Sunday, 26 August 2007

The Wood Hunt

Sound planning is the key to good project management. As the old saying goes, "A good start means half way to success."

Everything goes smoothly as planned since the keys were passed into my hands in early June. Although it took quite a few weeks to discuss, revise and finalise the renovation plan, the time and effort has now paid off. No major problem has occurred and even the typhoon two weeks ago didn't have any impact on the progress of renovation. Additional items and budgets were discussed and finalised through emails, which is extremely convenient and efficient.

Of course, having someone whom you trust and is reliable to manage the project is another key success factor. Thanks Raymond and Xavier!

Perhaps it was somewhat surprising for both gentlemen to see me select materials such as tiles and taps and so on in an hour or so. Personally I didn't come to realise until then that there seems to be a really clear picture of what I want and what not. There was no difficulty at all in selecting the materials, taking into account the key factors of budget, colour, material, texture and personal preference.

As the completion of the renovation works is approaching, I have moved on to the next steps - the selection of furniture and electrical appliances. Essentially I have already drawn up with a list of electrical appliances and have checked out the prices from an old vendor that always offers a better deal. It's just a matter of placing the order some time later and awaiting the delivery.

As for furniture, the situation seems more complicated. Again, there is no difficulty in defining what I want. The only problem is to strike a balance between my preference and the budget for optimal results.

Having been shopping around for several weeks, the best vendor has yet to appear. Ready-made furniture vendor IKEA is certainly going to be one of the major sources to buy from, but there is still a big question mark over the durability and feasibility of its offerings of the key item of primary concern, bookshelves made of wood (or of materials comparable to wood in durability and outlook).

I have been told too many times about how vulnerable IKEA bookshelves can be (notably the BILLY series, to be precise), but the significantly lower price tags also seem irresistible. Friends and family are telling me that I should spend as little as possible on furniture until everything is settled and I'm sure I'm happy with my new haven. However, I'm the kind of person who hates to start things all over again unless absolutely necessary. Replacing furniture in a few years' time, in my opinion, is just a waste of time, money and detrimental to the environment. I simply want to get things right from the start. That's all.

Another major consideration would be how the products would fit in the layout of my study, which has a 90-degree angle that, ideally, should be made good use of in view of my sizeable collection. This is certainly not easy at all with ready-made furniture. At the same time, the flexibility of having extra shelves other than the default ones is also important. For some reason IKEA has stopped offering loose shelves as an option in recent years. This is really disappointing. But tailor-made furniture is understandably much more expensive. The capability and flexibility to fit in any layout simply requires a premium. That's why I still haven't made up my mind on this important decision - whether or not to opt for a once-and-for-all solution, or an interim offer?

And the fundamental question is - What is more important, budget or style?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

忘路之遠近


慕名去看賴聲川飲譽劇壇的名作《暗戀桃花源》,百感交集。

因為忙著工作、準備考試、張羅新居的雜務,走進戲院之前,根本沒有時間做功課,瞭解一下劇情。所以我必須承認,看到馮蔚衡高翰文辛偉強正式出場的第一幕戲中戲,完全摸不著頭腦。滿院笑聲之中,我感受到一種被拒諸門外的孤獨。

原來《暗戀桃花源》,應該寫成《暗戀.桃花源》才對,因為這是由兩齣戲中戲合成的話劇;而《暗戀》和《桃花源》,正是兩齣戲中戲的名稱。

二十年前這齣戲之所以驚為天人,也許就是因為一切計算精密的移花接木、歪打正著,也因為這是對二十年前臺灣解除戒嚴令、兩岸關係開始融冰的局面,一種一針見血的回應。正劇與鬧劇、戲中戲與戲文本身、戲裡與戲外的沖擊碰撞,看得人眼花繚亂,悲喜交錯。彷彿在繽紛落英之中,看到黃老邪的蘭花拂穴手,穿過花瓣輕輕在觀眾胸前一點,點中了等閒不輕易檢視的傷口。傷口翻開,蛛網塵封的回憶,一下子湧上心頭,教人幾乎招架不住。

悲喜交錯。這是一種很沉重的感覺。

喜悅之中沒有如釋重負,只有驚疑不定。一顆心仍然懸在半空,即使一塊石頭落了地,還有多少沉甸甸的石頭沒有放下,不知何日方得清明。

所以,我不明白為甚麼那麼多觀眾說《暗戀.桃花源》好看,是因為「超低能,勁搞笑」,頗有《俠客行》裡龍、木島主和其他武林中人「皓首《太玄經》」的況味。那些故弄玄虛的黃色笑話和漫畫式的誇張動作,並不是戲文的重點。那明顯是編導的掩眼法,他應該是以低俗胡鬧的方式,烘托戲中老陶進退維谷、裡外不是人的尷尬處境。觀眾笑得愈大聲,心底裡悲涼的感覺應該就愈強烈。

