Hemlock's Diary
11-17 Nov 2007
Sun, 11 Nov
Norman Mailer has died.   A glance along the shelves in Perpetual Opulence Mansions shows I have two of his works. 
The Naked and the Dead is his most famous, and my copy rests aside Kurt Vonnegut Jnr’s Slaughterhouse 5 – also a partly autobiographical World War II novel by a recently deceased author.  The eerie coincidences are just beginning.  Miami and the Siege of Chicago is about the Republican and Democratic conventions in 1968.  My copy sits next to the classic about the following Nixon campaign, The Selling of the President by Joe McGinniss, who is best known in Hong Kong for his recent tome on the killings of two brothers, one being Robert Kissel, murdered by his wife Nancy right here in the Big Lychee.  On the other side of it is The Family, Ed Sanders’ account of Charles Manson’s late-1960s Californian death spree.  Sanders was also founder of an underground band called The Fugs – named for the euphemism Mailer’s publishers insisted on for the four-letter word frequently used by the characters in The Naked and the Dead.  Cosmic or what?  Meanwhile...
…the Bible is my favourite source of Truth and God-inspired principles of life…  Today we witness the Good Book being widely circulated in Hong Kong as well as in our motherland.  Praise God.

Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee at the opening ceremony of the United Bible Societies Bookfair last Friday.
I don’t know how my fellow atheists, the Communist Party leaders in Beijing, feel about the fact that the wealthiest city in the People’s Republic of China is largely run by Christians.  It could be worse.  Hasidic Jews would ban cha siu and switch off the Mid-Levels Escalator on the Sabbath.  Hindus would let the water buffalo of Lantau stretch out for leisurely, cud-chewing naps on the Airport Expressway.  Fundamentalist Muslims, determined to stamp out usury, immodest dress and alcohol, wouldn’t know where to start.  Maybe on my Fugs CD.

Mon, 12 Nov
Not since the Vikings were raiding the English coast has there been such vast, indiscriminate, shameless plunder as that seen this morning in the IFC Mall branch of Pacific Coffee.  Wild American friend Odell collapses into his favourite easy chair in a hidden corner, moves his durian and organic lavender cappuccino to one side and spreads his loot on the table.  Eight sachets of white sugar, four of brown and four of no-calorie sweetener, a generous handful of tissues, some plastic spoons and half a dozen large-bore, bright red drinking straws.  “We haven’t bought sugar for months,” he explains. “Or Kleenex.” 

He settles down to read the newspaper.  Number 3,092 in the list of signs you have lived in Hong Kong for too long – you blithely flick through reports of children’s toys laced with a date-rape drug, hair bands made of condoms, and people crushed to death in a stampede after a Carrefour supermarket offers a limited amount of cooking oil at 22 percent off, without a hint of a murmur or trace of a raised eyebrow.

What does strike us as freakish and bizarre is the Hong Kong Government’s continued
desperate attempts to generate public enthusiasm for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.  In the Mainland, hosting the world’s most over-hyped and tedious event is a matter of national pride, but in the barbarian-influenced Fragrant Harbour the authorities have to threaten the citizens – get visibly excited about the Games, they warn, or we’ll throw more taxpayers’ money away on carnivals and force your kids into community participation activities.  Yet the lack of interest is impossible to overcome.  If the Jockey Club doesn’t accept bets on it, we’ve got better things to do.  As a sour-faced Beijing official might have put it, Hong Kong is an economic city, not a sporting city.  The Paralympics get more attention here because, in the Big Lychee, not having legs that work makes you more likely to win a medal.

