Saturday, 30 December 2006

給Anita的信

Dearest Anita,

你好嗎?這些日子以來,你到哪兒玩去了?否則這一年來怎會影蹤全無?

自從去年你到夢中來看我,轉眼又一年了。

到了十二月,心頭總免不了一陣鬱悶和傷感。即使上個月升了職,算是過去三年來的辛勞得到了正式的認同,還是揮不去心上的陰霾。

也許,自從三年前你在十二月離開之後,我這輩子的十二月,再也不一樣了。

不知道為甚麼,我喜歡的人和事,總是選擇在十二月離去。除了你,還有樂蒂和尤敏兩位前輩。即使我跟她們素未謀面,只在發黃的照片和老電影中瞻仰過她們的丰采,總算是結下了難得的緣分。就像你一樣,她們的氣質和才藝,如今在香港已經絕跡了。我想我有生之年,也不會再有這個福分,見識到能跟你們媲美的明星。

也許你要取笑我太武斷,我才三十多歲,人生還有一段很長的路要走。但是,生命的長短,有誰能說得準呢?當日有誰猜想得到,你慶祝了四十歲生日還沒到三個月,就要跟我們說再見?

即使我的生命真的還有很多日子,我仍然深信,香港再也培養不了像你那樣的全能表演藝術家,更孕育不了像樂蒂和尤敏那樣高貴優雅、純真清麗的女性典範。

為甚麼?想你也應該很清楚,當這裡的一切變得唯利是圖、錙銖必較,付出的就有合理期望要得到回報;當人與人之間只是顧客和供應商貨銀兩訖的利益關係;當刻苦耐勞、律己以嚴、體諒和關懷淪為笑柄,被貼上「戇居」、「愚笨」、「感情用事」、「失去理性」等標籤,我就知道,需要用心表達、用心體會的藝術,已經距離香港愈來愈遠了。

缺少了藝術的薰陶,香港人的人格、氣質和修養也不會好到哪兒去。

所以,兩星期前在演藝學院欣賞《帝女花》第二回合的時候,看到因感冒而失了聲的嗲姐咬緊牙關,聲嘶力竭地唱出每一個字、說出每一句口白,我只感到一陣無法抑止的心痛和恐懼,真想衝上台去抱住她放聲大哭--就像三年前看你Classic Moment演唱會的時候一樣。

我真的很心痛,原來只有在她抱病演出的時候,那麼多觀眾才會覺得她專業,才會覺得自己付錢買票受到尊重,才會給她遲來而應得的掌聲。

我真的很害怕,害怕她這次勉強自己,賠上了嗓子,也賠上了事業。

因為我已經失去了你,實在不想連她也失去了。

三年前,你離開了;如今仍活躍於舞台而我打從心底裡喜歡和敬佩的表演藝術家,就只有嗲姐了。

儘管我也免不了心下暗忖,不知還有多少機會看到她的演出。畢竟她已經不年輕了,而且近年粵劇市場嚴重萎縮,觀眾、演員和編劇也後繼無人。

唉,真是愈想愈絕望。

說起來真荒謬,不是嗎?我還不到四十歲,但身邊滿載美好回憶的人和事,不是消失殆盡,就是漸漸變成明日黃花。腦海裡的回憶,從此變成沒有腳的鳥兒,只能一直飛到油盡燈枯的一刻。

這些年來香港陸續拆毀了多少建築物,街道面貌變得如何面目全非,相信不必我多說,你也很清楚了。香港枉有美食天堂之譽,卻連我從小最愛的腸粉、魚蛋粉等小吃,也被千篇一律的味精濃湯和偷工減料的機壓河粉所蹧蹋。現在居然要老遠的跑到澳門去,才吃得著由專心致志的粉麵師傅,勤勤懇懇地揉搓出來的鮮甜和甘香。

就在兩個星期前,陪著我度過美好童年的中環舊天星碼頭和鐘樓,也落得粉身碎骨、灰飛煙滅的下場,真不知道像我這樣才三十出頭的人,還可以把回憶和思念寄托在甚麼地方。

近日Patricia回來了,跟她談起你和嗲姐的時候,我還是忍不住掉眼淚。她總勸我收拾心情,繼續發掘這世上更美好、更精彩的東西。我當然明白這道理,但哪有這麼容易?老實說,我已經給你們寵壞了,總覺得旁人再好,說甚麼也比不上你們--不是技巧,也不是外貌,而是對表演鄭重而虔敬的心。你們的歌聲都是發自肺腑的,聽在耳裡,總讓我心裡泛起一陣難以言喻的悸動。

如今過盡千帆,還是沒遇上另一把能夠挑動那破碎情懷的歌聲。

古語有云:「涓滴之恩,湧泉相報。」既然領受了你們的恩惠,自當盡力報答,未敢稍忘。

說起你和嗲姐,在性格方面可能很不同,但你們對表演的執著和熱誠、對歌迷和觀眾只管付出、不問收穫的情義,其實沒有兩樣的。你們都是寧願自己吃虧,也不肯讓歌迷和觀眾失望的有心人,讓我不得不問一句:我們到底何德何能,怎配得上接受你們如此厚愛?

其實你們不必告訴我,跟隨了你們這許多年,我早知道你們會這樣回答:「這是我們對歌迷和觀眾的責任和道義。這是應該的。」

可是,現在的人心和以前不一樣了。你們認為理所當然的事情,現在可能被人嗤之以鼻,甚至反過來成為他們批評的理由。儘管每個人也有自己的想法,但看到這些批評的時候,總是忍不住替你們難過--因為那些批評本來是不應該出現的啊。

不過,現在事情總算過去了,只希望瑕不掩瑜,大家會永遠記住你們的好,那我就安心了。

好了,就說到這兒吧。謹祝你和Ann姊新年快樂。有空的話,也請你為嗲姐和香港的未來多點祝禱吧。

Forever yours,

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

逃避過去,傷痕纍纍--《傷城》觀後

看完了《傷城》,才明白為甚麼這部電影在香港的票房,比不上金雕玉砌的《滿城盡帶黃金甲》。

《傷城》明顯地延續了《無間道》沉鬱傷感的調子,在全城消費五十億來度聖誕的當兒,誰還願意記起三、四年前貧病交煎的惡夢?

也許因為看戲前沒期望,總覺得《傷城》拍得不算差,攝影和配樂尤其出色,可惜宣傳語「見證完美殺局的誕生」,因循苟且地把電影定位為犯罪懸疑片,註定了要讓觀眾失望。

所以,有影評說編導太早揭破了幕後黑手的廬山真面目,主角的自白也嫌太冗長,削弱了戲劇的張力,我也不會感到意外。如果以懸疑片視之,《傷城》的確不及格。

在這消費者權燄高漲的年頭,令觀眾失望,就是十惡不赦;即使作品水準再高,也不會有甚麼好評。

其實《傷城》的片名,早已透露了一點玄機。這根本不是甚麼懸疑劇情片,而是一篇簡淡的影像散文,透過兩個來自不同的城市而同樣被回憶折磨多年的男人,訴說一個逃避現實的城市的悲涼。

這個城市不是別的,正是我們身處的香港。

《傷城》裡的香港,是一個面目模糊、陰冷深沉的城市。在喧囂熱鬧之下,埋藏著濃重的寂寞和淒涼。無論是中環半山的酒色笙歌、銅鑼灣綄紗街一帶的寧靜安逸、鯉魚門木屋陋巷的骯髒齷齪,還是山頂豪宅俯視天下的氣勢,都有一份揮之不去的藍色憂鬱。反觀澳門的場景,卻充滿亮麗鮮明的陽光氣息。導演捨棄了象徵繁華的賭場和夜店,把鏡頭聚焦於明亮樸實的教堂、圖書館和修道院,總讓人感到窩心的溫暖和親切。即使在滅門慘案的老房子,那些搖曳在明媚陽光下的晾衣繩和架空電線,也稍微沖淡了恐怖血腥的氣氛。

來自澳門和香港的兩個男主角,也延續了這個對比,不過主角所屬的城市卻相調了。金城武飾演的邦是香港人,他那鍥而不捨的性格,讓他三年來一直無法擺脫女朋友突然割腕自殺的夢魘。然而這一份執著,令他終於發現了女朋友自殺的真相,然後放下包袱,欣然開始另一段感情。梁朝偉飾演的劉正熙是個澳門孤兒,他為了保住性命,改名換姓來到香港,一心忘掉前塵,展開新生活。但一次偶然的機會,還是燃起了他內心深處壓抑多年的怒火和怨恨,結果毀了別人,也毀了自己。

所謂傷心人別有懷抱,觀照香港近日發生的事情,難免會把這些對比,看作別有用心的諷喻。

無論是人或是城市,如果不肯坦然面對過去,傷口就沒可能癒合,包袱就沒可能放下;傷口不癒合,包袱放不下,就沒有新生、沒有未來,只有悲劇的下場。

不知道香港能否有一天像戲裡的金城武那樣鍥而不捨,浴火重生,讓我和《傷城》編導那麼悲觀的人,眼鏡掉滿一地。

Monday, 25 December 2006

Christmas Thoughts

I was amazed to read the front-page headline of Ming Pao Daily News yesterday, "One million seek festivities in shopping malls".

Isn't it awful to see that so many people in Hong Kong don't seem to have anything better to do during festivities but to waste their time making a way through the dull and suffocating shopping arcades?

Perhaps most people in Hong Kong are too afraid to be left alone. They enjoy seeing and being seen in the anonymous but annoying crowd, especially during festivities, to reinforce their sense of existence. They are so obsessed with hanging around but doing nothing in the most popular shopping arcades that, it seems, if they don't show up in front of the public, they would evaporate into the air like the morning dew under the sun and be gone forever.

This is why I find living in the heart of town a nightmare that has grown worse year by year. I wonder how much longer I can bear with the irritating noise and inconvenience. A week before Christmas, the streets and shopping malls in this part of Hong Kong were already jammed by faceless people moving slowly and wearily to nowhere. Looking at the crowds flooding in all directions in the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, for example, always reminds me of the opening scene of Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times.

Just like a herd of sheep squeezing their way out of the gate by someone unseen and unknown behind their backs.

Obviously most people don't buy as much as the shopping arcade operators and retailers would like them to, but so many people really seem to enjoy the atmosphere created by the glamorous props, lights and backdrop. You can tell on people's faces how eager and obsessed they are to take a picture in front of the glittering lights and decorations. They seem to believe that without taking a picture against the million-dollar backdrops at the shopping malls, they would not have enjoyed festivities in the generally accepted and expected manner.

And this difference would make them odd, embarrassed and lonely, the most terrible thing to have on earth.

The same theory applies to shopping. At a time when all festivities have been transformed into opportunities for marketing hypnoses aimed at pressing people to buy at the subconscious level, few can resist the temptation of following suit.

In many cases, people also buy and eat and drink exactly the same items as shown in advertisements and what they believe to be the custom, even though it is the custom of another remote culture. People often think they have to do something just like the others do, but don't bother to stop and think why they should do it in the first place.

This is the copycat mentality that worries me most about the future of Hong Kong. Why should we always follow the footsteps of someone else instead of taking a bold step forward in the first place? Why should we be afraid to be different? I understand very well that we used to make a fortune by copying the work and practice of others in the fledging stage of our development, but it is time for us to re-think our strategy when the circumstances have changed so drastically.

It is more than the issue of protecting intellectual property. It is about developing new competitive edge and sustaining and strengthening our existing advantages that have been eroding rapidly over the past decade.

We have waited long enough in idle. If we don't take our problems seriously and tackle them from the basics, we are doomed to be marginalised not by our competitors, but our own arrogance and complacence.

May God bless Hong Kong. Amen.

Friday, 22 December 2006

在天星碼頭遺址唱一闋〈香夭〉

當我仍沉溺於《帝女花》戲裡戲外的蒼涼和傷感,見證了香港半個世紀變遷的中環舊天星碼頭和鐘樓,竟於上星期六,即12月16日,在眾目睽睽之下給凌遲處死,然後運往屯門堆填區毀屍滅跡。

《帝女花》的周世顯誤以為公主香消玉殞,向趨炎附勢的周鍾乞屍未果,但一年後仍可在維摩庵裡與遁跡空門的公主重逢。那麼,我們跟舊天星碼頭和鐘樓,以及那悠揚親切的鐘聲,還有相會之日嗎?

唐滌生先生的巨著《帝女花》,與那被機械鐵臂剁成齏粉的舊天星碼頭和鐘樓,本來是風馬牛不相及的事兒。不過,巧合的是,兩者都是同年誕生、今年芳齡四十九,早就成為香港市民生活一部分的老伴。

就拿我自己來說吧:我出生於1973年,吃電視劇和粵語流行曲的奶水長大,早就錯過了「仙鳳鳴」的瑰麗傳奇,也跟「雛鳳鳴」的風流韻事擦身而過。然而膾炙人口的〈香夭〉,還有鄭君綿的惡搞版「落街無錢買麵包,靠賒我又怕被人鬧……」,總算是自小聽熟了的。小學一年級的時候,隨家人從尖沙咀的唐樓搬到中環堅道一帶的舊房子居住,一住就是五、六年。在天星碼頭鐘樓悅耳的鐘聲下,乘坐渡海小輪往返尖沙咀和中環、到大會堂圖書館看書借書,從此成為我童年回憶最重要的部分,就像呼吸和心跳一樣理所當然。

唐代有崔護慨嘆「人面不知何處去,桃花依舊笑春風」,宋代李清照也有《武陵春》詞云:「物是人非事事休,欲語淚先流」。如今香江人事泰半依舊,景物卻已全非;我們那份應接不暇的滄海禾黍之感,只怕比崔護和李清照更難承受。

於四十九年前首演的《帝女花》,早獲公認是香江梨園的壓卷之作,在香港人心中享有無出其右的崇高地位。座落中環的天星碼頭,也許欠缺了像「仙鳳鳴」的名牌效應作招徠,但它默默服務香港半世紀,早就成為連接中環心臟地帶的咽喉要衝,地位同樣舉足輕重。不管你是來自康樂大廈、文華酒店的富豪巨賈,還是立法會、市政局的政要名流,也免不了在碼頭和鐘樓前留下足跡。

相信沒有人會質疑《帝女花》和中環天星碼頭在香港歷史文化中的重要地位,然而這兩個備受香港人推崇和愛護的文化標誌,卻始終無法得到政府高層的青睞。莫說多年來政府對富於歷史文化意義的粵劇和特色建築物視而不見,沒有投放資源加以推廣和維護,就連冷冰冰不帶感情的官方讚賞也付諸闕如。《帝女花》至少還有魄力驚人、抱負不凡的白雪仙主持大局,造就了「平生不識《帝女花》,就稱英雄也枉然」的局面,但天星碼頭呢?當年小輪公司早已表明不願搬到人跡罕至的新碼頭,否則可能要大幅加價來維持服務;但大家只是一廂情願地認為那是商業機構向政府討價還價的手段,全沒意識到這原來是一場把香港人血肉心魂連根拔起的文化清洗暴行。

我只是不明白,同樣是接受英國殖民教育的香港人,為甚麼那些在政府辦公大樓裡呼風喚雨的高級官員,無法體會我們這一輩對香港那份坦率而純樸的感情?無法明白一個城市在財政預算案、股票市場、地產買賣等數字遊戲以外的真正價值?如果曾蔭權真的「喝香港水,流香港血」,真的為自己身為香港人--而不是自詡為社會精英,實則與時代脈搏嚴重脫節的庸碌之徒--而自豪,能夠對手無寸鐵、與世無爭的天星碼頭和鐘樓下此毒手嗎?

