Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The X Fools

Maybe it's just a reflection of how I browse the online newspapers, but I'm getting the distinct impression that Ghosts and UFOs are suddenly in fashion in the media. If you remember back in January there was the mystery of the wind turbine that suffered damage on the same night mysterious lights were spotted flying in the vicinity. Then there was the news reports like this one of UFOs being photographed over London and other reports that seem to suggest that UFO sightings over Britain have been rather frequent as of late.

And if little green men (why are they always green? When was the last time you saw a film that showed aliens as being green?) are not your cup of tea you can always read about photos of ghosts. Apparently for example King James V has been spotted at a castle. Or for another example a ghost of a lady dressed in Victorian-era clothes has been caught by Google Street View. But when I went to see for myself on Google I was slightly disappointed to see that it was just a photo of a blurred lady who's wearing a coat, a scarf and something on her head, who did NOT seem to be hovering and to be honest, seemed to be waving for a bus. My spine singularly failed to be even slightly chilled.

And now today I've spotted yet another article, but this time claiming that Google Street View has spotted UFOs over Bethnal Green.

So what's going on then? Well here are a few theories off the top of my head.

1. Aliens and Ghosts do exist and they got together in a conference somewhere (probably next to a large Travelodge in proximity to Max Clifford's house) to decide now it was time to come clean and prove their existence.

2. What with the world's economy going through tough times the newspaper editors of the world decided to get together to take our mind off things. During World War 2 the Russian Communist Government relaxed their control on the Church to allow an outlet from the sufferings of war. So now? Don't worry if you've lost your job, your money and your house, we've found the ghost of a dead Scottish king and we've spotted aliens flying over the bookies in the East End.

3. It's all a scam by Google Street View to generate publicity for their new service. Look, it's a photo of a woman wearing a coat and scarf and hat in an area notorious for murders more than a century ago. Gotta be a ghost, hasn't it!?!?

4. It's a competition between different newspapers to out-do each other in the "odd news items" stakes. In the same way banks were competing with each other to find new and innovative ways of lending more and more money to people who didn't have a chance of paying it back; newspapers are competing to find more strange and innovative news articles to pull in readers who don't have a chance of taking them seriously.

5. Maybe it's just me and I'm imaging it all. Everything, including this blog is just a figment of my imagination.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cold Burger

OK, so the press don't seem to tire of giving us more stories about the economy, or lack of one.

According to this article, things are so bad that some people in China are trying to live on a little as 100RMB a week, which we are told is equivalent to £10 a week. This is probably slightly misleading, because the RMB to GBP exchange rate tells us nothing about the cost of living in China where on the one hand you could spend 2RMB (20p) on a large bowl of wonton noodles in a local suburban noodle shop, or 35RMB (£3.50) on a cup of Latte from Starbucks.

It's rather telling of spending habits in China that, according to the article, people have downgrade their quality of life from buying Louis Vuitton bags, to switching off the heating and going straight to bed with an electric blanket.

So nothing too extreme then.....

And obviously "luxury food items" such as McDonalds and KFC Chicken are now also off the gourmet menus. I'm surprised people have not decided to look in bins for half-eaten buns or half-finished cups of coffee. If it was from Starbucks it could be exchanged for 4 bowls of Wonton....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

You sunk my battleship!

Sometimes the ways of the world get too much for me and I'd rather I just went back to being a child where my only problems were hours of homework, forced lessons to learn the hated violin and racial abuse from ignorant English classmates.

Hang on, maybe adulthood is better.

That said, my mind is playing ping-pong in the latest Eastenders-Ricky-and-Bianca-style-relationship between People's Republic "Red Dragon" China (boo, hiss) and the United States "Clawed Eagle" America (erm, boo, hiss).

In yesterday's paper we read that the US are to send warships to the South China Sea because the Chinese Navy have been harrasssing and behaving menacing towards unarmed American ships. Well naughty China, you're once again showing your true colours as a menace to world peace aren't you? But hold on, China are saying that the unarmed US ship was a spy ship performing surveillance on Chinese military activity and bases. That's not very nice is it Uncle Sam? And even worse they were only 75 miles from the Chinese coast and in Chinese waters.

Well once again Uncle Sam is throwing his weight around the world thinking it can do whatever it wants, right? But no the Americans say, they were in international waters, and they don't recognise Chinese claims on waters that are also being claimed by other countries in the immediate vicinity such as Vietnam and the Phillipines.

