Monday, May 30, 2011

upon first looking into Lin Tianmiao

When I was in Rome I took a class on modern art taught by an independent curator named Shara Wasserman. The class wasn’t really about modern art; it was so much more. We did cover the artists from the end of the futurist period, past arte povera and up to present day. We took our first field trip to the Galleria Nazionale dell’Arte Moderna (GNAM). GNAM was one of the most poorly laid out museums that I have ever visited. The lighting appeared to have been designed by an office manager, with evenly dispersed rows of spotlights that paid no attention to the art on the walls. The Klimt piece was awkwardly hung in a dark corner while the lights drew your eye to the floor.

But back to the class. Shara Wasserman provided the window and a flashlight into Rome’s contemporary art world. She was a champion of the local talent and was very much appreciated because Italy is not a hospitable place to be an artist unless you are a 400 year old zombie. Most of the talented artists moved to New York or at least to Berlin and London. The artists who stayed in Italy had to compete with centuries old marble antiquities that littered the Centro Storico. They were largely ignored by the millions of visitors who lined up for hours to gaze at the Vatican’s collections of classic art.

In 2007 Zaha Hadid had yet to complete the MAXXI (Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo) so the MACRO (Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Roma) was my only vehicle to view anything recent until I crossed paths with Shara. My favorite part of the class was when we would hop on a bus and travel to a studio or art enclave to visit an artist. We also were invited to the foreign academies to meet the fellows’ residents; I often pondered the stark differences between Rome’s struggling local artists and the sponsored visiting artists who lived in the fabulous academy grounds.

My second favorite part of the class was when Shara led discussions on the art market. I would sit in awe listening to the artists in the class debate the roles of gallerists, curators, artists and patrons. Everyone had a differing opinion about money and the avant-garde. Twenty years and millions of dollars later were the Young British Artists still transgressive?

I remember listening to Shara talk to us about a Venetian artist. Upon a second look at his painting I saw things that I had missed- how his brush strokes were fluid like water in a lagoon and the soft reflection of a purple hued sunset upon the objects. I wish that I could meet a Shara Wasserman in Hong Kong. This weekend as I visited ART HK 11 I thought about how much I would have liked to have my own art Sherpa to steer me through the labyrinth of compelling, inspiring and titillating works and enrich me with the back stories and biographies.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

treasures from the Wanchai market

 While perusing the market I came across a fruit that I had never seen before.  Actually, I have seen this before in the form of decorative bead work but never as an actual, edible object.  For HKG$15 per basket the price was right.  No one in my office knew what the fruit was but later in the evening my mainland friends knew exactly what the fruit was; they just didn't know the name.  Another friend thought that he had seen the fruit growing in a tree along the dragon's back.

SB thinks that it tastes like a tart strawberry.  I detect some plum also.  Does anyone out there know the name?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is this a bad time to call?

I received a message from my friend who lives in North Texas; she is currently sitting in her closet with her dogs due to a tornado warning. Gotta love tornado alley.
I experienced one rare tornado warning when I lived in Ithaca, New York. A tornado had touched down in the neighboring county. One coworker and I stood on the portico and enjoyed the strong gusts as the rest of the office scrambled for the basement. "The sky's not green yet," she told our boss who was yelling at us to get inside. "Are you from Oklahoma," I asked. "No, I'm from Kansas."

And then we turned to watch the communications director race for the basement with an armful of potted begonias. A tornado of sorts was indeed occurring.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

USS Carl Vinson

This is among my top ten experiences in Hong Kong. I will post the full report later.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Unlike the Menendez brothers, no one would convict you

The story of the Haddad family would be a hilarious tale if it wasn't a disturbing reality. The parents had given up on planning a future for their children due to their zealous belief that the world would come to an end on 22 May, 2011. They left their jobs, stopped saving for college, uprooted the children so that they could become street preachers in New York, and told the children that due to the children's disbelief they were going to hell.

But now it is 23 May, 2011 and I have to wonder what happens when there is no plan B.

he said what?

Delegate Mark L. Cole, a Republican in the Virginia House of Delegates, led a fight to ban employers or insurance companies from implanting micro-chips in people against their will.
"My understanding—I'm not a theologian—but there's a prophecy in the Bible that says you'll have to receive a mark, or you can neither buy nor sell things in end times. Some people think these computer chips might be that mark."
Accoring to journalist Tim Murphy, "[w]e're not theologians either, but this is what's known in the industry as Too Good to Fact-Check (TGTFC). And for the record: planting micro-chips in people's bodies against their will is definitely poor form, if not actually the work of the Devil."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It haunts me

We haven eaten at Didier on a few occasions. It is fast becoming a favorite.  The charming and comfortable setting allows the food to shine.

