Reading the paper on the Macau ferry

SPENT A GLORIOUS WEEKEND in Macau. One of the strangest places on Earth, it’s simultaneously 100% ancient Asian and 100% futuristic Western. A possible glimpse of the future? Remind me to write about it in depth sometime.

wynlok flickr cc license 2.0

I spoke at a church and at a school, at meetings organized by a faith group and got a great reception—thanks, everyone at Morrison Chapel and MA College.

Had an interesting chat with a guy who was a non-believer yet attended religious events from time to time. I’ve met quite a few “spiritual atheists” recently. It’s interesting. They are attracted by the obvious advantages of being part of a faith group. There are easily measurable ones such as the fact that members live longer lives, enjoy better health, have wider social circles, etc; and non-measureable ones, such as the deeper friendships, the sense of belonging and the ease with which one can find intelligent open minds for great conversations. (I am talking about ACTUAL faith-group members in real life, not the narrow fundamentalists that the media tries to trick us into thinking represent them.)

It’s fascinating. When one is young, one measures achievements in largely physical terms: success is a car and a house and a private jet. As you grow up, you find that none of that stuff matters: the only thing that matters are good times spent with great people: life doesn’t get better than that. Okay, end of philosophical chat, and thanks again to my hosts in Macau for a brilliant weekend.

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SO HERE I AM, sitting on the Macau ferry, reading the newspapers. Top story of recent days: party-lover Silvio Berlusconi has finally resigned as Prime Minister of Italy. A “technocrat” (a small, computerized mammal with no genitalia) is running the place while they look for a new leader.

I’d offer to do it myself except I couldn’t cope with all the pasta, not to mention the women.

Today I think we’ll just discuss current news events. First, Europe. What’s odd about recent events in Italy was that the administration never issued the inevitable announcement:

“Mr Berlusconi wants to spend more time with his wife and children.”

I guess they’d have had to revise it.

“Mr Berlsuconi wants to spend more time cavorting with women paid by the hour.”

Or they could have just used a more general phrase, such as:

“He resigned to pursue other interests/ other women.”

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The US, meanwhile, is in a furor of pre-election excitement.

Presidential wannabee Mitt Romney keeps saying he should get the top job because he created thousands of jobs for people.

I guess his rival Herman Cain could argue that he would have created one job for one woman had she not slapped his hand away from her leg.

The third contender is a forgetful guy called Rick Perry. Imagine the orders he’d give Nato generals: “I command you to send military forces to bomb the hell out of Iraq, Afghanistan and er, now what was the third place? China? India? California? The Department of Energy? I forget, you choose.”

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So far, 2011 has been the best year for news reporters this century. Here are the other top stories of recent days.

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1) A giant asteroid came close to destroying planet Earth. But it missed. So humanity can breathe a sigh of relief and can get back to the normal work of the human race: destroying planet Earth.

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megvarsh flickr cc license 2.0

2) Did you hear about the new diabetes test that uses tears instead of blood? Coming soon: doctors sitting backwards at cinemas showing My Sister’s Keeper, watching your face with a test tube in one hand and an invoice in the other.

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Blinky

3) In Argentina, a three-eyed fish was found near a nuclear facility, replicating a plot from The Simpsons’ cartoon series.

What next? Will a secret club of rich guys be revealed as the folk who really run the world, as in The Simpsons, season six? Wait. That’s already happened.

Will a dumb guy become super-rich selling garbage as art, as in The Simpsons, season ten? Wait. That happens every week.

I think Matt Groening should be declared a prophet.

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4) But my very favorite news story of the past week is the tale of Farzana Yasmin, known as “the 10-minute bride”.

In the middle of her wedding ceremonies in Bangladesh last week, her new family demanded dowry gifts: a TV, a fridge and a motorbike, the BBC reported. This is illegal, but families of brides normally submit meekly.

Not Farzana. She calmly got up, left the room, and changed into normal clothes, setting a record for super-short marriages. One news commentator said: “The girl shook the moral foundation of the society through her actions.”

This gutsy, anti-sexist girl will go far. She’d make a brilliant Prime Minister of Italy, for a start.

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