可是,如今舊天星碼頭和鐘樓已經長埋黃土,無法修復了。即使政府願意重建鐘樓,選址也不可能在尺金寸土的中環。鐘樓和鐘聲本來就屬於中環的,也是中環的靈魂所在;跟中環割裂了的鐘樓和鐘聲,我實在不稀罕。大概只有那些喜歡附庸風雅、拾人牙慧的政府高層,才會念念不忘在赤柱海濱重建美利樓的「盛舉」。在他們眼中,這是香港保存古蹟的成功經驗;但在我看來,美利樓只是一座靈魂與軀殼被強行割裂、血跡斑斑的廢墟而已。

香港人素來善忘,不知道明年以後的12月16日,還有多少人記得大會堂對面的海濱,曾經聳立著一座熙來攘往了四十九年的渡輪碼頭,還有那風雨不改地每十五分鐘報時一次的柔和鐘聲?當白雪仙和「雛鳳鳴」都離開了舞台,有誰還記得在某個遲來的冬天,一遍又一遍地為香港唱著〈香夭〉這闋蒼涼淒怨的輓歌?

在這寒風蕭瑟的日子裡,就讓我在天星碼頭和鐘樓的遺址,輕輕地唱一闋〈香夭〉,悼念那逝去了、只能活在記憶裡的香港。

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Star Ferry Pier Murdered at 49


I wonder why none of the local newspapers published the following headline on their front pages last Sunday:

"Star Ferry pier murdered at 49"

If I were still a journalist, I would have submitted the following to my editor:

"The Star Ferry pier located to the opposite of the City Hall was murdered in front of dozens of witnesses on Saturday, 16 December 2006. It died at the age of 49.

"Unlike many other murder cases in Hong Kong and other parts of the world, the murder of the old Star Ferry pier was carried out in public. More importantly, there was more than one murderer.

"While Legislative Councillors have pointed their accusing fingers at the Government, official records showed that the Government's proposal to demolish the old Star Ferry pier has never received any opposition at the Legislative Council since the proposal was first tabled seven years ago.

"This means that the Star Ferry pier was actually murdered by both the Government and the ignorant members of the legislature.

"Unfortunately few people seem to recognise this cruel fact. The populist opportunists joined the protesters at the last moment in an obvious but disgusting attempt to exploit boiling resentment towards the administration for their own benefit.

"Despite widespread public opposition, the Government did not back down. With on-the-record support and approval of the Legislative Council and the Central and Western District Council a few years ago, the Government wasted no time to demonstrate its strong governance by ignoring the roaring anger of the public.

"What remains a mystery is the District Council's discussions and decision. A source recalled that the members only agreed in principle that the expressway should be built and they were not informed of the Government's plan to demolish the old Star Ferry pier.

"The brutal dismemberment of the old Star Ferry pier took place last Saturday. In less than 24 hours, which sets a new record of remarkable efficiency of the administration, the pier and the clock tower were torn down and shipped to the Tuen Mun landfill site. The clock tower was ruthlessly hammered into unrecognisable pieces that were mingled with other rubbish, mud and sand. The process took no more than 30 minutes.

"Everything was gone without a trace - so as the people's confidence and the future of Hong Kong."

Don't throw at me the rules of journalism. This is not meant to be a factual report of what happened.

How could someone who grew up in one of the oldest areas of Hong Kong possibly write something cool-headed when one of the icons of her life was violently destroyed?

The demolition was clearly a well-planned and seamlessly executed operation that was designed to remove any tangible evidence out of sight in the quickest possible way. The Government masterminds must have thought that when things go out of sight, they soon go out of people's minds too.

Let the outrageous and heartless remarks of Mrs Rita Lau, Permanent Secretary for Planning, Housing and Lands, at the Legislative Council on 18 December speak for the Government:

"Let me tell the truth, even if you may call it a cruel one: My understanding is that the clock tower has been sent to the waste landfill and mixed with other construction waste. It can't be restored anymore. Don't have any rosy dream that it may be restored."

I must admit that the administration has done an excellent job this time to treat the unwanted waste of the old Star Ferry pier and the clock tower, in an obvious attempt to defuse the issue as soon as possible. People would have been dumped in frustration and helplessness. But Mrs Lau's provocative statement has unfortunately reversed the situation. Believe it or not, the public debate and uproar and political pressure on the Government will certainly drag on to the benefit of nobody.

In my opinion, the destruction of the old Star Ferry pier is yet another example of the ignorance and complacence of the rich and powerful baby boomers in Hong Kong. They don't recognise the value of anything but money and power. Money comes from land sale and power is represented by the heartless, cold and inhumane glass-walled castles scattered around the strategic points of Hong Kong. Everything standing in the way to money and power should be ruthlessly removed.

Perhaps the obsession with money and power is what Taiwanese writer Lung Ying-tai refers to as the "Central value" that is made to dominate and represent the "Hong Kong value":

"This is the Hong Kong that the international community sees and Hong Kong people are happy to present: Intimidating architecture, glamorous shops, middle-class in snow-white collars and speaking fluent English are commuting hurriedly between commercial buildings in Central. In other words, Central represents Hong Kong. The 'Central value' dominates and represents the value of Hong Kong: the pursuit of personal wealth and the worship of commercial competition in accordance with capitalist operating logic. 'Economy', 'getting rich', 'efficiency', 'development' and 'globalisation' are used as indices of social progress."

Unfortunately, these dumb guys who often believe that they are the smartest elite in Hong Kong fail to keep up with the fast-moving changes as a result of their much-touted and worshipped globalisation. They think their old tricks would continue to make them and their next generation succeed in the brave new world. But they fail to realise that so much has changed and that their old tricks have already lost their edge. Now we can see that they have been making every possible effort to maintain Hong Kong as it is two or three decades ago, so that their old tricks would continue to make sense.

And this was precisely the beginning of the demise of Hong Kong.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

My Taiwan Impression

Just read the latest issue of Yazhou Zhoukan, which published an insightful commentary on the dynamics and implications of the forthcoming mayor elections of Taipei and Kaohsiung, the two most prominent cities in Taiwan.

I don't know how many fellow citizens in Hong Kong care about the recent political drama in Taiwan, but having been a China reporter upon graduation and thus developed a special interest in the island that has been governed by a different administration for more than half a century, I can't help giving a long sigh of frustration and helplessness reading all about Taiwan these days.

And, I used to spend a week or so in Taipei every year. But I have stopped doing so since 2001.

This was prompted by nothing but disappointment.

Perhaps some people in Hong Kong and other parts of the world may find it difficult to understand the context and reasons for political tensions in Taiwan. It simply makes little sense to people outside Taiwan but for those who are living on the island it can be a matter of life and death.

The story began in 1945 when Taiwan, which was ceded to Japan in accordance with the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed between Japan and China under Qing Dynasty in 1895, was returned to China after Japan surrendered in the Second World War. At that time the Chinese regime under Kuomintang (The Chinese National Party) led by Chiang Kai-shek was notoriously corrupt and inefficient. Under the immense financial pressure during the Second World War and the subsequent civil war against the Chinese communists, the Kuomintang administration issued paper currencies at discretion but resulted in skyrocketing inflation that pushed the national economy to the brink of bankruptcy.

Taiwan was no exception. The 50-year disconnection with the Mainland during Japanese colonial rule inevitably resulted in mistrust and misunderstanding. When the Kuomintang troops set their feet on the soil of Taiwan after their defeat by the Communists, local Taiwanese did not see the newcomers as compatriots but foreign invaders not much different from the Japanese. Meanwhile, Mainland Chinese also saw Taiwanese as betrayers simply because they had been subjects of the Japanese colonists. Kuomintang's corrupt administration and high-handed policies did nothing but kept the resentment and hostility brewing. It was, therefore, not surprising to see the hostility erupted and resulted in the bloody suppression on 28 February 1947, i.e. the 28 February Incident that is often compared to the 4 June Massacre at Tiananmen Square 17 years ago. Up to 60,000 civilians were reportedly killed by the Kuomintang troops.

Unfortunately the deep-rooted hostility and mistrust has evolved into ridiculous tension between those who are born in Taiwan and Mainland China. Worse still, this has been exploited by some political opportunists as the pretext or justification for Taiwan independence. They condemn those who were born in Mainland China or whose forefathers came from the Mainland as potential betrayers of Taiwan. Those who can't speak the local Taiwanese dialect, which is very similar to the dialect spoken in southern part of Fujian province across the Taiwan Strait, are often seen as "outsiders" of Taiwan. In some cases the opportunists choose to deny the fact that the cultural roots of Taiwan came from the Mainland. In other cases they cite their favourite role model, the United States, which has courageously fought for independence from its arrogant and repressive master. Essentially, these guys believe that in order to defend and uphold the interests of genuine Taiwanese people, i.e. themselves, independence from China (whatever the ruling party may be) is the only option.

I have neither the academic capabilities nor the intention to discuss the complicated concepts of reunification and independence in this casual essay. All I want to say here is that I find it unacceptable to achieve questionable political objectives by promoting hostility among different groups of people in the same community. This is unethical and sheer contempt of human rights and social justice.

Can you imagine those who can't speak Cantonese in Hong Kong are being discriminated to an extent that they are seen as potential spies or betrayers who should be expelled from Hong Kong?

Unfortunately this shameless strategy is still proved to be effective in Taiwan as we have seen in the election and re-election campaigns of Chen Shui-bian. For years he has positioned himself as the "son of Taiwan" to safeguard Taiwanese interests against the bullying and threats of a rising China. But his ignorance of international relations and incompetence in governance, together with his obsession with power, should be blamed for the decline of Taiwan in recent years, at least economically and culturally. Taiwanese enterprises are struggling for survival as their plans in Mainland China are often seen by the sceptical administration as suspicious moves of betrayal. The incapability to expand inevitably leads to a loss of competitiveness and thus job cuts. A shrinking domestic market due to high unemployment simply starts a vicious cycle that can achieve nothing but reinforce hostility between Taiwan and Mainland China.

Culturally speaking, I feel extremely disappointed to see that the last foothold of traditional Chinese culture has been replaced, not complemented, by the rise of local culture and an obsession with Japanese and Western cultures. While you can find an abundance of excellent books on Japanese history and Western thought and cultural studies, very few titles are dedicated to China. Interestingly, China is often portrayed as a country that is completely different from Taiwan and yet with some connections that makes it closer than Japan and the United States.

How ironic it is when I remember how Taiwan and its people proudly proclaimed that it was the last foothold of preserving traditional Chinese culture, especially during the early days of the Communist rule when tradition was ruthlessly uprooted. Now that many people in the Mainland are regretful of what happened some 40 years ago and have started to work hard to retrieve and restore the lost roots, isn't it an unforgivable blunder for Taiwan to try to cut itself off from its heritage and isolate itself for the sake of nothing but someone's selfish motives?

Monday, 4 December 2006

A Sentimental Afternoon

Last Sunday, I spent a sentimental afternoon wandering around Tin Hau, where I would like to have my new home some time later.

The weather was gorgeous. The warm sun shone on my back and face, depending on the direction for which I was heading. I walked along Tung Lo Wan Road, starting from the northeastern corner of the reputable Queen's College. It is one of the most peaceful areas in downtown Hong Kong where you can hardly hear any unwanted noise on a Sunday afternoon. It is where you can still find genuinely local, small restaurants and fruit stores that have been in business for more than 30 years - a rare specialty that is rapidly forced into extinction in Hong Kong but that helped Macau enlisted in the UNESCO hall of fame of world heritage. Of course, cosy coffee shops and small sushi bars are also beginning to have their footprints here. More importantly, it is an old residential area that rude trespassers do not usually go except on the autumn days when the Fire Dragon Dance celebrations take place. The tranquillity of this area gives me the peace of mind that I desperately need these days.

This is also why I would like to have my new home here, if possible.

Unfortunately property prices are still unreasonably high these days, despite the rhetoric that the market has been stagnant since last year. Looking at the long list of properties for sale on display at different agents' offices, how depressing it was to see that I can barely afford only one or two of the smallest apartments of 400 square feet in gross area (not usable area)! The small cubicles that cost a few million Hong Kong dollars are just as sarcastically embarrassing as proclaiming Hong Kong as Asia's world city when so many people here do not really have the much-touted international perspective.

On and on I walked along Tung Lo Wan Road and turned left at the junction of Wun Sha Street. This is my favourite corner of the area. It is very quiet with a genuine but rapidly eroding taste of Hong Kong that reminds me of my carefree childhood in Tsim Sha Tsui. Under the warm and mild sunlight of an autumn afternoon, old buildings with simple, tidy and artistic designs of only four or five storeys are sitting quietly in the small plot of land with neatly drawn chessboard alleys to the west of Wun Sha Street. Leading up the slope Wun Sha Street ends with a public playground and an old building with a stone-walled courtyard facing each other. They hide themselves behind the tall, modern buildings that are probably only half of their age, but are already considered "old" by a common standard in Hong Kong nowadays.

There were plenty of old buildings in similar styles in Tsim Sha Tsui when I was small. My first memory of my home was located in a four-storey building built well before the Second World War. My family rented and lived in a room at the back of the apartment, which was owned by a retired employee of Jardine Matheson. I was told that my parents didn't live there when I was born, but it was the first home in my memory anyway. I still remember what the decently designed and dyed marble staircase of the building looked like. I still remember how amazed I was watching the romantic ancient Chinese folklores on the black-and-white television. I still remember how I learnt my first Chinese characters by copying words I could spot on television on the walls, even before I was sent to the kindergarten. I still remember how I brought my two-year-old younger brother home from the kindergarten nearby even though I was a toddler myself. I still remember how my mother prepared suppers in the common kitchen where the landlord's servant was living, and where there was an iron staircase leading to the common backyard shared with another building facing Knutsford Terrace. Yes, it is Knutsford Terrace. It used to be a cosy and quiet residential area with a kindergarten and a private college but has now been transformed into a lousy replica of Lan Kwai Fong without any character.

Isn't it weird for a person of my age to have this irresistible nostalgia about something that is now a bygone? When I was small, I never came across anyone in their 30s who were as obsessed as I am with the past. Only people above 40 years would talk about their good old days.

Looking at my peers outside Hong Kong, be them in Mainland China, Korea, Japan or farther parts of the world, they seldom talk about their past but how they see their future. The general sentiment of my generation is forward-looking rather than the opposite.

At the end of the day, however, I enjoy being different. I have always been quite different from my peers. I am proud of myself because of nothing but I am different. I can't understand why so many people nowadays feel impelled to be recognised as the same rather than the different. I am convinced that everyone is a unique individual and should be allowed to exercise his/her freedom, as long as the freedom and dignity of the others are not compromised or jeopardised.

Having said that, I do believe that there should be something in common to bring people together, not physically but emotionally. History is the story of rise and fall of an individual, a family, a business, a community or a nation, but heritage is a common set of customs, beliefs and values that connects us with our forefathers and the future generations by inheritance. They are closely related but two very distinctive concepts. I can't tell you how sad I feel when I see the heritage of Hong Kong vanishing. I don't know what I should do but I can't help retrieving my memories from time to time to keep them afresh, before my physique no longer allows me to do so.

Perhaps this strong nostalgia is what makes me so obsessed with having my new home in Tin Hau. I believe this is one of the few locations in Hong Kong that still enables me to indulge in the pleasure of memory revival.

