IN THE recesses of Mongkok lurk scores of dark little shops which gauge the opinions of the territory's adolescents far more efficiently than any public opinion survey organisation. Every day, thousands of sim car (literally shiny cards) bearing pictures of local pop and film stars are peddled to fans. In addition to the usual suspects - Canto-pop kings Leon Lai Ming, Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, Andy Lau Tak-wah and Aaron Kwok Fu-shing, Faye Wong Ching-man and Sandy Lam Yik-leen - the cards also depict Miss Hong Kong Halima Tam Siu-wan and her two runners-up, Annamarie Wood and Theresa Lee Yee-hung. It is whispered that although the radio and television stations pay lip service and fat fees to audience research companies, their main gauge of an artist's popularity is the number of sim car sold to spotty youths. There is always the concern that unscrupulous agents and record companies may trawl through the shops buying up cards picturing performers on their books but it is as accurate an indication of people's feelings as one can hope for in an imperfect world. How long will it be before the rest of Hong Kong starts buying sim car imprinted with photographs of our captains of industry, socialites, politicians and public figures, with the sales figures used to indicate their popularity and the impact of their policies? The trade in Top Glory president Andrew Yang Fang-shing cards, for example, would have all but evaporated by now following the police raid on his home and office in connection with the planned takeover of National Mutual Insurance. There would also have been a sharp drop in cards depicting legislator Chim Pui-chung after his comments on television about women being either mistresses or wives. Trade in Cristal Li's would be practically moribund but could be expected to pick up when she comes back from her holidays with several steamer trunks full of frocks for the coming ball season. On the other hand, new police commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on's sim car would probably be shifting like the proverbial hot cakes in light of his user-friendly debut earlier this month. Futures trading in Hui cards is not recommended, however, since there are always some renegade gangs on the horizon ready to scythe down unfortunates with automatic rifle fire and the popularity of the police is bound to suffer. IT HAD been advertised as an evening of miracles but the idea of the Divinity hurling hundreds of megatons of nuclear warheads at China from a launch pad in Mongkok seemed less miraculous than ludicrous. During the unrestrained emotion at the climax of the City-Wide Miracle Crusade in the Revival Christian Church in Prince Edward Road, after thousands of amens and hallelujahs had risen heavenwards, Pastor Tom Tiemens from California assured the cheering faithful: 'God is going to drop a nuclear warhead on that nation [China].' Furiously, I scribbled down the quote, wondering if this was the start of a religious crusade to rival the Taiping rebellion of the last century which led to the deaths of tens of millions of people. Yet doubtless the good pastor would have assured his listeners that his warhead was more form than substance and that he was gunning for China's souls and not its cities. For those of us in Hong Kong who rarely get the chance to hear the florid imagery spouted by Bible-bashing American television evangelists each Sunday, with celestial choirs singing hymns that owe more to the Carpenters than John Wesley, the City-Wide Miracle Crusade was a revelation of sorts. Television evangelists are salesmen and they dress for success. Tiemens, the Reverend Dick Bernal of the Jubilee Christian Centre of San Jose, and pianist David Carpenter (no relation to Richard and the late Karen, I assume) were immaculate in double-breasted suits with razor-sharp trouser creases, abstract-patterned ties and tasseled loafers. Behind Carpenter stood the singers Mary Ann Peterson and Sarah Woods, both heavily made up with perfect teeth and big hair. Bernal was the main preacher, delivering a folksy sermon about how he converted to Christianity after what sounded like an interesting life as a hard-drinking, drug-taking hippie, Hell's Angel and rodeo rider. Speaking in the requisite honeyed tones of America's Deep South and with his jacket hung carefully over a chair, Bernal patiently built up the mood of the church before calling the afflicted to the stage. 'You sir - four rows back,' he called to an American expatriate businessman from Dallas, newly arrived in the territory. 'Yes, you with the blond hair; I know ya, don't I? You come forward, sir. We've met. I know I've seen you before. We're old friends . . . I know we haven't met but I've seen you before in my dreams lots of times.' Embracing the man with his eyes closed, Bernal said: 'I see you not doing business in Hong Kong - I see you standing before dark-skinned people - not African people. You are speaking to these people . . . I have not met this man before . . . this is going to happen . . . stretch your hands out to him . . . you will minister for me and you will touch the lives of people . . . Does that bear witness or am I scaring the fire out of you?' he asked matily as the businessman stood still, unsure of what to do next. As the congregation took to the streets, the skies opened and the rain hurtled down. Was it only another cloudburst in a soaking Hong Kong summer or some sort of sign? God only knows.