice for the real thing,
that will take place in less than a year.
China. Between Shanghai and Beijing.
On the coast.
Qingdao is going to host the sailing competitions at
the Olympic Games.
The city is surprisingly green and pleasant.
Nice looking suburbs.
Gigantic brand new flashy 5 star hotels.
The latest in office architecture.
And of course block after block of buildings with no apparent
architectural idea at all, other than big.
Shopping malls with real Prada, Gucci, Armani, Starbucks.
Stalls with copy watches and fake Louis Vuitton bags.
The latest Hollywood movies before they're officially released.
Private cars are modern.
Trucks are still the old pale blue.
The claim is Qingdao was always too hilly.
Bicycles were never a practical way to get around.
The new downtown is flat. Still no bicycles.
On the other hand, they drive their cars as if they were bicycles.
Back and forth between the lanes. Left or right. Over-taking whenever.
It's rather nerve-racking for someone used to the relatively orderly traffic of the west.
Even Place Charles de Gaulle, Paris, with its Arc de Triomphe and it's crazy taxi drivers seems
an orderly and peaceful picnic in comparison.
We're in town to shoot some film footage.
Lucky it drizzles.
Would never have thought of bringing out all those umbrellas.
We're not here to film the boats anyway.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Try one toe first.
Stop traffic. Cross street.
In New York that is.
Cars are hard. People soft.
But this is HK.
The street is empty.
This must be a trap.
There must be something lurking somewhere out there.
Invisible to me. The dead spot.
Behind the temples.
Out for lunch I zig zag between trams, taxis, Bentleys and Mercs, bicycles, buses, minibuses,
and ladies too old to fear the other side.
But this is not lunch hour. It's too early. It's before breakfast.
I'm not used to this.
Traffic that moves is predictable.
Cars don't suddenly throw themselves sideways.
Trams stay on their tracks.
I'm getting nervous.
Maybe I should wait until I spot a car or something.
So I'd know what to avoid.
Know from where the attack will come.
That's good advice when crossing borders and streets.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The Italians got pizza, and more meatballs than the Swedes.
There are more italians.
The Swedes got IKEA. And meatballs.
The Italians got more IKEA than the Swedes.
The Chinese have IKEA.
It doesn't matter if you go to a kindergarten in Beijing, Hongkong, Singapore, Paris, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Los Angeles or South Orange, New Jersey.
The kids play on the same carpet with roads and little houses printed.
In Hongkong there are no meatballs at IKEA.
But hot dogs and Pepsi.
You don't have to be very rich to afford that.
Ikea is about doing half of the job yourself.
That is something the old lady in the photograph has known all her life.
And still does.
It seems to me she does ALL the work. Not just half of it.
My father always used to say that hard work had never killed anybody.
He worked hard.
And died young.
It doesn't mean this lady isn't working hard.
Maybe my Father didn't work hard enough.
Or ate well enough.
Too many meatballs?
Friday, October 12, 2007
12 hours each.
One's a dour old man.
He has only one expression: No expression.
He must have thoughts
There's nothing in his eyes that I can see or recognize.
He must be alive. I've seen him eat.
He's there in the mornings, and he's there early evenings.
Is he there for 12 hours straight?
Doing absolutely nothing.
Maybe not even thinking?
Waiting for what?
Is it 10 past 9 in the morning?
who can tell?
It could be 10 past 9 in the evening.
It doesn't matter.
It's just time.
Is time money?
How much for 12 hours?
If you want to know what the night guy is like,
I can report that he's rather happy looking.
He's got an eternal smile on his face.
Not quite like Mona Lisa's.
And he doesn't have the hair.
A few strands slicked over his liver spotted scalp.
I've caught him laying flat on a piece of cardboard spread on the floor of the lobby.
No wonder he's happy. He gets to sleep on his job.
no wonder the day guy seems so sullen.
He's has the right to be.
It's much harder to sit up and sleep.
Doesn't give you the same rest.
When I take a job like a doorman I will insist on the night shift.