不過,我很懷疑這次公演的《桃花源》,是香港話劇團加油添醋的效果,未必符合賴聲川原創的版本。那些地道的香港式無聊笑話和動作,低俗有餘,餘韻欠奉,讓我在滿院笑聲之中,不由得機伶伶打了個寒噤。

也許因為我比較懶惰,不太喜歡大動腦筋拆解繁複刻意的啞謎兒,總覺得《暗戀》直截了當的沉重、悲涼、幽靜,比《桃花源》的胡鬧和跌宕更動人。本來《桃花源》的老陶是個裡外不是人的可憐蟲,然而馮蔚衡、高翰文和辛偉強的搞笑都嫌過火,那個「呵、呵、呵」的動作更是「無厘頭」到極點,不知那是這個版本獨有還是屬於原創,總之完全沖淡了氣氛,讓觀眾只覺得好笑,卻不覺得老陶可憐,誠屬遺憾。

《桃花源》搞笑空前成功,《暗戀》的催淚效果則保持平穩。對我來說,淚沒給催出來,苦澀倒是灑滿一身。有人批評蘇玉華袁泉都沒有雲之凡那種彩雲出岫、令人驚艷的感覺,我卻認為沒所謂。套用李安導演的名言:「每個人心裡都有一個雲之凡。」甲之熊掌,乙之砒霜,本來就沒有甚麼好爭辯。但如果真的要比較,我還是認為袁泉稍勝一籌。蘇玉華畢竟欠缺了一份清靈飄逸的感覺,這一點在最後一場更是表露無遺。

男主角方面,黃磊潘燦良可謂各擅勝場,平分春色,但我還是偏愛黃磊多一點。他那一身落寞和書卷氣,只此一家,別無分號,潘燦良始終難望其項背。儘管潘燦良十多年前把唐滌生演得形神兼備,讓我驚喜欲狂,然而這一次把同情分都加起來,還是差了那麼一點點。

很慶幸自己看了「兩岸三地版」和「香港版」,可以真切地感受到語言對建立戲劇張力的重要作用。

其實論演技,兩個版本的演員各有優缺;若論言語,當然是「兩岸三地版」佔優。坦白說,以上海和臺北為場景的故事,粵語根本沒有置喙的餘地。字正腔圓的國語,與鄉音佶屈的臺語和擲地有聲的粵語對比起來,本身就是一部中國近代史的縮影。落在別有懷抱的傷心人耳中,自然勝過萬語千言。通篇改成粵語之後,歷史和文化的淵源立時被割斷(最明顯就是《中國時報》、刨冰室、長庚醫院等臺北具代表性的事物,跟香港、廣州等粵語社會沾不上半點邊兒),人物之間的疏離感也消失殆盡(江濱柳的妻子不再是國語不靈光、對上海一無所知的局外人),只剩下一副有形無神、有骨無肉的軀殼。因為這種先天不足,即使演員再努力,戲文的感染力也早已大打折扣,欲挽無從了。

離開劇院的時候,心中一股說不出的滋味。不是說《暗戀.桃花源》不好看,而是總覺得好像有甚麼地方不對勁,卻又無法具體的說出來。所以看完了戲三個星期,才能勉強寫下這些雜亂無章的感想。

也許是這齣戲名頭太響,有意無意之間提高了期望,結果自然難以令人喜出望外。也可能是戲裡戲外的歷史交纏在一起,讓人思潮起伏,愈陷愈深,就像《桃花源記》的武陵捕魚人一樣,忘路之遠近。

Friday, 24 August 2007

Retrospect of a Decade (Final)

These last few words in my retrospect are inspired by the overwhelming account of the history of Hong Kong not just over the past decade, but also since it was made into a British colony, beyond which there seemed no history at all.

From a utilitarian perspective, there is no doubt that the history of Hong Kong before British colonisation has little relevance for Hong Kong today. However, from the perspective of the French Annales School of historiography, which combines geography, history and sociology in its approach of historical studies, it is somewhat pre-determined that Hong Kong is to become what it was, is and will be.

