Hemlock's Diary
11-17 December 2005
Mon, 12 Dec
As dawn breaks over Exchange Square, wild American friend Odell and I sip chamomile and durian latte.  The ex-Mormon waves a piece of paper.  “I’ve got the results from the drug testing laboratory,” he tells me.  I take a look at the computer printout.  Amazing.  Odell shares my surprise.  “Freaked me out,” he admits.  We look at the report again in disbelief…
Sample: Pacific Coffee, IFC Mall, HK, ‘Americano’ (black, no sugar), 20cc
Tested for: Caffeine traces
Result: Positive
A white woman in her late 20s sits down in the huge lounge chair opposite us.  It would be unnatural – indeed, plain impossible – not to notice that she is wearing a very short skirt that reveals unseasonal amounts of thigh.  No doubt angered by the fact that I consider the ample proto-cellulite worthy of only a three-nanosecond glance, she stares at me aggressively.  “You like looking at my legs do you?” she snaps in an Australian accent.  Odell and I look at each other briefly.  I lean in the direction of the Antipodette and make a show of examining each limb carefully, starting at the hemline of one, working all the way down to the ankle, then all the way back up the other.  It takes about 10 seconds. 

I look up at her.  “No,” I tell her, with all the simple plainness of one telling the absolute truth. 

Odell nods.  “Please wear pants in future,” he adds.  (How many times have I had words with him about gilding the lily of disdainfulness?  It doesn’t seem to sink in.)   She turns her back on us and starts sifting through a pile of leaflets with the title
Get Your Filthy Capitalist Hands Off Our Bunny Rabbits Now! Excellent!  It’s barely 7.30am on a Monday and we’ve already insulted an anti-globalization protester.  It is hard to tell who they are by looking.  The pipe-smoking Frenchman who drives tractors into branches of McDonalds doesn’t seem to be gracing the Big Lychee with his presence for this World Trade Organization meeting.  And the Amazonian rainforest dwellers with big, bio-degradable wooden discs implanted in their lower lips seem to be otherwise engaged – probably at home ironing their loincloths, doing a TV special on piranhas, hanging out with Sting or something.  Which of the wide variety of brainless causes does our scantily clad friend here espouse?  Is she fighting for higher food prices for Korean families?  Higher clothes prices for Europeans?  Higher steel prices for Americans?  Or is she fighting for foreign-owned factories in Southeast Asia to be shut down so the workers are thrown back into subsistence farming and have to pull their kids out of school?  I would like to ask, but…  No, actually I wouldn’t.
Tue, 13 Dec
I spoke too soon.  Angered by my assertion of his absence, ridiculous French anti-globalization protester-cum-sheep farmer José Bové turns up at Big Lychee International Airport.  Before humouring their counterparts in Paris by
letting the buffoon in, Hong Kong officials lock him up for a few hours, so he can enjoy a taste of Correctional Services Department congee – made from genetically engineered rice – as a gentle reminder to behave himself.  Also on the WTO front – psychopathic Korean farmers tell the South China Morning Post that they can’t rule out suicide “as a protest option.”  What’s “Don’t let us stop you – is there anything we can do to help?” in Korean?
MEANWHILE, SLIMY idiot savant James Tien’s Liberal Party deals a death blow to the Government’s constitutional reform package by urging the public to ‘vote for progress’ in an on-line poll in which citizens may cast their electronic ballots any way they wish provided it’s ‘yes’.  Whatever else they disagree on, all right-thinking Hong Kong people consider this little coterie of shallow and unprincipled nematodes to be the lowest form of legislative life – the primeval green scum in the dark, hard-to-clean corner of our political aquarium.  The sight of the odious Tien lamenting the halt of political development is enough to make the Gallic gadfly Bové beg to be jailed, or convince our peasant guests from the Land of Morning Calm to disembowel themselves without further ado.
AN EMAIL from a kind-hearted acquaintance and Photoshop maestro asks whether the Liberal Party needs a bit of help with regards to prepositions.  “Surely,” he writes, “you should take a step ‘to’ rather than ‘in’ constitutional development, assuming the word ‘towards’ is too difficult for your target audience.”  His revised version of the nematodes’ banner is undoubtedly an improvement.  However, from what we know of the idiotic James Tien’s views, they probably do indeed believe universal suffrage is something you step in.
Wed, 14 Dec
The Revenge of Tung Chee-hwa continues, as protests outside the WTO meeting descend into what is, by Hong Kong’s law-abiding standards,
violent mayhem.  As if there weren’t enough detritus floating around in it already, the Korean peasants leapt into Victoria Harbour yesterday.  After finding it too cold – as people do when they winter in Bali rather than Seoul – these hardy sons of the soil decided to warm themselves up by assaulting our dedicated, fresh-faced young constables, who are more accustomed to helping elderly ladies across roads. 

