Ulpotha has been named the “Best Yoga Retreat in Sri Lanka” for good reasons. It’s a truly unforgettable experience for anyone seeking a retreat from urban life, rather than a resort to indulge in alternative excesses and over-packaged pampering. I don’t have much to add to Ulpotha’s beautiful website (http://www.ulpotha.com). Magical Ulpotha leaves little room for exaggeration or false advertising.
Saturday, 21 June 2014
Wednesday, 4 June 2014
轉眼又到“六四”。這年頭的香港，光陰依然似箭，不過是電影裏的火箭：看上去很快，卻去不了地方，只在原地噴火，隆隆發聲。散場後坐著不走的話，電影還會重播，內容一模一樣。我在09年6月5號寫的一篇遊戲文章，現在重讀，竟然沒有過時。以下基本上是五年前的原文，略作修改，和補充了帝國老闆幾年來的最新動向而已：“六四”是個很值得慶祝的日子。試想二十年前沒有鄧小平的果斷，適當時候平息風波，今天的中國會是甚麼樣子？香港又會是甚麼樣子呢？很多國家都會慶祝“重光日”和“勝利日”，原因是那歷史性的一天防止了大家淪為亡國奴。從這角度看，“六四” 的性質與“重光勝利日” 相似，應該列為法定假期。要遊行的可以早點開始，多燒兩條蠟燭，讓賣蠟燭的人多賺兩塊錢。
Friday, 30 May 2014
Two weeks in Iran showed me the extent to which a country can be savagely demonised by the corporate free press. I was surprised by the contrast between what I saw, and what’s commonly portrayed in TV and newspapers. I hope my pictures have said at least a few words.
Sunday, 25 May 2014
Persia’s Achaemenid Empire once kinda stretched from Turkey in the west to Pakistan in the East. Its founder Cyrus the Great (circa 600 to 530 BCE), and legendary capital Persepolis (eventually razed by Alexander the Pyromaniac) may evoke a glorious past, but are no match for Hafez and Saadi in capturing the soul and passion of Iran. Few other people revere their poets like Iranians do. The mausoleum of Hafez is still packed with admirers after more than 600 years. They seek solace from his philosophical love poems, even use them as soothsayings to calm the mind and heart. Saadi Shirazi who lived a century before Hafez is similarly remembered.
|The ruins of Persepolis, capital of the largest empire 2500 years ago|
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
|Visitor Contemplating a 1500-year-old Fire behind glass|
in Zoroastrian Temple in Yadz
在 Yadz 拜火庙的火盘，供人隔着玻璃观赏参拜。
Religion and the Middle East are inseparable. Iran is no exception, though the average Iranians are not nearly as devout as they appear to outsiders. Started out as monotheistic Parsees (Zoroastrians) in the 6th Century, ancient Persians worshipped a God named Ahura Mazda (unrelated to the Japanese car) with an unremitting fire maintained by a keeper. A few centuries later, it was replaced by Islam, brought in by Arabic conquerors. It has since dominated the spiritual side of Iran, especially after the Islamic Revolution 35 years ago. Zoroastrian has survived as a minor religion, and some fire temples are still in use.
Sunday, 18 May 2014
|Tehran Bazaar 德黑兰市集|
Whenever I visit a strange place, I like to see its markets. They tell me a lot about the locals’ lives, habits, social order, living standard, and behaviour towards each other. For example, supermarkets are efficient, impersonal, and cold, while advertising “organic” produce. I wonder who invented them.
Persian Bazaars are colourful, personal, and busy, but clean and quiet comparing with their Far East counterparts. Iranians do bargain, but not at the expense of sanity and composure. They don’t scream and exchange curses ritualistically before finalising a deal. The bazaars open early in the morning, then take a long nap after lunch before resuming in the late afternoon. Normally, there’s a seemingly incongruous tomb of an imam and/or a religious school in the midst of fragrant herbs and sticky candies, probably to remind people of their spiritual needs while depraving the bodies with yummy food and colourful fabrics.
Saturday, 17 May 2014
When newspaper-reading friends first learnt of my plan to join a few retirees for a trip to Iran, their common reaction was: “Iran? You be careful huh.” As departure approached, I became slightly nervous about adventuring into Bush's “Axis of Evil”, braving a “yellow travel alert” dutifully echoed by the Hong Kong Government. I even considered buying insurance for the first time. However, anxiety was no match for my curiosity about the only other ancient civilisation which still thinks reasonably independently.