Monday, 6 November 2006

三遊杭州外一章--再進沈園

那天在杭州逛完了文二路的書店,乘十路巴士到中山北路、平海路口下車,回到酒店附近,已快到晚上八點。肚子居然絲毫不餓,但不吃飯總不成。在酒店旁邊的餐廳隨便吃了些東西,又喝了一罐啤酒,沒想到卻換來一天一夜的上吐下瀉。出門旅行這十多年,從沒有試過這樣狼狽。奇怪的是,那家餐廳兩年前也光顧過,一點問題也沒有,只好自嘆倒楣。

折騰了一夜沒睡好,第二天挨到差不多中午才起床,嘔吐和腹瀉總算是止住了,但肚子仍有點撐,想吐又吐不出來。只是早就約好了柳聞鶯在紹興見面,怎麼辦?眼見時候不早了,柳聞鶯又在上課,聽不了電話,改期是來不及的了,還是豁出去吧。

到汽車東站乘長途巴士到紹興,快要到達的時候終於把滿肚子髒水吐了出來,舒服多了,只可惜開始時來不及拿膠袋,把車廂弄髒了一片,真不好意思。

在紹興客運中心下車時不到兩點半,距柳聞鶯下班還有兩個多小時,我想也不想,乘的士直往沈園。兩年前和于芳一起遊紹興,只是匆匆一瞥,沒有仔細感受過沈園的氣氛;如今獨自重遊,正好合適。

沈園位於紹興市中心的魯迅中路東段,與魯迅故居、三味書屋等景點只相隔一條南北縱向的中興南路,但氣氛迥然不同。有關魯迅的景點甚麼時候也是鬧哄哄的,平日的沈園卻是靜得出奇,連園外的魯迅中路也沒甚麼車子經過。

如今沈園始建於何時已無從稽考,只知在宋代是江南名園之一,規模比現時要大上好幾倍。但沈園在宋代以後逐漸荒廢,後來甚至只剩下一個小角落,今天的沈園是於1984年重建的。

也許有人會問:為甚麼是沈園?首先,時間緊逼,本來想到鏡湖去,但怕一來一回費時失事,只好期諸日後。其次,現代文學從來不是我那杯茶,對魯迅的一切實在提不起興趣,兩年前初到紹興時蜻蜓點水似的看過,便已心滿意足,也就沒有興致再看第二遍了。更重要的是,儘管兩年前和Patricia一起看新版《陸游與唐琬》的震撼早成了明日黃花,但當時那份難描難畫的觸電感覺,依然無法忘懷。重遊沈園,也許是潛意識裡要為當日的沉溺作個了斷,又或者只是自欺欺人,繼續為自己的任性找個藉口。這到底是怎麼回事兒,其實自己也說不清楚。

猶幸沈園裡靜悄悄地,只有疏疏落落幾名遊人,另有三個老人聚在園中的孤鶴軒裡聊天。入秋之後,日照時間愈來愈短,下午三點左右,天色便已向晚,本來耀眼生花的太陽逐漸變紅,徐徐落入西陲的暮色之中。溫煦的陽光灑落石山池水之上,分外柔和,登時令人心情平靜了不少。沒想到深秋時分,幾株桂樹上嫩黃色的小花仍然開得燦爛,是以到處瀰漫著淡淡的桂子香氣,愈發叫人渾身酥軟,懶洋洋的甚麼也不想做,唯恐自己的急躁和忙亂,褻瀆了滿園閒適自在的氣氛。

我本來擔心腸胃仍有不適,大半天沒敢吃東西,來到這裡才在池邊假山旁的石板凳坐下來,吃了一條巧克力補充體力。

休息了一會,起來沿著小路走,遊遍了沈園裡的樓閣和古蹟。兩年前和于芳一起來的時候也沒注意,原來園中古蹟甚多,其中一口更藏有從漢到唐的瓷器碎片,另有宋代和明代的古井各一口。至於那爿刻有陸游和唐琬《釵頭鳳》詞的石牆,分明是後世好事之徒的附會之作。寫陸游那闋詞的行書還算不錯,但唐琬那闋卻明顯是電腦字體打印後刻石的,當真是「為德不卒」,大煞風景。

足下踩著小石板舖成的甬道,緩緩在亭臺之間徘徊,心裡自然而然的想,不知當年陸游與唐琬到底在哪兒重逢?他倆重遇的時候,中間多了另一個傷心人趙士程,又會是怎麼樣的光景?戲台上的重逢,充滿了傷感的浪漫、無奈的淒涼,但現實又是否如此?既然沈園已經面目全非,陸游與唐琬當年重逢的地方,其實會否早已湮沒在尋常百姓家,再也無法訪尋?如果真是這樣,我們這些遠道而來附庸風雅的遊客,所看到的原來只是一座海市蜃樓,又是否一廂情願得可笑?

走遍了園子的每個角落後,我坐在桂樹下看了幾頁書,直至四點多,天色漸暗,寒風驟起,這才戀戀不捨的離開,到紹興劇院對面的飯館和柳聞鶯見面。

柳聞鶯很客氣地請我吃晚飯,可惜我的肚子不爭氣,食欲全無,辜負了一桌好菜和她的一番美意。我和柳聞鶯雖然是初次見面,也挺談得來,可惜我要趕車回杭州,否則天南地北的侃戲文、侃文化,不知可以聊到甚麼時候。希望日後再到紹興,可以和柳聞鶯一起喝茶去;如果可以結伴到陳輝玲在杭州的茶館去喝茶,那就更妙了,呵呵。

Sunday, 5 November 2006

三遊杭州之三--感受杭州

閱讀杭州

從寶石山下來後,大約五點多,雖然有點累,但不想就這樣回酒店看電視;吃晚飯的話,時間又太早,於是走到延安路,乘十路巴士到文二路的博庫書店看書。附近慶春路的購書中心雖然面積不小,但以暢銷書為主,歷史和文學書種不多,反不如文二路的書店吸引。

不過,這次在杭州逛書店,倒是深深體會到內地閱讀口味和出版行業的轉變。編寫比較認真、內容翔實的歷史書和文學書少了,經過校正和注釋的古籍新編更少;通俗的青少年小說、歷史人物月旦、如何致富、如何改善人際關係等所謂提升個人修養的消閒書倒是琳瑯滿目,叫人招架不住。香港的書店本來就是這樣,我以為自己會見怪不怪,沒想到居然是無明火起,心中一陣焦躁。

另一個令人搖頭的地方,便是放在當眼位置的所謂歷史書,幾乎全部都是關於明清兩朝皇帝、后妃、權臣的人物月旦,當中不少更是中央電視台「百家論壇」嘉賓主持的講稿印本而已。其中有個作者叫「易中天」的,聽說在內地極受歡迎,他的所謂「品」歷史系列可說舖天蓋地,「品」完了三國便食髓知味,最近又出版了關於兩漢和明、清人物的評論。我拿起其中一本隨便翻了幾頁,這些書的內容其實大同小異,沒甚麼興味。雖是一家之言,卻沒甚麼章法,就像幾個朋友圍爐夜話那種隨隨便便說幾句,很多資料和說法不知有何根據,連個像樣的注釋也沒有。至於有關宋代歷史(尤其是南宋的)、浙江和杭州掌故文物的書,卻幾乎找不到。

我當然明白這是市場供求定律造成的必然結果,但閱讀口味趨於偏狹和庸俗,對於杭州這個文化根基深厚的城市而言,實在令人萬分遺憾。不過,我也明白這不只是杭州的問題,更是全國要認真面對的重大考驗。

我想,真正的問題所在,還是在於教育。為甚麼現行的教育沒能培養學生的閱讀興趣?沒有提升他們的求知欲、拓闊他們的閱讀口味?為甚麼讀者寧願看人家用第N手的資料來品評(扭曲?美化?斷章取義?)某個時代的人物,卻不願意自行了解那個時代,自己作判斷?那不是應該更有趣、更好玩嗎?

觀看杭州

在杭州慵懶散漫,骨頭發軟,連書也不太想看,卻可以花上大半天盯著電視機發呆。

其實電視上放的劇集都不好看,不是不倫不類的古裝或民初劇,便是以國共戰爭為題材的謀略劇,再不就是一些不知誰拍的時裝劇,都拍得沒甚麼神采,令人呵欠連連。只有一部反映改革開放以來人心丕變的時裝劇《真情時代》,編和演的都不錯。也許是我孤陋寡聞,戲裡的演員都不認識,但演來自然、稱職,尤其是男主角侯勇,令人印象深刻。只是電視台太多,播映的時間又混亂,今天在某家電視台演到了尾聲,明天另一家電視台才開始放沒多久,不小心的話,很容易看到精神分裂。

中央電視台第一頻道晚上正在播映《大敦煌》,本來對我這個「敦煌迷」很有吸引力,但看了幾集還是不知道故事想說甚麼,令人氣餒;即使有唐國強演西夏李元昊,也無法讓我繼續看下去了。

另有一部幾年前的處境喜劇《東北一家人》,非常有趣,值得推薦。戲裡一家三代同堂的東北人都有點兒逗,尤其是爺爺和奶奶兩個,特別好玩,也很有尋常百姓家長輩的親切感。有幾集說奶奶要參加扭秧歌比賽,被老伴和兒女取笑奚落;然後奶奶找鄰家的單身老漢做拍檔,居然被孫子訛傳為拋夫棄子的婚外情,笑到我肚痛。戲裡也偶然請來有名的演員跑龍套,例如我就看到其中一集的末段,請來了馮小剛和張鐵林,分別客串小偷和非法買賣路井蓋的小販。

可惜,我最期待張紀中的《碧血劍》,不知怎地聲沉影寂。本來預計十月播映,如今仍是沒有半點消息,不知他們葫蘆裡賣甚麼藥。

香港製作的劇集,在內地仍有一定的市場,難怪那麼多人前仆後繼,要到內地去分一杯羹。不過,香港劇集的水準大不如前,已是不爭的事實;人家也不是瞎子,不是那麼容易上當的。你看浙江衛視如今放的仍是《刑事偵緝檔案》和《創世紀》,就知道是怎麼回事兒。那些私人公司製作的劇集更不必說,像甚麼《紅拂女》、《爭霸傳奇》,陰陽怪氣的,實在叫人看不下去。老實說,如果請幾個有名的演員就能掩飾內容的貧乏無力,香港影視圈也不會如此一蹶不振。

看電視嘛,少不免要看廣告。早知道內地電視廣告都是藥物和保健食品的天下,只是不知道如今又加入了生力軍--私立醫院。那些私立醫院似乎都是專科醫院,而且專治婦科和泌尿科,其他醫科的都好像沒有。這還罷了,沒想到廣告的內容竟是坦率得令人吃驚,診治病症和手術的名稱如數家珍一般,就連甚麼部位或器官「糜爛」(糜爛?!)、「人流」(人工流產)也堂而皇之的昭告天下,我除了瞠目結舌,還能有甚麼反應?人家不知道,還以為中國人的身體都是豆腐造的,而且生病往往集中於那些敏感部位,大概是生活不檢點的緣故,那才叫貽笑大方、百辭莫辯哪。

體會杭州

儘管有些事情不盡如人意,杭州還是惹人喜愛的。至少這個城市現在還是比較沉靜、溫柔,沒有像其他大城市一樣喧鬧得叫人心煩。剛到酒店的時候,便有一幫上海人在大堂裡大呼小叫,旁若無人;回家的時候,無論在機場還是在飛機上,參加香港旅行團的遊客也一個勁兒扯大嗓門說話,不是炫耀自己在外國開的餐館生意有多好,便是感嘆自己白手興家有多艱難,就連服務員介紹緊急事故程序的時候仍不閉嘴。回到香港,更不必說,到處熙熙攘攘,噪音多於一切,總之就是一個字:吵!

相比其他大城市那些財大氣粗的傢伙,杭州人也比較斯文,平日說話不會太大聲,開車的時候也不會亂響號。即使路上堵車,也不會聽到震耳欲聾的萬號齊發。不過這兩年杭州的汽車數量不斷增加,讓人擔心空氣污染可能更嚴重之外,噪音污染加劇也是令人精神緊張、心浮氣躁的主要原因之一。

白居易說得好:「未能拋得杭州去,一半勾留是此湖。」杭州能有西湖,的確是杭州的福氣。不過除此以外,杭州愈來愈像其他沒有面目、沒有輪廓的城市,實在令人擔憂。西湖是杭州的精魂血肉所在,相信沒有人會異議,但這方淨土可以守護到甚麼時候,真是天曉得了。

到蕭山機場的路上,跟的士司機天南地北的聊得很愉快。聽他的談吐,比很多所謂名流紳士優雅不知多少倍。他和我一樣,對杭州這些年的發展也有不甚滿意的地方,尤其是江南水鄉特色逐漸消失這一點上,大家都覺得很無奈、也很惋惜。希望日後再到杭州的時候,可以讓大家看到更多可喜的轉變。

三遊杭州之二--再訪寶石山

前年在杭州時,獨自去爬西湖北岸寶石山的愉快經驗仍然歷歷在目,這次故地重遊,當然想再爬一遍。更要緊的是,明明山門的石刻地圖上說明山頂初陽臺北附近有南宋賈似道別業「半閒堂」的遺址,為甚麼上次找來找去沒找到?這次既然要再遊寶石山,說甚麼也得把半閒堂的遺址找出來。

別笑我無聊,這股牛脾氣不為別的,只為了唐滌生先生《再世紅梅記》裡的幾句戲文:「滕王有閣詩人讚,金為樑柱玉為欄。閣詠紅梅藏書簡,花月樓深號『半閒』。阿房宮殿聲名減,瓊樓玉宇也平凡。怎似俺杯盤碗碟盡金批,用稿閒箋皆玉版?」正如當天在紫禁城看到五鳳樓和含樟樹,在西安灞陵橋上看到連綿數里、迎風輕擺的柳枝,戲文似欲一句一句脫口而出,那份眾裡尋他、夢幻成真的喜悅和興奮,大概只有經歷過的人才知道有多震撼、有多珍貴。

10月31日在房裡待到下午才出門,沿著湖濱公園信步走到北山路,在岳廟對面一家叫「吳越人家」的小飯館吃完飯,決定從寶石山西端的棲霞嶺上山。沿著岳廟旁、濃蔭森森的棲霞嶺路直進,登時一陣山風撲面而來,涼入心脾,精神為之一振。

經過一個住宅小區,便是上山的道路,右邊另有一道陡峭的石階,似乎是上山的捷徑。一瞥間只見山路旁的大石上刻著半閒堂遺址的地圖,心下甚喜,於是拍了下來,立此存照。

正尋思著應該走大路還是爬石階,只見在石階上來往的遊人不絕,走大路的卻沒幾個,所以還是決定辛苦一點爬石階好了。

儘管這幾個月來不停地做運動,腿勁大有進步,但這道石階的確很陡,走上十來步便氣喘如牛、雙腿發酸,不得不停下來休息一會兒。如此斷斷續續的停了四、五遍,約二十分鐘後終於爬完了石階,竟然便差不多到了山頂。

張岱的《西湖夢尋》說「寶石山高六十三丈」,按明代一丈折合現代約三米多一點計算,即寶石山高不過二百米。儘管爬石階有點吃力,山上的路卻很好走,因為山勢甚平,而且山路都是用山上赭紅色的火山岩石板舖成的。在樹蔭下高高低低的一直向東,午後的陽光照在背脊上,稍微有點熱,出了一身汗,但因為天氣乾燥,也不算太難受。在山頂上俯瞰夕陽下的西湖,也是別有一番情味,景致比早上更迷人。

來到看日出的勝地初陽臺,卻沒有詳細的地圖,只有簡單的方向圖,也沒有標明半閒堂在哪兒。以初陽臺為中心的話,只有三條路,一條向西往棲霞嶺,也就是我上山的路徑;一條向東往保俶塔,也是我打算下山的必經之路;另一條則向北到黃龍洞和紫雲洞。既然向東是下山的必經之路,於是決定向北到黃龍洞方向碰碰運氣。可惜走了一段,已是「牛背脊」,再往前去便是下山的石階,隱在叢林斜坡深處,人跡杳然,似乎不像是半閒堂的所在。於是又折回初陽臺,朝著保俶塔的方向走,希望有奇跡出現。

走沒多久,便是一處樹木參天的平台,共有三條岔路可選。其中一條通往抱朴道院,前年已到過,當時也不見半閒堂的蹤影,如今只剩下兩條可選。其中一條小路不知通到哪兒,另一條大路則應該是通往保俶塔。迎面而來的遊客似乎都是從大路上過來,繞到平台另一邊樹林的小路卻沒人走,看來還是保險一點,走大路算了。心想這次要是真的又找不到半閒堂也沒法子,只好回去做點功課,以俟日後。

走不多遠,見到右邊山崖上有一道石階通往上方一塊大石後,不知是甚麼所在,不由得好奇心起,跑上去看看。原來那是寶石山向南的山峰,崖邊有幾塊形狀奇特的巨石,叫「蛤蟆峰」。仔細看去,那些巨石的確有點蛤蟆的影子。說不定金庸當年就是從這裡取得的靈感,創造了老毒物歐陽鋒的「蛤蟆功」呢。

