[chinese blood, irish heart] - DEFUNCT: May 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's a good thing

I don't know what's wrong with me but I've had a blocked nose ever since I got to Beijing. I'm practically using up a box of Kleenex every day! A TCM practitioner reckons its the dry weather that's clogging up my nostrils. In that case I better buy shares in Kleenex or Tempo because I'm gonna leave a shit load of tissue paper behind me till September...

About the TCM practitioner though, I've been taking these courses in Chinese medicine at a rather delightful establishment called 'The Hutong'. The course includes a qi gong exercise regime known as 'the Eight Treasures', diet and sleeping tips.

So far I've been waking up 15 minutes earlier than usual to do the Eight Treasures exercise (which is a lot to me!), but knowing me, I wonder how long I'll maintain the daily practice. Like many things I've taken on in the past, whether it's meditation, exercise, brewing Chinese tea or reading a book, I've always left things unfinished. But for some reason I've taken quite a shine on these Eight Treasures perhaps because my energy level has improved and my afternoon dips aren't as strong any more. Though the caffeine helps! But nevertheless I do think I'm onto something here and will try my best to follow through... until I sense concrete results.

Our last class next week deals with how emotions affect our body. That'll be er, interesting... Speaking of which, I've been feeling rather numb lately: Playing cat & mouse with security personnel in this country is dangerous and yet exhilerating. Observing people living their lives in this big city with scrutiny and at times disdain. The massive wealth gap and degrees of globalisation is both overwhelming and saddening. Sometimes I blurt out 'fucking peasant' indirectly to someone I see behaving uncivilised. Bloody hell, this is a metropolis with 15 million people so at least be a little more mindful!! But I guess this cold and calculating mindset is a good thing. My initial reason for taking on this endeavour to Beijing was to get away from myself and forget a cruel twist of fate that has wounded me two times too many. Now when I listen to my favourite song Stand Inside Your Love, I feel nothing. I still like the guitar riff and all... but it no longer has that spell of melancholy over me that would leave me staring at the ceiling for hours on end.

Yeah, it's a good thing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bird's Nest open for business

Another bleedin' 13 hour shift. Still, not bad for someone who had fake press credentials HAHAHAHA!!! A test event huh? Well they definitely got an 'F' for security.

Oh, and say hi to the Brightcove player below. My Olympic videos will be beamed through this beauty and will be upgrading our main site on June 1st. About fucking time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Earthquake related stories

Quite a tough week this is becoming to be. Other than a lack of quality sleep (no surprises there), the long hours I've been putting in to hammer out these 'next-day' videos is taking its toll. I always end up making careless mistakes, like typos, and it's really embarrassing considering I spent all that time editing the video etc. But the good feedback is worth it... I guess. Just have to really make good use of my weekends...

The video above is on China's 3-day national mourning period. It began on the 19th at 2:28pm, the time when the quake struck Sichuan a week before. I literally got to the heart of Tiananmen Square a few minutes before the 3-minute silence began. My stamina really sucked as I ran there from the subway... don't know if it was whether the gear I was carrying or more shitty shoes, or even the bad air? I've had an annoying cough all week.

Many people were shouting pro-China slogans like "Long live China". I don't really understand how that ties into mourning the dead! Some of the interviewees talked about China being great, proud to be Chinese, and all that, but I just don't see how national pride fits into it all. Some folks were really getting into the fervent nationalistic chanting. So much so the police urged calm and didn't let any more people into Tiananmen - which is supposed to be a public space. Hah, usually when I ask these questions I say to myself: "Uh, where am I?"

Today's video was a little less straight forward. BOCOG in its infinite wisdom launched this media event that had little Olympic significance. Still, the scenes were ample stuff for the media - volunteers counting donation money, relief workers giving vox pops and soldiers loading aid onto trains. Yet they had no English press releases, guests were late, press conference rooms were hastily assembled, shit sound systems, and just all-round piss poor communication. But I guess they have time to brush up when the real deal happens in what, 79 days? Also, I feel sympathetic to Chinese reporters as they constantly have to wait for interpreters to finish before they get their answers. Don't worry guys, once the Olympic jive is over you'll return to your everyday inane news/propaganda reporting.


Friday, May 16, 2008

What the hell is 'positive' reporting?

