so easy to look at, so hard to define

I used to write for a free music/entertainment in Hong Kong. We were a small publication, but we had a niche, and a direction. For a free mag, we were pretty good.

The team was great. A combination of hip twentysomethings, hilarious characters, and good hearted folks. The ed, my mentor, was a quirky good dude. I loved going to work. I remember I enjoyed weekdays more than weekends (yes, that sounds ridiculous). I voluntarily pulled overnight shifts to keep the graphic designer and the ed company.

The problem was we had a bad boss.

No, not in that typical “boss yells at me or undervalues me” kinda way. Our former boss, was, and still is, a shady businessman who doesn’t believe in paying people. He never paid us on time, once. No exaggeration, just the facts, maam.

These delayed payments can be anywhere from 5 days to 15 days to a month. Naturally, the team grew tired and left one by one.

To cut a long story short, the mag eventually died not because it didn’t have a place in this city; not because it didn’t have a following; but because the boss’s shady ways proved too much to overcome. The team had tried to tough it out and stick together–at one point, I was still working despite owed two months salary–but it was all a lost cause.

Beats magazine died, and all of us went about our own ways. Some I still see on a regular basis, others not so much. Despite the experience (I ended up getting screwed out of quite a bit of money), I still look back at the Beats experience fondly. Most of my current friends in HK are former coworkers.

The other day I saw on facebook a former writer, this a backpacking Brit who wrote for Beats a few months before leaving the city after running out of money, has just written a novel. Of course, cats-who-claim-they’re-writing-a-book, like cats-who-claims-they’re-writing-a-screenplay, are all over the city. And generally you take what they say with a grain of salt. But I knew this guy could write, and seeing his book on sale at Amazon proves it’s legit.

That makes me smile. I’ve always loved the guy (no homo). I thought he was a great part of the Beats team and was sad he had to go when he went. I see him now, with a book–which is set in HK and was partly inspired by our shady working experience–and I got to think about how the crew has turned out.

Everyone has ended up pretty damn well post-Beats.

There’s another British cat who knew alot about music. He’s another cat I loved (no homo),¬† another dude who left after having enough of being screwed out of money by the boss. He is now the editor in chief of a new startup mag. Like Beats, it’s small, free, and more of a passion project than anything. Unlike Beats, it probably don’t owe no one money. It’s a mag everyone can respect, however small it is.

Our former graphic designer, someone who, although I had a minor falling out with, I respect on a professional level, just won an award for best young design for media. He deserves it. He’s good. This remains the single greatest design for a free magazine in HK I’ve ever seen.

Then there’s another former writer, whom I live with now. She went on to produce TV show for Star TV, was offered a VJ job, then became a project manager for some big ad agency. All the while never forgetting our Beats roots.

Former interns… two stands out. There was this young local kid. When he joined the company, he was a wide-eyed geek who thought everything was “cool” and “wow”. I took him to ball and got mad at him for playing passively and passing up layups when I fed him down low. For most of this tenure at Beats, he was worried about where to go for college–he wanted to study overseas but thought his parents couldn’t afford it.

Then one day, toward the end of his Beats tenure, he told me his mom let him study abroad in Australia. And off he went…

I saw him again recently. He’s no longer geeky, not as geeky, and while his local Cantonese accent will always be there, dude be dropping Aussie slangs left and right now. The best part? I took him to ball again, and he developed swagger and attitude. Kid was talking trash, one game we were on opposing teams, he even tried to take it to me. Of course I whupped his ass, but that’s another story. The key is, he came to Beats as a kid, now hes a man.

The other intern, I always knew she was gonna be good. She worked harder than everyone at the office. Knew her shit and was organized. She helped me organize the Olympics feature, where we tracked down all the local HK athletes to do profiles with no help of PR. Today, she’s an aspiring foodie blogger and a professional court reporter for a Canadian press.

And finally, there’s me. I just wrote something for my favorite magazine–one I’ve read since I was a teen–and I’m editing my own section for a respectable Hong Kong publication. My income is still less than half of what I was making at Commerce Casino, but I’m loving what I do, I don’t dread going to work, and I write about what I like.

Then, somewhere down the line, there’s…NYC.

Thanks Beats, Scott Murphy, Peter Guy, you two are characters. We didn’t always see eye to eye. But I respect you two. And I’m thankful I had you two as an editor.

Everyone at Beats turned out pretty damn well. Shady businessman can’t stop us now.

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