Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Every generation complains about the next: “The kids these days!” Since our ancestors chased down the first mammoth, we’ve lamented the upcoming lot aren’t as accomplished as us. It’s nonsense, and we know it. For starters, we weren’t as good as we remember, and anyway, we created and moulded our kids. That makes us partly culpable for any perceived failings, real or not.
We compound our guilt by telling kids their unique and they needn’t worry because we’ll protect them. It’s bollocks. We should be saying them life is complicated, get ready for a few knocks. Plus, set aside the desire for instant gratification.
Hong Kong graduates protest they can’t afford a flat while splashing money on holidays and fancy restaurants. The new norm is frequent job hopping, chasing that elusive career. Is the intrinsic nature of the Internet a factor? The fast-moving games, rapid turn-over, all snap-chatty culture, with no looking down the road.
Long-term, the outcomes from such behaviour, are not healthy. Both the individual and society suffer. A rat trained to move a lever to receive food will over-indulge. The theory is open to challenge, but it illustrates a point. Too much food leads to bloat, overweight and then possible death. The rat can't see the consequences of its actions. Humans have that ability.
Likewise, the young people who focus on the present displace troubles to their future-self. The issue doesn't go away. Those troubles for ‘future-you’ arise from things you don't deal with now. These await you in the coming days, months and years. And the worst thing is that parents are complicit in this process.
I know a 31-year-old man, actually a man-child, who lives at home. He's reliant on his parents, never had a full-time job and isolated. The parents lament this situation. They created it. The man-child is a direct result of their unwillingness to enforce rules. Allowed to drop school, he played no rough games, avoided all difficulties.
Deluded by a strange concept that they could be pals with their son, discipline and guidance were absent. The end product is sitting in his bedroom, playing on a computer. He has no friends, is resentful, angry, disengaged and self-involved. Further, he despises his well-intentioned, yet misguided parents. Their lack of firmness has created the opposite of their desires. And he’s not isolated example. It's happening across the world.
When the bedroom hermit deems to grace us with his presence, he vents forth about the world of privilege. He claims success gets given to some because of their connections. These delusional rants ignore his parasite existence, his failings and the comforts he enjoys on the back of his parents. A nihilistic individual, everything is someone else's fault.
Then you have the earnest student who sacrifices his free-time to study hard. There is no immediate reward. While his friends enjoy themselves in the bar, he'll be head down in the books. His gratification will come later. Better exam results open the door to a career with long-term prospects. His sacrifice pays in his future. A future he shaped.
Such a person has mastered his impulses, controlled those basic animal instincts that demand an immediate reward. These instincts served us well as evolving creatures when food and water are scarce. We’d eat as much as possible when the food arrived. Then over time, we learnt to store some.
Next, we started sharing stored resources with our fellows. If one group had an excess of food, it provides to the less fortunate. On that basis, you expect something in return. Over thousands of years, this evolved as trading as a social contract develops between us. Do something now, earn a reward later. That rule still underpins society as a cultural norm.
Young people need to recognise this evolved value in human culture. Although, I suspect these days we've lost the courage to give them the right steer. Confused parents need clarity. Some are fearful of limiting their kid's freedoms, in case it suppresses some natural creative force. This approach is nonsense.
You can see it every day. A kid is misbehaving, yelling, and creating a scene at the supermarket. Embarrassed the mother falls back on the risible excuse "She's very clever and artistic.”
The little darling may well be creative. That doesn't change the fact that she has to fit into society by obeying some simple rules. Even the most liberated hippy recognises we drive on one side of the road to avoid accidents. Likewise, kids who fail to socialise or learn to cooperate with others, face a difficult life. Over-protective parents shield the child from hurt feelings and the opportunity to learn.
A Yale University student yelling at her professor in anger over a Halloween costume is another symptom. Such a young person is unfit to venture into the world to face harsh realities. Setting aside terrible manners, how is such a person going to handle genuine hardship. Triggered by such a minor issue, this person is useless as a lawyer, who has to listen to stories of rape and assault. Such a person is no value as a police officer or social worker.
What's to be done? For a start, adults - especially parents - need to be honest with themselves and their children. Life is tough, things will go wrong, and most things don’t come easy. Most successful people work hard for their gains. Plus, it’s never an easy journey. They face setbacks, reversals, failures, but bounce back. They don’t claim victimhood or curl-up in a ball bleating.
