Archive for November, 2006
New Zealand politics has been fun lately, but with the introduction of National’s new leadership team, we can probably expect a good decade of dullness now. That’s not a bad thing.
Don Brash is gone, properly, and John Key has moved in as leader to try to make National the perfect party. The smart man has said all the things people like me want to hear:
- That National is going to stop bashing Maori
- That nukes are not coming to NZ
- That National, for once, is going to give a shit about the environment
That last point is particularly pleasing. Key said in his speech that all political parties, besides the Greens, have taken too long to bring environmental policies to the forefront. This is happy news, if a bit bloody late. I think the last election should have been determined by energy and environment (and I’m not just saying that because I’m Green-leaning). Maybe the next one will be.
I know they’re focus-group-dictated platitudes, but it does make a nice change. Hopefully Key and English can be the brooms that sweep away the unpleasant hallmarks (anti-Maori, ambiguous on gay marriage, cosy with Exclusive Brethren, horrific comb-over) of Brash’s reign. Perhaps now we can move away from mud-slinging, cheap-shot politics into campaigns fought on policies. (Wishful thinking?)
It looks like we might just get a National party that can rightfully be called socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Now I’m not so scared about what a National government might mean for New Zealand.
On Friday night, I sat in a Patpong bar in Bangkok with Robert Mugabe’s step-son and watched a woman pop an egg out of her vagina.
I’ve thought of a number of ways I could write that sentence, but that seems the most apt.
It started with a bucket in a bar in Bangkok’s touristy (and boozy) Khao Sarn Road. A ‘bucket’ in this particular bar is a hip-flask of whisky, a bottle of coke, and a small bottle of Red Bull concentrate poured over ice into one of those small champagne buckets. Consumed in sufficient quantities (about one-third), buckets can bring on all the effects of excessive drunkenness.
I shared one with my girlfriend, and, naturally, we soon started talking to a group of equally intoxicated revellers at the table next to ours. Included among them were fashion students at Bangkok University, three Norwegians, a gay local guy, a cheerful Chilean girl and her boyfriend, a friendly, funny and fun guy who also happened to be the step-son of the brutal and notorious dictator of Zimbabwe. I found this out later in the night, when we had all convened at one of Bangkok’s famous ping-pong shows.
The performers were disappointing — round-gutted, disinterested, utterly unalluring — and the show was half-hearted at best, but you could have put a drunken mule on stage that night and we would have been satisfied. (In fact, I can’t confirm that didn’t happen.) I sat near the president’s relative — who had spent the taxi ride over swapping Ali G and Borat quotes with me — and tried to start up a conversation based on my newly acquired knowledge, imparted, and sworn truthful, by his girlfriend.
“So, are you really Robert Mugabe’s step-son?”
Pause, followed by reluctant admission: “Yeah.”
“But do you think like Robert at all?”
“No, not at all,” he said to my considerable relief, and we shook hands. If he had answered otherwise, I would have had to seriously reconsider my continued company, which bothered me because I liked the guy a lot. For your information, he’s black, slightly-taller-than-average, wears glasses, has something of a gut starting to show, and speaks articulately in a perfect American accent (I assumed he was American until hearing of his Mugabe link). I would tell you his name, but somehow that feels like an intrusion of privacy. Certainly, he didn’t seem comfortable talking about the subject, which is why I left it at the hand-shake.
The partying subsequently continued in fine fashion. When you’re treated to an egg squeezed ceremoniously from a vagina, there is no other choice.
When my computer-owning flatmate recently departed to live (for free) with his yoga-instructing girlfriend, I took quick action to advertise the available room through online expat forums (I’d do the same on local forums, if only my Chinese writing skills existed). Within two days, I had 10 people interested in looking at the flat. All of them loved it, and so I had the difficult task of telling nine people they couldn’t have the privilege of living with me.
Showing 10 people through your living quarters in an interview-like situation is an interesting experience. You learn quickly about them, their pasts, and you’re assessing them on the spot, asking yourself: Can I live with this person? How often might they keep me awake with the practice of loud coitus in the next-door room? What’s the pubes-on-soap probability?