So, after all, it's Red China just trying to claw more territory to add to its growing empire of yellow peril, right? And by trying to bully an unarmed US vessel in disputed waters is just a little test of the new president's toughness, given the reputation of Democrats of being weak on the international stage. Well that's one opinion being expressed in the comments section of the article I read. Mind you other comments there talked about full-scale war between the two countries.

But hang on, would China send a surveillance craft into the disputed waters 75 miles off the coast of, say, Cape Canaveral without expecting some kind of a response?

You say tomato, I say tomato, with every little new piece of information I receive the whole situation gets turned upside-down again. Maybe I should go back to school and start all over again....

Monday, March 9, 2009

Rock 'n Roll, baby!

Over here in "The West" there is a great tradition of famous figures in the music business living the Rock and Roll lifestyle; the drugs, the sex, the general over-indulgence, and just all-round wacky behaviour. Ever since the 1950s there has been a blossoming of creativity in the musical realm that stems from living life on the edge and pushing the boundaries of culture. Elvis swayed his hips in '56, The Beatles grew their hair long and sang about drugs in the '60s. David Bowie decided to dress like, erm David Bowie in the '70s and sang about Spacemen. And the Rolling Stones continue to live their Rock 'n Roll lifestyle up to the present day whilst continuing to play sell-out concerts.

And now Michael Jackson is making a comeback. With his fake hair, fake nose and (probably) fake skin, is there anyone who is more wacko in the world? And has anyone sold more records than Thriller?

Now let's look to "The East". In the music industry over there, which artists do we have who truly innovate, who truly live their lives in the spirit of Rock 'n Roll and who record music that makes them feel good, as opposed to music that's already been tried and tested by Phil Collins and will sell the most copies to Mr and Mrs 2.4 children?

It's a pretty common opinion that with its huge population and resources the future is in The East, and we're now looking at China with hopeful eyes to be able to save the world's economy.

But forget that for a game of soldiers, when are we going to see a Chinese artist who is truly Rock 'n Roll to shine a light and kiss the sky of popular music? I fear we Chinese people are nothing more than cannon fodder for law school, medical college and IT courses.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Desperate times (History of 2008 part 2)

And so Bank of England interest rates have been reduced yet again, this time to 0.5%. And critics say such a dramatic measure leaves no room for future action. I'm no economics professor but this says to me that the Bank of England thinks we are facing desparate economic times that require desperate measures. To say that this leaves little room for manoevre is like saying that pumping water from the Thames to fight fires during the 1940 London Blitz leaves no more water for future fire-fighting.

And as if that was not enough, it seems that the BOE is now also creating money to the tune of £75 billion (although we are informed, this does not actually mean they will be physically printing the stuff out).

One problem with the cut in interest rates is that it was intended to allow banks to lend more money to the man in the street; so that small businesses can continue to run and keep people employed and first-time buyers can buy houses. However this is not happening because the banks are probably in more trouble than anybody realises.

So let's go back to bare-bone basics: the government needs to get people to spend money and to get people working again. Off the top of my head how about this?

Rather than pumping money into banks, the government spends this cash on employing more people. What could they do? Well, what needs doing? We need to clean up the country, improve policing, improve social care, improve teaching standards. Hey, how about manning the presses and printing out more money?

Also the government could just give money to people, (and I don't mean failed bankers who want to retire at 50). How about vouchers that can only be redeemed by spending it on the high street?

If we truly are in desperate times, as 0.5% interest rates suggest, then maybe we need radical innovative solutions?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

People you'd rather not meet

I could have sworn last week was some important Iron Maiden anniversary, or that she had passed away, but irrespective of the reasons, there seemed to have been a sudden mini-epidemic of Thatcher-related drama programmes on the television last week.

I have to say I immensely enjoyed watching Margaret, the BBC2 drama based on the final days of Margaret Thatcher's premiership. Of course it was a dramatisation liberally sprinkled with artistic license and artfully placed flashbacks (used to such great effect in Godfather Part 2). As well as enjoying it on the level of a Greek Tragedy (not that I've ever, erm, seen a Greek Tragedy) it was good to see characters from another era at their scheming and machiavellian worst. Of course no-one knows how much of the cloak-and-dagger was real and how much of it was magnified and embellished for our "viewing pleasure".

