It Has Been a Week

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And by that I mean an extraordinarily busy and stressful week. Lots of catching up to do (and several different topics in this one post).

In part, I’ve been dealing with the after-effects of the death of a cousin. This particular cousin was born just two months after my mother and the two were best friends their entire lives, and by “entire lives” I mean that they were best friends for 93 years.  My father used to say that if one of them went to the toilet, she’d have to call the other and tell her about it.

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There was concern over how my mother would handle the news. I’m halfway around the world and have no brothers or sisters. Thankfully I’ve got some amazing cousins. A lot of time spent on emails and phone calls and planning to ensure that my mother would not be alone when she got the news.  Fortunately she seems to be coming through it okay, at least in the short term.

I spent a lot of time in Manila recently, very busy in terms of work and personal stuff, and staying in a hotel with really shitty Internet, basically only fast enough to deal with email. So I’m just getting caught up on all of the news of the past days now.

Friday night I went walking through the “occupied” area of Causeway Bay. It was quiet. Probably no more than a few dozen protesters camped out. It’s possible that there were more people taking pictures of the protesters than protesters themselves.

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(A replica of the giant banner that was hung from Lion Rock earlier in the week.)

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(The original banner on Lion Rock, photo from the NY Times.)

In minor news, “musician” Kenny G was photographed viewing the protesters in Admiralty earlier in the week.  Stunningly, this upset the astonishingly insecure Chinese government. Apparently they feel their country of 1.5 billion people might be threatened by images of a second rate musician who is inexplicably popular in their country looking at some students participating in a bit of nonviolent protest.

And so Mr. G hastily announced that he wasn’t showing support for the students, he was just there as a tourist. Presumably he did this because he had some upcoming concerts in China and didn’t want to see them get cancelled. Which makes one wonder – does a man who has sold more than 75 million albums around the world need an extra million or two so much that he’s willing to throw away any presumed principles to get that money? At this point he’s not already rich enough that he can’t risk getting banned in China?  Kenny G, go home.

(NY Times: Stars Backing Hong Kong Protests Pay Price on Mainland) (HKSAR Film No Top 10 Box Office: Anthony Wong: Without Dignity I Would Rather Not Eat This Bowl of Rice.)

Of course the biggest thing that happened while I was away was C.Y. Leung’s explanation that Hong Kong can’t have true democracy because Hong Kong has too many poor people and majority rule might mean that the majority gets what they want and that the minorities (translation: the rich and the super rich) would be under-represented and might somehow suffer.

It’s a tacit admission that Leung (and those who came before him) have done nothing to deal with the issues of poverty and inequality in Hong Kong. They don’t have to, because they are not elected, and so they are not accountable to the general population.

Leung said that if candidates were nominated by the public then the largest sector of society would likely dominate the electoral process.

“If it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you’d be talking to the half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than US$1,800 a month [HK$13,964.2],” Leung said in comments published by the WSJ, the FT and the INYT.

It’s a stunning display of ignorance of how democracy works in other countries. Because most if not all democracies will put laws in place to protect the rights of minorities (and by “minorities” I don’t mean “billionaires,” I mean ethnic, gender, religious and so on).

Let’s look no further than the United States. How do the minority rich protect their assets there? First of all, by donating massive amounts of money to finance the campaigns of the candidates they like. It works. The Koch Brothers. In the United States, huge numbers of people vote in favor of tax regulations that only benefit the rich and are actually to the detriment of the poor. The Tea Party. There’s no reason this wouldn’t work in Hong Kong.

Oh, I get it. The rich might have to spend one or two percent out of their billions that they don’t spend today in donations to candidates. But it’s something they’ve already been doing for decades one way or another. The British rich started it, the Chinese rich just follow their lead. Hmm, foreign influences? (SCMP: How Hong Kong’s business elite have thwarted democracy for 150 years.)

For once, Big Lychee says it best. “It is stunning and grotesque to see a Marxist sovereign power declare that its mission is to shield a small, mainly hereditary, landed oligarchy of hyper-wealthy from the poor (not to mention a large chunk of the in-between middle class).”

Now, a few excerpts from an interview that good ole CY did on ATV a week ago.

Leung: So we have a situation where one side wants civic nomination and the Basic Law doesn’t allow for it. And therefore some students have actually come up to say that we should amend the Basic Law. Now we all know … (Host: That’s never gonna happen.) Ever since the Basic Law was promulgated in 1990 and came into force in 1997, it has not been amended.

