Liquid Free-range

There’s a clever plastic trough with a float
hooked up to a tank: this the chickens ignore.

A wide terracotta dish is more to their taste:
they sip up beakfuls and gargle, half-crowing.

But they are happiest when I pour blunt rivers
from an old can into the dirt, as if water
tasted freshest uncaged.

Learning Cantonese: I Am Lam Eman

“A fat girl singer. I think this is revolutionary in itself!” says 林二汶 Lam Eman in this short video challenging both gender and body stereotypes. Although she was bullied at school for the way she looked, and was called all kinds of terrible names (she shares some of these in her presentation), ultimately, she had the last laugh, becoming successful in the duo at17 in the early 2000s, and then continuing as a celebrated solo artist. If you’re interested, I’ve also added a rough translation of one of her songs, 《我變成我》, with music by 盧凱彤 Ellen Loo and lyrics by the inimitable 周耀輝 Chow Yiu Fai. Give it a listen: any song that uses the words 哲學 jit3 hohk6 (philosophy) and 美學 meih5 hohk6 (aesthetics; the study of beauty) in it must be considered out of the ordinary . . .

You can watch the video here (it has subtitles in both English and Standard Written Chinese).

Caption: 林二汶 | 歌手、專欄作家

親愛嘅林二汶 | 中學嘞 | 大家都開始發育嘞 | 你發嘅肉呢,就多過人好多 | 你有好多名嘅 | 奶王包啦、世紀巨乳啦、水塘啦、死肥婆啦 | 好具畫面嘅名嚟㗎,呢啲 | 你記唔記得嗰個男仔呀?| 第一個叫你同佢出街嗰個男仔呢 | 佢個日問你,佢話:「喂,你不如同我去街呀?」| 你都未嚟得切反應,你淨係轉身咋 | 佢就直接話:「你就 *ya 想呀!」

我細個因為係肥妹呢 | 所以,嗯,加上我有一個好叻嘅阿哥 | 呢樣嘢我諗係好影響我細個嘅時候點樣建立自信心㗎 | 肥妹歌手,我覺得呢一件事已經好革命性㗎喇 | 我竟然可以喺度唱咗十年 | 但係個個都要零號嗮士 | 但係我知道有好多肥妹仔 | 或者有好多其實個形狀唔係一個標準靚女嘅人

● 發育 faat3 yuhk6 = growth; development | ● 發肉 faat3 yuhk6 = lit. “to put on flesh/meat” | ● 奶王包 náaih5 wòhng4 bāau1 = usu. “steamed creamy custard bun” | ● 世紀巨乳 sai3 géi2 geuih6 yúh5 = (the most) enormous breasts of the century | ● 水塘 séui2 tòhng4 = usu. “a pool; a pond” | ● 死肥婆 séi2 fèih4 pòh4 = an insult for an overweight woman | ● 具畫面 cf. 具 geuih6 = to possess + 畫面 waah6 mín62 = scene | ● 出街 cheut1 gaai1 = to go out (to town, shopping, etc.) | ● 去街 heui3 gaai1 = 出街 | ● 建立gihn6 laahp6 = to build; to establish; to set up | ● 自信心 jih6 seun3 sām1 = self-confidence | ● 革命性 gaak3 mihng6 sing3 = revolutionary | ● 嗮士 sāai31 sí62 = size | ● 形狀 yìhng4 johng6 = form; appearance; shape | ● 標準靚女 bīu1 jéun2 leng3 léui25 = a standard pretty girl

Caption: Lam Eman | Singer, columnist

Dear Lam Eman,

You were in middle school now, and everyone was going through a growth spurt [發育 faat yuk]. You put on weight [發肉 faat yuk], much more than other people did. You were called a lot of names: “creamy custard bun breasts”, “boobs of the century”, “wobbling titties” and “rotten fatty” — very picturesque names, these. Do you still remember that boy? He was the first boy to ask you to go out with him. On that day, he asked: “Hey, why don’t you go out with me?” Before I had time to give him an answer, and was only just turning around, he added said at once: “In your dreams!”

The fact I was plump as a little girl, and also had an elder brother who was very clever, affected my ability to establish any self-confidence when I was younger. A fat girl singer. I think this is revolutionary in itself! I’ve actually managed to sing for ten years, when everyone else is desperately trying to be a size zero. But I know that there are many large girls out there, as well as girls with body shapes that don’t fit the typical “pretty girl” standard.

【1:00】我相信佢哋係有得到一啲啓發 | 噉呢樣嘢係我覺得,我入行好有 意義嘅一樣嘢

但係其實你亦都從來冇諗過呢啲咁難過嘅日子、呢啲你唔需要忘記嘅日子 | 係會令你成為今日大家都尊重嘅人 | 你要為自己驕傲,因為你從來都冇放棄 | 從來都冇

I AM ME 我係林二汶 | 你選擇令到呢啲經驗去教你成為一個更加好嘅人 | 你唔叫佢哋做傷痕 | 你叫佢哋做徽章 | 呢一生,呢啲就係你嘅徽章

● 啓發 kái2 faat3 = to arouse; to inspire; to enlighten | ● 入行 yahp6 hòhng4 = to enter the profession | ● 驕傲 gīu1 ngouh6 = ① arrogant; conceited ② be proud; take pride in | ● 傷痕sēung1 hàhn4 = a scar; a bruise | ● 徽章 fāi1 jēung1 = usu. “a badge”

I’m sure that they have gained some inspiration. The fact that I got into the music industry is very significant.

