Monday, 18 May 2015

St Christine of Loh Issues Bull

All complaints about the environment should be addressed to the Transport and Housing Bureau. Thank you.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Amos Yee Bites Harry Lee

He's 16, he's Singaporean and he's proven so far to be resistant to thought control.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Kim Jong-un Fires Defence Minister

                            He couldn't take the flak

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

HKU Lurches to the Left

Time to get the dumb gweilo to do our dirty work for us, Professor Mathieson.

Sorted, Doctor Leong.

China Responds to Philippines Claim of Anti Sino-aggression Pact with Vietnam

                              We've already bought them out

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Liverpool Fans Desperate for Success after 25 Years of Heartbreak

                                ...and please send Luis Suarez back

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Tuen Mun Grandad Swaps Erhu for Break-dancing

They used to do the locomotion
Do the jerk and the twist
But there just ain't never been

Friday, 3 April 2015

Review of Concert by Choir of St John's College Cambridge

When I was up at Oxford, it used to be said that you could walk from there to Cambridge on land owned by either St John's College, Oxford, or St John's College, Cambridge.

Whatever might be the truth of that, the fact remains that the Fenland Poly version has always had a very good choir, overshadowed by their counterpart at King's College more perhaps because the latter operates from a striking chapel on the banks of the river and spawned a famous a capella group called the King's Singers than for purely musical reasons. 

According to its be-crutched (had he fallen foul of Hong Kong's notorious uneven pavements or slippery restaurant floors, I wonder?) musical director, Andrew Nethsingha, the choir is required to sing at around 200 morning services a year in their college chapel, in addition to giving concerts at home and abroad, and cutting discs for the Chandos label. 

The choir arrived for the second leg of their Asian tour from Singapore, where with their fine pedigree - not to mention complement of East Asian members - one can only hope that they were not inveigled into performing at the "state funeral" of the late (lamented by some) Minister Mental, warming up with a Sunday performance at Hong Kong University. 

It was onto City Hall on the Monday, where my family were part of an appreciative full house that heard 16 trebles from the college school and 15 strapping lads from the college itself strut their stuff. And fine stuff it was too, taking us on a musical journey from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, from Johann Bach to Jonathan Harvey. 

And what a gem Harvey's "I love the Lord" turned out to be. One of the choir's unaccompanied pieces (they mixed the programme up nicely, with some pieces accompanied by the excellent keyboardist with a name that could have come straight out of a story by Thomas Hardy about the crossing of the Cook Strait, Edward Picton-Turbervill, and one sung along to City Hall's finest mobile organ), the piece fully lived up to its billing as "conjuring up an extraordinary sound world, based on the tension of G major  and E minor".

Other highlights of the evening included Felix Mendelssohn's "Hear my prayer" (AKA "O for the wings of a dove"), which featured a beautiful controlled and coloured treble solo, John Ireland's anthem "Greater love hath no man", which highlighted a younger treble voice of great charm, and Herbert Howells' "My soul, there is a country" - the perfect showcase for the choir's basso profundissimo. The choir rounded off proceedings with a sensitive rendition of that old chestnut "Zadok the priest", in which the bass section won the battle of the runs on points.  

But of course that was only a false ending. After a performance in Mandarin of Mo Li Hua (the Jasmine Flower song), the testosterone-fuelled lads (sans schoolboys) gave us their Swinglisation of the Manchester City anthem "Blue Moon". Just the thing to keep you sane when your day job is to provide wall-to-wall sacred music.      

The two most noticeable blemishes of the evening occurred at the start of either half, when the conductor rather jumped the gun on his own choir, giving them insufficient time to find their places, resulting in a frenzied bout of page-turning in the front row and two dodgy entries. 

But it would be unfair if the final word were not a positive one, and recognition should be given to tenor John Clapham, who produced an excellent set of programme notes for a concert of the first water.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Hong Kong No Place for Jubilation Says Jockey Club

Since introducing a 9-race card with silly names on the last day of the 2012-13 season - when most people would probably be too frazzled to notice them - the Hong Kong Jockey Club has been busy trying to find a suitable slot for its bizarre brainchild. (I should explain that most Wednesday evening meetings at Happy Valley consist of only eight events).