However on the comfy sofa of my relatively stress-free life it was amusing in a strange way to see people choosing to enter a career and lifestyle that involves working with people who are possibly holding a supporting hand or dagger against your back. There are a few unpleasant people in the world I've had the misfortune to meet, but luckily I've been able to steer a fairly clear path in my life that has limited my meeting them to the bare minimum.

Our current Prime Minister seems to be one of these people, if I read between the lines in the newspapers correctly. He doesn't seem to have any particular reputation for being a nice guy (not that I'm saying any previous Prime Ministers are particularly decent, genuine or amiable people) but I do remember reading somewhere that he was particularly horrible to people from the "Blair Camp" when he still Chancellor and impatiently waiting for the Prime Minister's job he deemed the world owed him.

Now it seems that President Obama doesn't like him that much either. The dual press-conference that would have shown Gordon and Barrack side-by-side facing the world's media (sorry, the world's press) has been cancelled due to snow in the Rose Garden.

Strangely no-one thought of rescheduling in some alternative venue. I don't know, I'm not an old political hand or anything, but how about somewhere ... indoors??? Or is it some trans-atlantic political joke about our own great British ability to not let a bit of snow stop everything from grinding to a halt?

In the shadowy world of politics image and protocol seems to be very important, though of course you'd never hear a politician openly admit this. But such a major snub sheds some light on what our Barack really thinks of Gordon. However on the other hand he is the first EU leader to meet the new president, so maybe it's a case of mixed signals that can be interpreted either way as deemed convenient in future.

That's not behaviour I'd expect from a politician!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The sweet smell of recession

Hey, after hours of painstaking searches I've finally found a story related with the recession. Yippee!!!

The Oriental Aroma Chinese restaurant in Wiltshire is paying customers £1 per head to eat at their establishment. Yes, that's right you get to eat their food and you leave with extra money in your pocket. Only, that's not quite true because you only get your £1 if you spend £5 on drinks (that's probably only 2 drinks then that would have only cost the business about £1.50 from the wholesaler)

I wonder what Wonders of the East are on offer at this fine dining establishment then? Fresh Lobster in Ginger and Spring Onion? Succulently Steamed Abalone? Jasmine-smoked free-range Roast Goose.......? Or maybe fried noodles with a hint of beansprout, dried fried rice and tiny specks of meat deep fried in huge ball of batter served in a sauce that would surely glow in the dark if you turned the lights off (actually, the article does not state if the restaurant has lights on and whether you have to bring your own torches to actually see the food)

To be fair to the restaurant it does appear to have regular customers and so maybe serves decent-enough food. Maybe the owner has a bit of savings in the bank and figured this was a good way to generate positive publicity for his business. Well he's certainly generated great publicity for himself, if the national newspapers are carrying the story. I can see other businesses in trouble trying the same tack. Bank offers to lend money to people buying houses with no job and no deposit, maybe?

(and why exactly do NINJAs need to live in houses if they're supposed to be so tough???)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What makes me laugh and what doesn't, part 1

I've been meaning to write more personal articles on this blog, but seem to keep finding too much inspiration from current affairs, so here goes.

As you might have figured out from my blog, I'm a person who likes to look at everything in the world from a light-hearted or humorous point of view. If Jews make such great comedians and the Chinese are supposed to be the Jews of the East (y'know, mass migration and encountering discrimination and reputation for business acumen etc etc) then why aren't there more funny Chinese people about?

So this is a quick entry to describe what it is in British mainstream media that I find funny and what I don't find funny.

FUNNY: Father Ted

It's hard to define why I like Father Ted so much. It contains lot of surreal moments and juxtapositions of things that should not go together (Priests on the Eurosong competition singing about a "lovely horse") but also more realistic observations (such as the couple who run a shop who hate-each-others-guts but pretend to be lovey-dovey in front of Father Ted.)

It also treads a very thin line between outright criticism of the Catholic Church (corrupt and domineering Bishop Brennan, protests against a blasphemous film that Ted actually wants to watch) and complete silliness (erm, see Father Dougal). One of my favourite episodes is the one where Father Ted keeps mistakenly giving the impression he's a racist and a fascist in front of the local Chinese community and the scene where he's standing behind a bit of dirt on a window that makes him look like Hitler giving a rallying speech is just brilliant.