爬到蛤蟆峰上,沒想到居然有穿著制服的管理員,於是問他有沒有聽說過半閒堂的遺址在哪兒。果然不出所料:沒有。看來這次也是空手而回,下次一定得請馮潔一起來爬山指點迷津了。

在峰上的平台四處張望,忽然看見兩隻巨石「蛤蟆」之間居然有路,於是過去看看,原來這條非天然的小路是通往崖邊最外沿、也最危險的幾隻「蛤蟆」,而寶石山東端的保俶塔就在一箭之外。更沒想到蟾蜍的頭和肩上都坐了人,山石都是光溜溜的火山岩,一不小心的話,隨時掉下去粉身碎骨。屆時寶石山若是變了冤魂所,不知誰來給寶石山喊冤了。

我見前無去路,唯有回頭下峰,在兩隻蛤蟆的大肚子底下穿過去,保俶塔便在眼前。

相傳北宋初年,吳越國主錢弘俶奉宋太祖之詔到汴京,多時未返。吳越百姓為保佑國主平安,在寶石山上建造佛塔,故名「保俶塔」。儘管後來錢弘俶獲遣送回國,但宋太宗繼位後,錢弘俶再次入汴納土歸降,仍是逃不過和南唐後主李煜一樣的命運。此後佛塔屢經崩毀和重建,如今的保俶塔於民國初年建成,六年前再經修葺。旁邊有一枝造型獨特的鐵杵,原來是六年前修葺時拆下來的塔頂裝飾,已是明代的舊物。

兩年前已看過保俶塔,如今重遊,心裡仍是百感交集。

精致的佛塔、誠懇的祝願,始終無法改變令人嘆息的命運。保佑了一次平安,可保不了永遠的平安。甚麼是永遠的呢?保俶塔屢毀屢建,當初的樣子是怎樣的,誰也不知道了;大夥兒只記得這是老百姓為國主祈福籌建的,每一塊塔磚也滲透著他們的善良和淳厚,錢弘俶若是泉下有知,也應該感到安慰了。但是雷峰塔呢?雷峰塔已經崩毀了幾十年,「雷峰夕照」早成絕響,當年的樣子只能在老照片裡重尋。不過不要緊,即使連老照片也湮滅了,雷峰塔還有白娘子的傳說,讓大家永遠記住這座風月情濃、遺恨萬年的磚塔。然而,為甚麼當局數年前決定重建雷峰塔的時候,卻沒有按照原貌,而要把這座充滿神話和浪漫色彩的磚塔,改成萬丈巍峨、裝上了自動電梯的觀光塔?把原來的塔基保留在底層的展覽廳,是為了嘲笑清末民初鄉民挖磚當藥、引致塔身崩毀的愚昧,還是為了炫耀自己重建雷峰塔的豐功偉績?把傳統磚塔改成鋼筋水泥的高樓,到底是為了承傳,還是繼續讓後人嘲笑我們的淺陋和貪婪?

在保俶塔前徘徊了一陣,回頭向西,只見夕陽如血,在薄暮中冉冉褪去,也是我歸去的時候了。

Saturday, 4 November 2006

三遊杭州之一--重遊西湖

真正愛上西湖,大概是前年重遊杭州的時候。十多年前匆匆一瞥,喜歡自是喜歡,卻談不上深刻的感情。畢竟書上說的都是別人的故事,嚮往、仰慕、欽羨固然是有的,但要親身體會一個地方、經歷一個地方,總得花費一些時日。在西湖邊上待了半個月,即使談不上很長的時間,但恐怕沒幾個人能抵擋得住這片湖水的誘惑。

所以,在心浮氣躁、營營役役的日子裡,總盤算著甚麼時候再到西湖,過上幾天神仙一般無憂無慮的日子。即使只是想起那半個月逍遙快活的日子,也足夠樂上半天。

就是因為這份牽念,我又再踏足西湖,讓湖水洗滌身心的塵埃,好好兒歇歇腳,為日後更艱難、更跋涉的旅程作好準備。

10月29日中午,我拖著疲累的身軀來到了西湖東畔。聽說過幾天北風就要南下,天氣倏變,所以放眼望去,城裡和湖上也灰濛濛的,好像披了一層薄紗。也許是星期天,遊人絡繹不絕,比平日多上幾倍,人聲鼎沸,難免稍微影響了避靜的心情--尤其是那些播放著走音的《梁祝》電子樂曲的環湖旅遊車和充滿樣板戲味道的《愛我中華》音樂噴泉,簡直是最不能饒恕的噪音,端的敗人清興,真想寫封信向杭州市旅遊局投訴。

這幾天待在杭州,最重要、也最愜意的事情,就是可以甚麼也不想,甚麼也不安排,睡到幾點是幾點,想吃甚麼就吃甚麼。也許有人會問:「這樣不是很無聊嗎?為甚麼要老遠的跑到杭州去?在家裡不也是一樣嗎?」當然不一樣。現在這世道啊,在家一天,電話不能關、電腦不能關,更不能讓人家知道你放假還待在香港,不然一天十個電話下來,覺睡不成、書讀不著、想玩玩不了,放假還有甚麼趣味?在外地最好了,哪個不識趣的照舊打電話來,一聽到我在外地,沒電腦、沒上網、沒傳真,甚麼也做不了,很容易便打發過去。所以啊,放假時在外地住旅館,只要乾淨舒適的便是,不能挑一家功能萬全的高級酒店,否則就是跟自己過不去。

遊西湖,還是走路最好,其次是乘船。總覺得乘船遊湖的感覺太親密,自己既然配不上成為西湖風光的一分子,還是保持一點距離,冷眼看西湖穩妥些。何況,走到哪裡,看到哪裡,全憑自己量力而為,總不成坐著人家的船在湖裡待上半天,不讓人家繼續做生意,又付不起包船的費用。

騎腳踏車遊湖也是我喜愛的方式。十多年前一個寒風砭骨的冬天,和幾個同學初遊杭州時在蘇堤上試了一遍,好玩得緊,這次禁不住童心大起,重作小時候的營生。

回家的那天早上,天氣微涼,風和日麗,大清早起來胡亂吃了些早點,便到北山路斷橋對面的小賣店租了一輛車,從斷橋出發,經白堤、孤山、西泠橋,看了重修的蘇小小墓和武松墓,然後轉出北山路,再折往蘇堤北端。

蘇堤全長二點八公里左右,有六座橋,從北到南分別名為「跨虹」、「東浦」、「壓堤」、「望山」、「鎖瀾」和「映波」,不知是誰給取的名字,雅俗不一,我認為以「鎖瀾」最佳,「映波」其次。「跨虹」、「望山」、「壓堤」云云,幾乎可以套用到其他地方每一座橋,沒甚麼特別。

騎車遊湖的另一個好處,就是可以權作一種體能測驗。沒想到才練了四個月,腿勁真的大有進步,背著沉甸甸的背囊騎車上橋也不費力。

堪堪到了蘇堤中央,在東岸找了個位子坐下來休息,順便讓背包上的小熊和「坐騎」傍著柳絲,和西湖拍個照留念。

到了蘇堤南端,見到一間精致的蘇東坡紀念館,心中甚喜,於是鎖好了車,進去逛一圈。

紀念館共分兩層,地下的展板介紹了蘇軾知杭州時的功勳和逸事,例如為人熟知的「東坡肉」的來由,以及他疏浚西湖、改善民生的成就;二樓則展覽蘇軾部分墨跡和詩文。資料雖然不多,倒也有趣。可惜某個內地旅行團的遊客似乎覺得無甚趣味,在門前沸沸揚揚的吵了一陣便散去,我也樂得清靜,待他們離開了才進館細看。

紀念館門前有一尊蘇軾的造意石像,下巴微抬,神馳遠方,一部大鬍子迎風飄揚,神態甚是瀟灑俊逸,頗有幾分黃老邪的況味。可惜有幾個穿戴整齊的莽漢叼著煙,爬上石像的底座,學著石像一樣抬起下巴,臉上流露的卻是輕佻浮躁,名副其實的東施效顰。我戴著墨鏡,似笑非笑的瞧著他們,心想若是蘇大鬍子有靈,用石像的大袖子一揮,把他們掃下地來,那才教好玩呢。

既然是騎車遊湖,本來不想走回頭路,就沿著南山路,經雷峰塔和南屏晚鐘,再返回北山路。但一看錶,已差不多十一點,恐怕時間急逼,來不及到機場可麻煩了,只好循原路回去。

這一路上陽光明媚,涼風拂面,來杭州這幾天,就算今天騎車遊湖最愜意了,可算為這趟避靜之旅畫上一個美滿的句號。

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Give Me A Break... Undisturbed Please!

Weekends during which I could go hiking, swimming, writing, watching DVDs or working out in a gym now seem a remote reality. I have already forgotten for how many weekends I have been working from morning till evening. An iron-red cauldron of annoyance and fury has never been boiling so violently inside me, ready to erupt any time like a devastating volcano.

I am ready to burn anything in front of me into ashes. No questions asked.

Unfortunately, I know better than anyone else that this is life and little, if any at all, can be done about it. There is no one to blame or to complain against. Everyone has been working hard on their jobs and so have I. But at a time when five different journalists from the same media outlet called me within a week on the same issue, I just couldn't help wondering why I'm always the one who respond to their enquiries.

I don't understand why things always happen over the weekend and I'm the only person stuck in front of my computer at home. Even if I don't have any specific plan or appointment over the weekend, I would like to stay away from work and enjoy some leisure time on my own. This is the balance of life that I strongly believe everyone are entitled to have.

Unlike many technology companies have proclaimed in their advertising campaigns, technology nowadays are not making things easier but making work far more accessible than it should be. Mobile phones and emails on Blackberry are perhaps the most notorious inventions that keep people at work 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Physical distances make no more sense and people just can't get away from the labyrinth of calls and emails every now and then, wherever they are. This is exactly why so many people are suffering from all those kind of mental illness these days. This is also why I'm still not convinced to have a trendy 3G mobile phone or Blackberry or digital personal assistant or for that matter, as many people out there want me to have. I just don't want to spend another grand or two to make my life even more miserable.

I know I don't have the privilege to complain when compared to those from the grassroots who are left unemployed or are made to work 12 hours every single day to make their ends barely meet. But I have no intention to make anyone feel bad. All I need is a good and undisturbed rest to refresh myself, both mentally and physically. I simply want to vent my fatigue, fury and frustration. Otherwise I would have joined thousands and millions of mentally ill patients within a day or two.

Friday, 13 October 2006

回憶的價值

經過連續幾星期的非人生活,這兩天終於可以緩一口氣。前天趁著難得的一天假期,把拋荒幾星期的事情趕緊做一遍--做運動、寫文章,還有把早前買下的《雪山飛狐》影碟跳著看完了。

在螢幕上看著一張張熟悉的臉孔,心裡總有一股說不出的滋味。二十年前的風流人物,如今不是美人遲暮,便是成了「騎呢老祖」,再不便是消聲匿跡、或者騎鶴歸去,那份韶華已老、時不我予的感覺,濃得化不開。

也許有人不明白,三十世代正當盛年,為甚麼有逝水難追之嘆?

其實很簡單,因為我們都失望、我們都氣餒、我們都寂寞。

這幾年來,香港的「三十世代」掀起了一股懷舊風潮,而且集中於流行文化商品的層面上。八十年代的歌手紛紛復出開演唱會,影碟、唱片都出版了「復刻版」,甚至有人組織了八十年代流行文化的展覽,和同輩一起沉緬於回憶中的快樂。誰是始作俑者已不重要,我也不想諉過於慘淡經營的流行商品供應商,他們不過是順水推舟、推波助瀾而已。要是沒有三十世代空虛無助的心靈,他們那些翻炒再翻炒的精選唱片和舊劇集,也賣不了一個滿堂紅。

不知道有沒有人研究這股懷舊風潮的意義,尤其是對於三十世代的意義。只是覺得,我們這些七十年代出生的香港人,好像一直渾渾噩噩,沒做過甚麼值得我們驕傲的事情,反而覺得自己是不屬於任何年代、任何地方,只是無止境的過客。

七、八十年代的光輝和成就,跟我們沾不上邊兒,我們充其量只是一個適逢其會的既得利益者。九十年代的跌宕,我們也沒有機會直接參與,只是似懂非懂的冷眼旁觀。來到二十一世紀,我們理應成熟,肩負著更重大的責任,但現實似乎並非如此。論資歷,不夠淺也不夠深;論學識,只是馬馬虎虎,比上不足比下有餘;彷彿永遠只能在青黃不接的尷尬夾縫中掙扎,做個為他人作嫁衣裳的過客。

也許因為這樣,才會有那麼多人重新沉緬在八十年代眩目的光環裡,尋求一點慰藉。相比於現實的無奈和虛偽,八十年代無憂無慮的日子真像夢境一般。既然同樣是虛幻,到底八十年代也是大夥兒一起經歷過的美好時光,腦海裡的回憶童叟無欺,而且還有那麼一鱗半爪,仍讓大家牢牢握住。

不知從甚麼時候開始,腦袋裡的回憶開始褪色,心裡卻生出一種莫名其妙的衝動,逼著自己抓住某些東西,來提醒自己曾經活過、年輕過。例如少年時曾擁有過的電視劇畫冊,到了二十年後的今天,要用畫冊原價五十倍、甚至一百倍的價錢買回來,我咬一咬牙,還是決定寧願不吃兩個星期早餐,也要留住這份見證過自己少年時代的珍貴文物。各位觀眾,別忘了那是連博物館也不會收集的文物呀!還有那些曾經令我廢寢忘食的電視劇,更不必說。即使早對情節、人物瞭如指掌,仍是有一份無法抗拒的渴望。只要出版了影碟,還是忍著痛乖乖的刷卡,一盒一盒捧回家,心裡才覺得踏實,好像營營役役的身心,終找到一個落腳的地方了。因為,我相信,即使外面波詭雲譎,從此仍可以躲在陋室之中,與不老的回憶作伴。

也許你要笑我逃避現實,但有誰能夠像阿久津真矢那樣永遠堅強?阿久津不是也需要兒子亡靈的安慰,才賦予自己堅持下去的勇氣嗎?

所以,請不要道貌岸然地批評懷舊有多頹廢、有多商品化。商品只是一種形式,我願意用不合理的高價買回來的,不是表面上看得見、摸得到的商品,而是商品背後所代表那份已遠去、開始褪色的回憶。回憶才是無價之寶。因為在老人癡呆症發作之前,我需要一些retrieval cues,把美好的時光永遠留住--儘管那些都是一些虛無縹緲的光影。

虛幻的人生,只能在虛幻的光影裡尋求存在的價值和真實感覺。也許這就是我這個三十世代的悲哀。

Thursday, 12 October 2006

Don't Look Down Upon Your Little Monsters

Almost a week has passed after the final episode of the special feature of Joou no Kyoushitsu was aired, but I'm still inclined to share my two-cents on this remarkable drama, probably one of the best I have seen in five years.

While the most obvious "lesson" of this drama is the urgent need to rethink what education is all about and what the best approach of education should be, there is another key message that parents and teachers should never overlook - do not ever look down upon on children. For some reason we adults always think that children are good and simple by nature. They need to be taught about the borderless knowledge of the world and how to sustain their good qualities in-born. However, as we can see from countless news reports about violence on campus and juvenile delinquency in recent years, our assumptions now seem irrelevant and inappropriate. Are children really as simple as we think they are? Do children have their own way of thinking that we adults are unaware of or reluctant to learn about?

Look at the students whom Akutsu met before she transformed herself into a "devil" teacher. They bully. They kill. They pay no respect to human life and dignity. They set their teachers up in wicked plots to make them resign or deprived of their jobs. Worse still, most parents do not have any idea of what their children truly are. They are easily blinded by their good behaviour on appearance, and do not bother to find out what their children think inside their little but complicated minds.

Isn't it a bitter reminder for parents and teachers, who have been taking it so much for granted that children are simple and innocent and should not be held responsible for what they do?

