Just recently my company hired a new General Manager for India. He is now spending his first month with the company here in Shanghai and is probably the only person in my office at the moment born in the 70's. He is from Malaysia originally and ciggie ...

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"DEDLOG" - 5 new articles

  1. Made in Hong Kong 1974
  2. New Year, New Blog
  3. The fight against censorship takes a hit because diplomats don't have the good sense to self-censor.
  4. Not enough Social and too much Media in Social Media
  5. An Incomplete Book Review: My Favourite Wife by Tony Parsons
  6. More Recent Articles

Made in Hong Kong 1974


Just recently my company hired a new General Manager for India. He is now spending his first month with the company here in Shanghai and is probably the only person in my office at the moment born in the 70's. He is from Malaysia originally and ciggie breaks are typically nostalgic. Not so much remembering old times, because I've only known him for 2 weeks, but about shared memories of music and television.
I only tell you this because it explains my current frame of mind. I am also reading (well more accurately listening) to The Company: A Novel of the CIA by Robert Littell and I have reached Part Four of the book. Set in the USA in 1974. Because Littell's story uses a mixture of Fact and Fiction to weave his story, the story makes reference to India's first nuclear test and the Watergate Scandel that got me thinking... What else happened the year I was born.
After Wikipediing and Googling for a little while, I also learned that in 1974, The Terracotta Warriors were discovered, Darwin gets flattened by Cyclone Tracy, ABBA wins the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo, Mohammad Ali knocks our George Foreman in the 8th Round of Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire and the Rubik's Cube was invented.
This was the world in which I was born into. Interesting but all these things happened a world away. So a dug a little further to find out what was going on closer to ground zero in Hong Kong and I found that John Woo had directed his first film. The style that we have know to recognise as a John Woo film is already evident in The Young Dragons 铁汉柔情. One of the movies stars is an actor famous for playing opposite Chow Yun-Fat as the villian. His name is Wan ZiLiang (万梓良).

I only bring this up because my Chinese name is Lin Ziliang (林梓梁).
Interesting? Maybe! Too much time on my hands? Definitely!
 
    

New Year, New Blog

Happy new year to my readers. Yes, both of you!
And to mark the new year, I have started a new Posterous blog looking at the world from Asian eyes, aptly named Squiint. I will still be ranting and raving here and on the dedlam posterous blog but hopefully my themed blog will start to provide content that will look at the world looking from East to West.

Hope y'all had a restful new year.


    

The fight against censorship takes a hit because diplomats don't have the good sense to self-censor.

I wonder if Animal Farm is still on the High School syllabus in Australia. If not then it should be! I remember reading it in ... It must have been in Year 9 or 10. It was one of the books that I found quite easy to read and very entertaining at that age but certainly that and the other compulsory reading material Lord of the Flies have shaped the way I see the world. That might seem a little disturbing but the fact of the matter is that power corrupts regardless of how good the intentions are and to begin with. 

Bringing this back to living in China for the last decade, I have learned to accept certain things. Freedom of speech is something that (at least in today's China) is contained within your circle of friends. You can say anything to people you trust but as the occasional blogger, anything that goes into the public domain must be controlled. The rule of thumb that I go by is that the internet is forever and you can't take back what you put out there. So only post up what you would want your children, your wife, your parents, your grandparents or your colleagues to hear.

Not everybody knows this though. They put things online that are embarrassing to themselves as well as to the people around them and this provides an endless stream of entertainment for me. Opening up an internet browser for me is like having my own personal interactive version of Candid Camera. I learned this lesson of self-censorship a long time ago that extends to my work and personal life. Never put in writing anything that you don't want on your permanent record.

What has this got to do with Animal Farm? When you mix a destructive sense of superiority with a an inability to self-censor, you have some of the current problems the US and other nations are facing with the ongoing Wikileaks situation. Blame is being directed at Julian Assange for leaking private cables from consulate staff about other nations and leaders. Great conversation for the pub, for a private meeting, for Jon Stewart but in an official cable to the US Department of State? Show some self control. I hate to tell you but you have been called out. Your girlfriend has just been through your mobile phone and found SMS messages to your friends telling them how much of a pig she is and no amount of finger pointing, begging and lying on the floor between the aisles of Walmart and stomping your feet is going to mask the fact that you told your friends that your girlfriend is a pig and was stupid enough to leave evidence. This stupidity is not born of a lack of intellect but a misplaced sense of superiority that the World's Superpower should be making these judgemental remarks about another nation in official diplomatic communications.

In the word's of George Orwell, "Four legs good. Two legs BETTER." is what you were thinking.

A  final note before I get back to keeping my mouth shut is that irony is a wonderful and powerful thing. More powerful than all of us and I hope that more than just I see the irony in that the nation that has criticised internet censorship in the media is now systematically shutting down wikileaks. No doubt they will success but at the price of looking like a complete bunch of hypocrites the next time the Chinese decide to block another site like Facebook or Youtube. Good work guys! You've hobbled yourself against the war against free speech by not having the good sense to self-censor.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

    

Not enough Social and too much Media in Social Media

Not much more than a couple of years ago I discovered the joys of social media. Facebook, Twitter and a host of other social networking sites became my link to the world outside my study. I read blogs and participated in discussion but I have recently found this dissatisfying. To the point where I have been asking myself the eternal question. Why is it so?