In my opinion, the utilitarian perspective no longer serves us any good. A broader and more open approach that takes into account a wide spectrum of factors on equal footing, without prejudice, would be the only solution to enable Hong Kong to sustain in the long term.

Bar none.

Nothing intrigues me more than the propagandist cliché of how Hong Kong transformed itself from a fishing village into the world city of Asia. This interpretation of history simply underlines an ecstasy of our capabilities that makes impossible is nothing, among other things. Be it the support of China, regardless of the ruling party. Be it the good governance of the British colonisers. Be it the endeavours of the silent majority in the population. Be it, even though many of us are reluctant to admit, pure luck.

Obviously each kind of discourse or interpretation is built upon some sort of assumptions or is designed to achieve certain purposes, whatever they may be. I have no problem being exposed to different views and perspectives, as long as they are substantiated and reasonably argued. What I find it more unbearable is the overwhelming unanimity in the perspective of public discourse of the history of Hong Kong.

This is what I see as another vivid example of how adamantly dominant the baby-boomers are. They are not satisfied with their firm grip of the political, economic and social aspects of Hong Kong. They also seek to define how the history of Hong Kong is written and, more importantly, how most of us think. I still remember when I was only a child, how the fallacy that Hong Kong people made possible all the changes of Hong Kong was hammered into my head. The same key messages were imposed on me by whatever I read, whoever I listened to.

Apparently the economic rise in 1970s and 1980s has bequeathed us a prolonged ecstasy of confidence in our own capabilities that impossible is nothing. Anything that attempts to challenge this fundamental belief is doomed to be discredited and rejected. Most of the historical review of Hong Kong seen in the local media simply reinforced my observation.

For some, the success of Hong Kong is attributed to the support of China or, more precisely, the political upheavals in China that enabled Hong Kong to emerge as the haven for dissents and refugees. For some other, it is the benevolent governance and sensible policies of the British colonisers that matters. For most of us, who would by all means avoid muddling in the dirty water of politics, it is the most politically correct option to attribute every success to ourselves. This is the safest interpretation that gets nobody into trouble. That's all.

Perhaps this is why history, which values strong and sound reasoning based on facts but anything, has never been a popular subject in Hong Kong. Probably attributed to the traditional perspective of historical discourse, history is always an account of the rise of the winners and the fall of the losers in the political arena. Things are either too remote or too scary to be relevant to people on the street.

Paradoxically, our conventional wisdom of ignoring history has now struck back by exposing us to an unprecedented identity crisis. This is because we used think that we are on top of the world, among others, but actually we never came even close. We never realise that we are just a piece of chess in the game between two or more really great powers that neither of them really treat us well. The benefits or benevolence that we enjoy cannot be taken for granted. We could be deprived of any of these privileges overnight. What is good and makes sense for us could be nothing but a happy coincidence.

Without understanding the context of how Hong Kong actually came to exist as it is now, and how the dynamics of the game work out, we are stuck in the middle of nowhere, not knowing what to do and where to go. Helplessly.

Monday, 20 August 2007

十年回首(完)

沒想到要寫「十年回首」的專題,比想像中更困難。選題固然困難,落筆更難。千頭萬緒,不知從何說起。

回首來時路,無能為力的感覺比十年前更強烈。

「我是誰」這個本來不成疑問的疑問,也愈來愈令人迷糊。

那份無力、無助的感覺,源於一種裡外不是人、不為人瞭解和尊重的寂寞。好像人人都在指手劃腳,卻又好像沒有人能搔得著癢處。

如果真的有所謂「世代政治」的話,像我生於二十世紀七十年代的「三十世代」,可能就是夾在「戰後嬰兒」和「二十世代」之間,裡外不是人的一群。

陳冠中和呂大樂所說的「戰後嬰兒」(也就是我一直以來嗤之以鼻的「中坑」),可是我們的父母輩或大師兄、大師姐,而不是香港的第一代人。「戰後嬰兒」總覺得我們這一代缺乏經驗,能力、才智和見識都比不上他們。「二十世代」又覺得我們缺乏創新和反抗的勇氣,只懂得墨守成規,循著「戰後嬰兒」的道路繼續錯下去,有意無間之間為虎作倀,捍衛了維持他們所定下來的社會權力結構。

