Monday, 30 May 2016

Chinese TV Commercial Challenges Cultural Stereotypes

Is it true what they say about a black man’s cock?

I got no complaints from your boyfriend, sweetheart

Friday, 27 May 2016

A Little Night Music

If you’re at a loose end on Monday 6 June and in the vicinity of St John’s Cathedral, you could do worse than go to the Li Hall (south-west of the Cathedral – or next to the bookshop if you are not familiar with ecclesiastical layouts).

For there, at 7.30pm, the Cecilian Singers (boasting this season four female voices of near professional standard, who will be performing solos and duets) will be giving a varied programme, taking the audience on a journey from the polyphony of Palestrina and Byrd through Vivaldi’s glorious “Laudamus Te” to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

I note with some nostalgia that closing the first half will be Stanford’s Magnificat in B flat, a piece I last sung when I was in shorts and decked in cassock and surplice, topped off by a magnificent ruff. Before that the choir will sing Bruckner’s stately “Locus Iste” – a piece that is virtually synonymous for me with the music master at my alma mater, the inimitable Jack Hindmarsh.  

No concert by the Cecilians is complete without a piece by contemporary American composer, Laurid Mortensen, and this time they will be offering their rendition of the smoochy “Sure on This Silent Night”. But, for me, the highlight of the evening promises to be a song by Maurice Ravel, the man who once told George Gershwin – seeking lessons in composition – that it was better to be a first-rate Gershwin than a second-rate Ravel, “Cantique de Jean Racine”.

Tickets are available online ($200 for adults, $100 for children under 16, students and seniors), or you can take your chance and pay at the doors (which open at 7pm). Profits will go to MedArt, a charity started by local doctors and musicians to bring care and comfort to those in hospices.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

China Offers Balanced Analysis of Taiwanese President

A single, hormonal, cat-loving woman who loves oranges. What rational nation could deal with someone like that?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Greeks Welcome Latest Bailout

So, Plato, for every euro we earn, gullible taxpayers across Europe will give us five

Indeed, Aristotle. Ideal for us and Unreal for them

Monday, 23 May 2016

Obama Lifts Weapons Embargo on Vietnam

That should help you sink a few Chinese "fishing" boats

SCMP Caves in under Pressure from Tolkien’s Dwarves

Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, has responded to public concern that it doesn’t know how to write, edit or spell by citing Lord of the Rings author, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

In a statement released in the wake of an article published on Saturday entitled “Malpractice ‘could have played a role’ in City University of Hong Kong roof collapse”, anonymous sources at Asia World City’s premier one-country-two-systems organ said that they were taking a leaf out of the great fantasy author’s book by inventing a plural.

“Language is very much a living organism. The days of Victorian men with long beards sitting in an armchair telling people how they should write and speak are long gone. Such prescriptivism actually holds language back. Just imagine where we would be if William Shakespeare hadn’t been around to invent all those words. He even coined ‘new-fangled’, which is really cool when you think about it!”

The SCMP, which under its new, even more CCP-friendly than before, owners, Alibaba, is slated to become the official One Belt, One Road newspaper for the advancement of regional stability and prosperity, was responding to accusations that it was a complete and utter embarrassment after it referred repeatedly to all the “rooves” in Hong Kong that might have to have their trees and associated bits of jungle removed after one of these structures came tumbling down at City University of Hong Kong.    

“Look, mate,” said the source, “if ‘dwarves’ was good enough for Tolkien then perhaps you need to get a life and embrace your inner neologist. As those ancients Greeks were always telling us, we need to know ourselfs and follow our inner god.”

Friday, 20 May 2016

Monday, 16 May 2016

French Females Say Enough is Enough

Everyone needs to focus on what a woman does, not what she wears

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Unleashing the Power of the Bus

What should land with a giant thud on my desk shortly after lunch courtesy of Helen the Pantry Lady cum Wiper of Management Grade Telephones but the latest annual report of Transport International Holdings, AKA KMB, AKA Sun Hung Kai Property’s attempt to gain a foothold in the Bus Depots Ripe for Conversion into Luxury Flats business?

Staring out at me is the elvish figure of one Roger Lee Chak Cheong (once of Bexley Borough Council, no less), who has an interesting answer to the question put to him in his little conversation with shareholders about the future of buses given the fact that the government is going bonkers opening new railway lines.     

Roger is quickly into his stride, contrasting rail commuters, who “value efficiency over comfort” with bus passengers, who don’t care how late the bus turns up or whether it gets stuck in traffic on Nathan Road for an eternity.

