Friday, 19 November 2010

Wan Chai/At the Races

   I schlepped to the Hong Kong Expo at Wan Chai on a Wednesday, which was perhaps too deeply commercial to be of any worth to tourists. The guest speakers, there to expound on matters of Asian investment and infrastructure, would probably have been interesting for those concerned with the scale of such things

   That night, I joined the weekly pilgrimage to the racetrack at Happy Valley. I'm not much of a gambling man in this sense (primarily because I bring others greater fortune than I do myself), but food, beverages and camaraderie are in abundance, and horse riding is better viewed live. The photographs do not clearly connote the scale of the track, but I think they still capture some of its expansiveness

   Besides, it is certainly a setting in which wearing Junya Watanabe Man S/S07 can be considered fitting

Thursday, 18 November 2010


   Semi-regular viewers of this column are aware that I occasionally champion the dressing of men who don't resemble tryouts for the next Willy Wonka remake. Today, I'd like to host a pictorial of the mostly modest (but resolutely talented) Terence Stamp:

 Top two: in Modesty Blaise, as dressed by Douglas Hayward and Mr. Fish. This caper also stars Monica Vitti and Dirk Bogarde, boasts a memorable Gorillaz-sampled themesong and was high on my To-Do List, as are Stamp's memoirs
In Divina Creatura (aka The Divine Nymph, 1975), which I've also yet to see
With former lover and 1960s Face, Jean Shrimpton

   I am not up to date on Mr. Stamp's oeuvre - his smaller roles in recent comedy vehicle fare notwithstanding - but every facet of his fairly protean persona regularly makes an impact. Watching him toying exasperatedly, pathetically and yet thoroughly evilly with Samantha Eggar in The Collector is always a touch uncomfortable - his character's actions are the height of confused, tortured desire yet never less than unpleasant, not unlike the emotionally beset protagonist of Michael Powell's Peeping Tom. Elsewhere, his cold, forceful turns in Oliver Stone's Wall Street and Steven Soderbergh's The Limey juxtapose with the likes of his camp antics in drag classic Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and the curious, iconic mixture of both modes that is Superman and Superman II's General Zod (only a Swinging Sixties survivor and sex symbol could order others to kneel before him as if it was his birthright)

   But on and offscreen, when it is necessary, the man can surely dress. He has a natural sort of ease in his clothing whilst suggesting little concern at all with staying fashionable. Certainly, he adapts to the prevailing winds of his eras with aplomb, but usually in the most unfussy and almost stripped down manner. Relatively speaking, that is

   Even in the modern age, he remains a hat person:

   Sometimes beguilingly elegant and often louchely casual, I will take one Terence Stamp over a myriad of today's on and offline men's style idols. Attitude counts

Light Up the Night

   Any visitor to Hong Kong's shores will likely have taken in this extravaganza at least once and I did, too, arriving for the 8pm start in front of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre at Tsim Sha Tsui. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of my viewing inwardly laughing at the cod-Nintendo music - and given my fond ownership of various Nintendo soundtracks, that speaks volumes

   The actual thought behind A Symphony of Lights is cogent, I feel - almost every city looks better at night, particularly a gleaming metropolis like Hongkers that offers densely packed, almost foreboding skyscraping by day, but blossoms into luminescent, celebratory flamboyance by night. That the performances are heavy on symbolism speaks to a particularly national and cultural pride, and I certainly like that a city is not afraid to show itself off in such an expressive fashion. But oy, the music...

   Also, for what it's worth, I suspect that it's sponsored by Samsung

Monday, 15 November 2010


   Anyone seeking guidance in amassing elegant furniture, accoutrements and high-class baubles could do worse than look for inspiration in the recently auctioned former belongings of Ponzi schemer and convict Bernard L. Madoff and his wife Ruth

