Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Copy watch? Copy watch?"

I was in wandering the Kowloon shopping district a bit before the shops opened at ten.  I had a Starbucks cup in hand -  even in Hong Kong there is a Starbucks on every corner - and was enjoying the cool fall morning.

I had a list of things to get in Hong Kong, and one of them was a fake Rolex.  Not for me - I don't want a real or fake Rolex - but wanted one as a gift.  And I knew Kowloon was a place to get one.

Now you can't just wander into a store in Hong Kong and ask for a fake Rolex - the authorities have cracked down on selling knock-offs of all kinds - so enterprising men (always men) approach potential customers on the street, muttering "Copy watch? Copy watch?", just loud enough that you can hear them, but not so loud that a wandering policeman can. 

The second man to approach me was looked Thai and was less than 5 feet tall, maybe 100 pounds, so I figured he was my man. Copy-watch proprietors take you into back alleys to get to their "shop", away from the prying eyes of the law, and it is the perfect set-up for a mugging.  So if I was going to be led into a dark alley by a copy-watch salesmen, I figured I was relatively safe with a guy I had ten inches and 70 pounds on.

"Maybe..." I replied. "Where's your shop?"

"Vely close.  Light over there."  His Engrish wasn't bad.  He pointed to the building across the street.  I nodded and followed him.

Of course it wasn't exactly that building he was pointing at, but in that general direction.  He led me behind it and down some back allies.  Right, right, left, right...I tried to keep my bearings as I was led away from Canton street, becoming an easier mark the further away he led me.  I wasn't worried, however.  I figured if he or his friends jumped me, they jumped me.  I had only a few hundred dollars on me and decided if it happened it was my "Jos", the Chinese equivalent of fate and luck and the art of accepting whatever befalls you.

Then I realized the most valuable thing on me were my kidneys.

We finally got to his "shop", which was an apartment in a back alley.  There was an iron gate and he brought out a key, led me in, and locked the gate behind me, pocketing the key.  I still wasn't worried, but did figure he just put a floor on the negotiation - I couldn't leave until I made a purchase.  But I was there to buy and didn't let this phase me.

He led me into his "store" which was a small room in the small apartment.  There was a jewelry display case, two chairs and some catalogs scattered about.  He asked me what I was interested in.

" I need a blue Rolex as a gift for my brother-in-law."  Not exactly the truth but close enough.

"Ah, light here", he pointed to two in the case, one blue, the other black, along with some other knock-off brands.  I was interested in both, but said I wanted the blue one.

Then we started haggling.  The opening bid was $200, which is ridiculous, and I told him so.  I countered with $35. He rolled his eyes.  I asked how much if I wanted both, and we started the back-and-forth, me asking for a single watch at one price, then two for a discount, then pushing that price down, then going back to one for half that, then getting that price lowered, then again asking again for both watches at a volume discount to the single price.

Back and forth we went.  While we both enjoyed the negotiation I didn't want to waste all day on it.  In China - as well as most places in the East and Middle East - negotiation is something of a hobby.  Americans are impatient and want to get to the bottom line, and I am no different, but I do know the rules for negotiating and went along with it for a while. 

But eventually I got bored and wanted to go. I knew I could have brought him down another 20% if I took more time, but I decided to let him "win" and capitulated, getting two for $120.

He seemed happy and I was okay with the price.  He opened the gate, led me out, and escorted me about half-way back until I knew where I was, my prizes in hand.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dizzy Gillespie Wouldn't Be Welcome Here?!

Poor trumpet players, not allowed in some places in China....

Monday, October 25, 2010

From Behind the Great Firewall

So I am posting from behind the Great Fire Wall, have downloaded my WSJ to my iPad and have had no problems hitting the right-of-center news and web sites I like.

Wait...there's a knock at the door and some angry voices...who could it be??

Update: It was housekeeping.  However, I will note that Facebook *IS* blocked. A not-kept-up-to-date list of blocked sites is listed here on Wikipedia (which is blocked in Chinese)

My View Doesn't Suck

I came into Hong Kong right after downgraded Typhoon Megi hit not too far away, so it's a bit cloudy. Other than the windows needing cleaning I can't complain about the view.

I'll be heading into Red China later today and am curious if I can get to Blogger from behind the Great  Firewall of China.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Texting - U.S. vs. Japan

There's a cultural studies dissertation in here somewhere:

US Teens Text Every Ten Minutes

Don't Text Us, We're Japanese!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I Have Been Assimilated

Yeah, yeah, first I ridiculed it as the "Big Touch".  Then I said I would wait until other tablets came out before making a decision.  But then I read this article that said that the iPad's lead is "overwhelming" and that none of the newer tablets coming out could hope to even come close to what the iPad offers.  Plus I have a long trip coming up, and I justified the purchase as needing something to do on the plane.

As as side note, yes, this picture was trying to subtlety reference Escher:

Friday, October 01, 2010

Will to....

At the intersection of philosophy and psychology stand a group of thinkers who try to distill the main motivations of what moves an individual.  These thinkers believe that the prime motivation of what moves a person - whether he knows it or not - is the power of this one motivation.  And this prime motivation is always couched as "will to...."

Anything and everything else a person wants are secondary or reactionary needs to the demands of the prime motivation.  According to these theorists if you dig deep enough everything positive and negative, neurotic and healthy, can be found in this prime motivation.

There are many theories out there today, but the main ones are:

Will to Pleasure (aka the Pleasure Principle) - Freud
Will to Live - Schopenhauer
Will to Power - Nietzsche/Adler
Will to Relationships - Yalom
Will to Meaning - Frankl

To Freud and Adler, the purpose of therapy is to find the prime motivations through the subconscious and find how societal, family or other external constructs create conflict to the prime motivation (however the person defines "pleasure" or "power"), and thus create psychosis. 

Yalom, believing relationships are the prime mover to what drives people, believes in a therapy that simply provides an intimate relationship, famously saying that "the relationship IS the therapy".  Perhaps a better phrase for Yalom is "Will to intimacy".  By finding intimacy through therapy, the patient finds what he is looking for, and learns through the process how to find it out in the real world.

Frankl, taking a more classical, almost Platonic view, believes the drive to find meaning in life is the prime motivator of people.  In his theory, some can "will" to suffer, if that suffering provides meaning to one's life.  His therapy would be familiar to pastors or Rabbis trying to help individuals tease out the reasons of their existence.

Which one do you think is the right one?  Or do you have one of your own?