HK to Google: Gafencu

Possibly as punishment for heinous sins committed in a previous life, I get an occasional unsolicited email from a publication called Gafencu. Named either after something trendy in Pinyin or a former Romanian diplomat, it declares itself to be aimed at ‘the most discerning men in Hong Kong and [almost as an afterthought] China’. The photos are stock guys-in-suits-clutching-cocktails/shiny-sports-cars/chandeliers stuff, and the fleeting impression I get when I press ‘delete’ is that of an attempt to produce a hip version of The Tatler. In other words, no-one actually reads it; it’s just there to relieve purveyors of inane junk of their advertising budgets. If it exists in physical form, it hides in shame behind Asian Golfer in dentists’ waiting rooms.

This month’s edition features the last refuge of a publication with no reason to live: a list of people who all deserve to be on a list. In this case, the ‘elite’ ‘movers and shakers’ of Hong Kong. The top 300 of them, no less. Now, it would be possible to draw up several hundred names of prominent figures who contribute to our city. I would have Lufsig the IKEA wolf-doll. I would include, via a bestowal of honorary citizenship, the guy – a possessor of authentic courage, I believe – who thought he could and would wing it as sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. Like this, but worse, and real; hideous and brilliant. And then there would be a parade of the Big Lychee’s unsung heroes, from trouble-makers to cartoonists to 7-Eleven staff, who battle in their own ways against the stupidity and dullness that threaten our civilization.

So I click on the link, and start at the beginning of the alphabet. Up pops a box of head-and-shoulder shots. And the first thing that leaps to my attention is… Ronald Arculli.

As I consign the thing to the trash bin, it feels as though my life has been extended by an extra 30 minutes.

One person in my list of Most Mighty and Magnificent Hongkongers would be the official who didn’t blink when Google asked for freebies in return for expanding its planned data centre here. No doubt Google would have said how popular their search-engine is, and how hip-and-trendy and freedom-loving and stock-price-rocketing the brand is, and how gee-whizz and high-tech such a facility would be. There was a time, under former Chief Executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang, when the government would have spontaneously wet itself with Disney-level excitement and promised Google anything it wanted. Oh, to strut around with such a glorious status symbol and win the admiration of our public and be the envy of deadly rivals like Singapore, Shanghai and Ordos!

A Google data centre is a huge building full of computers. It uses not only vast amounts of space but vast amounts of energy to power and cool the miles of racks of servers. As well as cheap land, a nearby hydro-electric plant offering cheap electricity and water is ideal. Such complexes belong in the Carolinas, Oregon, Chile and Finland. I like to think our newly enlightened, lateral-thinking, gutsy, self-confident official explained to Google that Hong Kong doesn’t have enough space for affordable housing, for old people’s homes, for student dorms, for playgrounds and for its extensive Yakult-for-locusts distribution and supply chain. “We don’t do Google-groveling,” he would have said. “That’s for losers. Do a search for ‘Taiwan, rivers, disused farmland’.” Apparently, we’re supposed to be grief-stricken. Now can we clear out the rest of the taxpayer-subsidized, space-hogging Science and Technology Park?

Click to hear ‘Search for the New Land’ by Lee Morgan!

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18 Responses to HK to Google: Gafencu

  1. Joe blow says:

    How come I have never heard of Marindanpal Bongo ?

  2. Mary Hinge says:

    Had to laugh at the notion of anybody (not just a HK bureaucrat) giving Google the finger by asking them to “do a search …”.

    Nice one, Hemmers.

  3. maugrim says:

    The whole wolf toy thing is hillarious. The handwringers at Ikea have re-named the Chinese name for Lufsig. Long may ‘Lo Mo Sai’ live. You are spot on about Disney. Disney corp still fall about laughing about how they only had to put up 10% of the cost of a business they get 50% of the profits from. A business that they never wanted to put here in the first place but were made an offer they couldn’t refuse. As to Gafencu, I think its time to buy shares in watchmakers, they seem to be doing massive business.

  4. H. Robinson esq says:

    Actually Hemmers, I think you are a little bit unfair on our enlightened civil servants, Cyberia and Google.

    A colleague of mine from the far distant past once had the bright idea to set up a multi-storey pig farm in HK (this was in the days when flatted factories were still in vogue above Boundary St. and breeding pigs in the NT was a considered a ‘good thing’ as way to keep the HYK quiet – after all who wants a SHP with pigs as neighbors ? )

    The mating pairs would gambol on the roof- top pasture in the sunshine, and having conceived the sows move downstairs to give birth. As the baby pigs get fatter they progressively go lower and lower down the building until they are slaughtered on the ground floor which also operates as an open air wet meat market.

