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robertogreco : taipei   4

The Brief Idyll of Late-Nineties Wong Kar-Wai
"In the summer of 1997 I was living in London, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I’d left college and had been in the city for a year, trying, like so many other twentysomethings, to write a novel. I’d given myself a year, but as the chapters took shape so did a curious tension about the way my life was playing out. Part of me was exhilarated and determined: I was writing about a country and people—my people—that did not exist in the pages of formal literature; I was exploring sexual and emotional boundaries, forming relationships with people who seemed mostly wrong for me, but whose unsuitability seemed so right; I was starting, I thought, to untangle the various strands of my cultural identity: Chinese, Malaysian, and above all, what it meant to be foreign, an outsider.

But the increasing clarity of all this was troubled by a growing unsettledness: I had imagined that the act of writing my country and people into existence would make me feel closer to them, but instead I felt more distant. The physical separation between me and my family in Malaysia, which had, up to then, been a source of liberation, now created a deep anxiety. All of a sudden I saw the huge gulf between the person I had been and the one I now was. In the space of just five or six years, university education had given me a different view of life, a different appreciation of its choices. My tastes had evolved, the way I used language had changed—not just in terms of syntax and grammar but the very fact that standard English was now my daily language, rather than the rich mixture of Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Malaysian slang that I had used exclusively until the age of eighteen. I was writing about the place I was from, about the people I loved (and hated), but felt a million miles from them.

All around me, the world seemed to be repositioning itself in ways that seemed to mirror this exciting/confusing tension within me. Britain was in the grip of Cool Britannia fever, and London—multicultural, newly confident after the Labour Party’s victory in the elections—seemed to be the most exciting place on the planet, a city where minority groups of all kinds suddenly found their voice and artistic expression flourished alongside capitalism. On the other side of the world, where my family and friends lived, however, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis had just erupted, bringing the previously buoyant economies of Southeast Asia to their knees. On the phone with my parents, I heard news of one friend after another who’d lost their job or business. A new anxiety lurked in the voices of all those I spoke to in Malaysia and elsewhere in the region: an unspoken fear of civil unrest, of anti-Chinese violence that inhabited the passages of our histories in times of crisis. These fears were not unfounded: less than a year later, in Jakarta, where my father worked at the time, widespread anti-Chinese riots led to the murders of over a thousand people and hundreds of incidents of rape and burning of Chinese-owned property and businesses. Stay where you are, don’t come back, various friends cautioned.

On TV, I watched the handover of Hong Kong to China after one hundred years of British colonial rule, a transition that felt at once thrilling and scary: the passing of a country from one regime to another, with no one able to predict how the future would pan out. My sister, who had recently moved to Hong Kong to find work, decided that it would change nothing for her, and that she would stay.

I sank deeper into the world of my novel. I sought refuge in a place where I was in control—but even there, things weren’t working out. My characters were all divorced from their surroundings, trying to figure out how to live in a world on the cusp of change. They fell in love with all the wrong people. They didn’t belong to the country they lived in. I wanted the novel to be an antidote to the confusion around me but it wanted to be part of that mess. I was exhausted by it and by the end of that year, abandoned the manuscript.

It was exactly at that time that Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together found its way into the art house movie theaters of Europe. That summer he had won the Best Director prize at Cannes for the film—the first non-Japanese Asian to do so—and I’d seen the movie posters in magazines: Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung sitting dreamily in the back of a car, their faces bathed in a hypnotic yellow light. I’d grown up with these actors, iconic figures in Asian pop culture. I’d seen all their movies, and like so many of my contemporaries, knew the words to all the Leslie Cheung songs, which still take up several gigabytes of memory on my iPhone. I’d seen and swooned over Wong Kar-Wai’s previous films, Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, as well as a curious early work called Days of Being Wild, set partly in the Philippines and also starring Leslie Cheung. I thought I knew what to expect from Happy Together. It turned out that I had no idea at all.

It’s impossible to describe the intense rush of blood to the head that I felt on seeing these two leading actors—young, handsome, but somehow old beyond their years—in the opening scene. They are in a small bed in a boarding house in Buenos Aires. They are far from home, wondering what to do with their lives, how to make their relationship work again. Within seconds they are making love—a boyish tussle with playful ass-slapping that morphs quickly into the kind of rough, quick sex that usually happens between strangers, not long-term partners.

