Hong Kong And The Commonwealth

Although Hong Kong ceased to be a member of the Commonwealth in 1997, it still has strong links through its business, legal and sports community.

The modern Commonwealth is a free association of 52 independent nations with historical links and shared values of democracy, rule-of-law, tolerance and diversity. With a population of 2.3 billion (nearly a third of humanity, with the majority under 25) it represents a very strong soft-power network or ‘Platform for the Future’. It is also characterized by the use of the English language. In the light of Brexit the Commonwealth may be ripe for a renaissance

Hong Kong has an active branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) which provides a network for citizens of Commonwealth countries (especially Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa) and their Consuls-General to come together at speaker lunches, cocktails, exhibitions and concerts. There is also an annual Essay Competition and Charity Ball.

The RCS (HK Branch) is particularly keen to attract more young people as members and has therefore introduced more informal, fun events.

This year, Commonwealth Day falls on 13 March and there will be a reception in the Garden Lounge of the Hong Kong Club with British Consul-General, Andrew Heyn, reading the Queen’s Commonwealth Message at 7.30pm. Anyone in Hong Kong is welcome join the RCS. Annual subscription is $500 and $250 for those under 35. See www.rcshk.com

 

Vishal Nanda: Writer, Game Designer and Peel Street Poet

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Vishal Nanda is a writer and spoken word performer, as well as an indie game designer, teacher, and editor. He spends his time writing poetry, scripts, screen plays, plays, short stories, novels and the like, as he cannot quite help himself.

Recently, he hosted an event with acclaimed novelist Omar Musa during Hong Kong’s Literary Festival and his poetry has been published in the literary journal Asia Cha. He has performed spoken word poetry at a variety of events, including TEDx Wanchai, comedy shows, fundraisers and on RTHK Radio Three. He can usually be found nervously performing In Lan Kwai Fong most Wednesdays at Orange Peel with the other Peel Street Poets.

How long have you been involved in poetry?
I’ve been writing sort of poetry since I was thirteen, if you could call what I used to write ‘poetry’. It would be more accurate to say that I was trying to write poetry. I am hesitant to call what I write poetry, or to call myself a poet.

It’s quite a grandiose declaration because for good or ill ‘poetry’ still has pretentious connotations. If we had another word for it in English, with the sense that you’re part of a rather large group of aspiring writers maybe in training, that could excise the pretence from the term, like writing ‘pooms’, then that would be more accurate.

Writing pooms was a solo thing for a long time, completely devoid of connection to a larger community, till I ‘joined’ Peel Street. Since then I’ve been writing far more than I have in the past, with far more opportunities to get read or listened to, so in terms of dedicating more time to poetry, I would have to say since joining Peel, which was about three years ago. Since then I’ve been lucky to have more opportunities to write and perform, and it all started with Peel.

https://youtu.be/8gFIEv7F0lA

Where do you get the inspiration for your writing?
This is a crazy question. It would be hard enough to answer if you were referring to one specific piece I’ve written, let alone for writing as a whole. What was I thinking at the time? What series of events throughout my entire life, my childhood, all the media I have ever consumed, led to me producing that piece of work? How did I have the time to do it? What was I feeling back when I wrote it?

There’s a way to bypass the question entirely, and the assumption behind it, of the creator having agency in the cause. People are computers who take input, all the input our gloriously unique minds are capable of taking as the most powerful processing machines in the known universe, and then output something, like dick in the box, or Game of Thrones, or poetry. Although we have agency in the process we are far from objective observers of that process.

That said, if I had to give a tidier answer then I would abide by something Neil Gaiman said, which I paraphrase as ‘You walk by a dozen stories everyday. A writer notices at least five of them.’ In other words, there are stories and ideas everywhere, and it’s a matter of observation both internally and externally to recognise them.

And although I’m saying there is a lack of agency I don’t think there is a lack of craft. I use Evernote for everything, which means I can write on my phone, my Ipad, my desktop, whatever, it all goes to the same place, and if I have an idea I write it down, I file it away, whether I’m walking or sitting at home. I think there are two extremes for me when it comes to how I end up writing something, with a lot in the middle. I want to emphasise that I’m an amateur.

