Archive | June, 2012

Hong Kong TV is rubbish

27 Jun

tv setI sometimes catch myself longing for the good old days. I know everyone does but it always comes as a bit of a surprise as I was adamant at the time I bloody hated it. The days when Geordies formed the creative heart of our nearly teams in Italia 90 and Euro 96; when summers in the garden lasted forever; when tea was always on the table when you got back from school; and, quite frankly, when life was something that would probably take shape once all the laughing had finally stopped…

Back then I watched an inordinate amount of telly, due in no small part to there being no internet, and therefore no internet porn, available, and the remembrance of TV shows is usually all it takes to kick-start another nostalgia fest. I especially loved the public service adverts of the 70s and early 80s.

As Charlie Brooker has pretty much dissected these to within an inch of their lives I won’t revisit old ground, suffice as to say these sometimes sinister, sometimes hilarious pieces of inter-programme fluff were the backdrop to my early yoof. They have pretty much disappeared from our screens in the UK, aside from the odd warning on Scotch TV about indulging in too much offal, heroin and Buckfast, but the same is most definitely not true in Hong Kong.

Now I hate to use the term ‘Nanny State’, but the public service adds here do a disservice to the intelligence of the public. I cannot imagine, for example, why one should need reminding about leaking air conditioning units, illegal ‘temporary structures’, the dangers of letting your kids watch TV unaccompanied by an adult, or why everyone should THINK TWICE before “authorising others to handle their London gold account”. Even an ad warning of the dangers of ketamine – possibly valid – ends up straying into hilarity as the kids who takes the evil horse tranquiliser is depicted wetting himself on a merry-go-round. Brilliant.

Other broadcasting gems include one ad purporting to show parents the right way to pay for their child’s education – ie not to a dodgy looking geezer claiming to represent a school you’ve never heard of and carrying a bag marked ‘swag’. Or how about that old classic, unlicensed columbaria fraudsters? Yes, apparently part-time crims are lying in wait at your local cemetery to sell you plots to place your dear departed’s ashes which are not theirs to sell. Seriously. There is a TV ad for this!

Being as I have the cheapest TV package available, I am treated to the wonders of Pearl and ATV here in Hong Kong, which means re-reruns of Desperate Housewives and CSI interspersed with desperately bad Chinese shows translated into halting English such as Ramble Round the Southern Guangdong Green Way, or, one for the kids, Ming the Minibus. And Monday night wouldn’t be the same without Korean Hour, sponsored by the Korean Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry. Bring it on.

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Tony the Lionheart nearly nabbed in the Honkers

22 Jun

blair the war criminalSometimes things happen in Hong Kong, not often mind you, that are so wonderfully bizarre you can almost forgive the ubiquitous French bankers, flying, thumb-sized cockroaches and, well, Lan Kwai Fong.

Such an occasion occurred last Thursday, when a blogger, activist and local, Tom Grundy, attempted a citizen’s arrest of Tony Blair as he took the stage at Hong Kong University.

It was probably the most polite and peaceful citizen’s arrest attempt you’re ever likely to see, but fair play to him for trying. As Grundy explains in his blog, Tony the Lionheart was about to begin spouting his usual torrent of egotistical, self-righteous claptrap to the assembled masses, this time with a focus on faith and the part it has played in his life.

Presumably Blair’s approach to faith goes a little something like this:

TB: So, God. Ya’know, I’ve been talking to George and we really think, ya’know, that it would be for the best if we invaded Iraq.

God: Well, that doesn’t sound very Christian Tony. I mean, I’m pretty much over all that angry Old Testament stuff now. What have they done to you?

TB: Well, we think there might be some weapons an’ that, cos, ya’know, it’s pretty obvious that there’s a bad egg in charge there and….well, I just wanted to let ya know, anyway. Good talking. Kthanksbye.

God: Tony? Tony? TONY!!!

Anyway, take a look at the video to see the Blair Tit Project squirm, ever so slightly, before regaining his composure and spouting some drivel about how “that’s democracy for ya folks” and “I’m pretty used to this sort of thing”.

Minor footnote. If “this sort of thing” is getting pretty common nowadays, maybe it’s time to start thinking about getting a decent lawyer mate.

I personally am looking forward to the day that Teflon Tony is forced into Polanski-style exile from the West. Even though he probably couldn’t care less if a few countries put out arrest warrants for him, at least it would limit the number of places he can take his preachy, after-dinner speaking road-show.

Welcome to China, where angry gay men abuse their wives

15 Jun

anti-gay protestorsI’ve just spotted this curious little China Daily article from a couple of months back. Can’t remember how. I think someone tweeted a link to it – that’s usually how it starts. Anyway, the report detailed in the piece reveals an astounding stat: there could be as many as 16 million women married to gay men in China. Or to put it another way, there could be 16 million gay Chinese men living what I believe is technically called ‘a lie’.

Wowzers. How did the Qindao university professor who arrived at the figure, er, arrive at the figure, you may ask? Well, we don’t know because the Daily chooses not to tell us. But we can probably trust him because he is, after all, a “leading expert”. It just turns out that it’s not in the complex socio-sexual lifestyles of gay Chinese men, it’s in HIV and AIDS. Hmmm. Considering hacks can now be struck off and imprisoned in China for reporting stories not fully grounded in truth or reality, one the face of it this would seems a pretty risky piece.

Now I’m not disputing the stat. In fact, I find it eminently believable that in China, where homosexuality is not illegal anymore (since 1997) but is more than just a little frowned upon, there are a lot of unhappy men who feel they have been coerced by societal/family pressure into marrying birds.

