‘Too much to lose,’ like your parents

Saturday 6 July 2013, 10.27am HKT

pearl jam

“[The band became involved] in Newsweek. This is your parents’ magazine, the magazine at your doctor’s. I’m not going to read Newsweek. They’re not going to tell the truth because they’ve too much to lose.

— soundbite from the rockumentary “Pearl Jam Twenty” (2011)

(image via Billboard.com)



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. (B13226)

Living in another’s material world

Thursday 29 November 2012, 3.59am HKT

2.08am local time (Wed 28 Nov 2012)
18°C (64°F)
pelting down

IT’S WONDERFUL WEATHER right now. Rain. Low temperatures. Middle of the night. Feels alive, man.

Artist friend of mine just force-fed some badly needed inspiration down my hatch to revv up this sordid unhilarious excuse of a blog.


If you could switch with someone for one day (say, job-wise),
who’d it be out of the people you know?

Like the friend says,

“…it’s one of those questions I’m sure people have asked others many times but I think sometimes … that would reveal what people secretly desire from life.”

Too bleedin’ true.

A quick backgrounder. Friend says on those social networking sites I probably wouldn’t want more of the ‘drama’ that I’m already getting from my honest living working with crooks like bankers, lawyers, accountants and assorted government regulatory officials. I said that if I ‘retire’ (read: crawl into a corner and die) I might as well let my friend have my company, lock, stock and barrel (along with the fish in the barrel for shooting). Friend says, “LOL, I don’t think I could handle your company … sounds majorly stressful” (translation: Me no chopped liver).

Printing’s a great business — no money in it, sunset industry, total and constant drama, insane faggotry, high costs, no sleep — all from congenital morons who are overpaid, oversexed, over the top and over here. You name it, we’ve got it. What more could anyone ask of an honest living?



a.k.a. “The Naked Listener’s Merry-Go-Round-The-Bend”

Right about now, my funk soul brutha, I shall speak with perfect clarity and vision whilst eating French pork tongue in aspic (jellied pork tongue) suitably washed down with cheap made-in-China German lager that from this point onwards, I’ll be The Naked Listener no more.

For the duration of this article, I’ll activate my alter ego, Sir Dystic.

(Sir Dystic, sadistic, geddit??? No? Never mind, we’ll carry on.)

Sir Dystic here is going to give things a twist. Instead of just laying on you, Gentle Reader, lameness like I would like to swap places with (say) Zarathustra or somebody divine, famous or notorious (or even a notoriously famous divinity), I’ll go through EVERYBODY one by one and rule them out, or not.

Here are the possibilities (all real-life characters from my unreal life, with aliases to protect the not-so-innocent among you from actually back-tracing and contacting them for ‘fun’):—

The Naked Listener

Why the hell would I want to swap places with myself???

Right about now, my funk soul brutha, I’m Sir Dystic.

I’m divine enough in my mind.

I’m famous enough because you’re actually taking time to read this crappy ‘drama’ of mine.

I’m notorious enough because my blog name has the word ‘naked’ in it.

Why shouldn’t ANYONE want to be The Naked Listener?


Jason Voorhees

Not the ice hockey fetishist in the movie “Friday the 13th.” Instead, this personage (notice: not his real name) is much, much worse.

‘Jason’ is a wanker banker with a major-major investment bank with tons and tons of IPOs (initial public outrage offerings) to his résumé.

He’s loaded, he rakes in wads of filthy lucre, and pays virtually no taxes.

By all standards, ‘Jason’ is a supersalesman who can sell vacuum to outer space. (I think he’s done that once or twice before.) With him, everybody loses, big time. He himself wins, all the way, all day, every day, in every way.

Will swap with, if for no other reason he’s got good taste in chicks.

Ultimately, rule out: guys like him are gonna get cleaned out shirtless. One fine day, his type will fall for that highly innocent-looking local girl who’ll turn out to be a right moneygrubbing monstrous whore — and end up moneyless to buy an unmarked gravesite to be buried in.

Michael Myers

Nicknamed this personage for the “Halloween” series of slasher films. He’s a lawyer by profession, so he’s trained and licensed to wear a mask.

He (like me) has an IQ higher than Einstein, but that comes to naught because ‘Michael’ is an imbecile.

He fails to understand that, in the grand scheme of Life, rubbing people against the grain does not friends make.

Any other detail about him is superfluous and irrelevant. So rule him out too.

Dr Wankismo

He’s rude, he’s offensive, he’s unpleasant.

You guessed it, this guy is an academic. He teaches something connected with education and English, not very well, but in a bigheaded sort of way. He’s in love with his own voice.