Unusually for Hong Kong, where every self-respecting business - from perfume company Sasa, through elevator company Chevalier to car companies BMW and Mercedes - not to mention university alumni association (think HKU and CUHK) and members' club (try HKCC, KCC or CCC) wants to have a race named in its honour, there are odd days when no one is willing to stump up a cup or - if you're a bit twee and Scottish - a quaich. On such days the creative types at the Club take it upon themselves to deliver a theme, and the result - as always in Hong Kong when Creativity conjoins with Shoeshining - is a bastard offspring that is ravening and rabid.

Not content with matters geological and botanical (local hills and flowers each have their day), two years ago (pre-Occupy, pre-Umbrella Revolution, note), the Club, thinking that a little more cosying up to their underlings, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, was in order, invoked what Robert Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy calls the second of nine ranks of evil spirits, the "liars and equivocators", and asked them to name half of the races after qualities that must never be found in Hong Kong.

And that is how we find find scattered among the names chosen by the Club itself (the Victory, Triumph and Success Handicaps), names eagerly fastened upon by the infernal powers. What, they asked themselves, are some of the virtues that have as much chance of flourishing in Hong Kong as a sober person has of being found in the South Stand during the Rugby Sevens, and they came up with this list, which I give in ascending order of incredibility: the Betterment Handicap, the Glory Handicap and - wait for it - the Honour Handicap. 

So what of my subject heading, you will be asking yourselves, and what of the other three races that the sharp-eyed among you will notice that I appear to have passed over? Well, we have the Acclaim and Achievement Handicaps (clearly the handiwork of the creative types in default Shoeshining Mode), but then we have possibly the loudest coded message that the Jockey Club and their friends in the local and central governments (it is not for nothing that Rita Fan combines her job as Hong Kong Deputy to the National People's Congress with her role as Chairman of the Racing Stewards) have ever yet sent out to the citizens of Hong Kong.

For, after just two years, Jubilation has been struck off the menu in a move clearly designed to show the ordinary people of Hong Kong (the 3 million deemed fit only to act as rubber-stamps at the ballot box) that it is the Elite (the 1,200 deemed fit to select the next leader) upon whom the Mother and Father of Elites in Beijing intends to focus all its concern and loving attention, as it caters (quite literally) to their every whim. For in place of the proletarian Jubilation Handicap, this year who else but the chosen few will be able to raise a glass to the Champagne Handicap?      

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A Blessing in the Skies?

The most comforting aspect of the recent Germanwings air crash comes in two forms: first, that we know that it was not a mechanical problem that caused the 20-year-old plane to smash into an Alpine mountainside and, second, that the French and German authorities have moved so quickly to acknowledge that this was another murder-suicide.

The first point is important because so long as planes are crashing due to human error (whether it be the decision of airline bosses to fly over war zones or of individual pilots to attempt dangerous manouevres) we may sleep (and more importantly, fly) safe in the knowledge that aircraft maintenance is not a major issue, at least among the more reputable airlines. (For a list of those, ask your nearest pilot.)

The second is important because the fact that this latest suicide crash involved a European nation (in fact, several) has meant that the whole problem of pilot suicide crashes has come out from under the carpet where it was festering away after similar incidents involving Egyptian, Singaporean and Malaysian carriers were not adequately confronted for "cultural" reasons.

If this latest sad event means that mandatory termination of pilot training will be introduced for trainees with a history of mental health problems, together with a rethink of a range of associated safety issues pertaining both to flight hardware (plane design) and software (pilots and and air traffic controllers), then the latest deaths will not have been in vain.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Aloysius, Put that Down!

Eating a very bad brunch at a very indifferent eatery in Shatin City One the other Sunday, my mood was scarcely improved by the arrival of a Hong Kong couple with their 6- or 7-year old boy with greased hair, who switched to speaking English as soon as they heard us speaking that language on the next-door table. 

Things improved unexpectedly after a minute or so of being forced to listen to their vapid conversation - which appeared to be aimed in our direction - when the boy committed some infraction and was upbraided by his mother thus: "Aloysius, stop that!"   

