by jebni on July 14, 2006
Had the most awesome day yesterday — we had lunch with Maggie and Hoi Chiu, who live in Kowloon City. Hoi Chiu grew up in the the Kowloon Walled City — Hong Kong’s unpoliced “dead zone” outside British sovereignty, the inspiration for William Gibson’s Idoru, amongst other things, and a constant touchstone in the “storyscape” project Lena and I are doing in Hong Kong for Tracer. Hoi Chiu and Maggie are actors who do socially engaged playback theatre, but on a geek level, the most pressing issue for me is that Maggie played Kitty Pryde in X-Men: Evolution. Fuck!
Hoi Chiu had tons of interesting things to say about his personal geographical history. With a population density 150 times that of New York, and no government to speak of, the Walled City’s architecture was improvised on the spot, basically growing into one huge warren, with connecting doors and tunnels appearing between buildings. You could move into a high-level apartment with windows in each wall, only to find that every wall would be soon be blocked by new, absolutely adjacent buildings, with no space in between. Running water in the Walled City was a dicey affair, and was arbitrarily routed throughout the mini-city by the families who controlled it — it was Hoi Chiu’s job as a child to haul water from the one main ground well, which was cleaner. Ground level was a jungle of leaking water pipes, electricity cables and junk. “It sounds dangerous,” Hoi Chiu said, “but amazingly it all worked, because people just had to cooperate. They made it work.”