I will insist on a building with only old people living in it.
No night ramblers. Thank you very much.
There's nothing as annoying as people disturbing you during work.
And it has to be a rather small building.
It would definitely be a plus if the floor had soft carpeting.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Space to fill.
Shouting for attention.
A voice that is no longer listened to.
Invisible in all its boldness.
Meaningless call to action.
So much space to fill.
At night with no lights not even a whisper.
Streets bustling down below.
Voices everywhere. Come to me.
Look at me.
Let me take part.
Every day the same.
In the morning it's down.
Evenings are up.
They live high up.
Work down below.
For many it's metaphorically.
They swarm out of their hi-risers.
Sucked onto the travelator.
Then when they day is over they take the same trip uphill.
Some are clearly eager to make it up even quicker.
This is mid-levels.
As they area is called.
It's not the Peak.
It's middle everything.
It's just above the Central business district.
Well placed for the working ants of banks and offices.
An escalator winds its way far up to the top of the mid-levels.
Or down, depending on the time of day.
It's just one track.
The night shift has to walk down.
Steep streets and stairs leading up or down
depending on where you start.
Somewhere a quarter of the way up is SoHo.
South of Hollywood Road.
South is up. Up the steep, steep hills.
Like the steepest streets in San Francisco.
I always find it hard to think of up as south.
Let's go up south. High up south.
Where they don't get up in the morning.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Another sleepless night.
"The East of Eden Letters – Journal of a Novel."
Glimpses of what might have been cooking in Steinbeck's head.
The blurb states "...gives a truly fascinating insight into Steinbeck the author and Steinbeck the man."
Maybe I'm a lousy reader but I don't think it revealed all that Steinbeck was.
The letters were warm-ups.
I felt he was talking to himself rather than to his friend and editor Pascal Covice to whom the letters were addressed.
Although, I guess talking to a dear and near friend is like talking to yourself.
The letters were written on the left page of the same notebook he wrote the novel in.
Which meant that it wouldn't be read by his friend and editor before the book was finished.
I don't know if this book of notes should have been published.
I can understand the the temptation.
It's very repetitive and we don't actually get
to know that much about who Steinbeck was.
He referred to the book he was writing as the book of E's.
East of Eden.
I don't think he meant E as in easy.
Although he wanted the book to flow easily.
I don't think he meant it to be published.
He scrapped too much of his writing while alive, so why would he want to publish notes about his writing?
I don't know how vain he was.
But it seems unlikely given the messages his novels sent.
However repetitive and partly boring I found the "letters" book,
I have to admit there are are few passages that struck me as brilliant.
Observations that are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them down"
" A strange and mystic business, writing. Almost no progress has taken place since it was invented. The Book of the Dead is as good and highly developed as anything in the 20th century and much better than most. and yet in spite of this lack of a continuing excellence, hundreds of thousands of people are in my shoes – praying feverishly for relief from their word pangs.
And one thing we have lost _ courage to make new words or combinations. Somewhere that old bravado has slipped off into a gangrened scholarship. Oh! you can make words if you enclose them in quotation marks. This indicates that it is dialect and cute."
What a weird feeling typing the words of Steinbeck.
I've copied greatness.
Let's give it another shot.
It may rub off. Ever so slightly.
"Well, I opened Book 4 yesterday with general statement and also with specific statement which can only be known when one finishes the book. i think when Harold say the book is ambitious he doesn't know how ambitious it is. Only you and I and Elaine know that. And maybe we are the only ones who will ever know it. It has things in it which will probably never come out because readers do not inspect very closely and when they do, like as not they find things which aren't there. The hell with it. I'll just do my work and forget everything else."
As the devil reads the bible, we all read thru our own lenses.
He wrote this book for his two sons to read when grown up:
" And now i would engage your prayers for me because I am going to try to go into the minds of children, but more than that, I am going to try to set those minds down on paper. And these are not children as they are conceived by adults but children as they are to and among themselves. I hope i can do that. Most of what i read about children is crap. Grown people forget. They feel at a certain age the got insight and awareness and wisdom. And as a rule the opposite is true to a certain extent."
