Talkback Tuesday: ‘Big trouble in little China’

Tuesday 1 October 2013, 6.00am HKT

T A L K B A C K   T U E S D A Y

RECENTLY, I did some whistleblowing at a world-famous site. Not quite in the stature of Eddie the Nationally Insecure Snowman (geddit?), but I did reveal my part in the rise and fall of ethics in a certain ‘wordprocessing’ practice.

academic fraud

(via via outoppie)

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Calling the margins

Wednesday 23 January 2013, 1.23am HKT

Updated 19 Feb 2013 (format fixes)

DIALOGUES from the movie “Margin Call” (2011), a tightly wound independent drama film about what takes place over a 36-hour period at a large Wall Street investment bank and highlights the initial stages of the financial crisis of 2007–2008.



you cant cheat nature wikipedia“There are three ways to make a living in this business — be first, be smarter, or cheat. Now I don’t cheat. And while I think we’ve got some pretty smart people in this building, it’s better to be first.”

~ CEO John Tuld (played by Jeremy Irons)

The perceptive will ask, can I cheat smarter first?

Which is why the CEO John Tuld told his floor head Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) this later on when the brown stuff should hit the fan:—

Sam: You’re panicking.

John: If you’re first out the door, it’s not called panicking.

keep calm panicking



Head of trading desk Will Emerson (played by Paul Bettany) tells ‘wonder boy’ head of capital markets Jared Cohen (Simon Baker) like it is:—

sign language interpretationJared: Sometimes in an acute situation such as this, often what is right can take on multiple interpretations. I need to know if you will step up.

Will: I’m sure Sam will step up. But just to make sure, Sam and I have always had the SAME interpretation of what’s right — not matter HOW ACUTE the situation.

In other words, if you don’t stand your ground, the bastards are going to pull the rug from under your feet, namsayin’?



Reality check about what we do, what we give, what we get:—

“Jesus, Seth. Listen, if you really wanna do this with your life you have to believe you’re necessary — and you ARE. People wanna live like this in their cars and big f–ckin’ houses they can’t even pay for — then you’re necessary. The only reason that they all get to continue living like kings is ’cause we got our fingers on the scales in their favour. I take my hand off — and then the whole world gets really f–ckin’ fair really f–ckin’ quickly, and nobody actually wants that. They say they do but they don’t. They want what we have to give them but they also wanna, you know, play innocent and pretend they have no idea where it came from. Well, that’s more hypocrisy than I’m willing to swallow, so f–ck ’em. F–ck normal people. You know, the funny thing is, tomorrow, if all of this goes tits up, they’re gonna crucify us for being too reckless. But if we’re wrong, and everything gets back on track? Well then, the same people are gonna laugh till they piss their pants ’cause we’re gonna all look like the biggest pussies God ever let through the door. Listen, nothing I’m gonna say is going to make you feel any better. It’s just going to suck for a while and then you’ll be fine.”

~ Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) to junior risk analyst Seith Bregman (Penn Badgley)

Everyone’s living  some kind of lie, including yourself.

necessity macgyver fashionablygeek



If there’s a winner, there HAS TO BE a loser somewhere:—

one message lusers tardeotemperano

“So you think we might have put a few people out of business today, that it’s all for naught. You’ve been doing that every day for almost 40 years, Sam. And if this is all for naught, then so is everything out there.

“It’s just money. It’s made up — pieces of paper with pictures on it so we don’t have to kill each other just to get something to eat. It’s not wrong. And it’s certainly no different today than it’s ever been: 1637, 1797, 1819, 1837, 1857, 1884, 1901, 1907, 1929, 1937, 1974, 1987 — Jesus! Didn’t THAT f–ck me up good! — 1992, 1997, 2000 — and whatever we want to call THIS.

“It’s all just the same thing over and over; we can’t help ourselves. And you and I can’t control it, or stop it, or even slow it. Or even ever so slightly alter it. We just react. And we make a lot money if we get it right, and we get left by the side of the road if we get it wrong.

