Saturday, May 29, 2010

My 5th Year Blog Anniversary...

Above: This is the Cheongsam-Style clothing I made recently. It's my first one made in Australia. I bought the exquisite cloth at a boutique named Bird Textiles Emporium located on Surry Hills, it's really expensive, even with the 50% discount, costing me AUD$80 for 2 metres. I found, with plenty of luck, a tailor whom had experience making cheongsams and aodais, cos she just immigrated to Australia from Vietnam recently! How cool was that...(the Vietnamese costume is called the Aodai and is virtually indistinguishable from the Chinese Cheongsam.) The tailor shop is even in the CBD! The tailoring costs matched my cloth costs. (I just love the light-weight transparent feel of the cloth and swallows pattern on it!!) The material is hand-printed in Australia, not machine printed...that's why its so expensive!

This month May 2010, marks the 5th Year Anniversary of my blog...I started this blog whilst on exchange in Tokyo, Japan back in 2005 as I felt living on student exchange in a foreign and exciting city like Tokyo would provide a cool experience for me to record down my time there as well as be part of the cool emerging trend of owning a blog as the blogging thing was only becoming more popular back in 2004 and 2005.

I first started out recording trivial stuff about my life in Tokyo and interesting things I encountered in daily life and later on included my takes on topics and social issues of interest to me such as women's rights and gay issues. I never spoke about personal issues on the blog but started doing so a year after my blog in 2006 and have continued to be as open as I feel comfortable in posting about my personal life. I also included a childhood picture once in one of my post as well as started annual posts e.g. WW2 Anniversary Posts as well as themed posts such as ones on HK Cinema and Women's rights or Gay Media.

I have also opened up opportunities to meet and have email contact with some readers of mine throughout the years. I would also like to take this opportunity, as I have done in past years, on my blog anniversary posts, to invite readers interested to please leave me their email address with a short comment on this post and I'll get in touch with you:)

As I have always revealed, e.g a photo of me during childhood, certain things about myself as the years have gone by, I thought it was time to reveal something else which I think many readers, old and new (of course, if you have contacted me before or have come from certain types of weblogs over to my blog via links or am just attune to 'those kind of stuff' through time, would have already realised) have sometimes misunderstood my identity....I am a male blogger.

Yes, I am a guy.

I understand with my frequent posts on women's issues and feminist rights which I am genuinely passionate about, many have come to have that kind of misunderstanding (what, with my passion for the cheongsam! haha...). I felt it was now the time to reveal that about myself, given it being my 5 year blog anniversary, and the general impression my blog has given about my gender. I however, have never expressly or purposely attempted to pretend to be female although certainly at times it had hindered how i expressed myself in terms of romantic descriptions. I think some readers should know what I am referring to given what I have written about in the past....

I hope I will have many years to come in my blogging life, as I realise many blogs I used to surf have shut down and many bloggers throughout my blogging life have stopped blogging altogether due to their own personal reasons. I may also stop one day but I hope that day won't be soon. Please continue to support me and my blog and do continue to leave your comments.


PS: I just found out in Chatswood, 'New Shanghai' serves delicious Chinese Rice Wine Glutinous Rice Ball Dessert called 酒酿圆子汤. I've always liked this dessert which was introduced to me in Taiwan. I've passed it several times but never tried and decided to give it a go this time.
You can have it with small tangyuen or sesame-paste tangyuen.

So Sydneysiders, do give it a try next time you're in Chatswood!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sydney Biennale 2010...2010雪梨艺术双年展......2010シドニー美術バイアヌアル....

I went to the Sydney Biennale 2010 a few weeks ago, it occurs once every two years and is the premier Arts Festival in Australia. This year, it was held in various locations incl. Cockatoo Island again, an abandoned industrial island within Sydney Harbour. I saw an arts installation on the island and guess whom i saw...Maggie Cheung! I thought it was only clips from her previous movies but then slowly realised that it was from recently...and I went bck home to check as I was surprised she would be involved in an art installation given that she's seldom in any new productions nowadays, but was surprised she actually was in this installation movie and not only that, this art installation movie, running for over an hour, had its world premiere in Sydney for the Sydney Biennale! (It's going to be shown in UK and Shanghai too later). And I had gone to the Biennale on the first day, so I had in effect attended the premiere on an industrial island in Sydney Harbour! Wow!!:-)

Photos here:

Friday, May 21, 2010

China and Reevaluating the Yuan...中国与人民币 中国と人民元

This is another post from my 'Year of China' theme which is my blog theme for 2010, as mentioned earlier in the year, when i did the Nostalgic Chinese Cinema post series.

