Hong Kong Part 6:
One step forward, one sharp drop
There is no goal for this column.
Specifically, I have no goal in sitting down to write it.
Life with Kozo is not meant to be planned. I
can plan certain things, e.g. what I plan on eating tomorrow,
or what movie I plan on seeing this week. (It's Pirates
of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest, which is only getting
a Hong Kong release a full month after its North American
debut. This international release date stuff is crap, I tell
you.) However, I can't really plan how things will go. I don't
know what the weather will be like in a week, nor do I know
what wacky changes my life in Hong Kong will experience come
September 1st. I have no control over the people who wander
by, nor what they do while existing somewhere around me. Maybe
they'll do good things. Sadly, they can also do bad things.
Sometimes, these bad things can lead to other bad things.
It's all cyclical.
A full five years ago, I lost
my job. I used to work at a home theater store in Northern
California, where I ran their computer systems and worked
on their now-defunct website. That store is now closed, having
gone out of business a few years after I left. My leaving
had no impact on their closing; if anything, it was just a
sign of the inevitable. What wasn't inevitable was that I
had to go sometime. I simply chose the wrong time to do it.
The actual details are probably not worth going into, but
back then I was exceptionally angry with my job, my boss,
and some of my co-workers. I wasn't happy doing what I was
doing, and I continued to stay there unhappily. I had my friends
and supporters at the company, but in the end, my attitude
was not something to be celebrated or condoned. No, I needed
to get the ax.
Which I did, on September 12th,
2001. If anything, the actual timing of my dismissal really
put my personal issues into perspective. If I was going to
get angry over my crappy job just one day after something
of such global magnitude as 9-11 occurred, then I was seriously
twisted. I could have used a break -- and I got it, in the
form of a forced vacation without pay. It was really a good
thing, and even though I was filled with bile and bitternerness
back then, I too knew it was a good thing. Sometimes a divorce
is necessary, and if you can't do it yourself, hopefully someone
has the guts to do it for you. This may not apply to everyone
out there who gets terminated from their job, but it definitely
applied to me. I simply should not have worked at that place
any longer than I had. Hell, I should have left a full year
But thanks to getting the ax,
I had time to think about what I wanted to do with my life.
Running systems at a small store wasn't going to cut it, especially
since the bursting of the IT bubble meant marginally skilled
people like myself would never find a job. To make a long
story short, I screwed around, took some writing courses,
founded this site, developed it, and ended up coming to Hong
Kong a little over 3 years later to work at YesAsia.com. Blah
blah blah...you can get the full lowdown if you read previous
Life With Kozo columns. I swear I could just
copy and paste old columns, reorder them, and then pass them
off as new work. It would probably amount to what I usually
do when I write a column, which is basically talk about the
same old stuff in a new form. I think my standard topics are
A) should I quit this website, B) I'm a lucky guy, C) downloading
sucks, and D) some NBA basketball references. I figure I'll
definitely cover A in this column. I'll try to avoid B through
D, though B usually sneaks in anyway. It's hard to talk about
ending up in Hong Kong without talking about how lucky I am.
Hell, let's just go straight
to B. I know I'm lucky, because I was hired to be an English
Editor at YesAsia.com despite having no formal experience
or training as an Editor. Basically, I was hired because I
wrote a wacky website about Hong Kong movies, the rationale
being that if I could string all these words together, publish
them, and keep the mistakes to an acceptable minimum, then
I could probably do the same for YesAsia.com. I assume I was
able to do that, because since then I've received two promotions.
In practical terms, that means I now have absolute power over
a 1 inch space on every YesAsia.com product page -- the English
pages, anyway. But merit isn't the main reason for my success,
if you could call it that. Both times I got promoted, someone
above me either left the company or opted to transfer.
What's that called again? Oh yeah,
So yes, I'm a lucky guy. There's
really not another word for it. But having made it to where
I am (if one could even call this "making it"),
I've found myself in a very strange position. Basically, my
entire reason for ending up where I am right now has all but
disappeared. I no longer do much writing about Asian Cinema,
and instead concern myself with new initiatives, management
tasks and personnel issues. That last responsiblity has its
own pitfalls, because sometimes you end up having to say or
do things that you simply do not want to do. You also have
to make judgements that you don't want to make, and essentially
put larger issues in front of the standard afterschool special
stuff, like feelings, fairness, and friendship.
