Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kind of blue

Calvin Klein, from net-a-porter. Beautiful, in the sale, and the only sizes left are for skinny wretches.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Realty bites

Photographed outside Midland Realty, Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, January 25, 2008. I see the Opening Toady as a small bald man who'll follow you around the flat bowing and scraping for you on demand. This might be almost pleasant after a bad day at work. Rare in Market, indeed!

Monday, January 21, 2008


An new trend has emerged in Japan, according to the New York Times, which is the text message novel: originally written on mobile phones, then uploaded to dedicated websites, and subsequently, in some cases, published in the real world, the country of purists which produced the first novel now has text message novels taking up 50% of its annual bestselling novel list.

I was astonished by the justification of one of the protagonists: 21 year old Rin, who sold 400,000 copies of her first novel, said that ordinary novels were not attractive to members of her generation because the sentences are too difficult to understand, the expressions are intentionally wordy and the stories are not familiar.

I can't resist the temptation to say that this is, surely, part of the point of the novel, and at the risk of sounding harsh, you have to conclude that Rin and her generation are simply illiterate.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

The view from the bedroom window, on an unusually clear day in Hong Kong, January 12, 2008.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Saving face

In today’s (low) Standard: the shock front page headline “PORK PRICES SOAR 70PC” – and the frightening news for pork-lovers is that it may rise to above HK$46 per catty if the supply of live pigs to Hong Kong does not increase – and on page 3, news of a “gold thread facelift” which involves injecting gold under the skin of the face to form a web which, according to the charlatans offering the treatment, “boosts collagen secretion and increases skin elasticity”. The reality is that the “web” disintegrates and the gold presumably goes in to your bloodstream, as a 40 year old patient cited in the report discovered when she started to suffer constant severe pain in her face after three injections over a number of years.

Having read about the horrifying side effects, if you still want to have this done, the Standard helpfully adds that you can’t in Hong Kong, but your local cosmetic clinic will, with scant disregard for the ludicrousness, not to say mind-boggling recklessness and stupidity, of the treatment, arrange for you to receive it in South Korea.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fuschia perfect

From the ridiculous (the Moschino doggie bag, below) to the sublime: when I was 15 I was wanted to be Fuschia, a character in Titus Groan, the first book in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. Perhaps as a result, I've always loved the colour. The Greek lines of this Donna Karan dress are perfect. I found sky-high python Alexander McQueens to pair with it, but they were too avant garde and would distract from the simplicity of the shape; these are Nicholas Kirkwood. Beautiful silver earrings by Lara Bohinc; all from the fabulous Browns website.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Gold! Always believe in your soul

A man shot dead in Merseyside yesterday was driving a gold Range Rover. I hate to make sweeping generalisations but does that not tell you all you need to know about the incident?

In other gold news, Moschino Cheap’N’Chic (which is, of course, neither), was displaying the above abomination in the window of the Seibu department store in Pacific Place. I took a picture on my mobile phone, but I don't have Bluetooth connectivity yet, so the full horror of the slightly brassy gold version can't be experienced as yet. It seems futile to criticise the execution of this risible idea any further, but did they have to make the dog quite so gormless-looking?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Home and away

Then your life becomes a travelogue
Of picture postcard charms…
Joni Mitchell, “Amelia”

January 6 marks five years exactly since I arrived in Hong Kong. Five years seems like a landmark, for no apparent reason except, perhaps, that it’s easily divisible and multipliable (although there are good historical precedents for five, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years being treated as significant markers and denominated as specific anniversaries, centenaries and jubilees). Accordingly, this may be a time for reflection – as I have now spent what amounts to almost 15% of my life so far, so far away (5,985 miles, to be precise) from the country where I was born.

Returning to the UK, as I did recently, is always an interesting experience; without wanting to sound too pretentious, each time I return I’m aware of feeling less connected to the culture, in the simplest sense: what’s on TV, who’s in the news, what people are talking about, or how they style their hair. The UK has been described as somewhere where people are overly concerned with local news at the expense of what’s happening in the rest of the world; this is surely a universal issue, but although I think of the UK as being much less insular than the United States, the island geography must contribute to a certain sense of isolation. I remember being in the US not long after the invasion of Iraq. Numerous other disasters were happening around the world as the implications of the Bush administration’s criminally fainéant approach post-invasion became clear: but the top news story on every channel was whether a certain talk show host’s new short haircut meant she was a lesbian.