For, after that I heard no more of their twittish chunterings, as I was too busy trying to think which person of that name the mite might have been named after. First choice was the Sesame Street character, Aloysius Snuffleupagus, to whom the mother bore a passing resemblance. Then there was always Dr Aloysius Alzheimer, the Bavarian psychiatrist whose reward for shrinking all those heads in Munich was to have presenile dementia forever associated with his name. 

Or could perchance the parents be fans of one Anthony Aloysius Hancock, the most famous resident of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam - for half an hour a week at any rate? But they looked to be more children of the 80s than the 60s, so my best guess is that they have the DVD boxed set of the BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. (As they were Hong Kongers, we can rule out the possibility that they might have actually read the book,) 

For one of the stars of that show, with arguably more backbone and chin than his "master" Lord Sebastian Flyte, was a teddy-bear called Aloysius, which Evelyn Waugh is said to have named after his Oxford chum John Betjeman's furry friend. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Vale, Magister Mentalis!

Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, now perhaps best known for being liberally drawn upon – and lovingly parodied – by Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy, was tremendously popular in its own day, going through many editions after its publication in 1621.  

Nearly 400 years on, even as the rich and famous gather to give a fitting send-off to a figure that Sterne (not to mention his greatest influence, Rabelais) would have had a field day with – Harry Lee Kuan Yew (he dropped the “Harry” as the Nigel Farage aspect of his multifaceted character came to the fore*) – one passage from Burton’s introductory address to the reader stands, I believe, as a fitting tribute to Singapore’s Minister Mental.    

Burton contrasts the traditional belief of the Classical authors and church fathers that all men and women are ultimately ‘foolish, melancholy and mad’, with what he considers the bizarre modern (seventeenth century) notion that “all politicians and statesmen” are “wise men” – “wise men born”, indeed – so that none should “dare speak against them” (or get slung into Changi Prison if they do). “So corrupt is our judgment”, Burton continues, that “we esteem wise and honest men fools”.

But why, I hear you cry? According to Burton, who was like Sterne an Anglican priest, Fortune and Folly fought a duel with Virtue and Wisdom on Mt Olympus. While everyone thought Fortune and Folly would prevail, things turned out very differently. “Fortune was blind and cared not where she stroke, nor whom, without laws” (or, with laws specially drafted to keep opposition leaders in jail), while “Folly, rash and inconsiderate”, just sounded off like an East Asian windbag, “esteeming as little what she said or did”.

The upshot was that the “common people” – caring more for cheap public housing and being able to host one of Bernie Ecclestone’s Grand Prix than for, well, Virtue and Wisdom –  became great admirers of Fortune and Folly, becoming “their followers ever since” and rating “knaves and fools” higher than those whose qualifications included wisdom, goodness and sanity.  

In time, Burton warns, it becomes quite “an ordinary thing” for people fed on bread and the Formula One circus to think of "honest, devout and plain dealing men” as “idiots and asses” because they “will not lie, dissemble and flatter” or “give and take bribes”.

* Ah, yes, I mentioned the Nigel Farage aspect of the many-faced Harry Lee. Consider this little parable he told on 27 December 1967 about three women: the South Asian (viz. Indian or Pakistani), the Southeast Asian (read Filipino, Indonesian or – tsk! – pesky Malay) and the East Asian (AKA Chinese, Japanese or Korean):

“Three women were brought to the Singapore General Hospital, each in the same condition and needing a blood transfusion. The first, a Southeast Asian was given the transfusion but died a few hours later. The second, a South Asian was also given a transfusion but died a few days later. The third, an East Asian, was given a transfusion and survived. That is the X factor in development.”

Vale, the Eugenicised Simon Cowell of the Land of “True and Ordered Liberty”!

Friday, 20 March 2015

China Vows to Avoid Accidental Collisions in East China Sea

                 Deliberate ones are a different matter of course

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Singaporeans Fear Worst about Harry Lee Kuan Yew

The Minister Mental may have been cloned as part of his eugenics programme

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

CY Leung Repeats Request to Give His Daughter Space

                            Outer Mongolia would do for starters

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Top Chinese Official Clarifies Comments about Morals

If you don't have any to uphold, then of course you cannot be guilty of not upholding them

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

PLA Reminds Umbrella Movement that East is Red

The PLA is loyal to one colour and one colour only - the colour of money