Freespace Fest in Pictures

16 12 2012
Freespace Fest!

Freespace Fest!

I’ve been told that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

I concur. 

But free space? There’s lots of it – and at Freespace Fest, it’s all being put to great use. 

Live music. Dancing. Performances. Art. Boutique stalls. The open sky. Friends. Food. Grass. 

Bliss. 

Hong Kong’s creative potential. Right here. 

And now, a taste of it in photos…enjoy.  *Click on the photos to enlarge. 

The sun sets on Freespace Fest - but the music, dancing, food and life continues!

The sun sets on Freespace Fest – but the music, dancing, food and life continues!

Plenty of beer to go around, too.

Plenty of beer to go around, too.

People. Grass. Open sky. Music. Happiness.

People. Grass. Open sky. Music. Happiness.

Eat your greens!

Eat your greens!

DSC_0385

A super acrobatic dance performance. They were hardcore - literally.

A super acrobatic dance performance. They were hardcore – literally.

Dancing on exercise equipment? You bet!

Dancing on exercise equipment? You bet!

A lovely, innovative bamboo structure.

A lovely, innovative bamboo structure by the water. 

Sit and chill under this bamboo structure by the sea side.

Sit and chill…come to think of it, this would be a big hit with pandas! 

DIY eco-friendly organic detergent made only of orange peel, sugar and water, fermented all together in an airtight bottle for 3+ months. You end up with a sweet and refreshing Dettol-like liquid, but without all the chemicals! Great for dishes, the floor...cleaning in general. You've got to keep the Earth clean while you're cleaning, too.

DIY eco-friendly organic detergent made only of orange peel, sugar and water, fermented all together in an airtight bottle for 3+ months. You end up with a sweet and refreshing Dettol-like liquid, but without all the chemicals! Great for dishes, the floor…cleaning in general. You’ve got to keep the Earth clean while you’re cleaning, too.

An gory organ vending machine...

An gory organ vending machine…

Flags: pick one, add you own design, plant it.

Flags: pick one, paint on it your own design, plant it in the ground. 

Spread your wings and fly away...

Spread your wings and fly away… (Sadly, when I visited again on the second day, the pole had toppled over and the bird had fallen down. An accident or a creative intention? A veiled reference to the bird flu epidemic? An implicit allusion to the trampling of freedom? 

Another stall featuring works by a local artist.

Another stall featuring works by a local artist.

Lots of stalls featuring products by local designers and artists.

Lots of stalls featuring products by local designers and artists. Here, handmade cloth bags 西拐角. 

The ICC in the background.

The ICC in the background.

A clay workshop, open to all.

A clay workshop, open to all.

Freespace. Lots of free space. Relish in a wave of creativity.

Freespace. Lots of free space. Relish in a wave of creativity.

An intricate web made entirely of rubber bands.

An intricate web made entirely of rubber bands.

Take the stage.

Take the stage.

 





Roaming Around PoHo and Beyond

8 12 2012

Not far from the hectic crux of the business district, a short stroll away from the booze-fueled din of Lankwai, just down the road from the gastronomic paradise of SoHo, a small little neighbourhood is sprouting up.

It goes by the funky name of PoHo, and has been called the ‘Brooklyn of Hong Kong’.

Tucked above the main streets of Sheung Wan, the PoHo district – with Tai Ping Shan Street as its main artery and the surrounding lanes as offshoots – is, on most days, quietly quaint. You might perhaps chance upon a casual game of street basketball at Blake Garden, but otherwise it is all a hushed repose.

Not today.

With the inaugural PoHo Bazaar in full swing, the neighbourhood swarmed with visitors eager to befriend this funky newcomer. Shops threw open their doors, little stalls served a seemingly endless flow of drinks, hamburgers sizzled on an open grill and soon, a large crowd gathered to explore the nooks and crannies of PoHo.

Here’s a little visual nibble of PoHo – and beyond…

The colourful exteriors of Secret Ingredient, organisers of the PoHo Bazaar: http://www.secretingredient.com.hk

The colourful exteriors of Secret Ingredient, organisers of the PoHo Bazaar: http://www.secretingredient.com.hk

The PoHo party. And then the old man.

