Is China cheating?

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Well done. Now do it without the drugs.

Barely three days into the Olympic Games and China has already been accused of cheating.

Ye Shiwen took gold in the 400-meter individual medley, smashing the world record and swimming faster than American Ryan Lochte in the last 50 meters of the race – he won the men’s version of the same race.

BBC commentator Claire Balding turned to her co-host and said: “How many questions will there be about someone who can suddenly swim much faster than she has ever swum before?”

Balding has received some criticism over her remarks, and I can understand that. Her attitude was cynical and to accuse a 16-year-old of cheating smacks a little of bullying.

But you know what? I can understand her attitude more.

Remember those World Championships of 1994?

China won 12 golds – an improbable amount considering they had rarely ranked in the sport previous to that. The reaction was justly suspicious, and just two years later in the 1996 Olympics they won just one gold.

All through the 1990s China’s swimmers tested positive for banned substances – 40 in total, including a 16-year-old (not Ye Shiwen).

China promised to clean up its act.

And maybe it has.

But the point is once you pee in the pool once, you’re going to be the first to get blamed when it happens again.

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Yes Hong Kong’s apartments are small. So friggin’ what?

Hong Kong apartment

Small apartments, big talk. Enough already.

Hong Kong – city of neon lights, dim sum, ebullient Filipinos, texting and walking, cheap taxis and – most importantly – tiny, cramped, shoe-box-like apartments.

That’s the impression I would have if I listened seriously to the complaints emanating from the beery mouths of anyone ‘condemned’ to living in this fantastic, has-it-all city.

Never mind the world’s most amazing skyline.

Never mind the beaches just a 30-minute ferry ride away from anywhere.

Never mind the fantastic food, short-skirted nightlife and daily sense of damn-this-place-is-the-SHIT, man!

What people really, conscientiously, unshakably need to concern themselves with is the meager size of their living space.

After all, if we didn’t complain about that we’d only complain about how we had to wait SIX WHOLE MINUTES!! for the MTR the other day.

Or how you didn’t get a cup of tea before your foot massage last week. (I mean seriously! It just ruined the whole experience.)

This obsession with picking out the worst of the best is irritating on a good day, and downright idiotic on a bad one.

There’s a lot of talk about Hong Kong “princess syndrome” – that condition expressed by Hong Kong females (and suffered by their beleaguered boyfriends) where every part of the face except the pouting lips gets sucked into itself and the whole body exhales in one, long, drawn out, protracted whine about something that they didn’t get but reallyReallyRIIIIIIILLY want, punctuated with an arm-crossed “Hmph” and a foot stomp.

But these girls are relatively easy-going, positively tolerable, compared to the brattish sense of entitlement on display whenever the British, or the Australian, or the American or French expats get talking about property.

Yes it’s expensive. Yawn.

Yes your mother’s closet is bigger than your living room. Yaaaawn.

Yes you can see your fat neighbor peeing every morning barely three feet from your kitchen window. OK that one does kind of suck.

But take a look out the other window! Take a walk around the block and tell me honestly that these things detract from this awesome, spectacular, one-of-a-kind city that is Hong Kong.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you don’t like it, leave.

But if you do, remember this – you’re like the guy who runs out of Halle Berry’s bedroom because he doesn’t like her wallpaper.

Yes you’re right – no one’s done that yet. You would be the first.

Aurora assassin – one bullet shy of oblivion

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We’ll likely never know what convinces freaks like James Holmes to walk into a movie theater and murder innocent people.

We’ll likely never know what he was thinking yesterday, as he sat wild-eyed and dazed, having had days and nights to consider his actions, in the courtroom to hear the charges against him.

We’ll likely never know why he didn’t discharge one final bullet into his own head, as often happens in these senseless, though often well planned executions.

We’ll never know the final thoughts of his 12 victims either, nor of the things they could have achieved in a future that was robbed of them.

But one thing we do know is that killing Holmes for killing others is a hypocrisy that needs to be eradicated.

It’s easy to become infuriated in the emotional days just proceeding an evil episode like this. And if there is ever a crime that could warrant a death penalty, it would be one such as this.

What the survivors in that theater witnessed, and what the world has heard about, is in every sense an act of pure, unadulterated evil, as unfathomable and as haunting as it’s possible to imagine.

But justice is the servant of morality.

Our moral code, while differing slightly depending on the culture, is shared by most of humanity, and acts as the bedrock on which we can build our law courts.

And if our moral code directs us not to murder, not to take another’s life, then it is the ultimate hypocrisy to punish felons with exactly that crime.

Consider that morality can be measured.

Consider that there is a bowl of water, from which a tap extends and over which a pipe hangs. Every time something immoral occurs a droplets falls from the tap, and every time something moral happens a droplet falls into the bowl from the pipe.

It should be self evident that 12 droplets fell from the tap that night of July 20.

I argue it is also self evident that if Holmes is himself killed, another droplet will fall from the bowl, not into it.

Killing is wrong. If we murder our murderers, we only end up depleting the ‘morality bowl’ further.

No matter how much I wish the maniac had sent a bullet through his own skull, I have no right to take his life myself, and nor does anyone else.