It frustrates our local leaders because this is a chance for Hong Kong’s wayward and ungrateful inhabitants to behave patriotically at little or no cost to the pocket, self-respect or conscience, and we’re not taking it.  Over the border, meanwhile, the Olympics are seen as an antidote to centuries of national failure and humiliation followed by decades of racial inferiority and superiority complexes.  A chance to get all the hang-ups out of the system and emerge as a respected and responsible, normal member of the global community.  Normal, at least, by the standards of date-rape drugged toys, condom hair bands and cooking oil stampedes.
Tue, 13 Nov
Hold your downwind...  I should have sprayed my clothes with fox urine last night, but no matter.  Apart from scent, it is movement that will give you away.  So I take five minutes to approach my quarry by stealth from the rear.  When I am within a few yards of him, virtually holding my breath, I silently tiptoe down the hill to the left where, with a sigh of relief, I can rejoin the Mid-Levels Escalator and continue my commute into the central business district of Asia’s international financial centre.  The alternative to this time-consuming and arduous detour is to submit to a cheerful and obsequious ‘good morning’ from the District Council candidate, and that’s more than I can stomach at this time of the day.

A GOVERNMENT survey shows that the vast majority of Hong Kong companies put shareholders’ interests first.  This should be matter of celebration – only a minority of our firms believe they have some sort of obligation to distort economic forces by doling out hidden subsidies and other transfers of wealth for non-commercial reasons.  On the contrary.  Our weasel-like officials find this so embarrassing that they announce to the world at large that
the Big Lychee’s corporations are obsessed with the poor, the aged, the bunny rabbits and other distractions from their main mission.  What is even more galling is that the social ills our bureaucrats expect Corporate Social Responsibility to solve are the result of dimwitted policies on immigration, labour mobility, education, cartelization, housing, land use and other travesties of governance delivered to us by the world’s highest paid civil servants.
It reminds me of the time during the depths of the Great Collapse of Hong Kong Civilization during the evil regime of Tung Chee-hwa when an emissary from the Chief Executive’s office paid a courtesy call on the Chairman of S-Meg Holdings.  Clutching her Gucci handbag and grinning desperately, the representative essentially begged the Big Boss not to lay off any staff or cut salaries.  The tycoon asked the fonctionette if the crop-haired one held the business community responsible for the economic mess the city was in.  No, no, no, came the reply through a forced smile.  She mentioned harmony and helping the community.  “The community of cretins in Central Government Offices digging us into a bigger and bigger hole?” I suggested (more or less).  Twisting her hair around her fingers, Administrative Officer Gucci glanced at the Big Boss for help, but didn’t get it.  So she just carried on grinning.
Wed, 14 Nov
Singapore gushes with pride on winning the annual
Most Wonderful Place to Live in the Solar System Award.  If you like your poverty, corruption, crime, nepotism, money laundering and discontent squeezed into all the nooks and crannies you never look at – so effectively that some suckers actually believe they’re not there – it’s ideal.  One drawback is that the Lion City is surrounded by a quarter of a billion hungry Muslims armed with blowpipes and a grudge about uppity but effete money-grubbing Chinese.  Maybe it was the Malays’ intentions to move in one day that put the place so high up in the survey!

Top spot in the global table goes to New Zealand.  There are two reasons for this.  First, no visitors will pester you.  No-one ever says, “On my way to
x, I will drop in to New Zealand to see so-and-so,” because there is no x, give or take Antarctica.  Second, people have fallen in love with the scenery, people and culture after watching the magnificent and classic Kiwi movie Bad Taste.

Australia comes second, probably because people love the way the Prime Minister sits in the front seat of the car next to the driver, and aren’t aware of the fact that the country will totally run out of water in February 2014.
Sweden. Sold iron ore to the Nazis.  Ingmar Bergman.  That’s all I know about it, but it couldn’t have come third just for that, so there must be more. 

Next after Singapore come the US and the UK – magnets for migrants in search of opportunity, thanks to their liberty, democracy and populations of people too fat, lazy and uneducated to compete with newcomers.

Switzerland follows.  I wouldn’t mind owning parts of it, but even then I’m not sure I would want to go very often.  It is as well-ordered, strict and bossy as Singapore.  But while inhabitants of the Lion City behave like docile zombies out of fear of their drooling, senile dictator and his offspring, the Swiss act that way out of choice.  Scary.