   Certainly, what I've seen of their blink-and-miss artwork selection speaks to the genteel preoccupations of the gilded rich and the overall aura of the pieces seem dismayingly restrained, but the 18th and 19th century home furnishings, along with gleefully cheeky outliers like the bull-shaped footstool in leather demonstrate that the "bad guys" almost always enjoy fine decor (and speaking of dismayingly restrained, it seemed rather obvious that Mr. Madoff sought to construct a quiet, serious and respectable identity, like other men of his tastes, out of Lobb, Charvet and Turnbull & Asser - and not with the subtle, ludic polish of an Ahmet Ertegun, either). The jewellery collection was, in my eyes, the clear highlight. I might have reacted emotionally to seeing the timepiece collection, in small part due to seeing a platinum Cartier Ronde Solo amongst the solid gold Patek Philippes, Piagets and Audemars-Piguets, and in large part due to dropping an iron on my foot whilst trying to read the interweb simultaneously. Ordinarily, I'm a great multitasker

   I only wish I could see the expensive bonfire that will be lit by the fellow whose $1,700 bought him a selection of Mr. Madoff's underwear - all because he wanted the socks. I'm not even sure many of them are silk. Maybe the Prada pantyhose was the true gem

Bubba Sparxxx - Deliverance (2003)

 I left off of mama's with my thumb in the wind
The leaves on the ground, winter's comin' again
Solid on the surface as I crumble within
But legends are made out of vulnerable men
So on the brink of death I still manage livin' life
'Cause so rarely in this world are these chances given twice
I indeed sold my soul, without glancing at the price
No instructions when I was handed this device
But with what I did get, I was more than generous
Put others over self on several instances
But I'm back on my feet without a hint of bitterness
And one way or another I shall have deliverance
So I say

   Another review that I wrote six years ago focused on the widely underappreciated sophomore cut from Southern boy and Timbaland alum, Bubba Sparxxx

   In 2003, Timbaland was perceived to have begun a decline in his creative and commercial prowess that would last until his recruitment of Nate 'Danja' Hills and their highly populist and propulsive creations for Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake in 2006. In truth, Timothy Moseley was as restlessly inventive as in previous years - when not mixing the clip-clops of horses with flamenco and updating  doo wop swing for an almost perfect r&b record that went unreleased - Simple Girl by Kiley Dean - he was interpolating and sampling recent hits into a country-slanted hip hop album that was as offbeat and contemplative as any Lee Hazlewood number 

   His MC friend wasn't half bad either:

    In which the best known of Timbaland's roster of underrated protégés hits back against the haters, the shamers and those who'd rather forget he ever existed. The essence of the album is Bubba's on-record character, more roundly developed and emotionally invested in than the previous record, with music and beats to match from Tim (with a little bit of Organized Noize to garnish). Importantly, Bubba's way with a rhyme and a microphone carry equal weight with Tim's surprising yet totally sensible bluegrass funk, country crunk, chase scene torch songs and ever excellent ass-shakers (Tim's diminished presence on the second half prevents this from being 2003's perfect hip hop album, but when on point, he's ever the hard act to follow - how the hell is 'Warrant' so confidently funky, mysterious and addictive when it's got barely no beats to speak of?)
   He's got a convincingly guilty conscience on 'She Tried', acts the good time party boy fool on 'Hootenanny' and the ultra-catchy top 10 single that never was, 'Comin' Round' (fiddles! synths! squealing tyres!), and he is straight up convincing about the New South signifier. I believe in Bubba when he's evoking a hard past that may or may not have been on 'Nowhere', because he's mastered the art of convincing soul-bearing on record. And when 'Nowhere', with it's last line of 'If I'm nowhere/let that nowhere/be nowhere near a worry' and the equally underrated Kiley Dean leading a lovely chorus of 'Cry Me A River' (what's done is done, eh, Bubba?), concludes its 5 mins plus of pure symphonic hip hop beauty, Bubba tells us there's nothing he can't Overcome and I hope he's right. Sooner or later, he deserves to have his Deliverance
Recommended tracks: Comin' Round, Nowhere, Warrant

Friday, 12 November 2010

Local Sampling

   In this outfit, I'm wearing a custom-made jacket and shirt combination that originates from here in Hong Kong. The jacket is a vintage late 1970s number; the shirt is far more recent and actually a light shade of orange linen. A number of the other pieces were probably manufactured here, also

   Something of a "When in Rome" ensemble, then

Le Temps de Cartier (1989)

  It takes a particular type of connoisseur, hobbyist or aesthete to procure a horological tome. So, I'm fortunate that my mother owns a copy; I'm not refined enough, nor in possession of a classic Cartier such as the Tortue or the Tank - both featuring from their Edwardian-era guises onward - to have obtained this alone

