Okay, the downside is you've got to listen to Yip Wing Sie "educating" you, you'll probably end up sitting next to a seven-year-old who fidgets throughout because his parents have packed him off with his music-teacher taking advantage of the 50% discount scheme, and you'll have to listen to the brass section struggling with their embouchure.
The upside, however, is that you'll get the chance to listen to a seriously talented lad from Southend-on-Sea called Benjamin Grosvenor - and at a fifth of the price of listening to Lang Lang. The 21-year-old has been a shining star in the musical firmament since winning the Young Musician of the Year competition ten years ago. There's a depth about his interpretation which is very rare - check out his rendition of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit on YouTube. Only Chopin seems to be beyond his reach at the moment, but I am sure that will come with time.
So, while tickets are still available, get onto Urbtix and book your places for Friday 28 February at the venue with the best acoustic, the City Hall in Central.
It's so simple it's a wonder no one's thought of it before. Rather than actually getting rid of the empty buses that chase each other around Hong Kong, "suspend" a bus stop and move it forward 10 metres.
Don't knock it. This is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that produced the likes of Donald Tsang...and Raphael Hui. And look where they got...
Videos blaring from my secretary’s PC this lunchtime alert me (and everyone else within earshot) to the latest Hong Kong mini-scandal, which concerns someone I had not heard of since he stepped down as the president of Lingnan University many moons ago.
More than 20 years, while he was still a humble academic at Hong Kong University, Oxford-educated economist Edward Chen Kwan Yiu was the darling of successive governors: David Wilson, who appointed him to LegCo, and Chris Patten, who bumped him up to ExCo for the full duration of his term of office.
More pertinently for the newshounds at Oriental Daily News who trailed him and his former Personal Assistant Rachelle Suen for days after being tipped off about the existence of possible pre-teenage progeny for the man whose own marriage to an eminent linguist at Hong Kong University was childless, Chen was for some years chairman of the Hong Kong Consumer Council.
Having been involved in a number of run-ins with the hacks on that eminent rag during his incumbency at the consumer watchdog, Chen will have been in the paparazzi’s viewfinders for some time. The quiet period before the Lunar New Year – and the continuing difficulty in finding anything interesting to say about CY Leung’s policy speech – finally triggered the telling of a fable that is disturbingly familiar.
Cut to images of Chen holding hands with his wife Rosie, via shots of Chen obligingly winding down the window of his wife’s car to confirm that yes, the child is his, to Rosie leaning across from the driving position to gush that she’s known about the affair for years. But, there’s more. She fully understands her hubbie’s desire to have a child and heir. Not only that, but she looks forward to doing her bit financially to see that the child gets a flying start in life.
You get the impression that if a basement were to be discovered under the presidential mansion at Lingnan, Rosie would drive to the ODN offices in Kowloon Bay with wellies and spade to tell them she dug it herself.
A wag once quipped that if Li Yundi (the artist formerly known as Yundi Li - seen here annihilating Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee at a recent concert) had never existed he would have been invented by Lang Lang's management team to make their man look good. While this is a calumny on Lang Lang to the extent that his own 'Wham, bang, thank you ma'am' style of playing is underscored by the ability to hit the right notes, the fact remains that many of his interpretations achieve the near impossible – to make Wu Fung look subtle.
Lang Lang is coming to town in April to play concertos by Mozart and Prokofiev. Fittingly, the jamboree is sponsored by Bank of China's Wealth Management Arm. Or should that be, "Arm and a Leg", since prices start at HK$780 (rising to HK$1,980 for those wishing to prove their "Love China, Love Hong Kong" credentials).
Those with a taste for music will be bypassing this event in favour of the chance to watch two virtuosi in action the previous weekend (4-5 April), as Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta in a performance of Elgar's Cello Concerto. Innovative programming sees the Englishman's masterpiece (played Hong Kong so memorably by Lynn Harrell in the mid 1990s) supported by Elgar’s concert overture In the South and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.
With top tickets selling for HK$300 less than the cheapest Lang Lang ticket, there can be little doubt where the smart money will be going.