I even think that it's time for the judiciary to re-consider this naive assumption and review the legal proceedings for juvenile delinquency. I don't say this simply because I have watched the Japanese drama. I say this because I find the frequent recurrence of juvenile violence, drug and sexual abuses over the last couple of years unacceptable and irritating. The current approach of giving teenage criminals exceptionally lenient treatment, based on the assumption that they are too innocent and immature to fully understand the consequences of their deeds, is but a hopeless fallacy. How can you be sure that a 15-year-old boy doesn't know it is illegal to kill or to rob? Do you really believe in this kind of bullshit if the boy tells you that he doesn't know? Does it have anything to say about the education being offered to our next generations? At a time when people in 70s or 80s are often found guilty of engaging in violence and sexual abuses, despite their "experience" as human beings, what difference can age actually make in terms of defining the legal liabilities of offenders?

That's why I find it somewhat surprising that the 13-year-old boy who almost claims Akutsu's life in the drama can escape from any criminal charges he may have faced. Akutsu is right by saying that only education can achieve miracles, but a superstitious belief in the power of education without taking into account its limitations can also be destructive. I'm really worried about Akutsu, who is ready to risk her life for her students. Luck will not be always on her side.

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Disgraceful Obsessions - A Personal Review of Policy Address 2006-2007

Chief Executive Sir Donald Tsang delivered his second policy address today.

Not surprisingly, this policy address fails to present a long-term vision for Hong Kong's sustainable development. Sir Donald's obsession with pragmatism and his eagerness to solicit support for a second term in the office has become a convenient excuse for his lack of commitment to the "blessed land" that has nurtured him for more than 60 years.

Among other things, what irritates me most is Sir Donald's arrogance. I can understand why Sir Donald is so proud of what he has been doing, because people of his age still think that securing a permanent job with pension in the Government is a lifetime achievement that is worth mentioning when he visits his grandfather's grave. Being an administrative officer responsible for policy-making for the Hong Kong subjects provides yet another justification for arrogance and complacence. Unfortunately Hong Kong is no longer a colony. We do not need a benevolent autocrat who is obsessed with lip service of his love and commitment to his subjects. Despite the boring and demoralising education we have received at schools all these years, we are still smart enough to tell whether the Government leaders have done their jobs well. Aren't you making yourself a laughing stock by putting those ridiculous words such as "always people first" and "for the people" in writing in every single piece of propaganda, when this is exactly why every taxpayer contributes to allow the Government to exist? Are you trying to remind your people or yourself?

The second most annoying thing is his repeating Hong Kong's success story AGAIN to show the so-called "emotional" side of the Great Leader. In his 60s, Sir Donald is exactly one of those baby-boomers who have made Hong Kong as it is today. They have conveniently turned a blind eye to the fast-changing, interest-oriented social environment of Hong Kong that is totally different from the time when the baby-boomers left their schools to their careers. At that time social mobility was high. Opportunities were everywhere for those who worked hard and were willing to learn and improve their lives. Changes were slow and progressive, allowing people more time to adapt. Individuals often have a strong sense of responsibility not only for himself/herself, but also for his/her family and the community as a whole. People respected each other by Confucian heritage although they didn't know much about the Western values of human rights. But all these have gradually been replaced by an obsession for personal pursuits at the expenses of the others, so long the means are allowed within the legal framework. Communities are torn down and conglomerates uproot family business and entrepreneurship. Hard work is no longer appreciated but cunning tricks, in the name of creativity, work and count. Every aspect of Hong Kong are dominated by baby-boomers who refuse to retire, and these are the people who criticise their next generations of lacking commitment and experience because they see their children are not as successful as they were at the same age, in terms of both income and social status.

Sir Donald, pardon me for asking a dumb question: Under such a shameless and soulless environment, how can you expect your next generation like me, a woman of the same age of your sons, to work hard to succeed? Do you really think that hard work still works in Hong Kong today?

Let me be absolutely honest with you: To me, this is no better than a convenient lip service to make the people of my age and younger even dumber to follow the success stories of your generation, and by doing this, we are doomed. We are sick of this hypocrisy. People like you have witnessed the irresistible changes of Hong Kong and have facilitated some others, but too many of you have also failed to recognise that new wisdom is also required to survive in the new Hong Kong that you helped create. Of course you are proud of your achievements and would like these to become "blessings" and "fortune", but we don't want them. While these blessings and fortune do not last, they can also become a curse for us. We want to do things our way like you did, but in a more sensible, responsible way with more integrity and respect for people, culture and the environment. Please stop all the rhetoric about the people and your old success stories. Concentrate on what you should do and shut up.

Sunday, 8 October 2006

懺情記之天海祐希篇

說不盡的女王,說不盡的天海祐希。

早在改編自《源氏物語》的《千年之戀》上映時,便聽說過天海祐希的名字。無奈我對這部世界上最早的長篇小說,始終不過電。無論是原著譯本還是電影改編本,都是淺嘗輒止,半途而廢,屢試屢敗。天海祐希在《千年之戀》的造型固然是非常討好的,但卻沒有令人驚喜。也許是因為對寶塚歌舞團的成見,總覺得在寶塚反串男角的女生都是一個粉紅模子倒出來的,沒有血肉,沒有個性,只有假鳳虛凰的柔情蜜意,像任劍輝演周世顯時激昂澎湃的男子氣概完全欠奉,但日本師奶卻甘之如飴、神為之奪;不禁懷疑日本師奶欣賞男人的眼光,可能還比不上半世紀前的順德媽姐。

第二次看到天海祐希的名字,是在《溥傑與皇妃》的演員名單上,天海客串飾演在中國出生的日本歌姬李香蘭。唱歌跳舞自然難不到花了六年半時間就登上寶塚首席男主角寶座的天海,但李香蘭的嬌媚纏綿,又豈是輪廓分明、線條硬朗的天海所能企及?氣質不對就是不對,任是大羅金仙也無能為力。可憐天海演李香蘭的造型卻博得「像人妖」的惡評,這可不關她的事,只能再次嘆一句日本男人完全不懂欣賞女性,對氣質這種只能意會、難以言傳的抽象東西,根本摸不著頭腦--難道穿上鑲滿珠片的旗袍、在鬢邊插朵大紅花就是李香蘭了?開玩笑。

真正欣賞天海,當然是因為看了令香港多少家長和教師無地自容的《女王的教室》。編劇遊川和彥那辛辣、戲謔的筆鋒固然叫人擊節讚賞,但天海的演繹也是功不可沒。看她一臉輕蔑地批評學生的無知軟弱、家長的自私虛偽、老師的苟且怠惰,實在痛快淋漓,真想跳進電視機裡敬她一大碗酒。

我相信天海是演繹「女王」的最佳人選,即使換了氣質相近的江角真紀子,也可能演不出那種讓人嗅出死亡味道的冷酷無情。天海不必吹大氣、瞪眼睛,兩顆深不見底的眼珠子只要四十五度角地斜睨著你,或者居高臨下、漫不經心地用眼光把你全身掃瞄一遍,你便會不由自主地機伶伶打個寒顫,彷彿自己突然給脫光了衣服站在她跟前,甚麼秘密也藏不住了。

昨晚看了《女王的教室》前傳第一部《天使墮落》,又教我張大了嘴巴合不攏。不是沒見過天海披散一頭鬈曲長髮載歌載舞的揮灑自如,而是沒想到她可以這樣脫胎換骨,做個心思單純、懦弱怕事,連目光也變得平庸起來的小婦人。天海從來不是小鳥依人、不吃人間煙火的類型,而是深通世故、看盡人間冷暖的sophistication的化身,看她穿起圍裙為丈夫和兒子煮飯打掃,居然散發著尋常百姓家的溫婉嫵媚,怎不教人看傻了眼?最令人奇怪的是,我對《溥儀與皇妃》裡天海的「人妖」造型記憶猶新,如今看她在《天使墮落》的模樣兒,竟然感到一份難以抗拒的親切和美麗。

「美麗」從來不是天海的形容詞,至少她給我的印象是如此。說起天海,總是覺得她「酷」、「帥」、「型」,跟美麗沾不上邊兒。以容貌來看,天海當然算得上是個漂亮的女生,然而她高挑瘦削的身材、輪廓分明的臉龐和長時間反串男生的演藝經歷,至少在觀眾心目中,早已把她和女人的身分割裂,否則不會有那麼多日本師奶為她著迷,而是應該把她當狐狸精看待。我敢打賭天海的影迷以女性佔絕大多數,因為男性對一些曾經反串男生的女演員總是有一種莫名其妙的敵意和戒心,深怕自己的老婆和女友會給迷得七葷八素,然後被這些不男不女的怪物吃掉,一去不返。天海固然是其中的佼佼者,任劍輝、茅威濤、龍劍笙何嘗不是一樣?

反串男角的經歷,不但為女觀眾製造了無窮遐想,更為女演員本身帶來沉重的心理負擔,像茅威濤那樣仍然可以結婚生子、成就「正常」人生的「成功個案」並不常見。畢竟沒幾個男生受得了自己的太太或女友是女扮男裝、博得一眾師奶、少女瘋狂迷戀的反串演員罷?最近聽說天海和男友吉川晃司在鬧別扭,心裡總覺得有點不舒服。詳情我當然不知道,也無意深究,只是想說,除了性別錯亂的問題,如果妻子或女友事業有成,男方看在眼裡只有酸溜溜的葡萄,或者只埋怨女方沒有足夠時間和自己在一起,沒有給她應有的支持和關心,便是罪大惡極,活該給丟到阿馬遜熱帶雨林餵鱷魚。我不知道天海的終極人生目標是甚麼,但如果她嚮往結婚生子的「正常」/傳統人生,希望她在二十一世紀的今天,可以找到真正關心她、尊重她個人自由和尊嚴的另一半。我只有祝她好運了。

What Education Is All About?

Japanese TV drama Joou no Kyoushitsu, literally "The Queen's Classroom", is thought-provoking in many ways. In addition to being a mercilessly straightforward reminder of hypocrisy in the adult world, it also inspires the audience to re-think what education is all about.

No other issue can be more relevant and important not only for Hong Kong but all over the world.

One of the most common criticisms of Maya Akutsu is her ruthless and tyrannical style of teaching. She seems to pay no respect to human rights of her students. Otherwise she would not have forbidden her students to leave the classroom to respond to the call of nature under all circumstances.

She is also notorious for the pre-mature introduction to her students the merciless competition in the adult world by emphasising the paramount importance of achieving good academic results. Her arguments are simple and straightforward: Our resources are very limited. Only successful people will be given a choice. Good schoolwork means success, preference and thus happiness. Mediocrity will bring nothing but contempt and misery. This argument is fully put into practice in her class. Preference is always given to those with the highest marks in class. They can receive lunch first with the best choices available. They can pick a seat wherever they want. On the contrary, those with poor academic results have little choice, if any at all. Worse still, they are made to serve their classmates and be responsible for all the cleaning and tedious jobs that nobody wants. Undoubtedly, these measures make it even more difficult for those students with poor performance to catch up.

The audience should find little difficulty in understanding Akutsu's strategy of transforming the classroom into a battlefield, in which her 12-year-old students are exposed, most probably for the first time, to the reality of pain and despair that their parents have been trying to conceal from them.

Exposure to the cruelty of reality is, however, merely the first and most obvious implications of Akutsu's punitive strategy. What she wants to achieve ultimately is to strengthen her students' capabilities in meeting whatever challenges they may face in future. No one can be spared from any difficulty in life, so get ready sooner than later. The process during which her students evolve from such negative responses as suspicion, mistrust and resistance to positive attributes of courage, confidence and persistence speaks for the remarkable success of Akutsu. Upon their graduation, her students finally come to realise the extraordinary but privileged training Akutsu has given them. Their tearful farewell to Akutsu is undoubtedly one of the most touching moments I have ever seen on television.

Apparently this is no more than a dramatised episode designed to impress the audience. What I find Akutsu's strategy provoking is, nonetheless, the sharp contrast between her devastating strategy and the benevolent approach that is commonly adopted in Hong Kong nowadays. In a setting when the rhetoric of human rights and respect for individuals replaces responsibilities and obligations, Akutsu is by all means an inspiring reminder that excessive protection and tolerance can be destructive. Just like human immunity against certain diseases, children can never develop self-protection mechanisms without experiencing setbacks and difficulties. Akutsu's approach is by all means an exaggeration to another extreme, but its intrinsic value deserves more recognition than it currently receives.

When protection and tolerance does not help create next generations with more strength, more integrity and higher capabilities, what should parents and teachers do? If they are right in saying that Akutsu's ruthless approach doesn't work either, what is the best approach of education to achieve the mission of creating a better future with young people of responsibility, respect and integrity?

Unfortunately the negative response of many parents and teachers in Hong Kong show that they fail to comprehend the key question raised in the drama. All they can see is how they become a laughing stock at which Akutsu and the audience coldly sneer. For some reason they fail to do anything but associate themselves with the selfish and stupid gang of adults. What is even more ridiculous is that some accuse Akutsu for damaging the professional image of teachers. How much damage could a fictitious character do to a well-established profession? Why make a fuss of everything if you have already done a good job at what you are supposed to do?

Ultimately all these ridiculous behaviours of the teaching profession may be attributed to the result-oriented management that is proven to be seriously unfitting for public functions such as education. When teachers are evaluated by the number of students who get "A" grade in examinations, how can you expect to have truly good teachers that do not care what parents and students say about them until 20 years later? When the teaching profession is filled with people who fail to attain academic results good enough for business schools at universities but are obsessed for well-paid jobs with long holidays, what kind of education do you expect? When parents feel that education of their children is none of their business but the teachers', what kind of future do you expect of Hong Kong?

Perhaps it's time for Akutsu to launch an intensive programme for those parents and teachers who have failed to do what they are supposed to do, rather than wasting her time in the re-training centre, which will fail to change her philosophy anyway. To me, the fact that Akutsu is sent to the re-training centre for the second time represents a harsh and powerful slap in any education system that prevents truly committed teachers from shaping a better future.

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Overdraft

I can't really tell how tired I am. And yet there doesn't seem to have an end to what I have been doing for about three weeks.

I have been on an alert mode almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not to mention the overtime work through the weekends. It seems that now I have come to point where my threshold was transcended far beyond what I originally expected of myself. To my surprise, I have no headaches, the notorious problem that has been haunting me since teenage. I can sleep - though not very well, of course - but still better when I was suffering from mild depression two years ago. But I'm not sure how long my seemingly good shape is going to last.

There are always two sides of a coin, indeed. I lost three kilograms in three weeks without any workout in the gym. My loins have shrunk and my appetite has dropped to record low. Carbohydrates and meat are no longer my favourites - at least now I seldom want to have them together.

While everything seems fine, I can't help wondering how long the positives are going to last. I am getting more and more worried about my ability to keep up the standard of my work and, more importantly, the quality of life. A colleague was right by saying that there seems no end to what we have been doing together. New things keep happening that require not only immediate attention but also careful planning and implementation. I'm really concerned that the quality of work will be compromised at some point due to my physical and mental overdraft. This unprofessional and unfortunate scenario is the second last thing I want to see.

The ultimate thing is, apparently, a physical collapse.

I don't need another major problem somewhere inside my body to remind me of the importance of health. Hepatitis A was bad enough. I know it is not good to skip lunch for work, but I simply do not have time and appetite. I was really surprised that I didn't feel dizzy or starving when I stepped out of the client's office after a 90-minute meeting. Perhaps I was right when I joked to my colleagues that I have a more than sufficient reserve of body fat mass that would sustain me for another three or four weeks without food.

Unfortunately, compared to many others in Hong Kong, I have the least privilege to complain. Thousands from the grassroots are struggling for more than 12 hours per day for shameful wages paid by the leading corporations and multinationals. They are doing this not only to make their ends meet but also to stay away from the Government and the community's wrongful perception that receiving public financial assistance is a shame that represents laziness, dependence and incompetence. It is no longer news that middle-aged fathers and mothers die at work due to exhaustion and overdraft.