前阵子有几位退休朋友自己组团游伊朗，我立即报名参加。除了中国，当今世上还能基本上思想独立的文明古国就只有伊朗，非要看看不可。 但很多经常看报纸的朋友们知道之后，都面带忧色地警告我小心。“踏足美国的邪恶轴心非同小可，惟望三思而行。” 可惜退缩已经太迟，最后只有鼓起勇气，与家人拥抱道别之后，战战兢兢地登上飞机。
Monday, 28 April 2014
Slightly edited version of "The Sins of Sin",
Originally anthologised by Hong Kong Writers Circle
Sin went through the morning’s news clippings for the fifth time, sucking desperately at a fibre of lunchtime chicken lodged between molars, making loud slippery tzits! He stuffed his half-finished lunchbox into the paper basket without closing the lid, then searched fruitlessly for a toothpick.
His secretary Flora was returning from lunch, shuffling past his open door to take position behind her desk for another two hundred and ten minutes before she was free to go. Though only a few metres from her, he summoned her with the intercom as a matter of principle: “Flora. Do you have a toothpick?”
“No Mr. Sin,” she replied in an intimidated voice that some suspected was a result of having worked for Sin all these years.
“Can you first look?”
“I know I don’t Mr. Sin but I can look anyway if you wish.”
“Forget it. Just come in.”
She entered, goggling him in silence, not wondering what he might want. She had given up on that long ago.
“Can you make a copy?” He eyed the news clippings on his desk, picking his teeth with a straightened paper clip. His “media contact” Winnie Poon had asked a few questions outside the courtroom yesterday, mentioning his new title, just as he had skillfully hinted. Her question on cross-border corruption had been a surprise, but he had handled it well. He was extremely pleased with the result: “No Territorial Boundary in the Battle against Corruption”, said Senior Assistant Director. Fantastic, he thought. Visionary, bold, and righteous. It would attract many “likes” if he could share it on Facebook.
英文版本原名 "The Sins of Sin",
收录於 Hong Kong Writers Circle
冼福音把吃剩大半的叉烧油鸡饭盒，盖也懒掩便塞进了身旁的废纸箩，眼睛未离开过办公桌上的新闻剪稿。他今早已经把剪稿欣赏过四五遍，但仍意犹未尽。他传媒界的“关系” Winnie 潘诗菲昨天在法院门外的突发问题，他当时毫无准备，只好凭急智对应。哈！想不到效果甚佳，连他的新职衔也上了标题：“高级助理刑事检控专员冼福音资深大律师认为打击贪腐不应有国界之分！” 说得好！假如放上Facebook，肯定会招引一大堆 “赞”。他一边看剪报，一边猛力吮吸一条卡在牙缝的鸡肉，剔嘁有声，可恨效果不大。刚巧他的秘书午饭回来，脚下无声地溜过他的房门，回到座位等放工。她还有两百一十分钟才可重获一天的自由。
“冼蛇，没有。” Flora 微弱的声音，不但充分表露了信心崩溃，还隐约带了一种重拾无期的绝望感。有人怀疑这是她多年来与冼福音共事的副作用。
Flora 拿起剪报，刚准备转身时，他突然改变了主意：“三份吧。” 心想：多印两份没坏。
英文版本原名 "The Sins of Sin",
收錄於 Hong Kong Writers Circle
冼福音把吃剩大半的叉燒油雞飯盒，蓋也懶掩便塞進了身旁的廢紙籮，眼睛未離開過辦公桌上的新聞剪稿。他今早已經把剪稿欣賞過四五遍，但仍意猶未盡。他傳媒界的“關係” Winnie 潘詩菲昨天在法院門外的突發問題，他當時毫無準備，只好憑急智對應。哈！想不到效果甚佳，連他的新職銜也上了標題：“高級助理刑事檢控專員冼福音資深大律師認為打擊貪腐不應有國界之分！” 說得好！假如放上Facebook，肯定會招引一大堆 “贊”。他一邊看剪報，一邊猛力吮吸一條卡在牙縫的雞肉，剔嘁有聲，可恨效果不大。剛巧他的秘書午飯回來，腳下無聲地溜過他的房門，回到座位等放工。她還有兩百一十分鐘才可重獲一天的自由。
“冼蛇，沒有。” Flora 微弱的聲音，不但充分表露了信心崩潰，還隱約帶了一種重拾無期的絕望感。有人懷疑這是她多年來與冼福音共事的副作用。
Flora 拿起剪報，剛準備轉身時，他突然改變了主意：“三份吧。” 心想：多印兩份“無蝕底”。
Friday, 11 April 2014
What’s going on? Criticising the occult of Democracy has suddenly gone mainstream?