保衛天星碼頭和皇后碼頭的運動,正是「戰後嬰兒」和「二十世代」決戰的序幕,我敢斷言類似的紛爭陸續有來,而且「戰後嬰兒」很有可能一敗塗地。

「戰後嬰兒」和「二十世代」要比併的,不是政治動員能力,也不是輿論和公眾關注,而是足以決定這個社會未來的價值取向。很多人都寫了文章,認為由「戰後嬰兒」所把持的政府,應該改變思維,真是幼稚得可笑。如果「戰後嬰兒」那麼容易就因為一兩次挫敗而對自己一直以來奉若圭臬、深信不疑的價值觀有所動搖和質疑,香港這十年來的歷史就已經改寫。仔細看看親政府的輿論一味以「議題政治化」和「騎劫議題陰謀論」來詆譭抗議者,以「平衡保育與發展」來掩飾「發展就是硬道理」這句潛台詞的虛偽,我們早就應該知道,「戰後嬰兒」有多麼冥頑不靈。

然而,在這個世代角力的戰場,「三十世代」的聲音薄弱得很,簡直薄弱得令人有點汗顏。我估計,認同「二十世代」打破「戰後嬰兒」對社會價值、資源和歷史論述的壟斷,希望香港透過社會改革來達致長治久安的人,並不在少數。只是我們大多數人都沒有直接參與任何抗議活動,甚至怯於表達自己的意見。我們一方面很想發洩一肚子牢騷,一方面卻害怕任性的後果,或者不想被人利用,作為他們爭取私利的便宜工具。

這就是「二十世代」認為「三十世代」沒有理想、缺乏勇氣的表現,但我們只是啞子吃黃連。我們當中有很多人從小接受了「戰後嬰兒」所灌輸的那一套,生活模式基本上沒有太大的改變,但卻沒有阻止我們發展獨立思考的能力。從初出茅廬到十年人事,我們漸漸發覺社會需要變得有點不同,大家的日子才會過得更美好。不過,無論啟蒙也好、革命也好,往往只停留在意識的層面上,身上仍然有很多難以掙脫的無形枷鎖。就像我們和其他前輩一樣排隊上車,結果上了車才發覺那車並非駛往自己心裡想去的地方,要下車也不知道有沒有機會,只好硬著頭皮暫時坐下去。我們會想法子通知後面的人要看清楚站牌,不要像我們一樣上錯了車;同時也要面對車上其他人的嘲弄和質問,因為他們不明白,除了那個目的地,怎麼還會有更好的地方,我們為甚麼還有別的地方想去。這種無以名狀的尷尬,往往就是「三十世代」最不為人瞭解之處。

所以,明明憋了一肚子話無處申訴,不知怎地,臨到落筆,總有千頭萬緒,不知從何說起之嘆。

哀莫大於心死,想必就是這種滋味。

有些時候,不是不懂得憤怒,而是不知道除了憤怒,還有甚麼方法可以改變現狀。想到此處,總有點討厭自己的妥協和無能為力。

也許,這才是我自己真正的悲哀。

Sunday, 12 August 2007

十年回首(六)

都說天有不測之風雲,然而得力於科技進步,預測天氣變化早已不是甚麼困難的事,困難的只是如何發布消息,讓人有所防範而已。

這十年來,香港天文台從專業的天文科學部門,淪為香港人在風雨時節口誅筆伐、怨憤難平的對象,相信也是始料不及,舉世無雙。

曾幾何時,香港天文台是本港其中一個極受尊崇的政府部門,因為他們的工作與民生息息相關。每逢雨季和颱風時節,收音機裡傳來那些「沙堤以南、海南島以南、北部灣以南……」的漁民天氣廣播,不但是我輩童年的集體回憶,更是毫不起眼而又不可或缺的導航燈,給怒濤中的漁民指點歸家的路。即使在風平浪靜的日子,出門之前穿甚麼衣服、帶不帶雨傘,天文台也透過發放天氣預測,默默指引著我們的日常起居。

然而,不知從甚麼時候開始,香港人就喜歡拿天文台當出氣袋。要是風雨之中大排長龍也等不到車,就抱怨天文台太遲改掛颱風訊號或暴雨警告,應該一早就讓他們下班、下課;要是冒著狂風暴雨上班、上學,又大罵天文台太早除下或降低警告級別,彷彿天文台的工作不是讓大家因應即將出現的天氣變化而調整生活,而是要天氣警報配合大家好逸惡勞、好吃懶做的小家子氣。天氣到底變成怎樣,大家都不太關心,反正住在連綿不斷的屏風樓裡,所謂八號風球、黑色暴雨也只是窗外那一小片風、那一丁點雨。困在層層疊疊的高樓大廈之中,我們的眼光愈來愈短淺,不覺小覷了大自然的真正力量。誰還記得以前數十萬人住在木屋或鐵皮屋裡,每到風雨飄搖的日子就膽顫心驚?即使住在十多層的單幢樓宇,在十級烈風之下,天台或高層單位左搖右晃的驚險感覺,也沒幾個人會明白。至於旭龢道、秀茂坪、觀龍樓山泥傾瀉之後的滿目瘡痍,也沒有人再提起了。今年內地水災災民的日子沒有以前那麼淒涼,我們也就吃了獅子心、豹子膽,對著天公指手劃腳起來,連預測天氣的工作人員也不放過。