Sacrifice and hand-work will generally pay off, even if only in modest ways. A life of constant instant gratification offers no such outcome as you end up eating your tail. I’m not suggesting young people need to live like a monk. Far from it. But, they need to recognise they have a narrow window of opportunity that won’t arise again.
Moreover, parents need to be clear that their role is to guide a child to be a useful member of society. Failure to do so is the sin of omission. Remember, you're a parent, not their best mate.
I said I wouldn't write this article. Then my morning stroll today led to an encounter with Jack and Marleen from Portland, Oregon. After the usual exchange of pleasantries about the weather, Marleen ventured "You didn't get an invite to the fairytale wedding.”
I bit my tongue.
So as not to offend, I pointed out the fairytale description is most apt. Then, I reminded my new American friends that fairytales have monsters, ugly sisters and nasty step-parents. Plus, plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat. This piece is an attempted response to the playful attitude hanging over this Royal wedding.
This Saturday, an ex-British Soldier marries an American actress. So far, so good. She had a role in a TV series called 'Suits'. I've never seen it. He’s had a decades-long role in the unfolding drama of Britain’s longest-running soap opera - the Royal family. Harry, as the son of Princess Diana of Harrods, has remained front-page fodder for his entire life.
We've followed him as he walked behind his Mum’s coffin. Even at a tender age, thrust into the open at the most tragic of times. We’ve followed his gaffes, ups and downs. We cheered him on, as he sprinted for his death-spitting attack helicopter, to bring justice to the Taliban. His target may well have been an innocent tribal wedding or a school outing, depends how the systems functioned that day. Let’s not get side-tracked.
Harry has grown up with us watching and appears to be a decent sort. In recent years his relationship with Ms Markle sent the media into a frenzy. Apparently, she’s black and a divorcée. Although, I have to say I didn’t notice the former. It was a case of “Really, and what’s the issue here?”. Then once the engagement came about, we entered ‘fairytale’ land. This narrative is the troubling part.
Like the start of any decent fairytale, the omens are not promising. In the movie "Men who stare at Goats", Kevin Spacey's character is clairvoyant. Attending a wedding, he congratulates the couple. Then he utters, “Shame, it doesn't work out between you two.” I’m not clairvoyant, and, yet, let’s be honest, it hasn't worked out for many who entered the weird world of the Windsors.
A dark shadow is cast by Diana, Fergie and Captain Mark Phillips. Even Phil the Greek had to surrender himself as subordinate to the Queen. A proud naval officer, a bit of a lad, he gave in and rolled over. Although, he later won the nation’s heart with his mildly racist, grumpy-old-man routine. A sort of upper-class Victor Mildrew, cankerous in a manner old folks get away with. I like him.
Also, this is the first American divorcée to marry into the Royal family in 81 years. The last time it happened a constitutional crisis erupted. Eventually, the King opted to step aside for his brother. There are no such worries this time, as Harry is some distance from the throne.
The relationship between Mrs Simpson and Edward VIII scandalised Britain. This reaction was in part because she remained married during their affair and the morals of the time meant this was unacceptable. Anyway, times have changed.
Nonetheless, for me, the events of 2018 have a sense of deja vu. Doesn’t this sound familiar. In 1981, a similar fairytale rolled out; Charles and Diana. That fable ended with a Mercedes Benz wrapped around a pillar in a Paris tunnel. The Prince in that story married his first love, a shoe-in for the part of the ugly sister. A happy ending of sorts I guess. Meanwhile, the death of Diana wrong-footed the Queen. In an uncharacteristic moment, she misjudged public sentiment and paid the price. Being a sharp operator, she soon recovered.
Never forgot that the Windsors call themselves the 'firm'. That parlance recognises certain basic truths. The modern Royals are a business. Their core product is popularity, which shores up their legitimacy in the eyes of a fickle public. As I've before mentioned, the Royals have a certain utility. By acting as a sort of social glue at times of crisis. To achieve this deft act, they operate outside the political domain, adroitly remaining above the fray. The Queen is exemplary in this capacity. Although, it’s something Brian appears not to understand.
For her new role, Ms Markle has one distinct advantage. She's an actress. Joining the cast of the ‘Windsors’ she's a perfect modern-day fit. This lady has a social-conscious, is a feminist (not too ardent) and of mixed race. It’s almost as if she’s summoned up for the role. Though she will need to stick to the agreed script. Remember, Fergie didn’t play the game, went rogue and paid the price. In the process, she became something of a national joke. That’s worse than getting booted from the ‘firm’.