“And there have always been and there always will be the same percentage of winners and losers. Happy foxes and sad sacks. Fat cats and starving dogs in this world. Yeah, there may be more of us today than there’s ever been. But the percentages — they stay exactly the same.

~ CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons)

Which side of the proportion do YOU often find yourself in?



The real caveat about value, sellability, buyability and priceability:—

Sam Rogers: The real question is, who are we selling this to?

John Tuld: The same people we’ve been selling it to for the last two years and whoever else would buy it.

Sam: But John, if you do this, you will kill the market for years. It’s over.

(John nods.)

Sam: And you’re selling something that you *know* has no value.

John: We are selling to willing buyers at the current fair market price — so that we may survive!

Sam: You would never sell anything to any of those people ever again.

John: I understand.

Sam: Do you?

John: Do YOU?! (Pounding the desk) THIS is it! I’m telling you, this is IT!

~ Dialogue between Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) and John Tuld (Jeremy Irons)

Just because you’re being sold something — anything — doesn’t mean it’s worth buying.

And we’re not just talking about investment products either.

open season on idiots

You might just be ‘the season’



Always, always have even a generic idea of how much your outgoings are, no matter how sinful the spending had been for.

danger screenshotSeth Bregman: Will?

Will Emerson: Yeah?

Seth: Did you really make two and half million bucks last year?

Will: Yeah … I did.

Peter Sullivan: What do you do with all that money?

Will: I don’t know, really. It goes pretty quick. You spend what you’ve got in your pocket. Well, the taxman takes half of it up front. That leaves you with, what, million and a quarter. The mortgage takes three hundred. I gave a hundred and fifty to my parents, just to keep them going, you know. So now you got, what —

Peter: Eight hundred.

Will: A hundred fifty for the car last year, another hundred for eating, fifty on clothes, put four hundred away for a rainy day…

Seth: Smart.

Will: And what’s that?

Peter: One hundred twenty-five left.

Will: I spent 76,521 dollars on booze, dancers and whores.

Peter: Seventy-six five?

Will: Yeah, kinda shocked me too, although I was able to write most of it off as entertainment expenses! It’s true!

~ Dialogue between risk analysts Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley) and Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and head trader Will Emerson (Paul Bettany)

We can’t sin for long if we’re profligate with our sins!



animal holes groundIn your own small way, do something to make your mark for the short time you’ll have lived in the world.

John Tuld: You’re one of the luckiest guys in the world, Sam. You could be digging ditches all these years.

Sam Rogers: That’s true. And if I had, at least there’d be some holes in the ground to show for it.



“Hey Eric! Don’t beat yourself too much about this stuff, all right? Some people like driving the long way home. Who the f–ck knows, right?”

~ Will Emerson as he is leaving ex-head of risk management Eric Dale’s [John Tucci] place

Some people just prefer the long way around things just to save their version of ‘time.’ It’s nothing personal.

harold jarvis longrider 1901 patent



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. Updated 19 Feb 2013 (format fixes). (B13022)

Images: You Can’t Cheat Nature via Wikipedia | Keep Calm and Start Panicking via The Keep Calm-o-Matic | Sign Language Interpretation (modified) via Toronto Sports Media | Necessity McGyver via Fashionably Geek | You Have One New Message via Tarde o Temperano | Open Season on Idiots via Predictable History, Unpredictable Past | Danger screenshot via WonderHowTo | Animal in hole via eHow | Harold Jarvis’ Longrider 1901 via Rene K. Mueller.

10 things this week (Week 41)

Sunday 14 October 2012, 12.30am HKT

CLEARLY the week hasn’t been a smooth one by virtue of my doing another ’10 things’ summary.

For the week ended Saturday, 13 October 2012.



DISCOVERED my password booklet went missing (UK) / gone missing (USA).


I’m not particularly worried about my passwords for various online espionage services (like WordPress) falling into the wrong hands. Having this blog is already wrong hands enough.

The worst thing about losing the booklet is that it contains my ID authentication codes for various stock exchanges and government regulatory agencies in several different countries — the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the USA, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, our Securities and Futures Commission, etc.

