Thursday, July 26, 2007

Return of the Living Dead

I thought Monty Python's "Bring out your dead" sketch was just a joke - until I read this story.


Quote of the week:
I am in no way a violent person.

--Amanda Monti, sentenced to prison for ripping off her ex-boyfriend's left testicle with her bare hands and trying to swallow it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fascinating Facts

Amazing what facts you come across accidentally online. Who knew that hair straightener (1909), the gas mask (1912) and traffic lights (1923) were all invented by a black American man? No, nor did I.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Silly Buggers

Today's Standard reports that Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal yesterday upheld a verdict dismissing a charge against two men for engaging in anal sex in a public place (a parked car, in fact), on the grounds that the relevant law was unconstitutional because it applied only to homosexuals, contrary to the Basic Law which guarantees that everyone shall be equal before the law.

As in any case involving sexual activity, up pop the usual suspects to moralise about it. Choi Chi-sum, general secretary of the Christian group the Society for Truth and Light, says the verdict is "regrettable" and "disappointing" and "sets a dangerous precedent", arguing that "using a technicality to strike down the appeal is worrisome". "What the people are worried about is that indecent acts in public places are inappropriate. It's not about whether hetero or homo sex is involved", he is reported as saying.

Choi seems to have grasped only half the point here. Certainly most people would prefer not to witness a mass outbreak of sodomy in the streets, whether homosexual or heterosexual. But applying the law against it to only one sector of the population is not a "technicality"; it is a clear violation of basic human rights. If the law banned public buggery between white people but allowed it between Chinese people, would Choi consider that sort of discrimination a mere technicality?

Friday, July 13, 2007

8 Things you may not want to know about me

I have been challenged by the misanthropic Mr Fumier to write eight autobiographical facts. So without getting too up close and personal with myself, here are eight things you may not want to know about me:

1. I set out for Australia in 1975 and still haven't got there yet.

2. Having heard a new word as a child, and always eager to enlarge my vocabulary, I asked my mother, "Mummy, what's a prostitute?" She promised to tell me when I was grown up, but she still hasn't. I guess I haven't grown up yet...

3. As a child, I had several out-of-body experiences. I can still vividly recall looking down on myself pitching a tent while setting up camp with the Boy Scouts.

4. I attended the same school as Paul Boateng, later Britain's first black cabinet minister. In a television interview some years ago, he pronounced himself lucky to have been at a school that had little racial prejudice. "Huh!", sneered my brother, "You should hear what his sister [my brother's classmate] has to say about that."

5. As a child, I saved a younger playmate's life when he was choking on a sweet, by turning him upside down and slapping him so violently on the back that it popped out.

6. Photographs I have taken have been published in the South China Morning Post, Photo Asia, Fragrant Harbour and Recruit.

7. I learned driving at the late age of 38, ad scuba diving at 48. At 58 I plan to take up skiving.

8. I have never met anyone (including Americans) who likes George W. Bush or supports his policies.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

So, not much change there then...

As the tenth anniversary of the handover (sorry, "reunion with the beloved motherland") passes, we have seen a lot of looking back to the events of 1997. Here are a couple of extracts from my annual newsletter to family and friends in December of that year that I think deserve a wider audience:
Local politics become ever more farcical, with one of our Chief Executive’s senior advisers defending the reappointment of election losers to the “provisional” local councils as a step towards greater democracy, thus placing us in the elevated company of such shining models of democratic development as Burma, Nigeria and Algeria.

The so-called election (by 400 hand-picked China cronies) of Hong Kong’s representatives to China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, saw all but one of those “elected” coming from the ranks of the electors themselves. The most votes went to the head of the New China News Agency, China’s de facto top man in Hong Kong. This leaves China’s top representative in Hong Kong as Hong Kong’s top representative in China, but we are assured by the Chinese Communist Party that this is all right and we just don’t understand the system (who could?).

On Taiwan’s National Day a cluster of Taiwanese flags was taken down by the police, with the government first saying it was illegal to fly them, then realising they hadn’t actually got round to passing the planned anti-sedition law to outlaw them yet. They then changed their tune and announced that the real reason they were removed was because they’d been erected in a public place without permission. Ironically one of the plain clothes police removing them was wearing a Union Jack T-shirt!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

One Country, Two Standards

At the 10th anniversary celebrations of Hong Kong's handover to China at Happy Valley today, seven female Chinese paratroopers scattered confetti from a height while coming down to land. Wanna bet they won't get ticketed for littering?

Looking back on ten years in which we have survived the challenges of SARS and the Asian financial crisis with little real change in Hong Kong (i.e. it's still run for their own benefit by the same cartel of property developers as before), it's hard to recall today how much fear was in the air as the last hours of British rule ticked inexorably away. Memories of the Tienanmen killings were still fresh (I nearly said massacre, but as Ma Lik has kindly explained to us, there was no massacre, in the same way that there was no sex between Bill Clinton and "that woman").

One particular incident sticks in my mind. As midnight approached on June 30th, I was in the old Bull & Bear pub in Hutchison House with a visiting friend from Australia. The pub was packed, and all eyes were on the big screen as the handover ceremony neared its climax. As midnight chimed the British flag was lowered, the Chinese flag raised, and a couple of people began to applaud. Another person called acros the room, in a voice heard by everyone, "Why are you clapping?" The applause stopped, and the entire pub fell silent for several seconds. When conversation resumed, it was in hushed tones.

So, are you clapping today, and why?