Thursday, 25 August 2016

Chinese Weightlifter Stripped of Medal

                    They say if I drink this, I'll turn back into a woman

Friday, 19 August 2016

Aussie PM Reaches out to Hobo

I'll only drink it, Mr Turnbull.
So would I, mate, so would I.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Friday, 12 August 2016

Synergy, Spinergy

                                 Inside KMB's Kwun Tong Depot

It has been a busy few weeks for past and present members of Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), Hong Kong’s leading young earth creationist property developer.

Eldest brother Walter, who parted company with the family business inamicably some years ago when he tried to bring his Mainland lawyer girlfriend on board, has gone halves with Hong Kong Ferry (owned by Kwok family friend Lee Shau Kee’s Henderson Land) to buy a residential site in Tuen Mun for HK$2.7 billion.

Not to be outdone, at the same time, SHKP has snapped up a residential site across the road from the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin for HK$2.36 billion.

Meanwhile, over at SHKP’s de facto subsidiary Transport International Holdings (TIH – basically bus companies KMB and Long Win with a few loss-making bells and whistles), after sitting on their empty bus depot in Kwun Tong for the best part of eight years, the Powers That Be have finally decided the time is right to tear the old place down and build some skyscrapers in its place.

TIH company secretary Lisa Woo (herself the daughter of former chairman Woo Pak Chuen, who took over the reins at the ripe old age of 87) certainly knows how to put a positive spin on long drawn-out negotiations that ultimately ended in failure, when the Government wouldn’t lower its price for rezoning to residential use.

After announcing the long anticipated agreement on rezoning from industrial to commercial use, she puts a positive spin on the HK$4.3 billion price tag for mere offices and shops by gushing about the benefits expected from “the synergy” with “the commercial office and retail developments owned by SHKP in the vicinity of the site”, by which she means Millennium City 1 (itself built on the site of another KMB depot, which closed in 1990), 2 and 3.

Ms Woo chirps that the development should be completed in four to five years, which, given KMB’s track record with its electric buses, is perhaps a tad on the optimistic side. It is now more than six years since the supercapacitor bus was trialled and there is still no sign of it on Hong Kong’s streets, despite countless press announcements in the interim announcing its imminent commencement of service.

“Synergy” is a word that is surprisingly absent from the EEK homepage, which manages to include almost every other cliché known to corporate communication types in Hong Kong, as it attempts to big up the cesspit that is Kowloon East. Worthy of mention are “first-mover initiatives” and the benighted area’s renaming as the other “premier CBD of Hong Kong”, AKA “CBD2”.

Given the fact that “first mover” seems to be catching on after being highlighted on this humble blog, maybe it won’t be long before Brenda Au and the good folk at EEKO! are using one of Hong Kong’s most vapid – and therefore most beloved – words.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Chinese Foreign Ministry Wades in on Olympic Flag Controversy

The photographic evidence clearly shows not only that the gold medallist has been given the wrong medal but also that the stars on the flag are the wrong colour and in the wrong alignment

Chinese Swimmer Throws Cap away in Disgust

                          I just discovered it was made in Australia 

Full action of tosser here:

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Sky’s the Limit on Hong Kong’s Red Minibuses

Many years ago, I went to Hainan Island – so long ago that it was still part of Guangdong Province rather than a province in its own right, as it is today.

One of the lasting memories of that trip was a minibus trip across the island. This was taken at such breakneck speed that the guide had to ask the driver to stop half way through the two-hour ride. She got off the vehicle and promptly threw up. If I was thinking that the silver lining for passengers would be that the driver slowed down after the enforced break, I was wrong. He proceeded on at speeds of up to 120 km/h as he belted on towards his destination.

Speeds of more than 100 km/h are not unknown on Hong Kong’s red minibuses (where drivers are paid for the number of trips they can squeeze into their shifts, unlike green minibus drivers, who are effectively on a fixed daily rate).

And that is why the Hong Kong Government – in its infinite wisdom – decided some years ago to fit all minibuses with “speed limiters”. Thus, whether they are travelling on a road with a limit of 80, 100 or 110 km/h, drivers must stick to a maximum speed of 80 km/h.

Well, that is the theory, if you can give that exalted word to the product of the thinking of an administration in thrall to the shady underworld of minibus operators.

But back to the nuts and bolts of the mechanism. You might be forgiven for thinking that the words “speed limiter” refer to the kind of device that is fitted on a double-deck bus in Hong Kong: a mechanism that cuts off the supply of fuel to the engine, so that the vehicle is physically incapable of going more than a km/h or so over 70 km/h – that’s their limit.

(It should be noted that many Hong Kong buses have switches next to the driver’s position by means of which they can simply turn off the limiter, if they so wish, but that’s another matter.)

But no, what the “speed limiter” actually consists of on a minibus is a beep and an LED display.