Having been an extremely good boy all year, I have no doubt that Santa Claus will give me exactly what I want for Christmas.  And I want some law-enforcement-size cans of OC foam, as employed by our fearless police to protect themselves from the rabid farmers protesting against the evils of cheap food.  Unlike the silly little lipstick-size canisters of pepper spray sold to civilians, these heavy-duty versions spew out huge dollops of blistering capsicum at a decent range.  Quick and convenient – the tiresome days of dragging Jehovah’s Witnesses downstairs and out of Perpetual Opulence Mansions to nail their ears to a tree will soon be a thing of the past.
IT’S THAT time of the year again.  On the top floor of S-Meg Tower, in the heart of Asia’s leading international financial hub, one of the three Stanleys from the Mailroom kneels in obedient and eager anticipation before the Company Gwailo’s desk.  “What’s the magic word?” I ask him.  A big grin breaks out on his acne-ridden face and he pants the words ‘thank you!’  I toss the fake-leather bound MegaThrust Inc 2006 desk diary towards him.  He catches it in mid-air, leaps up and runs out of my office, nearly colliding with Ms Lu the buck-toothed Company Secretary. 

“Why do the junior staff like these tacky corporate giveaways so much?” I ask her as she comes in.  She starts to tell me about how they probably use them for fuel, or tear them up for bedding, but she is plainly distracted – and I know why.  The Big Boss exploded at her in the morning meeting for not having arranged Christmas decorations in the main entrance of our dynamic conglomerate’s headquarters.  In any normal company she would have replied that it is not, and never has been, her department’s responsibility, and the General Affairs Department is at fault.  But at S-Meg, no-one – with the exception of the Company Gwailo – contradicts the emperor.  So she has come to seek advice on what sort of decorations to get.  I forget that she arrived from the Mainland just a few years ago. 

“OK,” I explain to her.  “Most low-class, poor people have to use a real Christmas tree, probably only five or six feet tall, made of dirty wood and smelly pine needles, dug out of unhygienic soil.”  Ms Lu nods.  “To show how modern and wealthy we are, we need a really big one made with no naturally occurring substances.  A big polyvinylchloride stand and frame, covered with very bright tinsel, preferably purple.”  She starts taking notes.  “Actually, the colour of the tinsel is irrelevant, because you need to smother the thing with so many golden globes and flashing coloured lights that you can’t see the tree itself.  Then you have to make sure it plays a loud electronic tune.  Nothing from before the 20th Century.  Not old-fashioned rubbish like
In Dulce Jubilo or Stille Nacht.”  Ms Lu shudders at the thought of anything old-fashioned.  “Get one that plays Jingle Bell Rock, or a disco version of Little Drummer Boy – modern, you see.”   She thanks me profusely for sharing my in-depth understanding of these curious aspects of Western culture.  “If you give them a free calendar,” I add as she leaves, “the guys in General Affairs will lend you the plastic model of Santa nailed to a crucifix – don’t forget that.”
Thurs, 15 Dec
I never realized that peasant farmers in remote regions of semi-developed countries like France and South Korea could speak English, but recent radio reports have enlightened me.  It is, as Dr Johnson said of women preaching, like a dog walking on its hind legs – “not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” 

