CHRISTMAS KITSCH SO HERE it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having fun. Look to the future now, it's only . . . What? You got a problem with that? Look, the way I see it there's nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas weeks or even months before the event. If I had my way, department stores would be jing-jing-jingling to the sound ofsleigh bells in June, and Tsim Sha Tsui East would be a neon nightmare 365 days a year. You see, as we Hong Kong people say, if you're going to do something, you might as well do it in style. OK, so the style may be of the bad taste variety and the whole exercise one of over-the-top excess, but what the heck? The last couple of years have brought an alarming fall in standards, as if we had suddenly started to think of Christmas as a meaningful religious festival. It just ain't good enough. The extent of our problem was compounded by a friend, just back from a spell in Los Angeles, who told wondrous Yuletide tales of Beverly Hills completely festooned with decorations, of people in Saab and Mercedes convertibles cruising Santa Monica Boulevard in Santa hats. He spoke with fervour of a Liberace-style fake snow sprinkled all around and of one Valley dweller who built a life-sized model of Santa and eight reindeer coming in to land on his roof. This is serious, Hong Kong. Let's grab the reindeer by the horns and show those sun-dried Californians what's what. Let's put the kitsch back into Christmas. Among other projects, I propose a massive neon illumination, filling the Hong Kong skyline with the message: 'Christmas is brought to you by Salem Lights', a 'write-a-carol-and-win-a-Lexus' contest ('We three kings of Orient are, Leon, Andy, Jacky, and tra la la', 'Silent night, Holy night, jackhammers quiet, er, that ain't right'), and a delegation of extortionists dispatched post haste to Santa's Grotto in Times Square. Are you with me, Hong Kong? Look, we've still three weeks until Christmas, so let's pull our fingers out. RUDE FOOD THIS week's Good Taste in Promotional Material Award goes to the politically correct publicity machine at the Foreign Correspondents' Club. To advertise a food promotion featuring Italian chef Mario Caramella (formerly of the Holiday Inn's Mistral restaurant), the FCC made all the right moves. It put out a promotional flier with a photo of the chef on the front. It gave a little blurb about Mr Caramella. It listed the items available on the menu, and, of course, it illustrated its seafood section with a picture of a crustacean. That crustacean was pictured next to that key component of all fine Italian food promotions: a porn magazine featuring a topless woman. HIGH CUISINE TALKING of food, if you thought MSG was a problem, check this out. Alarming tales are filtering in of Chinese food-related stunts guaranteed to enliven any dinner party. First came the news that a 42-year-old Hong Kong man was sentenced to life imprisonment by a New York judge for smuggling heroin into the United States in soy sauce shipments. Then came a remarkable tale in British satirical sheet Private Eye. It concerned a Chinese restaurateur who aroused the suspicion of health inspectors when his restaurant attracted long queues, despite serving appalling food. Indeed, one such inspector described the squid in oyster sauce as the worst he had eaten in his 37 years on the job, but still found himself drawn back to the place. His fellow diners told similar tales. Finally, the truth came out when the proprietor confessed to having spiced up his admittedly miserable food with magic ingredient 'X' - pure opium paste. NO MONEY, NO HONEY GREAT news from Singapore where the anti-bubble gum brigade is getting its long overdue comeuppance. To the embarrassment of the uptight government, a book detailing the Lion City's prostitution industry has raced to the top of the bestsellers' list. David Brazil's No Money, No Honey has sold so well since its November 19 launch that it is set for a second printing and distribution in other Asian countries. The book's appeal appears to lie in its description of a sex trade that flourishes despite Singapore's efforts to remove all traces of naughtiness from its society. Ironically, the country's notoriously twitchy authorities (no slouches when it comes to banning publications if they so much as get the weather wrong) have so far ignored the book. DIMINISHED RETURN YET more proof that the world, or at least the portion of it described as the United States, is a healthy, well-balanced place. Tucked away among the news items emerging from Los Angeles last week was one that sat up and demanded attention. It concerned a bank executive who was awarded US$300,000 by a jury after he sued the firm which installed his 'penile implant'. Apparently as a result of the operation, he lost a certain amount of sensitivity, which according to his lawyer, had a devastating effect on his sex life. CLIVE WIRED CLOSER to home, Hong Kong's television industry is about to come under the satirical watch of the BBC's Saturday Night Clive, the latest vehicle for tubby Australian wit Clive James. Over the years, James has made a career out of laughing at bad television- particularly bad Japanese television. Now it looks as if it is our turn. The list of candidates for prime time British broadcasting is long, but I would venture James might enjoy a couple of advertisements (that athlete's foot one for a start), a massive dose of Enjoy Yourself Tonight, any children's programme and also some ofthe recent offerings from TVB Pearl. Particularly amusing for all involved, barring the victim, was a recent edition of the magazine show Eye on Hong Kong which trundled happily to a close and then ran a series of end credits which began: 'Presenters: Valerie Chow and JOHN PUKES.'