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March 2005
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I was slightly puzzled by this story from Associated Press on The Guardian website, headlined Next Hong Kong Leader to Serve Five Years.  The story, of course says "two years rather than five".

Fumier has a long and sensible post complaining that the SCMP and Standard have misrepresented the Law Society's position on whether the government was right to ask Beijing to interpret Article 46 of the Basic Law.  I won't summarize what he has written, so you'll have to read it yourself.

I have only one other thing to say about this fiasco, and it is this.  When the story of Mr Tung's impending resignation first emerged, one of the early concerns was apparently that Beijing would install Donald Tsang for a 5 year term before the existing Election Committee was disbanded.  Tsang bad, 5 year term bad, apparently.  Then it turned out that Tsang was the good guy, and a 5 year term was really what we wanted.  Well, I'm glad we got that one sorted out. 

Didn't they used to call it Copydex?

Damn Mr Neil Buchanan and his wretched Art Attack program with its attractive and "easy to make" models of tropical islands and fantasy castles and diaries with pictures of parrots of them.  I've had to buy your book and subscribe to the Disney Channel and even try to make the model of a tropical island using cardboard, newspaper and PVA glue.  By the way, I have to tell you that the cling film looks rubbish, and the best way to create the vague impression of waves is to use PVA glue.

So, yes, it's time to welcome back Now Broadband TV into the Ordinary Gweilo household (only way to get the Disney Channel, you see).  The new decoder box is smaller, there are more channels, and I can record stuff (which other people claimed I could do before, but honestly I couldn't).  On the other hand, I have to say that BBC Prime is fairly poor stuff - old sitcoms, old drama series, old quiz shows, old chat shows, but it's only HK$35 per month.  Mind you, Fashion TV for HK$6 a month might be a better proposition.          

Down under

I was half-watching a few minutes of a quiz show on ABC Asia-Pacific this week, and one of the categories was "English Queens".

The question was "which of the following tracks was not on Yellow Brick Road?  Candle in the Wind, Bennie & the Jets and Daniel".


No spaces

This week The Observer had a piece about the problems of parking in the UK:

Already eight in ten cars driving through urban streets are not heading to a destination, but instead are manned by drivers roaming in search of somewhere to park, according to research released by the RAC last week.

I'm not sure about that, but there's an interesting contrast with Hong Kong.  There is very little street parking in Hong Kong, and virtually all of it is meter-controlled from early morning to late at night.  So almost everyone has to pay to park their car, either by the hour, day, week, or month, or by buying or renting their own parking space (there are a few villages with their own car park, but that's about it).  Very few employers (apart from some schools and colleges) provide free parking for anyone but the most senior executives.  Free parking in shopping centres is available for a short time if you spend enough money.

So free parking - in the street outside your home, in a car park where you work, or even at the nearest supermarket - is not something that anyone in Hong Kong would expect.  Yet it's quite normal in the UK and most other countries, though you have to wonder how long that can continue.  More car parking can be made available, but at a price:

Cavernous car parks beneath congested urban centres are being looked at by several companies. Officials at the British Parking Association have examined the northern Italian town of Cesena, where underground self-parking technology is used to automatically park vehicles underground. It takes on average 50 seconds for motorists to retrieve their car.

Underground car parks are common in Hong Kong and in some cities in Europe, but not yet in the UK.  The problem of ventilation makes the idea of automated parking quite attractive, and as a bonus it takes away the frustrating experience of driving around a car park hunting for a space.  Not common in Hong Kong, though, as far as I know.

If you ask me (which people rarely do), the Hong Kong approach is the best one - make parking expensive, public transport good (and cheap), and taxis plentiful and not too expensive.  Then people don't buy cars.  Problem solved.

Four more

More Hong Kong blogs that other people have come across.  By a strange coincidence, all four bloggers seem to be female, and two are teachers.

New Territories is from a teacher at the Chinese University near Sha Tin.  Appears to be an American.

Pulled in many directions Thoughts of a kindergarten teacher in Hong Kong, again apparently an American.  She notes that her probation period has been extended by two months, which probably isn't a very encouraging sign!!

Present Perfect is quite entertaining, so presumably the author is not an American.

Also, Madame Chiang, which I only just noticed, though she does already link to me.  Also worth a look, and apparently Scottish!!

Meanwhile, Simon appears to have installed a dozen or so hyperactive bloggers for the week that he is away, and each is writing 2 or 3 posts every day.  I struggle to read what Simon normally churns out, and I certainly can't keep up with these guys!   

Odd one out

Richard Branson's Quest for the Best is quite the strangest thing I've watched on TV since, er, well, whenever I last watched a light entertainment show on TVB Jade.

The idea is that a group of people are competing for a job. Richard Branson's job as President of Virgin. Well, if you believe that, you'll believe anything!

