“…The Greyhound website promised new luxury buses, complete with plush seats, power sockets and wifi for my overnight journey to Toronto, Canada – a short break from the US. As I watched the coach fill up, I relaxed in the station smugly ignoring the big rush to board. Suckers… As the bus slowly pulled away, I realised the reason for the urgency – Greyhound tickets do not guarantee a seat and additional transport is provided for those who don’t make it on. Cue the dilapidated ghetto bus which trundled around the corner into the space previously occupied by the new pimped up coach. I spotted the First Bus Travel logo on the back – Greyhound had been bought out by the mickey-mouse Scottish company running the system in my hometown – ‘go figure’.
I recall 18-months ago asking a colleague if the children will ever tire of barking my name as I walk around the school. “No, never” was the response – and indeed, dozens of excitable Hong Kong kiddywinks continue to holler ‘MISTA THOOOM’ in my general direction, only to giggle and run away when I enquire as to what they may require of me. ‘Say What You See’ is certainly the order of the day. Every day.
Occasionally, however, an open-ended question will follow and, more often than not, the main concerns are one’s comparatively absurd height or hair colour, or the reasoning behind my surprise appearances in the local press.
I therefore felt it prudent to collate some of these queries and respond to them forthwith!
Mr Tom, why your hair is golden?
Child, the unusual pigmentation of one’s cranial hair follicles is due to the modest concentration of melanin present and a variation in the melanocortin-1 receptor (Mc1r gene), which is located on chromosome 4. It features an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance and is characterised by low eumelanin levels. Additionally, phenotypic expression for lighter skin and red hair are interrelated. Thus, in conclusion, Mr Tom’s hair is magic.
I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
The good activist
Direct action and civil disobedience often involve effecting change by raising public awareness and so those involved inevitably open themselves up for scrutiny. Some dismiss activists as ego-maniacal, but most of us seek the spotlight for a just cause (not ourselves). Certainly some element of ego will be in play, as you need to be of an outspoken and confident persuasion – few revolutions are led by insecure, timid types. However, many local activists have discovered that you regularly have to put your reputation and liberty on the line to highlight an issue.
The tabloid press humiliated Tibet protester Christina Chan last year, taking the focus away from the political discussion and publishing stolen photos edited to look as if they were lewd. Coupled with photographers lying in wait outside her flat, it’s enough to discourage any young person from speaking out. Meanwhile Long Hair regularly resorts to lobbing fruit around LEGCO, hollering profanities and scrapping with police because he knows that, in the competition for publicity, his political struggles will be aired more widely if he resorts to farce than if he didn’t.
I recently started writing a short, light-hearted political column for Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version…
Not So Super
The UK has embraced ‘green guilt’ in recent years; we Brits can barely step out of bed without feeling pangs over our carbon footprints. Consumer activism has had a real impact on issues like fair trade, packaging and ethical alternatives with big retailers quick to respond in order to compete. In the Fragrant Harbour, however, we’re only just cottoning on to the evils of plastic bags and a term such as ‘food miles’ remains as foreign as central heating.
Gratuitous lighting, individually wrapped potatoes and open-top freezers are hallmarks of HK’s eco-disaster supermarkets. Meanwhile, questions remain over their not-so-special offers, poorly paid staff and the manner in which they dispose of short-dated food (i.e. the bin!). Any demands for ‘slow food’ or local produce are impaired by big stores perpetuating a ‘West is best’ mentality by triumphantly celebrating the esteemed and exotic origins of their offerings. Prithee marvel at these over-packaged glamorous $80 grapes from Japan (they taste the same, but woah – they’re Japanese!) Whilst these designer corn flakes jetted in from Denmark have an obvious air of prestige – perhaps douse them in some Argentinean red? 95% of our food is imported and it is notoriously difficult for us to judge the ecological, social and economic consequences of our purchases but there is a simple reason why progress will come late to HK.