But you never thought that all those very difficult days, days that you must not forget, could make you into the kind of person that people respect. You must be proud of yourself, because you never ever gave up. Never for one minute.

I AM ME. I am Lam Eman. You chose to let these experiences teach you how to become a better person. You don’t call them “scars”. You call them “medals”. These are the medals you will wear throughout your life.

Here are the lyrics for 《我變成我》. You can find the MV here . . .

錯的對 對的錯 | Down-wrong rights, and down-right wrongs
為了太多太多歪理願意學 | Because of too much illogic, I was willing to learn
然後學到識説謊 | Later, I learned just enough to tell lies
我的殼 我的角 | My thorns, my horns
為了太多太多經濟及數學 | Too much economics & too much mathematics
然後學到想正常過 | Taught me to want to lead a normal life

幾多工作 | The more work I do
幾多操控著我 | The more it takes control of me
難道沒法不説謊 | Is there really no way not to tell lies?
一刻閃過 | In a lightning flash
想學掂行掂過 | I wanted to learn how to walk right on by
寧願讓我不正常過 | Preferring to let myself live a non-normal life

歡呼 存在過 | Hooray! I’ve managed to exist
記住沉默容易容易沉默過 | Just remember: keeping quiet makes it easy to go along quietly
從未這麽感覺我 | I’ve never felt myself this way before
一身 存在過 | Without help, by myself I’ve existed
記住麻木容易容易麻木過 Just remember: keeping numb makes it easy to go along numbly
從未像這刻敏銳過 | I’ve never been so sensitive as I feel right now

過一秒 老一秒 | Another second, another second older
問我那些那些一秒便脫落 | Each second asks me about my these & those, then falls away
靈魂熱到想脫光 | My soul is so hot it wants to shed light (or “strip itself bare”)
我的世 我的界 | All my uni- and all my -verse
被我那些那些統統改變過 | Have been transformed utterly by all my these & those
時候遇到想變成我 | What time brings I want to turn it into me

歡呼 存在過 | Hooray! I’ve managed to exist
記住沉默容易容易沉默過 | Remember: silence is easy, it’s easy to get by being silent
從未這麽感覺我 | I have never felt myself this way before
一身 存在過 | Without help, by myself I’ve existed
記住麻木容易容易麻木過 | Remember: numbness is easy, it’s easy to get by being numb
從未像這刻敏銳過 | I’ve never been so sensitive as I feel right now

歡呼 誰是我 | Hooray — so this who is me
記住明白然後承認誰是我 | Remember: when I’ve understood then I’ll acknowledge who I am
從未這麽感覺我 | I have never felt myself this way before
一刻 存在過 | For an instant I’ve existed
記住凝望時代時代凝望我 | Remember: as you look at the times, the times look back at you
從未像這刻敏銳過 | I’ve never been so sensitive as I feel right now

喜歡哲學 | I’m fond of philosophy
喜歡思索更多 | I’m fond of more and more thoughts
來吧!在這刻變成我 Come on! I want to become me in this moment

喜歡美學 | I’m fond of aesthetics
喜歡風格更多 | I’m fond of more and more styles
來吧!在這刻變成我 | Come on! I want to become me in this moment

時候遇到想變成我 | What time brings I want to turn it into me

Jadin Wong’s Infinitives

To say to yourself at the age of six I will be goddess
to my own body for ever;

NOT to get stuck in Stockton, California
or even dream of sticking it out;

to run away at sixteen to Hollywood
before you were run away by humdrum
from imagination’s exceptionally muscular thrill

to give yourself a name no one had used
in the History of the World, ever;

to be called headstrong when you were simply
indomitably clear-sighted about what you wished for;

to join Charlie Low’s Forbidden City nightclub
and find fame on the so-called “chop suey circuit”
as “an Oriental chanteuse with a new slant on life”;

to live head over heels
what you tried to discover you were,
and to defeat regret before it had time to assume
a definite look in your eyes;

to reinvent yourself with the near-sighted birth
of television squinting from corners in American parlours;

to harness as a dancer-turned-comedienne
the blunt energy of Oriental stereotypes, confusing
race-hate and dishing out laughs
both to make them pay and — doubled over —
to make them pay;

to adventure with Death in Germany’s Black Forest,
narrowly missing being blown mid-song
to smithereens;

to be called “Confucian — modern”,
and, appropriately, COOL AS A SNOW-FLAKE;
to wear “eye-popping” cheongsams
split along showgirl thighs
for the Gibson Refrigerator Corporation,
in Hong Kong;

to marry and re-marry
men who could only look up to you
no matter how they were;

to become eventually the superlative
of jade, pirouetting and doing the splits well
into your nineties;

and to wake each day,
startling yourself afresh along the length — and breadth —
of the one life infinitive in you.


