The week starts shuddering to a chaotic halt with everything happening at once.
All those rich, lengthy obituaries for Thailand’s King Bhumipol – they have a slight remoteness about them, as if he is already a distant memory. That’s partly because they were written so long, long ago, and have been dusted off in a hurry. The South China Morning Post gives its a black border, presumably in recognition of Beijing’s appreciation of the friendless junta’s constructive approach to panda-hugging.
So now… The likely heir is by many accounts a detested philandering thug who gave his poodle Fufu a senior rank in the Air Force. The country’s government is an incapable and absurdly intolerant military regime. The underlying social/political/economic divisions are scary – the elite’s automatic contempt for the poor masses makes Hong Kong’s leaders look like extreme egalitarians. Or, as the SCMP puts it, ‘the start of a new era’.
Thailand could end up challenging the Philippines for the hotly contested Worst Governance in Southeast Asia Award. But does Bob Dylan deserve a Nobel Prize for Literature? Do these verses (try and ignore the melody, if you know the song) count as poetry? My interpretation of this is that the Nobel Globally Important Institution Inc are feeling the heat from emerging-market competition – Hong Kong tycoons alone, shamelessly seeking to emulate Alfred’s immortality and reflected glory, have in recent years founded the Shaw and Lui Che-woo Awards for Amazingly Brilliant Genius.
After upsetting China by giving Liu Xiaobo the Peace Prize, the Nobel people tried to kiss and make up to the panda-with-hurt-feelings by giving the Literature award to the semi-obscure Mo Yan. This tarnished the brand among its traditional Western audience, so they are now trying to restore their reputation by honouring the hip and trendy American bard – perhaps over-compensating in the process, but in a well-meaning Scandinavian way.
On the subject of the panda and its easily offended sensitivity – Hong Kong’s government finally lapses into the cliché.
Newly elected young radical lawmakers used the swearing-in ceremony to scurrilously promote localist views on Wednesday. While entertaining, and indeed highlighting the principles their voters supported, the new legislators will need to be careful in the long run. Officials will do all they can to portray them as vandals, money-wasters and troublemakers who make life worse for the public. As filibusterers have found, some of this mud can stick.
Still, it is early days, and for now the government comes across as defensive. The official press release goes into righteous-huff mode and whines that the new legislators ‘harmed the feelings of our compatriots’ (Chinese version here).
Although the wording does not specify location, it arguably implies or subliminally suggests that the countrymen whose sensibilities have been injured are Mainlanders. With 1.3 billion over there and only 7 million in Hong Kong, certainly most of them are. The point is that the press release does not claim that the young radicals’ theatrics have upset Hongkongers as such. I declare the weekend open with the thought that there is something (if unwittingly) profound and telling in this omission, no?
As if these new legislators have not already made it abundantly clear that they regard “picking your battles” and “there is a time and place for everything” as rank cowardice. They are the little boy who shouts that the Emperor has no clothes at every opportunity and never, ever shuts up about it.
How can one temptingly NOT poke a stick at the CCP or HKSARs governments? The outcome is too easy and predictable.
Why do these utter morons (the above governments) ALWAYS fall into the trap of needing to respond and respond in the usual pompous, idiotic and patronizing way??? TOOOOOOOO easy!!
The Bob Dylan award confirms it.
We are at the fag end of History.
We are now both obviously eligible for 0ne of the Bauhinia Stars or Medals. Naturally I have the better claim but will put in a good word for you. Does it come with money, a pension, slap-up meals?
“It’s the end of an era for Thailand – but also the beginning of a new one”. That is a very incisive headline, capturing the essence of the situation as it unfolds. Something may very well happen causing headwinds in the future, unless something else happens so that those headwinds don’t happen before they would have happened without those things happening.
Surprised to hear about the award to Bob Dylan (and his previous nomination), but then again, several of his songs are on my regular playlist.
“There may be writers who conjure the ache of lost love with more precision, who use metaphor more skillfully to express political outrage, who tell allegorical tales with more interesting imagery, who are better at expressing joy and who exhibit more insight about regret. But no one does it all better than Bob Dylan.”
Eric Zorn September 30, 1997 from “Change of Subject with Eric Zorn”, Column: Just 19 years too late, Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize Chicago Tribune, October 13, 2016
I am happy about the Dylan award. (Donald Tsang would say ‘Die-lan’ and what does that say about Donald ?).
JD Salinger sold 65,000,000 copies of Catcher in the Rye, and still sells 1,000,000 copies a year, every year.
Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ was reviewed by the NY Times the moment it was published and they instantly declared it a masterwork.
How about it then, Alfred ?
I was with some Thai friends in the place where they worked. The walls of a hall were hung with royal portraits. They told me that one of the kings was known as the Father of Thai Medicine or whatever, and another, who had predicted an eclipse, was the Father of Thai Astronomy.
“If our ancestors were so great,” one of them said, “why are we like this?”
It is ironic to note that whilst he’s been a member of LegCo for 12 years and is in his 4th term, getting the Presidency with 38 votes is the first time Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen has ever actually been elected to a public office.
Must make old 689 a little jealous: 38 votes in 12 years & 4 terms. No way is 689 in the running for the Nobel Prize for Subverting Democracy now…
If the heir to the Thai throne once made a poodle into a high-ranking officer, that poodle probably did a lot less damage than most high-ranking officers. So I look forward to a new era of royal wisdom in Thailand.
A Chinese girl, an English boy,
Not knowing what they did,
Somehow got together
And even had a kid.
By 1997, he
Had grown into the most
On the China coast.
When the father left, he gave
His son a leaving present:
A nifty little model
Of a parliament.
Perhaps a rather measly gift,
Just a starter kit.
He hoped that it would grow
Larger, bit by bit.
Honestly, I have to say,
If he did believe
That would happen, he was
Ostensibly elected, the Council’s
Rules are subtly bent:
Do not represent.
The new-elected Council met
A couple of days ago:
Farce and sound and fury,
A histrionic show.
The President, newly chosen, switched
From dad’s to mother’s side
Just last week, and maybe
Youthful trouble-makers with
An independent air
Had to take an oath.
They refused to swear.
Democratic members, asked
To answer no or yes
Ripped their ballot papers,
Made a bloody mess.
The English father, getting old,
Sees what’s said and done.
“I wish I could disown
My disappointing son.”
The Chinese mother, ever young,
Gives her hair a toss.
“I never really liked him.
I was always boss.”
Bob Dylan hip and trendy? The man has spent most of his career going in the opposite direction to current trends. When acoustic folk was trendy, he turned to electric rock. When protest was trendy, he turned to surrealist lyrics. When rock was in, he turned to (then deeply unfashionable) country music. In a secular age, he proclaimed his faith in his music. When electronic over-production was the norm, he went back to acoustic folk. And now he’s doing Sinatra tributes. Dylan goes his own way, and does it brilliantly.