On the latest occasion I tried sweetbreads for the first time in my life. Oh revelation.  Oh ecstasy.  I am haunted by the memory.

Friday, May 20, 2011

get your effects in order

Now I know that I incorrectly told you that the Rapture was coming last year but this time I have the news from the highest authorities that I know.

Last night SB informed me that according to the Drudge Report the Rapture was most likely occurring on Saturday.  Aw crap, I thought, I really wanted to see the Asian Five Nations rugby match tomorrow (it begins at 1pm at Football Club so we may still watch it if the rapture comes fashionably late in the evening).  Since my favorite hockey teams have been eliminated I won't be too distraught that I won't get to see the end of the Stanley Cup.

I would like to also take this time to remind my readers to get your things in order.  Maybe you aren't too worried about your personal effects since you figure that you and all your deserving friends are going to be transported across the rainbow but don't forget about those who are left behind- your pets.  Call up that Jewish family who lived down the street or the agnostic/atheist roommate from university and see if they like pets.  For a small fee you can donate Bingo and Pooky to the Eternal Earth Bound Pets organization.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Or is it quoi?

I am on a rant.  I am giving notice so you can skip this post- there aren't any rainbows or puppies below.

I have read some heated statements from members of the French media about how unfair it is to show images of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs.  Apparently french law bans publishing pictures of acused people in handcuffs.

Meanwhile French newspapers have published the name of the alleged victim while protesting DSK's humiliating treatment of being pictured in cuffs.  At least two newspapers have also published the name of the woman's teenage daughter, purportedly because it was necessary to prove that the charges are from an actual person and it isn't a conspiracy theory.  Really?  Really?

This must also have been the reason why one newspaper included the alleged victim's picture and a statement that she had "big boobs and beautiful buttocks."  I'm not including any links to the newspapers because I have this thing about victimization.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

things that go bump

My coworker H passed the last of her exams recently and has earned the distinction of being a registered architect in Hong Kong.  This means more here than in other countries where having a license is not the sole determinant of one's worth.  She is now able to be treated as an adult in our firm and has risen from support staff to staff who can dump all of her work on support staff. Her all nighters are now a thing of the past; she is now a high priestess who can sacrifice others to the alter of our profession.

Along with her professional accreditation she receives a bump in her salary. It will be a very small bump because we all know that architects live and breathe the craft and we don't require vulgar things such as money. Anyway in this profession the only way to succeed, other than being born stinking rich, is to form your own firm and find others who are indoctrinated through their university curricula to nobly work long hours for little pay so that you can profit. Did you know that the typical 30 year old male architect's salary, when adjusted for inflation, is the same as it was 30 years ago? The sad fact is that we can't afford the homes that we design.

Anyway, back to H. The company announced the good news and she was obliged delighted to treat us to a celebratory meal. The company seniors welcomed her to the professional ranks and the underlings and support staff expressed their genuine happiness at her success. And no one paid any notice to the fact that the meal probably cost more than her salary bump. We don't bother with vulgar things like that.

In other news, did you know that certain establishments have been known to stuff a prosthetic bump into a duck so that is becomes a goose?

read today

from Kate Harding regarding the media's response to Strauss-Kahn's seduction problem (it's just how the French say hello and puritanical Americans don't understand that)

" is a really good time for a refresher course in the difference between consensual sex and assault. Consensual sex involves all parties agreeing that this promises to be fun, so we should go ahead. Sometimes it is not as fun as hoped, but oh well. Assault involves one party feeling entitled to take liberties with another party's body, in the absence of consent.

...whether Strauss-Kahn is "the great seducer," for instance, has very little to do with whether he might also be "the great rapist," because rape is not actually seduction gone pear-shaped. It's a whole different thing!"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

HSBS- Nothing for Something

I strongly dislike HSBC.  Strongly.

I regularly transfer money to the US to pay my student loans.  I have been trying for two years to do so online but it is an exercise in futility.  I signed up for online banking only to find that I had to keep submitting signed paperwork allowing me to do things online such as international transfers, except I have never been able to do anything online after supplying the aforementioned paperwork.  For several months I was having trouble with my security device.  The security code was not working with the log in.  When I brought this up with the bank I was issued a new device.  What the bank representatives didn't tell me was that they locked me out of my account so I had to bring my device back to the bank to regain the privilege of accessing my money.

Then I got home to discover that I needed to reset my password after being told that I had to wait three business days.  Then I had to bring in a signed piece of paper indicating that I had to reset my password.  I was told to wait for three more business days.  After three days I am still being told to reset my password.  And bring more paperwork to the bank.  I have been unable to access my account since March.