And like all good comedy shows, they knew when to stop. (See Fawlty Towers, the Office, don't see any of the Absolutely Fabulous episodes after the '90s)

UNFUNNY: Little Britain

To brand Little Britain totally unfunny is a bit unkind because there are lots of good ideas and funny situations on show. However, I can't help but feel that the scriptwriters are on auto-pilot here. Let's find something funny and then repeat the sketch over and over again and milk it for what we can.

So we have the pushchair couple at the park, the pushchair couple on a speedboat, the pushchair couple at a swimming pool (you get the gist), all basically telling one joke that the guy in the chair is not really disabled, but his lisping carer does not know this. Ha ha?

So why is it so popular?

Monday, February 23, 2009

It's plane wrong .... Shirley

Northern RBS Airlines cabin crew working in their nose-diving aircraft have complained that the state-owned aircraft sent up to rescue them did not contain enough bonus cushions on their seats.

Northern RBS Airlines planes began losing altitude at an alarming rate from above 160,000 feet last year. Consequently, and in an unprecedented move, RAF Hercules transporter planes were immediately scrambled to rescue them and to avoid crashes into major residential areas of Britain that would have resulted in the biggest loss of peacetime civilian life since the 1930s.

One pilot purred "we've been working really hard sitting at the controls at all hours pushing the plane to fly higher and higher. For the government to take away our bonus cushions and making us sit on just normal seats is just scandalous."

To address this issue Prime Minister Gordon Brown is now introducing legislation banning airlines from attempting to fly aircraft beyond the earth's atmosphere (where there's no gases or oxygen of any kind,... altogether!)

Pure genius....

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mrs Clinton you're trying to...

Overheard at the the US Secretary of State's hotel in Beijing. Conversation with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao

(A Simon and Garfunkel CD seems to be playing in the background)

Mrs. Clinton : Jiabao?

Bao : Yes?

Mrs. Clinton : Will you come over here a minute?

Bao : Over there? Sure.

Mrs. Clinton : Would you like to be friends of the US now? I think we'd make good partners. (nods and winks towards a soft red leather briefcase of US T-bills on her queen-sized bed)

Bao : Oh. Well, goodnight.

Mrs. Clinton : Won't you open the briefcase?

Bao : I'd rather not, Mrs. Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton : If you still think I'm trying to -

Bao : No, I don't. But I just feel a little funny.

Mrs. Clinton : What are you so scared of?

Bao : I'm not scared, Mrs. Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton : Then why do you keep running away?

Bao : Because you're going to bed. I don't think I should be up here.

Mrs. Clinton : Haven't you ever seen a US Treasury bill in the flesh before?

Bao : Yes, I have. But I just - Look - what if some pro-Tibet or human rights prostesters walked in right now?

Mrs. Clinton : What if they did?

Bao : Well, it would look pretty funny, wouldn't it? Me and you in a bedroom and a red briefcase full of.....

Mrs. Clinton : Don't you think they would trust us together?

Bao : Of course they would. But they might get the wrong idea. Anyone might.

Mrs. Clinton : I don't see why. I'm already married to a former humans-right pressurising US president. How could anyone think -

Bao : But they would! Don't you see?

Mrs. Clinton : Jiabao, we're not trying to seduce you.

Bao : I know that. But please, Mrs. Clinton. This is difficult for me.

Mrs. Clinton : Would you like me to seduce you?

Bao : What?

Mrs. Clinton : Is that what you're trying to tell me?

Bao : I'm going home now. I apologize for what I said. I hope you can forget it. But I'm going home right now.

Mrs. Clinton : Jiabao?

Bao : Yes?

Mrs. Clinton : Will you bring up my worthless shares in Lehman Brothers before you go? They're in my handbag.

Bao : I have to go. Sorry.

Mrs. Clinton : I really don't want to put on my big overcoat again. Won't you bring it up?

Bao : Where is it?

Mrs. Clinton : On the table next to the US budget report. The one in heavy red ink.

(sound of feet on steps)

Bao : Mrs. Clinton?

Mrs. Clinton : I'm in the bathroom.

Bao : Here is the handbag.

Mrs. Clinton : Would you bring it up?

Bao : Well, I'll hand it to you. Come to the railing and I'll hand it up.

Mrs. Clinton : Jiabao, I am getting pretty tired of all this suspicion. Now if you won't do me a simple favor I don't know what.