Which is not entirely true. There have been additional “instruments” added, reinterpretations and decisions. So the mechanism does exist to do this. I am not aware of anything that says that the Basic Law is carved in stone and cannot be amended for all eternity.

A constitutional reform of this nature and scale is pretty unprecedented in Hong Kong and the world at large, and we could expect controversies.

“Unprecedented in … the world at large”? Oh, like when women were given the right to vote in other countries? I’d say the precedent is there in every country. A constitutional amendment to free the slaves maybe? And as for the “we could expect controversies,” what’s the issue there? We don’t have a “controversy” right now? Why does avoidance of controversy take precedence over trying to get things right?

There is obviously participation by people, organisations from outside of Hong Kong, in politics in Hong Kong, over a long time. This is not the only time when they do it, and this is not an exception either.

Yes, there is documented “participation” by organizations from outside of Hong Kong. Beijing.

(NY Times: Beijing is Directing Hong Kong Strategy, Government Insiders Say)

(Yeah, I know I’m being a bit disingenuous. Hong Kong is part of China. But if Leung wants to say “outside of Hong Kong,” shouldn’t we take him at his word? And Hong Kong is, oddly anough, also part of the world. But this is all consistent with Chinese strategy, to denounce “foreign influences” when those opinions are at odds with the party line.)

Host: So you haven’t answered the question. Will there be a violent crackdown? You say multiple rounds of talks. You have to observe law and order in Hong Kong. How do you do that? Will the Police one day say, okay, enough is enough, it’s gone off for too long? How long can you tolerate this?

Leung: I shan’t use the word crackdown. 

Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, Legco panels have voted down requests to investigate C.Y. Leung’s HK$50 million pay off from an engineering firm in Australia, There was no suitable explanation of this decision, at least not in the SCMP. This despite reports that he tried to get an additional HK$37 million in payoffs from that firm.

Only one thing is clear. Beijing will not give the students what they want. And the students will not back down, at least not so far. But it has to end, one way or another. There has already been too much violence. But as cynical as I am, I remain an optimist at heart. And I am fervently hoping that this will have a peaceful conclusion. If true democracy seems to be an unattainable goal for 2017, what is the government willing to offer and what are the protesters willing to accept in order to bring this to an end? I wish I had an answer to that. I wish that anyone had an answer to that.

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The Entertainer in Hong Kong

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Do you remember those big thick dining out coupon books? New York had them (maybe still does) and Hong Kong used to have them. You’d buy the book and for a year you’d get all these “buy one, get one free” discount coupons for restaurants and other places around town.

Once in awhile I’d buy them. The potential savings almost always seemed to make them worthwhile. Except I’d never have the damned book with me when I passed some restaurant. And in Hong Kong, places come and go so fast that after a few months probably half the places you have coupons for have closed and there are no coupons for all the new places that sprang up to replace them.

Enter The Entertainer. (Yeah, okay, it was so obvious that I couldn’t resist.)

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It’s a company that started with a coupon book in Dubai and has now spread the concept to the rest of the middle east, plus Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa and London. The global stats on their web site claim 10,000+ global outlets (but you’d have to buy one subscription for each territory to get at all of those), 1 million redemptions per year, $1.3 billion in revenue “driven” to merchant partners.

They’ve got the traditional coupon book if that’s your thing, but they’ve also updated the concept by having a smartphone app. So now you don’t have to lug the book around or clip any coupons. Just load the app on your phone and you’re ready to go.

The Hong Kong app or book will run you HK$595 for one (calendar) year. There’s also a try-out version of the app, one month for HK$149. You can download the app for free and then choose a subscription via an in-app purchase or buy directly from their web site.

They say they’ve got 333 merchant partners in Hong Kong plus 126 hotel partners worldwide. The screen shot below – just 5 listings – already shows you 3 hotels, 1 restaurant and a Chinese medicine clinic – so that gives you some idea of their range.

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Scrolling through their Hong Kong listings,  I saw some places that I regularly go to and more than a few that I’ve been wanting to check out. Obviously they have good coverage for Central. (And, just as obviously, nothing in Tai Po, no big shock there.)

