Thursday, July 28, 2005

China defending the indefensible

Despite having comprehensively trashed the whole idea of blogging yesterday, or more specifically my own trite efforts at it, I am compelled to create another entry today about China's despicable decision to back the Mugabe regime (in its own wider geopolitical, that is to say economic, interests of course). Hu Jintao welcomed Mugabe this week and he's been feted as an old friend. How they must be laughing in the slums of Harare:,3604,1537346,00.html
Surely this is the wrong way for China to consolidate its position as a world power. I doubt Donald Tsang will be making any statements about this, though.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blogging makes nothing happen

For poetry makes nothing happen
It survives in the valley of its own making
A way of happening, a mouth.
W.H. Auden, from In Memory of W.B. Yeats

As I lay awake last night at 3am thinking about the futility of blogging (as you do), the lines from this poem sprang to mind. I don't think he's saying it as literally as I was thinking it: in fact poetry has its own validity even if it makes nothing happen, and by having its own validity it makes something happen even if it's just to raise the question of its own validity. Blogging, on the other hand, despite, or rather clearly because of, my efforts in this blog, is a competely futile activity.

The other line that came to mind is, of course, a misappropriation of the John Cage line at the top of this page: "I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is blogging".

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Back of the net!

Alan Partridge: "I'm a national broadcaster trapped in the body of regional discjockey, and there are no operations that can cure that, at least not on the National Health."
The scripts from the first series painstakingly transcribed here:

The logic of the suicide bomber

An article from, of all things, The American Conservative, who interview Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago. His book on suicide terrorism, Dying to Win, is based on his research in compiling the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. He says that "The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland". Amongst other things, he points out in his book that suicidde terrorism actually originated in Sri Lanka, with the Tamil Tigers, rather than being a Muslim phenomenon.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Slamming the wasps from the pure apple of truth

The script for the very first episode of The Day Today:

Those are the headlines. Happy now?
Very puzzled by the odd behaviour of the Brazilian who ended up being shot in the head five times on a London tube train in banal Stockwell station. But also wondering about the plainclothes police who killed him. Some questions:
  • why was Jean Charles wearing a puffa jacket in summer?
  • if they were so sure he was a bomber, why didn't they kill him as soon as he got on the bus?
  • why didn't he stop when they challenged him?
  • why do you need to shoot to kill when you've got someone immobilised on the ground?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Two steps to heaven

Lo - these beautiful Pedro Garcia shoes would last me about five minutes between the kicked-over glass of red wine and Hong Kong's rainy season:

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Classic Go Fug Yourself

On Kelly Osbourne:
And my favourite, ever, on Britney Spears:

Batman Begins

Even the giggling couple beside us in a near-empty, over-air-conditioned Hong Kong cinema were silenced by the sheer epic scale and grand design of the Batman prequel, Batman Begins.

Chritsian Bale, again demonstrating that he never puts a foot wrong, is an exemplary Batman. He has a reassuring dollop of human frailty – the fear of bats that has haunted him since childhood along with the searing memory of his parents’ murder and the doubt and uncertainty about whether his father was right not to resist their attacker with force - and he effortlessly becomes the indolent billionaire Bruce Wayne, buying a hotel with a contemptuous curl of the lip so he can “swim” in the ornamental pool with his pretty bimbos, belying the integrity and power of his alter ego, but never much more than a graceful step away.

Street scenes in the rapidly-decaying Gotham City were reminiscent of the city alleyways in Blade Runner , and would also seem strangely familiar to anyone who has visited Shanghai with its mixture of old and new and cramped alleyways packed with scooters, people and neon; and there was a very futuristic feel about this film. The epithet “dark” has been applied to the point of cliché, but it’s certainly true that the film literally has a quality of darkness about it, underground as well as overground.

Christian Bale occupied the film completely, and the screen when he was on it, but was ably supported by a cast of what seemed to be mainly British and Irish support actors: Michael Caine, playing Wayne’s butler with aplomb, but very much in line with expectations (you almost expected him to say “You’re Batman, and not a lot of people know that!”), Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, using his piercing blue eyes to startlingly evil effect as the deranged Dr Crane; Tom Wilkinson, strange accent and all, playing the mobster Carmine Falcone; Gary Oldman as nerdy “good” cop Jim Gordon; Linus Roache as Bruce’s gentle, noble father. The only really crass inclusion was Katie Holmes as a ridiculously young assistant DA – a completely wrong piece of casting which was presumably intended to bring in the numbers. It surely wasn't needed; and the other actors more than compensate for her insipid performance.