Compared to those hardworking and respectful people who are doing jobs that most people do not want, I am certainly one of the lucky ones. I should be grateful and yes, I am. But from the perspective of maintaining social justice and sustainable development, nothing should justify ever-increasing hours of work that take everything away from people's life but push their physical and mental capacities to extreme limits. We simply cannot afford having too many people suffering from grave illness that sustains the vicious cycle of having fewer people working to support a growing dependent population. Something should be done urgently to break the cycle.

Monday, 2 October 2006

A Bitter Showcase of Ignorance

Nothing compares to watching the final episode of Japanese TV drama Joou no Kyoushitsu, literally "The Queen's Classroom", after working through the weekend. This thought-provoking and heart-warming TV drama yet again proves the unchallenged leadership of Japanese pop culture in Asia, which, in my opinion, is likely to maintain in the next five years.

Not surprisingly, the "devil" teacher Maya Akutsu portrayed by the irresistibly cool Yuki Amami has stirred up quite a bit of criticism in Hong Kong, where many parents and teachers find the TV drama really embarrassingly truthful in hitting out at their darkest corners. Teachers complained that their professional image and integrity were damaged. Some even went that far to ask for a halt of the show. Parents also complained that their children are so intimidated by the "devil" teacher on television that they are reluctant to go to school. Their children are said to be crying loud whenever they saw Yuki Amami appearing in black from head to toe. Most probably under the pressure of parents and teachers, an Education and Manpower Bureau spokesperson said in early August (when only two out of 11 episodes of the drama were aired) that parental guidance is recommended for this drama.

What a bitter showcase of ignorance and selfishness among Hong Kong parents and teachers it is, although few have recognised this long before they are expected to. Those parents and teachers who lashed out at the drama are exactly the target of harsh criticisms of the drama. Essentially it is this group of parents and teachers who have spoilt their children, who have made their children incapable of doing anything but complaining for discomfort and difficulties. Isn't it ridiculous to any sensible person that children are afraid of going to school after watching something on television? Isn't it obvious that parents, like those in the drama, are providing their children with unnecessary protection that eventually deprives them of the opportunity of becoming independent people with a reasonable level of survival capabilities? Isn't it absurd to accuse someone of damaging a profession's image when actually the drama's criticisms are targeting those who fail to do their job properly? Is there any reason why the teachers' union leaders broaden the issue to become something for the entire profession? Does it imply that the drama's criticisms have hit out at something in them?

However, for those who are neither parents nor teachers like me, I find it extremely thought-provoking and exciting to see that how the hypocrisy and selfishness of parents, teachers and the whole adult world is scorned with Maya Akutsu's cold and contemptuous remarks.

Rhetoric blaming the younger generations of not being as smart, strong and capable as their predecessors has become very common these days. But few adults do reflect on how this world has been shaped to become as it is. Many tycoons and billionaires born before or during the post-Second World War baby boom often encourage the youth to work harder to succeed. But they have turned a blind eye to the fact that the community has become so much different that their dictum of hard work no longer works, or at least not as effective as it used to be. At a time when society is fully or even excessively institutionalised, unbreakable monopolies are everywhere and thus creativity and innovation is subtly suppressed, what can you expect from the future generations?

What Maya Akutsu advocates in the drama is nothing but the old wisdom of building strength through hardship and suffering. As one of the characters aptly puts, Akutsu becomes a devil teacher to train up her students so that they are better prepared for the challenges in future, rather than allowing them indulge in the greenhouse created by their parents and other teachers who believe that children should stay away from anything dangerous and contaminating. Those who always stay in a virus-free environment are more likely to get sick when exposed to polluted air because of poor immunity and adaptability. It is just as simple as that.

Sunday, 24 September 2006

When the Devil Wears Prada, What Should We Do?

Just watched The Devil Wears Prada with Shirley in an attempt to escape at least for two hours from the non-stop string of media calls and lingering mental stress at work. While it was not a really good laugh as I expected, the whole line-up did a wonderful job to play their roles remarkably well and in an appropriate manner.

The most impressive of all, not surprisingly, was Meryl Streep.

She didn't just play the role, but Anne Hathaway did. She appeared exactly as Miranda Priestly, the character she played. She convinced the audience subtly but thoroughly with her voice, her eye contacts, her facial expression, and the way she behaved. Her soft and gentle voice, which I found irresistible, created an amusing contrast to Miranda's cool-headedness at work and ruthlessness in giving the people around her a truly horrible time. I can't really tell how much I admired the light but sarcastic tilt of her sexy thin lips when she sneered at someone. Her eyes of unbeatable self-confidence at the luncheon address in Paris and of outrage comparable to a silently erupting volcano were simply GORGEOUS.

I can't understand why I could possibly forget her appearance in Kramer vs Kramer, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Sophie's Choice, Out of Africa and The Bridges of Madison County, all classic blockbusters when I was young. It seems that I didn't take her seriously enough until The Hours.

What have I been doing all these years? How could I possibly miss or forget any of these?

The rest of the line-up did a great job too. I would like to give Emily Blunt (Emily) and Stanley Tucci (Nigel) a special credit. Their performance was really funny and amusing. Anne Hathaway was good, but not as much as she did in Brokeback Mountain, which was absolutely impressive and groundbreaking.

Having said that, I couldn't help having serious doubts over the moral of the movie, which, in my opinion, has become something worse than a cliche. The most obvious was that Andrea made the right choice at the last moment before she lost herself in the labyrinth of luxury brands and extravaganza. Fair enough. But what it really implied was the outdated doctrine that a woman who succeeds in her career has to pay the price of giving up her family and love. (By the way, how is success defined here? Wearing Prada and Versace on a daily basis?) Miranda, the editor-in-chief of the world's leading fashion magazine and one of the most influential fashion commentators that nobody in the fashion and publishing businesses can ever afford to ignore, was portrayed as a desperate and career-obsessed woman who had no personal and family life. She made not only herself but the people around her miserable. She had nothing to look up to except her career, and that marked the beginning of the vicious cycle of a devil becoming a worse devil with time because she simply had no other alternative to keep her job.

My point is, however, why should we keep emphasising the fallacy that women who succeed in career are all devils with family and love blunders? There is absolutely no correlation between career success and family life whatsoever. Notwithstanding the fact that many successful working ladies are married with happy children and husbands, why should marriage remain a primary measurement for personal success or fulfilment rather than a matter of personal choice that is no one else's business but something that deserves others' respect and understanding? Is giving up one's job for the sake of love and family when there is an obvious economic problem a wise choice? People in Hong Kong who have been struggling to make their ends meet in a city without a strong social security system that respect the dignity of recipients should share some of my scepticism.

Another thing that I don't really understand is that why people around Andrea overreacted in such a negative manner to Andrea's endurance and determination to "conquer" the devil? Apparently she knew what she was doing, and she didn't compromise her integrity as she moved forward. It was unfair for Miranda to imply that Andrea had betrayed Emily as she did the same to shatter Nigel's dream. This was nothing comparable in any sense. Andrea made it clear to her boss that it should be Emily who joined Miranda to the business trip to Paris, but Miranda intimidated Andrea to make a reluctant decision with obvious implications. Imagine what would happen you don't listen to your boss who has a notorious name of being the unpredictable and uncompromised? You shall risk your job and perhaps your future in the same industry. Come on, let's be a bit more honest and less hypocritical. Do you really have the guts to say no when your bills remain unpaid and you have a family to support?

Don't take me wrong though. I have no intention to defend Miranda's devil deeds. On the contrary, it was Andrea's strategy of managing Miranda, based on Nigel's advice, which again made me a bit uneasy. Nigel said Andrea was actually whining instead of trying, and said that Miranda was trying to do a good job. I found this unacceptable as it sounded like defence and tolerance of tyranny. A person as capable and powerful as Miranda should be able to work out a way to treat people around her in a more respectful manner. Asking for an unpublished copy of Harry Potter for her spoilt twin daughters was simply not the right thing to do. While it was understandable why she did it to comfort and remind herself as a mother, it was undoubtedly a poor parental strategy that, unfortunately, many wealthy working fathers and mothers adopt nowadays.

Well, unfortunately there is some sort of dilemma here on how to keep one's job without compromising too much of one's integrity in terms of defending or tolerating tyranny unconditionally. Perhaps Nate was referring to the unreasonable orders from Miranda rather than her non-stop calls to Andrea beyond office hours. But he didn't make it clear and to someone from the workaholic city of Hong Kong, taking business calls beyond office hours (do these still exist anyway?) just doesn't deserve any mention - let alone making a fuss of it.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

懺情記之何晴篇

不知道是有緣無分還是命中註定,所認識的美女都是從天而降、猝不及防的。不由分說碰個滿懷,撞得滿天星斗;想要定神細看的時候,佳人卻總是翩然而去,留下只有思念。

這些年來,內地演藝界人材輩出,憑演技實力站穩腳跟的大有人在,叫人由衷佩服的也著實不少,不知怎的,卻好像沒有幾位天仙化人一般的人物,讓人看一眼便忘記不了。

幸而,還有何晴。

余生也晚,來到2003年內地版《射鵰英雄傳》才知道晴姐──請容我厚著臉皮叫一聲「姐」,因為總覺得連名帶姓的稱呼,不太禮貌。儘管《射鵰》拍得不錯,選角平均而言也比最近播完的《神鵰》要好,但真正能夠呈現原著神髓的人物,只有晴姐的包惜弱。記得晴姐的包惜弱出場的時候,眼前為之一亮,跳起來對著電視機直叫:「天啊!怎麼到了這年代居然還有一個和包惜弱一模一樣的女生啊?」

別問我為甚麼如此激動,這份感覺連自己也說不明白。也許是因為自小愛看的金庸小說,終於有了一個比較接近原著神髓的電視劇版;也許是因為晴姐的溫柔嫵媚、清麗絕俗,是近年所見庸脂俗粉之中唯一的清泉。看她一張秀美無倫的臉,裹在一身雪白的毛裘裡,纖瘦的身影佇立在小舟中,隨著幽怨的歌聲飄然遠去,怎不叫人心裡發疼?儘管包惜弱的軟弱、妥協和不問是非間接造成了郭、楊兩家的悲劇,然而此情此景,任誰也無法板起臉孔嚴詞詰難。看,楊鐵心十八年來流落江湖,也沒想過追問半句根由;一旦與愛妻重逢,隨即從容而死,不見絲毫遺憾,咱們這些旁觀者急得直跺腳,又有甚麼法子?

可惜,自從《射鵰》之後,一直沒打聽到晴姐的消息。偶然看到一兩段新聞,說她有份演出一些政治正確的時裝劇,別說在香港沒機會看到,即使有,我也不想看。須知道晴姐本來就是屬於古代的,她小時候學的不是別的,而是「百戲之祖」崑劇,所以時裝戲永遠不是她那杯茶。這當然與演技無關,但氣質不對就是不對,看晴姐拿起手槍、蹙著秀眉演甚麼硬橋硬馬的革命者,我比誰都難過,簡直有「虎落平陽遭犬辱」之嘆。最近還打聽到她和曾志偉在某劇集裡合演夫妻,天哪,這是誰的安排?簡直比扈三娘被逼下嫁矮腳虎還要噁心,曾志偉哪裡配得起晴姐?怎麼可能配得起?難道製作人員就不能讓晴迷們過兩天安穩的日子嗎?

古語有云:「紅顏薄命」,秉承著天地間清明靈秀之氣、長得脫俗出塵的女子,彷彿盡是神話故事裡下凡歷劫的仙女,總要叫人握腕長嘆才甘心。童話故事裡美滿幸福的公主,往往都沒有中國人的份兒。我本慶幸晴姐是唯一的例外,誰知道她還是逃不過宿命。

也許,不吃人間煙火的美女,命中註定就是寂寞的,因為沒有俗世的男人會明白仙子的心事。就像那些認為晴姐近年疲態已露,不復少年時清麗無愁的傢伙,只看到外表上無可避免的變化,卻對閃爍著智慧和歲月光芒的淡雅氣質視若無睹。

那麼,仙子的心事是甚麼呢?我既是凡夫俗子,也沒有本事洞悉仙機,只能憑著半點蛛絲馬跡,聊作臆測而已。

晴姐是唯一演遍四大古典名著改編本的女演員,分別在《西遊記》裡飾演一個作弄豬八戒的小精靈、在《三國演義》演小喬、在《水滸傳》演李師師、在《紅樓夢》電影版演秦可卿。看,除了那個頑皮的小精靈,小喬、李師師和秦可卿,哪位不是書中艷壓群芳而又命薄如紙的女子?日前又得知晴姐在張紀中監製的《碧血劍》中飾演溫儀,無論是少年或中年的造型,也和書中人非常吻合,再一次令人讚嘆不已。以晴姐的美貌和氣質,固然是擔演這些角色的不二人選,但同時也不能不讓人敏感地猜想,到底這些角色和晴姐有哪些共通之處?

還有晴姐的芳名,本來是一個陽光燦爛、活潑開朗的名字,就像她多年前曾經演過俏麗天真的小公主天鳳,笑得兩靨如花,從不識人間愁苦。但她的姓氏,把整個名字換了意思,變成了一個悵惘萬分的疑問句。

憶起何晴,我彷彿看到愁眉不展的仙子,迎著風,低著頭,思量著她那些不為人知的心事。偶然抬起臉來,仰視那清朗無雲的長空,只聽到她幽幽的問道:「為甚麼今天天氣那麼好?」

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

《西江月》

急雨飛亂銀漢,濃雲鎖斷高樓。浮華半世夢魂收,幾許情懷如舊? 腐鼠難成滋味,甘泉早涸東流。臨行莫問再淹留,餞我三杯淡酒。

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

新不如舊?從內地版《神鵰俠侶》說起

連續昏天黑地的忙了兩個星期,到今天總算可以鬆一口氣,早點回家休息看電視。沒想到內地版的《神鵰俠侶》那麼快已放到尾聲了。昨晚才演到「風陵夜話」,今天就到「排難解紛」了。

也許真的老了,小時候對金庸小說如癡如迷,廢寢忘餐的看下去,連電視和電影改編本都不會錯過;這次電視上播放《神鵰俠侶》,卻已提不起興緻追看下去。當然,《神鵰俠侶》本來就不是我最喜歡的金庸小說,看電視版的興趣已經打了折扣。偶然在健身室的跑步機上看到一集半集,也覺得沒甚麼意思,只有到了絕情谷那一段,才看出一點點戲味來。

本來以為像我這樣十多歲便開始懷舊的人,早已失去接受新事物的包容,老是覺得新不如舊,先入為主的感覺固若金湯、屹立不倒。沒料到這一版《神鵰俠侶》居然讓我對內地製作的武俠劇稍為改觀,感受也比當年《笑傲江湖》和《射鵰英雄傳》更深刻。

內地版《神鵰俠侶》最成功的地方在於男女主角的人選。劉亦菲的小龍女和黃曉明的楊過形神兼備,非常難得。我甚至覺得黃曉明演楊過比劉德華和古天樂都要成功。劉亦菲限於資歷,演技稍遜,可以體諒,但很多內心戲的分寸拿捏得相當準確,明顯比《天龍八部》時進步多了,實在可喜可賀。如今唯一令人擔心的是,劉亦菲那份不吃人間煙火的靈秀和清麗,在這個污煙瘴氣的大染缸,還可以維持多久。

《神鵰俠侶》其他配角也算不錯,可惜演來平穩,不算突出,令人印象深刻的居然是男扮女裝的裘千尺。若說最令人失望的,恐怕非郭靖和黃蓉莫屬。

聽說他們在內地也是有名的演員,但看上去總覺得與原著人物的感覺相差太遠──男的精明太過,忠厚老實彷彿都是裝出來的;女的穩重端方,缺少了蓉兒的玲瓏慧黠。最要命的是,兩人似乎都不適合古裝打扮,與其他演員相比,總覺得不搭軋。

一如以往,這一版《神鵰俠侶》在內地得到很多觀眾支持,認為比二十多年前的香港版(其實是無線版)製作更精良。坦白說,這種比較沒意思,製作條件當然是要進步的,如果二十年後的今天還比不上當年,那就太離譜了。不過,戲劇好看與否,並非只看外在的製作,還要看有沒有戲,戲演得好不好。

