Swire Group

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 October, 2011, 12:00am

Former governor Patten fishes for compliments on return to city

Hong Kong's last governor Chris Patten is back in town, dispensing his usual wisdom and wit. The occasion for this visit was the 50th anniversary of Oxford University Press (China), which is part of Oxford University, of which Patten is chancellor. The OUP is the world's largest university publisher and provides some 15 million children in China with English-language learning material and publishes 3 million English-Chinese dictionaries a year. Presumably, the Beijing leadership has decided to overlook the fact that this lucrative business is nominally headed by their former arch-enemy, who was variously called by mainland officials a prostitute, a serpent, a sinner of a thousand years and a tango dancer. This versatility notwithstanding, Patten remarked yesterday, at a reception to commemorate OUP China's anniversary, that although he was the chancellor, it was really the vice-chancellor who ran the university, adding that without a vice-chancellor there could be no chancellor. What they call in academic circles a 'nice point'. Later, he talked of going to Shanghai to give a talk, and wandered into the OUP office in Shanghai hoping to pick up some ideas for what to say. He was mulling over the expression 'red herring' and asked how it translated into mandarin. One of the staff told him he knew how to translate 'red' and 'herring' but didn't know what the expression meant so couldn't help him. Patten then asked if he would be coming to his talk. 'Sorry I cannot - I have other fish to fry,' he replied apologetically. Guffaws all round.

Tale of the tape on Cathay flight

First it was bottled water given to Marco Club members flying economy that disappeared. Next Cathay Pacific stopped automatically giving out amenity kits to economy class passengers. Now we find the airline has resorted to using strips of sticky tape to patch the interior of one of its increasingly elderly Boeing 747-400s. At least that's our experience on a recent flight from London when we found three strips of very dodgy transparent tape masking a gap between the interior window frame and the side panel moulding. We're not sure if using the tape - which was peeling off and had been used so often that it had lost its stickiness - would necessarily stop wilful kids from poking stuff through the gap. But Captain Richard Hall, Cathay Pacific director of flight operations, assured us all was okay. 'As I am sure you know, the cabin trim and scratch panel are not part of the pressure hull,' he said, while promising to pass our observations on to the airline's engineering department. And for those readers who are interested, amenity items 'such as dental sets, socks, eye masks and earplugs, etc are available on request by passengers in the economy cabin', a Cathay spokeswoman confirmed. She said they stopped distributing them in April last year to 'minimise wastage'.

Fears over Wall Street protest

Black Swan author Nassim Taleb frets that the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York and elsewhere in the US will turn into class warfare. He told Bloomberg Television it had the potential to be a second-generation Marxist movement. But he thinks one way of fixing the problem is to take back the US$2.2 trillion in bonus payments to which the bankers helped themselves. 'The problem with Wall Street is a very simple problem with symmetry and compensation,' he says. 'The only valuable information in a bank earnings report is how much they pay themselves ... It is a compensation scheme and nothing else ...' He argues the bankers, who he says are 'not smart' and 'hijacked the American economy', should not have received the US$2.2 trillion bonuses. 'Unfortunately, we don't have clawbacks in the US,' he laments. He thinks it is maybe too late. 'It worries me,' he adds.

Jackson's still the top earner

Death isn't necessarily synonymous with a cash crunch, according to Forbes.com, which says Michael Jackson has topped its annual list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities for the second year in a row. It says his estate brought in US$170 million from sales of his music and his stake in the Sony/ATV catalogue. 'That's a big drop from the US$275 million Jackson earned in the previous 12 months, but it's still enough to make him the second highest-earning pop act over the past year, dead or alive, after U2.' Forbes.com says the 15 people on its list earned a combined US$366 million between October last year and this month, which 'just goes to show that death is not the end when it comes to celebrities'. This reminds us of the rock star in the Douglas Adams classic The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, who had to spend a year or so dead 'for tax reasons'.