Just within the past few weeks, I’ve read, with utter disbelief, first in The Economist, then The Washington Post, warnings that Democracy could collapse unless reformed. Even Professor Francis Fukuyama, writer of “The End of History and the Last Man” who declared liberal democracy to be the ultimate political model of mankind, has joined rank. It’s like witnessing the Vatican expressing doubt over the Genesis.
I’ve listed the links of these incredible but excellent essays below, plus a couple of my old blasphemous pieces which questioned the viability of Democracy, especially when coupled with extreme capitalism and mass petulance. Hey, these “eccentric and cynical” views are now kinda mainstream! I still find it difficult to take in, and wonder what the catch is. . .
世界真的变得越来越快，快得有点儿不真实。几个星期前，我根本不能想像 “民主” 这神性不可侵犯的大迷信，会被西方主流传媒认真批判。
这几周内，首先是超保守的英国 “经济学人”，然后是 “华盛顿邮报”，轮流对西方肆意式民主的前途作出前所未有的认真检讨和批判，甚至坦然承认若不改革，整个制度可能会面临崩溃。现在甚至连曾经预测西方民主将会成为人类 “终极制度” 的福山教授，也改变了看法，承认民主发展下去是个大死结。
Monday, 31 March 2014
Modern memories, like attention span, are fashionably short for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which being incessant shrinking and conditioning by the mass media. Another reason could be mental overload. There are way too many baffling issues, some real, some fabricated, designed to confuse.
Many survivors of WW2 are still alive with their scars and memories, yet the denial and reinvention of history have commenced before their eyes. No wonder Iraq has been largely forgotten. But countless Iraqis are still dead, for reasons that never existed. They are the relatively lucky ones though. Thousands of deformed children, DNA warped by depleted uranium bombs, are yet to face life in a broken country. What about Guatanamo Bay, the 21st Century torture camp operated by the most vociferous lecturer of human rights and rule of law, offering indefinite detention without bothering to stage even a show trial?
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
“THOSE WHO FAIL TO LEARN FROM HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT”
Winston Churchill was the last famous person to have warned us of that.
But we still refuse to learn because facing history’s dark pages is upsetting.
“Banzai! Banzai!! Tennouheika Banzai!!!”
The euphoric cheers filled Eleanor Thompson with disgust rather than horror. There was no fear left in her. She felt only revulsion, pure and intense, incinerating her numb body.
Her stomach went into spasm. A mouthful of acid erupted. She chocked, biting hard on the stick tied over her mouth to prevent her from chewing up her tongue. Pungent liquid spouted from her mouth. Some shot up the nose. She coughed and blew it out, surprised by the force.
No! Beasts don’t do this. No other animal would line up — drinking, smoking, singing, exchanging hometown tales — while waiting to force sex on another animal tied to a chair. Only these sub-bestial demons could. Sure, rapes happen during war times. She had heard many stories since becoming a military nurse, horrifying stories which would have been absolutely unseemly for a girl like her just a year before. War had abruptly moulted her well preserved innocence, presented a new stark face of the brutal world. Women bearing the consequence of men’s aggression seemed nothing new. But never so brazen, organised and endorsed.
Never like this…
She looked down. The blanket had slid from her shoulders, bunching at the waist. She was trembling slightly, from rage rather than the cool December air. Vomit and blood was crawling down her chest. She could not feel it on the skin, but the sight was gratifying. “Good. Filthier the better!” She heard her own exhausted voice inside, as if coming from the far end of a long dark tunnel, then closed her eyes.
Thursday, 30 January 2014
Sunday, 5 January 2014
According to a New Scientist presentation (http://exoplanets.newscientistapps.com/), a simulation based on data collected by the Kepler Telescope suggests roughly 10 to 30 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way which might harbour life. The Milky Way is of course just a speck of dust in the cosmos - less than "a grain of sand in the Ganges". Isn't this is an excellent scale to measure the disproportionate self-importance of Homo sapiens?