Unfortunately, he’s got tenure (I think), so everyone’s stuck with him.

I once had the misfortune to have been in one of his courses — and that’s saying something, coming from a person already in the misfortune of the printing business.

That being said, would actually swap with, merely because he has access to an incredible number of pouting, under-imaginative but over-promiscuous chicks with jumpers, glasses and heavy boobs books.

Ultimately again, must rule out, though, because he’s so wrapped up in his sense of superiority that he doesn’t even notice the chicks around him.


This specimen is one of two relatives of mine who together kept their dirty little mortgage swap secret from me, so I ended up unknowingly paying off HK$300,000 (US$38,000 or £24,600) on a superseded mortgage.

He’s also pretty creative too, inventing some pretty vicious slander about me that actually cost me lots of reputational damage and actual health problems.

Despite that, would trade places with for one day (or even a little bit longer). He’s got a good business line going and could actually make millions of dollars from it, so that at least would be worth the stretch.

Thing is, must rule out because his longtime girlfriend is exactly that — a longtime girlfriend. That’s a red flag that the person has some serious character faults.


Sir Dystic has never, ever, needed to unfriend or block anyone on those srsly and totally online social networking sites — until this unbalanced lady materialised and became my friend.

This erstwhile lady guitarist is twentysomething, reasonably well educated in comparison to the general run of people in Hong Kong, and her folks run a thriving family business.

I actually know Bubbles in real life. My only regret was that it was real life. Of the literally thousands of people I know or come across in work, rest and play, Bubbles plus two other personages are the most difficult people I’ve ever known — and all three from Hong Kong!

I’ll restrain my brutality here. Of all possible people, you’d think a guitarist would be more ‘with it’ than the rest of us. Instead, Bubbles comes across like 40-something woman living alone with two grumpy cats, one with arthritis and the other diabetic. She has a mind-boggling fixation on analysis and rationalisation, but without the commensurate skills to match.

On Facebook, she has disabled practically every possible privacy/publishing functionality there (write to Wall, status updates, photos, etc) “in order to be humble.” Don’t ask me how that works in her mind. One of my colleagues last night gave me the perfect comeback to people like her:—

“Be even more humble! Leave Facebook!”

Hahahahahaha! That’s a good one. Thanks.

Would swap with for one day (just one) because her in-born ‘drama’ can outgun any of the crap I get from professional faggoteers (i.e. my customers).


No last name here, please.

We went to school together in the UK. He’s a well-to-do, centre-right Tory (Conservative Party) politician who’s got his head screwed on the right way and Does The Decent Thing, political conditions permitting.

And for those reasons (Tory, politician, decent thing) alone, I’d kill to swap places with Jeremy for a whole year.


Real name. Fabio is an Anglo-Italian (or Italo-English, if you prefer).

His nunchaku skills are eye-opening. (Stand close enough, and it’ll be head-opening too.)

He’s tall, he’s srsly handsome (absoeffinglutely supermodel looks with a body to match), and he’s srsly getalongwithable with anyone.

Definitely swap with for a lifetime, if only just for his looks and chick-skills.

Marc’s dad

I can’t name him. He’s a top-level healthcare scientist working for the Spanish government, and has no-waiting-necessary direct access to the Spanish Cabinet. That spells i-m-p-o-r-t-a-n-t.

He’s brilliant and has patents to his name from here to there. He literally speaks half a dozen languages fluently and flawlessly. He drives a Lamborghini or Ferrari or something of that sort. He lives in a super-luxury house with a long, long driveway and everyone in his family look like they’re from some fairytale. Swap with for a lifetime.


That’s his real name. We went to prep school (private elementary school) together, but for just under a year before I had to bounce to someplace else with my folks.

Wurm was a brianiac: 10 years old and the wisdom of a 50 year old without the middle-age attitude. Will swap for three days — his wisdom in those mere three days would last a lifetime.


Hottie classmate at Uni.

There’s no damn way I’m going to show you a full-sized picture of her on her own. You’ll have to figure out which is which. I need no drama from my own wilful accidence.

She didn’t look that hot at Uni. Since leaving that sacred institution of mediocrity called Uni, Val has become the very definition of hawtness. Now living in a certain Southeast Asian country previously dubbed “The Red Dot,” Valerie is not for swapping with —  she’s for moving in with. Enough said.


Facehunter (sometimes Face Hunter) is a public figure: Yvan Rodic, a professional photographer hailing from somewhere in Europe (France? Switzerland?).

I’ll swap my present and future lives with him anytime. He travels the world every week and takes pictures of the divine, famous and notorious, and parties with them.

By my reckoning, Facehunter must’ve clocked up at least one million flight miles.