Result? Super major aggro for the authorities because I’ve had to report the loss to the police in several countries. This is self-pwnage par excellence.

Moral of the story? Things disappear notwithstanding the best security measures. Save your skin by having an action list for that eventuality. It isn’t if disaster will come — disaster will always come. It’s a question of how you manage the disaster.

Super excellent moral of the story? Now is the time to start stealing loads of money from everybody because whoever now has my password book will be taking the heat for it. Like I said, it’s a question of how you manage the disaster…



LAST WEEK, the Oscar-winning documentary “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons in the Life of Robert S. McNamara” was on telly.

Since then, memories of Mrs Lee and her six sons — all KIAs in Vietnam — kept playing in my mind. (Mrs Lee: same surname, no relation.)

Mrs L went a bit loopy afterwards, and got worse as her kids’ insurance payouts rolled in punctually month after month to remind her of that personal disaster.

Yes, folks, it surprises many that I’m actually old enough to have schoolmates who fought in Vietnam. It surprises even me.




BAZ LUHRMANN’s “Romeo + Juliet” (1996) on telly. Shakespeare’s famous play updated to a hip modern suburb, modern dress and modern gunfights but retaining its original 500-year-old ‘attitudes’ and dialogue.

The love scenes were über-crap and corny, but the other scenes were fantastic. Summary? Our lives are shite and violent, and it’s been like that down through the ages, and no change in our propensity for stupidity. Yay! Something doesn’t change! The 500-year-old dialogue really puts the whole thing into sharp focus.

Just imagine

  • Romeo and Juliet in their original 13-year-old selves
  • 500-year-old dialogue
  • Vietnam War as backdrop with Italian carabinieri as troops
  • hippie astral light sunflower music for the love scenes
  • CCR, ZZ Top, Stanton Warriors and Crystal Method music for the actions
  • Merseyside Mods as the Capulets with fake ‘Suh’thern’ American accents
  • German-Iranian skinheads as the Montagues in broken London Cockney English

What a killer that would be!


Real Steel” (2011) — boxing by hip-hop robots set in ‘old-fashioned’ America in 2020 (just seven years from now).

Honestly, I don’t get it — what’s the thrill in watching two lumbering steel robots punching each other’s circuits out? The blood and gore‘s the whole point.

Why boxing robots? We’re inundated already with news about those two robots (Romney and Obama), c’mon.

Meanwhile, the rest of the TV fare had been moronic — constant repeats of:—

  • “National Treasure” (2004)
  • “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” (2007)
  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011)
  • “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (2010) *groan*

It would’ve been better if they’d just reshow the original “Planet of the Apes” (1968). Or “Centurion” (2010), for which I wrote a faggoty review.


No surprises here: “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” — which kept repeating endlessly, like a vampire sucking the life out of you using a catheter inserted into your … well, you get the idea.



SIGHTED on a T-shirt: “Time Immemorable” (McDonalds, 10 Oct, 1.20pm).

Sorry, no pics — so you can classify this into the  No Pics, It Didn’t Happen category.

It’s “time immemorial” — I know the T-shirt writer meant ‘immemorial’ because of its ‘context’ (i.e. the surrounding text and other non-compos-mentis’try).

Interestingly, ‘since time immemorial’ is a legal term of art defined as before 6 July 1189 by the first Statute of Westminster of 1275 (3 Edw. I), whose 51 Acts are still in legal force in the UK. That was the date of accession of King Richard I (the Lionheart) to the English throne.



“There’s been a persistent and virulent lack of discipline on my ship.”
— Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

OH, I find living in Hong Kong is really getting under my skin these couple of years.

Attitudes, basic manners and general behaviour have gone to pot these couple of years. The Cantonese (which makes up 95% of our population) are not generally known for quiet speech. Now, I’ve gone deaf from the goddamn constant hollering.


