Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat

27 October- 2 November 2002
Sun, 27 Oct
Married life is having a startling effect on excommunicated Mormon missionary Odell. He actually turns up at noon at the Excelsior Hotel's Dickens Bar for the curry buffet.  In the old days, he would have been awake at this time on a Sunday only if a passing policeman had roused him from his slumber in a Wanchai alleyway. He would have had a vague recollection of being hauled, vomiting, out of a taxi by an irate driver.  His watch and wallet would have been even farther away than his mind.  Today, he turns up fresh-faced with Mee, the innumerate Thai wife, saying how they had enjoyed a quiet night in, watching a cartoon about ants. If marriage has such a noticeable impact on one so intemperate, what sort of numbing, deadening effect must it have on those of us who are in control of ourselves?  It is obviously strong medicine, not to be taken unless you are seriously ill.

Relax in the evening with the sexiest, wisest and most amusing person I know, plus a bottle of Pouilly Fume, listening to a CD by the
First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra, a little-known, pioneering ensemble who perform a fascinating rendition of Strauss's Radetsky March.  Apparently, they invite the audience to eat their instruments after their performances.
Mon, 28 Oct
Schoolgirls' heart throb and Financial Secretary Antony Leung has started to consult the great and the good about the 2003-04 Budget. The Big Boss tells me to draft a constructive response – "don't make it sound like I'm blaming him for anything."  Well, of course not.  Indeed, the materials being passed around seem almost calculated to make Mr Leung look dazzlingly inculpable.  Chart 7 shows that the top 100,000 earners paid 54.9% of salaries tax in 97-98, and 62.1% in 02-03.  Chart 15 shows tax allowances and deductions zooming into the stratosphere in the last 10 years.  Chart 29 shows the budget deficit vanishing by 2006-07 as gracefully as an Olympic diver slipping beneath the surface of the water.  Chart 35 simply says "Blame Donald Tsang".

Tue, 29 Oct
-   "
Adolf Hitler was returned by universal suffrage and he killed seven million Jews" – Regina Ip, elegantly coiffeured Secretary for Security,  answering a question on democracy from a student yesterday. 
-   "...
the HK Dollar has experienced some fluctuations in recent years..." – Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa at the pointless APEC summit in Mexico yesterday, presumably after a heavy peyote session.
-  "
Our leaders need a long vacation" – Hemlock, fount of wisdom. 

At least Regina knows her history, though the logic is wanting. The Germans, or 37% of them, voted for tyranny. So?  It's a good argument against proportional representation.  As for poor old Tung.  Maybe it's the jet lag, or an attack of Montezuma's revenge.  Hong Kong's currency has been as rigid and inflexible as his personality, at 7.8 to the US dollar, since 1983.
Wed, 30 Oct
Strolling towards the office, I feel an irresistible and inexplicable urge to buy something from Fancl or Wanko.  Mercifully, both stores are closed.

"Think twice before saying what you think today," people born in 2002 are advised by Edwin Ma, the
South China Morning Post's clairvoyant and chief voodoo correspondent. "You will be tempted to use flowery language... This will annoy an important guest."
Miss Tam, the pert-rumped Deputy Assistant Senior Manager for Human Resources, has convinced the Big Boss to introduce a modern system of job classification to S-Meg Holdings.  With the exception of the Big Boss, everyone will be in one of five categories.  My contribution is to name them – alpha, beta, gamma, delta and epsilon. The Big Boss likes the classical touch, though I was thinking of Huxley.  “All epsilons working double shifts will henceforth be entitled to an extra HK$12 food allowance,” reads a memo.

To the Foreign Correspondents' Club, to see the ever-radiant Regina Ip do battle over Article 23 with journalists, lawyers and other mentally diseased and/or alcoholic misfits with
devils in their hearts.  Regina's duty is to serve as a punch bag, albeit one that hits back. It couldn't have been easy convincing the imperial court to go along with laws against subversion that, by their standards, are woefully inadequate.  Now, her job is to get beaten up over every comment she makes about taxi drivers' limited fondness for reading draft bills, or irrelevant asides about Hitler. Some Government sympathisers complain that the Administration has wasted an opportunity to make itself look good and allowed its detractors to take the moral high ground. Releasing a draft ("white") bill needn't have delayed things too much, they say, but now it has become a point of honour not to do it, leaving our leaders looking like they're trying to hide something.  They miss the point.  Regina won't be in the running for the top job if she doesn't display the ability to be bloody-minded and intransigent when faced with perfectly reasonable public demands, will she?  No she won't. Unlike the legions of shoe-shiners in this town, Regina knows that the imperial court respects people who won't be pushed around.
Thurs, 31 Oct
For several years, the rule of thumb about the HK Arts Festival is "the worse its website design, the better the range of performances on offer". It is therefore good news to find that this year's
website design is appalling, with a slow download time and lots of irritating graphics painstakingly put together with taxpayers' money. Probably worth catching: the Stuttgart Opera's Abduction from the Seraglio; the Hagen Quartet; Laurie Anderson; and a Mendelssohn-heavy Orchestre National de France. And possibly the Contemporary Legend Threatre's Peking Opera-style King Lear.  The glorious motherland gets a look-in courtesy of pretty boy pianist Yundi Li.
"I met this guy - and he looked like might have
been a hat check clerk at an ice rink.
Which, in fact, he turned out to be. And I said
Oh boy. Right again."
Fri, 1 Nov
Approached by no fewer than 17 people
en route to the office offering bundles of tickets for the "Cricket Sixes" tournament.  Apparently, there are 1,000 fakes in circulation.  Why someone would want to counterfeit tickets to one of the most tedious activities the human mind has ever been able to devise is beyond me.  Perhaps it is because cricket fans are mostly from starving, impoverished Third World nations.  People who eat bats and insects are probably similarly unfussy, not to say desperate, when it comes to entertainment.  

“We’re doubling the cost of phoning the Mainland – now will you buy our shares?”  The
initial public offering of China Telecom is being driven by panic-stricken amateurs.  Even the Hong Kong public, who normally kick, stab, mutilate and gouge one another to lay their hands on new issues of worthless stock, are staying away.  You would probably do better punting on counterfeit tickets to a cricket game.