His Facebook is [HERE].

Jeremy Irons

The British actor. I happen to know him personally (at least back in the 1980s), not well of course, but personally. He’s great playing nasty, sardonic, aloof characters. One day in the life of him will do me just fine for kicks.

John Galbraith

He’s probably gone now because he was already in his late 50s or early 60s when I knew him in the 1980s.

He was a London society photographer for Tatler, Harper’s & Queen and other ‘society’ magazines. Very professional, very graceful with the subjects, extremely fast, and secretly knew all the society gossip that gossip columnists would have killed for.

If he was alive today, I’d swap with any day.

My dentist

This guy’s from my ancient history when I was only yay-high and somewhere in Latin America. HIS ancient history was even more colourful and sinister.

My folks nearly had a mental blowout when some two-by-four-bit hack newspaper revealed our dentist was an ex-Waffen SS combat officer.

From our personal point of view, that wasn’t exactly believable. We knew the man personally, socially and professionally. He DID admit he fought in the German Army in the war, but so’s a ton of other ex-Germans.

I tell you, man, this guy didn’t have a shred of racism or Teutonic assholery in him. Srsly, he was the kindest man we ever knew. I tell you too, man, Mum could spot anyone who’s pretending or lying a mile off, and Mum said this man was a good man. He taught me such good oral hygiene techniques that I have never needed fillings.

I can’t recall exactly now, but in one social gathering, he said to me:—

“You are still a young boy, so this is the perfect time to learn the right things, and with those, do the right things, even if everyone else are [sic] doing everything wrong. Read your history books, and count the number of things done wrong, and ask your father and mother to teach you how to do the right things.”

And my folks told me to write those words down, so I may remember and understand. So I did. Took me a helluva time to fish that one out from my storage bins.

He died shortly after we left that country, survived by his Iranian wife and two grown-up children, one of whom we heard married a half-Jewish dentist.

Would not swap, because I’m chickenshit scared of that kind of background of his.


Yes, she’s an artist, and I sometimes shanghai’ed her into contributing to this blog.

C’mon, peep’l, she’s a professional artist doing something most sane people would like to do professionally even for one day.

Swap. Why ever not? At least she jolted me into doing this blast from the past.


Tell me who you’d like to swap places with for one day.



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. (B12430)

Images: Aspic and beer by the author | The Naked Listener by the author | Jason Voorhees via Geekscape.net | Michael Myers via Wikipedia | Girl with Blackboard Question Mark via AskVelazquez | Head for Cover via Videojug | Big Ben via ChurchNewspaper.com | Nunchaku via Wikipedia | Microscope via Morehouse School of Medicine | Notebook by Problemchild via Dreamstime.com | Val from author’s collection | Face Hunter profile picture via Facebook | Harper’s Bazaar via Found in Mom’s Basement | The Boys From Brazil via Wikipedia | Ophelia’s avatar from author’s collection.

The Agony Broccoli writes (4/4)

Monday 16 January 2012, 9.00am HKT


If we want to change the world — or even just the bedlinen — look at the man in the mirror first, observe accidentally with care, and then prepare deliberately accidentally for reality.

* * *

On cultural identity anywhere you sit

Re: Chinese culture, I’m trying to do my bit to promote a British Born Chinese [BBC] culture. But I think the Facebook generation just really aren’t interested, rebelling against an upbringing of Chinese patriarchy — they just want to enjoy themselves. Practical Chinese nature and all that, it does my head in when I try and talk to people about creating a BBC cultural identity, just seems pointless after a while.

I hear you and you have my sympathy.

I’m basically considered a ‘broccoli’ here — British-raised/overseas Chinese — although factually I’ve been raised everywhere else in equal time. Know me for five minutes and you’ll probably notice I’m simultaneously as Eastern and as Western as any person could possibly get. And that’s a problem, as I shall explain.

Facebook has a couple of BBC groups, but they’re mostly dormant or are spam magnets for penis-enlargement scams or botox peddling.

Here in Hong Kong, there are some ‘party gatherings’ for general networking or drinking organised by or aimed at ABCs, BBCs and whatever-Cs. However, they’re mostly populated by financial suit types who concentrate more on the networking bit and try to inveigle you into buying some financial product that frankly between you and me borders on being a fancier form of botox or penis-enlargement scam.

Our position

The problem with Hong Kong (and with China also) for a ‘foreigny’ Chinese person is that the expat and local communities are as different as chalk and cheese. They don’t connect with each other much — there IS a genuine language barrier here as well as a mental one — and the Clockenflap festival was a noticeable exception to the rule.

