Monthly Archives: March 2012

Fashion

Disclaimer: I’m not that fashion conscious, so it might be a bit rich for me to be imparting pearls of wisdom on style. Then again, despite the fact that if not for my wife, I’d still be swanning around town in a denim jacket and corduroy pants, I feel the need to comment on a disturbing development.

I was in Macau recently when I noticed a man with glasses, well sort of. He had the frames, but no lenses, not even just ordinary glass. Thinking he was just a crackpot; I was subsequently taking a stroll through Wan Chai (to my favourite noodle bar, people) when I spied not one, but four people sporting the same empty frame phenomenon. All the frames were remarkably similar, the black Clark Kent look. Three days later, crossing Hennessey Road, another set passed me by.

So this must be a coordinated new fad. Someone, somewhere, is making black-framed glasses, sans the ‘glass’ bit. Will this soon be the latest must have accessory? Not for me. Without the ‘glass’ bit, I would spend my days bumping into walls. So the target audience must be for people who actually don’t need glasses. Is there a market for this? Hello Kitty toilet roll holders are proof positive people will buy anything, but this is vastly different. I understand that glasses are supposed to make you look smarter, or more business-like, (disclaimer: they don’t make me look like either), and I know you can buy frames with clear glass in them, for those people that want the “look”, but surely without any kind of lenses at all; it just makes you look…well…stupid?

It’s also terribly limiting. You can’t just pop into the store and pick up a pair of say, John Lennon’s or Harry Potter’s – that would just look ridiculous. You have little choice but to head straight to the Henry Kissinger or Buddy Holly section.

It reminds me of another serious fashion malfunction; what I call the talking T-shirt. I studiously avoid clothes with Chinese characters on them because I fear they might not honestly say what the shopkeeper proclaims they do. “Very lucky man”, might actually read: “I’m an idiot westerner who thinks this says something cool. On the flip side, Chinese factories have turned Chinglish into an art form. The things you can read walking down the street beggars belief. My wife spotted this on a shirt recently: “I wish that you could how much I love you. My heart would best for you. You’ve filled my life for me”. I’m sure in Chinese it sounds wonderful. And surely you can’t have a firm grasp of English to wear a shirt with “Lick Me All Over” on it – especially if you’re 60 years old.

People – listen up. You will always regret a tattoo or shirt you aquire without a qualified Chinese / English speaker friend present. And if you’re thinking of buying into the “spectacle of the glasslesses”: You won’t look like some 19 year-old troubled pop star; you’ll look like a weirder Austin Powers.

(Note to distributor: contact me if you want the license for the catchy name).


Unaware

My i-pod broke. I had to take it to be repaired.

Clearly this is not particularly interesting to the general population. What is interesting, however, is the display of total unawareness I witnessed whilst doing so. The repair centre was in quite a small room. After getting my number from the ticket machine, I found a place to sit and awaited my turn. The room was no bigger than 500 square feet; so about enough room for a Hong Kong family of 17 and an English sheep dog, to live.

My issue was the calling of the numbers. I can be a bit over anxious about ticketing systems – despite having A273 and the electronic board saying “now serving A112” – I kept checking my docket each time the next announcement was made; as if it could possibly morph into a better, closer number.

However, the other patrons waiting with me definitely did not have this personality disorder. As I sat waiting in a shoebox size room, numbers were both flashed up on a screen as well as announced over the loudspeaker. Incredibly, 3 out of 5 times (yes, I sadly kept a record) the person with the winning ticket did not respond in a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes the sales girl would stand up and shout the number out several times before someone would finally glance up and wander over.

One lady, who was busy surfing the internet on the public computer, upon hearing her number called, told the salesgirl to “wait a bit” – she wanted to finish watching the YouTube clip of a polar bear making tea for penguins, or whatever vital net surfing she was doing.

All of this was bewildering. I understand that at the immigration office for example, the room is like a football field and it’s entirely conceivable you could miss your number, but when you are in a room you could hardly swing a cat in – and in direct proximity to the staff – sorry, I don’t get it.  The sole purpose of your visit is to get to that desk, yet apathy and disinterest seemed to be the benchmark behaviour.  I suppose what’s just as intriguing is the effort the staff made to find the wayward ticket holders, all sitting happily unaware 10 feet away. I would have been moving on very quickly had I been in charge of the number button.

Still, I do have to confess I also do inexplicable things at times. Take the example of trying to explain to a caller that the phone line is bad. I do this all the time.“ Hey Dave, can’t hear you buddy, you’re breaking up. Can you hang up and get back to me? The line is stuffed, can you hear me buddy?”

Of course, he is probably hearing “ You…can…get…stuffed…buddy”

Maybe I should be less attentive with numbers being called and more ready to cut off bad phone lines, In any event, Dave now won’t talk to me and apparently putting your i-pod through the washing machine isn’t a warranty job.  But it was worth the visit just to add another chapter to the book of Hong Kong idiosyncrasies.