“新科学家”（http://exoplanets.newscientistapps.com/）报导：用“开普勒望远镜”数据所作出的估计指出，单在银河系就有100 到 300亿与地球相似的星球，可能有生物存在。而银河系在宇宙中只不过“恒河一沙”。“三千大千世界”这形容词似乎一点也不夸张。反正人类对自己的“独特”和重要性，随时高估了几十万亿倍！令我禁不住要学和尚们作偈自娱：
Monday, 30 December 2013
我写笙歌的时候，每朝起来都会满脑子情节。故事中人昨天的遭遇，由于我要吃晚饭而被暂时冻结。今天他们苏醒之后，究竟会如何反应呢？我变成了“欲知后事如何 必须续写下回” 的心急人。吃罢早餐，连忙打开电脑找答案。我对故事主人翁们的命运的好奇，变成了一种推动力。
When working on Man’s Last Song, I discovered that a story has its own life force.
Most mornings, I would wake with a headful of ideas, wondering how to match them with my fictional characters. I had left them for dinner the night before, temporary frozen in a situation. How would they continue today? After breakfast, I rushed to the computer, anxious to find out. The story, yet incomplete, was spurring me on with the intrigue of its emerging fate.
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Movie “37” is a Mainland and HK joint production, supported by the Hong Kong Film Development Council, directed by Chen Guo Xin. Main actresses include Liu Xiao Qing, Charlie Yeung, and Lin Miao Ke.
When a friend invited me to view the movie, promising breathtaking scenery and delightful songs by cute and organic Mongolian children, I was skeptical. I love good movies but don’t have the stamina to sit through bad ones. That’s why going to the cinema has become an annual event. The occasional experimental artsy creation could be a pleasant surprise; unfortunately, most are impenetrable. Straightforward coherence, though extremely rare in everyday life, is paradoxically regarded ordinary and unoriginal by many artists.
The name “37” turned out to be the worst thing about the movie. It was beautiful, moving and charming, not hokey as I cynically suspected.
Saturday, 26 October 2013
Man's Last Song
by HK Writers Circle
* * *
by Laura Besley
by HK Writers Circle
Read Chapter ONE:
* * *
by Laura Besley
"It's Hong Kong -- but not as we know it. The year is 2090 and Song Sung, 42, is the youngest person alive. James Tam's debut novel, Man's Last Song, is a complex-yet-compelling exploration into the balance of mankind -- for individuals, as well as for humanity as a whole. This superbly written dystopian novel is appealing on many levels: for its dramatic use of Hong Kong, for the intriguing characters, for the questions raised and, more importantly, for those which are left unanswered. A highly recommended read."
Monday, 14 October 2013
Yesterday was Chong Yang, one of two annual grave sweeping festivals in Chinese tradition. A few years ago, Chong Yang and Halloween fell on the same day. East met West in the afterlife. After visiting ancestral graveyards, youngsters dressed up as Count Dracula or George W Bush for a macabre good time in Lan Kwai Fong.
It was a beautiful autumn day yesterday. After the beach and lunch, we made a spontaneous visit to the Military Cemetery at Stanley, and was spooked by an uncanny coincidence...
Monday, 30 September 2013
(I wrote this piece for the Hong Kong Writers Circle on-line newsletter to substitute for a panel discussion planned earlier.)
Writing about something as dynamic and diverse as Asia at this exciting juncture could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for writers living here; but chances are most of us would miss it.
Asia is changing at an unprecedented rate, causing a historic paradigm shift yet to be understood, hence the challenge. Most people, writers included, are more comfortable with familiar patterns and hindsight than gazing into the unknown, particularly when the road to future appears chaotically revolutionary as well as hesitantly evolutionary.
When we “write about Asia”, therefore, we could be talking about a dramatically different place depending on whether it’s in the past, present, or future.
Friday, 6 September 2013
Reality being increasingly counter-intuitive is not only a problem in politics. Quantum mechanics is also taking us further and further away from the neat and simple perception of reality that Homo sapiens have enjoyed for millennia. The more we think we know, the less sure we become. Perhaps it’s meant to be.
The latest dilemma is that “Reality, Relativity, Causality, and Freewill” cannot coexist (New Scientist No.219 Vol 2928, 3 Aug 2013). One of them has to go. But which one? To me, the answer is obvious: Freewill!
I suspect General Freewill to be an anthropocentric delusion spawned by arrogance and wishful thinking, a notion I briefly entertained fictionally in Man’s Last Song. Believe it or not, I reached this conclusion through a mathematical approach. Well, kind of.