I jest, of course, but not a lot. What the bus offers is “a 24-hour personalised service”. Mm, that caught my attention and I have to confess I was off on a little reverie, remembering my first trip to Bangkok. But Roger’s just warming up. The next bit’s so good I’ll quote it in full:

“Before they leave home every day, passengers can use their mobile phone apps to choose the route and the bus which best suit them from our wide network. Knowing the time of arrival of their chosen departure in advance enables them to have their breakfast or catch up on the news before starting out.”

I’m not sure what Roger has for breakfast but it sure gives him something most mortals are lacking. There’s no stopping him now:

“Planning the day’s journey is easy and literally at one’s finger tips, which is perfect for the new generation of urbanites for whom a comfortable and easy lifestyle is important.”

Like all the great performers, our Rog leaves the best till last:

“We are our own greatest competitor, constantly unleashing the power of the bus to make it the preferred choice of passengers.”

Heady stuff, indeed, until you consider that this is the company that brought us Aristotle’s “First Mover”.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Civic Party Founder and Leading Educator Convicted of Driving While Banned

I would have driven myself but I damaged my back swerving to avoid the police roadblock

Hot on the heels of the scandal involving its Comptroller, his fake degree and the Council member who is alleged to have provided him with it, Lingnan University is in the news again for all the wrong reasons.

This time the stir is being created by a chap with the dubious honour of being an expert in cultural studies, who supplements his day job with a little bit of work on the side for the Civic Party, where he holds the slightly scary title of vice-chairman of “Internal Affairs”.

Well, perhaps he will be having to investigate himself after he was convicted at Eastern Magistrates Court of driving his car while under a 6-month ban and of driving without third party insurance. For this felony, incidentally, he received a paltry HK$6,000 fine and merely had his ban extended by another 12 months. I can think of several countries where he’d been supping porridge right now rather than making an insignificant transfer from his bank account to the government coffers.    

According to the Civic Party’s website, Stephen Chan Ching Kiu (陳清僑) – for such is the lucky fellow’s name – is not only a founding member of the party for lawyers and teachers of cultural studies, but also convenes something called the Modern Asian Thought project. One only hopes that “Modern Asian Thought” does not encompass flagrantly breaking the law, showing no remorse and getting your lawyer to ask for clemency on the grounds that taxis were thin on the ground and you had only been driving for 15 minutes before being pulled over by the police.

Hopefully, too, for the sake of the education of Hong Kong’s impressionable youth, the professor of Cultural Studies’ response to the police roadblock that had been set up on King’s Road in North Point, which was to speed up to try and circumvent it, is not a core component of his “current scholarly interest”, namely “applied cultural research and education”. Then again, it may fall under two of his other passions, to wit, “urban creativity” and “cultural and creative enterprise”.

Until last year, Chan was associate vice-president for academic affairs at Lingnan. One shudders to think what he may have being trying to slip onto the curriculum in his two-year stint.     

Monday, 9 May 2016

End of Bus Hell in Sight

Remember the days when you could enjoy a bus journey in peace and quiet, free from the inane screaming emanating from a silly 14-inch TV screen?

Well, those days could be returning, at least for those taking KMB and Long Win buses, as rumours (including this one in Apple Daily) predicting the sale of Roadshow, which reported a loss of nearly HK$50 million last year, grow in intensity.

Transport International Holdings (KMB’s holding company) has had a 73% controlling stake in Roadshow more or less since the latter was listed 15 years ago, but has been looking to get rid of what its lord and master Sun Hung Kai Properties (which effectively runs TIH – not to mention, KMB – with its 34% shareholding) has come to see as an albatross round its neck. And, as everyone knows, the only birds which the Kwok Brothers are partial to keeping alive are geese of the golden persuasion.

With its market capitalisation a paltry HK$600 million, which makes it little more than a glorified shell company, Roadshow has proven itself something of a Croesus in reverse, with everything it touches turning to dust, most recently its short-lived contract to display posters at one of the territory’s premier locations, the Causeway Bay entry to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

At the same time, look as hard as you might, but you won’t find a KMB bus that started operating in the past six months with a TV screen (or accompanying din) on board. The installation programme has, well, stalled – hardly surprising, given that no one watches the rubbish. And who would want to, when you can watch your favourite show on your smartphone?  

While the talks that took place eight years ago, around the time of founder Winnie Ng’s removal from the company, with among others Quam Capital, came to nothing, this time round – with SHKP involved in a sweeping reorganisation of its businesses – it is highly probable that it will give the order for its subsidiary to go ahead and cut its losses.