I detect that Ms Markle may hold strident opinions. While there is nothing wrong with that, caution must prevail. She shouldn’t change her views, except to remember that the English have ‘satire instead of revolution’. This approach doesn’t mean we are too kind. After all, for the English irony is a lethal weapon that can collapse a government. I fear her opinions could expose her to unwelcome ridicule as someone who is ‘pushy’. She’d be well advised to keep things in check, with a degree of modesty. Her future father-in-law suffers because he can’t keep his disjointed ideas to himself.
This weekend will see a period of ‘cultural remission’ as the English do strange things. They will cheer, wave flags and may even talk to strangers. You can have all your pomp and ceremony, the teacups and tea towels. Enjoy the show. But remember these two young people are part of a massive operation. Their marriage, if it succeeds, will keep that operation rolling along. Good luck to them
The SJWs and their journalist friends are running scared. There is a new bogeyman on the block, who is invading their safe-spaces. Plus, he's brandishing something terrible. In the process, he’s challenging their distorted world-view.
That man is Dr Jordan Peterson. And he’s using something called ‘facts’. Peterson rose to worldwide fame after he unintentionally eviscerated Cathy Newman in a Channel 4 interview. He already had a profile for standing against the gender-pronoun nonsense forced upon people in Canada. The Newman interview took him to the next level.
In his interview with Newman, he astutely exposed the bias inherent in parts of the media. He then flipped her ‘right to question’ back at her, and she went into a moment of dissonance. She faltered, looking lost, as her world-view fell apart. Newman adopted the only defence possible; she portrayed herself as a victim. She and her company inflated the following adverse social media reaction.
They went running to the police. Despite the fact that Peterson received more hate mail than her. But, hey, the facts don’t matter as she demonstrated during the interview. She has since declined to sit down with Peterson for a rational discussion, something he’s offered to do.
With Peterson’s profile growing, the SJWs are struggling to shut him down by mounting personal attacks. They say he’s right-wing, when in fact the man is a classical western liberal. He’s branded the poor white man's intellectual, a label that reveals a bias in the mind of its authors. It appears that some don’t wish to see white-man have thoughts or opinions unless dictated to them by the Left.
Peterson is totemic. He is popular because he is erudite, compassionate and accurate with his words. He’s embraced by men, in particular, young men, looking for direction in a confusing world. He uses science and facts. This approach undercuts the casual dogma of the gender warriors, the feminists and lunatic fringe that is busy no-platforming people.
Without facts to support their dogma, the Left relies on personal attacks to damage Peterson and others. For example, all the data indicates that boys do much better in a family unit with a female mother and a male father. This fact is an anathema to some. They assert such a statement is discriminatory to single parents and gay couples. To them, it's a coincidence that our jails fill with boys from single-parent families.
Peterson is not saying that single parents are wrong or that gay couples shouldn’t have kids. He’s pointing out a truth. This approach scares progressives. That’s why they’re screaming and ranting at such a fever pitch. They know they have a fight on their hands, as Dr Peterson rips open their pieties and hollow bromides.
The latest tactic is to portray Peterson as someone who is on the side of anti-semitism. Forward Magazine ran an article that made such an assertion. To make the point they ran a composite image of Peterson next to Hitler giving a Nazi salute. The whole article is shameful and defamatory.
Peterson’s crime was to attribute Jewish success to the fact that the average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is the highest of any ethnic group. This statement feeds anti-jewish sentiment in the distorted minds of some. The allegation is that far-right groups weaponised this fact to assert Jewish intellectuals used their brain power to dominate the world.
Peterson stood accused of being in cohorts with the far-right. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support this. But some feel it's acceptable to spread such nonsense. For the record; the original research came out of Cambridge University. So, Peterson's mistake was to repeat the findings of credible research.
All this is part of a broader trend that seeks to reverse the Enlightenment, returning us to the dark ages. Peterson has displayed fantastic fortitude as the Left unleashed its vile attacks. The Guardian newspaper cites him as connected to the alt-right and fascist groups. Again, there is no evidence to support such a statement, and the opposite is true. But the Left cannot accept his razor intellect cutting through their bullshit. Thus, fury vents forth.
The battle lines are drawn. On one side, facts and evidence, and the other….'feelings and opinions’. And yet, for people so convinced of their superiority, the SJWs are incapable of mustering rational arguments. Instead, they reference each other in ever decreasing circles of bias and groupthink.
These intellectually dishonest people are losing the argument. To protect themselves from further damage, they no-platform their opponents. Then they yell as loud as possible to drown out any rational arguments.