A very partial list of the restaurants they have in Central just to give you some idea of their range:

Al Forno, Alfies, Aqua Luna, Boqueria, Cafe de Paris, Cvche, French Window, Gold, Holly Brown, Pizza Express, Staunton’s

The deal is usually get one main course free when you buy one (the free one is the cheaper of the two). You get multiple coupons for most places, so you can go back to places you like more than once and still save. I’m sure that you can think of plenty of places that are not included, but the point is that there are plenty of good places in there.

They also have deals for various services – fitness places, salons, photo studios and others. The deals with the biggest potential for savings are the hotel deals – get one night free for each paid night. There’s a choice of hotels for places in Thailand, Malaysia, Bali and around the Indian Ocean. (Unfortunately no hotel discounts for the place I go most often, the Philippines.)

I’m looking at the “new” category right now and I see DiVino, Genie Juicery, Spasso, Carpaccio and a few others. So it appears this is continually being updated.

The app needs a bit of work. Every establishment, regardless of type, has a little fork-and-knife icon next to it. Restaurants, hotels, nail spas, kids activity centers all have a fork and knife next to their name.  You can’t immediately tell the ice cream parlors from the nail spas.

Also, don’t click on that top center bit where it says “Hong Kong” with the “ALL” underneath. The choices that then pop up are “Near Me” and Alphabetically” and no matter what you do, all you’ll get is a pop up box telling you that you have to make a selection from a non-existent list of filters. Every time I hit that “ALL” by mistake, I have to kill the app and start over again.

My wife and I both work in Wanchai. So a couple of nights ago I figured I’d try out The Entertainer app for dinner for the two of us after work. You can easily search the app by district (also by name, shopping mall, hotel or cuisine), so I did a search on Wanchai.

Looking for the places closest to us, there were two – Doghouse and Trafalgar. (Lots more choices around Brim 28 and Star Street but we were both tired and not in a walking mood.) I chose Trafalgar, a British style pub) since they’ve got that 5th floor outdoor deck and it was a nice night for eating outside.

When we got to Trafalgar, we didn’t have to show any coupon or mention anything in advance. We simply ordered what we wanted – my wife was in a steak mood and got their $298 rib eye; I ordered the $158 chicken parmigiana since I don’t see that on too many menus here.

When we finished eating and it was time to ask for the bill, I showed the screen on my phone to the waitress. She brought the manager over, the manager entered the restaurant’s PIN into the app, and they brought the bill over with my chicken parm for free. So they’d knocked off the $158 (and also no 10% service charge for that, so my actual savings was closer to $175). It was simple and relatively hassle-free.

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(One thing I should add – the portions at Trafalgar are big. My wife said that next time we should just get one main course and one starter or salad and split everything. I said that’s fine but I still have two more “coupons” for the place and they’re only good on the main courses, so we’ll just have to “suffer.”)

The app lets you combine multiple “books” – manage multiple subscriptions within one instance of the app.  This is a nice touch for people who may travel frequently to the same destinations. I wouldn’t get this for Singapore, where I tend to eat in hawker centers anyway, but would definitely consider it for my next trip to London.

They’ll start selling their 2015 app and book in November with an early bird discount. I’ll be posting more info on that once it becomes available.

One thing I forgot to mention and it’s one thing that makes this different from other coupon books I tried – there’s nothing that says you can’t use this at “prime time” on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night.  The Rules of Use say, “All offers can be used at any time during regular opening hours unless specified.” The only blackout days are Hong Kong public holidays and Rugby Sevens and Chinese New Year weeks (at merchant’s discretion).

So $595 for a year and I saved $175 my first time. Clearly, even if I use it just once or twice a month (we don’t go out that often), I’ll end up saving far more than the $595 cost. And there’s no book to lug around or coupons to clip, so I always have it with me and will actually continue to use it. The Entertainer is an old concept brought up to date and well executed.

Full disclosure – I was given a free one year subscription to The Entertainer in Hong Kong in exchange for a review. But, here’s the deal – when they first approached me, I would not have agreed to this if I didn’t like what they were offering. And they made no specific requests for content in the post, merely that I try it out and report on my experience. I’m genuinely happy with this and plan to keep using it.

UPDATE: Oops! If you want the one month “try out” membership, you can only get it by following this link.  (It’s not an affiliate link or anything like that.) And I’m told this is only good up until November 10th, after which just annual memberships are available.

