Where every day is April 1

On this day many years ago, a tabloid newspaper in the UK reported new rules from Brussels requiring British children to eat worms as part of compulsory standardized Euro-school lunches. Enough parents and kids believed it and panicked – no doubt at the thought of having to consume anything natural and nutritious – before they checked the date.

In this part of the world, such a finely finessed balance of the plausible and the surreal leads to nothing but trouble, like Xinhua’s problems with The Onion. In order to avoid such misunderstandings, writers of spoofs have to be clumsily obvious to the extent that the result is either awkward and embarrassing, or appears to be some sort of typographical slip-up (voila, I presume). But then, the news is so insane the other 364 days of the year, we don’t need April 1.

Today, we are invited to believe that slightly over half of Hong Kong secondary students do not suffer defective mental health. In a city where three-year-olds recite their nine-times-table while being carried to playgroup (witnessed yesterday on the Mid-Levels Escalator), all kids are likely to be suicidal, psychotic misfits by their mid-teens. The survey mentioned here is, I suspect, a subtle attempt at propaganda (Come to Sunny Hong Kong, Where Half Our Kids Are Sane – Honest!)

And then we have the inevitable Your Tax Dollars At Work story. The Hong Kong Police want to hire loads of expensive lawyers to appeal a court decision denying them the power to bar homosexuals from dancing. OK – you can, hypothetically of course, make an argument that gays are tedious and whiny, and things were simpler when they were in the closet, and the idea of anyone sharing a bed with Elton John is sort of stomach-churning. But please, prioritize: we’re up to our ears in illegally parked cars, and then you’ve got vendors blocking sidewalks, and welders showering the street with sparks, and dogs defecating on beaches, and a hundred other anti-social nuisances to get through before stamping out the Great Waltzing Lesbians Menace. I would have thought.

Just received one of Maxims’ delicious and succulent Last-Day-In-The-Office Cakes with a ‘free, no extra charge’ do-not-eat-this-card card wedged in the icing.

Among the tragic victims of the Festival Walk flood disaster: Estee Lauder’s moisturizer got wet.

And then we have the gratuitous shoe-shine du jour, of which the Standard always has several. Sing Tao publisher Siu Sai-wo regales readers with the latest extremely important person he has hung out with in an extremely famous and glamorous place. In Wong Chuk Hang. It’s Justin Chiu, boss at Cheung Kong, who is pushing aging industrial properties down there in Aberdeen. Why would he share this exclusive inside tip with the great unwashed, I wonder? Could it be that that Cheung Kong is sitting on a load of old factory buildings in Southern District, and the Lands Department are demanding too high a premium to convert the area to residential use, and if they wait too long it’ll get rezoned for hospitals or old people’s homes, so why not dump units on gullible speculators who aren’t satisfied with their dozen car-parking spaces, the way another part of Li Ka-shing’s empire managed to offload a chunk of Watson’s on Singapore’s Temasek? I have no idea. Maybe he’s just a nice guy wanting us all to have a share in Hong Kong’s ever-rising real estate.

Which brings us back to the British, who, as I say, do these April 1 joke stories so well. From the Telegraph’s Roger Bootle…

…people are encouraged to believe in “money for nothing”. As house prices go up, they are led to believe that as a society we are richer and yet if no new assets are produced, clearly we are no richer at all. On the contrary, we would be richer if a prolonged and pronounced building boom caused house prices to fall.

…[it is] the result of a massive failure of public policy: tight control of building land and massive subsidies to home-ownership, combined with a lax immigration policy. I am not saying that each of these is necessarily wrong but the combination of the three has been catastrophic – wasting resources, distorting the economy, leading to misery and frustration for millions of people and diverting their energies into the zero-sum game of climbing the housing ladder.

For a few seconds, I thought he was serious.

Amazing discovery update: chucked that bit away, and for the first time ever I had a Maxim’s cake that didn’t taste like cardboard!

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