Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
5-11 October 2003
Mon, 6 Oct
According to grubby, despicable people who spread rumours, investment guru Poon Tung-hoi lost an eight-figure sum of money last week dabbling in Hang Seng Index call options.  How embarrassing.  Fortunately, he can always fall back on his part-time job lecturing in financial risk management at Chinese University.  Meanwhile, my sane, rational and unexciting investment strategy continues to deliver the goods.  Panic-stricken idiots who can’t tell the difference between pneumonia and the end of civilization sold me Henderson Land shares during the SARS outbreak for HK$19 and would now offer me around HK$35 for them. Giordano, now nudging HK$4, was going for less than HK$2 when dim-witted investors took fright simply because teenagers and domestic helpers postponed their purchases of three-for-HK$100 t-shirts for a few surgical mask-covered weeks.  And Cathay Pacific, after flying near-empty aircraft for a while in April, is restored to its usual over-booking, Government-protected, money-printing health, with the shares I bought for less than HK$8 now valued at over HK$13.  Finding the Hemlock Fund overweight in these sectors, I will now trim them a bit and put profit into something even more boring – probably HSBC – when the Hang Seng souffle subsides in due course.  Lesson number one for the spotty-faced business students at North Shatin Polytechnic: you don’t make money betting against the Big Lychee.

Tue, 7 Oct
I am invited to a book launch at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club on 20 October…
The Mongolian Connection     Scott Christiansen’s first novel offers a rare introduction to life on the Mongolian steppe. The author, a long-term resident of Mongolia, sets in motion a deft and layered plot that intertwines the lives of a Boston detective and a nomadic Mongolian herder … Already, Scott Christiansen is at work on a sequel.
Tragically, on consulting my diary, I find I will be at home that day, ironing the cat.

The Government dithers about continuing to
reclaim the harbour.  If it doesn’t fill in the harbour, we can’t have more roads for Mercedes to go round and round on all day.  But if it does fill it in, we don’t have a harbour.  It’s a tough call, even though the work in the near term is mainly dredging slime.

On the subject of which, James Tien’s ridiculous Liberal Party is mounting a
recruitment drive among professionals, the middle class, and even the lower orders.  The latter will do anything for a free lunchbox.  But what educated, hygienic, white-collar worker would wish to be associated with this sad cabal of unprincipled, backstabbing, cartel-owning nematodes?  And could this be the same Liberal Party that deleted a call for universal suffrage in 2007-08 from its policy platform just months before the 1st July march?  I will email them my suggestion for a snappy slogan – “Vote for us, and we won’t let you vote”.

Wed, 8 Oct
The morning officially starts with the first sip of hot, brown, water-flavoured liquid at the IFC branch of Pacific Coffee, where I sit with Odell on visible-panty-line watch.  While monitoring the procession of pert buttocks past our outdoor table next to Exchange Square, we discuss higher matters.  “That Pope’s sure taking a long time to die,” remarks my ex-Mormon friend.  “They always do,” I say with the full authority of a former altar boy.  “It’s almost as if they’re thinking – ‘uh-oh, maybe those atheist rabble are right, and there really
is no afterlife’.  Like atheists sometimes have last-minute conversions, but in reverse.”  Odell nods, takes a swig of his kiwifruit and ginseng yoghurt, and scrutinizes the shapely posterior of a passing office lady.  I question his latest moneymaking scheme – cumbersome filters for gullible, newly arrived expats to attach to their kitchen taps.  Vendors of water purifiers, I tell him, are the new snake oil salesmen, offering fake remedies to fake problems. In Hong Kong, they spread alarm about rusty pipes, or – if they have Odell’s vivid imagination – the myriad tons of pig poo that cascade into our water sources in the Mainland.  They are also adamant that distilled water “leaches minerals” from the body, and that extraterrestrial life forms are responsible for crop circles.  Only in Henan Province, where enterprise is alive and well, do they have the flair and originality to poison reservoirs.  “What about nuns?” he asks.  “Do they have VPLs?”  Time to get into the office.
If a recall vote can make Arnold Schwarzenegger Governor, why can’t we kick out Tung Chee-hwa and make Jacky Chan Chief Executive?  This fair point is put to me by S-Meg Holdings’ Spotty Accountant as I attempt to interest him in the Dead Kennedys by playing their classic Kalifornia Uber Alles.  Meanwhile, in the Circus – back from the summer legislative recess – high-volume clown Emily Lau pushes her motion calling on the long-suffering Tung to hurl himself from Tsing Ma Bridge. At least Tung doesn’t screech and rant.  How unbearable would life be under Chief Executive Emily Lau?  It would be non-stop compulsory political correctness, as Jello Biafra and the DKs predicted. 

Thurs, 9 Oct
For HK$250, the
Chi Heng Foundation can send a Henan Province child orphaned by AIDS to school for one year.  With costs this low, and with kindly Hongkongers making donations, is it any wonder that the Central People’s Government can educate China’s people and still have spare cash on its hands?  Thus Beijing is able to invest in the reunification of the glorious motherland and the Moon, under the “one country, two heavenly bodies” principle.  No doubt the imminent launch of China’s first astronaut will be a stunning success.  It would be terrible if the rocket blew up during its ascent, leaving lumps of broken spacecraft raining to the ground, crashing through the roofs of Henan schools and damaging the nice desks.
"Now it’s 1984,
Knock knock at your front door,
It's the suede-denim secret police,
They have come for your uncool neice"
  California Uber Alles
  Dead Kennedys
Fri, 10 Oct
Gliding down the Mid-Levels escalator, I am suddenly overcome by panic – gripped by an impulsive fear that I have forgotten to finish dressing before leaving Perpetual Opulence Mansions.  I sense stares of amazement as the surrounding hordes of office fodder behold the astounding sight of Hemlock heading to work in his puce and lime-green silk pyjamas and Hello Kitty slippers.   On taking a deep breath and gingerly looking down at myself, a wave of relief comes over me as I find that I am, after all, wearing normal garb.  The stares are no more than the usual lustful glances from the secretaries and human resources assistants who join me on the conveyor belt to Central every working day.  Such is life for the 110,000 of us in Hong Kong who suffer from
Social Anxiety Disorder.  Little is known of this ailment, except that it is spread through the use of chopsticks, shared earwax removal devices, and (in my case) bouts of sex lasting for four hours or more.  There are only two cures: 1) slap victims on the face and tell them to snap out of it because there’s no such disease, it’s just an invention of public-sector clinical psychologists trying to drum up business and scrounge money from decent and honest taxpayers; and 2) beer.