 

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OccupyHK – You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

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There’s an article in the NY Times today on the latest developments in OccupyHK. The HK police have been dismantling barricades, sometimes with the aid of chain saws, erected by the protesters. The article has bits like this:

“This is to protect our democracy, to protect our future,” said Patrick Chan, an accountant, taking a brief break from helping to raise an elaborate fortress of bamboo and plastic binding on the edge of Central, the city’s main financial district.

“The government doesn’t listen to the Hong Kong people, so we must do this,” he said, his voice choked with emotion.

And then you come to this bit:

Lucy Tse, 52, said she had been stuck in her home in east Hong Kong Island since the protests broke out two weeks ago, and she lamented that she had to take the train instead of getting around in her Mercedes-Benz. “This is a public space for all Hong Kong people, not just for the students, not just for the government,” she said. “These Hong Kong students are spoiled.”

The biggest question I suppose is how they managed to find this idiot if she’s “stuck in her home” (in an area that hasn’t seen any protests).

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Louis C.K. Does Not Like ISIS

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From The Atlantic today:

In the newest issue of Dabiq, the English-language magazine published by ISIS, the extremist group for the first time confirmed and justified the capturing, enslaving and selling of Yazidi women and children.

“The Islamic State’s litany of horrific crimes against the Yezidis in Iraq only keeps growing,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch. “We heard shocking stories of forced religious conversions, forced marriage, and even sexual assault and slavery—and some of the victims were children.”

In the article, “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” the magazine stated that “the enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers,” adding that, “the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations.”

Referring to the Yazidis as “pagans” and “infidels,” the article said, “Their creed is so deviant from the truth that even cross-worshipping Christians for ages considered them devil worshippers and Satanists, as is recorded in accounts of Westerners and Orientalists who encountered them or studied them.”

ISIS is also boasting about what they see as the revival of important institutions, such as slavery. “Before Shaytan reveals his doubts to the weak-minded and weak hearted, one would remember that enslaving the families of the [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Quran and the narrations of the Prophet, and thereby apostatizing from Islam,” the article says. “… May Allah bless this Islamic State with the revival of further aspects of the religion occurring at its hands.”

That may have something to do with why Louis C.K. went on this Twitter rant (courtesy of Pajiba):

Oh, fuck you, ISIS. Sincerely please fuck each other in the mouth with forks. You’re 7 year old boys. You’re stupid. You suck.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

I’m 47. seen a lot of assholes. But these ISIS fuckfaces Are the worst. ISIS please drink Sunoco gas and then have a smoke.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

Whether or not ISIS is really a bunch of Halliburton employees

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

Or just homegrown raping marauding cunts they appear to be. Just really. Fuck them already. They stink.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

Fuck ISIS doesn’t mean yay America. I’m not saying this as an American. I don’t believe they’re coming here. I’m a Martian.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

a Martian just like every displaced killed raped Iraqi Syrian by Assad bush saddam Cheney ISIS. The separation is an illusion.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

But right now. As a cranky guy reading the paper, Fuck ISIS in all 3 holes and make a fifth and fuck them there too.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

I mean a fourth hole. Sorry. Seriously sorry.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

 

He may have a point. But he’s been a bit weird on Twitter lately. This series from a few days earlier (again via Pajiba)

It really feels like Mars used to be a here that got globally warmed by some very us-y people-things.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

I’m not saying I can prove it. I’m saying it feels like it.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

It feels like they left mars on a moon that they pushed out of orbit and rode over here to try to orbit what was earth

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

That’s the only way you could move billions of people-y types. But their moon crashed into pre-earth and everyone died.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

What was left turned into here and our moon and got seeded by marsian corpse DNA. And later we’ll use our moon to go back.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

That’s what it feels like anyway.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

And it feels like we are gonna keep bopping around on moons til we realize the whole solar system is actually a spaceship.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

The sun is the engine and if you wait til it all lines up just right and you push “go” you can ride it to a bigger far place.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

I would really like to emphasize that these are not opinions or theories. It’s just a feeling I have.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

Also I feel like I know the origin of the basic despair that we all feel in the pit of our being, that one thing we all share.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

We used to be one single thing that was nowhere. The Big Bang happened, sending us, which used to be a “me” hurtling outward.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

And that basic sad despair inside is us going “aaaaaaaaaaaaah!!” Through space. We’re like on the 20′th “a”

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

If you go “aaaaa!” For a jiblion years you stop even hearing yourself say it. Anyway that’s just how it feels sometimes.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

I’m not high.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

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God Only Knows

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Completely unrelated to my previous post!