There has been much talk of late about China and the artificial rate that the RMB (China's official currency, called the Renminbi in full) has been controlled by the Chinese govt. The US govt especially has criticised China and accused it of currency manipulation.

I think its laughable really, for the US to point its finger at China and demand that it raise the RMB. I mean the Chinese govt is ultimately responsible to the Chinese people and if it were not for the current artificially low rate at which the RMB is, China and its export-driven economy would not have been able to grow at such a rapid rate and millions of Chinese would not have been able to pull themselves out of poverty. I mean, US and foreign companies are also responsible for the low rate of the RMB. The thousands of US and foreign investor companies in China go there precisely because of the low RMB value so that they can earn massive profits when exporting back to their own countries and the consumers in these rich countries ultimately benefit with being able to save and buy cheap consumer products. Furthermore, if the yuan were to be revalued upwards too swiftly, it'd lead to thousands of factories in China shutting down which would lead to massive unemployment and societal unrest as Chinese factories are already operating on extremely minor profit margins due to the pressure of US and foreign buyers/companies who refuse to raise buying costs by much and thus the Chinese govt cannot be expected to please and help the US and Western economies by raising the rmb value whilst at the same time jeopardising the Chinese economy by doing so. This is an unreasonable demand.

However, the most unreasonable and ridiculous statement coming out of some US politician's mouth is that the current World Economic Crisis is somehow China's fault due to it's low rmb. RUBBISH. Typical behaviour of some countries unwilling to take responsibility for the deformed financial and banking sectors of the US and Europe and trying to scapegoat China for their economic problems. What nonsense really.

And all the talk of 'imbalance in the world economy' as the cause of the current world economic crisis is similar bullshit. What imbalance? When the US and European economies and their people were spending more than they could afford and their banks were fudging the figures, who else could they blame? Their consumers wanted the cheap products and their businesses went overseas to get them. Blaming China and other Asian economies for not spending enough thus causing the 'so-called' imbalance of trade is like a person whom borrows irresponsibly from another person and then buys and buys from that exact same person and when he or she becomes bankrupt then goes on to chastise the other person for producing such cheap and useful products and not spending enough money themselves. Huh?

Typical of some to want to feel better about themselves in the mess that they've made themselves by blaming others, namely China. I never heard Asian economies complaining about the imbalance of trade and Western countries' faults back during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
The US and Western world will just have to learn to accept their responsibility for creating the current financial crisis which they're just coming to recover from, quit complaining and pushing the blame to other countries and their currencies, and start reforming and restructuring their messed-up financial and banking sector as well as dodgy companies, such as Goldman Sachs, for one, just like Asian economies had to do back in 1997.

As a final note, it's ironic how some Western commentators and talking heads were talking about the impending 'collapse' of China's economy and their criticism of Chinese economic practices and corporate practices back before the 2008 Financial Collapse in the Western world when it was them whom fell with their face down..and fast. China has hardly been affected, and speeding ahead straight pass them and Western Companies such as Freddie Mae and Goldman Sachs have been found to have shoddy and unethical corporate practices.

There is the realisation now that it is the Western banking and financial sector which needed the reforms which the West was previously criticising China as needing all along.

Look who's Laughing now.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Greece and South Korea:A Comparison...双国故事:希腊与韩国....ギリシャと韓国:二つ国の物語

With the World Financial Crisis continuing to affect the US and Europe ever more pressingly even in 2010, its timely to compare Greece and South Korea, and in an even larger way, the Oriental way and the Western way.

In 1997, more than a decade before the 2008 World Financial Crisis speahearded by the collapse of the Lehman Bros in the US, Asia-Pacific was rocked by the Asian Financial Crisis. Back then, I still remember vividly reading in the newspaper of how Thailand's stock market had spiralled out of control, and how shortly, HK's stock market crashed subsequently as well. Thus, started a domino effect, with Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan all becoming embroiled in the crisis. Of cos, the country affected the most by far, was South Korea. Til then, the economies of the Asia-Pacific had been going strong and growing by admirable figures. Then it all came crashing down with the expose of the failings and weaknesses of the Asian banking and financial sector. There was painful reforms which almost all the Asian economies had to go thru and this is why with the 2008 Financial Crisis, Asian economies were not affected as badly (although still very badly during the worst period in late 08-mid 09 with countries like Singapore and Malaysia slipping into recession) and now rebounding back at an amazingly rapid pace and growing with impressive figures-Singapore, for example, is forecast to grow by over 5% GDP this yr in 2010. Other Asian economies are forecast to have comparable GDP growth rates too.