Finished with the manuscript another battle begins:
"As you know better than most, Pat, the book does not go from writer to reader. It goes first to the lions – editors, publishers, critics, copy readers, sales department. It is kicked and slashed and gouged. And its bloodied father stands attorney.
The book is out of balance. the reader expects one thing and you give him something else. You have written two books and stuck them together. The reader will not understand.
No, sir. It goes together. I have written about one family and used stories about another family as well as counterpoint, as rest, as contrast in pace and color.
The reader won't understand. What you call counterpoint only slows the book.
It has to be slowed – else how would you know when it goes fast.
You have stopped the book and gone into discussions of God knows what.
Yes, I have. I don't know why. Just wanted to. Perhaps I was wrong.
Right i the middle you throw in a story about your mother and an airplane. The reader wants to know where it ties in and, by God, it doesn't tie in at all. That disappoints a reader.
Yes, sir. I guess you're right. Shall I cut out the story of my mother and the airplane?
That's entirely up to you.
The book's too long. Costs are up. We'll have to charge five dollars for it. People won't pay five dollars. They won't buy it.
My last book was short. You said people won't buy a short book.
The chronology is full of holes. The grammar has no relation to English. One page so-and-so you have a man look in the World Almanac for steamship rates. They aren't there. I checked. You've got the Chinese New Year wrong. The characters aren't consistent. You describe Liza Hamilton one way and then have her act a different way.
You make Cathy too black. The reader won't believe her. you make Sam Hamilton too white. The reader won't believe him. No Irishman ever talked like that.
My grandfather did.
Who'll believe it.
No children ever talked like that.
(losing temper as a refuge in despair)
God dam it. This is my book. I'll make the children talk any way I want. My book is about good and evil. Maybe the theme got into the execution. Do you want top publish it or not?
Let's see if we can't fix it up? It won't be much work. You want it to be good, don't you? For instance the ending. The reader won't understand it.
Yes, but the reader won't."
End of quote.
I wish for my kids to read Steinbeck when they're old enough.
Have lived a little.
A little tousled.
Then I'm sure they will understand it.
Monday, October 8, 2007
A story of pain, guilt, savagery, murder, sin, madness, evil...pure evil...
God and the Devil.
I am not sure I can tell them apart.
No, it's not the Old Book.
It's The Kite Runner.
I'm afraid this book contains all too many truths of the state of mankind.
As it is today.
Not thousands of years ago.
The blurbs are all ad speak.
The book won't leave you alone whilst you opened the first page.
But if the blurbs hadn't been advertising you'd never got that far.
Now, dare read it.
Now when you know how horrific it is.
It's like not being able to turn your head away
the ambulance personnel attending to a terrible accident.
Maybe it's survival instinct?
Maybe that's why I read this book until the last page,
unable to put it down,
with tears rolling down my cheeks more than once.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
It's one of those days.
When things just don't start right.
The air is visible.
Cut it in cubes, package it, and sell it back
as fuel to the factories that spews it out.
Went to work very early.
Worked late last night.
And that was Sunday.
Many things must be done before noon.
But my pal Murphy never sleeps.
He went in and toyed around with the
computer while I was out for a bit of sleep.
The work is mysteriously gone.
I know I saved it before I went.
Maybe I'm going mad.
Or perhaps I'm going home.
It's a glorious morning indeed.
An industrial area out in Kowloon.
The air thick with pollution from mainland factories.
It's here Hongkong is happening.
Old warehouses and factory buildings are being turned
into music studios and design studios.
Young, creative hongkongers are out in areas like this
it's far from the glittery and pretense of Lan Kwan Fong.
Or the karaoke-like fake world of Wanchai.
In every respect.
Some of the future's most important musicians
and designers will come out of here.
Some will go on to NY, London, Paris, others to Shanghai and Beijing perhaps.
Many will stay here.
Others will disappear into anonymous jobs in offices or factories.
Their day jobs.