Instead of doubling down on the identity politics gibberish, wouldn't a period of reflection better serve these individuals? You can't keep pushing this hysterical, illogical, biased view of the world that others do not recognise.
If the radical left is to avoid irrelevance, then it needs better arguments. Ones that convince the public that they have not lost the plot. Most of society is tuned out at present, and this is bad for democracy and consensual politics. Instead of attacking Peterson, the so-called progressive folks need to recognise the folly of their ways. Remember, knowledge and facts will ultimately triumph over unsupported opinions.
Post Script: Forward Magazine has taken down the picture juxtaposing Hitler and Peterson. It acknowledges its error.
I’m Cassandra-like in this article. Hong Kong faces many threats, yet often overlooked is extreme weather events. These have the potential to do massive damage and even kill. Moreover, in our headlong rush to develop land, we may have made one threat much worse.
On 1st September 1937, an unnamed typhoon tracked westward over the top of Hong Kong Island. Wind speeds soon reached 125 mph. The storm was small, intense and nimble. The Observatory anemometer broke having exceeded its designed tolerance. Later assessments put the winds at up to 149 mph.
Victoria Harbour, packed with ships, suffered the initial impact. Vessels dragged from their berths, crashed ashore. Captains gave up the battle to allow their boats to run aground. Some 600 ships report damage, as hundreds of crafts sunk.
At the same time, a storm surge sent water crashing through Wanchai, Causeway Bay and Central. Basements flooded, as ground floor premises were overwhelmed. Food stored in waterlogged godowns are now beyond use, as streets turned into rivers. Only the steep terrain prevented further damage.
As the storm tracked west, the back-end was to have a far more destructive effect. At around 1 am, the eye of the storm crossed to the Mainland, dragging behind it terrible winds and rain. Unfortunately, the height of the gale coincided with a high tide. The swollen waters of Mirs Bay pushed west with considerable force, swept up Starling Inlet, Tolo Harbour, and Tide Cove.
Constrained by the terrain in the Tolo Channel, the surge gathered momentum. It stored energy. As it hit the shore, that energy was unleashed. A wave the height of two double-decker buses swept inland without mercy. The residents of Shatin and Tai Po had no warning.
The area was much less populated than now. The Shatin valley, a narrow floodplain, hosted a farming community. Villages and hamlets sat in clusters. The Kowloon Canton Rail-line ran along the west-side following the route is uses today. There is no highrise, no concrete channels as the Shing Mun River weaved its way to the sea. No race-course existed, while Ma On Shan was a small community. The destructive wave charged inland. It devastated everything in its path.
All along the coast from Ma On Shan to Tai Po Market, roads, bridges and homes disappeared. The railway embankment swept away, then the rail tracks collapsed. At Tai Po Market 60 homes disappear with their occupants. The flood rolled to Tai Po Kau, over half a mile inland. It carried battered humans, cattle, pigs, dogs, ducks, and debris with it.
Estimates of the number killed vary from 10,000 to 12,000. And yet, this was not the first such surge. Similar events occurred in 1874, 1906 and 1923.
The public laid the blame on the Observatory. Working with rudimentary science, the Observatory's warning proved inadequate. Gradually the significance of storm surge forecasting came to prominence. Indeed by 1975, it was essential. The development of new residential and industrial areas on reclaimed land increased the risks. New towns meant more folks were sitting in harm's way.
In the 1970s the Observatory computerised the study of surges. Tide monitors, satellites and other technology fed data into the system. Modeling with computers means better predictions. The government then established a dedicated Storm Surge Unit in January 1978.
Nonetheless, predicting the surge is one thing. It doesn’t address the question what should you tell people to do. What are the escape routes, where should people shelter and who is coordinating?
Moreover, the scientists I’ve spoken with tell me we need to be worried. Modern developments reduced the capacity of Tolo Harbour to absorb a tidal surge. In fact, we’ve amplified the risk. The Plover Cove Dam constructed in 1968, took away space. The engineers understood this, although the link to a possible tidal surge didn’t register with the policymakers.
Since the 1980s, developments in Shatin, Ma On Shan and Tai Po have encroached on Tolo Harbour. Reclamation and construction lowered the ability of the area to dissipate a tidal wave. The Science Park is sitting on reclaimed land, as are sections of the Tolo Highway. The small wetland area at Tai Po Kau, hemmed in by concrete, can't help absorb the impact.
With the Shing Mun River fixed by embankments, it will act to funnel any surge inland. Research suggests that a 1937 level event taking place today could produce a wave three double-decker buses high. Amplified by the restricted space, the consequences are dire.
