THE DUMBING DOWN OF HONG KONG

By Hans Ebert
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“There maybe many new choices, but few of these are very good. It’s why businesses keep opening and closing in Hong Kong plus many here really don’t know good from bad and usually settle for the average and are disappointed.”

It was an open ended conversation with someone in the F&B industry who felt that unless something drastic is done very soon by the government, this city is heading quickly down a very slippery slope.

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WHEN THE NIGHT LOST ITS FIZZ AND WENT FLAT.

By Hans Ebert
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It’s actually on the snack menu. Meant to be enjoyed with a glass of wine or a glass of champagne. But have an order around 7pm and that’s dinner for the night. It’s on the menu of the Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt and comes in six pieces- basically, lobster salad with celery and a little kicker which can be eaten as a spread on toast (HK$350) Goes down a treat.

After that it was probably 9 or 10pm, the resident singer and friend Maricel was singing (except on Sundays), and the once popular 5-star bar, hardly the meeting place that it was, plodded on. Where is anything like what it was when Hong Kong today is bulging with choices? Where things get wobbly is that none of these choices are much good. But if at the Champagne Bar without any great expectations, like one of the regulars- an extremely attractive female lawyer who just wants to chill out, not be bothered by inebriated desperados, and take in the music- it’s a safe, pleasant night out. Expensive to many, but when in any five star venue of a five-star restaurant does one not expect to pay five-star prices? This isn’t McDonald’s.

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THE TIFFIN LOUNGE: IT’S BACK AND IN FASHION

By Hans Ebert
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Unlike high tea at the Peninsula Hotel, it’s not about sitting around people watching and just to say you’ve been there.

It’s not about rubbing shoulder pads with the resident Dynasty tai tais, spotting the uptown funk ladies looking for very big fish, the rich and the kinda famous wanting to be seen, and those travelling through Hong Kong and needing to talk business in a 5-star setting to often just keep up pretences. Fabulous!

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STILL WAITING FOR ROLLING STONE TO GATHER NEW MOSS

By Hans Ebert
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One didn’t know them, but their writing drew us into the world they inhabited. They were teachers, they were guides and we learned and understood more about music and musicians and songs from them, because they were there- part of that inner circle. They knew the secrets. They were, to some of us, our Book Of Knowledge. It gave us a direction. We didn’t need Wikipedia and all the other online clutter. We needed a spliff and time to read every page. And then re-read it all again. It was about the MUSIC and the MUSICIANS.

These were writers like Cameron Crowe who hung out with Led Zeppelin and went on to write and direct and produce the semi autobiographical “Almost Famous”. And if you haven’t listened to the Soundtrack, do. It’s a wonderful lesson in music appreciation.

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IF MUSIC IS ENTERTAINMENT, CAN IMMIGRATION IN HONG KONG EXPLAIN “WORK” VISAS?

By Hans Ebert
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Every day people are allowed into Hong Kong under what’s known as a Refugee Status. Nothing really wrong with this, and live and let live and all that until one comes face to face with those in Hong Kong under this immigration law and find that, not all, but too many, have and continue to ruin businesses by selling drugs right in front of their premises.

There’s the other “wild bunch”, usually from the sub-continent and found down the now extremely untrendy and unfriendly Lan Kwai Fong area looking to engage in childish bursts of machismo.

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THE RUNAWAY TRAIN THAT IS MUSIC…

By Hans Ebert
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One friend was wondering if we’d ever hear what he termed “real songs by real songwriters”- tunesmiths like the teams of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Lennon and McCartney.

There were then those songwriters who wore their hearts on their sleeves led by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Jimmy Webb, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the musical stories of Dylan, the Brill Building commercialism of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Sedaka and Greenfield, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Boyce and Hart, Neil Diamond and so many others.

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SPOT A FLY AND SPOTIFY: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE

By Hans Ebert
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When the majors talk about the money they’re making from the streaming of music, they’re not lying. It’s more than a good soundbite. Where the real truth lies is that only around twelve of their most important artists with big back catalogues that continue to sell and are protected by armies of legal crossfire hurricanes share in the financial repast. And even though those golden days of these artists are spluttering to an end where even the Asian region which used to take in any touring act from the West are now saying, Thanks, but no thanks, there’s that association through name. It’s an attractive magnet for similar deals and ammunition for the future in case anything new might come up.

Where things are on hold right now is that the old business mantra of “It’s the economy, stupid” is baaaaack. Today’s consumer has a much greater choice of everything than ever before, and music is being pushed further and further back. It’s not important anymore.