   In the terms I couch the word "luxury" in, rarity, creativity, fineness, exquisiteness  and beauty perennially loom large, which is why it's so edifying to delve into some of the delights that the house of Louis-François Cartier built. In the age of mass luxury, it is gratifying that maisons like Cartier and Hermès maintain not only their pedigree but their quality controls (as long as the recent stake in the latter taken by Bernard Arnault, chairman to LVMH, does not become too ineluctable, I suppose). Throughout the book, one sees the exhibition-worthy works produced for, or inspired by, gilded clients with influence and/or royal warrants such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (who was presented with the highly aureate Cartier Imperial Egg that now resides in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art), Alberto Santos-Dumont - whose need for aviation comfort, of course, influenced the creation of Santos, the first men's wristwatch - and King Farouk of Egypt, whose commissions tended to be sexually themed; apposite, of course, for a royal connoisseur of erotica and pornography

   But Giampiero Negretti, Jader Barracca and Franco Nencini, who authored the book, also elicit interest in their historical coverage from the reader, transcending the superficial gratuitousness of Timepiece Porn as they do. Of course, there are a great many double page spreads and money shots contained, for this is a history that stretches back deeply into elegant, diamond encrusted and monogrammed fobs with clever shutter mechanisms, utterly covetous platinum wristwatches, elaborate automatic calendars and the ne plus ultra accessorial decor of la Maison Cartier's pendules mystérieuse ("mystery clocks") - so named because the inner workings of those home, desk and travel clocks were concealed under the skilled artisinal artifice that makes such things desirable. Throughout the decades, Cartier's craftsmen would decorate these latter creations with carved jade, sculpted precious metals and artfully arranged jewels in intricate manners that oft drew on au courant themes in artistic movements - Egyptian, Oriental, Indian and animalistic motifs were all explored at one time or another

La Chimère (Chimera) pendule mystérieuse, 1926, comprised of substances such as topaz, agate, platinum

This pendule mystérieuse, dating from the early 1980s, is based on the original Buddhist temple-motif model circa the 1930s, which is featured in the publication

   Fundamentally, this is a social history of Cartier's horlogerie designs as they related to the whims of the market, the events of the passing days (the Viennese Secession, Art Deco, Modernism, World War II), its constant successes in jewellery creation and the exponential development of the firm itself, with the life and innovations of Louis Cartier - grandson of Louis-François - and the company as its foci. Those deeply involved in Louis's personal and professional orbit - his brothers, Jacques and Pierre, who operated and grew Cartier's businesses in London and New York, respectively; Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier's graceful, panther-obsessed Director of Fine Jewellery with an eye for gemmed and sculpted figural pieces based on creatures, as well as Louis's muse and love; Charles Jacqueau, the independent and ornately-minded legend of jewellery design; and Edmond Jaeger, whose legacy is contained not only within the famed Jaeger-LeCoultre firm of watchmakers but also in the exacting movements that he provided for Cartier during his exclusive 15 year-partnership with Louis. Working in such tandem, it would have been impossible not to have ensured Cartier's prepotency in its fields

   Covering the mid-to-late 19th century through to the establishing of Le Must de Cartier in 1973 after the company had passed from the hands of the family into a private group - today it is part of Richemont - the book concludes with a look at the then-contemporary state of auctioned Cartier timepieces, artfully tracing the high value the maison's works have come to command over the decades. But even in this pricey arena, it is the craft, the aesthetics and the sheer invention of these pieces that transcend mere lust and displays of status

   For at the end of the day, it is taste and appreciation that make a Cartier worth having

   Cartier Tonneau ladies wristwatch in 18k yellow gold circa the 1920s

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Birds/New Friend

   I recently paid a visit to the State-Of-The-Arts Gallery in Central, Hong Kong, where I met this fellow. He was encouraging visitors to unleash their inner animal, rather like the Power Penguin meditation sequence of my favourite film, Fight Club

   Like this man and Fight Club's unnamed Narrator, I suspect that my own animal is avian themed - apposite and appropriate - although a peacock might be a tad obvious. Our sartorial fandom does make us - dare I say - birds of a feather