    Great fun for dozen or so siring males still on the roof to , but not so much fun for their offspring (gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘food chain’)..

    The pig shit would be collected at every stage and used to fuel a giant bio-generator situated somewhere on the middle floors, thus making the whole building self-sustaining and potentially very profitable.

    Now that idea was conceived in the days when HSBC was considered a tall building in HK. But given that we can now build to over 100 stories and we have cheap solar panels to boot, it’s not too big a stretch of the imagination to build to 150 stories and fit Google’s entire world-wide data storage center in the middle 50 stories, close to the bio-generator.

    Bingo ! Cyberwok has a new birth and that’s one up on Shanghai (not to mention the Ordos) for tallest building in the world

    But if the piglets catch swine disease run wild into the data center it would give a whole new meaning to the term “there’s a bug in my software’.

  5. Ex Tax Payer says:

    You got me interested in Gafencu.

    But it’s not very authoritative re our top 300 movers and shakers because:

    1. Bunny Chan is missing from the list
    2. The editors mistakenly used Big Spender’s pic for Zhenming Chang
    (CITIC group chairman)

    But Maugrim is correct about the luxury watch business

  6. reductio says:

    Sign Language Man – you made my day. Haven’t laughed so much in ages. Everyone was SO serious, talking about Mandela in that sermon style I heard in church when I was a kid. And this guy is just doing some random hand jive talking. Brilliant. No ability but he’s got some balls. Let’s get him over here translating for Wong-yuk Man.

  7. Stephen says:

    The problem with ‘Data Centre Hub’ in leafy Tseung Kwan O is the amount of power these things suck up from those rascals, the Kadoorie’s. Once the legislators get their collective teeth into CLP over its proposed tariff increase then, watch as CLP import more of that lovely ‘cheap as chips’ coal, rather that that nice cleaner gas we were all hoping for.

    Everybody enjoying the fresh air at the moment? Next month we have a nice new index by which to measure what we all know it’s doing to our lungs. Great progress Christine, maybe you should form a committee? I’m sure Ron Arculli, Ms. Piggy Cha and Bunny would join.

  8. Sid says:

    Heath, Sounds fun, but ecological heat dissipation from the computers need high ceilings, low rises and windows, all anathema to the Planning Department.

  9. @reductio – perhaps the William Tell Overture is also on the programme!

  10. Oneleggoalie says:

    …told you it was a hottt funeral…

    …next up..Africans in White Face pretending they can’t dance…

    …Bono and Bill doing…Under My Skin…

    …remember when Brian K. threatened Christine…look who’s getting raped now…

  11. David Webb says:

    Actually it was in the space-hogging Tsueng Kwan O Industrial Estate, not the space-hogging Science and Technology Park – but they are both under the same interventionist body, the HK Science and Technology Parks Corp, which dishes out the land for nominal cost to selected winners, including Government-controlled monopoly HKEx for its data centre.

  12. H. Robinson esq says:

    @ Sid

    Instead of building up, we could dig down 150 stories…. and very wide.

    Lots of roof spaces for the mating pigs to gambol mate ( and plenty of room among them for Wang Yuk-man* as well, hoping the pig sires don’t mistake him for a sow) Put the computers below on the G/F .

    This would also partially fulfill Jake van der Kamp’s vision of the ultimate GDP-increasing project ever : a tunnel to Australia.

    *Has it ever occurred to gentle readers how appropriate his name is ? “Yuk” as in yeeuuch ( = ugh) ! and “man” as in just “Man”.

  13. Ex Tax Payer says:

    @ reductio : That’s why it’s pronounced: “I- Gaffe – Encore “

  14. Spud says:

    To borrow from Eric Morecambe perhaps hand sign hero was “making all the right moves, but not necessarily in the right order”

    p.s. Google, the airport is that way.

  15. Stuart says:

    Did google buy the land? lease it for 50 years? maybe they cashed in and pocketed the profit from the raising cost of the land.

    And what i want to know is: who is #301?

  16. Probably says:

    Leases on the land in TKO are only until the end of the 50 year ‘1 country, 2 systems’ blx. Then it will be like subject just like any other mainland land grab which is probably why they pulled out of the deal without any ultimate security of tenure.

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