In China, the expat community there is (or can be) overly Chinese-centric, and that gets annoying over time. Indeed, I find the more highly educated expats there are the most annoying, mainly because they try just a little too hard to be Chinese. But maybe that’s just because of my bias.

In reverse, the expats in Hong Kong are overly pro-Western (though not anti-Chinese or Chinese-averse), and that too gets annoying over time. Adding to the annoyance are the local Hong Kong Chinese themselves, who virtually avoid knowing anything about the West as well as about China. You can easily see this apathy by looking at the generally dismal standard of Chinese and English among Hongkongers.

I’ll summarise the situation of the alphabet soupsters for you:

  • If you’re an ABC (American-born Chinese), you’re in with the expat/American crowd until the going gets rough — then you’re jettisoned.
  • If you’re a BBC of a more English/British disposition, you’re 70-30 in the Brit and local camps.
  • If you’re a BBC who’s more Chinese in mentality, you’re just another Chinaman who happened to have been born abroad, and therefore 100% lumped with (and bulliable by) the localese.
  • If you’re a Eurochinese (i.e. born/raised on Continental Europe), you don’t count because you’re just another Euronal from a different planet and speak with a funny but adorable accent. So you belong to your own national camp 100%.
  • Interestingly, if you’re a CBC (Canadian-born Chinese), you’re mostly considered a local, even if you don’t even speak the local lingo.

But if you’re a multilocation-raised broccoli who speaks perfect, unaccented Cantonese and knows how to live the local life as much as the expat one, then you’re outta luck here. You’re completely stuck in between the expat, ABC, BBC and local camps — not very enjoyable. (Like me right now.)

The multilateral response to broccolis

* * *

On trust and a united front

Re: The BBC Chinese culture/Chinese apathy thing, I think it happens every ten years. Chinese are so damn unorganised when it comes to politics [and] looking out/supporting each other. Anyway, there’s lots of issues here in the UK but I won’t go on about it.

Actually, that’s a stark-naked realistic description of the situation in Hong Kong and China!

Some China-watchers who actually live inside China have long said that the almost genetically driven distrust/mistrust of the Chinese mind makes for that inscrutable character of John Chinaman described so well by Westerners in the olden days.

On a collective level, that leads to weak social cohesion (‘unorganised’ as you put it so well) — which also leads to disorganised society.

But that’s irrelevant philosophical sociology mush. Daily life intrudes, and there comes many moments in daily life when we just have to put some trust in somebody in order to get those humdrum activities of daily life moving along (like groceries). You, me and most people appreciate this fact of life, and move on.

The problem with us Chinese — mind, not so much the Hong Kong and overseas Chinese as it’s more in the case with Chinese mainlanders — is that even primitive levels of trust have now disappeared from their society. The fast and radical economic and social changes in China after it had reintegrated with the rest of the world 30 years ago just ended up creating a dog-eat-dog world over there.

I’ve heard numerous horror and bitchin’ stories from people who have lived in China. There, they say you can’t get simple things like groceries done without also constantly watching against being shafted. Imagine having to operate on shaft-alert mode day in and day out. Even the mainlanders are sick and tired of this. Imagine, if the food market can’t provide this rudimentary level of trust or support, what can we expect in more complex situations?

Maybe a united front isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, sometimes

* * *

Inadvertently observe carefully

I find it amazing that us foreign-educated Chinese are the sharpest observers of Chinese culture and identity [and] weaknesses, and yet we get the most maligned because of the opposition between East and West. If our opinions were listened to, Chinese culture would probably be a better place.

You’re a pretty sharp observer yourself.

Amaze no more. The reason is simple: there is something else to compare with and against.

Your remark is worth its weight in gold. Most of us (human beings) already think that — just that we don’t say it as you’ve said it.

In fact, I totally agree with you about if foreign-educated Chinese were listened to, even if abjectly. But practically everyone remembers this too:

For every vision, there is an equal and opposite ‘revision.’
(Corollary to Murphy’s Law)

Which is why most ‘foreign-educats’ no longer bother to say anything — waste of breath.

The Chinese mind sometimes works against its own best interest, so said Stephen Hall (a.k.a. Sin Tak-fun) who was a local business figure and social luminary in the 1920s to 1980s.

