Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers?

November 6, 2019

20191106 Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers? - Pix 0120191106 Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers? - Pix 02

I posted “Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers?” as a comment on CostCo’s Facebook page yesterday. And Costco’s social media teams replied promptly (within the hour) to inform me my concerns have already been sent to the appropriate team(s). Will see what happen next.


For the record, here is “Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers?” ,

Hi, We just had a rather #awful Costco Wholesale Canada membership renewal experience this past Friday. Ended up spending ~30 minutes talking to three (4) different customer service employees/manager with one of them even threatened me to stop writing down her name (I said I might want to complain about my experiences at some point). I was told I’m not allowed to remember their names in order to properly complain if I wish to. Is this normal and standard operating procedure of CostCo employees to threaten members who may want to complain with precision?
Can someone explain why does CostCo treat loyal customers WORSE than brand new customers? Shouldn’t renewal NOT be taken “for granted”? Is it wrong to think each renewal should be treated as EARNED?

— Calgary Zoo example
In stark contrast, Calgary Zoo does things right and treat each member who decides to renew (some don’t renew) with full respect and work hard to earn each renewal. As a start, the zoo treats a renewing member EQUALLY as a new member and would NEVER shortchange/disadvantage a loyal existing member!

— CostCo: a multi-billion dollar entitled company?
Now back to CostCo, please correct me if I am wrong. When a NEW customer decide to take out a NEW membership on November 1st, his/her membership will expire in 2020 November 30th, correct me if I am wrong?
Now when we renewed on November 1st, we were told that our membership expired on September 30th! Major #fail with CostCo! In fact we were further explained, for ANYONE who “renew” within three (3) months of their previous membership expiration date, their membership expiration is the OLD date! So for example, members who decide to renew 89 days after expiration will have their membership shortchanged with 89 days LESS!
Fair? I don’t think so. This, to me and to be frank, is the actions of a multi-billion dollar entitled company that disrespect loyal customers because “it has always been done like this” or it is in the “terms and conditions” (which I tried to read “Membership Conditions & Regulations, and Privacy Policy” but is unable to find the exact exploitative legal language).

— More Training (not punishment) & Will CostCo start treating Loyal/Renewal customers with respect??
I will NEVER want anyone be punished for my stupid complains. Life is too short. Training may be. I want other customers be treated much better than I had been.
I take time to complain not just to benefit myself (sure, I want my complains fixed) BUT I take time to publicly complain in order to raise issues that I think companies like CostCo should think seriously and consider fixing.
I’ve laid out my complains and the issues (hopefully clearly and factually). Will CostCo review your corporate policy and START respecting all Loyal/Renewing customers reminds to be seen. Don’t take my words for it, Google or ask Calgary Zoo how they treat their renewing members and if they treat their loyal renewing members as good as their new ones and if they also shortchange their members because many are too busy to ask?


November 14, 2017

亞省係加拿大出產牛肉嘅省份, 不過我就覺得啲牛肉其實唔係超好味 (唔夠肥??), 亦都幾貴 . 好彩近年搵到一間附近新開嘅韓國超市, 啲韓式薄切牛肉片, 肉質帶一啲肥, 又唔係太貴, 咁就對亞省啲牛肉有番啲好感. 當然 better half 煎嘅牛扒, 從來都係一流好味! ;)

話說幾個月前, better half同我比自己踢咗入會做卡城動物園嘅會員, 一個超值年費價錢(包泊車), 可以睇企鵝, 睇蝴蝶, 睇紅熊貓, …, 同埋等睇2018來嘅真熊貓, 其實係一個好好嘅發現. 仲可以順便”免費”做gym(行行企企3,4,5個鐘頭, 其實都幾係嘢, 同做gym差唔多)!

啱啱呢個星期六行完動物gym之後, 就收到好消息話 Michelle 又張「兩周一聚」復活啦! 版名重”江湖味濃郁”到叫【五湖四海】,又”非死不可版”! 好嘢, 好玩!

其實我都唔知道咩嘢叫做「地道菜」? 不過當時我同better half (同其他十幾廿個卡城嘅foodies) 坐坐企企係冰天雪地嘅街邊, 預咗等一個鐘頭去食日本拉麵, 咁我諗呢一 碗日本拉麵都當係「地道菜」啦!