I have never knowingly bought Hello! or any of its derivatives, finding its fawning approach to celebrities quite nauseating (“Jackie Collins shows us around her gracious London home and tells us of the secret agony that drove her to write 60 best-selling novels”). A fairly recent trend is for celebrity mags to be a lot more caustic, Heat being the best exemplar of this, and initially funny and rather readable for its irreverence. But the longer I’ve been away, the less interesting it becomes, partly because I no longer know a lot of the micro-celebrities, ex-Big Brother 25 or X-Factor 15 winners featured in its pages; have no taste for Britney’s cellulite, Jordan’s crippling synthetics and Cameron Diaz’s craterous forehead, nor any part of Jade Goody; and no longer care about Sharon Osbourne, a woman whom the popular consensus seems to have deemed to be some sort of heart-of-gold trouper but who comes across to the objective eye as a thoroughly self-absorbed and nasty piece of work.

It’s far too simplistic, of course, to extrapolate from my distaste for Heat and its ilk that I’m becoming detached from British culture, and I can still hold a conversation with only a minimum of puzzled responses – and let’s face it I’m well used to dissembling, having grown up without a TV: the sample classroom conversation having gone from this:

“Did you see the Incredible Hulk last night?”
“–.” (turns away to find someone more interesting)
to this, once I learned to lie on the realisation that they weren’t really listening to me anyway:

“Did you see the Incredible Hulk last night?”
“Yes, it was great.”
“Did you see when he …?”
“Aye it was brilliant, he just burst right out…” (and so on)
All this trivial stuff perhaps obscures the real point which is that I’ve now spent quite a lot of my adult life away from my home country, and my responses to what’s around me are informed as much by recent experience as by my past: the person who arrived five years ago (and just as I can remember not being able to read street signs when I was three years old, I can remember not being able to read the landscape of Hong Kong) now seems quite remote in some ways. Now I am someone who can dive, who can paddle either in a canoe or a dragon boat, and who can (after a fashion) row; who can speak Cantonese (albeit still embarrassingly poorly); and who no longer finds flying intimidating (I have completely used up my allocated lifetime of environmental impact in five years). I’ve met thousands of people and seen things I could never have imagined.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Sweet memories

In conversation with La Grande Poobah the other day, I made the claim that I never eat chocolate except at Christmas. This is, in fact, largely true, although it would perhaps be more accurate to say that I never buy it, in much the same way as I never buy Hello!, but occasionally and reluctantly accept it if offered. I’ve always been fonder of a sausage roll or a cheese and onion pasty from that Scottish high street fatty-pastry stalwart, Greggs (the dough-faced assistants in the Greggs round the corner from the first office I ever worked in, in Queensferry Road in Edinburgh, once excommunicated one of my silly colleagues for asking for a cheese savoury in a funny voice, thus marking him out immediately as a) English and b), a deduction not unnecessarily unconnected in the dough-faced mind with a), a twat; this had the lifelong fatwa-style effect of disbarring him from ever being able to buy so much as an egg sandwich in there).

However, sitting at my desk on a somewhat jetlag-ridden afternoon, bathed in sunshine reflected from the Far East Finance Centre and eating a Lindt chocolate from a box I bought for the office at Heathrow airport and transported to Hong Kong, I mused that what I really, really liked to do as a student was buy a king-size Milky Bar and wolf it down with a cup of tea. The sickly sweet taste of the little white Lindt chocolate ball had sufficient Pavlovian impact on my memory that for a moment I was back there, at my desk in my flat in Glasgow, with the delightfully promising package of a whole slab of white chocolate goodness opened before me, forcing myself to focus on my ill-advised project of translating from German an article by Fritz Stark on ever-greater union amongst European states for my degree dissertation on European law, at a time before computers were taken for granted and no one could possibly dream of having one of their own (I cringe to remember that I wrote my first CV by hand). Not an altogether pleasant memory, to be sure, and one that will, mercifully, serve to keep me away from the rest of the chocolates.