自從當年張紀中宣布開拍《笑傲江湖》,網上很多武俠劇迷也開始洋洋灑灑的寫文章討論內地武俠劇的發展取向。討論的焦點主要集中於如何擺脫港式武俠劇固有的成功方程式,或者在這個基礎上開拓新的武俠劇路向。說了差不多十年,大家似乎還沒有找到共識,只是簡單的分為港劇派和「挺張派」,在網上各個討論版互相攻訐,始終成不了氣候。張紀中這些年來一直透過實踐來摸索,拍完《笑傲江湖》還有《射鵰》、《天龍八部》、《神鵰》、《碧血劍》(剛拍完)和《鹿鼎記》(現正製作中)。先不管成績好壞,單是這份遠見和魄力,也值得金庸迷和武俠劇迷向他致敬。

也許我還是囿於港式武俠劇的桎梏,總是覺得張紀中的武俠劇味道不對。當然,我是舉手舉腳贊成內地製作人另闢蹊徑,開創中國武俠劇的新傳統,不要被香港以往的成功妨礙了探索和嘗試。然而,我想我和張紀中最大的分歧在於改編的過程中,如何篩選和剪裁小說的內容,然後以戲劇的形式表達原著的神髓。

我承認,我的審美觀比較接近中國傳統,要形神兼備的才算上品。有人認為改編和翻譯一樣,是重新創作的過程,但我只同意一半。翻譯和改編固然也有創作的成分在內,但最終目的還是以另一種文字、另一種媒體來表達原著的精神,而不是借助原著某些元素,以「新酒舊瓶」的方式重新創作一個新的文本,來表達改編者或翻譯者自己想要表達的東西。所以徐克當年改編《笑傲江湖》來澆他胸中的塊壘,表達對現實政治的不滿,我是不敢苟同的。這也是為甚麼我對八十年代香港的金庸劇念念不忘,因為讀了原著的觀眾才會明白,那些劇集大都能把很多小說裡不太合理和留白的地方補足了,儘管犧牲了一點想像空間,卻也令某些人物的性格變得更全面、更立體。1983年版《射鵰英雄傳》的楊康,便是改編本比原著寫得更成功的佼佼者。

看了內地版《笑傲江湖》和《射鵰英雄傳》,明顯感到張紀中不甘於搬演金庸筆下的武俠世界,還要努力地把自己的獨特風格烙在上面。取景、用鏡的唯美風格是「張紀中派」武俠劇(如果這個「派別」真箇成立的話)最明顯的特點,來到《神鵰俠侶》已經墮入純為美感而美感的斧鑿邊緣。小龍女在絕情谷底戴著花環蕩鞦韆,據說是要表現童話式的浪漫,但這是製作人一廂情願的呈現方式,還是製作人員讀過「生死茫茫」這一回之後得到的啟示和感悟?張紀中對原著人物別開生面(標奇立異?)的詮釋方法,影響了選角和造型效果,也是另一個令觀眾爭論不休的議題。例如楊麗萍的「驚艷版梅超風」、茅威濤的「戲曲版東方不敗」、焦恩俊的「黑鍋臉金蛇郎君」,除了可以引起媒體和觀眾對劇集的好奇心外,我看不到對塑造原著人物有甚麼助益。

看過不少內地「挺張派」觀眾的言論,認為張紀中的武俠劇「大氣」(氣勢磅薄),香港的武俠劇則小家子氣,不可同日而論云云。我想,這仍是停留於比較製作資源的層次,沒觸及一部出色的武俠劇應該具備甚麼條件的核心問題。現在內地開放已久,只要辦好手續,循規蹈矩,名山大川均可成為取景場地;但二十年前香港還是英國殖民地,而內地仍屬開放初段,如何能夠借助蒙古草原、高山飛瀑等得天獨厚的景色來呈現武俠小說裡想像馳騁的江湖?更何況,風景名勝的懾人氣勢和賞心悅目的色彩,並不一定可以彌補戲味的貧乏和人物的蒼白無力。

武俠小說的精髓,在於「武」和「俠」二字;在金庸小說而言,「俠」的意義又比「武」重要。金庸小說的「俠」,不一定是蕭峰、郭靖那個層次的俠之大者,我認為可以粗略地引伸為人物。為甚麼呢?金庸小說裡的男主角,只有極少數稱得上「俠」,像陳家洛、楊過、張無忌、段譽、虛竹、狄雲、石破天、令狐沖和韋小寶,無論性格、能力和人生取向也不是「俠」的材料,但他們的個人魅力卻超越了武俠小說男主角必須行俠仗義的傳統規條,成為最具吸引力的焦點。金庸筆下的女主角更不用說,幾乎人人都是為情而生的女子,最多只能像黃蓉那樣和丈夫一起殺身成仁,卻少見獨立自主的價值取向。此外,從《書劍恩仇錄》到《鹿鼎記》,金庸小說總有一個主題,透過主角的奇遇來呈現,而不是他們所學所練的武功。換言之,金庸小說裡的武功只是一種烘托人物性格的工具,人物才是最重要的。因此,要把金庸小說改編成優秀的武俠劇,說到底還得在劇本和人物塑造方面痛下功夫,那些千篇一律的爆破場面或《龍珠》「龜波氣功」式電腦動畫,不過是末節而已。

Monday, 21 August 2006

《認》觀後雜感

早前應朋友之邀到藝穗會看話劇《認》,頗有感觸。

劇名《認》,最少隱含兩層意思。第一,女主角到底是否認得出精通易容術的男主角。這個層次的「認」,是指外表和聲音這些看得到、聽得見的東西,也是最直率、最容易做到的「認」。女主角與男主角分手多年,不通音問,始終無法忘情。不管風流成性、到處留情的男主角有多少情人,她還是認為自己最了解他,無論他如何易容,也逃不過她的法眼。不過,她竟讓他一而再的在自己眼皮底下全身而退,即使旁人早看出來了,自己卻半點也無法察覺。

第二,女主角是否承認那份自信和執著,只是不切實際的一廂情願。她一直堅持自己對男主角的聲音容貌瞭如指掌,但其實對面相逢不相識。女主角的自信和執著,在她而言是源自她對男主角那份沒有完全放下的感情。不過,她的拍檔寧願開罪她也要反覆詰問,就是要她坦白面對自己與男主角的感情,是真的餘情未了還是不過心有不甘,她也是以橫蠻和固執來回應:「我那麼熟悉他,絕對不可能看錯。我沒看錯就是沒看錯!」這種近乎迷信的執著,說穿了,也許只是一種自尊心受損的反射作用罷?

在現實生活裡,自欺欺人的事情無日無之,從「努力讀書便能改善生活」到「求學不是求分數」,但多少人有勇氣戮破那些美麗的謊言?日本劇集《女王的教室》揭破成年人的虛偽,希望引起成年人在教育下一代方面的反思,來到香港卻落得被家長和教師口誅筆伐的下場。

一廂情願、自欺欺人,至少在中國傳統文化裡,從來是悲劇的根源。刻舟求劍、緣木求魚這些成語的主角,都是因為相信自己相信的才是真理,淪為千古笑柄。

在感情的國度裡,一廂情願、自欺欺人,從來也是令人嘆息的。很多人寧願相信自己心中的幻想,也不願面對外人無法否認的殘酷現實。因為愛得深、愛得執著,我們都不忍深責,寧可用「癡」、「傻」來形容。如果換了是沉迷酒色財氣的,大夥兒可不會這樣客氣。

但是,一廂情願到底還是一廂情願。心中的幻夢,總有醒過來的一天。沉醉愈久,清醒的時候便愈痛苦。世上恐怕沒有幾個慕容復或者殷離,可以永遠沉醉在自己的夢鄉中,長醉不願醒、也不會醒,只有旁人為他們乾著急的份兒。

最後談談本劇的製作。

《認》劇由一群喜愛戲劇的少年負責製作,經費不足的窘境俯拾皆是,但那份熱誠教人感動。可能由於欠缺經驗、能力有限,在編、導、演方面皆有不足之處,影響了整體觀感,甚是可惜。編劇者尤其須在駕馭文字方面痛下苦功,否則辭不達意,空有精彩的意念也無從表達。尾場也有蛇足之嫌,建議稍作精簡,或者寫到公主被殺,特務組織幕後黑手以男主角多番逃脫為由,通緝女主角便可作結。演員方面,大都中規中矩,但演來稍嫌緊張拘謹,不算投入。不知道像他們這種小型劇社在香港的生存空間有多大,但看他們完場後如釋重負的喜悅,也感受到他們是多麼的享受製作過程的苦與樂。

年輕的時光總是叫人嚮往的。

Tuesday, 8 August 2006

讀史偶拾--歷史的虛偽

早前在校園裡避靜,總算把讀了兩個月、Paul Cartledge著的《Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past》讀完;又花了兩天,看完一部陶晉生教授有份編著的兩宋斷代史。

自小喜歡歷史,純粹是因為喜歡看故事;「鑑古知今」、「前事不忘,後事之師」那些冠冕堂皇的勸學文,我是從來不信的。中國人向來注重歷史,據說傳說時代的軒轅黃帝已經設有史官,但多少人真的能夠汲取教訓,避免重蹈前人的覆轍?

讀了這兩本書,愈發覺得歷史真是一門虛偽的學問。不論古今中外,歷史從來是成王炫耀豐功偉績、抹黑手下敗將的最佳途徑。那些敗寇早已死無對證,紙筆又牢牢握在成王自己手裡,有甚麼不可以的?想想看,到底是誰告訴我們紂王、秦始皇、隋煬帝是暴君的?是當時在他們統治之下的黎民百姓,還是推翻了他們,以天命所歸自恃的新統治者?甚至遠在世界彼端的阿歷山大大帝(Alexander the Great),也免不了任命御用史家Callisthenes,為自己歌功頌德,把自己塑造成天神之子,甚至是天神,讓後人永遠記得他震爍古今的雄才大略,而忽視他父親菲臘二世(Philip II of Macedon)早年奠下的基業(詳見Paul Cartledge原著第十一章)。

有趣的是,歷史作為一門獨立的學科,一向強調不偏不倚、不為權貴所操控、以事實為根據的客觀論述。Alexander的御用史家Callisthenes也許因為太「盡責」了,就曾被後世的史家譏為「馬屁精」(the flatterer);另一名希臘歷史學家Arrian,也因為採用Alexander童年好友兼希臘埃及王朝始創者Ptolemy I Soter的記述而被人嗤之以鼻(Paul Cartledge原著附錄,頁248至250)。初唐名臣魏徵曾參與編撰多部史書,由於敘事和評論少有隱諱,也博得「良史」的美譽。春秋時代晉國太史董狐,更因為不畏強權,秉筆直書「趙盾弒其君」而名揚千古。

不過,董狐「趙盾弒其君」的記述與事實不符,明顯是出於某種政治動機而「冤枉」趙盾,把弒君的責任推到趙盾頭上。孔子站在維護君尊臣卑社會秩序的立場,讚賞董狐是「書法不隱」的「古之良史」,本屬無可厚非;但從歷史學的角度看,董狐的寫法實在有違以事實為根據的述史原則;而孔子褒揚這種撰述歷史的手法,就是剝奪了歷史作為一門學科的獨立性質,把道德標準或政治需要凌駕於歷史追求真實和客觀的精神之上,無異於成為統治者利用歷史作為政治宣傳工具的幫兇。

可惜中國人對權威欠缺批判精神,只把聖人的說話奉若圭臬,沒弄清楚孔子讚賞董狐的背景便盲目跟隨,造成傳統歷史論述失實偏頗,給後世貽留很多誤解。例如古代史家一向認為宋代積弱,可能只是囿於以漢族中原政權為中心的世界秩序受到嚴峻挑戰的觀念影響,認為宋代被強鄰交侵,沒有還擊之力,便是國勢軟弱的表現。但若論國家財政實力、工商業蓬勃和科技的發展程度,宋代可能比明、清更強大。儘管北宋全盛期的疆土比不上明、清兩朝,仍能應付國內大量官員俸祿、軍費、對外歲幣等龐大支出。南宋只有半壁江山,也能在女真、蒙古多次大軍壓境的情況下支撐了一百多年。反觀明末和清末,幅員遼闊、物產豐阜,但財政左支右絀,窘態盡露,不禁令人深思「宋代積弱」四字背後蘊含的深意。

當然,歷史既然是人類撰寫的,剪裁史料、遣詞用字也反映了史家的主觀取向,沒可能做到完全客觀。何況歷史與政治關係密切,古今中外的統治者好像沒幾個會容許獨立、客觀、批判力強或持反對意見的歷史學家得到社會尊敬和重視,著作往往被禁,學者本人也難逃死於非命的厄運。當年阿歷山大起用Callisthenes修史,也是出於歌功頌德、營造個人崇拜的政治動機,但後來 Callisthenes因反對阿歷山大要求臣下必須對他施行波斯傳統崇拜神祇的禮儀,把他當作天神一樣崇拜(作為「神」有別於天神之子的「人性」,這在西方文化的宗教觀分得清清楚楚,與中國傳統裡為善者死後成仙觀念完全不同),被控謀反而誅死。中世紀歐洲教會勢力極盛,誅滅異端邪說不遺餘力,也是為人熟知的史實。中國古代屢興文字獄,像清初莊廷鑨因刊行私撰的《明史輯略》而被開棺戮屍、株連數百人的慘案,更是罄竹難書。

不過,即使到了鼓勵學術獨立自主的現代,歷史學家的研究項目和撰述觀點,仍免不了受到現實政治環境不同程度的影響;這種情況在美國尤其明顯。早在上世紀六、七十年代,日本製造業興起,威脅到美國製造業在全球市場的領導地位,於是有一些學者專門研究日本經濟蓬勃發展的歷史背景和深層的文化原因,作為美國知己知彼的參考。同時,美國在第二次世界大戰以來對中國國民黨和共產黨的政策轉變,也引起很多學者專門研究中國近代史的興趣。那些終日批評專制政權扼殺言論自由、學術自由的人,大概忘記了學術從來都是權貴的附庸,只是在不同社會環境和文化之下,權貴對學術界的容忍度有高低之分,影響力的表現方式也有所差異而已。

說到底,歷史就是這麼一門虛偽的學科。學者一方面鼓吹以事實為根據,盡量以客觀、理性的手法記述史實,一方面卻有意無意地受到現實環境、意識形態和個人意念影響而造成內容不同的記述。然而,這也是歷史最吸引的地方。怎樣在浩瀚的書海中判別真假是非,尋找心中的真相,便是讀史的樂趣所在。

可惜,對香港的學生而言,歷史從來不是受歡迎的科目。資料太多、課文太長,沒幾個家長認為唸歷史能賺大錢,沒幾個老闆會認為唸歷史的學生是人才,讀來有甚麼用?熟讀歷史,大概只能像鄧飛(誰還記得誰是鄧飛?)在校際常識問答比賽中出出風頭,比賽完了,就甚麼也沒有,說不定還比不上背熟幾首唐詩宋詞可以像江澤民那樣把書包拋個不亦樂乎。

Sunday, 30 July 2006

Reflections on Personal Pursuits

During the annual retreat on the campus of the Chinese University, a few big questions that I do not have time and energy to think through yet emerged again.

But unfortunately I haven't sorted out the answers to these questions.

Simply put, it seems that so many things that I have been taking for granted in terms of personal goals and strength, have now become objects of serious doubt.

Take my job as an example. A job has always been something to earn my living on, but not necessarily where my interest lies. Of course I enjoy what I am doing, but it seems that I'm just not good at my job at all. Even something that I used to claim specialty on has been challenged, either by myself or others, so many times that the competitive advantage seems to have eroded to alarming levels. More importantly, and disappointingly, the fact that I can rarely identify myself with my job and my indifference for job satisfaction have now developed to a point that preempts further progress in my career, both in terms of quality of work and position. Although people tell me from time to time how smart I am, there is always the connotation that these remarks are referring to my personality rather than my performance. In any case, as in the past 10 years since I have been working, I have much difficulty, if possible at all, to get myself absorbed in my work and strive for the best results as some colleagues do. Someone would be happy or excited at the attendance of an event, for example, but this is exactly what I do not bother to care. I'm simply not a result-oriented person. The process of working can be fun, but I don't care that much about the results, which are often out of my control.