附筆: 麺屋(Shiki menya)老闆/大廚 Koki 每日限賣150碗麵, 保持質量, 對食物都有堅持, 都幾令人高興! ;)
附附筆: 加多一張相同一句: “Happiness is a simple breakfast with my better half.” ;)

Watch “Revolution Trilogy” 睇「革命三部曲」

March 18, 2016

(Watch my trilogy of documentaries.)

Watch my docs Revolution Trilogy 睇「革命三部曲」

Watch my docs Revolution Trilogy 睇「革命三部曲」

20190812 Director new preface re the word “Revolution”:

The title of my debut documentary “Long Hair Revolution 「長毛革命” was decided in 2004, so 15 years ago. The rationale is similar to “industrial revolution” or “internet revolution”, ideas for improvement. Nothing to do with violence.

“長毛革命”在2004, 15年前定名, 其實跟”工業革命”或者”互聯網革命”道理相同, 是嶄新改革的意思, 完全同”暴力”沒有任何關係.

It saddens and pains me that Hong Kong today has deteriorated so badly that the word “Revolution” has now been twisted by both the HK and BJ governments to mean violence and the guaranteed and international recognized free speech right is almost gone in HK.

可憐今天的香港, 還是逃不了中國幾千年以來皇帝”以言入罪”, 沒有”言論自由”的悲哀。


Director/producer/independent reporter Kempton Lam has made three full-length documentaries from 2004 – 2015. Kempton’s debut documentary Long Hair Revolution 「長毛革命 has been collected by the Canadian National Archive since 2009. The three documentaries are collectively known as “Revolution Trilogy「革命三部曲」 and are in Cantonese with English subtitles (廣東話、英文字幕). You can watch the three films at this YouTube Playlist (beautifully projected on your big screen HDTV or on your computer). Enjoy!

Long Hair Revolution 「長毛革命」 (full-length 2005) (read film & Canadian national archive info)

HKtv Revolution 「香港電視革命」 (full-length 2015) (read Director’s Statement)

Umbrella Revolution: History as Mirror Reflection 「雨傘革命實錄:以史為鏡」 (full-length 2015) (read Director’s Statement)

Wedding gift: “An Old Sweetheart of Mine” stanza translation by Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發

January 20, 2015
A stanza from An Old Sweetheart of Mine - by James Whitcomb Riley translation by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發

A stanza from An Old Sweetheart of Mine – by James Whitcomb Riley
translation by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發

My wife and I want to say a special thank you to Mr. Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 (Andrew was the last President of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong during British rule) for taking time to translate the special stanza from “An Old Sweetheart of Mine” I used in my marriage proposal and wedding announcement (of which I only shared the first line).

Here is Andrew’s translation (which he humbly calls “hastily attempted … translation”, borrowing 同心, 情依依, 異路, 相…時 from Lin Yu-tang 林語堂‘s attempt) of the same stanza in four 7-character lines (七言絕句):-


credit: translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發


“An Old Sweetheart of Mine” stanza by James Whitcomb Riley (1902)

When I should be her lover
forever and a day,
And she my faithful sweetheart
till the golden hair was gray;
And we should be so happy
that when either’s lips were dumb
They would not smile in Heaven
till the other’s kiss had come.

林語堂 翻譯的同一節詩 Lin Yu-tang‘s translation of the stanza:


An Old Sweetheart of Mine - by James Whitcomb Riley 20150120 with Lin Yu-tang 林語堂 translation

An Old Sweetheart of Mine – by James Whitcomb Riley
with Lin Yu-tang 林語堂 translation

P.S. I wish I had the opportunity to meet Andrew in person but I haven’t had the pleasure yet. Andrew’s fair minded and excellent work during his time as President of the Legislative Council of HK remind HKers the fond memories we miss these days in HK. My wife and I were really happily surprised to see Andrew taking time to translate the beautiful stanza for our wedding which we take as a special gift.

In recent years, it has been my pleasure to read Andrew’s poetry translation work at his fascinating blog “Classical Chinese Poems in English” once in a while to revisit some classic Chinese poems along with Andrew’s graceful English translations to relax my mind. Which is why I reached out to Andrew to ask him a translation question about“An Old Sweetheart of Mine”. Thanks again Andrew for your beautiful translation to help celebrate our wedding!

