It had to take an academic to tell us the obvious. The obvious being that the perennially successful Rugby Sevens Tournament in Hong Kong has, gasp, major sexual overtones. Hong Kong Anorak, sorry, Anthropological Society members apparently skulk around and prey on extrovert partying fans to observe plenty of signs of in-your-face sexuality, phallic symbolism, and even discreet discretionary behaviour that definitely indicates sex (even when they don't!). The SCMP reported all this on Sunday March 29 (notable excerpts from the article are referenced here) using only one source, a single academic Dr Joseph Bosco.
I could imagine anthropologist Bosco’s delight when at 5pm on Sunday, during the pre-finals entertainment intermission, Elvis eventually emerged from a shoddily made-up jukebox shell much to the bewilderment and amusement of the entire crowd. Yes yes (exclaim Hong Kong's anoraks!), we told you so. Hong Kong Sevens equals sex and drugs and rock and roll.And Elvis confirms it!
Studying the mysterious ways of the Sevens tribe Action on the pitch isn't the only thing worthy of attention this weekend
Simon Parry Mar 29, 2009
As thousands of revellers poured noisily into the Hong Kong Stadium at the start of the Rugby Sevens on Friday night, one unlikely looking little group filed quietly into a corner of the ground. Bookish, plainly dressed and sober, they must have looked a little out of place as they took their seats.
The presence of this small, intense-looking huddle of individuals may have puzzled some of their rowdier fellow spectators as they peered inquisitively around, scribbling notes and appearing to be far more absorbed in the antics of the crowd than the action on the pitch.
This odd group of observers was not there to watch the rugby, however. They were there to watch the fans. They were members of the Hong Kong Anthropological Society and their mission was to learn about the rituals and behaviour patterns that surround the hugely popular festival of rugby that has become one of the city's most celebrated annual events.
Their academic antennae had been alerted by a talk on the Rugby Sevens delivered this month by Chinese University anthropologist Joseph Bosco - and their willingness to observe the phenomenon may have been fired in part by Dr Bosco's assertion that a lot of what goes on concerns a universal pursuit: sex.
"It is clear to even a casual observer that sex is a major theme of the Sevens," Dr Bosco says in a study based upon his years of observation at the event. "One way this can be seen is from the costumes worn by spectators. Sex-themed T-shirts are common too. One I saw read: `Sex instructor, first lesson free. Ask wearer for details. Satisfaction guaranteed'."
Other costumes give out less obvious signals, he found. "Wearing Catholic and other religious habits is quite common," he says. "The purity and asceticism and celibacy represented by the costume is in fact meant to symbolise the inverse: debauchery and sex."
The Rugby Sevens is an event, Dr Bosco found, where women have the freedom to be as overtly sexual as men. "There are women in sexy costumes - sexy nurses, devils and belly dancers - men dressed as women, men in animal costumes ranging from apes to Dalmatians, men in Borat-style underwear as well as a group of Borat lookalikes," he observes.
Other fans have turned up dressed as condoms, Arabs, superheroes and even as patriot missiles, which, Dr Bosco points out, "in addition to being powerful weapons are also phallic symbols".
And some of the bizarre outfits almost defy categorisation. "Some have obvious interpretations - gorillas as animalistic males, chickens as bearing H5N1 bird flu, and superheroes of various sorts as epitomes of strength and virility, perhaps with a sense of irony," Dr Bosco says.
However, some are "obscure and hard to interpret", he admits, citing one group of fans he saw wearing helmets made out of scooped-out watermelons.
The crowd, he points out, is "overwhelmingly Caucasian". "All the booing is playful and not hostile, especially since the boos and cheers come from throughout the stadium," he says. "Booing the Australians and the French is one of the traditions of the tournament."
One of the few areas where cultural misunderstanding can take place is in the exchanges between fans and security guards, Dr Bosco points out. "The guards are older Chinese men and women and have no idea what is going on," he says. "The chaos of the carnival aspects familiar to those of British or Anglo-Saxon culture is frightening to them. They cannot distinguish between a group having fun and a group about to cause a riot."
Earth Hour 2009 is based on an unacceptable premise. Here's the premise in question: "Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming."
This false dilemma asserts that only 2 alternatives exist, when obviously there are more. While I agree with Earth Hour's theme in encouraging "government policies to take action against global warming", I do not agree with its unacceptable premise. There are people of all ages, nationalities, race and background who are against global warming but who may choose not (or perhaps have no choice in the matter) to use their light switch as their vote. So there!
Having said that, I wish the Earth Hour initiative, scheduled for Saturday March 28 from 8:30pm to 9:30pm, every success in raising awareness in preparation for the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.
It has now been about 10 days since Hong Kong's first ever sighting of a visiting humpback whale ... and apparently it is still huge and still here! The 10-metre long whale is believed to be a juvenile (adult humpbacks are between 14-19 metres long) that may have lost its bearings on its way up to the Arctic Ocean. Let's hope it finds its bearings soon.
Here's another great pic of the 10-metre humpback whale (reported in The Standard and SCMP), which is hopefully meandering its way out of Hong Kong waters and towards the Arctic to feed on krill and herring bait balls. The pic is courtesy of the Dolphin Conservation Society.