The fire in the belly slowly burning out.
This is where I saw InLove record live in front of a small audience.
Three immensely talented musicians doing their own original material.
I didn't understand a word.
I felt the fire in my old belly still burning.
I guess I never grew up.
Friday, October 5, 2007
It's just after mid-night.
The lift stops at my floor and
the doors slide open.
I reach for the keys.
Murphy sees his chance.
That's the law.
The keys slip out of my fingers.
Sucked right down into the darkness of the gap between the lift and corridor.
Down to the bottom of the lift shack.
Downstairs the doorman is sleeping on the floor.
He didn't even notice that I came in through the main gates a few minutes earlier.
That's security in one of the safest places on earth.
Not that he understands English. But he understands sign language.
I think. He just shakes his head.
And tries to teach me Cantonese.
Midnight crash course.
While we try to figure out how to communicate
another night owl enters.
She does speak English.
Helps me call a locksmith.
Lends me HK$ 500 to pay for it.
I didn't have enough cash on me for a locksmith.
Professional burglars don't take American Express.
In thrillers they pick locks in seconds.
My old Chinese door lock takes 45 minutes.
Or maybe the guy just pretends.
To re-negotiate his fee.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
And tempted to misspell it.
But that would be far too cheesy.
I am a great proof-reader however, and rarely miss
a comma in other peoples manuscripts.
I get words wrong, I don't type words I think I'm typing.
Maybe I'm not dyslectic. Maybe I'm getting Alzheimer's.
I read yesterday that it can happen to people as young as 30.
There are more than 500 000 people in the US alone with Alzheimer's.
Al Gore has warned that it will be a huge burden with more and more of the baby boomers
going into the fog.
Maybe I'm just dyslectic after all. I remember what I read yesterday.
By the way. I didn't design the sign in the picture above.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
If, I could have gone back and picked out the good bits.
Retouched out the blemishes.
Only saved the successes.
I would still remember the tears and mistakes and stupid things of course.
I would remember my short-comings and failings.
I would still be experienced.
But it would not be visible to anyone else.
You don't keep every picture you take.
You don't show them all.
But you become a better and more experienced photographer
for every shot you take.
You learn from both the good shots and the bad ones.
I kept a lot of bad shots of course.
Editing takes time.
It is easier to wait until tomorrow.
Put it on the back-burner.
But so it came that a couple of months ago, finally, I sorted through everything
on my main computer. A powerful G5.
I wanted it clean and neat so that work would flow easily. No mess.
It took me a few days to go through what was there and put it all on an external hard-drive.
Neat and nice. Edited down to the good bits.
About a gig worth of stuff. 2 years of work.
Every photograph I had taken the last 2 years.
I had scanned and photographed a lot of my older film work as well.
I trashed the old films and prints. They just take space.
A neat little drive doesn't.
Then I deleted and trashed all the original stuff that was on the G5,
beside typography and software.
I just needed to get another drive so that I had a back up.
Of course I didn't do it right away.
Had to go on a shoot. A big job. Filming for a few weeks.
All around the globe.
The drive sat there on the desk.
What could possibly happen?
Well, it did. Happen that is.
3 weeks of futile attempts by several data recovery firms and
nothing can be saved.
It's a head crash. Gone forever.
Only fragments impossible to stitch together remains.
Most of the work on that drive was about to be published.
There were two photo books. Material for a new website.
My history in advertising.
I'm not as presumptive as to say the world has missed much.
But me, I, have lost a couple of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth.
My kids have missed a bit of who I am. Or what I do.
I have lost a huge body of work.
I will never be able to remake it.
Maybe I can't even top it.
Despite all that I learnt doing it.
That, however, isn't all that I lost.
I have actually lost my life as it was until only recently.
No, I'm not ill. I'm in good health, knock on wood.
I'm very fortunate in that sense.
But I've made professional decisions, or ignored taking action where I should have, that have left me far from where I was only a couple of years ago.
in the process my family life has deteriorated.
I'm now living alone in a small dingy place in HK, wondering what I am going to do next.