And yes Andrew, it is indeed been my (now “our”) ambitious plan to work hard on our marriage, love each other dearly, stay healthy for each other, etc etc so that I can present this stanza to my wife on our 50th Wedding Anniversary in 50 years time.

何嘉滙 “好風景” 香港紀錄片導演專訪

September 9, 2014

Jo Ho Ka Wui (何嘉滙) is the co-director of HK documentary Women’s Horizon (好風景) with Bryan Chang Wai Hung (張偉雄). A documentary that recorded the lives of five Hong Kong women from 2010 to 2012. Here is a description of the five women from the film outline,

“Kitman, a big fan of online sweepstake; Charlene, a dance instructor and urban fashion shop owner; Esther, growing up in in a christian community aspiring to live the life within the church; Chan Hei, was an advocate for the fair treatment of sex workers and is employed at a bookstore; Kai Kai, Representative of the League of Fanling North Villages and Residents.”

Here is a trailer,

When Jo and Bryan were first planning to shoot Women’s Horizon in 2010, they talked about being inspired by the British Up Series documentary that has “followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old.” The directors of Women’s Horizon hopes to revisit the lives of the five Hong Kong women in a few years to make another documentary. Over the two and a half years, the filmmakers made the documentary with their own money and shot ~60 hours of footage and editing the footage down to a 58 minutes documentary.

Here is an extensive and exclusive interview with co-director Jo Ho Ka Wui (何嘉滙) conducted on the eve of the film’s world premiere on September 9th at the Chinese Documentary Festival 2014.

ScrewYouApple – Indiegogo Funding Campaign

March 16, 2013

ScrewYouApple - official Project Pix

Please support my  Indiegogo Funding Campaign for my second documentary “ScrewYouApple”!

ScrewYouApple – Indiegogo fund raising promo

Documentary ScrewYouApple – Director’s Summary

ScrewYouApple is a tiny Pentalobe screw-inspired film of action that plans to formally ask Apple to stop screwing customers & Think Different again! ScrewYouApple will explore Apple’s multi-billion dollar cash-generating machine (possibly including the powerful App store) and also document my journey to formally ask Apple to stop screwing customers and get Apple to return to the inspiring ideals set out in Apple’s iconic Think Different “The Crazy Ones” Ad campaign. In a creative manner for a documentary, I intend to use a Shareholder Proposal as defined by the US Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (specifically Rule 14a-8) to formally ask Apple to Think Different again!

Please support the making of ScrewYouApple by choosing a perk on the right of the screen to join us on this epic journey, to try to change the world for the better.

(NOTE: If you are in China & unable to access YouTube video link, please try Youku.com.)

ScrewYouApple – Director’s Statement

If the 1989 documentary “Roger & Me” could be simplistically summed up as a film about director Michael Moore pursuing General Motor CEO Roger Smith to confront him about GM’s harm to Flint, Michigan, then may be ScrewYouApple could also be simplistically summed up as a feature-length documentary about crowd funders & supporters of ScrewYouApple combining our voices to try toformally ask Apple senior executives and shareholders to stop screwing customers and to Think Different again.

The creative spark for ScrewYouApple came from the tiny Pentalobe screws inside a MacBook Pro (see picture). I wondered what design/engineering purposes would the five-pointed Pentalobe screws have in serving Apple or its customers? After doing some research (CNet & iFixit), I learned the tamper-resistant Pentalobe screws (now used in wide range of Apple devices including iPhones) are there to stop customers from performing simple upgrades/repairs like replacing a battery, etc (in a sense to “screw” the customers) so that Apple can make more money. These tiny screws can be viewed as tips of Apple icebergs floating on top a sea change.

Pentalobe Screw Y✿u Apple

With your support, ScrewYouApple will explore the Apple’s multi-billion cash-generating machine (possibly including the powerful App store) and also document my journey toformally ask Apple to stop screwing us (one possible question: stop the use of Pentalobe screws) and get Apple to Think Different again (returning to the inspiring ideals set out in “The Crazy Ones“). (more about “formally ask” in Q&A #2)

Specifically, ScrewYouApple will include a look at the changes/evolution happening in Apple from the 1997 Think Different days to the 2013 Apple of today holding billions of cash. And to reach out to “screwed” Apple customers/former fans to hear and collect some of their stories. By makingScrewYouApple a crowd-supported feature-length documentary, the film aims to transform our singular voices into something loud and clear enough for Apple to notice. The making of ScrewYouApple can be viewed as an example of Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote, “The Medium is the Message.” (more details in Q&A #3)

Please support the making of ScrewYouApple by choosing a perk on the right to join us on this epic journey, to try to change the world for the better. The film’s current target completion date will depend on when I can “formally ask” Apple but you will receive many updates and video clips to watch from me along our epic journey if the fixed-funding campaign goal is met by the deadline!