All that effort back in 2001 to obtain Stock Code number 888 may not have turned out such a lucky number for shareholders and investors, but every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case it is the banks, the financiers, the speculators and Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing that will be rubbing their hands in glee.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Nice Work if You Can Get It

                   Mother Vennie (seated) and daughter Kenix Ho

If you think that the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is just another second-tier orchestra, like the Atlanta Symphony or the City of Birmingham Symphony, think again. For while it may be on a par with such illustrious counterparts in terms of music, in terms of funding and sponsorship it has sped off into the distance like Nico Rosberg, leaving them scrabbling about in their orchestral pits like a benighted Lewis Hamilton.

Indeed, the HK$70-odd million the HK Phil receives from Hong Kong taxpayers each year is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the support it receives in cash and in kind from the super-rich whose combination of serious amounts of disposable income and a wish to be memorialised as latter-day Esterházys makes them the kind of patrons of the arts that most cities can only dream of. It is not for nothing that such benefactors have traditionally been called “angels” in performing circles. (“Dupes”, in others, I hear you say. Cruel, cruel!)

The marquee event in the whirl that is the Phil’s social calendar is its annual end-of-year fundraiser, the most recent of which was held at the swanky 6-star Four Seasons Hotel last December. Michael MacLeod, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society Limited, the holding company that runs the Phil, is a little shy about quite which event it was that was tendered out last year for a very tidy sum of HK$350,000, but since this appears to be the largest of the four events paperwork has surfaced for, we might not be too far wide of the mark if we assume that it was for this glitzy shindig. If so, the contract for the event, at which the guest of honour was the territory’s number two, Carrie Lam Yuet Ngor, was, as Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, decided on by the orchestra’s event committee without tender.

Intriguingly, the Phil appears to have been putting all its eggs in one basket in respect of the event management company it has been using for the last couple of years; even more intriguingly, that company, called Mad Music also known as Mad Entertainment Enterprise (“MEE”), is run by one Kenix Ho, whose mother just happens to be the chief financial officer of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society Limited, one Vennie Ho.

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the HK Phil say that Kenix Ho was not employed by Mad Music when they made use of the latter’s services on the first two occasions of those that have been unearthed by the press. They go further (rather oddly, when you think about it – companies do not usually make statements about a third party’s private affairs), claiming that Kenix joined Mad Music in August 2015 as a part-time employee (gracious me! they are going detail) and was involved in organising a fundraising event in December (presumably the Four Seasons jamboree, especially given that MEE tweeted about their staging of the event).

MEE certainly seems well connected, since among the various organisations it has worked for it lists on its website the Hong Kong Government’s Correctional Services Department, the MTR, Cathay Pacific, Ocean Park and the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

As for Kenix Ho, a person of that name was involved nearly six years ago in Hong Kong’s version of the X-Factor, called “Star Factor”, which was held at the Hong Kong Arts Centre on 1 July 2010. Kenix Ho was the creative director of the event, which was organised by Face Productions and sponsored by – you’ve guessed it – Mad Entertainment Enterprise. According to Face Productions’ website, Kenix Ho is part of the Face Academy team, where she holds the position of technical director. 

Her biodata further tells us that she holds a BA in Fine Arts from Ryerson University, Toronto, and an MA in Fine Arts from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Her LinkedIn page adds that earlier she had attended the prestigious St. Paul’s Primary Catholic School and the Canadian International School in Hong Kong.

But there’s mo
re. Besides working for Face Productions, Kenix Ho also works as production and events manager for Face Productions’ sister company, Kids’ Gallery. I suppose this might be why the HK Phil felt free to call Kenix Ho a part-time employee of Mad Music – even if she herself told an undercover Apple Daily reporter that she ran the company.

As for her mother, Vennie Ho, she was re-employed by the Phil in 2010, having worked there from the time it was established on a professional basis in 1975 until 1994, when she emigrated to Canada. On her return to Hong Kong after the handover, she worked for the Hong Kong Consumer Council as Head of Administration & External Affairs until the lure of the Phil proved too strong. Just how much longer she remains in her office at the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, though, remains to be seen.

Mr MacLeod and the Board of Governors of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society Limited clearly have some important decisions to make.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Donald Trump Heads Towards Hillary Showdown and History

    I think I just spotted another five of my children up in the balcony

Little as I am given to boasting, my prediction last September that Donald Trump would become the next President of the United States is looking pretty healthy, as he has all but sewn up the Republican nomination.

Two major hurdles stand in his way. First, there is the possibility that the Republican establishment will put up their own candidate to run against him. However, I don't think this is likely to happen for two reasons: first, they would look like bad losers and tricksters if they tried to pull a stunt like that, and, second, such knavery could cost the GOP its credibility and render it essentially unelectable for a decade or more.