South Korea back then crashed, and the government had to borrow from the IMF a bailout package as large chaebols (South Korean corporations) crashed and many South Korean companies shut down and became insolvent with the unemployment rate hitting the hundreds of thousands. As part of the IMF bailout terms, the government of South Korea had to bring in extremely painful austerity reforms/measures calculated to bring the South Korean economy back into shape and also restructured its banking and financial sector properly. What touched me then was how media and news reports reported that many South Koreans started donating gold to the government to help the country stand back on its feet. I rem vaguely seeing housewives and citizens donating out of their own free will personal gold jewellery and personal gifts on the tele and was amazed at their patriotism and sense of sacrifice.

Contrast this with the situation of Greece currently. The country has mounting debts in the billions of euros and the IMF has come up with a huge bailout plan. This has had to be paid for by its larger European neighbours such as Germany which have demanded strict austerity measures to be brought in to reign in the spiralling debt problem engulfing the Greek government and economy at large. However, instead of following South Korea's commendable example back in 1997, and one could term the 'Oriental way'by sacrificing, the Greeks have turned to large demonstrations and rallies, destroying and defacing public and commercial buildings and holding strikes protesting the much needed austerity measures needed to bring Greece back on its feet. This is what could be called the 'Western way', discussion of individual interests and rights and the unwillingness to sacrifice for the nation's and ultimately, everyone's long-term well-being. The Greeks have shown that they are unwilling to face the responsibility of their own doing by living the life and enjoying the benefits which were never sustainable in the first place. I saw on the news that the Greeks had been fudging the figures and reports to the EU annually and taking advantage of being in the Euro zone without responsibility. They employed 1 million unproductive civil servants out of a population of 11 million. Pensions and work benefits were numerous and unjustifiable. Now, with the country in a wreck, instead of facing up to all this and cutting back, they are acting like spoilt kids, used to enjoying unsustainable luxury, and steadfastly, unwilling to face the consequences of their spending. Instead of sacrifice which brought South Korea's economy back from ruins in 1997 and accelerating such that it now has the biggest GDP growth rate in the OECD developed nation's club for 2009/10 and has thriving big brand corporations such as Samsung and LG and Hyundai, when merely a decade or so ago, big corporations were closing down, the Greeks have chosen to make their national economy worse, with strikes and protests with would inevitably bring down the economy even more.

Maybe, these lessons show that Europeans, and Westerners have a thing or two to learn from Asia as well, in that, the Western way, or the emphasis on individualism or personal interests is not the only nor best approach all the time and that the Oriental way, with emphasis on collective responsibility (which the Greek people refuse to take for their economic mess currently) and collective sacrifice (which the Koreans did back in 1997) may be the better way ahead.

PS: I also heard that some Greeks were shocked and felt betrayed that the EU didn't act fast enough to approve the enormous bailout package to assist them. Well, since the bailout is being financed by other European economies which have barely pulled out and are still on the road to economic recovery, why should they have to help the Greeks so fast? And I think they're especially kind to help the Greeks especially with all the Greek protests/rallies/strikes going on showing their unwillingness to change their ways...(i know they have to help the Greeks given the need to sustain the Euro. Actually, this entire Greek crisis has shown the weaknesses of a common currency, the Euro.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

There's Never Been a Better Time to be Gay in the media, that is..

Above: The Poster of 'Hello My Love' Korean movie, released late 2009.

These are just some links and updates on gays in the media in usual 'gay news around Asia' update...been months since i posted anything 'gay'..haha..anyways, as the winds of change continue to blow in the Western world with gay marriage now legal in Mexico City and Washington DC, as well as more and more mainstream gay characters whom are diverse on tv such as 'Glee', Asia hasn't fallen behind.

In Taiwan, TV Shows continue to have regular segments dealing with the gay topic, for instance, in this following talk show on parents and their children, whereby all the children shown are mostly gays (Taiwanese have become accustomed to seeing openly gay ppl in the media since the early 2000s..not only celebrities, but many ordinary gay ppl go on talk shows without hiding themselves..), what was incredible about this talkshow was that the host, a respected middle-aged former News Broadcaster, was very fair and pro-gay rights..usually for various episodes of the show, he would try to be a neutral arbitrator on topics but in this episode on having gay children, he was incredibly pro-gay and even going so far as to literally persuade the parents to accept gay in mandarin on youtube here:

Another show discussed gays dealing with a disabled gay man and his partner whom is not disabled and how their families have come to accept their relationship including the elderly Taiwanese Ah-Ma (Grannie). As you can tell, Taiwanese are pretty progressive and the tv shows have expanded to include diverse topics even within the topic of gays such as disabled gays and their love lives.