Thanks for your support in making this film possible,

Kempton Lam (director & producer)

P.S. I don’t hate Apple. In fact, you may be surprised by Q&A #1.

Kempton’s filmography

Leung Kwok-hung (nickname “Long Hair”)

In 2004, Kempton single-handedly directed, produced, shot, and edited his documentary directorial debut “Long Hair Revolution“. The 71 minutes Long Hair Revolution is a film about the then newly elected Hong Kong legislator Leung Kwok-hung (nickname “Long Hair”), a Che Guevara t-shirt wearing rebel/activist. In 2005, Long Hair Revolution world premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival.

In 2009, Long Hair Revolution was acquired by the Canadian government’s “Library and Archives Canada” permanent collection where it “collects and preserves Canada’s documentary heritage, and makes it accessible to all Canadians.

“Long Hair Revolution” (長毛革命) selected to be part of Library and Archives Canada collection

Questions & Answers

Q1) Do you hate Apple? Have you ever bought any Apple products? Read the rest of this entry »

Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – from beginning to end

January 20, 2013

Lets Roast a duck - Kempton Style

Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – from Beginning to End is a sequence of four videos showing how I made a simple & easy to make roast duck!

If I can make it, that means you can make it too!

– Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – initial prep – Part 1/4

Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – Flipping the duck – Part 2/4

Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – Done! – Part 3/4

Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – Cutting it up – Part 4/4

New Lamppost Banners Unveiled for 12th Annual Calgary Chinatown Street Festival

August 4, 2012

Lamppost Banners in Calgary Chinatown - pix 1Lamppost Banners in Calgary Chinatown - pix 2

Yesterday, the Calgary Chinese Merchants Association (CCMA) officially unveiled the new banners that will adorn the lampposts of Chinatown as part of the 12th Annual Chinatown Street Festival which will be starting on Saturday August 11th.

The CCMA stated, “The new artwork for the banners was created by Venezuela-born Chinese Canadian artist Henry Raul Yu. The artwork is meant to represent the diversity in Chinese culture, mixing in western illustration styles with traditional Chinese cultural aspects serving as a bridge to bring the East and West together.”

Check out the official Chinatown Street Festival webpage for the highlights and details of the six zones in this year’s multi-cultural event: Cultural, Sportif, Merchants, Food, Performance, and Hidden Gems.

Dance Lesson at one of many 100th anniversary Stampede breakfasts @Calgary

July 8, 2012

Dance Lesson at one of many 100th anniversary Stampede breakfasts @Calgary

This year is the 100th anniversary of Calgary Stampede and as usual, there will be many free Stampede breakfasts around town. Country songs and Square Dancing are very common entertainment during these free breakfasts. The following video is a Dance Lesson at one of many 100th anniversary Stampede breakfasts in Calgary.

If you are new to Calgary, I highly recommend you go out and experience Calgary Stampede. Take in as many events as you can. In fact, today (Sunday July 8th, 2012), is Suncor Energy Family Day, where admission is FREE from 6-9am. You ALSO get FREE breakfast (only for the first 20,000 guests, from 7-9:30 a.m. at Grandstand Courtyard). Tickets will distributed at Park entrances and are required to receive breakfast!

89.6.4 卡加利23週年紀念活動

June 5, 2012

23.64 - CG PRC - pix 19

23rd anniversary of 1989 Tiananmen Square protests remembrance in Calgary (2012.6.4)

23.64 - UC - pix 06

林錦堂與陳心田講一講 Facebook “投資”

May 22, 2012

Facebook (FB)上星期五 (May 18, 2012) IPO,開市價由IPO的$38跳升到$42,但最後以$38.23收市 (較IPO價微高23仙)。FB 星期一以$36.53較星期五收市價低開$1.70,星期一早午未收市前,我很高興可以與陳心田(Wallace Chan)首次合作用廣東話在 YouTube (LIVE,直播) 及 Google+ Hangout On Air (直播) 將我及心田(Wallace) 所知的 Facebook 講一講,與大家分享所謂的 Facebook “投資”。星期一 Facebook 最後以$34.03收市,較開市價的$42 及 IPO價$38 低 18.9% 及 10.4%。

林錦堂 與 陳心田 講一講 Facebook “投資” 20120521

Have a read of “Facebook employees have millions. Now what?