The phrase ‘questionable methodology’ comes to mind as the survey ranks Costa Rica the eighth most desirable abode on the planet – and apparently streets ahead of, say, France, Canada, the Greek islands, funky Amsterdam and several million other places any sane person would rather be.  No army, lots of bananas, not too many drunk pedophiles, and therefore the nearest Latin America has to a country that isn’t a dump.  Presumably the Country Brand Index organizers thought the plucky little isthmian republic deserved a pat on the head, and who are we to disagree?

Last comes Italy.  I’ve never entirely been hooked by the whole Catholic-Mafia-opera-gondola-leatherwear-spaghetti-three-governments-a-year thing, but it’s obviously just me.  The millions of people who emigrated over the years all say they miss it sometimes.

No-one wants to come and live in Hong Kong?  Fine by me.
Thurs, 15 Nov
With just days to go before polling, the District Council election race in the Mid-Levels East constituency finally gets dirty.  Morticia Yuen Chan, the pro-democracy candidate, sends voters in Perpetual Opulence Mansions and other classy bits of Escalator-land a glossy pamphlet containing not only the usual biographical, name-dropping and parochial items, but a stab at negative campaigning. 

This is not unprecedented in Hong Kong.  Beijing’s agents sometimes indulge in dismally heavy-handed dirty tricks – arranging for an opposition candidate to be found at exactly the worst moment with a prostitute or misused official allowance.  But the more subtle art of throwing mud and making it stick is under-developed, and now Morticia has boldly stepped in with a classic smear tactic.  Admittedly, she has not quite reached the level of unethical, misleading, unwarranted, lying viciousness that seasoned connoisseurs of character assassination among us might like to see.  But it’s a start.
She is comparing her platform with that of her opponent, the dashing young Jackie Cheung, picking all the issues where she is active and he is not – the harbour, heritage – thus giving the impression he is an uncaring, selfish waste of space.  She is drawing attention to his apparent lack of a position on the issue of democracy.  Most of all, she is alleging that Jackie is connected with an evil gang of Communist lackeys who would come round and eat your children if the Party leadership told them it was the correct, patriotic thing to do. 

While she has been open about her pro-democracy ties, Jackie has mysteriously neglected to mention his political affiliation openly in his own publicity, so Morticia is doing it for him.  He has been a member of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance, she informs us, helpfully adding that the group has since merged with the Democratic Alliance for the Blah Blah of Hong Kong.  It is a masterpiece of timing.  The election is on Sunday and Jackie doesn’t even have enough time to deny this revolting slur.  Morticia wins by a landslide.
Fri, 16 Nov
Is it something to do specifically with the voters of Mid-Levels East Constituency?  Or is it just the general alienation many Hongkongers feel towards the DAB?  Either way, immensely trustworthy looking District Council candidate Jackie Cheung fights back against the shadowy Morticia by bombarding the electorate with a last-minute mailshot protesting his purity when it comes to party affiliation.  Were he gay, half-caste or even poor, he would – judging by races in other districts – admit it.  But he is cursed with the political connection that dare not speak its name. 

For the fourth day in a row, he spends this morning in the historic and graceful Soho neighbourhood, in a strategic spot next to the Mid-Levels Escalator halfway between 7-Eleven and Krispy Kreme Donuts, looking very smart in his sash, bowing to delighted old ladies.  These diminutive but lively senior citizens could well be Jackie’s big hope, as they are for pro-Beijing candidates throughout Hong Kong.  The DAB, with its ample funding, has no trouble mobilizing the elderly with the promise of a free lunchbox and transport to and from the polling station.  On the minibus, surrounded by posters of the local patriotic contender, they are fed chicken and rice laced with a date-rape drug, followed by the hard-sell from party activists.  If the pro-democrat wins, they are told, their favourite herbal folk medicine will be banned, they will be forced to use ATMs rather than bank passbooks, some structure that wrecks the
feng shui will be built across the street, and gwailos will move in next door.  Put it that way, and I think I might vote for him myself.