Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cause for Confidence

I have a feeling that 2009 is going to be a good year. Every politician is predicting that it will be awful - and when did you ever hear a politician telling the truth?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Canine Conundrum

I can't help feeling the unfortunate dog stuck between two buildings in Yuen Long would be rescued much sooner if kind-hearted people would only stop feeding her. Hasn't anyone in Hong Kong read Winnie the Pooh?

P.S. (28 January) Sadly, the poor creature died shortly after being finally pulled out from between the walls.

Making It Better:

Hong Kong Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Monday, January 26, 2009


Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Wishing all my readers a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Ox.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Serfing PRC

I happened to turn on CCTV 9 at lunchtime (helpfully carried by both local English language channels - whatever happened to giving the public a choice?) It was featuring a discussion on the recently proclaimed Serfs Emancipation Day (shouldn't there be an apostrophe in there somewhere?) in Tibet. As usual when covering domestic political issues, CCTV had ensured a "fair and balanced" discussion by inviting two experts who both took the same side of the argument.

China's propaganda machine (of which CCTV is part) has claimed for years that the majority of Tibetans, until they were "liberated" by Chinese troops, were serfs who enjoyed no human rights and were cruelly treated by the Tibetan aristocracy, and that the "splittist" (surely the ugliest word ever coined to substitute for a perfectly good existing word, separatist) Dalai Lama and his evil clique seek to return to this unacceptable state of affairs, an event which can only be prevented by continued Chinese domination over Tibet.

Unfortunately for China, few people in the West buy this argument, and there are in fact several reasons why it is a hard case to sell. No one doubts that Tibet was, until quite recent times, a materially backward and primitive society in which life was harsh for most people. It was a feudal system with a caste structure in place. But the idea that the Dalai Lama - who is very obviously a compassionate and decent man - wants to bring back feudalism is clearly absurd. He has made it very clear that a future free Tibet would be ruled by a democratically elected government, and that any leadership role for himself would be solely in the spiritual sphere.

The second problem with China's argument is that there is little or no independent evidence that the barbarism it describes was commonplace. Accounts by Western observers in Tibet during the few decades before the Chinese invasion give no suggestion that cruelty was in any way institutionalised, even though those same observers - for example André Migot in Tibetan Marches (published 1955) - clearly recognised the savage treatment of the peasants in China at that time by their feudal masters, and in fact applauded the rise of the Chinese Communist Party as a means to overthrow it.

Time is on China's side - the Dalai Lama is now over 70, and the true Panchen Lama has been "disappeared" by Chinese authorities in favour of their fake substitute. But whatever the future holds for Tibet, let's at least tell the truth about the place.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Repainting the Sistine Chapel

Among the handful of TV programmes I watched without fail in my youth - Doctor Who, The Avengers, Top of the Pops, Match of the Day (this was in the days before Monty Python) - one stood out for its originality and inventiveness. The Prisoner was, and remains, one of the most intriguing television series ever produced. Now comes news that its star and creator, Patrick McGoohan, has passed away at the age of 80.

McGoohan gave good performances in later years, but nothing he did subsequently could ever match the impact of The Prisoner. A new generation of fans have discovered via DVD the story - more relevant than ever in these days of universal surveillance - of the captive who refuses to submit to his mysterious captors, defiantly proclaiming "I am not a number - I am a free man!"

Sadly, along with the news of McGoohan's death comes the news that a remake of The Prisoner is in the works. What is this awful compulsion that film makers have to redo the classics? The Mona Lisa has been painted; the Venus de Milo has been carved; Beethoven's Ninth has been composed. No one tries to remake them, so why are films different?

I'm not saying all remakes are bad - some try to reinvent the original in interesting ways - but far too many creative people spend their time reinventing the wheel, and only succeed in diluting the iconic power of the original. There is only one King Kong; only one Solaris; and only one Prisoner. Leave them alone and find something new to create.

I live in fear that one day Hollywood will be stupid enough to remake Casablanca...

P.S. It's bad enough that some idiot colourized it. As Calvin and Hobbes fans will know, the world was not yet coloured back then.

Never Never Land

Public consultation on electoral reforms for 2012 will be put off until later this year to allow the government to focus on the economy, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced yesterday.
--South China Morning Post, 16 January 2009

So, the Hong Kong government finally admits what a lot of us suspected: it's so incompetent, it can't handle more than one thing at a time.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Work experience

I had to invigilate an exam last night. There's something curiously restful about watching other people work for three hours - and getting paid for doing so.

Monday, January 05, 2009

These mad bombers get everywhere

Seen on the menu of a Chiu Chau restaurant in Mongkok:

exploded the small intestines

Any comment would be entirely superfluous.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

In tennis, love means something

What the hell does Andy Murray think he's doing, beating both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to win a tournament in Abu Dhabi? Doesn't he know the plucky British underdog is supposed to succumb bravely in the quarter-finals?

Next thing you know, Murray will be winning Wimbledon. Tim Henman would never have shown such alarming disrespect for British tradition.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Alien Happy New Year

I have been having some very weird dreams lately. Last night (probably inspired by a combination of recently watching the last episode of the 3rd series of the revived Doctor Who, and reading Robert Silverberg's Heinlein tribute novel The Alien Years, I dreamed that the earth had been invaded and conquered by strange aliens. Humanity was helpless, with alien space vessels hovering in the sky overhead and sitting menacingly on launch pads, though I never saw one of the actual creatures themselves.

Then for some reason the entire planet jerked into motion and started to move off into space, at which I quipped "at least we're moving away from them" before waking up. Nice to know I still have a sense of humour when I'm asleep.

Anyway, here's hoping you can also look on the bright side during 2008. Happy New Year!