Hemlock's Diary
23-29 Dec 2007
Monday, 24 Dec
RIP Kevin Sinclair (1942-2007).  Not all of the crusty New Zealand-born journalist’s pontifications and predictions were spot-on, but his forecast over the last few weeks that he hadn’t long to go proved correct yesterday. 

Standard quotes a Kev story.  In the version I heard, the Kiwi is sitting in a hospital bed after the tracheotomy that left him voiceless when several colleagues and friends arrive.  “Hi Kevin,” they say, “good to see you.  How are you feeling?”  Sinclair grabs a notepad and pencil, writes something and passes it to Visitor A   “Fine guys,” it says “how are you?”  Visitor A scribbles something back on the notepad and passes it back to the patient.  After reading it, Sinclair scribbles the reply, “I’m not deaf, you c**t!”
AFTER FURTIVELY creeping up on us over a couple of months, too big to be ignored but not so clamorous as to demand undivided attention, the festive season is now indisputably in our face and poised to grip us by the throat.  I am dividing the period between Shenzhen, where tomorrow is just another day of work, and Hong Kong, where we mark the occasion in our own fashions. 

Westerners will observe their year’s most important ritual – the consumption of turkey with over-dry stuffing followed by a period of staring at a television and gradual and orderly descent into alcoholic oblivion.  This all goes back to pagan times millennia ago.  In those days, they crammed their faces full of mud-baked hedgehog, then stared at the holly and mistletoe they had hung on the walls of their freezing wattle and daub huts while singing
Somer is Ycuming in not very convincingly and downing clay pots of mead until passing out.  It is good to see these time-honoured traditions living on. 

Among the Chinese, attitudes towards Yuletide are changing.  A few decades ago, the older generation simply ignored it, while the younger folk considered it a festival for themselves, which they could actually enjoy – hanging out with their friends rather than having to visit tiresome, crotchety grandparents.  Nowadays, however, the younger generation increasingly goes to church and in more than a few cases takes part in Catholic or evangelical community activities over the whole holiday period.  Yet another example of how a part of Western culture has been warped and twisted by the local population to suit their own preferences.  They obviously have no idea what Christmas is really all about, but such a multicultural mélange is all part of the charm of living in Hong Kong.  (He says, packing his bag.)
Thurs, 27 Dec
The highlight of Christmas in Shenzhen was the obligatory massage.  For just RMB40 an hour, the massee – or whatever the victim is called – has his or her head, shoulders, arms and back assaulted by a barrage of pummels, twists, blows and other violence.  You feel better afterwards for the simple reason that the hellish agony has finally come to an end.  To add to the ambience of cruelty and suffering, the beds have a creepy looking hole in them under the pillow.  The massee’s face is inserted into the cavity while the pyjama-clad girls who run the place strike him with sledgehammers.  It reminds me of the aperture in the tabletop that Chinese gourmets poke the dome of a monkey’s head through.  After securing the beast, they slice the upper part of the skull off and scoop out and devour the contents.  Which brings me rather neatly to…
The Santa Claus-staffed Little Sheep, which on my last visit was pushing donkey penis, but is now promoting glistening, succulent lamb’s brain in glossy ads placed in front of every diner, next to a graphic photo of Little Bo Peep’s finest after skinning and barbecuing.  Who could resist the mouth-watering grin clenching the garnish?
I return to Hong Kong wishing that the Mainland could handle the city with the same sort of creativity and sensitivity it uses to market its delectable cuisine.  Instead, the period since the Big Lychee came under Beijing’s sovereignty has been a succession of economic disasters, outbreaks of pestilence, rising suicide rates, declining air quality, psychopathic town planning, bureaucratic self-indulgence, government waste, plutocracy, despair and Cantopop.  At least, this was the vague impression I had acquired.  I can’t express my surprise and delight, however, on finding that in fact China’s Hong Kong policies over the last 10 years have been more completely, utterly and totally correct than if God had been micro-managing the entire thing Himself from start to finish.  What better way to approach the end of 2007 than to discover everything has been wonderful after all?

Fri, 28 Dec
The amazing thing is that it took over three months for the assassins to succeed in killing Benazir Bhutto.  A suicide bomber had a go at her just hours after she returned to Pakistan last October.  She went back not least because Western leaders thought a largely Anglicized female of feudal aristocratic – not to say slave-owning – stock would be a productive match in a power-sharing arrangement with a military dictator many of whose officials are in cahoots with the Taliban.  Now they voice their continued hopes for Pakistani democracy, pretending that the nuclear-armed country is not at least as scary and dysfunctional as North Korea, let alone Iran.
Hopes for universal suffrage in the Big Lychee are, in their own way, perhaps no less misplaced.  The Professional Commons – a grouping of young, up-and-coming pro-democrats with sensible shoes and one foot in the Civic Party – takes out a newspaper ad pleading with Beijing not to reject serious political reform in Hong Kong in 2012 without at least a commitment to 2017.  Unlike most of their counterparts fighting for the vote in the last 10 years, they actually articulate a practical reason for reform…
The smartest thing for the pro-democracy camp to do, regardless of Beijing’s imminent announcement on arrangements for the 2012 elections, is to zero in on the specific, real-life horrors of Government by bureaucrats and tycoons for bureaucrats and tycoons.  Hammer away about them (there is no shortage to chose from) and don’t stop.  Instead, all most of them can think of is more mind-numbing calls for marching in the street, spiced up with fantasies about boycotts of shops and schools, which must make the Communists, apparatchiks and vested interests chortle with delight.  Professional Commons is a light in the darkness – or, more accurately, page 8 of The Standard.
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