Pause and think about it. Imagine such a wave roaring down the Shatin valley. The first thing hit is the Marine Police Base at Ma Liu Shui. Next, it would smash through the Shatin Sewage Works picking up everything to carry it inland. A wave of toxic sewage is now thrusting inland. The Shatin Racecourse is under three feet of water. Walkers on the promenades swept away have no escape. The Tate’s Cairn Highway disappears as the surge presses through the ground floor of the Shatin Hospital.
Shoreline properties at Siu Lek Yuen are flooded. Underground carparks fill with foul stinking water. The surge reaches Shek Mun. On it presses. Shatin City One residents get off lightly. The raised estate protected by its podium levels. Across the river, Wo Che and Lek Yuen Estates are not so lucky as ground floor flats are submerged. New Town Plaza and Sha Kok Estate are next.
Finally, the wave barrels into the narrow streets of Tai Wai. Che Kung Temple is waterlogged. Meanwhile, power is failing as sub-stations shut down. Thousands trapped in lifts are unreachable by the Fire Services. With roads flooded, access is impossible. The sheer number of calls overwhelms the mobile telephone system, which shuts down.
Shatin Police Station grinds to a halt with a flooded compound. Ma On Shan Police Station is higher and spared the worse. Tin Sum Police Station is likewise saved by its elevation, although operating on emergency power.
Meanwhile, similar things are unfolding in Tai Po. The low lying industrial estate is awash. The gas plant enters automatic shut-down as fail-safe systems kick in. Parts of Tai Po Town centre are underwater. The East Rail and Ma On Shan lines come to a halt.
Tragically residents in Providence Bay, next to the Science Park, pay a terrible price. Their waterfront homes take the full force of the surge. The ground floor flats submerge in water and debris.
Across Shatin and Tai Po, thousands are dead. Many more injured. The receding waters leave behind a pile of untreated sewage, human remains and sludge. The risk of disease is high. Tolo Harbour filled with floating cars, bodies and assorted debris empties towards the sea.
I’m sure these days plenty of warning would come before a surge. Thus hopefully avoiding much death and destruction. For that to happen a well-resourced, tested and executed plan must be in place. While just under one million people are living in the Shatin, Ma On Shan and Tai Po area, not all are at risk. Many developments are on high ground and so unlikely to be directly affected. Although, they could have power outages, cut transports links and disruptions to the water supply.
Of course, avoiding this is possible. The construction of a surge barrier across the Tolo Channel would protect the area. At its narrow point, the channel is about 1.5 km wide. A movable flood-barrier akin to the Thames Barrier should be technically feasible and indeed may be necessary as sea levels rise.
In the interim, the government needs a robust evacuation plan. The quick extraction of citizens from low-lying vulnerable areas is crucial.
There is no room for complacency. It’s happened before; it will happen again. Are we ready for this?
For me, there are two fundamental problems with the British Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn and Diana Abbott. The recent local elections in the UK should have seen Labour sweeping the Conservatives off the map. It didn’t happen, despite the Tories facing crisis after crisis, and deep division in their ranks.
Alastair Campbell, former Labour press secretary, said: “Frankly if we cannot beat this shambles of a Tory party, we don’t deserve to be in the game”.
Labour remains a deeply flawed entity. The Blair years saw it evolve into ‘Tory-lite’ although the Tories also shifted ground towards the centre. They’d each swap and drop policies, although claiming a different founding philosophy.
Labour espouses social justice as its core mantra. A problematic stance when you account for the prejudices that are at the nucleus of the party. I have a particular problem with Jeremy Corbyn, the party leader.
The deep-seated antisemitism is an excellent place to start as it illustrates a point. Labour supports the Palestinians and thus by default is against Israel. Then this morphs into a hatred of the Jews, that in turn gives oxygen to the holocaust deniers. Here we are in 2018, with a progressive social democrat party, with members who question the holocaust. That is disturbing.
The 2016 Chakrabarti inquiry into allegations of antisemitism in Labour produced a whitewash. The whole exercise compromised by the author’s sudden appointment to the House of Lords. Was a deal done? In fairness, Chakrabarti denies it. Unfortunately, at the launch of the report, a Jewish MP was verbally attacked by a Labour member. Corbyn did nothing. Say no more.
It’s worth recalling that Corbyn supported Jawad Botwah and Samar Alami, who carried out the 1994 car bombing of the Israeli Embassy in London. Corbyn raised funds for their appeal, which failed. He addressed the Home Secretary to question their guilt in the face of overwhelming evidence. He said little about the potential harm a car bomb could have wrought on a busy London street.