The “post-80s” (people born in the 1980s) are cocky (a feat to behold in a city already renowned for its cockiness), pedantic and callous. In short, stuffed-shirts and know-alls.

The “post-90s” bunch are ugly or stupid, or ugly and stupid, wear outlandish garb, and have no working or workable skills to speak of. Their Chinese-language skills are as bad as their English skills, and that’s seriously some feat to behold.

The Hong Kong education system has always been extremely competitive. Think of the U.S. system multiplied by (literally) 100 times. Think of the UK system multiplied by 25 times. Only the mainland Chinese, Japanese and Singaporean systems are more competitive than Hong Kong’s — and I tell you that’s saying something.

But Hong Kong buggers its educational horsepower by working in ‘streams’ (Science, Arts and Commerce). In the UK, for instance, a secondary student is basically free to choose whatever subjects to do at O-level. (In Scandinavia, students study everything: sciences, arts and commerce subjects regardless of personal interest.) In Hong Kong, choice outside the stream is disallowed.

Because of that insane policy, we’ve now descended to the point whereby students from one stream are unable to hold a reasonably informal conversation with those from the other streams because the stream contents and instruction are so mutually exclusive.

The education authorities officially recognise this problem (but do nothing about it). The politicos complain about it (and do nothing). The parents see it in their children on a daily basis (but don’t know what to do about it). The new, reformed academic structure (“334”) in place since 2011 for sure is going to accentuate this bubble mentality in a whole generation of people.

Can we not say this refusal to remedy the situation is in itself a sign of refusal to learn from mistakes? Draw your own conclusions.

What’s the point of extreme competitiveness when everybody knows nothing except what’s in their own little bubble?


Personal hygiene is sinking — the ‘pong’ in the underground/subway trains during rush hour is just excruciating.

General urban cleanliness is sinking too — debris in the streets, overflowing rubbish bins not attended to as a rule, hosing engines no longer seen plying the streets to wash them, busted kerbs and sidewalks, unrepaired traffic lights, etc. The list goes on.


Expats, semi-expats and Eurasians born and bred in Hong Kong are having a hard, hard time landing a job because the usual ‘anti-personnel’ tactic is to play up the Chinese-language requirement of the job (for those whose Chinese-language skills are weak).

For the locals and new immigrants, employers simply reverse the anti-personnel tactic by playing up English-language skills.



I’ve been meaning to write this for a very long time, at least for a whole year already.

Xenophobia is on the rise in Hong Kong, and pro-Hong Kong, pro-Cantonese, anti-Mandarin or otherwise anti-mainlander sentiment and rhetoric is growing. Xenophobia is mostly against visitors and new immigrants from mainland China. Domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia also get the soggy end.

I remember this is exactly what Chris (now Lord) Patten (our last Governor), The Economist, Newsweek, Time magazine, Die Südedeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel, La Repubblica and Pravda predicted would happen 10 to 15 years after Hong Kong’s sovereignty transfer to China.

Interestingly, I remember only the NME (New Musical Express, a music newspaper) actually said Hong Kong will turn “racist” under Chinese rule, so a certain kind of music had to be catered for. All the other ‘serious’ newspapers and magazines either missed it or sanitised their words so much that it pretty much came to the same thing.

On local Chinese-language and regular social networking sites, at least I’m seeing a rise in groups such as Cantonese Language — there are many others on Facebook — making highly defamatory, insane, invasive, irrelevant and inciting declarations on everything wrong that isn’t Hong Kong and everything right that is.

Many of these xenophobic Hong Kong groupings have followings that number in the middle thousands. And nearly every insane statement put out by these groupings is greeted with support by thousands of followers and/or sympathisers. I grew up partly in Italy and the UK at a time when those countries has sizeable right- and left-wing militant movements, and the same thing is happening right at home now.

The Establishment here are adding to the winter of discontent by sitting on their hands, letting things slide, and showing no operational (let alone political) leadership.