I wouldn’t have thought that Gallic agrarian bore José Bové could express himself in the tongue of Shakespeare any more fluently than one of his flock of wooly ruminants.  But there he was on RTHK 3 a couple of days ago, chatting away in the language of the dastardly Anglo-Saxon globalizers. Sadly, I have no recollection of his message.  My mind switches off at the sound of a French accent – an involuntary reflex to filter out long-winded and passionate triumphs of abstract logic over basic common sense.  He would presumably have made a stirring defence of the Euro-rabble’s Common Agricultural Policy and defied the reporter to prove him wrong, at which point the interviewer would have recalled Johnson’s response to Bishop Berkely’s argument for the nonexistence of matter and declared, “I refute it thus,” giving the quasi-peasant a swift kick in
les testicules.

The Korean farmer on the news this morning uttered the planet’s
lingua franca with a thick, barely comprehensible brogue – but this surely ranks him among the top dozen or so English-speakers in the determinedly monolingual hermit kingdom.  It had apparently dawned on him that the people of Hong Kong take a dim view of rustic rabble-rousers frothing at the mouth and kicking our cops.   He sounded genuinely upset that we lacked sympathy for his noble colleagues, struggling to preserve their nation’s pastoral culture in the face of hugely less expensive produce from more fertile parts of the world.  We didn’t understand, he moaned.  But we do.  We understand perfectly.  If you can’t make a living on your farm, sell it, move to the city and open a 7-Eleven.  Or sit in the middle of your cold, dusty paddy field and rot.  We just don’t care.
Fri, 16 Dec
The Germans probably have a word for it – a pretence at sincerity forced on someone by a lack of alternatives.  Whatever it’s called, our dashing Chief Executive Donald Tsang is embracing it wholeheartedly, collecting signatures on the windswept streets of Central in a
desperate attempt to prove that the Government’s constitutional reform package has public support.  If – or more precisely, when – legislators reject the proposal next week, Sir Bow-Tie can claim that pro-democrats thwarting the will of the people were responsible for the lamentable lack of progress towards universal suffrage.  A referendum would be a tad more convincing.  I’m amazed he hasn’t thought of it.

Looking at the picture on the front page of the
SCMP, I am slightly surprised to see the smug, podgy face of rotund pro-Beijing bore and former lawmaker Maria Tam looking on at the far left – until it occurs to me that it is in fact the smug, podgy face of Dr Patrick Ho, the rotund Secretary for Home Affairs who so often urges us to get more exercise.  To which do I owe the greater apology?
IN THE morning meeting, S-Meg Holdings’ spotty chief accountant reports discontent among the less-educated ranks of his department’s office fodder concerning the Christmas decorations in the main entrance to the building.  The display of garish baubles offends certain basic rules of feng shui, it seems.  Specifically, the Yuletide ornamentation encourages wealth to flow out of S-Meg Tower onto the sidewalk (where it will no doubt distract citizens from signing the Government’s petition).  Eyes turn to the Company Gwailo, as if he is somehow qualified to reconcile barbarian festive practices with the need to prevent prosperity from dribblilng out the door.

“According to Christian geomancy,” I tell my colleagues, “you have to appear to genuinely not want money, otherwise you will be condemned to be dangled upside down over a fire while little red creatures with horns and tails prod you with forks.”  (Have the Germans come up with that word yet?)  “On the other hand,” I explain, “if God gets the impression you’re not interested in material affluence, he will be very pleased and shower you with unimaginable riches.”  The assembled senior management team nod.  Several are in fact church-goers and are well aware of the gwailo deity’s subtle cunning.  Of course, you have to die first.  I wonder how early missionaries to China managed to sell this part of the deal to prospective converts?  To the Cantonese, at any rate, it would have been a bit of a dampener.  Probably still is.  I leave it unmentioned.