The BBC has unveiled a new web site called BBC Music, and to draw attention to it they’ve released a video of a newly recorded all-star version of the Beach Boys’ classic “God Only Knows,” credited to The Impossible Orchestra.

godonlyknowsSo who is in this? In semi-random order:

  • Dave Grohl
  • Alison Balsom
  • Lorde
  • Pharrell Williams
  • Zane Lowe
  • Sam Smith
  • Paloma Faith
  • Eliza Carthy
  • Nicola Benedetti
  • Chris Martin
  • Jaz Dhami
  • Martin James Bartlett
  • Danielle de Niese
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Florence Welch
  • Lauren Laverne
  • Brian Wilson
  • Jake Bugg
  • Katie Derham
  • Gareth Malone
  • Kylie Minogue
  • Chrissie Hynde
  • One Direction
  • Emeli Sande
  • Elton John
  • Baaba Maal
  • Ethan Johns
  • Jools Holland
  • Jamie Cullum
  • Brian May
  • Tees Valley Youth Choir
  • BBC Concert Orchestra

It’s both lovely and odd at the same time. Lovely, well, because God Only Knows is a great song. Bizarre because of the “something for everyone” approach combined with a 2:59 running time, most of the people listed above are shown for just two seconds each singing the title line. (Brian May is shown in front of a huge stack of amps playing just four notes on the guitar.) The video is nicely done and it’s certainly worth seeing once.

Here’s the link to it at the BBC Music website. And here’s the link to it on Youtube, in case the embed below doesn’t work.

 

 

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Starless and Bible Black

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(It’s a King Crimson song. For some reason I think the title fits what I’m about to write.)

I don’t watch Bill Maher’s Real Time every week, but I did watch it last week because I was curious to see what comments he might have about the situation in Hong Kong. (Verdict: not funny and borderline racist.)

One of the guests on last week’s episode was new to me, author Sam Harris. He’s written a series of books that could best be described as anti-religion. His latest is titled Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.  I’ve been flipping through another of his books, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the End of Reason. (He seems to like titles with colons.) The gist of this book is that religion is the root of all evil and unless we do away with it, mankind is doomed to extinction.

I don’t really disagree with what he’s saying, but I think he may be a bit heavy-handed. And I think he’s arguing to the converted. While I’m highlighting a bunch of passages for myself for future reference, I don’t think that any religious person who stumbles upon this will find their faith seriously challenged. As Harris says, since religion is a matter of faith, arguing against religion using logic would seem to be a losing proposition. (And I know from firsthand experience how true that is.)

Then today I came across the NY Times review of a new book from Edward O. Wilson, The Meaning of Human Existence. Wilson’s 85 and the review says this may not be his best work, but it looks like something I might want to seek out. Here’s a few quotes from Wilson and the review by Dwight Garner.

Stephen Hawking has called humankind “just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.” 

“Let me offer a metaphor,” [Wilson] says. “Earth relates to the universe as the second segment of the left antenna of an aphid sitting on a flower petal in a garden in Teaneck, N.J., for a few hours this afternoon.” 

Among the questions he is most asked, he says, is: “What can we learn of moral value from the ants?” His response is pretty direct: “Nothing. Nothing at all can be learned from ants that our species should even consider imitating.”

He explains that while female ants do all the work, the pitiful males are merely “robot flying sexual missiles” with huge genitalia. (This is not worth imitating?) During battle, they eat their injured. “Where we send our young men to war,” Mr. Wilson writes, “ants send their old ladies.” Ants: moral idiots.

Another writer might explain how ants cooperate. Mr. Wilson puts it this way, on how leaf-cutter ants fend off killer flies: “The problem is solved, mostly, by tiny sister ant workers that ride on their backs, like mahouts on elephants, and chase the flies away with flicks of their hind legs.”

He suggests we ask the leaders of each religion and sect to “publicly defend the supernatural details of their faiths.” He wishes to “charge with blasphemy any religious or political leader who claims to speak with or on behalf of God.”

“The great religions are,” he writes, “sources of ceaseless and unnecessary suffering. They are impediments to the grasp of reality needed to solve most social problems in the real world.”

Throughout “The Meaning of Human Existence,” he has generous things to say about each of those squabbling siblings, science and the humanities. Yet he is clearly exasperated that we dote so much on the latter.

