Update from Hemlock

The riveting news this morning consists of a very long list of people you’ve never heard of winning sports you’ve never heard of. Where did these multitudinous variants of contrived physical activities come from? Are they being produced in the same genetic engineering laboratories in China that are manufacturing the mutants who win them all? You know it’s time to head for the office when you find yourself waiting to hear who won the men’s 100 metres synchronized walking backwards.

On the Mid-Levels Escalator near Lyndhurst Terrace, a crowd gathers silently near the top of the steps leading up from the street. It is a grievous sight. A man has hanged himself in such a way as to have a perfect view of the expat housewives being pampered in the Twinkle Nail Emporium and Spa – were he alive and it open. He is himself white and middle aged. A placard around his neck reads ‘Call this a world city???!!!’ A policeman tells me this is the fourth such incident on Hong Kong Island alone in the last three days. Then there have been the mass-slayings in subscription TV centres, where Westerners have gone berserk with meat cleavers.

The dreadful scenario is much the same on every occasion. The guy sits down at home at 3.40am to watch the women’s synchronized formation Greco-Roman wrestling on his 120-inch flat screen TV, only to find that the commentary is in Hong Kong’s vernacular language only. There are several possible courses of action. He could drag his locally born wife out of bed to do a spot of simultaneous interpretation. He could turn the sound down and enjoy the graceful and lithe athletes’ performance in calming silence. Or he could just tough it out and learn the hard way what Huang, Zheng and Qiang sound like in Cantonese. But no. After frenzied jabbing at the remote control, the awful truth dawns on him that there is no English audio channel; maybe the cable company forgot, or couldn’t be bothered, or maybe someone there was bitten by a gwailo as a child and is now wreaking his revenge – yes, that’s the most likely explanation. Something snaps, and we have another grim statistic.

On the subject of tragic wastes, the Standard features a series of photographs showing the Olympic Games’ token Hongkonger, Angel Wong (which is what ‘Huang’ sounds like) apparently springing from a thing called a balance beam onto the ground. (What’s Cantonese for ‘Very nice front tuck half mount, tiny wobble out. Switch side’?)

Except she’s not leaping off it, but on to it, complete with somersault-type interlude in mid-air. Can’t she find a way to use this impressive skill to benefit the community? Maybe the Fire Services Department could employ her to jump onto narrow tree branches to rescue cats. There must be something productive like that for her to do.

Ah hah! Reading between the lines, it seems she is more-or-less Australian and has failed to reach the finals (which makes you wonder what freakish acrobatics her rivals pulled off). Late-night English-language sports commentator to calm suicidal expat TV viewers?


Click to hear Gram Parsons’ ‘Grievous Angel’!


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14 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Bela dons his tracksuit and says:

    McDonalds and Coca Cola provided 2% of the cost of the Olympics but get about 98% of the publicity:


    Not to mention allowing Dow Chemicals, the makers of Agent Orange, which continues to devastate the lives of Vietnamese children, to even sit on a seat, even as one of the hire-a-crowds.

    The best comments are of course by John Pilger:


  2. Spud says:

    I must admit that I unpacked a strange coaxial cable type thing from the cupboard and connected it my TV in the hope that there would be something to watch after all these years. 15 minutes later said cable was put back into the cupboard again for another 4 years, not before I had a chance to gaze upon the latest Freddie weather girl who was quite pleasant but imagine my disappointment when she failed to stutter her way through the script. What on earth is the world coming to when they can find mildly competent presenters?

    Thanks heavens for the new guy doing the Radio 3 sports in the morning, he has restored the piss-poor presenting equilibrium.

  3. Mary Hinge says:

    Not surprised at the Gweilo suicide solutions because what amazes and freaks me out about local Cantonese sports commentary at least for English Premier League football and NBA basketball is that they never stop talking never it’s always high octane delivery without a pause for breath for the whole game no matter how boring the play and even if there’s a break in proceedings or an own goal oh yes never mind any punctuation they just crash ahead in a stream of conciousness style not unlike William Faulkner’s scrambled eggs style writing in Part One of The Sound and The Fury I’ll stop right here because I’ve just remembered that chapter was written from the point of view of a congenital idiot …

  4. Walter De Havilland says:

    On the subject of tragic wastes, I note that Albert HO, aka Jabba the Hut, continues in his legal action to unseat CY despite a High Court Judge rejecting his application for a judicial review. Like Don Quixote tilting against windmills, Jabber presses on in his relentless quest despite the fact that he’s bound to fail. Meanwhile, he is diverting his energy and attention from he real issues that face us in this town. The united front must be laughing behind their hands. With opponents like Jabba, who needs friends.

  5. Big Al says:

    With regard to the female gymnastics competitions, I think that the announcers should (in Cantonese AND English) clearly state the ages of the performers so that we don’t have any illegal thoughts involving their flexibility …

  6. Maugrim says:

    I just hope TVB get rid of Sonia Arterro as a newsreader. Seriously, a Starbucks employee in Tsuen Wan would do less damage to the English language.

  7. Stephen says:


    Sonia Arterro and Jameson Wong – The fecking dream team – and trust me Spud they are a real find !

  8. Claw says:

    The lack of English commentary on iCable is rather strange when both ATV and TVB – who are getting their feed directly from iCable – have it when they switch live to London. Obviously the feed from London comes with English commentary but iCable have chosen not to provide it, even though it is simple to do with NICAM.

    I have watched a bit over the past couple of days (on ATV and TVB), but it is somewhat frustrating as there is a tendency to swap away from one sport to another just when the first is getting interesting. It may be that this is due to the feed supplied from London rather than a decision by the local companies as the local English link men sound frustrated themselves at these switch aways. I won’t be watching any more unless it is a really high profile event which there is a good chance of seeing to the end. Plus, as Hemmers points out, many of the “sports” are not worth watching.

    Mary, you have it spot on !

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Maugrim : Is Sonya Artero the assie twang lady who always talks to to the camera with her face turned half sideways?

    If so I second and third you

  10. Maugrim says:

    RTP no, the Canadian or American who is decidedly uneducated

  11. Real Tax Payer says:

    I actually do like to watch the Olympics, so thank goodness for the joint TVB / ATV free TV ( even though most of it seems to be on TVB)

    But what I cannot understand is the fact that when the live feed periodically goes off to make way for an advert slot, at least HALF the “adverts ” are either stupid government public education spiels (“clean you storm drains before a rainstorm” , “don’t throw your old TV out of the window” etc) or – even more stupid – TVB’s own adverts for what’s on next tuesday at 8.30 PM

    Can anyone please enlighten me ?

    BTW: the same happens whenever TVB ( and or ATV) televise any important event

  12. rory says:

    Or one could always watch the BBC on one’s computer (not that I am suggesting anything of the sort because it may breach copyright etc) by going to a website called ExpatS…….

  13. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Rory

    Please fill in the dots. I love breaching copyright

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