It was the end of the twentieth century; I had watched countless European movies where explicit sex was so much a part of the moviemaking vocabulary that it had long since lost the ability to shock me. But the people in this film were not random French or German actors, they were familiar figures of my childhood, spitting into their hands to lubricate their fucking.

The two men are partners in a turbulent relationship with extreme highs and lows. They travel to Argentina—as far away from home as possible—to try and salvage what they can of their love. Their dream is to travel to see the Iguaçu Falls, a journey which takes on totemic qualities as the movie progresses and their relationship once again falters. They break up. Tony Leung takes a lousy job as a doorman at a tango bar; Leslie Cheung—promiscuous, volatile—becomes a sort of rent boy, though the precise nature of his relationships with other men is never clearly defined. (Over the years I’ve developed a resistance to remembering the characters’ names, wanting, I guess, to imagine that Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung were actually in a relationship.) Leslie drifts in and out of Tony Leung’s life, sometimes bringing his tricks to the bar where Tony works. From time to time they appear ready to get back together again, but they always miss their chance to connect—often in a literal sense, for example when one goes looking for the other, but goes into one door just as the other emerges from an adjacent one.

Their relationship is a series of missed connections, but it is more tragic than two people simply being in the wrong frame of mind at the wrong time. It is impossible for the men to achieve intimacy because they are unable to carve out their place in the world—neither in Buenos Aires nor in Hong Kong, which is referred to often but never in comforting or nostalgic terms. Their new city is not welcoming, and neither is their home country. The same set of problems they escaped from home to avoid follow them to this strange foreign place. The Buenos Aires they inhabit is at once real and unreal, sometimes gritty, other times so dreamy it seems like an imagined city. The mesmerizing visuals that Christopher Doyle created for that film (and would carry into Wong Kar-Wai’s future works) make us feel as if the characters are floating through the city, incapable of affixing themselves to it.

Late in the film, a major new character is introduced—an innocent, uncomplicated young man from Taiwan played by Chang Chen, who works in the Chinese restaurant where Tony Leung has found employment. They form a close friendship, one that seems nourishing and stable. But Tony Leung is still preoccupied by Leslie Cheung, even though they are no longer together. Does Chang Chen feel more for Tony Leung than mere friendship? Almost certainly, he does. He goes to Ushuaia, the farthest point of the Americas, but Tony Leung chooses to remain in Buenos Aires. Those missed connections again: that impossibility, for Tony Leung at least, to figure out how he truly feels because he is too far from home, cut off from his points of reference. That intense separation should have brought him objectivity; he should have gained clarity of thought and emotion. Instead his feelings remain trapped in a place he wants to leave behind, but is unable to forget.

In the closing scenes, Tony Leung finally manages to leave Buenos Aires and travels not to Hong Kong but Taipei. He goes to the night market where Chang Chen’s family runs a food store. Chang Chen isn’t there, he is still traveling the world. “I finally understood how he could be happy running around so free,” Tony Leung says in his low, sad, matter-of-fact voice-over. “It’s because he has a place he can always return to.”

When I think of that period in 1997, when I couldn’t walk down the street or fall asleep without seeing Tony and Leslie dancing the tango in a squalid kitchen, or hearing Caetano Veloso’s featherlight voice hovering over ravishing images of the Iguaçu Falls—I can’t help but think that we were in a short era of innocence before the complicated decades that lay ahead. The Hong Kong that Wong Kar-Wai refers to in that movie no longer exists. The film’s original title is 春光乍洩, which means the first emergence of spring sunshine—or, more idiomatically, a glimpse of something intimate. But perhaps it refers also to that brief moment of openness and… [more]
wongkar-wai  tashaw  film  memories  memory  place  belonging  home  1990s  1997  2019  youth  identity  storytelling  unsettledness  separation  malaysia  education  highered  highereducation  langauge  english  malay  cantonese  mandarin  chinese  malaysian  change  innocence  london  capitalism  jakarta  southeastasia  hongkong  china  tonyleung  lesliecheung  chunkingexpress  happytogether  fallenangels  daysofbeingwild  buenosaires  relationships  intimacy  families  connection  nostalgia  comfort  cities  taiwan  changchen  taipei  vulnerability  openness  acceptance  victimization  divisiveness 
12 days ago by robertogreco
The Future of Cities – Medium
[video (embedded): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOOWk5yCMMs ]