Are polls broken?

April 24, 2012

I am wondering if our polls are broken fundamentally. If and when I have time, I will try to understand it more.

Did Alberta voters show pollsters who’s boss with late campaign swing?

Politicos, pollsters ponder why Alberta election predictions went awry

The mea culpas are plentiful, with Ian Large of Leger Marketing telling the Herald as election night results rolled in: “We were all wrong.”

The majority of polls heading into Monday’s election gave Danielle Smith’s Wildrose party at least a six-point lead.

The narrative leading up to the ballot box showed the upstart party toppling Alberta’s 41-year-old Tory dynasty.

Instead, Redford’s Progressive Conservatives won 61 seats in the vote, with a 10 point lead in ballots.

What’s clear is that different methodologies — telephone, Internet and a combination of the two — all predicted the same wrong story.

[…] “Public opinion changed dramatically, quickly and right at the end of the campaign,” said Janet Brown, a public opinion research consultant who accurately predicted the 72-seat Tory win in 2008. This election, the model she used to do seat projections showed the Wildrose winning a convincing majority government, with between 50 and 60 seats.

* The Only Poll That Matters by Janet Brown is worth a read for some ideas even Janet’s own own projection model was a total failure as you can see in the last article.

11:14pm Update: This post is actually the result a good discussion on Facebook after a friend posted “‘Entire environment shifted’: Pollsters seek answers following Alberta election“. The following is an excerpt of my comments with minor word changes. [note: my friends’ comments have not been included here as it wasn’t my intention to put their somewhat private views public plus I haven’t got their permissions. ***]

* Reading the pollsters’ explanations are funnier than watching winter boots salesmen trying to justify why sales are bad in Thailand! Of course, without these pollsters what “news” will the media report?
I personally stopped answering any polls years ago. Am I wrong to think the younger generation even has less time for time-wasting polling calls?

* I suspect getting statistically valid sample of “opinion” is no longer an easy challenge. I remember reading about problems with phone surveys in the old old days. The problem then was the bias against people rich enough to actually have a phone line. Now, may be the bias is in people who have lots of time and don’t know how to say no. Or worst, some who has vested intrest in being polled in campaigns. In either case, it is hard to claim “random sample”. I am not an expert in the field, but I believe without the claim of “randomness” in the sample, I think it is game over. :(

* you made a good point re the importance of using other yardsticks (e.g. social media) but then they can be very subjective and can be skewed for the determined. My general point is re the “objective” tool of a poll. And that, I think we are running into some fundamental challenge. May be worthy of a university-level statistic research thesis/paper.

* [… name removed …], interesting discussion. Thanks for sharing your insights. The polls vs election results should definitely teach us something (as citizens and people in the field). I suppose finding out “what” have we been “taught” is part of the fun.

Michelle Rempel – Confident rookie MP one of a new breed of Tory women

December 10, 2011

For the record.

Confident rookie MP one of a new breed of Tory women
From Saturday’s Globe and Mail
Posted on Friday, December 9, 2011 6:56PM EST

Such a contrast this week in the House of Commons. With Peter Kent, the Environment Minister, away at the UN climate conference in South Africa, it was up to Michelle Rempel, his parliamentary secretary, to defend the government’s sometimes questionable environmental record.

And Mr. Kent, a former anchorman and journalist, could take a few lessons in communications from her.

In a Commons full of ministers robotically reading answers from their iPads because they’re afraid to go off script – that includes Mr. Kent – Ms. Rempel simply tossed away her talking points and confidently took on her opposition opponents.

She is among a new breed of Tory women. Like Lisa Raitt, the uber-confident Labour Minister, with whom she pals around, and Candice Hoeppner, the Manitoba Tory MP who killed the long-gun registry, Ms. Rempel stands out.