“Even the best-educated live on an ad libitum diet of novels, movies, concerts, sports events and gossip all designed to stir one or more of the relatively small range of emotions that diagnose Homo sapiens,” he writes. The sword of science, he says, “cuts paths through the fever swamp of human existence.”

The book to read, to get the full story on Mr. Wilson’s eventful life, is his memoir “Naturalist,” published in 1994. But he tells good stories about himself in his new book.

When the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction went to Carl Sagan in 1978, he says, “I dismissed it as a minor achievement for a scientist, scarcely worth listing.” Yet when Mr. Wilson won the same prize the following year, “it wondrously became a major literary award of which scientists should take special note.”

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CY Leung – Caught

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Good old honest-as-the-minute-is-long CY Leung got 7 million Australian dollars (approx HK$50 million) for selling an insolvent property services firm to an Australian company.  And then he conveniently forgot to declare this payout on his register of personal interests.

So will Hong Kong’s fearless anti-corruption watchdogs, the ICAC, show up at his mansion and take him away in irons?  Yeah, right.

Full details here.

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Occupy Hong Kong Winding Down

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I know I’ve picked up a bunch of new readers and Twitter followers due to all my posts during the past ten days of protests here. I expect I’ll lose a lot of them once I return to my standard nonsense shortly. But until then, a few stray thoughts.

I think if nothing else, C.Y. Leung has shown how absolutely inadequate he is for his current job. A smart man might have defused the entire thing by going down to Admiralty on the second day and making a speech. Something along the lines of, “My fellow Hong Kongers. I feel your pain. I empathize with you. But get real. This is China. Full democracy is never going to happen. So let’s sit down together and talk about what is possible. Let’s work together for a better Hong Kong.”

Instead he treated the protesters like terrorists. “I ain’t goin’ down there,” he said, or words to that effect.

People get upset because he doesn’t stand up for the people of Hong Kong. That’s not his job. Mr. 689 was not appointed to represent the people of Hong Kong. He was appointed by China to protect China’s interests in Hong Kong. Let’s face it. His title ain’t Governor, it ain’t Mayor, it’s “Chief Executive.”

I’ve seen Facebook postings and even gotten emails from people complaining about the protests. “How dare they take over the streets! What about my rights? My 20 minute commute to work now takes an hour!” That’s pretty much a direct quote from little self-centered spoiled brats who can’t see further than the tip of their noses. Forget the future and the rights of 7 million people, there’s traffic and I’ve been inconvenienced!

Well, if you want to take that stance, then I’ll say that I want Occupy to go on forever. Since my 307 bus from Tai Po to Wanchai no longer goes to Central, the bus is half empty and I always get a seat in the morning. Coming home, Immigration Tower is now the first stop rather than the 6th. I get a seat going home too – and an empty seat next to me to rest my bag. Yeah, okay, tonight it took the bus almost an hour for just the Causeway Bay leg of the journey, but so what? I got to watch Anthony Bourdain’s Bronx episode of Parts Unknown and the latest episode of Boardwalk Empire. It was a productive ride for me!

Sadly, the U.S. comedy news shows haven’t been doing a great job on their Hong Kong coverage. I didn’t see anything from Jon Stewart. Bill Maher made a vaguely racist joke. John Oliver’s done the best so far, but it was far from his best material and got only a middling reaction from his studio audience. You could say that Hong Kong is just 0.1% of the world’s population and it’s a comparatively small story, especially when you can scare larger numbers of people into watching you by covering ISIS and Ebola. But Hong Kong’s quest for freedom should play right into their agenda and I expected more.

Finally, don’t forget. This is not just about democracy and about voting. This is about the financial inequality that most Hong Kongers feel. This is about a place where half the people have to live in government subsidized 300 square foot flats because they can’t afford anything else, while another huge group is living in 300 square foot shit boxes that they’ve paid millions of HK$ for. The division between the poor and rich is greater here than any other country and most people here are not getting ahead. Treading water is seen as success. And the non-representational government appointed by China is doing nothing about this, because it’s just not part of their agenda.

So this is an expression of frustration on multiple levels. The sad thing is, I don’t think that anything will substantially change as a part of this.  And whoever replaces C.Y. Leung in 2017 (or sooner?)(Regina Ip?) is going to be the same as him or even worse.

