Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

A Happy Halloween to all my readers! (all 6 of them...)

I was thinking of wearing a George W. Bush mask tonight, but on second thoughts maybe I don't want to scare the kiddies that much.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Spammish Inquisition

Like all Internet users, I frequently get irritated by the constant flow of spam that invades my mailbox. However, some of these messages are really quite entertaining. My favourite is the messages offering instant degrees from "prestigious non-accredited universities". If they're so prestigious, how come they can't get accredited?

Cleric's Catty Comments Decoded

Australia's most senior Muslim cleric is reported as suggesting that women who dress "suggestively" invite sexual assaults, saying that, "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."

Apart from its insulting equation of women with meat, this argument implies that men are animals as much ruled by instinct as cats, instead of rational beings with intelligence, self-control, and the knowledge of right and wrong. By the same logic, one could blame supermarkets for shoplifting because they put their products on display. It is all too common for weak-willed people to blame their victims, rather than recognise their own faults.

Looking at the psychology behind Sheikh al-Hilali's remarks, I suspect that what those who call the loudest for censorship of pornography or for women to dress "decently" are really afraid of is their own sexual urges. While claiming to be motivated by protecting society from the impact on unnamed others who supposedly cannot control their sexual desires, what they really want is to abdicate their responsibility for controlling their own libido by forcing everyone else to avoid any action or behaviour, however innocent, that may risk turning them on.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Nappy Dread

Attending a trade show at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre recently, I happened to notice that the men's washrooms are equipped with baby changing tables - not something you would have found twenty years ago. Great, I thought, a sign that sexual equality is really making progress.

Not everywhere, though - I mentioned this to a female colleague who has a son between one and two years old. She informed me that her husband has never changed the boy's nappy (diaper to American readers) even once, assuring her that he would throw up if he had one of those smelly things under his nose. Yeah, sure, good excuse....

Incidentally, the HKCEC is a welcome exception to the general rule that all modern architecture in Hong Kong has to be boring.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lunar Tick

Is there no limit to George W. Bush's hubris? Not content with getting a bill passed that effectively gives him the power to detain and torture anyone without trial, and seeking through his aggressive foreign policies to dominate the rest of the earth, he now claims dominion over space as well.

In fact, it appears that the colonisation of Bush's new realm has already begun. If Vice-President Dick Cheney really believes that things in Iraq are going well, he must be living on another planet.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Whale Forward

According to a new scientific study, whales and other large marine creatures play a vital role in bringing cold water from the ocean's depths to the surface, a movement which forms a key part of the earth's climatic patterns. "Humans might be inadvertently affecting this important ocean 'biomixing' through their decimation of whales and big fish populations, the researchers say."

If confirmed this finding will, I hope, provide additional ammunition in the continuing battle against Japan's slaughter of these beautiful and intelligent creatures for the table under the cloak of so-called "scientific research".

Not that Japan is the only offender - a recent Guardian article analyses why Iceland has shamefully decided to resume commercial whaling, even though it has large stocks of unwanted whale meat already; the third culprit is Norway. The article also shows how few whales are left even after hunting of some species has been banned for decades: the Northern Right Whale, protected since 1935, is down to about 350; the Grey Whale has less than 30,000 remaining.

Making It Better:
- Greenpeace
- Sea Shepherd

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

One Death at a Time

Following on from what I wrote last time, I think the reason individual cases affect us more is that we can empathise with another individual more easily than we can relate to a whole mass of people. So while I should feel shocked (though hardly surprised, given the escalating body count in Bush's war) by today's news headline that 60 more mutilated bodies have been found in Baghdad, I was actually more saddened by this story of a single cruel and unnecessary death (you don't have to agree with the article's political slant to sympathise with the victim).

In case it wasn't obvious, I was only joking when I wrote a couple of posts ago about Aussies being nuts - after all, they are officially entitled to call me a pom. But after reading this case, I have to conclude that some of them - both police and politicians - barely qualify as human beings.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Banzai, You Mean Bastards

It would be nice if I could, just once, read the day's news without becoming hopelessly angry, but it's impossible. It's not so much the big intractable issues - the Iraq War, global warming, terrorism, North Korea's alarming nuclear test - as the small daily injustices perpetrated against innocent people everywhere that get me wound up.

One of my personal heroes, the late Jack Edwards, who was for a time a neighbour of mine, devoted his life after World War Two to fighting for adequate recognition and recompense for the Far East Prisoners of War who suffered appallingly inhumane treatment at the hands of their Japanese captors. His 55 years of effort were finally rewarded with apparent success in the year 2000, when the British government set up a £167m compensation fund for the surviving FEPoWs and their dependants (by then many had already conveniently died, often prematurely as a consequence of their wartime experiences; indeed a quarter of them did not survive their captivity).

So, a belated happy ending for once. Except it now turns out that, even in the midst of their apparent generosity, the British government shamefully decided that 2,400 of those who were imprisoned for the crime of being British were not quite British enough to benefit (presumably on account of the same racist stupidity that saw the great comic genius Spike Milligan stripped of his British passport even though he was wounded fighting in the British Army in the same war, but that's another story).

As 83-year-old Diana Elias eloquently explains , "Despite me being British all my life, despite my family's details being handed over to the invading Japanese troops in 1941 because we were all British, despite us being interned in Stanley Camp for four years because we were British, despite me facing the consequences both in the camp and for the rest of my life because I was British, I was not, and I am still not, quite British enough in the eyes of the Ministry of Defence. That is because I do not have what it calls a 'bloodlink' to the UK. I do not have a bloodlink because I was not born here [Elias was born in Hong Kong but now lives in Britain] and neither were my parents or my grandparents. If you have no bloodlink, then you are another type of British. A second class type of British. A type of British whose suffering and rights do not matter one bit."

All I can say is I hope Diana Elias wins her court case, and I really hope that the relentless spirit of Jack Edwards (who passed away earlier this year) will haunt every last one of the mean-minded bureaucrats who denied her, and others in the same position, what they should have received years ago.

And don't even get me started on present day Japan's continued refusal to face up to its past atrocities...

A Depressing Statistic?

According to the Hongkong Standard, only one percent of doctors in Hong Kong are psychiatrists, compared with ten percent in Australia. The article suggests that, with an estimated ten percent of Hong Kong adults suffering from depression, this indicates a lack of resources for mental health. Then again, it could just indicate that more Aussies are nuts.