What does the enemy want? - A balanced view

By Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian today:
"So Iraq is central. But it is not the whole story. For, as Taylor [Peter Taylor, the veteran documentary film-maker who spent decades studying Northern Irish terrorism] explains, al-Qaida is not like Eta or the IRA - organisations with a clear, single goal. It is not simply a troops-out movement, demanding nothing more than a withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq and justice for the Palestinians. It is not the armed wing of the Stop the War Coalition.
Its aims are rather different. Central to its ideology is the reintroduction of the caliphate, an Islamic state governed by sharia law that would stretch across all formerly Muslim lands, taking in Spain, Morocco, north Africa, Albania, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, as well as Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Plenty on the left tend to skim over this stuff, dismissing it as weird, obscurantist nonsense - and imagining it as somehow secondary to al-Qaida's anti-imperialist mission.
That's a big mistake. For it is this animating idea which helps to explain al-Qaida actions that otherwise make no sense.",3604,1531997,00.html

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Life or something like it

Life, just off the escalator on Staunton Street, is SoHo's first organic vegetarian cafe. As soon as you walk through the door the smell that assails you is that worthy wholemeal smell so reminiscent, for me, of my childhood: the smell of wholefood stores and the Salisbury Centre in Edinburgh, home-cooked food, grains and pulses. Yet somehow the interior design has managed to avoid the wholefood clichés: there's a clean, pared down feel and the overall atmosphere is one of peaceful contemplation.

The food, on the other hand, does not manage to avoid the trap of being rather too worthy for its own good. After a delicious, if rather disturbingly named juice entitled "Reanimator" (a mix of ginger and citrus fruits intended to combat colds) I opted for the risotto of the day. This was made with very chunky, nutty wholegrain rice, piled in the middle of the plate and surrounded by a small moat of sauce made from squash, and adorned with two large, unsubtle hunks of steamed bak choi. After a few mouthfuls I not only felt full, I started to resent what was left on my plate not only because it wasn't particularly tasty, but also because it was hard going. The squash sauce had no seasoning and the rice didn't have enough differentiation of flavour to be interesting.

There is an interesting range of organic wine (to my knowledge this is one of the very few places in Hong Kong where there is an entirely organic wine list) and we shared a bottle of Australian merlot which despite beginning with promisingly plummy overtones, began to taste unaccountably bitter after the first glass. The service was friendly, though not particularly on the ball.

Noble intentions could be matched by a bit more subtlety in execution.

Life Cafe, 10 Shelley Street, SoHo, tel. 2810 9777

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What does the enemy want?

Two interesting articles with opposing views on whether or not the invasion of Iraq was the root cause of last week's bombings in London:
Seumas Milne argues that to ignore the link to the Iraq invasion is to insult the dead: "We can't of course be sure of the exact balance of motivations that drove four young suicide bombers to strike last Thursday, but we can be certain that the bloodbath unleashed by Bush and Blair in Iraq - where a 7/7 takes place every day - was at the very least one of them. What they did was not "home grown", but driven by a worldwide anger at US-led domination and occupation of Muslim countries".,16141,1528127,00.html
Nick Cohen says that "it's a parochial line of reasoning to suppose that all bad, or all good, comes from the West - and a racist one to boot. The unavoidable consequence is that you must refuse to support democrats, liberals, feminists and socialists in the Arab world and Iran who are the victims of Islamism in its Sunni and Shia guises because you are too compromised to condemn their persecutors".,5673,1525260,00.html

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The White Stone of Lewis

Do not attempt
to lift the white stone.
It is smooth quartzite
and weighs a lifetime.

You would prove your back
could take the strain:
brave, ambitious
you can handle any challenge.

But other strengths are more sustaining:
able to change and take changes
lift old habits from heavy soil
get to grips with the smooth surface
of self deception.

Let others do the heaving and shoving
who shoulder burdens they cannot manage
and set their sights on defeating others
in pointless shows of strength.

You carry the stone with you:
crystal with hope
light with humour
smooth with complete integrity.

Tessa Ransford

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

No pollution in Hong Kong today

This is the view from my office window ( a very poor PDA photo, sorry).

Due to the pollution pouring down the Pearl River Delta from the (frequently Hong Kong-owned) factories of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, you rarely get a view as good as this. I stand and look at all the buildings as if seeing them clearly for the first time in a while, which of course is apposite.

Eye know