A period of amazing utterances
By Nury Vittachi
I WAS SHOCKED to read the comments of Adalina Lo for the recent postings.
"Human existence is so miserable," she wrote. "Personally, the only way I can survive is to have a bunch of cash and pretend all this pain isn't all there."
Which is a surprise, since it is Christmas week, and you are a young person (I think, judging by the tone of your postings), so you should be pretty happy--December 25 is a time for young people to feel the magic of Christmas and for older ones to be enjoy it vicariously.
Anyway, I'm sure I speak for everyone in this little community when I send you best wishes and hope that your life improves 100-fold from tonight onwards -- as the clock ticks away and 2009 begins.
Personally, I am always cheered up by the absurdity of life. Life is so full of surprises that one can never predict what's coming up. And when everyone is predicting gloom, you can bet that something quite different is on the horizon. I mean, just consider the changes that took place in the year which is now finishing.
I suspect none of us are likely to forget 2008. It was a year of extraordinary headlines.
Bill Gates is no longer the boss of Microsoft.
The US is no longer the world's financial model.
The world's biggest investment banks have vanished.
This columnist is still not rich and famous. (Just thought I'd slip that one in.)
It was the year in which many of us heard things that we never thought we'd hear.
For example, I was stunned in September to hear this REAL quote from a US Treasury Department spokeswoman explaining how the US$700 billion number was chosen for the Wall Street bailout: "It's not based on any particular data point, we just wanted to choose a really large number."
So THAT'S how they do it. The world's most powerful financial experts sit in a big room and make up a number.
"Er, how about seventy?"
"It's my IQ."
"Mine, too. No, wait, hang on. Maybe it should be bigger."
"Okay, how about 700?"
"Let's make it WAY bigger, in case we get a percentage."
"Okay, 700 BILLION."
"Yeah, that'll do. Let's adjourn for a drink. Saving the world financial system is thirsty work!"
Or perhaps the most amazing quote of the year came from US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson who proposed a law saying: "Decisions by the secretary…may not be reviewed by any court of law or administrative agency."
I wonder how THAT conversation went? He must have phoned George W. Bush.
Paulson: "Hey, Dub? I need a favour. Can you pass legislation putting me totally above the law so I can do anything I like?"
Bush: "Sorta like God, you mean?"
Paulson: "Yeah, that's about right."
Bush: "Sure! Anything for my ole buddy Hank."
And it's not just international politics, either. In our personal lives, we all heard people saying things that we couldn't imagine them saying a year ago, thanks to a range of unexpected news events, from the contaminated melamine milk scandal to the rise of Australia's Chinese-speaking leader Kevin Rudd.
Here are the top 10 most unexpected utterances of 2008.
1. Cleaner to investment banker: "Let's meet for coffee. Don't worry, I'll pay."
2. Health-conscious parent to thirsty child: "Put down that milk. If you're thirsty, go drink Coke."
3. Parent to child: "See that black guy on TV? He's just been elected President of the United States of America."
4. Newscaster to audience: "A US court found OJ Simpson guilty."
5. Adult to adult: "You invested in the world's largest banks? No wonder you lost your money. You should have opted for something less dodgy, like a teenage dotcom start-up."
6. Chinese citizen to Chinese protestor: "Sure you can trust the government. Just ask a Tibetan."
7. Contestant to quizmaster: "What's the capital of Iceland? Er, ten dollars?"
8. Visiting Caucasian leader to Chinese leader: "Let's talk in Mandarin. And, no, I won’t need the interpreter."
9. Parent to child: "No, darling, Captain Jack Sparrow is not a Somali."
10. Richard Dawkins, who made a fortune with his anti-religious bestselling book: "Thank God I'm an atheist."
Yes, 2008 has been a year in which the human race has shown itself to be weirdest species in the universe. Just like every other year.
Roll on 2009.