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19 September 2022

In “The Ballad Of A Thin Man”, Bob Dylan takes aim and says that, “There’s something happenin’, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”

This keeps playing in my head on Repeat most days when I have to face the reality of being in Hong Kong and coming face to face with several Mr Joneses and another Groundhog Day where everything except nothing changes- not what the newspapers are reporting, not what people are talking about over and over and over again, and not the daily doses of dumbing down stupidity that’s been going on for well over three years.

Then, when least expecting it, a few rays of musical sunshine appear by someone like Kayan9896 through the cracker box palace of Chateau de Bon Bon.

I am a music guy who happens to write and writing helps me to take journeys and explore all worlds, especially art and artists from the past through reading what writers like Robert Christgau, below, Nat Hentoff, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Lester Bangs etc had to say- all music writers- and more- who, because of what they knew and how they made their words come together, brought music, and those behind the music, to a wider audience. If they had a mission in life, this was it.

In the same way, I still go back and watch “The Godfather Trilogy”. There are so many life lessons in that story written by Mario Puzo and how jealousy and loyalty must be earned and betrayal must never ever be forgotten. It’s about the family. It’s about honour.

There’s then the genius ways in which Alfred Hitchcock created suspense without telegraphing what might happen next, and his working partnership on the music soundtracks to his films with the great Bernhard Herrmann.

Remember those strings in the most famous shower scene ever filmed and the terror in what was NOT shown?

There are all the other genius filmmakers from every corner of the world, and who, through their films, introduced us to those special characters through brilliant performances by so many great actors and actresses.

Everything is a learning process. It’s also about one’s commitment and passion to learning.

Maybe it’s not for everyone, and maybe the creative process has been devalued, which is why there are so many shortcuts these days, and where everyone can be someone, but not anyone special.

Maybe this is also why the world is in the shape and state that it’s in and happy to accept that Okay is good enough.

Nothing wrong with this, I guess, as long as acceptance of anything and everything is not making us dullards in the process and drawn to the click bait of online life.

We’re all different, and like being attracted to a certain type of person, who, for some reason fills you with the inspiration to break away from mundanity, creativity gives wings to what else is out there and hiding behind all those invisible doors.

It’s waiting for those with inquisitive minds to walk through those doors and explore what’s there, no matter how dark and crazy things might get.

Maybe the spontaneity of it all is gone, and which is why there’s this constant questioning as to what and who is true and the gnawing suspicion of being duped by a Keyser Soze with many faces.

It’s probably why I am drawn to the music of people like Joni Mitchell, Dylan, Coltrane, Miles, Hoagy Carmichael, Henry Mancini, Sinatra, Ella, Billie, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, George Harrison, Lennon, and films like “Usual Suspects”, “Godfather 2”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, everything produced by Sergio Leone and “The Shawshank Redemption”.

There’s a truth and honesty to all and it makes me wonder if this is perhaps where Hong Kong has gone wrong- a lack of honesty about itself and too many with fancy airs flying all over the ballroom floor with many drawing the shutters down and not letting the truth walk in and take over.

If the foundation isn’t strong, the house falls apart.

One has to wonder about the barren rock that became the city that grew up and down to be Hong Kong.

Hong Kong- it sounded like a yo-yo and maybe it was?

Like any relationship, if a city, or a business, is built too quickly and on shaky ground, it collapses. It’s not so much to do with the structure, but everything to do with the “brand personality” it inherited and refused to change despite seeing what was on the horizon.

Many of us foreigners who ended up in Hong Kong lived “privileged lives”, even if not rich. It was like being in some weird Oriental version of Le Folies-Bergère or The Rocky Horror Show and each given different roles to play.

We’re older now and should have learned much over the years with that sixth sense constantly refining its ability to see through all the players and their bullsh*t, often without us even realising it.

Nothing is quite what you once thought it was. We’re no longer dealing in clichés handed down from generation to generation and taken at face value by obedient order takers with no questioning.

We might not want to, but we are now finally seeing through it all and there’s a Hallelujah Moment and reason for this: It’s leading somewhere much greater than the sum of its parts and we’re not steering the ship.

Maybe some of us are finally feeling free and unafraid to call it as we see it...If some don’t like it, that’s fine. They didn’t make the grade.

That very respectable looking businessman in his dapper suit sitting at the next table might just be secretly covered with tattoos to show a form of belonging to something else that’s been hidden from everyone for decades.

Who really is the candy coloured clown they call The Sandman and are there Twin Peaks hiding somewhere up on the Peak- and who lives there with Laura Palmer?

Where were those Harbour Lights and Red Sails In The Sunset really taking us?

What was being part of that rat race for so many years all about?

At the end of the day, who really won what and who had most to lose?

As Dylan said, “You’re invisible now, you have no secrets to conceal”.

Copyright © Hans Ebert

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