The sheer audacity of a CCTV-9 news anchor to highlight the differences between Chinese and Western media reporting... first of all, no matter what cultural differences, that breaks the rule of objectivity.
While talking with a guest, she went out and said Western media usually focus on the gloom and devastation of natural disasters, while the Chinese highlights more of the positive side. Judging from her tone it's obvious whose side she was on. POSITIVE SIDE? What the hell is that? Is there a positive side in covering natural disasters? And besides CCTV-9 keeps showing pictures of disaster hit areas, people crying, and in between breaks they always show this rather emotional slideshow that's designed to tug on people's heartstrings. Is that positive??
But thankfully her guest, an experienced gentleman from some international organisation toned down the rhetoric by admitting both Chinese and Western media have their own ways, and none can be defined as superior or inferior. It's four days after the earthquake and most stories are focusing on mass scale donation efforts - that's not POSITIVE reporting, they're just colour stories to complement. That's probably why the anchor is boasting because of the pride and sympathy these images stoke. But the reason why the Sichuanese need so much aid is because of a lack of resources (and shoddy buildings apparently).
And don't fucking tell me the West doesn't do that... ask Americans how many teary-eyed stories have they seen/heard/read about relief efforts, courage and bravery during and after 9/11. There's your 'positive'.
I remember when the media kept playing pictures of the World Trade Centres and some viewers started complaining as it became too distressing. But I don't think this'll be the case with this Sicuhan earthquake. There is no iconic footage comparable to the scale of the planes flying into the WTCs, or the towers crumbling down. But I have no doubs that even the POSITIVE CCTV-9 would repeat such images if they had any. Pfft to contrasts between West and East media - it's nothing to do with cultural differences, it's about bringing the best and sensational images to the screen to raise viewership. And all media suffer from this syndrome.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

So dreary

Man, Beijing's weather is so tempermental. Cold and windy on Sunday (hence I've caught the bug), sunny and mild up till Tuesday, thunderstorms yesterday and quite warm today.
I've only done boring BOCOG (Beijing Organising Committee of the Games) pressers this week and I guess since it's the first week here, it'll have to suffice. Next week onwards I hope the somewhat stand-offish reporters here can gradually warm up to me and understand what *exactly* it is I do. I remember the same sentiments in Hong Kong over a year ago - their mode of thinking was that "I'm a print journalist, why do I have to be involved in video/audio?" And they're right to be negative since they don't get paid extra for it or whatever, then again it's very little additional workload anyway. The Chinese are notoriously conservative, and even more so I'd assume on the mainland so I just hope the atmosphere will be better eventually when they see the more interesting & creative videos I can do... as opposed to pressers with mundane bureaucrats, otherwise known as "Getting to Know" events.
Other than that, I guess I'm surviving along in Beijing. Though the cons outweight the pros, this is pretty much expected. I'm not a big fan of China anyway (that is, the cities and culture) and the fact that my putonghua is very limited as I'm Cantonese, the language barrier is particularly annoying and at times embarrassing. But I'm doing it for the experience. Even if I return back on a sour note, broke and demoralised, I can always say I was reporting on the Olympics and if it doesn't kill me it can only make me stronger. If I've successfully made it through the world's largest media event in one of the world's unfreest societies, I'd give a pat on my back.
Ah, but it was soooo good to see G again after a year, and in Beijing of all places! She had a brief stopover here and I took advantage of her 50% airline discount during dinner! It was also really good just to see a familiar face, and certainly who's better than hers.
Argh, I just wish I wasn't the only one here. I need some backup!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Didn't even realise it was an earthquake...

I knew I felt something was out of place: I was quietly sipping noodles on the lunch break of my first official day at work in Beijing when I suddenly lost my balance (while sitting down). It was very brief, so I just brushed it off. Probably due to lack of sleep.
When I got back a friend called me from Hong Kong and when I answered she immediately asked if I was okay in a rather worried manner. At first I was bewildered considering I had just gulped down a substandard pork chop rice, then she told me about the big earthquake. And it hit me! I had felt my first earthquake! It was 7.8 in Sichuan and the quake rippled to Beijing at 3.8ish.
On a more sombre note the death toll has risen past 8,000 according to Xinhua. Even if they're known to dumb down the news, 8,000 is still a pretty high toll.
Earthquake and falling ill on my first day... bad omen perhaps?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A new home fit for an untidy king

Finally bought all my shit for the new place and just in time too as I officially start work as a pseudo-journalist in Beijing. Going to a BOCOG (Beijing Organising Committee for the Games) press conference already on Tuesday. Our Olympics news editor said it should be a right laugh but I guess I'll see...

My landlord is a wonderful lady and she kept dropping by today with more household goods like this cool mobile laundry rack and old-school coasters.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008



If you're reading this then the test succeeded. Yet, my blog won't load up on my browser. Hmm.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Possibly my last post till September!

