As if he doesn’t have enough burdens, on at least several occasions each week, the purchaser of the South China Morning Post receives a heavy glossy supplement of some sort, typically promoting a line of ugly luxury clothing or some preposterously named housing development next to a landfill somewhere. These extravagantly produced, full-colour publications go straight into the nearest bin. The old woman who picks it out for recycling is happy; the company that thought people would read it is none the wiser; the SCMP advertising sales team get their bonus.
I’ve just heard that the glossy thing that comes with the paper every Thursday isn’t supposed to be thrown away. It’s called 48 Hours and has the slogan ‘Your guide to the weekend’ (it has movie and concert listings at the back). It also says ‘Complimentary copy’, which suggests that at some point, when we have become addicted to it, they will publish it as a separate entity and expect us to pay for the thing. I am reliably informed that its mission is to ‘kill’ the Hong Kong edition of Time Out magazine. As if to prove its editorial determination in this regard, this week’s issue has an extensive, in-depth, searching feature on pizzas.
The SCMP recently confirmed that it has bought HK, the cheerful free listings magazine that makes up for lack of bulk by carrying Dan Savage’s extreme and un-put-downable ‘Savage Love’ agony aunt column. Does the rather chaotic BC free magazine still exist? Either way, the SCMP has made a cramped market even more crowded, and acquired a big chunk of it at the same time. Either they are happy to cannibalize the local English-medium lifestyle mag scene to bits, or they are planning to scrap one of (or merge) HK and 48 Hours – even if they succeed in slaughtering poor old Time Out (which at least had the guts to run the ultimate rant about our local tycoons).
While HK and Time Out have usually dabbled a bit in weightier content, 48 Hours seems totally devoted to trivia/arts/food. So any consolidation of the market could in theory lead to a slight reduction in the amount of more-or-less serious writing floating around – but not so much that you’ll probably see much difference. A paranoid would see this as an attempt by aging Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok’s family to monopolize local English media in order to brainwash us all into loving the motherland more. More likely, the younger Kuoks want to turn this troublesome little bit of their empire into a more productive asset, either to keep or sell on.
And anyway, there’s always the Harbour Times! So far, the libertarian publication seems to be taking compulsive-ideological articles from US pro-market/anti-tax quasi-think-tanks and adding a few paragraphs on Hong Kong to them. A bit of humour or just plain free-thinking would be nice, but hey – it’s more interesting than pizza.
And we always have books! I’m currently on Forgotten Souls by Patricia Lim. Yet another history of the horrors that were the 19th Century colonial Big Lychee, but with the added twist that the main characters are buried in Hong Kong Cemetery. Apparently, people in those days were obsessed with silly titles like Justice of the Peace and judged one another simply by their raw wealth…
…I can’t imagine what it must have been like.
With all the eager and gleeful anticipation of a million schoolchildren awaiting the reflating of the giant rubber duck, I declare the three-day weekend open.
The great thing about someone who has achieved nirvana is that you don’t have to get them a birthday present.