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
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
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.
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
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 Flatsbusiness?
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
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”.
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
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.
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 more. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
all, is Hong Kong – where a squabble a day keeps the doctor away.