Only 31 years old, the blonde and petite rookie Calgary Centre-North MP, doesn’t hide behind anything – not even behind those prominent dimples of hers.

Throughout her political career, a pattern has emerged: Other women have pushed her to be better and more involved.

This week in Question Period, Megan Leslie, the NDP’s environment critic, attacked Mr. Kent for lecturing countries in Durban, “saying that they have to join a binding climate deal for 2015.”

Ms. Rempel shot back, reminding Ms. Leslie that on her recent trip to Washington to talk about the Keystone pipeline project, the New Democrat MP “lectured the United States … lobbying against our jobs here in Canada.”

Even then – and despite the war of words and accusations – Ms. Leslie respects Ms. Rempel. In fact, they go for drinks together “to decompress.”

“It’s nice to have a strong adversary on the file,” the NDP MP says. “She’s smart as a whip.”

Ms. Rempel didn’t grow up dreaming about being an MP. Read the rest of this entry »


August 1, 2011

with Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) in Calgary - pix 05

中文 (In Chinese)


In English (英文)

The Alliance‘s Lee Cheuk-yan and Mak-hoi-wah visted Calgary yesterday (July 31, 2011) and I had a chance to interview Mr. Lee Cheuk-yan. The following are clips of my video interviews with him.

My English video interview with Lee Cheuk-yan

My Chinese video interview Part 1 and Part 2.

Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) in Calgary - pix 01

Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) and Mak-hoi-wah (麥海華) in Calgary - pix 02

Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) and Mak-hoi-wah (麥海華) in Calgary - pix 03

Interview with Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) in Calgary - pix 06

Mr. Lee‘s bio in Chinese.





機會與性格 – 李怡

July 4, 2011

For the record. See also my video interview with 李怡的外孫 Scott MacIsaac – Portrait of a Young Award-Winning Classical Pianist.

機會與性格 – (李怡) – 2011年07月05日

外孫啟新今秋進耶魯鋼琴演奏系,跳過學士課程,直接受教於只教碩士生的鋼琴大師 Boris Berman,這是女兒一家從來不會奢望的事,卡加里也開始有新聞界訪問這個十八歲的大孩子了。
去年他參加愛民頓的一次鋼琴比賽,正好 Boris Berman當評判,而 Berman一輩子才第一次去愛民頓。在這比賽中,他評了啟新第一名,在比賽後的接待會,他當面向啟新提出希望他考慮去耶魯跟他學鋼琴,可以給他獎學金,並告訴他怎麼申請。耶魯鋼琴演奏班兩年才收了兩名學生。如果不是當場被 Berman看上,即使真是天才,求見 Berman也很難。所以是機會。
啟新的性格天生關心人。四年前,他偶然讓加拿大有名的鋼琴老師 Merilyn Engle上了一小時課, Merilyn欣賞他,想收他做學生,他除了高興即時的反應卻是擔心原來教他的老師不開心。這次他去耶魯,不擔心學不好或難適應,卻擔心 Merilyn的感受。有人問他,把鋼琴當做畢生事業的目的是什麼?難道他不知道古典音樂已越來越少人欣賞了嗎?他說,古典音樂是好東西,少人欣賞所以他更要把這種事業繼承下去。
我有一位記者朋友曾訪問郎朗,問他的人生目的,他說,多些演奏會,多出些 CD,讓更多人知道他,當然也想有更多收入。所以,他拒絕為六四彈奏《風中之燭》,是很自然的事。因為他不是藝術家。

Kempton “new-style royal watcher” – Globe and Mail

June 30, 2011

For the record, I am in the article, I watch the royals, I am young at heart (not sure about “celebrity-obsessed”. :)

The new royal watchers: young and celebrity-obsessed (emphasis added)


From Friday’s Globe and Mail (with correction)
Published Thursday, Jun. 30, 2011 5:01PM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Jun. 30, 2011 8:49PM EDT

As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge peer out at the crowds during their nine-day royal tour, it won’t be wall-to-wall grey-haired monarchists waving Union Jacks back at them.