Call me "Is that real"? Terrible pun, I know, but what wonderful news in the SCMP (subscription required) about Hong Kong's first humpback whale sighting, out in the East Lamma Channel. This picture (from the Government information service) of the humpback's tail flukes is superb.
This news comes on the back of another amazing cetacean scene; this time filmed by the BBC, and reported on the BBC website, of humpback whales snacking on (relatively) small bait balls. I was also pleased to hear Sir David Attenborough narrating the bait ball scene, which is for the new BBC wildlife series "Nature's Great Events: The Great Feast".
About HK Doppelgangers: This is just a lighthearted, superficial list of real Hong Kong people (usually in the public eye) and their doppelgangers (either real or fictional). No offence is intended, and any resemblances are entirely due to one’s own perceptions shaped by experience and exposure to life’s wonderful social diversity.
[Three letters from SCMP’s Education Mailbag about creationism]
Mar 07, 2009
Creationism a faith and not a scientific theory
Evolution is a scientific theory, which has developed as a coherent explanation of observable evidence. The theory of evolution is extremely robust, and has been refined over generations as new evidence is brought to light.
Creationism "theory" is based on the single premise: "God did it". This is an incredibly weak scientific theory as there is no robust evidence of any kind to support it, and as such it should be termed a belief. Therefore, it cannot be termed a competing theory to evolution.
If creationism is a belief, it has absolutely no place in a science class whatsoever. Doing so only gives it "scientific" credibility in the minds of young students it does not deserve.
There are also an infinite number of possible creation beliefs, so which one do you teach, the Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or the Spaghetti Monster and his noodley appendages? Whatever ones you select you will have objections from those left out. The real answer is that any faith-based ideas on the creation of life belong firmly in a philosophy or religious education class, not anywhere near a science class.
DAVE SANDERSON, Sheung Wan
Students should inquire into competing ideas
Seeing that both evolutionary and creationist theories rely on the same body of evidence, namely the fossil record, to support them, would it not be best to teach both theories and point out how each interprets that record and rebuts the other? This would certainly train students critical thinking skills, develop inquiring minds and enable them to independently find the truth.
Such a suggestion should not worry the evolution camp, as I am sure that the fossil record indicates very clearly which theory is more likely to be true.
ROGER PHILLIPS, Sheung Shui
Feb 28, 2009
Pro-creationists miss the point in scientific inquiry
All five pro-creationist letters (Mailbag Special, Education Post, February 21) reveal an ignorance of what has clearly been stated by the more rational members of the community. One writer asked: "How can scientists be sure there is no god?" This reveals a basic lack of understanding of science.
Scientists can be no more sure that there are no garden trolls, bed monsters or spiteful leprechauns than that there is no god. Science looks at the evidence, and it is up to the people who claim that there are trolls, monsters, leprechauns and gods to provide the evidence.
Another writer asked: "If man evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?" Again this reveals a lack of understanding of evolution, which is further reason for schools to continue teaching it.
I could continue to reveal the lack of understanding among pro-creationists but suffice it to say all the previously published letters by reasonable writers have clearly implied that creationism can be taught in non-science classes.
This message is conveniently ignored, in seems, perhaps because pro-creationists know that giving children a proper education, including teaching evolution in science classes and teaching about the world's faiths in non-science classes, will equip future generations with the means to determine for themselves what they wish to believe, rather than to blindly accept what their elders wish them to believe.
Here’s another reason (SCMP letter below) why plastic bags are indispensable. People who mistakenly believe they are being environmentally-friendly when opting to use energy-saving light bulbs are advised to “double-bag” on all used light bulbs when throwing them away, hopefully for recycling. How delightfully ironic!
January 3, 2009 Saturday
Energy saving bulbs do not live up to name
Regarding Michael R. K. Mudd's letter ("We must opt for energy- saving light bulbs", December 27), the record must be set straight as to their "environmentally friendly" credentials.
Energy efficient they may be but this does not make them good for the environment or for humans to be in contact with.
Energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps contain poisonous substances including mercury. Contact with mercury is harmful to health and, even where contact is not direct, should these bulbs be thrown into a normal waste bin the mercury could find its way back into the food chain.
Government guidelines in England and America recommend that these light bulbs be disposed of in double thickness plastic bags and specially recycled. Should a bulb break, government advice is to leave the room for 15 minutes, clear it up with rubber gloves and put the pieces in a sealed glass jar before taking them to specially designated local authority tips.
A fundamental problem with these compact fluorescent light bulbs is that, being a gas discharge lamp, they cannot generate the full spectrum of light of a traditional light bulb. Even extra coatings of phosphate to these compact light bulbs show limited improvements. Additional coatings also reduce their efficiency.
Further, these compact light bulbs only save energy if run for long periods of time. Tests have shown that if only kept on for short periods they at best use the same amount of energy and at worst can actually use more than the traditional bulb. As they age, the efficiency of the compact bulbs is reduced whereas traditional light bulbs have a constant efficiency level throughout their lifespan. The compact light bulbs use between 3.5 and 11 times more resources to manufacture than the traditional bulb.