Let’s spell it out: the Chinese mind often suspends common sense and rationality when it comes to looking at its own. I don’t have to look too far for proof:

  • blindspot mode automatically kicks in (automatically predictably so) whenever the discussion contains any seemingly negative-sounding remarks about us Chinese
  • mainlanders automatically launch into a diatribe about how ‘The West’ had conspired to dismantle wealthy, resourceful and resource-rich China through opium, invasion, pillage, the Japanese, the Nationalists, the Soviet Union (!) and (now) containment (true enough and therefore unanswerable)
  • Hongkongers automatically prattle away that the West made lots of money off us Chinese, and if it wasn’t for our Chinese willingness to suffer the shafting in transactions with the West, the West wouldn’t be where it is now
  • mainlanders automatically refer to our glorious 4,000- or 5,000-year-old Chinese civilisation and need no stinkin’ West to lecture us on civil society
  • Hongkongers automatically point out how familiar we are about Western ‘bad habits and bad thinking’ on the grounds that we have been ruled by a Western power for 156 years

We need only one comparison to put the whole thing into perspective.

Japanese TV have regular ‘cultural perspective’ shows that invite foreigners (living in Japan or not) to spell out various forms of Japanese asshattery, stupidness and serious shite. The shows are noteworthy for their no-holds-barred, free-for-all attitude to listening foreigners’ complaints. The issues covered are serious; the presentation designed to be lighthearted.

A lot of people say such a TV show just wouldn’t fly in the USA. It sure as hell would cause instant flying riots from the Chinese, if my own experience of Chinese people is anything to go by.

It’s easy to spot the ‘fail’ — but did you ‘observe’ not doing this in the first place?

* * *

Idealistic vs. practical idealism

I have the idea that you were an idealist at some point in something and that you decided to just enjoy your life instead of trying to change things? It’s probably best that way and just to get on with things instead of trying to change the world. Idealists are never listened to, only businessmen.

Riding my chopper motorbike in my fringed leather jacket is a helluva better idealism in practical terms. Fixing the bike’s carburettors and changing the oil are much more satisfying than changing the world whose population of psychopaths has already gone beyond the point of no return.

Trumps any idealism

Idealism ain’t no free ride, I’m telling you, man. Idealism comes with a heavy pricetag. Only businesspeople with high moolah and low morals can afford it.

But idealism is bad business, and bad for business — which is why businesspeople don’t want anything to do with idealism. Can we blame them?

I suppose you are right about me being an idealist about something (?) at some time. I mean, we were all idealists to some degree in our younger days.

And then we become older and cynical when it’s our turn to pay the bills, look after the unabortable babies, hold down our imaginatively titled jobs, or beg like serfs for a job from potential employers who wear that insolent sardonic smile on their faces and behave with imperious disdain at our need for a job.

And then spend every bleeding night dealing with the ‘drama’ of those odd strangers with funny noses and shifty eyes living inside our homes we call ‘husband,’ ‘wife,’ ‘son,’ ‘daughter’ or even ‘grandchildren.’

Yes, I too tell people (just like Kevin Flynn did in “TRON: Legacy”) that,

“You’d be amazed just how productive it can be to do just nothing.”

Changing the world is just SEP:

* * *

On being mentally prepared for realities

Anyway, I’ll have to take the English teaching option a bit more seriously, and decide from there, once I’ve got other work out the way, and improve my Cantonese in the meantime. Not too keen on having to impress the snobby culture, but it is what it is, I suppose.

That’s the spirit.

People just don’t realise the value of those great British skills of ‘muddling through’ and ‘keep calm and carry on.’


* * *


Which is more important to you — your ‘world’ or your ‘country’?

How do you decide which?

What is the meaning of YOUR life? WHY do you exist?

* * *


“The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything
is calculated by an enormous supercomputer over a period of
7.5 million years to be 42. Unfortunately no one knows what the question is.”

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012.

Images: Alphabet soup via c4c ♦ Old Hong Kong flag via Wikipedia ♦ ABC via 4you4free ♦ ‘Know the Blindspots’ via Workzone Safety ♦ Chinese beach swimmers via c4c ♦ Fail stairs via c4c ♦ Motorbiker on chopper via Hotel Brenner ♦ Somebody Else’s Problem via Cutcaster ♦ ‘Reality is what you can get away with’ via Talent Imitates, Genius Steals.

The Agony Broccoli writes (3/4)

Monday 16 January 2012, 3.00am HKT


WHERE YOU STAND depends on where you sit, as the saying goes. The nice reader who wrote in about possible relocating touched on the matter of knowing the right lingo and our home countries change with times.

* * *

On knowing the right Chinese language

And also … Cantonese sounds much nicer, and probably easier for me to learn.

I’ve been saying this for a long time to one and all, but nobody believes me.

Cantonese has long been the Chinese language of the UK. (Yeah, I know how that sounds.) If you’ve lived long enough in the UK, it just ‘makes sense’ that you find Cantonese easier to handle.

(It’s roughly the same situation in Canada — but that’s another story.)

