Monthly Archives: November 2012

Sign Language

Clever names excite me. Witty headlines delight me.

When travelling around Hong Kong or, indeed anywhere in the world, I like to take a moment to read restaurant names, signs and slick newspaper headlines.

A personal favourite of mine was the newspaper headline I read after French actor Gérard Depardieu was busted urinating on a plane (but not in the toilet):

“Oui? Non!”

Thai Restaurants around the world invariably make use of ingenious names:

Bow-Thai, Thai-riffic, En-Thai-Sing, Thai-Tanic, Thai-One-On. Seriously, Siam eatery monikers are an endless conga line of comic genius.

And then there is “Chinglish” – a curious mix of Chinese English. Here in Asia, signwriters and Government departments must use the cheapest translation service possible when putting up signs in English. A cursory trawl through Google could keep you amused for hours. For example:

In Mainland China, you don’t “keep off the grass”, you “Show mercy to the green lives under your foot”

In Hong Kong, there is a street called “Rednaxela Terrace”, and I confess, I only realized this when it was pointed out to me: It’s “Alexander” spelt backwards. Apparently the work of a non-English speaking signwriter back in 1901 – and the name stuck.

Going through the old Guangzhou Airport in China many years ago, this is what confronted me at Immigration:

“Prohibited Articles – “Fresh fruit, Eggplants, Hot Pipers, and a tomato ”.

Sadly, at the new Guangzhou airport, horny Scotsmen and their subversive tomatoes seem to have now been deemed safe to enter China.

Other countries are not immune either.

While my wife and I trekked the Annapurna circuit in Nepal some time ago, we spent a night in the “Hotel Superb View”; not because it had “Incredible 270° views”, no, we stayed there because according to the billboard sign, it was: “Not recommended by Lonely Planet Guide Book”.

Some signs while grammatically correct, just defy belief. When I lived in Africa, there was a road sign at the entrance to the Hilane National Park in Swaziland that announced:

Cyclists & pedestrians: Beware of Lion and Elephant

Ummm, Ok, thanks. I’ll keep a sharp eye out for them.

But some signs just give too much information. Down the road from where I live, there is a restaurant:

“Royal Thai Style Seafood & Dessert Fusion Restaurant & Pub”

As my wife said to me, “I wonder if they do massages as well?”

Romney and Ryan – Two Peanuts in a Pod.

Poor Mitt. Is there anything sadder than a failed political candidate crying: “Unfair!” Well, yep, there is. It’s his running mate, Paul “I’m a caricature of a preppy college dude” Ryan, also spouting off.

Boys, listen up: You lost. It hurts. For all I know, it may not have even been fair; but to engage in post poll sour grapes – and a bunch of grapes without much actual truth in them – just validates the choice made by American voters. Man-up gentlemen!

So what’s the real reason poor old multi-zillionaire Mitty – bitty the dust?

His tie.

OK, maybe I have a ‘thing’ for US politician’s ties, but look at the facts before discounting this little election night theory:

Mitt Romney – Blue and red stripes. It’s no wonder his credibility plummeted. Make a choice buddy.  Are you all about the red tie power play? Or are you all about the warm and fuzzy blue message? To top it off, nondescript dark stripes kept the two opposing themes apart, like an over zealous boxing referee. If you have to wear them on the same neck strangler, let them fight!

Obama, by way of contrast, had his trusty shiny blue soup catcher on.  No confusing messages there. “I’m a man of the people; granted, I am surrounded by 70 heavily armed secret service agents and travel in a bomb proof car, but trust me, I am one of you”

Oh Obama, who would have thought a simple tie choice would have swung 6 of the 7 swing states blue. Good work Michelle. Actually that might make a catchy country and western song,  “Baby, I swung the swing states blue”. Yeh, maybe not…

And so we are left with a terribly confused Romney. He seems to think people still want to hear his opinion. Here’s a news flash Moneybags – we don’t.  It’s actually quite sad for poor young Paul Ryan.  He seems to be in a little fantasy world all of his own, claiming that Obama “has no mandate”, to lead the USA, despite:

1)    The ‘Mitt and Paul show’ losing the election, 332 to 206 electoral college votes

2)    Losing the popular vote by 3.4 million ballots.

Then there is the clincher, with the VP wannabe claiming Obama won due to the “higher turnout in urban areas” Oh, you mean poor people, Paul? Oh dear, when did THEY get the vote?

Planned obsolescence

There was a break-in recently at a Dutch Art Museum. Thieves got away with US$125 million in art. There are, apparently, no leads. Where was security? The museum doesn’t have security guards; they rely on ‘electronic’ methods.

When asked, the museum’s director said – and I quote  – “We have state-of-the-art security”.


So a couple of blokes turn up. They gain unfettered access to a museum containing paintings by Picasso, Monet and Matisse; spend 35 minutes browsing for the best pieces – steal them – and wandered off into the night. Yep, state-of-the-art all right.

It raises an intriguing point. Is the time approaching when humans become obsolete? Anyone who has ever tried to telephone and talk to a human being at a Bank will tell you; it’s virtually impossible.

“To stay on hold for 2 hours, then get cut off: press 1”.

“To hear other options, none of which are what you want: press 2”.

“To talk to a representative, just hang up now. Seriously, he’s never coming to the phone”.

And if I hear one more time, while on an eternal hold loop, the recorded message: “Your call is important to us” I will puke.

So what do you think happened to all these people who use to work at the Bank/Utility/Phone companies? The population of the Earth keeps getting bigger, but corporations use fewer and fewer staff… Maybe there’s an island somewhere, full of surplus phone answerers.

I am all for making life easier, but clearly, in the drive to reduce outgoings to zero, corporations and governments seem to have forgotten that humans actually like other humans to interact with. Sure, talking to a machine has its advantages, anyone who has had to endure their boss demanding the laws of physics be cast aside: “it has to be done yesterday!” Might instead, quite like to have a more reasonable conversation with the coffee machine. But on the whole, it’s much more pleasant to talk to a person.

Now excuse me, I have to go and hang some paintings…

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