The PoHo party. And then the old man.

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences : an Edwardian-style building.

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences : an Edwardian-style building.

En route to Tai Ping Shan Street, the Island Christian Academy's exterior. Very reminiscent of HK's iconic Red White Blue bags!

En route to Tai Ping Shan Street, the Island Christian Academy’s exterior. Very reminiscent of HK’s iconic Red White Blue bags!

Right outside Secret Ingredient. A sizzling BBQ, comfy, drinks, a great atmosphere.

Right outside Secret Ingredient. A sizzling BBQ, comfy, drinks, a great atmosphere.

An elderly PoHo resident watching the party going on all around him!

An elderly PoHo resident watching the party going on all around him!

A shop in PoHo -- Rat's Cave.

A shop in PoHo — Rat’s Cave.

Floral jamming at Tallensia, anyone?

Floral jamming at Tallensia, anyone?

A Chinese store and an English sign - emblematic of the interweaving of cultures that so defines Hollywood Road.

A Chinese store and an English sign – emblematic of the interweaving of cultures that so defines Hollywood Road.

A locked, dilapidated gate...strangely adorned with umbrella handles and even the neck of a guitar!

A locked, dilapidated gate…strangely adorned with umbrella handles and even the neck of a guitar!

The newly opened Fungus Workshop - handcrafted leather galore!

The newly opened Fungus Workshop – handcrafted leather galore! Full disclosure: I am currently in a ‘handcrafted leather’ craze!

A beautiful building on Square Street.

A beautiful building on Square Street.

Beautiful fabrics for sale, just outside the Konzepp store.

Beautiful fabrics for sale, just outside the Konzepp store.

Yes, another one of those old doors, old post boxes photos.

Yes, another one of those old doors, old post boxes photos. Sorry, I couldn’t help it!

The old.

The old.

Lines.

Lines – a little further down from PoHo, on Circular Pathway.

Lines.

Lines. Red, green, brown.

Along the antique street, a shattered ceramic kitty.

Along the antique street, a shattered ceramic kitty.





Movement, Balance & The Art of Being Still

5 12 2012

Silas House, in his essay The Art of Being Still, expresses beautifully the delicate equilibrium between movement and stillness.

Writing is a very active pursuit: there is the fluid flow of words, the vivid visualisations, and perhaps some brain rattling to squeeze out those ideas onto the written page.

Mr. House points out one jarring problem, however: “too many writers today are afraid to be still”.

Like me, Mr. House is constantly in motion. But he also knows there can be movement in stillness: “We writers must learn how to become still in our heads, to achieve the sort of stillness that allows our senses to become heightened.”

We must ingest and digest simultaneously, as Eddie from the movie Limitless put it, and as I explained here.

Most tellingly, the Chinese word for movement is 動靜 – dong jing. Dong means movement, jing means stasis and quiet. Put together you have a beautiful word that perfectly exemplifies the equilibrium between the two. Movement and stillness are not polarities – they are in fact forever in balance.

Mr. House gives his essay a roaring finale with these fine words:

I give it to you now and hope that you will take it out into the waiting world, pushing forth through all of your daily work and joys and struggles with a bit of your mind focused on reality and the larger part of it quiet, still, and always thinking like a writer.

Yes, move. But stay still, too. And hang on tight – it’s going to be a hell of a ride!





Two Friends, Two Fighters.

9 11 2012

Cung Le shows off some of his signature kicks.

A big UFC showdown is coming to town. Macau, to be precise.

The world’s fastest growing sport is finally venturing into one of the world’s fastest growing economies: China.

What could this beckon for the future of mixed martial arts? Bruce Lee, after all, was the father of MMA, according to the president of the UFC, Dana White. So it only seems fitting that the UFC is at long last getting a foothold in the vast Chinese market.

I had the pleasure of attending an exciting UFC pre-fight press conference yesterday, where the fighters Rich Franklin, Cung Le, Dong Hyun Kim and China’s very own Tiequan Zhang shed some light on their MMA lives.