I don’t have a drop of Cantonese blood in me, but Cantonese is my mother tongue, believe it or not, mostly learnt in the UK. I happen to be an extremely fluent Cantonese speaker. Whenever I open my gob in Cantonese, many Hongkongers presume I’m an out-and-out local — that’s how locally Cantonese I speak.

A slight digression:

Right up until the most recent time (around the mid-1990s), when Chinese people came to the UK to live, work or study, they just spoke Cantonese, regardless of Chinese origin. The Hakka spoke Cantonese, the Shanghainese too, the Fujianese, the Mandarin-shleppers, Singaporeans, and the Indochinese.

“Cantonese speak Cantonese: if you don’t understand Cantonese, go back to your village.” Let’s not travel down that road about Cantonese-ness. (via Wikipedia)

Back in my day, my Mandarin-speaking friends and classmates spoke Cantonese in the UK. Every Chinaman in Blighty spoke Cantonese, and no one paid a thought about speaking any other kind of Chinese.

(In case there are morons out there who misread this, Cantonese-speaking in the UK is just a convention — a social commonality — not some pro-Cantonese ethnolinguistic rights activism like we see in China of late.)

Today, the last time I was back in the UK (2006?), I heard only Mandarin, usually in a variety of mainland Chinese accents.

It’s broadly the same story in the USA, where my family lived for a while:

  • Toishan and Cantonese in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco
  • Cantonese and Hokkien in New York City and environs
  • Cantonese for the whole of Texas, Colorado and Nevada
  • Vietnam-style Cantonese in Nebraska (!)
  • Chicago Chinese are normally Mandarin speakers but they’re pretty fluent in Cantonese too
  • Mandarin in and around Washington DC

Today, it’s Mandarin all round in America.

Srsly, if you’re planning on coming to Hong Kong, it’s Cantonese or English — don’t try anything else. Mandarin a.k.a. Putonghua is secretly dissed in the minds of most Hongkongers. Right now, with the Dolce & Gabbana ruckus going on in Hong Kong, best avoid Mandarin in public places.

That being said, be advised that Hong Kong’s manufacturing base is in China, specifically in the Pearl River Delta region about 50 miles (80 kilometres) west of here. If you don’t know Mandarin (as I don’t), you’re pretty much stuck hire-wise.

* * *

On a changed Britain

UK has changed a lot,  I grew up in the ’80s so can only remember the dreks of the ’70s. But in some ways it’s the same. And, yes, with the economy and riots and whatnot, it’s not the greatest of times.

I hear you. I was in the UK in the Seventies and Eighties, and they weren’t the greatest of times either. But in my day, the UK was latest and greatest when everything was crumbling to bits:

  • Harold Wilson and Teddy Heath taking us into the EEC
  • Decimalisation of the quid — not nice, but still a serious relief to the venerable £.s.d. because by then we had stopped learning proper arithmetic and multiplication tables so couldn’t work out Old Money anymore
  • The county of Westmorland became part of the Orwellian republic of Cumbria in the North West of England (see map) (and that’s srsly unforgivable)
  • The Spaghetti House Siege
  • Jim Callaghan and the ‘Winter of Discontent’
  • The Labour Party’s Michael Foot and his foot in his mouth
  • The heatwave of 1976
  • The rubbishmen’s strike (phooew!)
  • Maggie Thatcher (enough said)
  • The newspaper strikes that lasted more than a year
  • The Falklands invasion
  • The Harrods bombing (I was there not more than 20 feet away from the blast!)
  • The Brixton riots (I was NOT there)
  • The university fee overhaul that caused The Great British Brain Drain (a contradiction in terms!)

I have to say things seriously started unravelling by the late 80s. My last trip back was around 2006 and, boy, the UK felt more like America than anything else.

(Disclaimer: I’ve nothing against the USA. For cryin’ out loud, I’m even a cowboy boot wearer since when very young. But I do like the UK to feel like the UK, and America like the good ole’ US of A. Just sayin’.)

* * *


Look in the mirror carefully, and observe accidentally,
then prepare for reality


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012.

Images: Cantonese poster by Apple Daily via Wikipedia ♦ Regions of England and the UK both via Maps of UK.

The Agony Broccoli writes (2/4)

Sunday 15 January 2012, 9.00pm HKT


We continue with my facepalmingly overlong, overwritten response to the very nice reader who wrote in about possibly relocating to Hong Kong.

* * *

On choosing the right time to land

Well, from what you said, looks like I’m stuck here [in the UK] until I get to travel out to Hong Kong in [sometime this year], at least to visit […].