In a similar vein, Corbyn is silent on the unfolding horrors in Venezuela. Despite the abundance of media reports showing the regime’s brutality, he won't criticise President Maduro. Corbyn ignores the arrest of opposition leaders, and protesters shot in the street.
This approach is part of a broader problem in the Labour Party and the far left. Labour gives a free pass to specific groups and individuals because it designates them 'victims'. There are many examples of this. Volleys of rockets from Palestine into Israeli villages brushed aside, while any response from Israel is a war crime. The life of Jewish children, hiding in bunkers, counts for less in Corbyn's accounting. Facts inverted, truths ignored.
This likewise operates at an individual level. For example, Labour gives considerable leeway to Diana Abbott, the shadow Home Secretary. By any rational measure, she is incompetent. Her press appearances are a disaster as she demonstrates an inability to master her brief. She fails to enunciate coherent policies, becomes flustered, defensive and is intellectually incoherent.
Her truthfulness is also in doubt. She was absent from a crucial vote claiming to be unwell. And yet, she seen in a Westminster pub enjoying herself. She also stands charged of hypocrisy. She seeks to abolish public schools, yet elected to send her son there.
You must understand that in the Labour world Abbott is a victim. She is from a minority group and thus by default the recipient of special treatment. Such includes ignoring questions of competence, sound judgement and the other qualities we seek in leaders. And if you dare to point out these issues, you are by default a racist. Once that label is unjustly applied, you are next evil and need vilification as an oppressor. The treatment of commentators such as Melanie Phillips, who dares to speak the truth, proves this point.
As things stand, New Labour as brought forth by Blair is dead. The replacement is still confused, conflict-ridden and in desperate need of a coherent strategy. It’s position on Brexit remains unclear, as does its approach to many issues. Estranged from its old working class base across England, Labour is pretty much finished in Scotland.
Don’t forget that Corbyn is a product of the liberal metropolitan-elite, who despise the ordinary working man. Although, they'd never openly say such. He was born into a middle-class family, educated at a grammar school. He’s never held a job outside the political or campaigning domain except for a short spell as a reporter.
Corbyn seeks to play down his support for terrorists. He's proven capable of quite remarkable levels of cynicism and dishonesty. When questioned, he spins the ‘peacemaker' story. Thus it's odd he only met one side during the Northern Ireland troubles. Sean O’Callaghan, an ex-IRA terrorist, comments “Corbyn played no part ever, at any time, in promoting peace in Northern Ireland. Any suggestion he did is cowardly, self-serving lie.”
The public need to know that while the IRA killed innocent British citizens, Corbyn provided political cover. It remains a stain on his character. He’s relying on the public ignorance of these details to maintain an image.
Corbyn will not be the next Prime Minister nor do I ever see him in the role. I believe that middle England doesn’t trust him. His support of terrorists, antisemitism, unclear policies and hypocrisy register with people. His three marriages, plus many affairs suggest an unsettled man. In this regard, he mirrors Trump. In 1979, Corbyn left his first wife to go on a motorcycle tour of East Germany with Abbott.
The Conservatives should be taking a much more significant hit in the local elections. Their Brexit strategy is a national embarrassment. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Theresa May is content to face Corbyn because she looks more credible than him. At the moment, Corbyn is the most significant asset the Conservatives have.
‘2001- A Space Odyssey’ is fifty years old. It remains for me the pinnacle of movie production. Although, I realise, not everyone agrees. It’s painfully slow at times, with no dialogue for the first and last 20 minutes. Depending on which view you take, 2001 is either an adaptation of ‘The Odyssey’ or a pretentious and self-indulgent art house film. Others see it as a bold statement about mankind’s evolution. Some argue its a propaganda film arising from the Cold War. The list of options is endless. Take your pick.
Watching it again last evening, I'm struck by how well the special effects stand-up. Even in the digital age, it sets the benchmark by which others get judged. Frank Poole jogging in the renowned tracking-shot remains an unchallenged technical achievement. Enacted and then filmed, the camera takes us inside the upside-down world of space travel. Likewise, the stunning moment when Dave Bowman ejects from the capsule to enter the airlock.
Yet, 2001 nearly never existed as we see it today. Original drafts proposed the date as 1987. Also, Arthur C Clarke’s first draft reveals a tone that is somewhat different. The story is one of political intrigue as a US Senator seeks to establish the origins of a strange signal from space. Even the Monolith changed shape at the last minute. The drafts had it as a tetrahedron, mirroring the pyramids.
