Friday, June 16, 2006

Now I know why a caged bird sings
Or something like that. It's been a weird week of extremes. Three days covering The Stephen Hawking Experience and watching the HK media go ga-ga. His lecture (pre-recorded) was nearly incomprehensible due to bad acoustics, a distorted over-cranked sound system and his eerie Mr Roboto voice. Plus though it was pitched at the "physics/cosmology for dummies" level I was lost nearly before he began. Other parts resembled a low-key rock or pop show. People lined up as early as 9am for good seats for the 3pm show and a 20-minute video loop - a kind of "Hawking's Greatest Hits" including bits from The Simpsons and his appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation - played to the auditorium prior to him being wheeled onstage.
All that were missing were hawkers hawking Hawking t-shirts, baseball caps, posters and mini-wheel chairs.
Another night was spent at a filthy, sweaty "cage home" where elderly impoverished men shell out more about US$125 a month to sleep stacked three high in 6ft x 3ft cages in one room. The one I went to had 12 guys from 57 to 74. Two toilets and one hot plate completed the interior decoration. As me, another reporter, a photographer and a social worker left bidding cheery good-byes, one cage resident could be heard telling others (in Cantonese, it was translated for me), ``Anything they write won't help. Nothing will change.'' Unfortunately, he's right, of course. I did draw a chuckle from some when I asked them if the guy who had a caged pet cockatoo inside his man cage had to pay extra for the bird's lodging. "No," one said through a translator. "But probably later he will."
Then there was most of a day wasted fruitlessly trying to meet with political/religious refugees only to wind up in a Christian street mission in a former whore house pretending to pray and sing hymns in English and some African dialect with (mostly) down and out Africans and Nepalese in a service conducted by a chubby Indian pastor who looked like a tailor and preached with a lisp in the typical sing-song Indian accent on Paul's letter to the "Philippines" (he meant "Philippians," of course). Jesus just left Chicago and he's bound for New Orleans, I know, but I never realized that Paul was a thrilla in Manila.
I'd say I'm glad it's Friday but I gotta work tomorrow and Shenzhen and C never seemed so far away from so close.
The mangled English spoken by non-Westerners here in HK is, in turns, depending on my mood, amusing and depressing.

I remember watching the dean(?) of HKUST introducing Stephen Hawking as he was coming to the stage for his pre-recorded talk as "Stephen Hawkings" and wishing that I could reach through the television screen and drive a set of chopsticks through his ears and into his atrophied brain.

My wife and I discussed it for a few minutes. Did they only tell him at the last moment that Hawking was coming? Couldn't he have gone to a Starbucks and tapped a random white person on the shoulder, explained the situation, and gotten some free language coaching?

The whole way that Hawking's visit was organized was distasteful (basically, he was paraded around to perform tricks like a loaner panda from a mainland wildlife preserve) but ... not even being able to pronounce the poor man's name properly .. i mean ... damn.

all kidding aside, damn. I am feeling for you, bigtime, Justin. I find it amazing how you can not only make me laugh/smile but also feel all depressed and thisclose to suicide all at the same time.

here's hopin' you're ALL ways possible.

will be back in SZ in August...hope we can down a few more beers together soon.
said tai,

When Shenzhen hits the news stateside you know its big.

Fangji Cat Meatball Restaurant

Have you tried the cat meatballs?
Tai! Good to see you, assuming it's the photog dude. No, I'll pass on the cat meatballs but the surprise in that story was that Shenzhen even has a budding animal rights movment. And I'm assured that Gato, the adopted street cat that C & I had to give away, is still alive and well...
I'm sure the chinese love to oggle over a crippled white man after seeing so many crippled chinese begging in mainland cities. Must make for some odd conversation.
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