On the grandscale of global writers I’m just another guy on the cliff hoping to make his way up, but I think there’s some value then in telling you my work ethic, of the method in attempting to climb the cliff because it’s probably similar to a lot of other people who are trying but haven’t quite made it. I write all my ideas down. Sometimes I’ll have an abstract idea that I need to craft into a story- I had one about how children and what might be considered ‘the delusional’ have a lot in common, but how do I contain that in an actual narrative?

So I try to build something, which sometimes takes time, it takes outlines and planning and experimentation and editing. Or I had one about a guy who was ‘time displaced’ and could feel the past of any place he was at and I run with the idea, I imagine being that character and I take the story to it’s logical conclusions.

I don’t believe in writer’s block, my rule is that if I can’t figure out a problem, I’m only allowed to quit if I’ve sat in front of a desk and stared at the page for half an hour to an hour and truly come up with nothing, which I honestly think is a rarity. I try to abide by that rule.

On the other hand, especially with poetry, I’ve found that moments where I’m really emotional, often negatively, at those times writing out a poem is therapy, an itch, I have to get it out there because I feel like I’m going crazy, it’s like taking the chaos of an unformed internal monologue and shaping it into something, and times like those are times where it just flows out in one go.

So it’s both extremes, but I believe in the end it’s consistent work and the determination to see an idea to it’s end, no matter how crap the product, with the faith that it’s still practice and it still counts.

How does Hong Kong influence your writing?
It upsets me. It’s not exactly an ideal place, though it is idolised when it comes to safety, or the MTR or cheap, delicious food. I think a lot of writing, especially in English, when it comes to Hong Kong, attempts to focus on defining the place with the awareness that it’s unique. So that enough readers not familiar with it will find it compelling, it’s like travel writing.

I don’t want to write like that. I think there is a lot of isolation, a lot of unhealthy relationships, toxicity and loneliness here and I think that this is far from limited to this city.

I try to find the universal in the specific, rather than denying what is universal by focusing on the specific. Hong Kong, in the context of us as a species, is a remarkable trailer of a future to come. It has one of the largest income gaps in the world, a disgusting amount of people living in poverty juxtaposed with stratospheric decadence, rampant pollution and corporate-timescale-level-thinking (that is, in quarters, which is somewhat problematic when it comes to climate change), the highest average IQ and life expectancy in the world, cutting edge technology harnessed to make you buy shit you do not need, and a disturbingly high suicide rate among children who don’t fit the requisite mould.

I grew up here and frankly it makes me angry. I also love it, it is my home, and I’ve written celebratory pieces about it too. This is too big of a question to answer; how does Hong Kong influence my writing? If I have to sum it up, I’d say as a living computer I am forced to process it in all it’s neon madness, and that I’d hate to write about fields full of sheep instead.

The amount of silence in such a noisy place is mind boggling. So few people have an actual voice, instead we are bombarded with manicured ads and artificial TV shows claiming to define our existence in Hong Kong. Everywhere you look in Hong Kong, on the walls, on buildings, on magazine covers everywhere, there are words telling you how to be or think, via telling you what to buy, or what is considered of value and this gets to people, this affects us.

In Hong Kong, I try to consider what isn’t being said, but from my very, very narrow perspective. There’s a hell of a lot of noise here. I think a lot of writing at the moment is focused on articulating a perspective that can then be cozily placed in a category like ‘culture’ or ‘gender’ or some space from which the consumer and creator can feel comfortable in being associated with.

What is lost in that movement is the attempt to discover the universal, or even admitting that the state of us as a globalised species, like our genes, is 99.5% similar and cultural fetishisation for the sake of it is a form of self-inflicted blindness.

Hong Kong as an influence, is a noisy place, which inspires me by refusing to keep things simple or quiet, even if most people are rendered silent by it. Mental health is a box I’d like to say I try to fit a lot of my writing into- the state of Hong Kong’s popular perception, treatment and education when it comes to mental health is an absolute disgrace.