"Organic Filmmaking and City Re-Imagining

What does “the future of cities” mean? To much of the developing world, it might be as simple as aspiring to having your own toilet, rather than sharing one with over 100 people. To a family in Detroit, it could mean having non-toxic drinking water. For planners and mayors, it’s about a lot of things — sustainability, economy, inclusivity, and resilience. Most of us can hope we can spend a little less time on our commutes to work and a little more time with our families. For a rich white dude up in a 50th floor penthouse, “the future of cities” might mean zipping around in a flying car while a robot jerks you off and a drone delivers your pizza. For many companies, the future of cities is simply about business and money, presented to us as buzzwords like “smart city” and “the city of tomorrow.”

I started shooting the “The Future of a Cities” as a collaboration with the The Nantucket Project, but it really took shape when hundreds of people around the world responded to a scrappy video I made asking for help.

Folks of all ages, from over 75 countries, volunteered their time, thoughts, work, and footage so that I could expand the scope of the piece and connect with more people in more cities. This strategy saved me time and money, but it also clarified the video’s purpose, which inspired me to put more energy into the project in order to get it right. I was reading Jan Gehl, Jane Jacobs, Edward Glaeser, etc. and getting excited about their ideas — after seeing what mattered to the people I met in person and watching contributions from those I didn’t, the video gained focus and perspective.

If I hired a production services outfit to help me film Mumbai, it would actually be a point of professional pride for the employees to deliver the Mumbai they think I want to see. If some young filmmakers offer to show me around their city and shoot with me for a day, we’re operating on another level, and a very different portrait of a city emerges. In the first scenario, my local collaborators get paid and I do my best to squeeze as much work out of the time period paid for as possible. In the second, the crew accepts more responsibility but gains ownership, hopefully leaving the experience feeling more empowered.

Architect and former mayor of Curitiba Jaime Lerner famously said “if you want creativity, take a zero off your budget. If you want sustainability, take off two zeros.” It’s been my experience that this sustainability often goes hand-in-hand with humanity, and part of what I love about working with less resources and money is that it forces you to treat people like human beings. Asking someone to work with less support or equipment, or to contribute more time for less money, requires a mutual understanding between two people. If each person can empathize for the other, it’s been my experience that we’ll feel it in the work — both in the process and on screen.

Organic filmmaking requires you to keep your crew small and your footprint light. You start filming with one idea in mind, but the idea changes each day as elements you could never have anticipated inform the bigger picture. You make adjustments and pursue new storylines. You edit a few scenes, see what’s working and what’s not, then write new scenes. Shoot those, cut them in, then go back and write more. Each part of the process talks to the other. The movie teaches itself to be a better movie. Because organic is complicated, it can be tricky to defend and difficult to scale up, but because it’s cheap and low-resource, it’s easier to experiment. Learning about the self-organizing, living cities that I did on this project informed how we made the video. And looking at poorly planned urban projects reminded me of the broken yet prevailing model for making independent film in the U.S., where so many films are bound to fail — often in a way a filmmaker doesn’t recover from — before they even begin.

Jane Jacobs said that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” I’ve worked on videos for companies, for the guy in the penthouse, for nobody in particular, in the developing world, with rich people and poor people, for me, for my friends, and for artists. I’m so thankful for everybody who allowed me to make this film the way we did, and I hope the parallels between filmmaking and city building — where the stakes are so much higher — aren’t lost on anyone trying to make their city a better place. We should all be involved. The most sustainable future is a future that includes us all.

“The Future of Cities” Reading List

(There’s a longer list I discovered recently from Planetizen HERE but these are the ones I got into on this project — I’m excited to read many more)

The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs
The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward Glaeser
Cities for People and Life Between Buildings by Jan Gehl
The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life by Jonathan Rose(just came out — incredible)
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck
The City of Tomorrow: Sensors, Networks, Hackers, and the Future of Urban Life by Carlo Ratti and Matthew Claudel
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery
Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World by Wade Graham
Connectography: Mapping The Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna
Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas
Low Life and The Other Paris by Luc Sante
A History of Future Cities by Daniel Brook
Streetfight: Handbook for the Urban Revolution by Janette Sadik-Khan and Seth Solomonow
Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-Term Change by Mike Lydon & Anthony Garcia
Living In The Endless City, edited by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic

“The Future of Cities” Select Interviewees:
David Hertz & Sky Source
Vicky Chan & Avoid Obvious Architects
Carlo Ratti: Director, MIT Senseable City Lab Founding Partner, Carlo Ratti Associati
Edward Glaeser: Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University Author of The Triumph of the City
Helle Søholt: Founding Parner & CEO, Gehl Architects
Ricky Burdett: Director, LSE Cities/Urban Age
Lauren Lockwood, Chief Digital Officer, City of Boston
Pablo Viejo: Smart Cities Expert & CTO V&V Innovations, Singapore
Matias Echanove & Urbz, Mumbai
Janette Sadik-Khan: Author, Advisor, & Former NYC DOT Commissioner
Abess Makki: CEO, City Insight
Dr. Parag Khanna: Author of Connectography
Stan Gale: CEO of Gale International, Developer of Songdo IBD
Dr. Jockin Arputham: President, Slum Dwellers International
Morton Kabell: Mayor for Technical & Environmental Affairs, Copenhagen
cities  urban  urbanplanning  urbanism  bikes  biking  cars  singapore  nyc  losangeles  janejacobs  jangehl  edwardglaeser  mumbai  tokyo  regulation  jaimelerner  curitiba  nantucketproject  carloratti  vickchan  davidhertz  hellesøholt  rickyburdett  laurenlockwood  pabloviejo  matiasechanove  urbz  janettesadik-khan  abessmakki  paragkhanna  stangale  jockinarputham  slumdwellersinternational  slums  mortonkabell  urbanization  future  planning  oscarboyson  mikelydon  anthonygarcia  danielbrook  lucsante  remkoolhaas  dayansudjic  rickyburdettsethsolomonow  wadegraham  charlesmontgomery  matthewclaudeljeffspeck  jonathanrose  transportation  publictransit  transit  housing  construction  development  local  small  grassroots  technology  internet  web  online  communications  infrastructure  services  copenhagen  sidewalks  pedestrians  sharing  filmmaking  film  video  taipei  seoul  santiago  aukland  songdo  sydney  london  nairobi  venice  shenzhen  2016  sustainability  environment  population  detroit  making  manufacturing  buildings  economics  commutes  commuting 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Improving Reality 2012 : Joanne Mcneil
[Try this link instead: http://www.joannemcneil.com/improving-reality/ ]

"Google privileges the relevant over the new — and our search habits on the web work the same. Why might I have guessed that after sitting there abandoned for thirty years, it would be gone just as I had the chance to see it? I made the mistake the people using that Haiti image had done — confused the past for the present.

I went out anyway, to see for myself, see the place in context, see if there was anything left. I stood there looking at my iPhone with Google Earth satellites telling me I should be in the middle of this fantastic place. But I was only standing in the pieces of what used to be.

The web has changed the way we think of time. We see examples of contemporary culture remixing the past, present, and future in celebrity holograms, instagram filters, WW2 in real time tweets."
improvingreality  leilajohnston  warrenellis  anajain  taiwan  taipei  sanzhr  images  ursualeguin  memory  conversation  community  accessibility  lifespan  mutability  timecapsules  timelines  friendster  reality  twitter  instagram  atemporality  newness  relevance  culture  web  google  search  perception  time  joannemcneil  2012  via:litherland 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Sugared & Spiced
":What is Sugared & Spiced?
A food + travel blog based in Shanghai.

When and why did it get started?
August 2010. For the love of eating, photographing, and sharing.

What camera do you use?
Ricoh GRD4.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Shanghai?
Hard to say, but you can check my list of “favorites” to get some ideas.

How do you eat so much?
One simply does not resist good food.

Are you fat?
Plump like a watermelon.

Do you get paid to eat?
Nope, but I do get invited to taste, and if that’s the case I always put a note upfront in red for your information.

How should I navigate this blog?
For restaurants in Shanghai, use archives by cuisine, by time of day, by location, and by price. For restaurants and travel entries outside of Shanghai, click on any of the city names on the righthand column under “travels”."
lcproject  cafes  bali  beijing  hongkong  tokyo  seoul  taipei  srg  blogs  china  food  asia  shanghai  travel  thirdspaces  thirdplaces  openstudioproject 
july 2012 by robertogreco

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