The question is, how can I make a change? Or is it possible at all to change? What can help convince me to be a bit more passionate about what I do, although it is fully acknowledged that it is not necessarily something that I really like?

Without knowing when it happens, but maintaining a certain degree of cool-mindedness and a sense of distance has seemingly become indispensable elements in my personality, even before I came to realise. When many others are excited about a game, at a piece of news or the appearance of a celebrity, I'm just not interested. This indifference has spread to almost everything around me, with only very few exceptions. Once I was told that my ego was too strong, so much so that I don't want to look stupid. Well, yes, but who wants to look stupid? Who doesn't want to know what stupidity looks like? Sometimes I do feel those who get excited or emotional are stupid, and I want to restrain from joining them and making a fuss of something unimportant. But in more cases, I simply find there is nothing important or serious enough that I would bother to react on. Be it apathy, scepticism or even cynicism. Any of these or their combination, perhaps, has been internalised to an extent that even "conditioned reflex" would be insufficient to describe precisely how natural my indifference is.

What is even more worrying is that when I walked slowly in the library trying to find a book to read, I felt that the books on the shelves no longer seem as compellingly interesting as they used to be. I spent hours in the library and still couldn't find a book of interest. What's wrong with me? What am I supposed to do if reading no longer provides me courage, strength and guidance to meet the challenges ahead? Am I still prepared to take the progressive steps to achieve my academic dream? I don't know. I just found this weariness and erosion of a long-time interest confusing and horrifying, because reading and studying have brought me enormous enjoyment and satisfaction since childhood. These mean so much more than a hobby or a pastime to me. All of a sudden, to my own surprise, the passion for decades seems to have vanished almost overnight.

Perhaps there is another pragmatic reason for my recent depression - the degradation of Hong Kong. Social injustice, economic imbalance, policy blunders and ineffectual governance have all dissuaded me from pursuing my dreams since childhood. Neither reading a doctorate nor buying an apartment makes sense anymore. Neither seems financially feasible nor sensible. The opportunity cost seems so great that as the main income-earner for my family, I have serious doubts and concerns about these personal pursuits. Hong Kong has never been a city that truly appreciates knowledge and critical thinking. How am I going to make my ends meet as a lecturer if the teaching and research staff are now employed on contract terms and are made to become salespeople for the highly profitable short-term courses? Buying an apartment on mortgage is a serious and life-time commitment. But property in Hong Kong are notoriously expensive to ridiculous levels. Am I ready to sacrifice my personal and spiritual life for the sake of freedom and security? Am I still free and secure if I am bound by a pigeon hole that costs me a life-time fortune but its value is, at the same time, highly vulnerable to the uncertainties of fluctuating economic conditions and governance blunders? Unlike the days when I was a child and even before, there is no guarantee that I could maintain the current standard of living if I chose to commit myself to either one of the dreams. Yes, I can't realise them all at once and have to make a choice first.

How frustrating.

I must admit that essentially the current depression is derived from a sheer loss of confidence in the future of Hong Kong and my capabilities of sustaining the standard of living as today, among other things. There is little I can do to help change the situation here. And I'm not sure if I can venture and make a fresh start anywhere else - at least this is not a financially feasible option for the time being.

Nevertheless, the ultimate question to which I want a definite answer remains valid. Shall I strive to achieve my dreams of life, or should I yield to the pressure of daily life and live to the expectations of people around me? Is there possibly any equilibrium between these two? If yes, where should the line be drawn? If no, how am I going to make a decision and convince myself to accept the decision as a matter of fact without hard feelings on the personal side?

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Challenge the Assumptions for GST in Hong Kong

Government officials and political players in Hong Kong are kept busy this summer on various sizzling issues, with the consultation document of the goods and services tax (GST) as the latest addition to the long-winded agenda.

Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the local population opposes to the introduction of GST in Hong Kong, citing various reasons. It is somewhat out of expectations, however, that the Government has chosen to launch the consultation document at this point of time when there is a handsome surplus in the Government treasury. Few could be left unsuspicious of the political agenda behind this move.

In any case, the arguments in the consultation paper are incredibly weak. Economics students of Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination level should be able to provide counter arguments without much difficulty.

I am no longer an economics student, and I did poorly in this subject more than a decade ago. But GST is something that, once applied, would affect the livelihood of every single person in this city. Perhaps I should also present my two-cents here on the subject, despite my limited knowledge in economics and public finance.

In my opinion, one of the major flaws in the Government's arguments for GST comes in the highly questionable assumption. In essence, the Government has nothing other than "Hong Kong's tax existing tax base is very narrow by international standards", which forms the shaky foundation for all the Government's support for GST. According to the consultation paper, a narrow tax base means "we need a new source of secure and steady income from a broader and growing tax base". By having more taxpayers to finance government expenditure, it is hoped that not only Hong Kong would be better prepared for economic challenges and downturns in future, but would also enjoy an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.

What is more eyebrow-raising is the philosophy of our public finance minister, "Were we to do nothing, then in any future economic downturn we might need, as in the past, to increase tax and cut expenditure on public services." Isn't it an economics ABC to increase public spending at times of economic hardships to help revitalise domestic demand and thus the economy? No wonder it took Hong Kong more than five years to overcome the recession (and believe me, our economy hasn't really recovered nor has transformed into a knowledge-based one as the Government enjoys proclaiming) when our neighbours only took two or three.

The consultation paper also ruled out such options as increasing salary tax, profits tax, stamp duties and rates; and drastically reducing personal allowances for salary tax so that more working people would become taxpayers. The Government said that the first option fails to address the problem of a narrow tax base in Hong Kong, and the latter would not be able to address Hong Kong's excessive reliance on taxation of income as more people grow old and retire. GST is, therefore, the solution.

What bothers me with the Government's arguments summarised above is the absence of depth and logic. It is simply hard to believe that the core members of our highly educated social elite have written such statements with little sense.

My counterarguments are by no means rocket science. Firstly, while Hong Kong's tax base is narrow compared with other leading economies in the world (and, essentially, the West, of which most senior officials still have unrealistic fantasy), it does not threaten Hong Kong's status as one of the world's financial centres. We have a generous surplus in the Government treasury and a huge foreign reserve that enables Hong Kong to maintain normal operations for at least 12 months even if all sources of income are cut off. And under extreme circumstances like the notorious financial crisis in 1997, every responsible taxpayer does expect some temporary tax hikes. And don't forget our unique advantage that Beijing might also be able to offer a hand if needed. Simply put, the fact that the advanced and developed economies in the West have GST in place does not necessarily mean that Hong Kong needs to be yet another copy cat so that it would be recognised as one of the few developed economies in the region. This senseless pursuit for hollow identification with the West without taking into account the unique circumstances of Hong Kong is appallingly worthless.

From another perspective, I would rather question how effectively the Government's five billion Hong Kong dollar annual expenditure on salaries and wages and pensions for the civil service? My experience shows that so many civil servants out there are incompetent and simply not suitable for their jobs. They should have been replaced years ago but they are still sitting where they are, being fed on generous salaries but without achieving what they are expected to. Moreover, recently there have been worrying signs that the Government is expanding again, creating unnecessary positions and structures to accommodate members of those greedy, ambitious but bungling political parties. This is a sharp contrast to the much-touted slogan of "a small government". Why hasn't the Government considered taking concrete steps to motivate and rationalise its workforce and structure, including the countless commissions, advisory boards and statutory bodies, so that the taxpayers' money are more wisely spent before thinking of anything else? Should the Government have exercised better care and a higher degree of responsibility when they deal with taxpayers' money, I'm sure Hong Kong's public finance would be even stronger to the envy of many other governments around the world.

Secondly, GST actually represents a harsh challenge to Hong Kong's well-established reputation and competitive advantage as "shoppers' paradise", which essentially means that shoppers enjoy a wide range of commodities at competitive prices and, more importantly, no sales tax to the buyers. It is true that many other economies already have or are considering introducing GST to help finance government expenditure, but Hong Kong has no pressing reason to follow suit. At a time when other economies levy taxes on consumers, Hong Kong's tax free shopping would be more appealing than ever.

In an attempt to mobilise more support for the introduction of GST in Hong Kong, the Government proposed significant reductions in salary and profit taxes after the launch of GST. It was emphasised that GST is revenue-neutral for at least five years, meaning that it would be devised to widen the tax base, but not to snatch more money from taxpayers' pocket.

What a nice word, but try your luck next time, Mr Tang. Few fellow Hong Kong citizens would believe in this type of clumsy hypocrisy. The five-year grace period doesn't mean anything. All we are looking for is a well-thought, long-term proposal, but not lip service without substance. Your term as the Financial Secretary may expire in five years or less, but our citizenship with Hong Kong is a lifelong matter.

For many years Hong Kong has remained competitive with low and simple income taxes, and it will continue to be so at least in the foreseeable future. I would be surprised to see any economy in the region that would reduce their income tax rates to 10 per cent or lower in order to compete with Hong Kong. This is simply unrealistic. Forget Cyprus, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland and Lithuania, Mr Tang. Comparing Hong Kong with these economies in Europe is simply unreasonable and inappropriate. We have different economic structures and social systems and, more importantly, our target markets are just not the same.

What is even more irritating is that the consultation paper insisted that GST is fair because everyone pays. This is precisely why I consider GST an unfair tax because the Government has turned a blind eye to the widening income gap in Hong Kong and diversified spending powers of the local population. When only less than 10 per cent of Hong Kong's entire population owns or controls more than 70 per cent of its assets and wealth, how could you say it is fair for everyone to pay GST? Isn't it weird and poor logic to think that consumption is always on an upward trend, bringing predictable and stable revenue for the Government? Isn't it obvious that consumption would drop as a result of higher spending costs, Mr Secretary? Or have you forgotten how Hong Kong suffered from economic recession and diminishing domestic demand over the last couple of years?

From the shoppers' perspective, the red tape of tax refund application is yet another problem with GST. According to experience from the West, the fantastic role model for Hong Kong, GST is never easy to administer. Hong Kong tourists to Europe and North America should remember how troublesome it is to apply for tax refunds. I have once received a cheque of some 10 Canadian dollars but when I cashed in the cheque, the bank charged me 30 Hong Kong dollars as the handling fee, eating into a substantial proportion of my refund.

In conclusion, I don't agree with the Government that GST is the solution to better prepare Hong Kong for future economic downturn and financial crises. More prudent and responsible public spending should be sufficient at least for the time being. Taking more money from taxpayers and citizens' wallets and put it in the Government treasury is simply not the right way to go. At the end of the day, more taxes will be unable to fund impulsive and senseless spending. Neither is keeping the money in the safe without spending a penny even when you have to, Mr Secretary.

Monday, 24 July 2006

懺情記之嘉玲篇

早已忘記是甚麼時候聽說「嘉玲」的名字的。「嘉玲」當然是指是香港電影 good old days的前輩,不是從蘇州來的劉嘉玲。即使「嘉玲」兩字在娛樂報紙和雜誌中漸成劉嘉玲的暱稱,而提到嘉玲總加上「姐」字識別,但我從不混淆,堅持正本清源,嘉玲是嘉玲,劉嘉玲是劉嘉玲。劉嘉玲不可能成為嘉玲,嘉玲也不會是劉嘉玲。

自從N年前在電視上看到《五月雨中花》和《追妻記》,我就認定,嘉玲是所見的女明星中,女人味最濃洌的。

早前在香港電影資料館看了幾部「光藝」的舊作,更確定了這個想法。

嘉玲是香港電影史上最性感、最具女人味的女子。

嘉玲的美,一如那個年代其他明星,在於氣質,而不在於看得見的肌膚和身材。說來好笑,媽媽從小就向我灌輸「嘉玲不美」的概念,認為她外型線條較粗,不夠纖細云云。這是典型的中國傳統審美觀,總覺得女子要像尤敏那樣嬌小玲瓏,才惹人憐愛。

但是,為甚麼女子一定是要嬌小得可以給男人擁在懷裡輕憐密愛,才算得上美呢?難道身材高大的女子,一定是滿臉橫肉、殺人不眨眼的母夜叉麼?說到底,應該還是大男人主義作祟罷?潛意識裡總是害怕外型相近的女性跟自己平起平坐,挑戰男性的權威。我倒覺得嘉玲骨肉勻稱,是天賦的衣架子,無論穿洋裝還是旗袍,同樣高貴大方,也比那些瘦弱嬌小的女孩子,多了幾分陽光健美的氣息。

相較同時期其他女明星,嘉玲也許不算頂級漂亮,但她淺笑斜睨的樣子最撩人心魄,兩片朱唇微微向上,輕輕翹起的嘴角總帶著那麼一點點慧黠而自信的挑逗意味,嘲弄著你甚麼時候總會情不自禁,拜倒在她的石榴裙下。在那個樸實的年代,明星就是明星,嘉玲從來不用刻意搔首弄姿,更不必自貶身分賣弄甚麼乳溝、臀肉,即使穿起最保守的洋裝,甚至粗服亂頭,也有本事教觀眾看得目眩神馳,這才是性感的極致。加上她磁性、濃重的鼻音,聽在耳裡甜膩膩的,與白光的歌聲也有異曲同工之妙。

不過,到了如今這個人欲橫流的年代,當「性感」與「肉感」混為一談,當傳媒比色情刊物還要齷齪低賤,當人的價值像信用金卡的地位一樣不斷下跌,成為一個個沒有生命的銀碼,誰還有閒情逸致欣賞人類最純潔、最真切的美?

然而,外貌還是末節。嘉玲最具吸引力的,是她那渾身都會女子的自信和尊嚴,不管她飾演的是交際花還是黑市夫人(當年「二奶」的專稱,看,香港人也曾經斯文過的呀),無論是眉梢眼角漫不經意的風情,還是舉手投足溫柔矜持的嫵媚之中,總讓你感到女性自立自強的勇氣和承擔。嘉玲永遠是故事裡最清醒、最有尊嚴的一個,永遠知道自己在做甚麼,為甚麼要那樣做。例如她在《原來我負卿》飾演一名活躍於上流社會的交際花,把多少富商巨賈玩弄於股掌之間,原來只是為了達成亡夫的遺願,供養在外國唸書的小叔完成學業。她明知交際花不是甚麼好職業,但自己沒有學歷、也沒有一技之長,而且也只有這一行能夠在短時間內賺到豐厚的收入,所以她就做了。多年來她一直保持清醒的頭腦,沒有在名利場中賠上自己的尊嚴。討好恩客是謀生技倆,但不等於可以讓那些貪花買醉的男人為所欲為,她總有自己的原則和底線。讓小叔完成學業是亡夫的遺願,無論自己多麼辛苦也要完成,小叔學業有成之日,便是自己功成身退之時,對眼前的浮華絕不眷戀。這些年來身邊也有個男人為她默默付出,但她一顆心只繫在亡夫身上,從不察覺摯友的醉翁之意。相較之下,謝賢飾演的小叔那些幼稚、懦弱的言行,實在令人失望。

其實,嘉玲和國語片的李湄有點相似,兩人同是五、六十年代香港都會女子的代言人,戲路、外型相近,甚至連不適合村婦、古裝打扮這一點也沒兩樣。要是看見了她們的古裝或村姑造型,只會叫我笑得直跌腳,因為實在太別扭了。不過,嘉玲的際遇比李湄好得多,嘉玲不但紅極一時,也不曾演過甚麼《趙五娘》、《女俠文婷玉》那些叫人又尷尬又氣憤的古裝片;退出演藝圈後也生活美滿。如果說李湄是下凡歷劫的仙子,那麼嘉玲就是童話故事裡無憂無慮的公主,在經歷過色彩繽紛的冒險旅程後,終能化險為夷,和她的王子快快樂樂地生活下去,讓童話繼續在俗世裡流傳。