Google the government website on mental health, there’s a questionnaire for depression and if you succeed, if you have symptoms that fulfil the requirements for a diagnoses, the website effectively tells you to ‘take it easy’. There’s barely any help. It’s an absolute disgrace, and it’s not the rich that are being let down, they can afford private treatment, it’s the larger majority that have to count on a government doctor with ten minutes every two weeks to see you and the popular stigma that you can’t talk about these things.

The social environment is, in many ways, psychologically toxic. That said I have it easy compared to most people, I’m aware of that, I try to stay aware of my privilege. But the BS is dripping from the walls.

Poem:

Things I wish were or that I could see in the city but don’t because the world is not moulded by the whims of my imagination.

Like when I stop,
Like when I pause, to give a beggar change,
Another hard-eyed walker strides towards us,
He’s from this mangled person’s mysterious past.
He’s got a deformed limb,
He’s engaging in disabled kung fu,
Flipping around on one functional leg,
And beating the shit out of this guy wearing a suit.

Is that as offensive as ignoring him?

At least in my fantasies I pretend to care.

Behind an office lady’s perfume trail,
I surf a happy wake- wish it was colored,
Maybe purple, so I can
Hmmm
Sniff the smell of happy.
It’s not stalking, going in the same direction,
It’s not like there’s any space on the escalator.
See the perfectly looking douchey guy in the suit,
See the way too sultry blouse wearing office girl,
See them engage in Mortal Kombat.

A look passes between them,
Sudden recognition,
Eyes flare
An accusatory YOUUU
One person kicks / the streets clear,
To form an orderly circle.
They pose,
I become one of those dudes in the backdrop,
Moving my hands up and down,
Like in the Super Street fighter backgrounds.

Outside the Landmark,
Fenced-in trees inhale car fumes,
Like hardened smokers talking shit to one another,
About how dumb humans are.
You know the waterfront used to be right by my roots.
Yeah thank the Sun they covered that stuff with concrete. Smelled horrific.

Sometimes on a skyway,
When a double decker passes so close,
I think of jumping, and rolling, then running on the roofs,

But I’d need something to escape from for it to make sense.
Like reality.
Or something to chase.
Like office ladys.

How about the neon signs,
Unravelling to become neon snakes,
They float through the sky like Doctor Who monsters,
Neon eels,
If they touch you, they either electrocute, or seduce,

And next thing you know you’re in a Wanchai strip club being choked to death
By the fairy lights.

I want a class one Tai Tai laden down with shopping bags,
Wearing Armani everything and sunglass occluded eyes,
To walk into HSBC,
Chill as fuck,
And from her shopping bags drop,
Two tommy guns.
With perfect diction, her lines would be:
Everyone be cool this is a robbery.
Any of you pricks move and I’ll execute every last mother fucking one of you.
In my fantasies I don’t bother not to plagiarise,
This is why copyright is unnatural,
Her lipstick is as red as the HSBC logo,
Or the dead kids those terrorists they accidentally funded killed.

Oops, too far, good thing none of this is real.

The Victoria Harbour channel monster would be unfathomable.
Doubly terrifying because of the layers of nasty that film the water,
Would make it invisible till it was a few feet from the surface,
Armoured in plastic bags, translucent scales that warp the image underneath,
Lovecrafted out of Vita Box cartons that inflate and deflate as it breathes,
It’s touch is asthma,
It’s straw appendages piercing skin to suck out all your dreams,
Right through your pupils,
You won’t be able to get a good night’s sleep again,
It will find you in every toilet bowl and stagnant puddle,
The urban mosquitos are it’s eyes.

Skyscrapers are secret spaceships,
Rocket boosters buried in the concrete,
Waiting for the signal,
They lift up all at once,
Hidden steel shutters locking down windows,
For the inevitable space exodus.

Inevitable, in my fantasies at least.

Maybe they are missiles,
Anti-alien weapons,
Filled with angry bankers coked up like Viking berserkers, unable to distinguish friend,
From the ignorant average person investing with them,
They take their ties off, tying to them stationary,
Wielding silken nunchucks against the bugger ships they board,
The antennas and weird spiral shit on roofs were always
Disguised ramming prows.

