Eating Smoke — a question and answer with the author, Chris Thrall – Part 3/5

October 18, 2011

Guest-Post by Tom Carter
Interview with Chris Thrall, author of Eating Smoke continued…

CARTER: One of the main characters in “Eating Smoke” is a Filipina prostitute named Apple who, after being your friend, sells you out to the triads.  Filipinos are the second largest ethnic group in Hong Kong, however their career paths seem to be limited as nannies for wealthy families, cover bands, or bar girls.

Why is that, and do you think their situation will ever improve?

THRALL: I think it’s because the Philippines’ economy is relatively poor when compared to Hong Kong’s. Even with the pittance they receive in wages, these women are able to send a lot of hard-earned dollars home to their families, while getting a travel experience they likely otherwise ill afford.

As to whether their situation will improve, Filipinos are generally humble, in my experience. They don’t complain and seem to appreciate the chance to earn money abroad.

Of course, wherever there is inequality, they’ll be incidents of exploitation, which isn’t nice. But if their union – if there is such a thing – pushed for higher pay then perhaps the demand for their services would drop off as there are Hong Kong locals who could fill these jobs.

CARTER: Another reoccurring character in Eating Smoke is an expatriate named Cameron who insists on trying crystal meth despite your warnings of its highly addictive nature.  Cameron shows up later in the book exclaiming how much he loves the drug even though it’s obvious that he, too, is now addicted.  To quote a passage in your book, “Unable to stop and not wanting to anyway.”

What about methamphetamine makes it so popular even though everyone knows that it can, nay, will destroy you?

THRALL: I can only speak from my own experience. Some people try meth and say, “Ah. It’s OK. But nothing special.” Then get on with their life. For others it seems to be the key in lock, the answer to all of life’s insecurities and problems. Perhaps people in the former category have had more stable upbringings and hence less insecurity and the resultant need to feel “right” for a change.

A drug that makes you feel cool, calm and supremely confident, in addition to giving you a massive surge of creative energy – allowing you to discover abilities you were told you were a failure at in school – is always going to be in demand.

The problem is, like Superman with his Kryptonite, you begin to crave that feeling more and more to the point where you no longer feel normal without it. That’s called addiction. Either you beat it or it destroys you.

Continued on October 19, 2011  in Eating Smoke – Part 4, return to Part 2 or if you have the time and do not want to wait for the five-part series to finish posting, click View as Single Page.

Chris Thrall was born in the UK. At eighteen, he joined the Royal Marine Commandos. Following active service in the Northern Ireland Conflict and training in Arctic warfare and survival, he earned his parachutist’s ‘wings’ and went on to serve as part of a high-security detachment onboard an aircraft carrier. In 1995, Chris moved to Hong Kong to oversee the Asia-Pacific expansion of a successful network-marketing operation he’d built, part-time, while serving in the Forces. Less than a year later, he was homeless, hooked on crystal methamphetamine and working for the 14K, Hong Kong’s largest triad crime family, as a doorman in Wanchai’s infamous red-light district. Eating Smoke, a humorous yet deeply moving first book, is his account of what happened.

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of CHINA: Portrait of a People, a 600-page book of photography from the 33 provinces of China, which may be found on Amazon.com.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.

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Eating Smoke — a question and answer with the author, Chris Thrall – Part 1/5

October 16, 2011

Guest-Post by Tom Carter
Interview with Chris Thrall, author of Eating Smoke

Tom Carter, author of “CHINA: Portrait of a People”, catches up with Chris Thrall to discuss his new book “Eating Smoke, a memoir about Thrall’s descent into drug psychosis in Hong Kong’s triad heartland.

In the fall of 2009, whilst traveling in India to create my next photography book, I was contacted via email by a British writer who had read Down and out in Hong Kong, one of my online travel articles, which described this poor, dusty backpacker’s real-time impressions of Asia’s wealthiest city.

Chris Thrall said he connected with my article’s conclusion that, in spite of my western heritage, and due to my personal circumstances, I ultimately had more in common with the destitute third-world inhabitants of the Chungking Mansions, the infamous immigrant ghetto of Kowloon, than I did with the rich white bankers et al who comprise the other half of Hong Kong’s multinational population.

Chris went on to explain that he was writing a book about his own experiences living in Hong Kong, which was dramatically different from mine or any other expatriate I ever knew, and that he once worked for the 14K, the world’s largest Chinese crime family.

Attached to his email was the first chapter of his memoir, a gripping opening salvo that finds the narrator hiding from pursuing henchmen on a roof top—alongside two corpses, a disemboweled mother and child.

As a voracious reader, I know a bestseller when I see it.  I immediately forwarded Chris’s manuscript to my publisher in Hong Kong, Pete Spurrier, who runs the iconic Blacksmith Books, which specializes in Asian-themed literature.

Pete likewise was knocked off his feet by Chris’s incredible story; the next I heard, Chris was a fellow Blacksmith label mate with a book deal.