Here is a little online feature that I put together for TimeOut Hong Kong.

Friends or foes? Inside the Octagon, they’re only one thing: fighters.





Fist of Glory

8 11 2012

By Calvin Sit

It started with the movies. Then it was the kiddie boxing sets at Toys’R’Us. Finally, I signed myself up for a kungfu class and before long, I found myself sucked into a whirling vortex of kicks, punches, spins and sweeps. Soon, I even headed up to the birthplace of Shaolin kungfu for an intensive (read: painful but memorable) training program.

So it came as a pleasant surprise when, on my very first day as an intern at TimeOut Hong Kong, I was given the assignment of writing a short feature on an upcoming kungfu championship. This was right up my alley!

Are you a novice? Do you have a weapon fetish? Perhaps you seek company, or balance, or an adrenaline rush? I cover all that and more in my  ‘Around Town’ feature, here.

By Calvin Sit

“As the International Wushu Competition swings through town, Mary Hui deciphers the well kept secrets of Chinese martial arts in a rough (but tough) breakdown. Photos by Calvin Sit, demonstration by members of Mark Scientific Ving Tsun Association (麥漢基詠春拳學會).

Crouching TigerHidden DragonKung Fu Hustle. Or, more recently, the ‘Wuxi Finger Hold’, as popularised by a feisty – though pudgy – fighting kung fu panda by the name of Po. Chinese martial arts may seem straightforward in these cases but, in reality, it’s not so simple. There are countless disciplines and styles out there, which may baffle many the budding apprentice. But fear not. As the upcoming 7th Hong Kong International Wushu Competition nears, we offer this guide to help illuminate the way.”

Continue reading here.





Aiming for…Pain?

27 10 2012

Does exertion need to hurt? How much does success have to hurt? 

by AndrewLeonard

In Philadelphia, the elite New Zealander Kim Smith was running hard, breathing heavily and testing her limits as she  pushed through the last few kilometers of the Philadelphia Half Marathon. She had saliva all over her face. It was not a pretty sight.

In Hong Kong, Lau Chek-lun crossed the finish line at the Standard Chartered Half Marathon, and collapsed 40 meters later. He was declared dead soon after.

On the training track, my teammates sprinted interval after interval, their faces contorted and grimacing in agony as they worked their bodies to the maximum. At the finish line, they plopped down on all fours, heaving and wheezing as they tried to catch their breath before the next sprint.

And now, as I strive to become a strong, faster and better runner, I can’t help but wonder: how much pain is enough pain? Where is the line between pushing too hard and under-performing? At what point does exertional pain become a liability, rather than an accepted reality?

“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful,” said Roger Bannister, the first man in history to run a mile in under four minutes, “is the man who will win.”

For years, the four minute mile seemed an elusive and impossible goal. The Australian runner John Landy himself declared that it was an impenetrable “brick wall”, and after running the mile in under 4’03 on six separate occasions, vowed, “I shall not attempt it again”.

Then came Roger Bannister.

As a medical student at Oxford University at the time, Mr. Bannister could only afford 45 minutes of training a day. His weekly mileage, by modern standards, was surprisingly low. And yet, despite minimal training, Mr. Bannister made history in 1954 by breaking the four-minute barrier. How did he do it?

Many believe that Mr. Bannister’s legendary feat was achieved not so much by his physicality as by his psychology. Gunder Haegg, a Swedish runner who came within 1.3 seconds of breaking the four-minute barrier in 1945, “always thought that the four-minute mile was more of a psychological problem than a test of physical endurance”. In a way, he was right.

Just six weeks after Mr. Bannister ran the mile in 3’59″04, Mr. Landy, who had all but declared the feat impossible, lowered the barrier even further by running the mile in 3’58″00 —  1.4 seconds faster than Mr. Bannister, and close to 3 seconds faster than any time he had run before.

It appears that the barrier was indeed a purely psychological one.