Two and a half years ago, you heard it here first when everyone and his dog said that Henry Tang was a shoo-in for Chief Executive: CY Leung would spoil the party. Now the same person who made that startling prediction – a former Executive Council member, lest anyone sneer – has re-emerged from his cave to tell us that, far from being ousted before the end of his first term, CY will be returned for another five years in 2017. He also has the inside track on who will eventually succeed the suave surveyor. (Oh and of course millionaire – no one can get to the top in the People’s Republic without being one of those, at the very least.)
His argument, which I received only second-hand, is a rather tortuous one, as befits everything surrounding constitutional matters in China, but appears to depend on a (to me rather far-fetched) scenario in which Hong Kong’s great unwashed find themselves happy with whatever universal suffrage package is finally handed down to them with the bread (tax rebates) and circuses (horse-racing).
In this scenario, true/radical democrats such as Long Hair Leung Kwok Hung and that attention-seeker Raymond Wong Yuk Man will have no role to play, will become political irrelevancies. Fellow-travelling democrats such as Emily Lau Wai Hing and Lee Cheuk Yan (actually, pretty much the rest of them) will happily play their part in maintaining a status quo in which they can feed off the scraps thrown them from the top table and keep well-staffed offices at Tamar and in their constituencies.
And CY’s replacement in 2022? None other than Starry Lee Wai King, whose greatest claim to fame hitherto is that she hails from the same town in Guangdong Province as my uncle-in-law, Xiqiao. She might be only 48 at the time, and she might be a woman, but anyone who says she opposes the ban on endangered species because her daughter likes sashimi has got to be a top contender. Hong Kong, after all, is scarcely ready for a leader who based their policies on rigorous thinking and rational criteria.
...as used by totalitarianism's apologists, such as Regina Ip (remember the "taxi-driver" and "Hitler" comments):
'A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from people...who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure.' (CS Lewis, 'Equality')
'The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes.' (CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man)
In The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom similarly argues for the positive role that prejudices, or 'visions about the way things are', have to play in a world of increasing political correctness, where we are in danger of losing our grip on reality, especially the reality of the human condition. Reflecting on a psychology professor who believed his function was to get rid of prejudices in his students, Bloom writes, 'I personally tried to teach my students prejudices, since nowadays – with the general success of his method — they had learned to doubt beliefs even before they believed in anything…One has to have the experience of really believing before one can have the thrill of liberation. The mind that has no prejudices at the outset is empty'.
I don't know what it is about some people, what makes them weird. This bloke who works in an adjacent office has several weird habits, in fact.
First, he's a runner, darting here and there in a jog trot, usually forgetting something and having to trot back to his office before re-emerging a few seconds later for another little sprint.
Then, he's a shouter, one of quite a healthy(?) number of people in Hong Kong who know that 'dihn wah' means 'electric speech' but haven't yet worked out what that means in terms of not having to bark down the telephone.
I was going to pass over his lavatory behaviour but since it may be vital in terms of the diagnosis I think I should include it. He is one of two members of staff whose urinal etiquette consists of unbuckling their belts and trousers and slipping their trousers down to their knees. In order to keep their strides up while doing their business these guys need to assume an exaggerated bent knee posture with, presumably, the muscles around the knees maximally tensed. I dart into a cubicle post haste.
But, what is most even interesting is that although he is a self-confessed 'busy' person, when printing documents at the colour printer he goes to the machine as soon as he has clicked 'Print'. I once saw him waiting at the printer before I went off to make a cuppa and still waiting there after I'd returned with steaming brew in hand. It must have been a lengthy document as the printer was still processing the order and as yet had produced nothing.
I saw him standing sentinel again just now there after returning from a particularly boring meeting with the Corporate Affairs Director (she wants to 'engage' our 'fans' more effectively and 'do something more creative with our Facebook page' - ideas which sent two shudders down my spine).
'Hello, Andrew', I said, 'printer problems?'
'No', he replied with a grin - people rarely engage with him these days - 'it's colour and takes time to process!'
'Really?' I replied. 'Perhaps you should do your printing early in the morning before the power surge arrives.'
'Great idea!' he gushed.
He's been like this ever since I told him that Dalian wasn't in Shandong Province. Thinks I know everything.
Not such an odd bloke after all, now that I come to think of it. Apart from the ablutional striptease.
Mr. Jam has a new post called "Why Westerners and Asians act differently". I would humbly suggest that at least in one regard they think entirely alike, and that is that when they see a post called "Why Westerners and Asians act differently" they all ignore it.