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WHY THE HONG KONG MUSIC SCENE REMAINS STUNTED

By Hans Ebert
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“We’re not pushing the envelope. We’re licking the envelope.” I said that to a musician friend of mine recently who shan’t be named as he has to work in Hong Kong and do what he has to do to make a living.

As for myself, I’ve now come to a point where I really don’t care what anyone thinks and am spending more and more time away from the usual chatter that doesn’t seem to have an Off switch. It’s boring as none of it leads anywhere except maybe to a Facebook page that has no relevance to where I’m heading.

Forget the tiresome excuses about there being a lack of venues. There have been venues and they closed because they went bust. The Morrison Cafe comes to mind. So does the doomed-from-the start Orange Peel. There’ve been more.

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THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE AND DAYS OF FUTURE PAST OF HONG KONG RACING

By Hans Ebert
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Someone was mentioning how and what made the dragon wake up. It wasn’t a dragon so much as the Durban Demon- South African Douglas Whyte, the champion Hong Kong jockey for a record breaking thirteen consecutive seasons.

This reign, made even more remarkable as the Aussie’s support system included mainly rides from two stables, that of Dennis Yip, who somewhat surprisingly won the trainer’s championship that season, and Caspar Fownes, ended during the 2013/14 racing season when after five years of absorbing it all and fighting all the time for everything that’s not come easily since arriving in Hong Kong in 2007, Zac Purton decided that enough is enough and brought the curtain down on this phenomenal winning run.

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WHERE DID THE LOVE AND TRUST AND THANKS GO?

By Hans Ebert
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You’re judged by the company you keep. My parents drummed this into me and I kept along this path for years until ego got the better of me and it became an adult version of being with the cool kids. But when swept along by enablers feeding off wherever you can take them, the company become strays and false friendships are formed and last long past their Use By date. And in this day and age of “engaging” on social media, “followers” become “friends” until you reach that point where you’re hit with a large dose of reality and jolted into the land of common sense.

It’s about taking stock of your life and prioritising those who really matter. It’s not about taking in strays and for reasons that make no sense undertaking various acts of kindness other than feeling pity. Are these ever repaid? Of course not. They’re taken for granted and always detonate along the way. There are of course also those acts of kindness that can take one into some extremely perilous and dysfunctional relationships.

If looking back on the friendships made after a career in advertising, journalism and music, there would be less than ten people I would consider friends- those one can trust and who’ll be there for you. Really be there and not just the false promises. The rest? Acquaintances at the most and really not very important ones.

Having reasonably recently been involved in the horse racing industry- involved as opposed to being in the thick of it- there are probably two and a half individuals who would be considered friends. Again, plenty of acquaintances, but where there’s no trust, and no engaging in the real world, and too many cliques and click baits, even with all its problems, there cannot ever be the chance of a friendship. No one even passes Old Kent Road.

As for social media, there are zero friends. One might enjoy the company of a few people actually met in “real time”, but the rest are only names with nothing else there. It’s like online dating. A few acquaintances have jumped headfirst onto online dating sites where some have even married those found there whereas others show photos of the new someone in their lives even though they’re still to actually meet.

One such person has been seeing the same girl for eight years. They’re still to meet. She’s a single mother in Kiev and he’s penniless in Paris.

A couple of girlfriends I once dated are with men they’ve met on online dating sites and who have become marriages of convenience. They have bailed them outta financial problems and offered them security. These are sugar daddies. It’s no different to being a highly paid escort.

It is what it is and it works for both sexes as the male of the species who’s down on their luck is also looking for that emotional and financial security. So what you have is this fake world of make believe and with everyone carefully keeping up pretences.

Whatever happened to meeting someone, eyes meet and where one knew from holding hands that this was meant to be and that there couldn’t be a day that went by without being with each other? Those days are gone because romance is gone. Romance is gone because honesty has been replaced by games and pettiness.

Once upon a love, there was someone in my life who would say, “Romance me.” The feeling was there, but that simple action was put on Hold. I always thought it could wait. It couldn’t and that time together faded to black.

It’s still about believing in romance, however, and how much music plays in this dance of life. The problem is that it takes two to tango but the right partner is becoming someone almost impossible to find as, again, technology and sites and social media platforms have ripped out that much-needed emotional quotient. The heart of the matter.

It’s become all about the challenge and the conquest rather than working to make sure it works with the right one. About remembering where the first one went wrong and not bludgeoning the same mistake to death.

Like collecting online “friends”, we’ve stopped being choosy or are so locked into whatever happened when you pressed Enter that’s become the rest of your life.

Our parents had it right. We’ve been lousy students. We’ve also been childish adults. Shame on us.