It’s all very fun, and it does engender one with a great sense of power — a power on a scale I haven’t experience since being house leader in form two at the Terrace Primary School in Alexandra (oh, how those impressionable 9-year-olds of Kauri house quivered before me). In the end, I went with the very first person to see the flat, which surprised me — usually it’s easy to forget the early birds in favour of some high-impact beasts late in the list. I was lucky, though: I had at least three people I could probably have lived with without too many complaints. The others? Well, in the words of Borat when asked if he had an appointment to see George ‘Walter’ Bush: “Not so much”.
Here are their stories, told in three words or less for each person, with accompanying deal clincher (I’ve saved the winner till in the interest of generating suspense):
Hopeful Number 1, Female, mid-20s
Clincher: Cool, intelligent girl who can really hold a conversation, but her being a journalist worked against her. I didn’t want my whole life to revolve around my field of work.
HN2, Male, mid-20s
Clincher: Nice guy, but he’d been in Hong Kong a week, and already all his stories were about drinking — clearly would be a bad influence on me at a time when I’m more than a little conscious about my drinking habits.
HN3, Female, early-30s
- South African
Clincher: Even though she offered to cook for me (great bargaining chip), I decided I couldn’t handle her full-on exuberance.
HN4, Female, mid-20s
Clincher: First words: “Big day in the States today — the Cardinals won the World Series!” Yeah, I don’t care.
HN5, Female, early-20s
Clincher: Like many Kiwis, she couldn’t hold eye-contact during conversation, which was a little on the boring side. Plus, I don’t want to come all the way to Hong Kong just to live with another NZer.
HN6, Female, early-20s
Clincher: Even though she talked about interesting things, I got the impression she could quickly turn bitch-like in a close-quarters living arrangement. Plus, she was too hot.
HN7, Male, early-20s
Clincher: At the end of a relatively unanimated but nice and friendly conversation, this guy revealed an unbridled hatred for Chileans. Was almost scary to see him turn.
HN8, Male, late-20s
- Personal trainer
- Gucci glasses
Clincher: Very good at talking about himself, but didn’t even bother to ask me what I do. Not that I’m an egotist — but I’d like to think someone who’s going to live with me would at least have an interest in what sort of life I lead.
HN9, Female, mid-20s
Clincher: Perfectly nice, but lacking in vigour. Plus, she asked if I was quiet at night times. I am, but that’s not the point — I didn’t like her trying to grapple the power of decision away from me. Poo to that!
The winner: Female, 23
- Drama teacher
Clincher: I liked the idea of having someone play cello in the flat, as well as the awesomosity such an instrument would add in terms of aesthetic value. As well, she’s into the arts, which bodes well for conversation and shared interests. Aside from that, she seemed relaxed enough to not get too pissed off with my numerous slightly annoying habits. Overall, the most sensible decision. But, yeah, it was mainly the cello. Don’t tell her.
Turn your fans off, or, for godssake, at least open a window. You’re going to die — provided you’re Korean.
While hiking part of the mercilessly steep Hong Kong trail on Monday (one of HK’s glorious 19 public holidays), my Canadian companion shared with me stories of his time in South Korea. I was fascinated to learn of fan death, an entirely implausible urban legend in which Koreans firmly believe. If a fan is on in a room in which the doors and windows are shut, chances are, you’re gonna cark it.
It’s in the news, so it must be true. From the English-language Korea Herald:
The death toll from fan-related incidents reached 10 during the past week. Medical experts say that this type of death occurs when one is exposed to electric fan breezes for long hours in a sealed area. “Excessive exposure to such a condition lowers one’s temperature and hampers blood circulation. And it eventually leads to the paralysis of heart and lungs,” says a medical expert.
It’s fact to the Koreans — or, as my mate put it, “It’s very hard to argue with them about it.” He took some delight in taunting one of his Korean girlfriends by leaving the fan on at night in his sealed bedroom. It would never last long — she’d creep up to open the window, just a crack.
Koreans are apparently at a loss as to why no foreigners suffer from the consequences of contained rapidly circulated air.
Sorry bloggage has been light of late. My computer-owning flatmate skipped out on me recently, and my HK$2,000 (NZ$400) craptop has retired from service, meaning I have few opportunities to get online with free time. As it is, I’m still at work and it’s 8:53pm. I’m going home to eat potatoes for dinner.