Close to Culture, Close to Creativity, Spot on Asia.

Articles from the “Opinion” Category

Photo by Gary Elsasser.

Hong Kong – A City for Dreams

Posted on April 14, 2014

When I land in a city I love, I feel nervous. My countenance turns eager as I try my best to drink in every second, knowing it can’t last forever. After the raw nerves settle, I become thankful for the sweet days I have and do my best to see, to experience, and to pocket away gems of inspiration for the future. A few weeks ago, I experienced this when I travelled to Hong Kong.

To me, Hong Kong is magic. The energy, the attitude, the frantic pace of the city will forever be charming. In most cities, I appear impatient, always trying to get ahead a little faster. “Don’t people know there are things to do, places to see?” I joke. There’s no need to explain this to residents of Hong Kong. Whether waiting for the exit escalator at the MTR station or simply walking down the street, they are the ones challenging my usually most-aggressive walking style and veering me out of the way. It’s a nice feeling, meeting a global counterpart.

In an unfamiliar city, there are certain aspects that are grounding. No matter where I am in the world, I always find inspiration in skylines. Their vast, expansive nature always awakes feelings of wonder in me. Little surprise then after a meeting in Tsim Sha Tsui  that I couldn’t resist walking across the road to the Promenade and staring across Victoria Harbour at the tiny lit-up boxes on the Island’s skyscrapers. Powerful lives and ideas packed together so densely. I wondered, what was being created at that very moment? Perhaps the joy of cities can be encapsulated as places where anything can happen. Cities are places for dreamers, both young and old.

In Sheung Wan.

In Sheung Wan.


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How a Creative Team Loses Steam

Posted on February 25, 2014

It seems like almost everyone today has a job that involves making content and attracting an audience.

The age of social media, brand journalism, content marketing, self-publishing, self-promotion, idea-preneurism, etc, has turned many of us into professional creators. Unlike the old days, you also have to be your own proofreader, photo editor, publisher, video producer, digital strategist, and more.

It’s just a matter of time before you hit a wall and feel overwhelmed. When an entire creative team experiences this, the situation can quickly evolve into a new level of hell for everyone.

While it’s a crazy way to make a living, I’ve managed to get by with a code of creative conduct. I call this The Way of The Writer, because that’s what I spend most of my time doing, but it could work in other creative fields. It’s just five simple ideas that help me keep a project from going off-track. Hopefully, the ideas below will resonate with you too.

1. The way is inside you, not anywhere else.

Creative teams lose steam when they get busy working on something they don’t really care about. They justify the reward and bully themselves to finish the work. That’s always when people start overdosing on coffee, cigarettes, junk food, etc, because their natural sense of motivation has shut down. Eventually, this may lead to a ‘shut down’ or burning out.

Creative teams can keep moving forward when they commit to something they feel is worth making, because they genuinely care about the outcome, and this gives them a quiet power to see things through. This is why creative teams should value honesty: it actually translates into real energy.


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The value of living a full life

Posted on January 22, 2014

If ever you’ve heard the short excerpt on What if Money was No Object speech from Alan Watts, you’ll be no short of feeling fully inspired and just, well, gosh darn it, you want to do what you love right now.

As Watts eloquently said “Better to have a short life that is full of which you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.”

Alan Watts - Philosopher, Writer and Speaker, spreading the Eastern philosophy to Western audiences

Alan Watts – Philosopher, Writer and Speaker, spreading the Eastern philosophy to Western audiences

It seems rather unfortunate, isn’t it. We’re so wrapped up in bills, and payments, and loans and mortgages and the never ending cycle of paying off someone or some thing that we’ve seen it as the norm to lead our lives. As if we’re just living to pass by this stage of life to move on to the next. Not really realising that if this is our only chance to be here, how do we want to experience it?

Of course, we can’t deny that the world runs with money. We pay taxes to feel safe and secure. We pay rent to have a roof over our heads. We pay the creation of food, art and entertainment to enjoy life. So yes, having money can provide us opportunities. It can get us out of debt and it can allow us to experience new things. But when we start thinking it’s the only means to obtain all those things, or even appreciate what we have, then we’ve missed the true value of self, life, and relationships.


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Image Source: Charles KOH

Eating for One

Posted on December 4, 2013

On a recent trip to Beijing, I made a friend, someone who offered to show me around the city. After taking in sunset at Jingshan Park and exploring the hutongs near the Drum and Bell towers, we stopped to eat at one of the many restaurants lining the streets. “This place comes highly recommended on Yelp,” my friend said, so in we went. After glancing through the endless menu, I asked if Yelp recommended any particular dishes before stopping short. Checking out reviews before making a decision was a habit I was trying to kick, I explained. Paying for a bad meal is annoying, but stomaching the occasional misstep is worth it if I can keep the beauty of surprise.

With almost one zettabyte of information at our fingertips, it can be easy to go overboard when searching for information. Thinking about making a reservation at that new brunch place on [insert street name here]? It just makes sense to check out reviews on YelpHungryGoWhereBurpple, or wherever the Google search lands. More than just the food quality, others may feed you in about what you can (or should) expect from the ambiance, service, crowd, whatever you are curious about. This can be helpful of course, say if you are trying to pick the right place to host a special event or a large crowd. But for everyday meals, it can unnecessarily taint an unblemished palate and ruin the joy of discovering something new. When you finally arrive at the restaurant, and your mind is chirping with reminders of others’ opinions, do you dare order an unreviewed item?


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SPOT ART 2013: The Growing Pains of Young ASEAN Artists

Posted on November 19, 2013

SPOT ART 2013 Singapore is an exhibition that celebrates the best of Southeast Asian art talent, all under the age of 30. Supported by the Ministry of Communication & Information (MCI) and the National Arts Council (NAC), the exhibition illuminates the values of collaboration, partnership, and a genuine attempt to build the foundations of a sustainable visual arts industry in Singapore. Through this collaborative effort, the exhibition and its surrounding dialogue fleshes out the difficulties facing young artists in Singapore, fresh out of school and lacking in mentorship for industry experience. But what the exhibition also offers is a platform for artists in the region to collaborate.

Drawing back to the exhibition itself, the layout is an amalgamation of paintings, illustration, print, installation, and video art. The selection committee is comprised of esteemed curators and experts on contemporary art in Southeast Asia, selecting over 200 works of more than 70 artists (out of 1500 submissions.) The exhibition prides itself on its quality, diversity; and particularly celebrates the fact that it is nestled in one homely spot. As the event organizers themselves mention, the Southeast Asian arts scene tends to be quite fragmented, so the motivation to distill this artistic incubation in one single location is a definitive gesture.


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