(more footsteps)

Bao : I'm putting it on the top step.

Mrs. Clinton : For God's sake, Jiabao, will you stop acting that way and bring me the handbag?

Bao : I'm putting it here by the door.

Mrs. Clinton : Will you bring it in to me?

Bao : I'd rather not.

Mrs. Clinton : All right. Put it in Alistair Darling's room where we were. Next to the large barrel of hair bleach.

Bao : Right.

(more footsteps and then other footsteps and a door slams)

Ben : Oh God. Oh, let me out.

Mrs. Clinton : Don't be nervous.

Bao : Get away from that door.

Mrs. Clinton : I want to say something first.

Bao : Jesus Christ.

Mrs. Clinton : Jiabao, I want you to know that in these times of economic difficutly the US is available to you, and if you won't let us pretend to be your temporary allies this time ... we'll still conveniently descend from the moral high ground for a bit of your cash. Now, would you like to buy some more T-bills in exchange for....

(bugging device suddenly interrupted by excess steam in room)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hillary's underused overcoat

And so Hillary Clinton, the new US Presi-, the new US Secretary of State arrives for her first visit in her new capacity to Beijing and is given a state reception complete with sniper fi-, complete with red and blue flags and lights according to this blog on the BBC news website

(now don't you wish you had studied harder at school and become an important person who gets Red And Blue Flags And Lights welcoming you at airports? When I arrive somewhere by plane I have to navigate an arrivals hall clogged with numerous overweight taxi drivers who've been holding a mucky whiteboard in one hand and a half-eaten donut on the other)

One thing that struck me about this blogger's observation was the "Overcoat Etiquette" on display. Very important this, apparently. If an arriving dignitary appears on the airport tarmac not wearing too much clothing this makes the visiting VIP more vigorous looking, apparently, and possibly more menacing ready to strike the negotiating table running (if you could possibly imagine running on a table, or a negotiating table at that.... I wonder if they sell them in IKEA?)

Our mis-speaking Hillary though actually decides to be sensible and wear an overcoat, not because she wants to appear weak, but because it's cold in Beijing (and bullet-proof vests can be more easily hidden, in case those pesky snipers return).

Which makes you really thankful Hillary is a woman of practicality whose next stop is not some sun-baked equitorial island ruled by an aggresive dictator: I'm not sure I want to see Hillary Clinton arriving in a bikini (or even Obama in just his Y-fronts, if I'm totally honest)

Monday, February 2, 2009


Taken from the BBC News website today

As Mr Wen arrived to deliver the speech, he was met by both pro-Chinese supporters and people demonstrating against China's human rights record in its own country and in Tibet.

Interesting to be able to read between the lines that the person writing the article believes that Tibet is a separate country from China. So much for impartiality.

Compare this to what my learned friend Madam Miaow observed. UK Government policy on Tibet.

I still don't know what I feel on the topic on Tibet myself, but I certainly don't feel many of things I read in the West or in China are totally unbiased.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Happy Tibetan New Year...obviously!!!

Yet more Tibetan shenanigans in the papers today. Chinese Premier Wen Jia Bao visits the UK and so the Free Tibet campaign get on their feet to exercise their right to protest. And then the Pro Chinese camp decide to get on their feet to exercise their right to voice their opinions. And then the police decide to get on their feet and sort out the ensuing kerfuffle. And I get on my feet and go for a walk because I've decided these kinds of events are getting just too samey.

So far so simple and so predictable, but however this quote by a Tibetan on the Telegraph somehow puzzled me:

Tibetan Ugyan Norbu ... criticised media coverage of the Chinese New Year pointing out that the Tibetan's New Year starts on a different date but is not marked in Britain in the same way.

He said: "It's either ignorance or bias either way it is very careless and does not show any respect to the growing number of Tibetans living in this country and the British people who believe in Free Tibet."

He has a point. I'm going to sit down and write a severely snotty letter to those red-flag-waving, Communist-lovers at Blue Peter lambasting them for always talking about Chinese New Year every year and shunning Losar, the Tibetan New Year for what can only be interpreted as political bias for a new generation.