我同意天文台的天氣預報機制和內容可以改善,例如為了配合公共交通網絡的資源調配,做好準備疏散人潮,可以提早發出預報;或者按照香港的地理環境,提供更詳盡的分區天氣資訊等。但歸根究柢,甚麼時候懸掛或除下警號,是應該看天氣變化而不是配合人類的生活習慣。風雨要來就來,要走就走,管你下課不下課、下班不下班,再吵下去連雨也不給下一點,到時連污染得五顏六色的東江水也喝不著的時候,還看你這群不知死活的傢伙到哪兒找水喝去。

每次擠在人潮中,被迫聆聽那些不知所謂的傢伙扯開嗓門大放厥詞,恨不得一劍一個,全都刺死。到底那些香港人的腦筋出了甚麼問題,令他們變得如此不可一世?眼前的蠅頭小利,看得比天還大,是不識天高地厚的無知,還是目空一切的狂妄自大?

請天文台的人員恪守專業,不要被那些無理取鬧的刁民嚇倒。在這個渾沌瘋狂的時代,我們更需要一盞明亮而可靠的導航燈。

Friday, 10 August 2007

Snapshot - Tyranny of a Typhoon

Who was that idiot who said that Hong Kong's population should become 10 million? Who was that again?

Come and engage the public as you said, shithead. Just do it.

Just do it when the typhoon signal number eight is hoisted. Stick yourself in the crowd sweating like a pig and you'll know how terribly wrong you are.

We simply have too many rather than too few people.




Retrospect of a Decade (Part 6)

Another change over the past decade that has often been overlooked is the weather. Agree with me or not, the weather of Hong Kong has become drier both in terms of humidity and the volume of rainfall. I remember when I was a child the summer was characterised by heavy downpours and strong typhoons from time to time and an unbearable level of dampness as if you could clasp your hands and squeeze some water out of the air you breathe. That's why some scientists have warned that Hong Kong and the southern province of Guangdong will become a desert by the next century if no effective measure is taken to prevent the extreme but extraordinary weather.

While I love the dry winds and clear blue sky as much as anyone else does, just like what I experienced last May on a breakaway on Lamma Island, I feel sad that summer is losing its colour to look no different from winter. Don't you remember how outrageously warm it was last winter? I didn't even bother to put on anything made of wool. Not even a sweater. Just by putting on a long-sleeve T-shirt would make me sweat like a pig. I was really upset about this, not because I didn't have to put my winter clothes on, but because I have lost the comfort under the sunshine and cold winds in winter. The chill from the north reminds me of warm memories of the laughter at reunions, the comfort of wrapping myself in a thick quilt, as well as the extraordinary enjoyment of hot food and drinks. A chill-less winter without any wool garments is just too appalling.

No doubt that a complicated combination of factors that has come into existence for decades contributes to the climate change. Yet I wonder what we have done to realise how serious the problem has become, let alone fix it. That's why air-conditioners of all brands have been sold out this summer due to the record-high sizzling heat. We are too used to find the handiest solutions to our immediate comfort without even thinking for a second about the root cause of the problem and how to address it.

That's simply not the way forward, if we are going to make Hong Kong a better home not for us, but for our younger generations.

I really wonder why the green groups spend all their time and effort criticising the power companies of polluting the air of Hong Kong. Don't you think the some 600,000 motor vehicles running on the streets of Hong Kong every day bear some sort of responsibility? Are unleaded auto fuels and liquefied petroleum gas the only thing we can do? How about emissions trading with Guangdong province when most of us blame the manufacturing plants there for the poor air quality? What have the Government and green groups and all other parties concerned have done to encourage the use of public transport and avoid driving unless absolutely necessary? What about those guys who like driving more as a means of showing-off than a transport requirement?

Show me the facts and figures and tell me that I'm terribly wrong here.