Now, if, like me, you are thinking that that does not represent much of a limitation, you would be right. First, the driver (and many of the passengers, of course – Hong Kongers share with their cousins in Hainan a love of speed and of gambling) just ignore whatever is displayed. The faster, the better – even in Hong Kong’s attested death-traps.

Second, many drivers just disable the “limiter”, get their pen out and stick a note up saying “Out of order”. In the admittedly very slim event of their being reported by a passenger and stopped by the police, they can simply tell the copper the “defect occurred in the course of the journey during which the contravention was detected”.

Okay, whether they would use the exact wording provided for them as a valid defence by the Government (scroll to the bottom of the page) or whether they might wish to put it in their own words is a moot point.

The main point remains, and that is that Road Traffic (Amendment) Ordinance 2012 has about as much teeth as Grandma without her dentures.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Localist Responds to Poll Showing He'd Have Won LegCo Seat

                      Mate, I'd have more chance of becoming the next Pope

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Monday, 1 August 2016

Time to Close the Bourne Account

15 years after bursting onto the screen with his fresh-faced charm in The Bourne Identity, David Webb, AKA Matt Damon, is back in a film called Jason Bourne - a movie with scant characterisation, almost no story, minimal dialogue and no discernible identity. It also gives us a ridiculous sub-plot centred on a Mark Zuckerberg figure called Aaron Kaloor, a name that manages to combine references to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam in a piece of political correctness gone mad.

While the three flicks in the original franchise - culminating in the magnificent Ultimatum - dripped with spy-speak and technobabble, they possessed something resembling a story, not to mention unbelievable characters with a bit of style who you could actually give a damn about. Well, almost. 

In contrast, the latest ludicrous effort is 70 percent cliche and 30 percent car chase. It also features a female lead so icily unattractive that Bourne is forced to provide the film's femininity after his girlfriend Nicky Parsons is picked off by a sniper's bullet.

By the time Parsons meets her maker in Athens, we have already traversed half of Europe, moving from a sleazy field on the Serbia-Albania border, where Bourne is trying to find himself by indulging in a bit of all-in wrestling, to a video games arcade in Iceland run by William Snowden and Julian Asange, where the world's top computer hackers are holding their annual convention.    

The theft of the CIA's "predictive algorithm" in Reykjavik proves to be the final straw for the Greek capital. Already reeling from two years of street protests against austerity and a disastrous Euro 2016 qualifying campaign that saw them lose at home to the Faroe Islands, the place is plunged into chaos when an ageing French actor turns up playing a demented hitman whose only friend in the world is the equally demented Tommy Lee Jones.   

Told by CIA chief Jones to "close the account" in Rome, the assassin pauses only to go to the bathroom before jumping on a plane to take him across the Adriatic. But what a bathroom break it turns out to be, as closing the account is actually Bourne-babble not for popping down to the local JP Morgan to withdraw your greenbacks but for putting a bullet in the head of the bloke you've beaten up and left in the bath-tub.  

The final climactic sequence takes place in Las Vegas and is so bad, the less said the better. Which is pretty much the way the filmmakers wanted it, as there is almost no dialogue in the last 20 minutes of the film, dominated as it is by a car chase scene featuring two indestructible men and their indestructible vehicles and a thwarted assassination attempt on Mark Zuckerberg.

At least, the finale gives Jason Bourne the chance to show off his feminine side, as the only pain he feels after first crawling out of his car and then, half an hour later, walking away from a garotting by the ageing Frenchman is a mild case of stomach cramps. 

Jason Bourne is very possibly the worst film of all time - always excluding Love, Actually and Tuesdays with Morrie, of course.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Jury Still out on King's College Choir

While the citizens of Hong Kong may bemoan the dearth of choral music emanating from England's premier university on the banks of the Isis, compensation of a sort comes in the shape of the flood of choirs making what is now an annual migration from the Cam.

In the three years since I last heard fenland's best known choral brand - the choir of King's College - there have been visits from a clutch of other Cantab colleges, including St John's, Gonville & Caius and Trinity, with Clare due to visit in early September.

And it needs to be said that while King's might be the marquee name with the power to draw the biggest audiences (especially in the Asian market, which is so brand conscious), this is no guarantee that they will continue to occupy that exalted position. As Ever Ready learned in the battery business, there are always a Duracell and an Energizer waiting to knock you off your perch if you scrimp on the quality control. 

Both St John's and in particular Trinity are currently well ahead of King's in the musical pecking order, with Trinity's books-down approach reaping manifest dividends in terms of greater precision and sharper dynamic contrast.

In favour of King's performance at Hong Kong University on Wednesday evening, one might say that there was a clear improvement in terms of discipline and deportment on their 2013 appearance at Sha Tin City Hall. Additionally, choral basics such as entries and cut-offs were typically crisp and contributed to a decent ensemble.