Korea and Gays in the Media:

Even conservative Korea, which is the most backwards when it comes to things like women's rights and gay rights as compared to China and Japan and Hong Kong, has improved markedly in recent yrs, in terms of media coverage and exposure..besides earlier gay Korean films which I have covered before on this blog, there have been more gay films just coming out in 2009 and 2010. I won't repeat previous well-known ones such as 'Antique Bakery' and 'Frozen Flower' which i have mentioned before but there's a small independent film called 'Just friends?' link here:

And another film which I just discovered online out of the blue and it was a surprising find..within the first 20 mins of the movie, i knew it was one of the best korean gay films i had came out in late 2009, however there were 3 major flaws towards the middle-end of the film which led it down but overall i really really like the aesthetic and overall feel of the movie. It was a movie which had parts and characters which I'd feel i would have expressed if I were ever to make a gay themed film but this film has done part of it for me (excluding the flawed bits). I love the actors and actress in it (they all look gorgeous and fit their roles perfectly) and the settings for many scenes such as the traditional korean house and making a wine restaurant in it was perfect as well as the beach scene...the twist and radio dj premise was also fantastic...the full movie WITH ENG SUBS (YEAAAHHH!!!) on youtube here:

Now, for the flaws, SPOILERS AHEAD, Highlight to read:

1) I didn't like the fact that the female protagonist slept with her bf's boyfriend..i could understand why she did it, to destroy their relationship so she could have her bf bck cos ppl can be irrational when they're in love and in fear of losing their loved ones but the fact that the gay lover responded and they ended up having sex was ridiculous and doesn't make sense.

2) Why did the gay lover leave after the party incident? Also how did the French ex-lover of the gay lover know their house to show up? Big storyline mishap...

3) When her boyfriend leaves to find his gay lover in the end, why did they not end up together again?! It doesn't make sense, esp you see the gay lover with the French guy many yrs later hinting they got bck together in the end which again doesn't make sense given that earlier on at the party, it was shown that the gay lover didn't love his ex-French boyfriend anymore and wanted to break it off, so why did they end up together again?! Major spoil of the plotline..the very ending of the movie of the three of them on the beach was great though (the woman and her now ex-boyfriend with his now ex-boyfriend..haha) and the movie definitely has some great scenes and quirky lines/scenes...good gay korean-themed film overall..

Another milestone is that the first Korean drama to portray a main gay character started earlier this year called 'Life is Beautiful'. It is the first time in a Korean drama to portray a gay person as a main character and deal with their love life as well as feelings and challenges of being gay in Korea. Previous Tv shows have only hinted or put gay characters as cameos or at best in one or two dramas as a side character without a romantic storyline and basically no touching on the realities of being gay in Korea. This is the first time and written by a famous veteran female writer of Korean dramas known for her high-ratings in drama. The character is called Taesub and he is a kind man whom is also a doctor. He has been going out with some girls and always ends up breaking up with them. The drama starts with him finally coming to terms with his homosexuality and his new relationship with another gay man whom is divorced with a child after being outed after his marriage thru a mishap. Some links in Korean on youtube of their storyline (this is a 50 episode family drama and has multiple storylines, the gay one is merely one of them but apparently according to news reports, the online website attracts 80% plus comments on this gay storyline and the TV station broadcasting the show gets complaintsfrom viewers every day against the gay storyline, however, the writer has said she will continue to deal with the gay plotline in a positive and neutral manner and she was surprised the backlash wasn't as great as she thought it'd be) :

Hong Kong:
Hong Kong has seen numerous gay independent films in recent yrs, none of which has attracted my attention, but just for ppl interested, these two came out last yr, out of 4-5 gay hk films, trailers here:

2) (this is director scud's second gay trilogy, his films often have quite big budgets, despite being independent productions, showing that obviously there are production companies willing to invest in hong kong gay films and believe there is a market for it in recent years.)
And to end, i'd like to introduce something completely unrelated to this topic, being on straight love...i'm still on filipino fever, and here's a new movie i can't wait to see, it has a Malaysian theme, cos they keep saying 'Petronas Towers' and has JLC and Bea Alonzo..they look so cute together..trailer here:
haha, how did i start with a post on the topic of gay love and end with a link on straight love?! Hahaha...