It has a certain similarity to "The Apprentice" (and of course TVB Pearl has been showing "Quest for the Best" between the 2nd and 3rd series of "The Apprentice"), but the challenges here are much more physical. The two shows seem to be very much in the image of their two stars. Donald Trump is primarily a property developer and 'The Apprentice' is basically a contest to find someone who could survive (an maybe even thrive) in the corporate jungle. Branson, on the other hand, seemed to be trying to find some who could survive in a real jungle, though later shows have been a bit more cerebral, and fortunately it is isn't all about flying upside down in aeroplanes or jumping into canyons (attached to a safety rope, of course).

Trump plays up his image as a tough businessman throughout the show, whereas Branson is here to promote his image as an amiable old hippy who does crazy things. So, while Trump seems to relish firing contestants, Branson obviously finds this rather awkward. At the appropriate point he delivers a short speech praising and criticising the two contestants and then hands each an envelope containing a ticket (one to go home and one to the next destination). Then he joins the surviving contestants on the plane and is his normal affable self again. The show would be better if they could let Branson be himself throughout, possibly by delegating the decision-making to someone else. At least in week four there was no decision to be made - one contestant fell asleep and was eaten by the lions. Oh, hang on, this is American TV - he was fine, of course.

Continue reading "Odd one out" »

Addicted to email

Email is bad for you.  A new UK study, reported in Friday’s Guardian, comes to this unsurprising conclusion:

Respondents' minds were all over the place as they faced new questions and challenges every time an email dropped into their inbox. Productivity at work was damaged and the effect on staff who could not resist trying to juggle new messages with existing work was the equivalent, over a day, to the loss of a night's sleep.

Continue reading "Addicted to email" »


Apparently Fumier is a fan of the light entertainment show on TVB Jade on Sunday nights (sorry, I don't know its name).  The most bizarre segment is some sort of quiz, wherein the penalty for a wrong answer is that your chair is sent flying backwards, a folding umbrella is thrown at you, and then water starts pouring down.  Hilariously, the umbrellas often have large holes in them, so even if the starlets catch them, they still get wet.

Remember that this is prime time entertainment on the most popular channel in Hong Kong, not something on an obscure cable channel.  Many (many) years ago, "It's a Knockout" was popular on British television, but it was dropped by the BBC more than twenty years ago.  Oh, and there was "Tiswas", but that was ostensibly for children (though very popular with students) and it was on a Saturday morning, not prime-time, and also more than 20 years ago.   

Ah, yes, Sally James.  For Monsieur Fumier, it's the wet t-shirt aspect that seems to appeal, but this is TVB Jade (not OTT), so disappointment is surely the order of the day.  Which leaves us with what exactly?  Not much, I fear.

Well, there always Shooting Stars on BBC Prime, I suppose.      

The big yellow blog

It's tempting fate to write this, I know, but has George* thrown in the towel?  The site doesn't seem to have been updated for several weeks.

The funny thing is that this seems to coincide with the absence of the comments from the army of people who find Ordinary Gweilo very boring.  I wonder if by any chance they are related?


* and his large team of helpers, obviously.  I wouldn't want to suggest that it was all his own work

Broken Dreams by Tom Bower

Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football

This is a frustrating book. Unfortunately Tom Bower’s previous experience as an investigative journalist isn’t enough to overcome his lack of knowledge about professional football. He has built his reputation writing about a series of famous people, and has usually managed to uncover information that his subjects would rather have keep quiet.  Most famously, his book about Robert Maxwell proved a bit too close to the mark, and as a result was only widely available after the tycoon’s death removed the threat of legal action.  Subsequently he has turned his attention to other subjects including Mohamed Fayed, Richard Branson and Gordon Brown. 

Bower‘s problem here is not a lack of material, but rather the fact that he is obviously not a football fan, and so his attempts to put all the dodgy stuff into context falls rather flat.  This could easily have remedied by getting the manuscript checked by someone who knew something about football, but no-one seems to have bothered to do that.  There are countless references to players and matches that betray Bower’s basic lack of knowledge and interest in the game itself.  The problem is that these are not throwaway lines, but are used to support the arguments he is putting forward, and so when he obviously doesn’t understand why a particular player might command a high transfer fee you wonder how much else in the book is based on incorrect assumptions.  Given this problem, Bower would have been far better to stick to unpicking the deals and skullduggery, and left football fans to draw their own conclusions about whether players were over-priced (which, in any case, is almost always a matter of opinion). 

The second problem for me (and, I suspect, many other football fans) is that I have no illusions about the professional game, so this book certainly didn’t shatter them.  Perhaps Bower was surprised by what he discovered, but I’m afraid I wasn’t – I was already very cynical about football and was already aware (at least in general terms) of what was going on. 

Continue reading "Broken Dreams by Tom Bower" »