Legless, but no homeless, in Seattle
SEATTLE, the American city next to a very big Boeing aircraft factory, has gone APEC crazy thanks to this week's APEC conference being held there.
Remember, President Bill Clinton suggested that APEC should hold a big conference to get its act together on free trade, saying it was a move that would benefit the whole Asia-Pacific region - the whole world, in fact.
But number one beneficiary is Seattle itself. There are 1,000 delegates and 2,000 journalists, and we estimate the total spending will pass US$50 million.
There are so many bigwigs that the local airport has had to order extra red carpets.
The local newspaper, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, devoted yesterday's issue of PI News, their answer to our own Young Post, to a kids' guide to Asia-Pacific free trade and related issues - all 16 pages of it.
Two cartoon characters reminiscent of Bart Simpson, called Dwayne and Dweezil, are ''Doin' the APEC'' in rap talk on the back page. Elsewhere in PI News, the debate over tariff barriers is made to sound like a Nintendo video game.
According to Lai See's correspondent in Seattle, the usual bafflement shown by the American public when faced with anything more than 10 miles away from their own coastline has been replaced with a frenzy of interest, perhaps because local farmers will be the first to benefit if agricultural tariff barriers come down.
In order to impress the visitors, it has been suggested that all the ''Homeless in Seattle'' beggars in the town be rounded up and shipped elsewhere, and delegates and journalists have been told not to give them any money ''because they'll just spend it on drink''.
Of course, if they don't give it to the beggars, the delegates and journalists will probably spend it on drink themselves.
Top Billing FOCUS of the whole event is Bill Clinton - after Dwayne and Dweezil, of course. Or he will be if he turns up, which is by no means certain.
He's timetabled to take a select bunch of other delegates to a ''retreat'' on nearby Blake Island later in the week. Some retreat: he's also taking 1,000 journalists.
Everyone wants Bill to turn up. Not because he'll give a big push to the wider cause of free trade, but because President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines is giving a party at the end of the event, and it's reckoned that if Bill Clinton turns up in Seattleat all, he'll play his sax there.
Exploit 2001 IF you've got nothing to do next week, perhaps you could head off to the Hong Kong University's Expo 2001 - a vision of what Hong Kong will look like in eight years' time.
In fact, even if you're very, very busy it may be worth a look, because the paper cost of mounting the exhibition is HK$100 million.
This works out at $400 a head for the estimated 250,000 visitors.
Depending on your tastes, for $400 you could have a feed at McDonald's and then see Jacky Cheung at the Coliseum. Or hear Mozart's Magic Flute at next year's Hong Kong Arts Festival and enjoy an Italian meal afterwards.
Get real! THE South China Hotel opened yesterday, and its brochure touting ''realistic rates'' is a refreshing holiday from the usual dream world of hotel promoters.
It starts: ''Your room may not have a sea view . . .'' and goes on to say the hotel doesn't have a bar.
But catch this: ''If it's a feel for real Hong Kong lifestyles, real Chinese food and markets, and where locals shop for real bargains, then you'll be in just the right place.'' It's actually in North Point, just beside the market, and those on low floors should remember it's on a tram line, too.
But full marks for being honest. And just to prove how realistic it is, it charges a mere $2 for local calls made from the room.
Miraculous AND now for something from the opposite extreme.
''If you put a little imagination into computers, there's no end to what they can do. Our products will make images and texts come out looking even better than they were originally.'' This is taken from an ad placed by the Derektech Computer Case Co, which makes computer cases with little coloured plastic bits.
Gummed up HERE'S another offer that isn't quite what it seems.
Andy Boulton of Kowloon Tong is giving up smoking and is into the special chewing gum which is supposed to help.
He went into his local Park'N Shop and found it was $7.20 for a packet of three as a special offer. Individual packets were $2.30.
Work it out.
Lavatorial IF you want a secretary who can be subtle, don't hire one from Taiwan.
Mark Kemsley, a resident of Heng Fa Chuen, rang a client in Taipei and the secretary said her boss had gone to the toilet.
When Mark said he'd call back in a few minutes, the secretary replied: ''Don't call too soon. He took a newspaper with him.''