Against this, it must be said that the balance of the 28-strong group was not right, with the treble and tenor sections under-strength and under-powered. This imbalance became more pronounced in the second half, when Brahms's German Requiem was performed in its piano with four hands arrangement, when two of the basses dropped out of the ensemble, one to sing a solo, the other to take his place at the piano.

Towards the end of the 65-minute masterpiece (well, the orchestral version is a masterpiece - I'm not convinced about the Requiem-lite version, despite the excellence of the playing: the magic of the mesmeric opening for cellos and basses is totally lost in translation, as too by definition is the marvellously rich instrumentation of which Brahms was a master), the boys were running out of energy and not sustaining all their long notes, while their adult counterparts in the tenor section (all four of them) were straining for their high notes and struggling to stay together. The altos (an eight strong blend of adult and child voices) were the pick of the sections.
Mention should be made of the two soloists, soprano Louise Kwong and baritone Hugo Herman-Wilson. While Hong Kong educated and Dutch trained Kwong had a little too much vibrato for my taste, her interpretation of the fifth movement ("You now have sadness but I will comfort you") was impressive for its intonation and shading, if a little harsh to some ears. Though putatively a bass, Herman-Wilson coped well with the high notes of the baritone solos in movements 3 and 6, singing with commendable lyricism and a relaxed style that is well suited to this most human - though not secular - of requiems.

The first half of the concert had been characterised as much as anything else by the the fact that it was almost exactly the same length as the interval (20 minutes), leaving the audience feeling a little short changed. After hitting their straps with Tallis's "Loquebantur variis linguis" - featuring not only nice polyphony but first-rate unison singing by their tenors and basses - the choir delivered what was for me the highlight of the evening, a shaded and moving rendition of Britten's Hymn to Saint Cecilia. 

Even though it was a little undercooked in places - especially in the treble and tenor voices - the accuracy and ensemble of the singing were matched by the diction, which allowed Auden's magnificent words full rein:

"I am defeat
When it knows it
Can now do nothing
By suffering."

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Thomas Kwok Reveals Plans for Next 10 Months

I will be busy investing - either in a dozen jars of hair dye or a pair of white frames

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Xi Jinping Moves to Centralise Authority

                      Hands up who votes for the cult of personality

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Moral Outrage Grips Britain as Septuagenarian Attempts to Deal with Brats

      In my day, it were listen to yer elders or face consequences

Friday, 22 July 2016

Books are Back!

        Photo accompanying article called "Read online, feel offline"

Call me an old cynic but any time I read an article telling me that Hong Kong people are reading more books (or any at all, for that matter), I check the small print. It's probably because I'm British and inherited a healthy dollop of scepticism along with my dose of Humean empiricism.  

So when the weekly newspaper hk01 landed on my desk this morning, I was intrigued by an article with a large photograph of a Hong Kong person on the upper deck of a bus reading a book. 

The extremely rare nature of such a sighting, taken together with the fact that he was holding the hardback in a most unnatural way - possibly even upside down - prompted me to make a call to an old friend in the newspaper business. My suspicions that something was afoot were confirmed when Charles told me that the photo was in fact of a hk01 reporter posing for the hk01 photographer. He couldn't be sure but he thought the book was one of those ex-library ones you can pick up for two dollars in a second-hand shop.    

I did a quick check on hk01 - an organ which I am ashamed to say had until this morning been used only to provide drainage for my pot plants when they are taking their weekly dose of sun on the office roof-top - and found a gem of an article about the new publication (it was only launched in March this year). 

It was founded by a fellow with a few bob to chuck around on hacks and jobbing photographers (the company claims to have 380 employees - that's a hell of a lot of bus rides), former Ming Pao chairman Yu Pun Hoi (于品海). According to Pun's PR machinery, his paper's mission is "to drive social change (which sounds like a cliché), restructure social values (which sounds a bit scary) and drive media reform (which sounds like a pork pie)".

Pun's right-hand woman, one Angela Ahmed, HR and Admin director, has clearly been channeling some of this scariness (repeating mantras such as "the most important thing is to maintain focus on issues instead of personalities" as if under the spell of a very wealthy but self-deluded tycoon), but a spark of independence - nay, searing honesty -  may be still be found under the layers of accumulated detritus.  

No longer channeling her boss, but rather channeling the darling of wannabe radical hacks everywhere, George Orwell, who once said "All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news", she is quite open about the cosy relationship between the two industries.

Reflecting on the careful thought that goes into the layout of the paper, she makes the brave (but still scary) admission that the "editorial content echoes the advertising".   

An employee sat "reading" a book on the top of a bus turns out to be merely the thin edge of the wedge.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Sweet FA to be Next England Manager

Ladies and gentlemen, after conducting an intensive worldwide search, we would like to present to you the next England manager...Sam F***ing Allardyce!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Trump Breaks Silence on Plagiarismgate

It is absurd to suggest that my team were responsible for my wife's speech. Obama's people wrote it for Pete's sakes.