Among those diehards will be a younger crew of spectators waving nothing more conspicuous than a digital camera or cellphone above their heads. They will be there to unabashedly cheer on the glamorous young royals – just don’t call them monarchists. Read the rest of this entry »

李怡的外孫 Scott MacIsaac – Portrait of a Young Award-Winning Classical Pianist

June 11, 2011

我很高興於2009年認識和有機會聽到香港名作家/社評人李怡的外孫 Scott MacIsaac 的鋼琴演奏。前幾天我在 Scott 去 Yale 跟 Boris Berman 教授讀 Certificate in Performance program 之前,訪問了Scott、他的父母和外公。(The following text are copied here from the original English version for your convenience. See original English version for additional readers’ comments and further updates.) [July 5, 2011 Update: Here is 李怡’s Chinese newspaper article “機會與性格” about Scott.]


Scott MacIssac - 2011 - pix 1

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If you spend some time with Scott MacIsaac, the first thing you will notice is that he is an easy going & sweet young man. And if you are lucky to hear him play the piano in a concert, you will discover he is a talented classical pianist and has also won many awards.

When I first heard Scott performing in 2009 at 16, I knew that Scott was talented but I only knew him as a person through the eyes of his grandpa Lee Yee 李怡, a famous Hong Kong writer/editorialist. In order to write about Scott in an informed manner, I spent an afternoon plus an evening chatting with Scott and his parents Doug, Wendy and grandpa Lee Yee. And conducted two extensive over the phone followup interviews with Scott and Lee Yee. I appreciate their time very much especially since Scott is leaving Calgary soon (in August 2011) to enter Yale‘s Certificate in Performance program to study piano with Professor Boris Berman.

The Portrait

After some careful considerations, I decided the best way for me to share my insights about Scott is to divide this article into three sections: 1) Impressions, 2) Two Q&As, and 3) YouTube videos (my “Portrait of a Young Classical Pianist” short video, Scott’s TSO Competition videos, and his recent Calgary performance) allowing you chances to see Scott plays the piano and to listen to him and his parents in their own words.


I am not a piano/classical music expert, but judging from the multiple awards Scott has received over the years, I can safely and objectively say he is very talented! :) And the two performances of Scott I attended in the last few years, I thought the music were played beautifully and many pieces were performed full of passion. In chatting about piano music with Scott, I often saw his eyes lit up and his face filled with a big smile. And in our chats, he, even at his young age, recognizes a perfect performance doesn’t really exist and there are always things to improve in every performance.

When I raised the observation/fact that the career of a concert pianist can be tough and classical piano music isn’t exactly rising in popularity, I sensed he truly sees piano as his calling and willing to work very hard to overcome the challenges faced by concert pianists everywhere. And he even aspires to try to reengage the younger/newer generations to love classical piano music more. Scott clearly knows this is not an easy task so I really admire him for wanting to try.

As a person, Scott is very easy going, nice and considerate. I feel Scott truly appreciates & treasures the teachings & insights from his first piano teacher Beverly a few blocks from his home and his current UC teacher Marilyn (see photos below).

Scott MacIsaac & Marilyn Engle at TSO Competition 2011Scott MacIsaac & Marilyn Engle at UC CONTRASTS Chamber Music Festival 2011

Scott’s parents, and grandpa Lee Yee shared with me the story of Scott’s concern when his piano skill advanced and it was time to transition from Beverly to Marilyn. I was deeply touched to hear that Scott, at the young age of 14 (?), didn’t want to hurt his first teacher’s feeling. The mark of a nice and considerate boy.

The following is how Marilyn described her first encounter with Scott in a December 2010 UC article “Gifted pianist plays for U of C“,

Engle describes the first time she met MacIsaac as being like a scene from a movie. “I still remember. I was eating my sandwich, he started to play a Chopin concerto, and the sandwich got slower and slower as it approached my mouth, and then it stopped completely and I realized, that’s talent.”

Scott emphasized to me that Marilyn‘s teaching was curial in his improved and refined piano skills, winning multiple awards in recent years, and ultimately for his skills to be recognized by Boris which lead to his acceptance to Yale.

In my mind, I think all great teachers understand their talented student will one day reach a new level of maturity/sophistication in skills. And when that day comes, a different teacher may arrive to try to assist the student in reaching a new level.

Two Questions & Answers

In my extensive interviews with Scott, we touched upon many topics. Here are two Q&As that I personally find particularly interesting and illuminating.

Kempton: Classical piano pieces were created long long time ago. [Many people considered the creativity/act of creation done and finished years ago.] Do you see your each performance as a new “act of creation” [in itself]?

