Hong Kong Part 2:
Not meeting expectations
or Talk to the White Guy
The big problem with Life with
Kozo (i.e., this column, and not my actual life, though
that has its share of issues) is that I inevitably seem to
be covering the same territory. About one month ago, I set
out to write one of these silly columns because I felt it
was time to, but unfortunately, I stalled. The same topics
constantly come up: uncertainty over what to do with this
website, lack of time, lack of purpose, annoying e-mails,
no time to answer e-mails, confusion over my new job, confusion
over what I should be doing with my life, and just plain confusion.
Apparently, these are confusing times for me, though that
label could easily be applied to the greater
sociopolitical climate. Look at it this way: when people start
finding alarming anti-Bush rants in Star Wars Episode III,
then you know something is just plain weird in the world.
My solution: go back to bed, crawl under the covers, and stay
there for a week.
Sadly, I cannot do that. Or,
I could, but it would probably meet with disapproval at my
workplace, not to mention shame at the fact that a grown man
is so frazzled with dealing with the day-to-day that he would
rather snooze for 168 straight hours than attempt to get ahead
in this world. The problem: what is "getting ahead?"
In the employment sense, "getting ahead" means moving
up the job ladder, achieving promotions, adding to your portfolio,
and generally becoming a master of some universe - even if
that universe is as unglamorous as the fast food industry.
I personally don't belong to the fast food industry, though
the level of glamour in my line of work is seriously debatable.
Basically, is it desirable to spend 45-55 hours a week holed
up in an office staring at a computer screen? Common sense
says no, but since nearly everyone I know does just that,
there must be a disconnect somewhere. I'm just trying to figure
out where it is.
But yeah, "getting ahead"
is what we have to do, because to do so indicates progress.
And, as everyone knows, progress is necessary, or at least
the goal of every 12-Step Program. Part of progress is "meeting
expectations", because if you can't meet expectations
then you're surely not going anywhere. My big problem: I have
no idea what my expectations are supposed to be. What are
my expectations since moving to Hong Kong? Simple survival?
A new Hong Kong movie review a week? Fluency in the language?
If the above three are part of my expectations, then I'm only
batting .333. On the issue of simple survival, I seem to be
alive and free of any debilitating diseases or hangups. Basically,
I function like a human being is supposed to. Woohoo.
However, the other two expectations
are not so hot. Since arriving here, site updates have dipped
from weekly to biweekly, which has actually impacted site
traffic - or so I believe (it's really hard to tell with these
things). At the same time, reviewing one new Hong Kong movie
a week is impossible, because THERE ARE NO HONG KONG MOVIES.
The cinema over here is eroding quicker than Michael Jackson's
reputation, which saddens me immensely (the Hong Kong movie
part saddens me, not the Michael Jackson thing). The fact
that it coincides with my move here is probably a tad ironic,
if only because LoveHKFilm.com
is sometimes noted for "hating everything." Of course,
that's a complete fallacy, but some people delight in pointing
out, "Wow, you're so cynical! You hate everything! How
can you say you love Hong Kong film?"
Well, I like it a hell of a
lot more than most people in Hong Kong, that's for sure. My
view on Hong Kong Entertainment is very much on the outside,
but from what I can tell, Hong Kong people don't generally
care about the film industry. Hell, it seems that they don't
even care to go to the movie theater...they'd much rather
rent a DVD, buy a bootleg, or - as is the current rage these
days - download it illegally. It's quite popular for people
to think that downloading films does not hurt the industry
because "I'm just one guy...how does my single download
hurt the industry?" Well, it does, make no mistake about
it. You are not one person...you're a collective of many who
do exactly what you do: steal intellectual property. If a
lot of people do one thing, it makes an impact. It's called
math; look into it.
For the third problem, yes,
I am not fluent in Cantonese, nor is it improving at a rapid
clip. The biggest problem is simply time. Between this site,
my regular job, and that unnecessary thing known as sleep,
I have no time to do anything. I barely have a social life
as it is, which is probably a relief to females worldwide.
Unfortunately, it worries my parents that there will never
be a Kozo, Jr. to carry on the family name. I suppose I should
consider fluency in Cantonese to be necessary if I wish to
fulfill their Mrs. Kozo mandate while I'm in Hong Kong, but
it's actually not my primary focus at the moment. That focus:
a new stereo, which I still don't have after nearly four months.
The problem here is twofold: no ability to play CDs except
through my television, and I can't throw the long-awaited
housewarming party because I can't play music. So yeah, a
stereo would be nice. And speaking Cantonese would help me
get one for a lot less money.
But unfortunately, I'm not the
only person who expects that I should speak Cantonese; everyone
else in Hong Kong seems to expect it. Just by looking at me,
they think I should be speaking their language, because duh,
I look like them. Case in point: since arriving in HK, I've
had the pleasure of meeting a couple of other Hong Kong Cinema
webmasters who make their residence here, and we've met up
for the occasional dinner and/or movie. Two of them are Caucasian
and have lived here for years; ergo, they have Cantonese language
ability, which is great because they can order my food. But
here's the problem: the waiters, waitresses, etc., never speak
speak to them first. Inevitably, when we sit down, the restaurant
employee sees a white guy and a Chinese guys and thinks, "OK,
talk to the Chinese guy."
Bad move. All I can do is nod,
and then point to the white guy, because they're far more
equipped at speaking the language. I can only imagine how
silly this makes me look in public. I'm so foreign to Hong
Kong that I have to rely on people who look foreign to get
around. It's like being an NBA player and being unable to
make an outside shot...though if you consider the current
state of the NBA, then I'm right up there with a number of
high draft picks, who possess the natural talent to make it
in their arena (the NBA for them, Hong Kong for me), but lack
that one vital skill. The result: their game has a major hole
that makes them less than they could possibly be. If you're
Michael Jordan, you work at it and get that outside shot down,
in which case you go on to six championships and untold legendary
The alternative: you become Antoine
Walker, a streak shooter who hoists too many three-pointers
to be truly effective, and has been traded twice in his career.
In a rare bit of irony, Walker has been traded back to Boston,
which was his first team. The analogy for me is that even
if I fail in Hong Kong, I can head back to the U.S., though
I will likely never win any championships or ascend to legendary
status. Instead, I'll keep throwing up bricks and will never
live up to the expectations of many people, starting with my parents
and continuing all the way up to my current employers, who
brought me to Hong Kong in the first place. I will be a failed
draft pick, who never lived up to his potential or high contract
status, and may become a journeyman player who signs with
numerous teams attempting to one day win a Championship before
I get too old.
In a literal interpretation,
the above paragraph makes no sense, much like the average
Wong Jing movie. Still, the point is that I have a golden
opportunity that I can either make or break. Based on potential
and perceived ability, I've been given the chance to either
succeed in Hong Kong as some sort of an expat Hong Kong Cinema
expert. Or, I can fail, return to the US, and continue trying
to run this site - only with the added label that I never
lived up to expectations in HK, and had to pack it in and
return to George Bush Land. I'm supposed to be using this
time to accomplish something, but the current situation is
as supportive as the Hong Kong moviegoing audience. I experience
disdainful glances from waiters and waitresses, plus I experience
the indignity of not being able to pick up any potential Mrs.
Kozos because I can't communicate with them. The result: my
parents won't have grandchildren, I still won't be able to
order food at restaurants, and I will have to live with the
knowledge and shame that I didn't meet expectations.
And all because I could never
develop an outside jump shot. Um, I mean speak Cantonese.