After taking a walk to Sha Tin Station that turns into an eerie 白日夢 or “white daydream”, 陳之一 Chan Chi-yat meets his friends at the Lam Kei dim sum restaurant in 大埔 Tai Po. There, they enjoy a well-deserved yum cha meal together with a long discussion of fathers, sons and daughters that seems to touch a real chord or a raw nerve in each of them . . .

Soundtrack: “Oomingmak”






瘦骨仙一聽到呢條問題就即刻再次狼狽咁「哎吔」一聲。不過,經過一番考量之後,佢定一定神就好認真咁開始回答友人提出嘅疑問:「噉其實呢,我覺得生活呢樣嘢真係好奇妙,總會有啲出人意表嘅新鮮事送俾我,『一生福與禍 / 人人必經過』呀嘛!不過呢,呢件事真係嚟得太過突然,我都未嚟得切有任何心理準備,就要面對呢個咁尷尬嘅事實。」跟住,陳之一喺褲袋拎部手機出嚟,喺屏幕上用手指撥弄幾下,揾到阿仔嘅一張相之後,就俾大家睇吓。


「乜係咩?!」澳洲男人深感驚訝咁打個突。「面形唔同,頭髮顔色唔同,佢對眼睇落細過我,鼻哥一啲都唔似,嘴唇特別幼,下巴同我比起又『man』啲!我唔係好明點解你會覺得西夢˙約翰同我似樣喎 !」

「依我睇,」呢位發暗家不慌不忙話:「你哋兩個人淨係憑外表好難判斷心裏面隱藏嘅嘅性格嘅 . . . 」



阿奇連忙加以解釋:「點止咁簡單?! . . . 南半球 . . . 紐西蘭、澳洲都係冬天 . . . 凍凍凍!」聽到呢啲說話,大家覺得阿奇嘅「凍凍凍」特別好笑。

佢嘅南半球同胞即刻更詳細地解釋:「我國家呢方面特別唔掂。四月復活節之後幾乎冇假放、冇乜減少壓力嘅機會,要等到十二月先至到夏天啦、長假期啦、聖誕節啦之類 。至於我呢啲十二月出世嘅人,要捱到年尾先至過生日,嗰種等待既辛苦又難受。我諗,想見到西夢˙約翰,我哋唯有耐心啲等到年尾喇。」

聽完南半球奀瘦男人嘅呢段說話之後,阿綠好似抵受唔住誘惑咁,喺男人耳邊低細語:「怪唔之得澳洲人都係咁黐線啦! 」

不過,陳之一並唔接受佢呢次得出嘅結論,即刻駁嘴:「喂,你千祈唔好將『黐線』同『慈善』混為一談喎 . . . 」


「我阿爸莊梓喺上世紀七十年代好可能同海運大廈商場入便嘅其中一間鋪頭有過某種聯繫。當時呢個商場分成各個區域,啫係『南丫島廊』啦、『長洲廊』啦、『鴨脷洲廊』啦等等,而長洲廊呢個分區入便有一間叫做『藍天美術』 嘅商業畫廊,根據網上嘅資料,廊間唔中會展出莊梓嘅油畫。不過,呢啲作品同佢原本嘅風格完全係兩回事,畫法好唔同,好似係特登為咗迎合外國遊客嘅口味而畫嘅,都係描繪一啲傳統嘅戎克船、落日碼頭、漁民日常生活嘅片段等等。就算技巧非常之優秀,呢啲藝術品其實冇咩深層次嘅意思。八十年代初亦都可以買到莊梓嘅呢類油畫,佢哋仍然受到某程度嘅歡迎,但係之後就好似逐啲逐啲消失嗮咁,石沈大海,點揾都揾唔到嚕。」



「其實,據我所知,長洲曾經有間鋪頭叫『良德玻璃鏡店』,除咗賣玻璃商品之外,亦都可以見到呢類為遊人繪畫嘅戎克船油畫,包括一個姓莊嘅人。良德玻璃而家已經結咗笠,但係長洲有啲做生意嘅人仲記得七八十年代嘅情況。嗰度亦都有個長洲鄉事委員會,其中有個阿伯好可能仲記得當年嘅一啲細節 . . . 」

突然間,阿奇莫名其妙咁用筷子作為鼓槌,沿住茶杯邊輕輕敲起一連串「擊鼓聲」,節奏相當之特別,令到大家頓時停止交談。佢放低筷子,清清嗓子,向周圍嘅朋友好隆重地宣佈:「今日有特別安排 . . . 我哋飲茶飲完之後 . . . 我就帶你哋去嘉道理睇睇動物 . . . 赤麂呀、豹貓呀、箭豬呀、穿山甲呀、領角鴞呀 . . . 都係靚靚靚喎!」