In the meantime I decided that my blood pressure was not high enough so I went ahead and applied for a credit card.  I was told to provide my employment contract.  I pointed out to the bank representative that the contract was on record since I had brought it in to open the account.  They still wanted another copy before they would process my application.  Two weeks later I received a letter informing me that I had to bring a recent contract.  Not about to sign a new contract for the sole purpose of applying for a credit card, I went back to the bank to see what we could work out.  The representative noticed that my paycheck was electronically deposited with HSBC so surely this would prove my employment?

Nope.  I had to bring in a chopped letter from my office.  For all that, my credit limit is equivalent to one month's salary, which is automatically paid from my savings account, which contains well over my credit limit.  Oh yeah, and I tried to buy some tickets online with my credit card and was declined.  I have to bring in more paperwork to get HSBC's permission to shop online.  Holy sh*t HSBC sucks.  I would have less hassle if I kept my money in a pile underneath my mattress.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the races begin

Last weekend SB and I were at Stanley and happened upon some dragon boat races. From the look of the boats lining the harbor and the multiples of tanned, sinewy men paddling with military precision we surmised that these were a special group of racers.  I have tried looking online for any information but have had no luck.

SB and I think that we may have been watching a fisherman association race.  The "junks" surrounding the course had that look to them.  The race boats were the traditional, wood boats and seemed to belong to the teams instead of the borrowed fiberglass boats used in the modern races.

I especially enjoyed looking at the triangular banners that were flown by each team.  I wish that I had brought something better than my phone to take the pictures.

If you have been reading this blog over the years you will know what a fan of bamboo I am.  And you will understand why I have posted these pictures.  Fabulous.

I had never set foot inside of Smugglers before.  It was an experience.  I tried not to look at the fossilized panties that were stapled to the ceiling as I enjoyed the frosty glass of Strongbow, which was the only thing keeping me from melting into a puddle in the heat.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

from the vaults

The US government has been cutting education funding at a steady rate.  Rather than  debate why this is a terrible idea, I will present this example of what the American education system can provide with its limited budget.

Q: Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?

Miss Teen South Carolina: "I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, um, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future."

I can't wait to see what happens in 2020 with the proposed $90 billion reduction.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Margaret Atwood and the Importance of Voice

I wanted to share this link from the Cornell Daily Sun. I would have loved to have attended the lecture.  I can easily imagine the audience at the Statler: oxford shirted freshmen hoping to be score points with their creative writing TA, third wave feminists (both male and female) wearing  bamboo/hemp fiber threads, a row of MFA writers in the front affecting alert-yet-not-too-impressed personae (while all clutching copies of The Handmaid's Tale for her to sign), preening distinguished professors in black turtlenecks (clutching copies of their own works),  a handful of poli-sci students ready to debate Orwell's dystopia if anyone would give them the microphone, all rounded out by various fans, groupies and sycophants.

I would have been wearing organic bamboo.  I would have been a groupie.  I have this thing for creative minds that used to get me into trouble.

Remind me to one day tell you the story of a certain sketchy professor who was delivered his comeuppance when his former student/lover immortalized him in all of his importance impotence in her New York Times bestseller. 

I am no Atwood (not anywhere near) but I have a lot of stories to tell due to living with a MFA writer.  My life was not mundane to begin with but it was certainly enriched by living with him; he and his colleagues provided fodder on a daily basis.  Greed, sloth, envy, lust- it was all there in bombastic, technicolor format.

You can watch her reading below.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

a night devoid of stars

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. ... Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr.  as published in Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 62

Monday, May 2, 2011

the Voice of America

This morning I sat next to SB and read to him from the VoA press release.

"President Barack Obama is about to announce that the world's most wanted terrorist, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, is dead and that the United States has his body. Mr. Obama is expected to make the announcement during a nationwide television appearance at the White House Sunday night. This development would come nearly 10 years after the catastrophic attacks by al-Qaida operatives on the United States on September 11, 2001."

I was struggling to finish the reading; I guess it is true what they say about not knowing how you will react until the event actually happens.  Honestly, I hadn't thought much about it probably because I believed that he would die without being found.   I was overwhelmed with a bittersweet feeling as my thoughts went to SB's friend K who survived the attack and who has only recently returned to work in New York City.  After ten years.  What did he feel at the news?  Would it help?  Why was I crying now about it?

Only hours later did I begin to think about this man.  What was he thinking when he died?  Did I even care?  Did I want him to have suffered?  I don't know why I didn't wish him pain- maybe I would change my mind later.  Somewhere there are people mourning him, people who loved him, and I was thinking of them.  And I was thinking of all the families who lost sons and daughters because of him.  I hope that someone out there receives relief.