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

Monday, 2 March 2015

Thomas Kwok's Son Says his Father is Now Closer to his God

                       Yes, they moved him to a cell nearer the ATM 

Saturday, 28 February 2015

CY Leung Responds to China's Announcement that Thinking No Longer a Crime

                    Speak for yourself! It is in my government

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Putin and Xi Make History

A careful perusal of Codicil B will prove that Zheng He discovered the Siberian oil fields in 1399, Comrade 

Monday, 16 February 2015

China's Richest Little Emperor Wang Sicong Reveals Philosophy

                                     If it ain't bust, don't send it   

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Convicted Maid Abuser to Sue Employment Agency

They told me that Indonesians were more pliable and accepted less than the statutory wage

Monday, 9 February 2015

Chaos in Tuen Mun as Police Appeal to Parallel Traders

Would the people who have stashed our pepper spray in their suitcases please note that it is a Mainland product available at a heavily discounted rate from your friendly neighbourhood cop?

Friday, 6 February 2015

Stephen Fry and the Mother and Father of Straw Men

He may have represented his Fenland College at University Challenge, he may present QI on the idiot box, he may have an idiosyncratic approach to the empowerment (or otherwise) of post-colonial Africans, he may even own a mansion there, but when it comes to constructing and destroying straw men, Stephen Fry has few peers. Indeed, as befits the self-image of one who transcends normal representatives of the human race, Fry is not content with destroying straw men; in a recent interview he proves himself the master of demolishing straw gods.

Fry is adamant about one thing, one thing which he has made clear - crystal clear - in his various pronouncements over the years: he does not believe in the existence of God. Fair enough, many people don't. To Fry, God is as unreal as Father Christmas or The Tooth Fairy, purely a man-made construct, as man-made as the remote-control for his DVD machine.

So, when Fry pontificates (appropriately enough on Irish TV - a country which still accommodates papal bull) that God is 'utterly evil', what he is really doing is akin to producing from out of his voluminous pocket a useless remote-control and saying that it - this man-made artefact, this construct which owes its existence entirely to men's wiles and craft - is evil.

What errant nonsense it is then for Fry to suggest that a human creation - in respect of God, in Fry's own terms, not only a product of men's ingenuity but a wholly fictitious one, to boot - can be in itself subject to states, such as evilness, which can only belong to sentient beings! I was going to add 'rational' beings, but, in Fry's case, whether he be evil or not (and on that I am not in a position to adjudicate), out of respect for the illogicality of his evangelical sermonising, I will refrain from doing so.

Karl Popper (an agnostic with Jewish heritage, in case anyone is interested) was spot on when he reminded us that rationality is 'not a property of men, nor a fact about men. It is a task for men to achieve - a difficult and a severely limited task'. Perhaps he was gazing into his own crystal ball when he foresaw a future in which primetime TV would be dominated by a militantly uninhibited exhibitionist when he further wrote 'it is obvious that even the most rational of men are in many respects highly irrational'.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Stephen Fry Launches Fresh Attack on God

Anybody who professes to know more than I cannot but be utterly evil, whether he exists or no

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Space Warp Hong Kong Style

There is an old saying that walking in Hong Kong is far more dangerous than driving here, owing to the fact that money talks and it's very expensive to get your Merc fixed.

One place where this maxim does not hold good is Tai Chung Kiu Road in Sha Tin, the scene of more spectacular - not to mention, fatal  - accidents over the years than you can shake your fist full of josssticks at. And with another death last month to add to the grisly catalogue - one red Minibus ended up upside down in a pedestrian subway, drawing envious glances from film-maker John Wu -  the trade in such regalia at the nearby 10,000 Buddhas Monastery will be roaring once again, along with trade in Monopoly money, burned to propitiate the spirits of those departed who didn't care much for environmental preservation.

This weekend witnessed another piece of kamizake driving, this time by a taxi driver turning into Tai Chung Kiu Road from On King Street. The powers that be have laid the roads out so that two lanes for traffic turning right out of On King Street become three lanes on Tai Ching Kiu Road. Those who think this would be sufficient to deter accidents are failing to account for the ingenuity of the local taxi driver, who, from his position in the rightmost lane attempted to squeeze past the car in front - which, true to Hong Kong form, was straddling the two outside lanes as he turned into the thoroughfare - and merely succeeded into slamming into a traffic light located on the central passenger holding pen...but not before leaving his mark on the car.  

But walking behaviour still remains more fun to watch for the seasoned Hong Kong people-watcher. Just last night I was rewarded for turning up at the City Hall early to garner spaces at the little bar that is charged with trying to serve 2,000 patrons with a performance that almost outshone that of the HKU Students' Union Choir, whom I had come to support. 

The vast swathe of the foyer was completely empty, apart from one fellow immediately below me browsing the posters heralding forthcoming attractions at LCSD venues. Enter from the main doors an Indian man, whose get-up (Bollywood meets Kun-ju - with a generous sprinkling of sequins) attested to the fact that he was on his way to the Chinese Opera jamboree in the first floor theatre. 

As he was crossing the floor diagonally in a straight line (his fatal mistake) towards the staircase that would take him upstairs, down those stairs came a Chinese man who steered a course straight towards the other, as if they were two ferries in the North Lamma Channel. Seeing this, the Indian gentleman changed tack to the right, giving the Chinaman unimpeded passage to the doors leading outside. A fraction of a second later, the local turned left, so that like Sea Smooth and Lamma IV they were now on collision course, heading inexorably towards the poor sod checking out his forthcoming attractions. 

Just before the moment of impact - no more than three yards away from my perch - they slammed the anchors on and exchanged angry looks. 

"What's the matter with you?" bellowed the Chinese man.

"I, I thought..." the Indian finished the sentence by waving towards the rows of posters.

"Tsk!" came the reply.

And so each walked on - the Indian the few paces to the staircase, where he turned to check on his counterpart's progress. Rather than perusing the posters, he was steaming for the doors and the exit.

"But, but..." his voice trailled away.

Our friend from the subcontinent had obviously been here long enough to appreciate that there's no point in engaging in what Karl Popper engagingly calls critical rational discussion with a Hongkie in Full Walking Mode.    

Friday, 30 January 2015

Malaysian Government Refines Verdict on Cause of MH370 Disappearance

When we say it was accidental, it could of course have been accidentally on purpose

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Link REIT Not Becoming a Property Developer, Chief Says

                                       We already ARE one

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

PRC Government Launches New Consultation on Political Reform

We are seeking consensus on a comprehensive package of clich├ęs for academics and China watchers to pontificate on