Trends

My underwear is not for public display. That possibly makes me old, a nerd or simply not ‘with it’.

I was in a yoga class the other day and the fellow next to me had his Calvin Kline’s poking out over his shorts. Is a yoga class now the place to be touting your expensive undergarment purchases?

When I was young, the only people who acceptably wore their briefs above their pants were very elderly men, poking out over their brown and white striped pyjamas as they wandered up the road to buy milk, and superhero’s, who to be fair, also had colour coordinated tights and matching cape.

This whole thing stinks of marketing to me. If your smalls are on display, you need appropriate ones, right? Can’t really head to the local menswear and get a six-pack of Y-fronts, you have to go and grab a box of Calvin’s or Diesel or even Hugo Boss.

Personally I have not descended to the level of the über fashion conscious (much to my families chagrin) and continue to keep my Marks & Spencer’s smalls hidden from the world at large (much to my families relief).

I am hoping this trend will eventually pass. What I hope will continue is a pleasing trend I have noticed lately, the world is going back to the seventies – the “year zero” of fashion and oversize gadgets. Giant headphones and tie-dye T-shirts are back. This will infuriate many of my family and friends who have scoffed and ridiculed me for hanging onto my flairs for so long – not that I remotely fit into them.

For the last couple of decades, everything was becoming smaller and smaller. Mobile phones that could fit inside a kinder-surprise egg, earphones that came with a warning they could conceivably fall into your inner ear. Portable this, portable that, it was becoming a contest to see who could build a washing machine that would fit into a briefcase.

Thankfully this trend seems to be reversing. The other day I saw a teenager with a set of headphones that were 125% bigger than her head. I, of course, never bought into the decade of tiny things. I have steadfastly refused to upgrade my mobile phone unless it was actually broken; I was using a Nokia 6210 for years – held together with rubber bands – only relinquishing it when the speaker finally broke. (If you’re unsure of this model, go to a museum, they will have one on display next to the horseless carriage).  I then reluctantly moved to a blackberry and now it’s so old, I was out with some friends recently and one of them asked me if it was a toy phone for my daughter.

So for me, the world is coming back to a place I feel comfortable in, with the stand up exception of Disco. Having zero rhythm, my hope, shared by all who have ever seen me dance, is that the world makes an exception and keeps this phenomenon well and truly in the past.


Toilets

Toilets rarely surprise me.

That was till I went to a new restaurant the other day.  During a quick stopover, I was momentarily taken aback. The bowl on the toilet was huge. It reminded me of a surprised Wallace, with me a bemused Gromit.

So who designs toilets? Evolution stipulates that distinguishing characteristics change over time, but correct me if I’m wrong, it’s not talking about a couple of years, more like a couple of billion years.  The business end of the human body as I understand it, has not changed for a very long time, certainly not in the time I’ve been alive. I accept there are different size people, but really, shouldn’t a toilet be the classic “one size fits all”?

Which brings me to one of my pet hates. Toilet signs. I don’t get why trendy bars, clubs and restaurants, seem to love displaying baffling restroom signage.  Indeterminate characters or vague references to animals (Buck/Doe, Jack/Jennet, Cob/Pen) it’s too confusing. Stylized characters that only a graphic artist could possible decipher do not facilitate the purpose of an in-house loo. Get the people in, out, and back to the bar. You don’t want patrons wandering around wondering whether the pumpkin or the cumquat indicates the male facilities.

Male / Female is acceptable, as is a two legged figure for male, one leg, or a dress for female, although I fail to grasp why the women only get to have one leg.

I can also deal with the size of toilets (the room, not the bowl) in Hong Kong. Space necessitates they are designed with 4-foot tall stick people in mind, but I am ok with that, as with aeroplane loos, it is what it is. It’s the unnecessary shapes and misleading signs that confuse and annoy me.

It’s the same confusion when ordering a coffee: Short, tall, grande, venti, alto. wee, wow, woah. Why is medium called tall and why is large, well is it vendi or alto? Or is tall small and short long, Grande sounds big, but why is it smaller than alto? That’s a musical term; maybe soprano should be the biggest, or should it be bass?

I was in a cafe the other day and I ordered a pizza. I’m a pretty average size guy so I figure I’d get the medium size. 15 minutes later, a trendy rectangular pizza turns up. But here’s the thing; it was two feet long. I mentioned to the waitress there had been a mistake, I wanted the medium – she informed me that was the medium.  I can only imagine what the large looked like.

This obsession with confusion in the world has to stop. I want to be able to walk into a shop, use the toilet, order a medium coffee and regular pizza and not walk out of the ladies to a thimble size beverage in a cup that burns my hand, with a pizza for 6 waiting for me.

Am I asking too much?


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