Scott: “Every performer has their own interpretation of a piece. Their own way, in which they view a piece, on how it should be played. Even the composer, the one who actually created the work, even he does not have the, as you say, the “correct” interpretation of it. Cause there are, in music, an infinite ways that one can interpret a piece. Even the creator of the piece himself plays it differently than everyone else. Everyone plays it differently from each other. Thats what makes music unique and creative is that everyone has their own way in which they feel [a certain piece should be played].”

And here is the second Q&A. This one is about the creative process, my attempt to understand how Scott thinks during the first moment of creation.

Kempton: When you first look at a printed music score, are you [simply] “hearing” how it sounds [in a basic and straight forward manner as the music is written/specified on the printed pages], or are you already thinking about how to manipulate it [that is, to add your artistic and creative touch to it]? The creative process, does it happen during even the first look [of the music score]?

Scott: “It actually does happen during the first look. The first time you actually see or hear a piece is when the piece is most clear to you, the most fresh. Because thats when its the first time you are ever going to see it. It’s like if you watch a movie for the first time, and there are little shock elements in the movie that surprise you on the first time. The second time its is not going to surprise you as much, because you already know that it’s going to happen.

In music, it is the same deal. The first time you see it is when everything is fresh. When all the little shocks in the music which most people or non-musical audiences wouldn’t understand fully but you can make it more understandable for them if you actually know where these shocks are. And if they do sound fresh to yourself, they will come across fresh to the audiences too.”

YouTube videos: “Portrait of a Young Classical Pianist” short video, TSO Competition videos, and a recent Calgary performance 

Here is my short video “Scott MacIsaac – Portrait of a Young Classical Pianist (English & Chinese version)“. I hope you enjoy it as much as I in creating it.

Here is a link to the English version of my short video “Scott MacIsaac – Portrait of a Young Classical Pianist” (including interview footage with Scott’s dad Doug).

Have a listen to Scott’s recent award winning performance at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Competition (here, here, and here).

Here is a short video clip of Scott performing “Franz Joseph Haydn: Sonata No. 39 in D major” a few days ago at University of Calgary‘s CONTRASTS Chamber Music Festival (June 7th, 2011).

Special thanks

Special thanks to Scott, his parents Doug & Wendy, and his grandpa Lee Yee for spending time with me for me to write this article and to create the video.

Concluding Thoughts

I really enjoy interviewing & chatting with Scott. I know Scott will grow muscially in the coming years under the tutelage of Boris at Yale and for years to come with his hard work and determination. I hope to stay in touch with Scott and update you on his progress and achievements.

If Scott can find time in his busy schedule (this may be tough) and together with some creative use of technologies (possibly Skype & advanced audio recording tools, etc), may be I can even bring you some interesting updates & insights bi-occasionally. :) Will see about that.


In the interview, Scott mentioned he has read Professor Boris Berman‘s “Notes from the Pianist’s Bench” (via Amazon), if you are interested, you can read a few sample pages of the book via Amazon.

Scott MacIsaac 卡加利大學鋼琴表演 (6月7日)

June 7, 2011

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Time flies and it has been two years since my first report of the talented Scott MacIsaac (香港著名作家李怡的外孫) playing at the 2009 Winners of the Calgary Concerto Competition concert. This past weekend, I had the pleasure to video interview/chat with Scott in depth to get to know him a little bit more before he leaves Calgary in August to study piano at Yale School of Music plus I also interviewed Scott’s loving parents. It will take me some time to write the article plus edit & process the interview video clips, but I hope to post the interview soon.

For those that loves piano & classical music, Scott will perform once more at University of Calgary, Department of Music‘s CONTRASTS Chamber Music Festival (June 7th, 2011)  before he leaves for Yale to study with Professor Boris Berman. Hope you have time to attend CONTRASTS.

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By the way, here are YouTube videos of Scott MacIsaac at Toronto Symphony Orchestra Competition: Final Round (May 29th, 2011) performing Sergie Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto no. 2 in c minor op. 18. Scott won second prize at the TSO competition. Enjoy.

TSO Piano Competition: Concerto no.2 in c minor op.18, I. Moderato

TSO Piano Competition: Concerto no.2 in c minor op.18, II. Adagio sostenuto

TSO Piano Competition: Concerto no.2 in c minor op.18, III. Allegro scherzando