If you’re in any doubt about the prevailing Chinese attitude towards homosexuality, have a closer read of the piece, which concentrates for the most part of the plight of the poor wifies.

“Most gay men’s wives I’ve known are silently suffering at the hands of husbands who couldnever love them, and like me, some even got abused by husbands who were also under greatpressure,” says the ex-wife of a gay man. Hmmm, seems a slightly extreme example to put in the story.

Then there’s Mr professor who is quoted as saying “their wives are struggling to cope and their plight should be recognised.”

Not the most balanced piece in the world. But then again this is China, where homosexuality is viewed for the most part as something decadent foreigners do.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Party began briefing journalists that gay men represent a threat to social order and a potential national security risk. Imagine if they found their way into the PLA? We all know the gays can’t shoot straight.

China Daily saves the best till last with the poignant vignette of gay student Wang Zi (not his real name, but a fantastically chosen one by the paper).

Wang says he will never tell his folks about his sexual orientation.

“I may marry a lesbian and we can keep going with our own lifestyle more honestly,” he adds.

More honestly? Blimey.

June 4 – why they’ll never forget

9 Jun

victoria park candelight

(Pic: Associated Press)

There are some things in Hong Kong which, every so often, take your breath away. A clear day from the Peak, sunset over Wu Kai Sha, a dog wearing booties and sunglasses. Even for a cynical old bastard like me, last Monday’s June 4 memorial gathering in Victoria Park for the fallen of Tiananmen was pretty special.

It took us about 30 minutes to get the few hundred yards from Causeway Bay MTR to the park. The route was loud and boisterous, campaigners shook banners with angry zeal, rattled collection boxes and pressed pamphlets into our hands. I concentrated mainly on not having my sandaled feet stomped on in the crush and shielding my ears from the incessant barrage of the loud speakers.

By the time we got to the park, it was already full to bursting as dusk descended on another hot, sticky Hong Kong night, just as it had done 23 years previously. Then, of course, the troops had already entered Tiananmen Square, on the orders of leader Deng Xiaoping, who told them to clear the area of student democracy protestors at all costs. The army was told the students were trying to destroy China, and in a way they were, for the ideas they promoted could never co-exist with the Communist Party in its current form. The state-sanctioned killings continued well beyond the square, though, as dissidents all over the capital and the country were arrested and purged – maybe thousands in all.

All Hong Kongers could do was sit and watch on in horror, helpless. And the same is true today.

We didn’t understand much of what was being said, but words weren’t really necessary to explain the sea of 180,000 candles flickering defiantly under the full moon.  Names of the dead were read out; there were chants of, “June 4. Never Forget!”; and survivors of 1989 spoke in cracked voices – most notably wheelchair-bound Fang Zheng, whose legs were crushed by a PLA tank.

“Seeing this sea of light I’m so shocked, I don’t know what to say – anyway, saying anything is unnecessary – because your actions have already said everything,” he said.

“You haven’t forgotten what happened 23 years ago.”

We take democracy for granted in the West. Not even more than a third of Londoners could be bothered to turn out to directly elect their mayor a month ago. Here in Hong Kong, where we all live in such prosperity and comfort, where human rights are protected and we are free to come and go as we please, only half of the legislature is directly elected by the people and, crucially, the CEO is not. Democracy is still in its infancy here, and people are passionate about it.

That’s why Monday’s vigil was not just about remembering June 4 and those that died in trying to turn China into a better place; and not just about campaigning for the Party to loosen its censorship of the event and finally acknowledge what happened. It was more than that. It was about 100,000 ordinary people showing that once democracy has taken root it is impossible to supress. It’s not ideal, but what goes on across the border is far worse.

It’s a very modern world

1 Jun

will smith men in blackI studied a bit of critical theory at university. Didn’t much like it at the time although since have found it a great way of sounding intelligent at parties and intellectualising blog posts about Hollywood movies (I’m getting there…). To that end, did you hear the one about the Chinese censors who chopped chunks out of Men In Black 3 deemed unsuitable for the local cinema-going audience?

Yeah, it’s not all about online censorship you know? Sometimes Chinese citizens are also cheated out of literally minutes of priceless movie because of a few over-zealous snippers.  In said film, the censors’ gripe was primarily with the scenes in which the strong, effortlessly cool and assured American heroes subdue some angry looking Chinese alien baddies. Apparently it makes the People’s Republic look bad so it had to go.

The Party has decide to act, as usual, in that half-patronising, half-sinister manner we’ve come to know  and love – like Tony Blair but he knows where you live – whilst wrongly assuming that a film like Men In Black is likely to inspire social disorder. It hasn’t stopped the government before, though, cutting Chow Yun-fat’s nasty pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean and even finding offence with some of the Karate Kid. A call to arms for society these pics are not…

It’s not quite on the same scale of mass social harm meted out via the Great Firewall, of course, but you get the picture.

Oh yeah, my particular favourite story in all this is the scene that was cut which depicts Will Smith’s character ‘neuralyzing’ a street full of gawping Chinese passers-by to wipe their memories. Too redolent of the Chinese government’s own more subtle attempts to control the thoughts of its citizens, apparently. If there’s one thing the Party hates it’s when people draw attention to the fact that it’s censoring content – I can imagine how emasculating that must be for an authoritarian regime.

Chinese censors censoring a film because it might tip off the public that it is involved in mass censorship? This is definitely post post-postmodernism….