One theory has it that pain and fatigue are but tricks of the mind.Called the Central Governor Model, it proposes the following: Your heart requires oxygen to function. During vigorous physical exertion such as intensive running, the heart runs short on oxygen as more of it is diverted to the muscles. Sensing this, the heart sends signals to the brain, which then proceeds to restrict oxygen flow to the muscles. Hence, the pain and fatigue in your legs and the annoying voice in your head that says: “Why don’t you give up? Stop running.”

But — and here’s the catch — if you could override this subconscious impulse with a conscious effort, you will push past the pain and fatigue that prevents you from realizing your full potential.

Mr. Bannister may have done just that. He was able to convince his central governor (his brain) that the four-minute mile was achievable. He overrode the subconscious, and forced more out of himself than his brain would have allowed. Mr. Landy’s governor, by contrast, could not be convinced until it had evidence that someone else had achieved the impossible.

Is pain, then, all in the mind?

“Mental tenacity — and the ability to manage and even thrive on and push through pain — is a key segregator between the mortals and immortals in running,” said Mary Wittenberg, president and chief executive of the New York Road Runners, in an interview with the New York Times.

Of course, all runners hoping to run competitively must first attain a certain level of physical fitness. But at a certain point, the subtleties of the mind may start to play a bigger role than the brute force of the body.

Paavo Nurmi, a Finnish runner who dominated distance running in the 20th century, credited his physical feats with his psychological strength: “Mind is everything; muscle, pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.” He didn’t think his way to his nine Olympic golds, of course, but to him, mind rules over muscle.

In June 2012, I competed for Hong Kong in the Asian Junior Athletics Championships. Rounding the final bend in the 3000m steeplechase, I was neck and neck with a Vietnamese opponent. We emerged into the final stretch, and I braced for a final push to the finish. Suddenly, though, she accelerated. My legs felt like rubbery jelly, but I knew that there was still some fuel left in the tank.

Treacherously, my central governor kicked in at that precise moment:  “Don’t push. Just settle for your spot.” I watched my opponent pull further and further away.

She finished four seconds ahead of me — a massive and unacceptable gain over a mere 100 meters.

I had succumbed to the voice in my head, and though I broke my personal record, the race was an agonizing defeat for me. Never again, I decided, do I ever want to be defeated by my mind.

Chrissie Wellington, a British triathlete and a four-time world champion in the Ironman, has a timeless piece of advise. Put off by the idea of painful exertion? Don’t worry. “Expect it will be painful and have faith in yourself that you will overcome those dark times.”





The Story of a Rooftop Farm

7 10 2012

I’ve been working as an editorial intern at the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times. Here’s my article on rooftop farming in Hong Kong, published on the the IHT and NYT on 4th October 2012 — coincidentally, the IHT’s 125th anniversary! 

Osbert Lam, owner of the rooftop operation City Farm, on his daily watering round.

In Organic-Hungry Hong Kong, Corn as High as an Elevator’s Climb

HONG KONG — Kimbo Chan knows all about the food scandals in China: the formaldehyde that is sometimes sprayed on Chinese cabbages, the melamine in the milk and the imitation soy sauce made from hair clippings. That is why he is growing vegetables on a rooftop high above the crowded streets of Hong Kong.

“Some mainland Chinese farms even buy industrial chemicals to use on their crops,” Mr. Chan said. “Chemicals not meant for agricultural uses at all.”

As millions of Hong Kong consumers grow increasingly worried about the purity and safety of the fruits, vegetables, meats and processed foods coming in from mainland China, more of them are striking out on their own by tending tiny plots on rooftops, on balconies and in far-flung, untouched corners of highly urbanized Hong Kong.

Continue reading here.

Also related to this article is my IHT Rendezvous blog post:

Up on the Roof, a Real-Life Farmville

HONG KONG — Imagine yourself on a sidewalk in the center of a crowded city. It’s summer, the afternoon rush hour, you’re surrounded by buses, cars and delivery trucks, and they’re blasting you with waves of hot, nasty exhaust fumes.

Now imagine stepping away from that chaotic scene, ducking into an elevator and riding up a few dozen floors where you emerge to find a green oasis of vegetables and flowers — a rooftop farm.

You can continue reading here.

The rooftop farm at night. In the background hang colourful lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Festival.