Then Clarke, working with Kubrick, evolved the themes that appear in the final version. The movie took four years to make, to then receive lacklustre reviews on release. Kubrick expressed disappointment. Nonetheless, he knew it would gain recognition and declined to make major revisions. He did edit 19 minutes of footage, acknowledging it didn't help the narrative.
Throughout the arc of the story the Monolith is pivotal. Acting as a catalyst. It makes four appearances that herald a transformation in the fortunes of humankind. Each defines the four acts of the story.
On the first appearance, it imparts something to our ape ancestors. They realise the utility of bones as tools, including weapons. Having defeated an opposing group with 'weapons' the apes secure a waterhole. Jubilant, one hurls a bone sky-ward. In a short cross-cut we pass through millions years of human history. In a sudden we are in space above Earth on the way to the Moon. This is audacious.
The Monolith next surfaces on the Moon, buried in a pit. As sunlight strikes it for the first time, a signal goes forth to the heavens.
Now we are deeper in space, heading towards Jupiter on a massive spacecraft Discovery One. On board are a crew in stasis, except for two rather unemotional chaps, who are monitoring systems. Watching over everything is our main protagonist, HAL 9000. A sentient computer, with a secret.
HAL, tasked with getting the crew to Jupiter, must also keep his secret under-wraps. As HAL’s algorithms dwell on this, suspicions grow as his thoughts turn neurotic. HAL then goes on a killing spree. The one survivor, Dave Bowman, manages to disconnect HAL's higher functions. At this point we witness the single emotional outburst in the whole movie. HAL pleads to remain conscious, before reverting to a child-like nature. His systems shut-down.
The Monolith appears again as Bowman approaches Jupiter. Hanging in space, it beckons him forward. What happens next is open to interpretation. Bowman passes through a portal of sorts, but to where is unclear. He finds himself in a room. The furnishings are modern renderings of the post-enlightenment period. Bowman then ages, although he remains stoic and unflustered. The Monolith makes it's final outing by appearing at Bowman's deathbed. Bowman reaches for it, mimicking his ape ancestors millions of years distant. His finger is pointing to God in a nod to Da Vinci’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ Sistine Chapel painting. Transformed, Dave is a star child, hanging above Earth.
What does this all mean? Is anyone bothered? Well, it's generally accepted the movie is exploring themes of evolution, gods and how we humans transition. There is a ‘circle-of-life’ narrative with loads of other stuff going on. Someone pointed out that even the spaceship resembles a giant sperm. It trundles through space taking the seeds of our future.
I'm certain the Monolith is the product of a higher intelligence. The makers are so advanced they appear god-like to us. What form they take or indeed if they have form we don't know. Bowman in the room may well be in captivity, held in a zoo or lab as part of an experiment. The surroundings seek to meet his every needs including fine dining with wine. Thus, I'd surmise whoever is holding him has benign intent.
Throughout the movie, HAL is the only entity who displays strong emotions. The others come across as understated, unfeeling and even cold at times. Poole and Bowman are ultra-rational; devoid of feeling. A touching birthday message from parents millions of miles away fails to stir any feelings.
Programmed by us, HAL manifests our worse human qualities especially when conflicted. This interpretation is personal. And, I suspect that Kubrick meant for each viewer to draw their own conclusions.
There a couple of things that are notable. Women only play support roles. Even the Russian female scientists are subordinate to their male colleague. Is Kubrick signaling that male aggression drives change in human culture. Anthropologists believe that to be true. The restlessness of young men, the desire for dominance and power, pushing our evolution.
HAL remains my favourite character. He’s not Frankensteins monster, nor is he evil. He’s a refection of human frailty. Unable to tell the truth his moral compass goes off kilter. There is a message in this. When we play god by imprinting our values on a smart machine, our imperfections also get transferred.
People will still be arguing about the meaning of 2001 in another fifty years.
Theresa May when serving as Home Secretary decided the police were racist. Fed false data, she believed officers stopped and searched a disproportion number of black kids. May thought it a swell idea to hold the police back. Her decision released a wave of crime that continues to this day. With 36 people fatally stabbed in London since the beginning of this year, the consequences of her decision play out.
The London Police recorded 37,443 knife offences in 2017. Black teenage boys are the vast majority of the victims. While seeking to appease the human rights types, May unwittingly started a cull of young black man. The killings show no signs of abating.