Our hottest months are from July to October basically. If ever coming over during then, know that, after long living in the mild weather of the UK, you are highly likely to break out with some sort of skin condition because of the heat and humidity. Not trying to scare you, but just sayin’.

Hong Kong is a subtropical country: you can’t survive without air-conditioning.

Read my overlong, overboring, overwritten exposé of ACs myths.

* * *

Choices are your own, and you might actually have to live with them

I’ve already started learning Mandarin, and when I went to Beijing with my friend, got to practice it. I enjoyed it a lot, and I think as a choice between Hong Kong and Beijing, I’d choose Beijing for the weather and the girls, and Hong Kong just for family roots.

I’ve never been to Beijing myself, but I am inclined to agree that northern birds are better cleavaged and more personable (to some extent) than southern womenfolk. But then again, I’ve been known to pay only scant attention to birds other than for their obvious endowments.

Srsly, seems like this roots vs. someplace else thing is a common-enough issue with overseas-born or -raised Chinese.


If you’re choosing a place you have family roots in, the upside is obvious — you have kith and kin to fall back on in case of trouble.

English: Category:Exhibits in Hong Kong 展品 Cat...

You make your own roots (via Wikipedia)

However, people who are willing and able to relocate to another continent tend not to be troublemakers and tend not to get into scraps. So here in Hong Kong a.k.a. the City of Stairs and Celestial Rents, the fallback translates more usually than not as access to free or free-ish accommodation while you look for piss-pauvre employment and more permanent living quarters that cost you an arm and a leg.

The downside with the family-roots choice is that after a short while here your life becomes somewhat structured according to your relatives’ (especially if you’re a live-in at their place). And if your other folks tend to be somewhat old-fashioned, you end up with various obligations and atavistic practices especially during holiday festivals.


If you want to go the completely-new-place route (like choosing Beijing or any other place where you have no family ties), the upside is that your life and living carries on in very independent fashion. You are your own man (or woman), and you can do whatever you bloody well feel like it, thank you very much.

United Kingdom: stamp

(Sem Paradeiro via Flickr)

Take Beijing, for instance. If you can handle the massive redtape, the money-grubbing ways of the more personable chicks, or the more sinocentric attitudes of the Pekinese, then fine.

Long living anywhere gets to anyone sooner or later. Unlike Hong Kong, Beijing is user-frustrating if you (regardless of passport) want to take off to some city or country for a long weekend.

In Hong Kong, have money, will travel.

The downside of choosing a place with no ties is that you’re on your own. By that, I don’t mean in the sense of getting into some fracas with the local authorities or favourite local mob (same thing, really). It’s just that you have to start from ‘zero’ (and long lead times) in making friends, getting about, living the local life, living the expat life, learning the social ropes, etc — and that can be hard and gut-wretching for some people.

Protip: Check how you socialise in your current community. Broadly speaking, this will be a good indicator of how you’re likely to fare in another city or country.

For example, when I was in the UK, I was quite the character and lots of people (apparently) wanted to hang out with me, so I got regular invitations to parties and various other “do’s.” I was (and still am) entirely comfortable with the young, the midaged, the geriatric — whatever their age.

And then I turned up back in Hong Kong, and then the parties were no more because Hongkongers here don’t ‘hang out’ mainly because of the high cost. (Sigh)

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

Cantonese roast duck:
Not every duck is Peking duck, and the eating is different. Namsayin’?

* * *


Know the right lingo, because even your home country changes


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012.

Images: Air conditioner via c4c ♦ Cantonese roast duck via Cook at Home ♦ All other images powered by Zemanta/WordPress.

The Agony Broccoli writes (1/4)

Sunday 15 January 2012, 3.00pm HKT

A VERY NICE READER has written to me about the blog, and about potentially relocating to this dump Hong Kong.

Then I realised the reader’s questions and remarks have thrown up some highly interesting points dying to come out into the open.

I’ve encountered the same kind of questions and concerns many times before in others, so these must be quite typical issues for people thinking about coming over here.

Riders added here that were not in the original communication.

Certain parts of the original communication have been redacted for the purposes of this post to protect the reader (obviously) and myself (even more obviously).

(No, this is not an Agony Aunt/Agony Uncle post.)

* * *

Planning is everything; the plan is nothing

Interesting blog. I’m a British-born Chinese thinking of going to Hong Kong but my Cantonese is non-existent. And if I went there as an English teacher, I wouldn’t get to learn Cantonese. Plus I love the cool weather in the UK but hate that there’s not many Chinese here [in the UK].

I know what you’re thinking. I tell you, you got to have a working ability in Cantonese in Hong Kong today.

Not to put too fine point on things, you also need an ability to write Chinese — no kidding, Hong Kong is THAT changed now.