Hey, coffee snobs. It’s only coffee. Get over it

starbucks coffee

If it’s dark, strong and comes in a cup, I’ll drink it.

I drink coffee.

I drink it to wake up in the morning.

I drink it because I like the taste.

I drink it because it has become part of my routine: Get to office … turn on computer … wait 43 minutes and 30 seconds for the thing to blink into life … decide now is a good time to go to Starbucks.

There. I said it. Starbucks.

I drink Starbucks coffee, and despite the fact that millions of other people do each day too – Starbucks sells around 8 million cups of coffee around the world every day – I’m made to feel like some sort of culinary heathen, a caffeine ignoramus who must have been born without taste buds because my choice of coffee is mainstream, and those who KNOW about coffee, usually a claim based on some tenuous link to Italy through a great-great-step-auntie, say things like “Starbucks?? Starsucks. You should try …” and then go on to describe some tiny little vendor in some back alley in some uncharted part of town who strains his coffee through old shoes.

Well guess what.

You can keep your rectum-processed, civet coffee. Yes, there really is a coffee from Indonesia that uses beans after they’ve been eaten, and crapped out, by civets. And it costs a fortune.

I’m sure it tastes great and I’m sure drinking it makes you feel special.

But I will stick to Starbucks thank you, because even if it isn’t the best coffee in the world, even if it is made to a formula and somehow by buying a cup I’m supporting “Evil Corporates” and “The Commercialization of Life,” it gives me what I need, when I need it, in the same way each day, and yes, I think that’s a good thing.

So next time you see me holding a nice, warming cup of Starbucks coffee, before you say something idiotic like “That’s not coffee, THIS is coffee” and shove my nose into a mug of the stuff you brought back from Inner Mongolia that you’ve been saving for special days, consider this:

I DO NOT GIVE A SHIT.

It tastes like coffee to me and that’s why I keep buying it.

If you prefer the stuff from Mongolia, why don’t you move there?

Just a suggestion.

Hong Kong is fueled by drugs, sex, and debauchery … until you get here

Asian girls

Not as fun as they look.

When I arrived in Hong Kong nearly three years ago, I touched down expecting a new life to unfold before me. One of depravity, decadence and unfettered hedonistic debauchery.

I had visions of naked women lined up on bar tops, their torsos sprinkled with cocaine, begging me to dispossess them of their last vestiges of self respect.

I would be pouring absinthe on my cornflakes and mainlining Red Bull. It was to be the start of a lust-fueled, drug-enhanced, 100-miles-an-hour-Jesus-I-hope-I-don’t-die life (in a good way).

I believed.

Fast forward to today and I have developed a few friendships, a semi-decent career and a rather lazy interest in the strange bugs crawling through my garden on Lamma island.

My experience of ‘coke’ has been limited to the teeth-rotting, fizzy liquid version (far unhealthier, I’m sure), and the only ‘benders’ I’ve been on have been the ab machines down the gym.

What the hell went wrong?

It would be too easy to blame the parents. Yes, they cursed me with an overgrown sense of responsibility and a nauseating desire to please the morally superior. But it’s not like I’ve never strayed from the path of righteousness.

And in Hong Kong that path is a tiny, moss-covered trail running quietly beside the raucous eight-lane mega-highway of parties, booze, drugs and sex.

We are told.

An emergency track, to be used only when the debauchery juggernaut has jackknifed and the highway of over-indulgence is gridlocked.

Isn’t it?

Over the last 12 months I have had to consider that my expectations were unrealistically degraded.

I remember the stories from a friend of mine, who lived here a few years ago. His are tales that Hollywood is built on.

He arrived, hot from a successful TV career in London, and immediately got down to work — dealing cocaine. Which he procured from the triads in Kowloon. Which he sold to models and media luvvies. Who thanked him with sex, and booze, and parties, and more sex, and more booze, and more sex.

One of his trips to Bangkok ended with him banging a ladyboy. Another trip to Singapore was spent “evaluating the varying qualities of the Four Floors of Whores.”

I’m pretty sure he wasn’t making it up.

Then there are the media stories. I’d seen various articles with headlines such as “Coked up bankers of Hong Kong,” describing how the suited suavos in their gleaming high-rises snort lines at their desks in order to stay awake.

There are even statistics to back up these claims.

Figures from the government show that instances of cocaine abuse in Hong Kong roughly doubled every year from 1999 to 2007, when they then dipped, nicely coinciding with the financial crash.

But look a little deeper, sniff a little harder (easier for those whose septum has not dissolved) and the hedonistic varnish disintegrates.

My friend’s stories are memorable precisely because they are so rare. The headlines stand out because most of us have never witnessed this behavior, and have to read about it instead.

The stats of drug abuse are actually paltry — most recent figures show that there were 684 instances of cocaine abuse in 2008. OK I know the vast majority of lines snorted are not done under the nose of a policeman with a clipboard, but still … 684? That’s a couple weekends’ worth for some people isn’t it?

It all amounts to a seriously disappointing over-achievement. I came to revel in humanity’s wretchedness, and what I got was a pleasant middle-class life.

Let this be a lesson to all those who set their sights too low.

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