Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Hazy Memories of Hong Kong Press Freedom

My column for Coconuts.co is called Palm Oil. It's bad for you but you might find yourself drawn back like a dog to it's vomit. Suck it and see. Originally ran here: http://hongkong.coconuts.co/2014/05/28/palm-oil-hazy-memories-hong-kongs-press-freedom


It must have been early December of 1996, although memories are hazy when it comes to the liver-shrivelling raving-loony fin-de-siecle days that marked the existence of a journalist in Hong Kong to cover the big story, Britain's looming colonial garage sale – or shotgun divorce.

My editor at Postmagazine, the glossy weekend read of South China Morning Post, where I had landed as senior writer and columnist, swished past my desk then stopped, turned and fixed my bloodshot, bleary eyes with her perfectly kohled laser gaze.

“Gaggers, something funny for the Christmas issue please. And I want a handover angle.”I scratched my head for a few minutes, gazed out the window for a few more, made myself a tepid instant coffee and chewed on my pen. A funny Christmas handover story, eh? As if they grew on trees.

With an almost audible 'clunk', the idea dropped fully-formed into my skull – no doubt the same one that has saved countless clueless feature writers staring down a 'silly season' blank page from a Christmas stuffing or the rough end of a humbug.

I would parody 'A Visit from St Nicholas', Clement Clarke-Moore's marzipan-dripping, good cheer-laced slice of festive doggerel that famously begins 'Twas the night before Christmas.'

In my version, the night before Christmas would be spent with Hong Kong's last Governor, Chris 'Fat Panda' Patten and Jiang Zemin, China's Brylcreemed supremo that was.

Full of zeal and hopeful of being in the pub by lunchtime, I bashed the thing out in short order –a silly flight of fancy which lurched from satire to surrealism to scatology, and ended with the Chinese leader
in his Rococo rest room, urinating from a great height on his imagined enemies and Colonial running dogs while pining for his 'Precious', namely, Hong Kong. I do more or less remember the final lines, which ran:

And as Jiang bestraddled his gilt-covered cistern,
He shouted to no-one: 'One Country, One System!'

Gangs of Bangkok in Primary Colours

I was mildly worried I might have overstepped the mark with this visual at the height of the latest coup, mid-curfew, but it was alright on the night. It's basically just a plea for us all to get along, while enjoying musicals and Korean novelty acts. Read the original Palm Oil column for Coconuts.co here: http://bangkok.coconuts.co/2014/06/04/palm-oil-flash-mobbed-gangs-bangkok

MAFIA, I'VE JUST MET A GIRL NAMED MAFIA ...    Insta-Art © Jason Gagliardi
When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way 
From your first cigarette to your last dying day”
West Side Story
You have never been in love, until you've seen the sunlight thrown over smashed human bone” - Morrissey  
Here is an interesting fact you might not know: the English term "mob," which has now become an honorary Thai word by dint of repetition and its monosyllabic allure, comes from the Latin phrase mobile vulgus, or “the fickle crowd.”
Mobile vulgus. It sounds more like the scientific classification for a particularly obnoxious, pimply and aggressive sub-species of adolescent to be found roaming the teenage wastelands of nocturnal Bangkok. The sort of yaba-smoking, engine-revving, gun-toting, gang-banging, Line-sticker-sending sext-pests and Darwin Award recipients-in-waiting you might find in the cinderblock tenements of Din Daeng or the drug-ravaged shantytowns of Khlong Toey or the bling-bling clubs of Ekkamai.
You can almost hear the David Attenborough narration: “Ah yes, and now we see mobile vulgus in his natural habitat. Observe the gaudy plumage, which the male uses to attract the opposite sex and appear larger and more intimidating to his enemies. If we are lucky, we might even see a flock of them perform their mating dance. Aeons have passed since the first caveman speared his neighbour, stole his dinosaur steak and clubbed his wife, and yet, seemingly, no time at all...”
The sort of misspent youth and wasted young who could put the “gang” in Gangnam Style. Oh, wait. They already did. Ekkamai, home of the Eastern Bus Terminal, went West Side Story in 2012 when two gangs dining in the same restaurant began to taunt and challenge each other with increasingly aggressive versions of South Korean pop blob Psy's smash hit.