Once upon a time, I thought I just
wanted to be everyone's buddy. Of course, that's impossible.
Hell, having this website has taught me that. I still get
e-mails blasting me for my opinions, and of course saying
what I say probably earns me no friends in the Hong Kong Entertainment
circle. Sometimes I wonder if it does me any good at all.
Recently, I've been looking at a lot of other websites, and
what I've discovered is that my writing has not improved in
the last 1-2 years. New Asian Cinema sites are cropping up
all the time, and this one is stalled because I spend only
a fraction of the time that others do working on it. Since
working at YesAsia.com, I've discovered that there are actually
webmasters out there who make their living running their websites.
It's a full time job for them, from licensing out their content
to earning affiliate dollars and advertising revenue. Given
traffic, I could probably do the same thing, meaning I could
load up the site with ads, and apply to every affiliate program
known to man, from YesAsia.com to [insert competitor site
here] and [insert other competitor site here]. I could make
this my fulltime job.
Except it brings me back to
the original problem: I'm not sure what my writing skills
really are. I don't have much experience writing features,
nor am I exceptionally good at writing news. Even my review
skills are a bit suspect, as I'm not an academic, and instead
choose to approach stuff from a fan point of view. In many
ways, I consider myself an amateur. I never planned on being
a writer or film reviewer, and instead choose to do it because
at the time, I didn't have anything better to do. I'm now
five years older, and I live in the country that spawned this
whole mess in the first place. Sadly, the cinema is rapidly
dying here in Hong Kong, and new releases are few and far
between. The reason for this is the usual: reduced profits,
illegal downloading (Editor note: I just referenced Standard
Topic C), no new talent, etc. Hong Kong Cinema is a shadow
of its former self, though I still watch whatever comes down
the pipeline, even if those films include Dating a Vampire
and Half Twin. I'm not sure if I'm dedicated or just
stupid. Surely there must be better things to do with my time.
But there aren't, actually.
In many ways, I would consider this website the only thing
I've ever achieved because really, I'm not sure I've achieved
much of anything else. I have been exceptionally lucky, because
I got to this point with absolutely no planning or forethought
-- which is actually scary if you think about it. Back when
I got terminated from my previous job, I also had no plan,
and simply existed day to day, earning my paycheck and grousing
over how things at my company were not being done in the way
I thought they should. After a while, thoughts like that will
make it to the top, and when they do, there will be consequences.
If I had thought about my plans, about my future, maybe I
wouldn't have acted so short-sightedly. Maybe I could have
planned for a career in systems adminstration, or simply left
the job earlier because I realized that there was nothing
left for me there. At that job, my luck ran out, and when
it was over, all I had were my savings, some hard lessons,
and the raw skills to put together this website.
I guess it's turned out okay, but
if I've learned anything all, I should think about what the
next step is. Should I continue to do things the way that
I've done them: take my job as it comes, accept whatever new
responsiblities arise, and run this questionably relevant
website on the side? Or, should I reformat my thinking, find
a goal, develop whatever skills I think I have, and try to
achieve more? Does that goal even involve LoveHKFilm.com?
After all, it's no longer the #1 Asian Film Site on Alexa,
and has lost relevance because it doggedly covers a cinema
that is considered a joke in many parts. I actively ignore
the obviously superior quality of current Korean and Japanese
cinema for films like Lethal Ninja, We Are Family,
and -- coming to a review page near you -- Midnight Running,
Without Words, and maybe even A Wondrous Bet.
None of those films is going to be playing a festival anytime
soon, and if I actually love one of them, I'll be the most
surprised person in the room.
But I'll probably still review them.
Basically, that's what I do: watch everything even though
quality and actual enjoyment is a fool's dream. Even the worst
movies that come out Korea look like gold thanks to the beautiful
production values and polished technique. Here in Hong Kong,
we have Kung Fu Mahjong 2, which features an apartment
set that looks worse than the apartment I currently live in.
If that's not a warning sign, then I don't know what is.
But for now, I guess this is where
I am. I'm not holding my breath that these movies will be
that great, but at the very least I want to be there when
they actually do get better. It's not what I want to be doing
10 years from now, but it's good enough for the next six to
eight months. Until I think of something better, holding out
hope for Hong Kong is as good a goal as any.