If all the cars, lorrys and bus’s horned at once,
Would the sound blow out all the buildings glass?
If the PLA in admiralty took on the cops,
Would the triads decide a tie breaker?
I want a crazy brown guy to walk into a crystal shop,
With a tennis racket,
And systematically smash everything at once,
Then maybe buy it all afterwards,

Take that mainland billionaires.

I’m a fucked up patriot in my head.

I want to see ten thousand people take to the streets,
Yelling slogans from the 1970s,
I want to sit cross legged in the middle of the highway
While the Hong Kong police go full police state
And radical students are threatened with pepper spray,
Would be cool to feel a part of history,
Especially to be on the losing side.

I want graffiti on the government buildings,
And street art outside the IFC,
I want a declaration that anyone can be Batman,
Hanging from a skyway.
I want to see it again,
And pretend that a seven million strong city,
Educated and liberal,
Could field one hell of an army
For change.
For a change,
I want my fantasies to be real,

Also
I don’t think theres anything wrong with having an office girl fetish,
I mean I grew up in Hong Kong.
It’s not my fault.
That I want you
to give me
a raise.

Peel Street Poetry is an open mic poetry night at Orange Peel. It runs every Wednesday of the month except the first. The environment is friendly and they love new performers, so come share your poetry or just listen along to some of Hong Kong’s sharpest poetic talents.

Peel Street Poetry Open Mic
Date: 2nd, 3rd, 4th (and 5th) Wednesdays of the month
Venue: Orange Peel
Tickets: Free
More info:
www.peelstreetpoetry.com

GLM Brand Launch, Japan Electric Car @ Upper House – 25 November, 2016

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Japanese electric car manufacturer GLM (Green Lord Motors) held it’s Hong Kong brand launch at Upper House on the 25 November 2016. At the event GLM showcased it’s 4 door electric concept car the GLM-G4 which debuted at the Paris Motor Show earlier this year and the GLM-ZZ which is available now in Japan.
Click on any photo for the full gallery of images

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HKGCC Free Ride Day – 29 November, 2016

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HKGCC Free Ride Day was launched in 2011 as part of events to celebrate the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce’s birthday, which was established on May 29, 1861.

Members of the public can ride on all Hong Kong trams and the Star Ferry for free on 29 November.

HKGCC Free Ride Day
When:
 29 November, 2016
Where: HK Trams, Star Ferry
How much: Free

Bowie/Collector

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Many people know of David Bowie through his music and films and his influence transcended music to shape the wider culture of our time. As well as being a talented artist, Bowie loved art and in a way that isn’t possible today, courtesy of social media and camera phones, took an active role in the art world both buying art at auction, meeting artists and sitting on the editorial board of renowned art magazine Modern Painters.

“Art was, seriously, the only thing I’d ever wanted to own. It has always been for me a stable nourishment. I use it. It can change the way I feel in the mornings. The same work can change me in different ways, depending on what I’m going through.” David Bowie – NYTimes 1998 

The breadth and scope of Bowie’s personal art collection was revealed with the release of Sotheby’s online auction catalogue earlier this month. It features over 400 pieces including a ‘spin’ painting that Bowie created in collaboration with Damien Hirst, an altarpiece by Renaissance master Tintoretto, as well as works by 20th Century British Masters such as David Bomberg, Stanley Spencer, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff.

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A selection of Bowie’s collected artworks are on display in Hong Kong ahead of next months Sotherby’s auction. For further information: www.sothebys.com/BowieCollector

Bowie/Collector – Hong Kong Preview
Date: 10am-6pm, 12-15 October, 2016
Venue: Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery,  5/F, One Pacific Place, Admiralty
Tickets: Free

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Blair Reeve: Author and Peel Street Poet

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New Zealander Blair Reeve has been writing and performing a rhythmic and comical style of performance poetry since 1995. He spent the first seven years of the new millennium teaching English in Japanese junior high schools before moving to Hong Kong where he continued to teach phonics to primary students until 2013. He graduated from Massey University (NZ) in 2012 after studying Japanese and English Literature and then turned his attention to more sustained creative writing by joining the City University of Hong Kong’s Masters in Fine Arts program. He completed this in 2014, and one year later published his first children’s book Hogart The Hedgehog Turns Nink. In September 2016 he published his second book for young readers, Greta von Gerbil & Her Really Large Lexicon. Currently he works from home, caring for his infant daughter and mentoring post-grad students at Chinese U for their portfolios in creative writing. He was a feature author in the Hong Kong Young Readers’ Literary Festival in March 2016 and will be performing at the upcoming TEDxWanChai event on October 29.