Chris Thrall was born in the UK. At eighteen, he joined the Royal Marine Commandos. Following active service in the Northern Ireland Conflict and training in Arctic warfare and survival, he earned his parachutist’s ‘wings’ and went on to serve as part of a high-security detachment onboard an aircraft carrier. In 1995, Chris moved to Hong Kong to oversee the Asia-Pacific expansion of a successful network-marketing operation he’d built, part-time, while serving in the Forces. Less than a year later, he was homeless, hooked on crystal methamphetamine and working for the 14K, Hong Kong’s largest triad crime family, as a doorman in Wanchai’s infamous red-light district.

Eating Smoke, a humorous yet deeply moving first book, is his account of what happened.

Continued on October 17, 2011 in Eating Smoke – Part 2, or if you have time and do not want to wait for the five-part series to finish posting daily, click View as Single Page.

__________________________

Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of CHINA: Portrait of a People, a 600-page book of photography from the 33 provinces of China, which may be found on Amazon.com.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.


History Counts – Part 2/2

October 14, 2011

Under Deng Xiaoping, the People’s Republic of China announced a policy of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

John Gittings in The Changing Face of China quoted Deng Xiaoping as saying, “Planning and market forces are not the essential difference between socialism and capitalism. A planned economy is not the definition of socialism, because there is planning under capitalism; the market economy happens under socialism, too. Planning and market forces are both ways of controlling economic activity.”

Soon after Mao died in 1976, Deng Xiaoping’s Beijing Spring was introduced. This was a brief period lasting from 1977 into 1978, and during that time, the public was allowed greater freedom to criticize the government, which wasn’t allowed under Mao.

An example of this may be seen in “The Awakening” (Su-Xing), a movie produced during this period starring Joan Chen (Chen-Chung) and Gau Fei. [ISBN: 978-7-88611-603-2]. There are no English subtitles so it helps to have someone that reads or speaks Mandarin watch the movie with you that can point out the subtle criticisms of the Party that appear in the film, which was considered controversial at that time.

There was also a new Beijing Spring between 1997 to November 1998 where the Chinese government relaxed some control over political expression and organization.

It was during this time that China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is a permanent international criminal court, founded in 2002 by the Rome Statute to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide”, especially when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

However, on May 2, 2002 the United States stated that it did not intend to be bound by its signature to the ICC and that is has no intention to ratify it. President Clinton signed the ICC, but President G. W. Bush and the Republican-led Senate refused to ratify it.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place from 1973 through 1982. The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.

The United States is one of seventeen countries that have signed but not ratified the UNCLOS. North Korea is also one of the seventeen countries that have not ratified this UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, China has signed and ratified it.

On December 18, 1979, the United Nations adopted The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was the most comprehensive and detailed international agreement seeking the advancement of women.… The United States is the only industrialized country that has not ratified the treaty, putting the US in the company of countries such as Sudan, Iran and Somalia.


Slavery is not a thing of the past, as WFOR’s Jennifer Santiago discovered on a visit to West Africa. Over a million children are trafficked in the country of Benin alone. (CBS News)

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the UN in 1989, and is one of the most widely received conventions. The CRC has been accepted by 192 countries. The U.S. may soon be the only country in the world not to ratify the CRC.

Five years after the 1992 founding of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, over 143 countries met in Ottawa, Canada and signed a ban on anti-personnel mines. The United States has still not signed the treaty.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol legally bound industrialized countries by 2010 to reduce their collective emissions of six greenhouse gases by 5.2% compared to 1990 levels. One hundred forty-one (141) countries have signed the treaty, but the United States (the largest producer of greenhouse gases) has not.

There are more human rights treaties the US has not signed, and you may find this list at Feminist Majority.org.

In fact, No key human rights treaty has been ratified by the United States under the guidelines by which it was adopted and enforced by the UN General Assembly.

However, when there are alleged and unproven human rights violations in countries such as China, the US media is the first to accuse and complain causing an uproar of anger in America.

Do you believe history counts or do we ignore the past starting with yesterday? If you answer yes, shouldn’t other countries and/or cultures get the same privilege?

Return to History Counts – Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.

 

Note: This revised and edited post first appeared in February 2010 as An American Genocide, An American Shadow Over the Philippines, In a Dark Mirror Without Reflection, and After Mao.


In a Dark Mirror Without Reflection

February 16, 2010

In the previous post, we saw how native minorities in America and the Philippines have been treated by the United States. When I brought this up in an e-mail conversation with a conservative friend, he said these acts do not count today.  I disagree. History always counts. After Christ said, “Let he who has no sin, cast the first stone”, he said, “Go and sin no more”, and investigations in Iraq revealed that under President George W. Bush, the CIA was torturing terrorist suspects.

If Americans are going to tortue terrorists, at least don’t lie about it or attempt to hide it.

Most of us have heard about Tibet and the demands by Tibetans in exile that Tibet be free from China to rule itself.  We hear claims of brutal human rights violations taking place without much evidence to support the claims, and people who have been brainwashed to fear and hate Communism (the word not the reality) will believe anything.

The American media recently revealed that tens of thousands of illegal aliens in America (some seeking political asylum) were locked up in detention centers and were not getting proper medical care and were dying because of it.

Discover After Mao

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.