Which isn’t to say that people should sit idly by and accept it because you can’t change it. Silence will be taken for complacency and assent. The only rational response is dissent … or packing up and leaving.

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Hong Kong – Dumb and Dumberer

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First, from today’s SCMP:

The police officer who made the controversial call to use tear gas on thousands of Occupy Central demonstrators in Admiralty one week ago today, fuelling unprecedented civil disobedience in Hong Kong, says he has no regrets and would make the same decision again.

The senior superintendent was the commander in charge of the area where tear gas was fired last Sunday afternoon into crowds of pro-democracy supporters that had taken over a major street near government offices.

“I have no regrets. If I hadn’t used it, and they had come through, we could have ended up with seriously injured or worse,” he said, referring to a mass crush in 1992 in Lan Kwai Fong that left 21 people dead.

“If I am in the same situation [again], and there is serious threat to public safety, then I will do the same.”

He said if he had not made the decision, people could have died, as the use of tear gas was solely to prevent mass injuries from a possible stampede if there had been a sudden break in the cordon.

“It wasn’t intended to disperse the crowd … it was intended to stop the charge and make sure there was no crush of people,” he said.

After assessing the situation for several hours and when a group of about 200 protesters became more aggressive in trying to break the police cordon, he said he – and he alone – authorised the officers under his command to use tear gas on the protesters.

“I hope people understand why it was used. It was used to ensure their safety. There was no political motive in this. It comes down to me as the commander on the ground, thinking people are getting seriously hurt and that was why it was done.

After the interview was conducted, police asked that the officer’s name not be disclosed.

I remain unconvinced that this anonymous police officer was the person who gave the order. I think he was ordered to say he gave the order to take the heat off his superiors. Of course I have zero proof of this, I’m just sayin’.

And now, from local blog Dictionary of Politically Incorrect Hong Kong Cantonese comes the dumbest thing you will read all day – if not all year.

A Hong Kong netizen saw the following piece of news while reading Singtao Daily, a pro-Beijing newspaper.

The headline: Bedroom’s Hanging Cabinet Collapsed. Filipina Maid Crushed to Death in Dream

The sub-headline: Because of “Occupy Central”, she died “undeservedly”. School closure makes the maid sleep longer (than she should)

The intro: Yesterday, a tragedy happened in a family in Tseung Kwan O. A 100lb cabinet, which was installed to the ceiling, collapsed as the eight screws that stabilized it became loose. Because of Occupy Central. the maid didn’t need to bring her master to school and was sleeping at that time. She was crushed to become unconscious and later pronounced dead at hospital. The young master who sleeps at the same room suffers no injuries. The family is extremely sad because of her death.

Yeah, that’s right, A newspaper has found a way to blame the death of someone sleeping miles away from any protest on the protest. And bonus! She’s Filipina, so look how unbigoted we are!

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Hong Kong – Where Are the Tycoons & Celebrities

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People are asking why HK’s tycoons and celebrities aren’t speaking up in favor of the democracy protesters. It’s pretty easy to figure out.

The mega-rich in Hong Kong want to continue to do business in China. Hong Kong’s 7 million people – with a large percentage living below the poverty line or earning minimum wage – aren’t a big enough market for them when you compare it to China’s middle and upper classes, which I’m guessing numbers somewhere between half and three quarters of a billion. So they won’t rock their economic boat.

Very few HK movie, TV and music stars have spoken out, Chow Yun Fat and Anthony Wong being two rare exceptions. I’m convinced that most stars are under incredibly restrictive contracts and they won’t risk their livelihoods.  Again, the major media distributors want to distribute their products in China as well as Hong Kong and don’t want to see that market closed, or specific artists banned.

Here’s one exception – Chapman To.

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Chapman To Man Chak yesterday appeared at the Dragon Center to promote his film FLIRTING IN THE AIR. When TVB interviewed him, the host asked Ah Jat to remove his yellow ribbon that showed his support for the movement and upset Ah Jat. Ah Jat immediately broke into foul language and refused to back down. “TVB doesn’t allow people to wear yellow ribbons, crazy.” TVB could only continued the interview. Ah Jat was still angry after the interview, “Air it if you like, don’t air it if you don’t.” 

No idea if TVB aired it or not.

The same article mentions that Wong Jing is wearing a blue ribbon, indicating support for HK’s police and Beijing. It’s probably been close to 20 years since he’s made a movie worth watching.

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