Why I'm so annoyed by this I'm going to dig out my old Blue Peter badge and burn it in protest. And I hope both Shep and Goldie's remains rot in hell (or whatever the Tibetans regard as their equivalent to Hell, downtown Beijing maybe??? No jokes about about the dietary preferences of certain Chinese please...)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

History of 2008, Part 1

I really remember my first week at secondary school very well. Every first lesson we had was basically a very high-level discussion on what that particular subject was really all about. I rememeber discussing "What is Geography?" in my first Geography class, and we had very long discussion in History about what was the difference between History and News, because both essentially perform the same task of documenting "what was in the past".

Now that I am a bit older, and looking back on that discussion,what distinguishes "History" from "News" for me (apart from scope of coverage) is the context that History provides. So to provide a very crude example

News: Neville Chamberlain has managed to negotiate peace with Hitler.

History: Oh No He Hasn't!

Neville Chamberlain: Oh Yes I Have!

Adolf Hitler: I will go down in history as the greatest German leader

History: Erm.....

Which is why I still don't want to say too much about 2008 yet, even though I truly believe this was a year that will truly go down in history for so many reasons. What I can say though was that it was the year of one important first: the first black President of the USA.

Let's have a look at some other years and important firsts.

1783: First hot air balloon

1865: Slavery illegal in US

1903: First powered flight

1928: UK women achieve equal voting rights

1962: First man in space
1963: First woman in space
1969: First man on the moon
1979: First UK woman Prime Minister

2008: First black elected US President

Do you notice something about that list above (apart from the fact it's terribly formatted and therefore totally dull and uninspiring? zzzzz) Do you see how over the past 100 or so years human achievement seems to be accelerating at an ever greater and dizzier rate? If this increased acceleration continues unabated then what great achievements are awaiting us around the corner and within our lifetimes?

2016: First woman US President

2020: First Chinese man on the moon
2021: First black woman (with learning difficulties) on the moon
2030: First woman US President to score a hole-in-one on Mars

2050: World peace and a cure for all illnesses
2051: China and Taiwan top leaders agree to meet each other

Don't all rush off to Corals at once.....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chinglish, Franglais, and Globish

Chinglish, Franglais and Globish. No, they're not a family of characters from a J.R.R. Tolkein novel (along with younger brother Singlish)

They're all...well, they're dialects/languages that have evolved from a combination of relatively "purer" forms of language. But the English "language" is itself of course a combination of Germanic tongues, Vulgar Latin and bits of herbs and spices like Viking thrown in for fun.

Which really goes to show that what we think of as "languages", which are analysed and neatly categorised in authoritative textbooks, are nothing more than the current status du jour of the continuing evolutions in the noises that eminate from out of our mouths when we want to say something. And when even the French are finally admitting this, then you know it really is true! For example even in La Belle France they're calling their markets "markets" instead of "marche".

In Hong Kong I'm always fascinated to hear people, especially those with a bit of education behing them, converse in what is essentially a form of Cantonese but where every other noun or adjective is basically an English word (but pronounced with an inescapable Cantonese twang, so "cute" becomes "Q"). Well I've always welcomed this, not least because it means I can communicate with Hong Kongers even more effectively, but I always had a nagging doubt that maybe they were just trying to impress each other in how much English they knew (and therefore how educated and advanced they were)

But if the French are now adding English words to their languages (effectively downgrading their tongue into a mongrel, and one that's distinctly been infected with les fleas anglaises) then we know that surely it is only a matter of time before English invades every known "language" in the word.

Oh well, c'est la vie. Plus ca change plus c'est la meme.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


So now we have it, America has its first African-American President. For blacks in America - sorry, African Americans - and even blacks all over the world - sorry Afro-Carribeans - this will be a red letter day to beat all red letter days. Dark crimson, surely, or some deep and luxurious red that Dulux would probably charge £200 a tin for (that's $1.05 in US dollars)

Whilst I cannot deny that this a great day for mankind and especially ethnic minorities all over the world, I cannot help but feel that we are all being swept into a huge euphoria that must die down at some point, after which the problems of the world will unfortunately still be with us. The inauguration of Barack Obama reminds me of the euphoria the day Tony Blair walked into Downing Street, and in some strange ways to the collective public emotional bonding that the death of Diana triggered (though a different kind of emotion, of course). In both cases we were all swept up and seduced in the heat of the occasion, but what happened the morning after?

