Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
23-29 March 2003
Mon, 24 Mar
Conduct a quick SARS-related survey on the Mid-Levels Escalator en route to the office.  The island-dwelling professionals coming down to Central – well-bred and well-informed – all eschew unsightly and unnecessary face masks.  Of the clerical and retail workers plodding uphill, however, perhaps one in 30 wrap their acne-ridden faces and poor teeth in white surgical masks.  These hypochondriacs’ chances of catching anything strolling along a footbridge over Hollywood Rd must be zero – though, living as they do among the teeming, pneumonia-ravaged hordes of upper Kowloon and the New Territories, they might unwittingly be doing the rest of us a favour. 

Chickens “show affection and feel happiness, loneliness, fear and pain,” according to Heather Moore of the ridiculous People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in a letter in
HK Magazine.  She laments people’s response to PETA’s campaign to improve conditions for these incredibly dim-witted but flavoursome beasts (“Why bother, they’re just chickens?”) and quotes an academic claiming that the fowl possess cognitive abilities “beyond the capacity of small children”.  The idiocy of PETA is well-documented.  Like the anti-GM food freaks of Greenpeace, they prefer human suffering to the scientific progress they are too simple-minded to comprehend.  “The best way to help chickens is to go vegetarian,” says Ms Moore, as if the flightless mutants have a role in the natural order beyond being a source of food for homo sapiens and the occasional fox or python.
Tue, 25 Mar
One other use for chickens comes to mind – sex, if the bizarre
Peter Singer is to be believed.  A dull morning.  The stock market plunges on opening, following news that Tung Chee-hwa has tested negative for killer pneumonia – or “extreme version of a cold.”   Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary shows me a letter from one Ophelia Au Yeung, inviting the Big Boss to a HK Association of Shoe-Shiners function:
. . . I would be grateful if your goodself could confirm your attendance by March 28.  Full details will be forwarded to your goodself by mid-April.  In the meantime, should your goodself require more information, please contact . . . [etc]
This, as Winston said, is the sort of English up with which I will not put.  Is the career of Financial Secretary and Lexus owner Antony Leung going to take a spectacular leap from the diving board, plunging into the depths of opprobrium?   It is good vs evil.  Ugly rumours are flying around about him celebrating black mass in public restrooms – but then people are saying the British are parachuting horses into battle in Basra.  Triple-lust at the ATM machine, where the girl in front of me has: a bag of pasta and olives from CitySuper; HK$300,000 in her savings account; and an extremely delectable posterior in rather tight jeans.  Food, money and a body – I think that covers everything.  Finally, someone bounces an idea off me – would Let us join hands as a caring community look good in full-page ads in tomorrow’s papers?  Absolutely.
Wed, 26 Mar
Bump into our nervous but well-meaning Home Affairs Secretary, Patrick Ho, who is looking run-down.  Unlike most other Government officials, whose main mission in life is to pour billions of dollars of taxpayers’ hard-earned wealth down the toilet, Patrick’s priority is to take small, simple policy decisions and turn them into complex and controversial issues that become almost impossible to resolve.  If his Iraqi counterpart, Interior Minister Mahmoud Diyab al-Ahmed, wanted to legalize soccer gambling or ban racial discrimination, he would just do it with a wave of his chrome plated AK-47. Patrick, on the other hand, wrings his hands, endlessly worrying about what people might think.  Soccer gambling is subject to interminable discussion and consultation, for fear of upsetting a clutch of self-righteous, guitar-playing pastors who think God wants them to run the lives of our lower orders.  And the prospect of telling Hongkongers to be nice to brown people and Mainlanders leaves him awake for nights on end.
Thurs, 27 Mar
The result of this morning’s Mid-Levels Escalator surgical mask survey
: one in 10, if not slightly more.  These masks are more contagious than SARS.  Wild American ex-Mormon friend Odell is out and about, and sneering at the mask-wearers.  “Seriously uncool-looking,” is his verdict. I point out that his Thai wife Mee is wearing one.  “Marketing strategy,” he says. “She’s selling them to Southeast Asian domestic helpers. Huge mark-up.”  How long before those of us too cool to wear these things are in a minority?  My suspicion is that the majority of Hongkongers will remain unmasked, unable to overcome their pathological need to talk into mobile phones at all times.

Shock and awe, or at least plain fury, in the morning meeting, with the Big Boss thumping the table, cursing auditors and berating the spotty accountant and his bean counters for their lack of imagination in compiling the 2002 financial results, which he evidently feels do not adequately reflect his highly talented and visionary chairmanship.  Therefore, everyone must be punished. He announces his decision to appoint Ms Pang – Doris 3 – as the new Deputy Assistant Senior HR Manager.  Her orders, he tells us, will be to inflict pain in the form of staff cost cuts, and to devise and implement laborious and intrusive personnel policies, such as compulsory attendance – the tycoon tyrant pauses briefly to stare at the company gwailo – at the S-Meg Holdings Spring Dinner in a few weeks’ time.  I would rather be on a ventilator in the intensive care section at the Prince of Wales Hospital.
End the day with a pleasant evening stroll around Reuters' breeding ground for killer bugs.  Panic-prone Hong Kong, the home of the bank run, the cake shop run, the McDonald's Snoopy doll run and the dot com IPO frenzy, succumbs to a hysterical clamour for dubious protection from killer pneumonia, with lines of people spilling onto the sidewalk outside drugstores buying silly-looking white face masks.  A few people started to wear them, so the retarded sheep-like hordes all do the same.  Hong Kong has become the set for a movie called Invasion of the World's Worst-Dressed Brain Surgeons.  There is, as always, a bright side. This virus has convinced the ugliest people in Hong Kong to cover their faces up, and the Rolling Stones and Andy Williams to stay away.  There must be a commercial application for it.
Fri, 28 Mar
Open my front door first thing in the morning and find, to my delight, yellow plastic tape announcing “Quarantine Area – keep clear” draped across the hallway while, behind it, four men in protective overalls and masks nail planks across the entrance to my neighbour’s apartment. An official notice declares the unbearable, mahjong-addicted occupants to be suspected carriers of atypical pneumonia, and authorizes the police to shoot them if they try to escape.  Meanwhile, the Liberal Party’s James Tien, who normally is to policy proposals what the Powerpuff Girls are to literature, comes up with the
brilliant suggestion that the names of all killer pneumonia victims be made public, and the victims themselves be branded on the forehead with red-hot irons in the shape of the Chinese character for “disease”.  Can there be any doubt that Hong Kong is starting to win the fight against its latest plague?