I forgot to back up a lot of things.
But perhaps more importantly.
I never really looked out for myself.
i never had time for that.
Or perhaps I avoided it.
In order to look out for others you have to start with yourself.
I just flowed with the stream.
I've lived in many places all around the world.
Seen different cultures.
So to an outsider it seems I've had to make many hard decisions
to be able to make this journey.
But as a matter of fact I don't think I have.
Some invisible hand has lead me.
And now it has loosened its grip.
I'm on my own now.
If I had been more careful of my life I would have protected it.
i would have made sure I had it secured.
That is perhaps what I mean to say.
I ignored the back-up.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
a dream I had the other night.
I wonder what the guy on the bench dreams. About.
I've had many dreams.
Some have come true.
Most are just dreams.
The dream that came to my mind
when I saw this guy asleep on the bench
is a night dream.
I don't remember much of my dreams.
If I do, they turn out to be very flaky.
Impossible. Just dreams.
If every dream means something then I've never figured out what.
Although, my mistakes in life have given me bad dreams.
But at that point it seems a bit too late to try figure out the meaning.
Delayed dreams. They should have come first. As warnings.
The dream that came to my mind when I saw the guy asleep on the bench
had an end.
I was followed by somebody that tried to kill me.
I saw his face. He didn't hide. It's nobody that I know.
Nobody from my childhood.
Nobody that have made me harm in the past.
Nobody that I may have harmed.
He tries to shoot me. Stab me. Strangle me. Hit me with baseball bats and iron bars.
Every time he attacks I counter and kill him.
But he comes back. He can't die.
It's like the Terminator. Arnold's finest role.
He keeps coming back.
Then somehow – that part is a bit blurry – I manage to drain all life out of this thing.
It disintegrates. A puddle of water.
Where it transforms into a clockwork.
A clockwork that no longer works.
The only thing I know is
that it's the only time I ever remembered a dream
Monday, October 1, 2007
A day earlier we'd transferred
from a Russian Trawler to a supply ship.
On a tiny life boat made of rubber.
Its motor had taken a while to start.
It was barely powerful enough to move in the rough seas.
For a moment I was sure we'd just drift away into the fogs and disappear for ever.
I'd never been that far north.
And certainly not in a rubber dinghy scarcely larger than bathing tub.
We were one day closer to the northernmost tip of Norway.
Two more days.
There's nothing out there.
Just water and sky.
Not even a blimp on the radar screen.
We spotted the occasional whale,
when weather was clear enough.
We ate. We slept. We talked. About life.
The meaning of it all.
I was reading Man's Search for Meaning: An introduction to Logo-therapy,
by Viktor E.Frankl,
The book was lent to me by my most
wonderful friend George Tannenbaum.
The captain read it as well.
But mostly we said nothing.
We sat there staring into the fog.
Although, it's amazing what you can see in fog.
Perhaps you see your thoughts.
When you're on a fishing boat,
even as far as days from land,
even if the closet land is the ice of the north-pole,
you have company.
On a ship with no fish there are no seagulls.
Only silent men.
The steady hum from the engines had disappeared.
The old hull was creaking more painfully
now as she rolled more when there was no speed.
Those engines are huge.
The piece that was brought up for inspection not bigger than a hand.
There were no spare parts.
None of the four crew onboard could repair it.
We had to rely on the smaller reserve engine.
There's something Zen about ships on the open seas.
Or at least so I felt. Just minutes ago.
That spell was broken.
The seas are not to play with.
You could see it in the captains eyes.
He'd been out there for perhaps 50 years.
Never lost the respect.
Orders were changed.
We had to go to another port for repair.
It would take a day longer, perhaps two.
If the reserve engine didn't fail us.
if the weather remained calm.
If we didn't push it.
A couple of days later we were in a taxi in Tromso, Norway.
Headed for the airport.
I will never see that old ship again.
I will never meet the stern but friendly old Norwegian captain again.
I will never meet the Russian crew again.
But i will never forget.