Mandarin is becoming increasingly ‘desirable,’ if you get what I mean.

I myself don’t read or write Chinese, though English and Cantonese are my mother tongues. My inability to read and write Chinese is a major problem for me, professionally speaking. My work is chiefly a printbroker — I sell printing services to the financial community. While I’m problem-free with the bankers/wankers (who are reasonably good English speakers), the difficulty kicks in with the printing and paper people (who don’t speak or write English). So everything has to be conducted by speech, which, you could imagine, can sometimes be a real butthurt.

My advice to you:

  • You gotta bring up your Cantonese, no debate.
  • You gotta have an airtight employment contract before you start coming over, otherwise you could be left in the lurch.
  • You gotta have proper accommodation before you come over — you just can’t make do with hostels etc while you’re looking for more permanent digs (the rent here is scary high).
  • You gotta play up your ‘Englishness’ if you’re ever hired as an English teacher here  — Hongkongers are a bunch of snobs, and if you seem to be ever-so-slightly less English, you’re done for.

I’ve seen people just get up and go, and end up in a rut here. Hong Kong is a town far too costly to come to without some careful planning.

* * *

On powers of observation

I enjoyed your blog by the way on the [Clockenflap] festival. You have an astute observation on the different types of Chinese, ABCs, BBC girls, amusing stuff, you should be a published writer.

I am in me mum’s words “a little bit of a naughty boy.” So if I wanted to make people feel jealous, I would probably say (in a French accent), “Thank you, mais oui, it is because I have lived in so many places around the world and that makes me possible to see through many things.”

Truth is, if my observation really was/is astute, I reckon it’s more to do with growing up with very open-minded parents and grandparents, and less with living a baton-relay race all over the world. This, I find, is the case with observant people I know.

Broadly speaking, grandparents are naturally more conservative than parents — they must be! surely, because of the times and circumstances of their formative years.

That being said, if grandparents and parents are open-minded about things in life, we see life from their perspective (or at least we have an idea of theirs). From that, almost imperceptibly, we take on a freer-form worldview of people and things — and (more importantly) of circumstances. It’s hard to explain.

English: Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Mongkok,...

What do you notice, or want to notice? (Mongkok district in Hong Kong via Wikipedia)

Nobody ever said you can’t be open-minded and conservative at the same time.

Here’s a small digression. If you know how to ‘read’ it, then you’ll have an idea about living here for real:

A classic example of orthodox closed-minded conservative attitude is that pointless faggotry about less vs. fewer that we typically run into from grammarfags (plus that dylexic bunch from linguistics). It’s poison to reasonable observation.

Nearly everyone knows ‘less’ is for mass nouns and uncountable things, and ‘fewer’ for numbers. (Less butthurt from fewer asshats, no?) We got the memo!

And nearly everybody has seen that proverbial supermarket sign


and knows it IS wrong by strict grammar. But that phrase has been in accepted currency for a very long time, and practically speaking should be treated as an idiom — or just one of those exceptions to the rule.

Knowing that “10 items or fewer” is right but “10 items or less” is not wrong makes for a healthier, happier mental life. You’ve got a choice between the two, and choices improve quality of life. There are many other things that help burst your blood vessels already and we need no stinkin’ less vs. fewer for it, thank you very much.

But, no, there are actually people who get into furious indignation about it — some going into overdrive and force the supermarket to reword the sign, and think it’s some kind of altruistic achievement or personal victory in upholding some nebulous standard of decency. Sorry, I go to the supermarket for groceries, not grammar.

There’s at least one movie by that name (“10 Items or Less,” 2006, starring Morgan Freeman) and a TV series (also 2006) on Turner Broadcasting System. Journalists (even top-flight journos like David Frost and those on “60 Minutes”) regularly ask interviewees to explain some crap in “25 words or less.”

Indeed, I write to my clients that I could finish their printjobs in 25 days or less — and get paid for it. And I (as a non-practising lawyer myself) can assure the grammarfags that phrases like

‘this hearing should last three days or less’

‘stolen 10 items or less’

come with unnerving regularity in court straight from judges’ and barristers’ mouths.

There’s a lot of that one-size-fits-all attitude around the world, and it’s very strong in Asian societies.

(In fact, I don’t want to see a “10 items or fewer” sign in a supermarket — a case of reverse orthodox closed-mindedness?)

SVG map of Hong Kong's administrative districts.

18 items or MORE
Administrative districts in Hong Kong
(via Wikipedia)

* * *


When you should choose to land,
and why you have to live with your choices


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012.

Images: Hong Kong coins via Learn Cantonese ♦ All other images powered by Zemanta/WordPress.

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