I penned the following letter to Hong Kong’s Ocean Park shortly after a visit this summer…
Dear Mr Zeman,
On the morning of Saturday March 14th I bestowed my presence upon your fine aquatically themed leisure park and was surprised to discover that you apparently enforce a strict dress code. Indeed, had I have known that your establishment required a certain impractical distinction to its guest’s attire whilst wolfing down candy floss, fraternising with sea mammals and tackling the ‘Abyss Turbo Drop’; I may have reconsidered donning a bright yellow chicken costume. However, one failed to recognise any such clothing directive in your small print.
Whilst admiring your charming flurry of flamingos near the entrance, I was accosted by a staffer who offered me tickets to return at another time, sans rooster outfit. Upon challenging this audacious offer, I was informed that certain fellow visitors could potentially mistake me for an employee. I delicately reassured the over-zealous worker that should an unlikely misinterpretation occur, I would graciously elucidate that my appearance as a giant six-foot-white-boy-chicken was solely for my own exclusive enjoyment, and that any enjoyment experienced by third-parties was purely coincidental.
This summer, I visited friends along the US east coast and Canada and then rented a car, travelling 3,099 miles around the Bible Belt states of the Deep South. This was the grand itinerary…
On my travels, I encountered a rash of different extremist groups, attended the country’s biggest church, offended about half a dozen natives and had a couple of scrapes with death. And a month later, back in New York, I had more questions than answers about the people and politics of Jesusland USA…
“Where’s the toilet please, Becky?”…As the howls and bawling laughter which swept around the campfire calmed down, I corrected myself… “Ok, where’s the ‘bathroom’?” “No, that’s not why we’re laughing – like I told you, we have no running water.” My friend’s neighbours, who had gathered for deep-fried turkey and hotdogs, composed themselves and directed me to a random tree.
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…
Life in Plastic
The government levy on plastic bags is beset with politics and loopholes, but it’s worth remembering why this issue is so vital. Local eco-hero Doug Woodring has founded Project Kaisei, a team of environmentalists, activists and scientists based in the US and right here in HK. The project aims to study and retrieve the millions of tons of plastic waste which has converged in the Pacific forming a ‘garbage vortex’. This toxic soup is estimated to be 1,200 times the size of Hong Kong, and it’s still expanding.
On August 2nd, the Kaisei team set sail to the ‘ocean gyre’ to complete toxicity checks, netting trials, scientific tests, wildlife studies and 3-D modelling to examine the depth of the debris (which could be hundreds of metres). The ultimate aim is to clear up the seaborne mess and press for change on land, as the trash ‘no-man’s land’ continues to kill marine life and infect the food chain.
Below are two poems recently performed at our weekly Poetry Night at Joyce’s cafe in Hong Kong. The first is a Peel Street Poets original…
Atheist Poem by Andrew Barker
There is a strange belief that people are nicer
If they pay attention to afterlives.
Mired in the mystical,
Obsessed with death, incapable
Of seeing beauty in this world
Without thinking such beauty was not of this world
Those who find life so foreboding
Need to believe something happens when its over
To make the whole thing worth doing,
Must understand this simple truth
Religion poisons whatever it seeps into.
I believe there is more to life than
Believing there is more than life and
Cannot understand how people can’t see
The accident of geography
That governs their own religious belief.
That afterlife belief you’re so sure is true
Let me guess
Is it the first one you were introduced to?
Or, did you spend time to weigh up the virtues
Of gods and devils from different cultures?
There is such a thing as a burden of proof.
The question is not why others don’t believe,
The question is why you do.