Then we have that completely brain-damaged bunch of otherwise straight-A kids who banded together and formed Scholarism, a pressure group opposed to the new ‘National Education Curriculum’ (NEC) for secondary education that they (and many others) branded as pro-China nationalistic brainwashing. For an education-related pressure group, Scholarism sure knows jack about the politics of education.

I’m not f@cking stupid, boyo. I can suss out what their game is. I spent enough time in my kiddie and non-kiddie days living in countries with juntas, corrupt politicos, fascista e comunisti, paramilitary formations and other ‘interesting’ inhabitants. I escaped from one full nighttime military invasion. The front is NEC opposition, the driving engine is anti-mainland politicking.

If the real worth — the true value — of a organised cause is in what and how it presents itself to the public, then it’s clear as the goddamn sunshiny day whenever their conveners speak in public. These guys are having it in for the authorities and anyone else not on their side. Hongkongers are not great or even consistent consumers of news, so this stuff tends to go right over their heads. Many of these newer lobby groups have secret agendas — just that their disguising them aren’t done expertly. I ought to know — I once worked as a political fundraiser in the UK. Don’t f*cking fob me off with disguises and crap.

Personally, I’m no happy bunny about the NEC either, but I’m even unhappier about a bunch of people who get straight As but still manages to screw up big time with the wrong name for their own pressure group (‘scholarism’ means pedantic learning, by the way: they meant ‘scholasticism’ — and even that is problematic for a lobby group). I’ve heard they’ve been told numerous times about the error of their name; they point-blank refused to change. (The media is full of stories about them; just Google.)

RIDER: I hate and detest naming names like this and definitely out of character even for me. But as a person who grew up in 13 different countries around the world (including a crazy place like Beirut, Lebanon) and also trained in psychology and law, I’ve seen my fair share of crazed and fanatical people in my day in and out of psycho labs and courtrooms. I’m pretty insane myself anyway, so it takes one to know one.



Ruminated on the number of times I’ve ended up having to ‘apologise’ for the insane faggotry of Hong Kong people when I’m in the company of foreigners or in other countries.

I’m nothing like the average run of law-abiding, God-fearing, forex-loving, real-estate-speculating, forward-contract-arbitraging Hongkonger, much less the insane bunch mentioned in SIX. Yet, it befalls on me to get hit with remarks like, “Why do YOU as a Hong Kong person do this?”

I don’t know ‘WHY’ — I can’t answer for them because I’ve never spent my formative years here. Ask them, not me. Don’t give me a hard time because of them. I came back to Hong Kong already a fully grown, fully tired and emotional (drunk), and fully insane person (albeit according to non-Hong Kong patterns of insanity).

For crying out loud, I don’t even read or write Chinese!

In reverse, I get the Operation Rolling Thunder treatment from Hongkongers: “Why do you always side with the gweilo (foreigners) when you’re a Hongkonger yourself? Why won’t you be Chinese and tell the mainland Chinese to be in their place?” I don’t and I can’t.

WTF-ness scores: 9.9 – 9.8 – 9.7 – 8.7 – 9.8. WTF Gold Medallist!

I totally relate to why Robert S. McNamara said “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” about his role in the Vietnam War.



THIS IS THE PART where I get tough on people.

An essential trait of an entrepreneur (or at least a person TRYING to run a business) is to NOT have tolerance for loonies. It’s the 80/20 rule — 20% generates 80% of the income, 20% of the time is with sensible people, 80% with the ‘drama’ of the loonies. Just can’t afford to piss about with the loonies.

My last post mentioned a less-than-crystal-clear-minded friend of mine decided out of the blue to redo something highly likely to blow up in my friend’s face several years from now.

A background primer. My friend is 20-something, local born and bred, works a steady but part-time job, and holds a B.A. in English Language. Has a long-running fantasy desire about working for the government in the legal area.

The heatstroke has finally kicked in, I think. My friend has now gone off on a tangent and is preparing to resit high-school subjects for 2014 admission into the local top-dog university, most likely for another bachelor’s degree in law.


Non compos mentis doesn’t even begin to characterise this insanity. Why would anyone in their right mind should want to do this?

