Grain in Ear: Mantids hatch

December 11th, 2011
by Jo Law

Changeable weather continued into this solar term, fluctuating between sunny hot periods and thundery showers. On Saturday December 10th, the Earth came directly between the sun and the moon giving us a full lunar eclipse. Although praying mantises are common visitors to our backyard I have not yet seen any this summer. Mantis is known for its sexual cannablism (when the female is observed to eat her male partner while mating). Recent research has shown that this behaviour may have been an artefact of scientific studies. It is conjectured that the human observer in the laboratory may have distracted the visually acute insect during sex resulting in this notable behaviour. Mantises, however, are known to be formidable predators and coupled with their rather fiercesome appearances, it is perhaps excusable to get a little carried away with imagination.

The mantis’s predatory skills would probably come in handy for bargin hunters especially during the Christmas shopping season. An American woman reportedly pepper-sprayed her fellow shoppers in order to take advantage of the xbox ‘doorbuster’ discount at Walmart. While such enthusiasm might be a little extreme, retailers are hopeful for trade to pick up at the end of, what some commentors called, a ‘year of disappoinent’.  Amidst waves of crises, economists and analysts have been watching the figures closely and some are cautiously optimisitic, tipping that Australian retailers will do slightly better with an average Australian spending $1000 each over Christmas. (And I thought we were all tightenting our belts.)

Presents did not feature in my upbringing; gift-giving in Hong Kong ususally falls into 2 categories: money (in red envelops) or edible stuff. But it seems that even for people with years of gift-buying and gift-giving experience, Christmas shopping still poses a challenge. Buy nothing provides an alternative to some. Hand-made gifts are apparently making a come-back but as a blog reader comments, ‘ if someone doesn’t want something, it’s junk whether you bought it at a store or made it yourself.’ Jennie, who organises Hollis’s playgroup, said that when she asked her 18 year son what he wanted for Christmas and he said, ‘Nothing.’ My father particularly dislikes presents as he feels that if he needed anything he would have bought it himself. My 91 year-old grandfather made an edict in his late 80s that no one was to buy him anything new. Happy are those who want nothing.

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