In 2015, May had another great idea. Police should stop chasing kids without helmets on motorbikes. She feared the little darlings might crash and injure themselves. What happened next? The theft of mopeds by teenagers exploded. In audacious incidents, gangs drove through shopping centres snatching mobile phones and wallets. The police watched, passive, unable to respond because of May's edicts. Later withdrawn, the damage done. By then the kids had already recognised their ability to flee. Hence, the die is cast.
Hong Kong officials have shown themselves far more astute. Deciding not intervene in police operational tactics. On 11 February a driver and his passenger died in a police pursuit. Officers slowed traffic ahead of the fleeing vehicle, in a ‘rolling roadblock’. The fleeing vehicle then plowed into slowing cars. Besides two killed, four people sustained injuries including an officer.
The police faced accusations of using the public as 'human shields’. Commentators blasted the Force, noting similar incidents in the past. In 2009 officers used taxis, a lorry and a private car to halt illegal racing in Kwun Tong. Eight people sustained injuries in a pile-up.
Then Commissioner of Police, Tang King-shing, was quick with an apology. Earning the unfair nickname 'Sorry Sir’ in the process.
In the latest incident, Police made matters worse by issuing the injured drivers with ‘notice of intended prosecution'. The blind following of procedures rubbed salt in the wound. Then a clumsy PR strategy failed to recognise public sentiment. Relying on the ‘standard procedure’ excuse invited more scorn.
In the later furore, the Force was robust enough to defend the ‘rolling roadblock' tactic as legitimate. Police rejected calls to outlaw this option. They are correct to do so. As the UK experience shows, hampering police operations can have unforeseen consequences.
Drug traffickers, drunk-drivers and terrorist would enjoy the freedom to commit their crimes. Knowing the police are impotent, they'd race around with impunity. It would be only a matter of time before the failure to stop these people results in more deaths.
Public safety is paramount. Every officer has that drummed into him. In light of that, all tactics must remain on the table. Only by retaining a full range of tactical options can officers protect the public. That’s not to suggest rash or thoughtless tactics; the opposite.
The decision to use a ‘rolling roadblocks’ is a tough call. It's taken quickly with limited information during fast-paced and dynamic incidents. Officers are in an invidious position. Doing nothing would be easy. Let the drunk driver continue on his way or the drug shipment through.
Police officers understand the risks. In the early hours of 14th July 1983, police constable Cheng Man-fai was helping to dismantle a roadblock in Princess Margaret Road. A Volvo motor-car struck him causing brain injuries from which he died on 23rd of that month. Later Dennis Chiu Tat-shing was found guilty of the manslaughter of constable Cheng.
Hardly a year goes by without an officer killed on a roadblock or during traffic duties. On 22nd March, Senior Constable Lum Hoi-wan, 51, was dealing with a traffic accident in Kowloon. A truck hit him and killed the officer. At least three police vehicles were on site with warning lights. Cones marked off the scene. Nonetheless, a driver managed to hit the officer.
In 1992 officers stood accused of the death of bystanders during an illegal road-race. Inaccurate media reports claimed officers failed to stop the road-race on Canton Road. Criticized for acting and then attacked for not acting, no wonder the police feel they can please no one. Road racers are determined to evade capture, putting police officers and the public at risk.
In my view, it’s right and proper that the ‘rolling roadblock’ remains an option. I’ve used it a multitude of times to slow down and halt illegal road racers. Other options also have inherent risks.
Some places deploy spikes. These can bring a car to a halt, although the chance of a vehicle going out of control exists. Innocent motorist can get caught by spikes, making them a risky option. Manufacturers claim that spikes will safety deflate tires to stop the vehicle. That doesn’t take into account the desperate driver who continues on his rims.
The name roadblock is incorrect. These typically consist of cones leading drivers into a narrowed lane. As such, no 'block' exists. Thus the determined will get through. A road closure with blocking vehicles or physical barrier remains the only option. And then, some nutter will still have a go.
And please, don’t mention shooting out tires or drivers. This is the real world, not a Hollywood fantasy.
The innocent drivers who suffered in the recent incident deserve compensation. I’m sure they will receive such. Being caught in such an event would make anyone angry. With a sympathetic stance, the police could have mitigated the criticism against them.
So, what to do? If the public decides they're prepared to accept drunk-drivers and road-racers, then the police can relax. Instead of proactive tactics, the police will investigate after the event. Although the question remains, what is the consequence if officers do nothing? We don't want to be the UK position of rampant crime and a hamstrung police force.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.