I just barely managed to pack in the 20-kilo limit and *hopefully* I've got everything I need to survive for 4 months in Beijing. The excitement hasn't sunk in yet, I guess I'll feel a bit more of it when I touch down on Tuesday. I'm still apprehensive about the language barrier. I do appear as a Chinese person after all, so the locals may seem taken aback when I speak in broken mandarin or even English. My colleagues waiting for me in BJ may even feel a bit disappointed they'll have to help me translate!

I remember months ago when I yearned so much to get away from here. But that was for a different reason and now it seems so long ago. Of course thinking about it now makes me realise how foolish I was but I'm glad I was able to put down those feelings before it engulfed me as it had before. I guess I've lost that enthusiasm to 'get up and go' but nevertheless I'm still looking forward to work in a foreign environment and meeting new folks.

I may be a bit paranoid but this may be my last post before I return to HK. Bloggers have to register in China right? Anyway, I just want to comment on the recent commotion surrounding the Hong Kong-leg of the torch relay and get it off my chest.

First of all, it was a nightmare filming the event. I was stationed in Tsim Sha Tsui while my two other colleagues were in Shatin and Wan Chai/Central. I kept running into roadblocks and had no idea how to get across the road where the pro-Tibetan activists where. I had met Christina Chan a few days before the event to gauge her sentiments on the issue. She claims she supports 'self-autonomy' for Tibet while not advocating 'freeing' Tibet. Fair enough, but then why did she have a sticker on her shirt saying 'Free Tibet, free China?' I think she really fudged her message. Some comrades who were with her at the relay were fekkiw students she had just met a few days before at HKU. At first they weren't too sure about Christina's message but I guess in the end they got suckered in (yes, they were foreign students). Ah, I remember once being such an impressionable student, full of ideals and sympathy for so-called 'opressed' peoples. I still do care, but I'm not willing to fight for a cause unless I know 100% about the issue. Chrisinta openly admitted she'd never been to Tibet - fair enough, but that did hurt her credibility a bit.

Cudoes to her for waving the flag in front of thousands of pro-China supporters, though. I had no qualms they would've torn her apart had it not for the police. Still, I can't help but feel she was bit of a media hog. This arrogant German news crew practically directed her so they could get the best profile shot while she drew the Tibetan flag and she blissfully went along with it. Nothing wrong with spreading your message with the press and all that but I wonder if Ghandi would be so accomodating and image conscious if he was here today.

The patriotism or nationalism or whatever you want to call it being exhumed from HKers and mainlanders was both annoying and frightening. I encountered teenage HK girls shouting in mandarin yet their enthusiasm surprised me. It was only 10 years ago when HKers adamantly defied the whole 'Chinese' nationality and were quick to differentiate themselves from mainlanders. But when this Beijing Olympics started consuming the public sphere, I notice more and more people are openly embracing the Chinese identity. For one thing I definitely saw more China flags than Hong Kong ones at the relay. Yes, Hong Kongers are Chinese but doesn't that sort of contradict the 'self autonomous region' concept? HK is a sovereign state of China, yes, but if people here culturally accept China as their own, as in being the same with the mainland, then I'm sure those people won't care being dubbed 'mainlanders?' I think many expats here are quite sensitive about civil liberties while locals take it for granted.

The hostile treatment towards protesters was quite an eye-opener too. The June 4th guys were jeered and taunted. Christina was called a traitor and running dog before being loaded onto a police van for her 'safety'. Can't blame them really. Unionist Lee Cheuk-yan didn't receive well either. Mia Farrow was let in with a wagging finger from authorities. Danish artist Jens Galschiot was even denied entry. This does look bad for a so-called free and open society but I don't agree that civil liberties are under attack. There's always some limit to what the government can allow protesters do and Hong Kong has been pretty fair to demonstrations and rallies etc. I mean, compare it to China! Look at all those Falun Gong people marching down Nathan Road sometimes! So look at this way, if you go out and make a noise about something, you're bound to get media attention and that in a way furthers your message, even if you do look like a twat. It shows that at least Hong Kong gives people that opportunity. And what better way to impress your like-minded peers than getting loaded onto a police van?

On the funnier side of things: as I was speeding across the subway I spotted a dozen or so mainlanders wearing very noticeable Spanish hats that were red to go with their outfits. These were caps that printed 'Spain' on the back and the royal emblem on the front. I guess they just randomly bought red hats without noticing the horrible irony behind it. While I took video of them they waved their flags excitedly at me (and damn, I totally forgot to put it in the video, never mind here's the pic below). Man, did I have the last laugh or what...

Below's the hard work we all did for the excruciating day. At least I got decently pissed afterwards.