The second hurdle comes in the ample shape of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains favourite to win the race as the evil of two lessers. But if Hillary gets above herself or - even worse - shows her true colours ("genuine as a nine bob note" seems a phrase coined just for her), there is every chance that come next January the ol' US of A will have the oldest president in its history.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Ken Tsang Responds to Key Question Raised by Assault Trial

I wouldn't like to put an exact time-frame on it, but I would expect to be in the media spotlight for a wee while more, at any rate

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Latest Accident Underlines Need for Fatigue Management Training

It's time for action, not words after the latest in a long series of accidents caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel and mounting the pavement. While it was only good fortune that meant nobody died in Sha Tin in the early hours of this morning, many pedestrians have already been killed in such incidents and it is time that the bus companies took action.

This crash comes less than two weeks after another KMB double-decker ploughed straight into a wall at a junction, with again no skid marks on the road surface a sure sign that the driver had fallen asleep. In both instances, the driver was coming to the end of his long shift - the time at which drivers are most susceptible to drowsiness.  

Two steps are needed. First, and most importantly, the bus companies need to recognise that their drivers are falling asleep at the wheel. No more hiding behind the formulations commonly used by the drivers and their unions: 'loss of consciousness' or, as in this case, 'mistaking the accelerator for the brake'. No, I'm not kidding; that's what the fellow said this morning when he woke up.  

Second, they need to introduce fatigue management training, as is carried out in other countries. Take a man or a woman who, despite possessing a driving license, has little experience of driving (very few bus drivers in Hong Kong earn enough to own a car) and ask him or her to drive a bus for eight to ten hours a day, and the alarm bells should be ringing.

Rather than pretend there is no problem, the answer is to set up training. The effects will be immediate. Sometimes all that human beings need in order to conduct themselves properly is a reminder of how things are and of the simple steps that can be taken to improve things. In terms of preventing falling asleep at the wheel, these steps include getting to bed by a specified hour and stopping the bus as soon as one feels drowsy.

Lives depend on this.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Former French Minister Confident of Success in Nadal Libel Case

I not only have a PhD in Pharmacy, but I am also a dab hand at divining what a Spaniard gets up to when he takes seven months off and then comes back and wins our championship

Monday, 25 April 2016

Is the Gilt Coming off Trump's Campaign?

                       Where's Goldfinger when you need him?

Friday, 22 April 2016

Game of Thrones?

On the day that Apple Daily wins the award for the least surprising news item by reporting that construction of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link is beset by a whole raft of problems, including water leaks and cracked components, the most intriguing story concerns a bus driver who needed to use the bathroom, as the Americans say.

Having arrived in Tuen Mun after his trip from Shenzhen Bay Port, the 57-year-old Citybus driver was in desperate need of a slash, as we say on the other side of the pond. And because his company does not provide a portable loo at the bus station (Tuen Mun Ferry Pier, for the record), the poor chap had to walk to a local shopping centre to find relief.    

Having got back to his vehicle, he was given GBH on the earhole by a particularly obnoxious individual, who started shouting at him from a distance of half a bus length away, armed with his camera phone. The gauntlet having been thrown down, the driver, like a knight of yore, advanced down the aisle to engage the obnoxious one in verbal combat, suitably armed with his own camera phone.    

Given the circumstances, he was remarkably restrained, using only a smattering of mild cuss words in the face of the obnoxious one’s sarcastic taunts. Despite all this, it was reported yesterday that he had been sacked (the incident happened back a couple of weeks ago). Which all seems a bit strange until you factor in that the driver, who had worked for Citybus for 16 years, had the misfortune to work on route B3.

I say “misfortune” because within the trade it is something of an open secret that the manager who looks after the cross-border routes is something of a martinet, with a track record of firing staff. (Citybus merely say that the driver had a poor performance record, which makes you wonder – if true – why he had not been given the old heave-ho earlier. After all, the incident in itself did not involve safety issues and is the sort of kerfuffle you see in Hong Kong every day, use of poncey mobile phones not excluded.)        

But the most interesting aspect of the whole business lies in the cooperation – or rather the lack of it – between Citybus and the other transport companies that operate out of Tuen Mun Ferry Pier, namely KMB and the MTR, both of which have toilet facilities on site. If you thought the sensible thing would be for the two transport giants to let their counterparts at Citybus use their facilities – eminently feasible, given that Citybus operate only one route out of the terminus – then think again.

This, after all, is Hong Kong – where a squabble a day keeps the doctor away.