Don't get me wrong, it's great that a people who were once slaves, second class citizens and segregated only a generation ago now have one of their own in the White House, but in my own opinion this is not so much how great America and the World is now, but rather a sad reflection and reminder of what mankind was capable of in the past.

By the way, well done Obama, and the best of luck :-) GR8! LOL!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Prince and the P word

A serious posting for once.

I've just been listening to a radio phone-in program where on the one hand a number of listeners (who were probably almost entirely not Asian) were saying that Prince Harry's use of the P word to describe an asian colleague in the army was not insulting nor racist and the whole affair had been blown out of proportion, whilst on the other hand a number of Asian people were saying this was an extremely derogatory and racist word being used by a member of the royal family and it scandalous that is has happened.

I myself am a Chinese person living in Britain, and I'm not particularly bothered if someone uses the term "chinky" in my direction. That however does not mean I think the word is not insulting onr racist; that is just a reflection of how personally sensitive I am to that word. And I am only one Chinese person.

This is surely stating the obvious but the people who should decide if a word is racist, derogatory and insulting or not should be the people on the receiving end. If they deem it to be racist and derogatory then IT IS. Just because some black people have reclaimed the 'N' word does not give everyone else in the universe (especially members of the royal family who supposedly have been given the best education in the world) carte blanche to use what terms they think are acceptable to describe peoples of other ethnic origins. The prince has issued an apology, and whether it was sincere or not is something only Harry knows himself.

However people of Britain who want to defend the guy, dismiss this whole thing as "banter" and think this whole affair has been blown out of proportion do not know what it is like to be on the receiving end of vicious racist abuse.

Friday, January 2, 2009

That was the year that was ... 2008

Well, it's a dead cert that 2008 is going to go down in the history books as something of a watershed, something that can only be said of only a handful of years since WWII. Let's see, there's 1963, 1973, 1981, 1989, 1997 and now 2008. But what makes a watershed year a watershed year, (and what exactly is a watershed? Personally I find wood makes a much better material for shed construction, more likely to stay, erm, solid). It's hard to put down a recipe if you want to make your own watershed year a la Blue Peter, but a good start would be some of the following ingredients

1. Big changes in politics and government
2. Change of direction in the economic wind
3. Big changes in fashion, music or popular culture
4. The passing away or emergence of an iconic personality

So let's quickly whizz through those watersheds.


Beatlemania is born, but more importantly four lads from Liverpool, it can be said without hype or exaggeration, irreversibly change and influence the path of modern popular music. Profumo scandal brings down long-serving Tory government (and produces world's sexiest photo involving a chair, phwoar!!! But enough about that...)


Oil crisis gives the world a wake-up call that energy is neither cheap nor forever, and as a result teenagers suddenly decided that they like Glam Rock and singers like, erm, Gary Glitter. Somehow somewhat not so "phwoar", unfortunately...


A bit of a minor watershed, I have to admit on a global level, but for Britain the Falklands War revives Margaret Thatcher's political fortunes and properly kick-start Thatcherism (with a capital T), the 80s (with a capital 8 and no apostrophe) and the decade of the Yuppy (with a capital W).


Oh nothing much happened in this year did it? I mean only the beginning of the end of Communism as we know it, the fall of the Berlin Wall and a reverse-domino effect leading eventually to the break-up of the Soviet Union. However Communism survived in China despite Tiananmen Square, or did it......?


A bit of a biggie this one, if one blonde woman did not make 1981 a big year, then another blonde woman certainly made 1997 a really big year. Hong Kong was returned to China, Deng Xiaoping passed away, Tony Blair swept the Tories out of power, and most importantly of all, the Spice Girls hit their peak and, it can be said with total hype and exaggeration, forever changed popular music as we know it. OK well they certainly invented the phrase "girl power", not even Lennon and McCartney influenced language in that way, unless you count "yeah, yeah, yeah". Finally, Diana's death caused the world to react in a way that no-one could have predicted. What on earth made so many people mourn her in such a way they did? Maybe we'll have to wait a little more before we can properly analyse that one.


It's impossible to say how exactly 2008 will be remembered until 2009 has finished and the events that recently unfolded finally reach some kind of conclusion. However economic disaster, runs on banks, collapses of banks, unprecented actions by governments to pump money into banks, and the start of what is either a recession or a depression is key to figure. It's been so gloomy people resorted to watching Mamma Mia at the cinema to try to take their mind off it. Now that IS serious......