The way my friend explained it to me, resitting high-school exams post-degree-wise would “develop the CV” specifically for joining the Hong Kong Civil Service. It was (almost) explained to me that our esteemed bureaucracy would—

“… consider all your best achievements, despite [sic] whether it is a resit or first time — the whole life achievements.”

My friend has been mislead, either by someone or by my friend’s own self. Despite my friend being an English major, my friend’s command of English is … just … f#cking abysmal. My friend is probably unable to fully comprehend the nuances of language in those Civil Service assessment guidelines, I don’t think.

To cut a long story short, my friend is stubborn and barmy — a dangerous combination — and has a distinct penchant for rationalisation and textbooky-type intellectualisation. This person generally can’t see the forest for the trees in most things, and doesn’t realise it.

► If the Civil Service really DOES consider best achievements regardless of first-time pass or resit, wouldn’t it have done that before rather than now or in future for a degree holder?

► If the Civil Service really DOES consider best achievements, wouldn’t resits be a contradiction?

► If you’re preparing for a second stint at Uni, why not just use your present degree to get in, instead of trying “develop” your CV with high-school stuff?

► Presumably at the end of all this you’ll have two degrees under your belt. Aren’t two degrees worth a tad more than high-school stuff?

See what I mean. You and I can see this, plain as daylight, but my friend couldn’t.

Time factor too: Age mid-20s now. Second stint at Uni 2 years from now. Four-year bachelor degrees in Hong Kong. Altogether 6 years to elapse. Graduation over 30 years old. Left behind by the rest by a big stretch, pal.

► Will our Civil Service want a 30-something for first-time entry into their ranks at establishment grade? You’ve got to be farkin’ kidding me! Hahahaha.

Oh, suuuure they will — preferably you’re overseas-educated, preferably overseas-raised, preferably Distinction passes for undergraduate qualifications, preferably solid postgraduate qualifications, etc, etc, etc. Otherwise, those six extra years trying ‘to perfect’ things will get you no better edge than other first-timers with first degrees, and only getting non-establishment-grade civil service rank.

Wow, 6 years to get exactly the same thing what you could get now.

My friend also has an annoying habit of talking about “monetary returns by [age] 35” — whatever the hell that Chinglish means. I’ll just assume (for my own sanity) that it means ‘return on investment.’ If that what my friend means, then business acumen is also seriously lacking by doing this faggotry.

I make an honest living working with crooks the likes of bankers, lawyers, accountants and government officials, day in, day out. I don’t know how the government works in absolute terms, but I sure as hell know more than my friend does.

It’s a test this “consider your best achievements” thing. The “whether it is a first-time or resit” is just another red herring. It’s to sort the wheat from the chaff: those who follow ‘rules’ like drones will forever be slotted into low-level or support roles — someone’s got to do the dirty legwork in the machinery of government, right? It the same sordid routine with H.M. Civil Service in the UK. Duh.

Honestly, I don’t care if my friend gets to read this. My friend needs a good slapping around to bloody wake the f#ck up.

TRIVIA: I have a certain vicious streak in me. I stop being friends with those who later come back and say to me, “Yeah, man, you’re right, it was no good.” I’m rubbing my palms in expectation of that day with this particular friend.



A senior journalist from our local English-language broadsheet wants to interview me over luncheon. I couldn’t believe he wants “to meet a great man and intellect” because of my other, even-stupider, zero-inspired blog, Learn English or Starve.

Details to come. Otherwise, if I’m not back in an hour, call in a bomb scare.



Writing this post, which surely is a sign that things aren’t going well with me.


“You live only once. Why ruin it with a rash decision?”



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. (B12349)

Images: ONE via c4c | TWO via Wikipedia | THREE via Graham’s Down Under Thoughts | FOUR via Imgur | FIVE via c4c | SIX via c4c | SEVEN via Idle Hearts | EIGHT (1) via Hammer’s Hall of Viking Supremacy | EIGHT (2) via Funny Junk | NINE via eHow | TEN via Keep-Calm-And.

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