How long have you been involved in poetry?
I’ve been involved in poetry since I was a kid in the 70s. First as a reader of comic verse—things like Spike Milligan, limericks & nonsense verse. In high school I really took to analyzing poetry, but I didn’t start writing until I was about 20. I was a pretender of anguished verse, which came from being one of those dyed-in-the-wool Cure fans. I then took up writing poetry as something to be read aloud and performed. This transition from pretender to writer/performer happened around 1996.

What inspires you to write?
My inspiration comes entirely from other poets and poetry. When I see writing I like it makes me want to write better. Hence my early poems were all like bad Goth lyrics. Then I was inspired by other performer-poets during my Dunedin days of the 90s and some of the old Victorian stuff I read at that time, especially Gerard Manly Hopkins who had a really playful word thing going on. Dr. Seuss continues to be an inspiration when I read to my daughter and that led me to wanting to write comical anapestic rhyming verse. This is so much fun I’m sticking with it for the time being.

How does Hong Kong influence your writing?
Hong Kong influences my writing in an indirect way. My social scene is miscellaneous and so it frees me to be as experimental as I like. It also means the cultural inputs into my writing are diverse, and I like that. I like that my poetry is informed by so many different perspectives. But my writing tends to be interior and imaginative rather than worldly, and in that sense, Hong Kong as a direct subject has yet to make it into my writing.

Here’s an extract from Blair’s new children’s book.

Flaytoo the Friendly Mayfly (extract)
Said Phlooty the Mayfly to Flaytoo his boy,
“You’re four hours old now, you’ve played with that toy
since the moment your mother gave birth to you son.
You’ve only got twenty more hours to have fun,
so don’t hesitate, Flayt, get out in the sun.”

We’re fish food, young chap, and that’s perfectly fine.
I’ve nothing against fish who do need to dine,
but there’s no need to hurry yourself to their plate.
Your time here is precious. Their stomachs can wait.
So listen up kiddo, go fly to the ends
of the field and make lots of new wonderful friends.
Because mayflies like us—we don’t live very long.
We’ve only one day till the end of our song.”

Then Phlooty the Mayfly unflicked his four wings,
and left Flaytoo flying alone without strings.

Say what?” exclaimed Flaytoo, “I’ve only one day?
That barely leaves time for a Mayfly to play!
Well I certainly mustn’tly waste my time ruing
those four hours gone when I ought to be doing
what Phlooty suggested—travelling and seeing
how other flies spend their lives living and being.”

Peel Street Poetry is an open mic poetry night at Orange Peel. It runs every Wednesday of the month except the first. The environment is friendly and they love new performers, so come share your poetry or just listen along to some of Hong Kong’s sharpest poetic talents.

Peel Street Poetry Open Mic
Date: 2nd, 3rd, 4th (and 5th) Wednesdays of the month
Venue: Orange Peel
Tickets: Free
More info:
www.peelstreetpoetry.com

Edited: 1 November 2016 – extract amended, last line was missing

Psychedelic Timelapse Hyperlapse Hong Kong Video

https://vimeo.com/185292301

Photographer Kirill Neiezhmakov has created a stunning video to capture his impressions of Hong Kong. Shot in September 2015 this is not your typical timelapse video. It’s a timelapse / hyperlapse video with a hefty dose of psychedelic elements and a tight soundtrack.

The video was made using two Canon cameras, a variety of lenses and a GoPro Hero 4. Post production was done in Adobe After Effects, Lightroom and LRTimelapse.