At first I thought it was because we grew apart. "It's not you, it's me." I said to my computer, not wanting to hurts its feelings but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that the demise of my relationship with the avatarred masses was not just me. The very nature of social media has changed and, in my opinion, it is not unlike being trapped in a loveless relationship. At first it was exploratory. Everything was exciting and new. We were open and sharing information about each other. I found out about the single mothers and their lives, I learned about students and scholars both in China and around the world. I watch as journalists became social media evangelists and heavy metal guitarists become web entrepreneurs. We held hands, we shared experiences and took long leisurely strolls along moonlit beaches and listens to the waves crash against the rocks as the cool ocean breeze blew past our semi-naked bodies like long endless scarves of silk. We met whenever we could, via my browser, via Twhirl, via Orsiso, via Tweetdeck with each new upgrade getting easier to use and more intuitive. In the meantime, SNS's became mainstream. Celebrities, politicians, media groups, even Presidents and Princesses joined in this wonderful new world of connectivity.

But as time went on, we not only grew up but we grew apart. More distant. You no longer told me what you loved, what you felt, what you had for lunch. You just told me the news. Our conversations ceased to be personal and intimate but have become about what is in the newspaper. We used to snuggle up in bed all day and just chat about whatever was on our mind whilst looking deeply into each others eyes. Now we just talk about the weather, the latest cause, the plight of bonusless investment bankers. It has reached the point where I might as well just pick up a newspaper or download the FT app on my iPad because there is nothing social about social networks.
I don't need you to keep in touch with my real friends, I have their email addresses and phone numbers. I don't need a relationship with CNN, I can just turn on the TV. The reason I need you is to have faux friendships with perfect strangers and to have intellectual relationships with people from different walks of life.

So I am giving this relationship another chance, because I believe in commitment, but for this relationship to work we must open up. Tell me what you really feel, not just what is fit to print. I want to know you and in return, I will let you know me. I will tell you my deepest darkest fears and in the end we will all be better for it because we will learn again that we are not that unalike.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

    

An Incomplete Book Review: My Favourite Wife by Tony Parsons

I am not a big reader and most of the books that I am currently reading are next to the toilet in my ensuite. At the moment, next to my throne is a Fredrick Forsyth paperback, a half read sermon by Richard Dawkins and half a dozen copies of That's Shanghai that serves as a reference library whenever my wife asks me what we are doing for dinner.

The depicted red paperback however is with me at all times. It is rare that I get long stretches time to read so I read on the Metro or walking home because I literally cannot put it down. This is not my first experience with Tony Parsons. A couple of years back I read One For My Baby which I barely recall. What I did recall was that it was that I did actually finish reading it. For someone with an attention span as short as mine, it means that it was good enough to keep me interested for the duration of the book.

I picked up My Favourite Wife at Changi Airport on the way home after a two week business trip and I was at that stage eager to get home to see my wife and kids. I troll through the usual suspense and spy novels that I usually read but I settled on this one for two reasons. The first reason was that it had something to do with China and was written by someone whom I already knew and secondly it was just a little more expensive than the usual paperbacks. I figured there must be a reason this book cost SGD3.00 more than the other books.

When I opened the book and started reading, I was hooked. It described the first impressions of Shanghai and I could immediately relate. Ten years ago I arrived in Shanghai with one suitcase, was picked up by a limo and taken to the Grand Hyatt and the impressions of what I saw almost matched exactly Tony's words. The Flash-Gordonesque skyline of Pudong juxtaposed against the colonial architecture of the western bank of the Huangpu River equally left me in a confused and awestricken state that the protagonist Bill Holden must have felt.

My impressions of many of the descriptions of Shanghai also caused me to flash back to my first impressions of well know places in Shanghai. His reference to M on the Bund, the now quiet Maoming Lu and the reference to fictional bars BB's and Suzy Too that made me immediately think of Malones and Judy's Too. Even down to the apartment complex Paradise Mansion where Bill lived which reminds me of Ambassy Court (to be honest it could be one of many apartment complexes that are actually in Gubei but Ambassy Court was the first one that came to mind first) to the International Family Hospital on Xianxia Lu (actually called United Family Hospital in reality) I get the feeling that the book was written from experience rather than just observation. The descriptions actually feel like it was written by someone who had been shadowing me for the last ten years and decided to dramatise my own experiences.

The story itself explores something that I can imagine would have weighed on the mind of many an expat that may have spent time away from their family. Through stories told to me by other expatriate friends and from my own observations, the angst that is experienced by Bill having his wife and child back at home while he was carving out his future in the wild wild East was written in such as way that allows you to see Shanghai in the light of someone who actually acted on his temptations and impulses.

The book also provides an accurate depiction of other parts of China including Shenzhen and Guilin that I had also visited in the past so overall as a great story about the expatriate experience but also an insight into the perception of China and Shanghai from a local perspective. One of the memorable parts was from another character in the book Nancy Deng, a local Chinese lawyer working in Bill's firm over dinner on the streets of Shenzhen where she says two things that I find very insightful about China:

"In China the important men hate everyone's corruption but their own."

and referring to herself;

"I have no big dreams... I know I am unimportant. But I think perhaps my country's future is yet to be decided. It doesn't matter what anyone says. Nothing is inevitable in China."

So for anyone who is a foreigner living in China, or Chinese who have experienced the rest of the world, Tony Parsons' My Favourite Wife is recommended reading. A recommendation from someone who usually has a hard time finishing a book.

Another review I found about the book can be found here and provides a bit more about the plot.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

    

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