Tests have shown that some people, under a compact light bulb, can experience a number of skin irritations and tiredness.
Energy efficient light bulbs may reduce energy used when switched on and help governments meet their carbon dioxide emission targets. However, they are not environmentally friendly when their full costs are assessed, nor are they healthy.
Robert Hanson, PhD researcher, Bartlett school of the built environment, University of London
Reports of Hong Kong’s demise of plastic bags have been greatly overestimated. Despite the recent introduction of an insignificant government levy (HK50 cents or US6 cents) on plastic bags, this picture taken last week illustrates why plastic bags remain indispensable in Hong Kong.
There have been many letters and commentaries in the media chiding the environmentally-unfriendly practices of HongKongers. But the sad truth is Hong Kong people like using plastic bags due to their versatility. Other than for their main purpose of carrying items, plastic bags are also used as trash bags, bin liners and seat mats. The wearing of plastic bags to keep dry one’s head of hair during rainstorms is probably the main (and hitherto unmentioned) reason why HongKongers will never relinquish using plastic bags!
In Hong Kong, it is relatively easy to come across events listings that contain plenty of alternative and New Age practices. These kooky courses and weird workshops prey on gullible people willing to pay good money that could otherwise be better spent getting a decent education or pragmatic advice for themselves, or in helping those less fortunate than themselves.
Since the events listings reveal an embarrassment of crackpot classes allegedly taking place in Hong Kong, thisblog will start another HKSAR list called Hong Kong Hocus Pocus. This will be a weekly or twice-weekly posting exposing all manner of Hocus Pocus happenings in Hong Kong. Enjoy!
Hocus Pocus here is defined as practices that involve chicanery, deception, hoaxes, quacks, shams, and trickery. By applying a dose of critical thinking, these scam practices can be exposed as nonsense.
Here is another example of the kind of Hocus Pocus happenings in Hong Kong (reference: MessianicFlyer).
Yes, it’s that time of year again when, for a mere HK$50 (US$6), you can legally go and hang out under a dirty, crowded flyover in Wan Chai and ask some uncivilized individuals to indirectly curse someone you hate. This passionate cursing is done orally (are children allowed within earshot?) and physically using Chinese slippers or contemporary shoes with hard heels to beat pieces of paper. The South China Morning Post, in all its glorious accuracy, reports that the paper used by Devil-Beaters are “effigies”, when in fact they are just scraps of paper with a person’s name and/or birthday written on them.
The SCMP news story, dated 6 March, interviewed two Devil-Beaters: 1) “Ms Leung, who is in her 50s, complained of slow business. She said she had only had 10 to 20 customers since setting up her stall in the morning.” 2) “Ah-ching, who is in her 30s and relatively new to the business with just three years' experience, said her customers usually came to condemn "bad people" from all points of the compass.”
How does one become a recognized or qualified Chinese Voodoo Devil-Beater? Can gweilos and gweipos take this up (after all they are literally regarded as “Devils”), or can only Chinese people ply this trade? Is there a standard test that assesses oral cursing and physical beating skills? Back in 2002, the Wan Chai District Council said it wanted to regulate the practice of “Beating the Devil” and to promote it as a tourist event … but nothing came of it. Perhaps a standard licensing test for Devil-Beating could not be set up to help regulate the practice? Perhaps the Devil-Beaters themselves used their “skills” on the Wan Chai District Councillors to avoid being regulated? Or perhaps the notion of promoting Chinese cursing, shoe banging and hatred to others as a “fun tourist event” never left the table?
Also, with all these superstitions and beliefs flying around, it would seem obvious for Devil-Beaters to charge HK$44 for their services instead of HK$50? Remember, it is drummed into the Chinese that the number 4 is unlucky because in Chinese it sounds like “death”. How silly the traditions! Where individuals covet traditions when it suits them, and easily dismiss them when it inconveniences them.
Background: The ritual of “Beating the Devil” occurs during the White Tiger Festival (March) and the Hungry Ghosts Festival (August). This ritual has changed from its original form where, in traditional farming communities, the White Tiger was worshipped and its paper image placed in the house to keep out rats and snakes, to its current manifestation as a procedure to vent negative emotions (e.g. curse, revenge, anger) at one’s enemies.
During everyday English conversation, do normal people ever ever use the word “chattels”? I don’t believe so, which is why while visiting some friends, I had to take this picture of a notice from their building's management company.
“Chattels” is essentially a legal term defined as: “Personal property, movable or immovable, which is less than a freehold; for example, a book, a coat, a pencil, growing corn, a lease.” The mind boggles at what kinds of chattels are being thrown out of the building.
In all fairness (even though the copywriter did not intend to draw attention by showing off her thesaural prowess), I suppose the ordinary headline “Objects Thrown from Height” would not have had the same impact on native English speakers.
Perhaps Thomas Jefferson said it best with: “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error“. Much error exists in the world and this blog, from the perspective of one Hong Kong SAR resident, is a small attempt to minimize errors.