Bugging out

28 06 2014





The turtles’ dream

2 03 2014


Plastic turtles hatching at the small (and I thought, rather mediocre) art exhibition ” I Didn’t Come here and I Ain’t Leaving” by great cinematographer Christopher Doyle (the man behind the ravishing visuals of the best of Wong Kar Wai’s classics and Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s contemplative Thai films).

Definitely not his best work.

Its on at the Agnes B Gallery on Hollywood Road.





Cat and … deer

2 03 2014





Cold nights, cold blood

22 02 2014

Chilly nights, according to Cantonese tradition, are the perfect time for snake soup. In keeping with the ancient Chinese philosophy that food contain either “hot” or “cooling” properties, snake is considered the hottest meat, perfect to warm you up on a Winter night.

With this in mind, my boyfriend took me over the weekend to “Ser Wong Fun”, or “Snake King Fun”, a hundred-year old and well-regarded snake restaurant located, surprisingly, right under the escalator to Soho. I have walked past it so many times and never realised what it was.

Perfect for a (tasty) and piping hot snake with lemongrass soup, before a mango daiquiri dessert at nearby friend-of-a-friend’s basement bar, Medusa.

Winters aren’t all bad.





Chimera world

29 01 2014

These incredible hybrid taxidermy “sculptures” are both beautiful and wildly imaginative and disturbingly grotesque – all the more when you know that the artist, Enrique Gomez da Molina is currently serving a 20 month sentence for illegally dealing in endangered wildlife products.

Different animals – hornbills, cats, lorises, lizards – are stitched together, sometimes with a frolicking retinue of insects and beetles. The walrus head above is covered with the irridscent green shells of thousands of beetles. See more of the pieces, including an incredible beetle-wing-covered rhino head, here:





The puppet masters

4 01 2014

Puppets have always played a big part in Javanese traditional culture, from the wayang kulit shadow puppet plays, to masked puppet-like performers like the above, a troupe of ondel-ondel, masked paraders who twirl through the streets to ‘exorcise’ bad spirits. I ran into these in a walk through the suburb of Cikini.

Another kinds of “puppetry” however has just been banned – the masked monkeys who until recently performed for money at Jakarta’s traffic intersections and street markets. Often treated cruelly, they were trained in a slum known as “the monkey village” where a recent outbreak of TB was blamed on the close contact between the animals and their impoverished trainers.

For more incredible photos of the masked monkeys, see these pictures by Perrtu Saksa, previously reported on the blog.





Fighting fish

25 11 2013





Giants and monsters

28 10 2013

Hong Kong has been abuzz the last few weeks with the filming of the latest Transformers movie, in locations around town including the slummy 1960s tenements of Sham Shui Po, the government complex at TAMAR and North Point, right near my old ‘hood.
Mark Wahlberg sightings and glimpses of strange and exotic cars and machines have been Facebook fodder for a couple of weeks now.
But as well as Hollywood heavyweights and gargantuan robots, another giant slipped quietly into Hong Kong this week, almost unnoticed. While knocking back pineapple beers with a marine biologist on the pier at Sai Ying Pun, he told me that a whaleshark had been confirmed off Lamma island this week, feasting in the murky and nutrient-rich seas fed by the Pearl River delta.
The biggest fish in the world, and one of its most majestic creatures, swam right by the megacity almost unseen.
Magical!





Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water (on Minquan Street)

23 10 2013

Little known even to many Taipei residents is the fascinating block-long strip of aquarium supplies stores on Minquan Street (near the domestic airport). I had glimpsed the district late at night from the window of a passing taxi on my last trip and promised myself I’d return for a closer look. This trip I did, and found shop windows full of odd spotted stingrays, sharks and all kinds of bizarre ornamental tropical fish. The perfect place for a different Taipei souvenir?





Boycott the bad breeder

22 09 2013

Is it just me, or is this billboard wide open to all kinds of double entrendres?





Kazumasa Nagai: posters for Ueno Zoo

21 09 2013





Market dog

14 09 2013







Birds of a feather

12 09 2013

If you thought Hong Kong’s king of cats was weird, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Kitty-craziness is nothing new in Japan, home of the famous cat-cafes, where you can pay to spend to time in the company of kittens. But a new cafe is taking the concept in a different direction.

The “owl cafe” in Tokyo’s Kiba district offers a range of owl-shaped cookies and muffins as well as owls, parrots and a small eagle plus a range of alcoholic beverages featuring birds of prey on the label.

They also have a “bird hotel” to accomodate pets while their owners go on holiday (hopefully kept separately from the eagle).

Website (in Japanese) here.





HK’s King of cats

1 09 2013

Brother Creamy is the king of Hong Kong’s cats, a cat Kardashian – famous for well, being famous. In many respects he is unremarkable, just another plump, lazy feline. But the difference is that he has 130,000 Facebook friends and lives in a convenience store which has been transformed into a veritable shrine, full of likenesses of his own image. His recent “birthday celebrations” at the Mikiki mall, drew hundreds of people.



I made the the trek out to see him at his home in a dodgy, old fashioned shopping centre called the “South Seas Centre” in East Tsim Sha Tsui. Despite the rainy weather, a small crowd had gathered around the magazine display wrack where he sleeps, complete with a little pillow.







Animal Kingdom

25 08 2013

The work of currently-hot animal scultpor and illustrator, Misawa Atsuhiko.





Army of Meoow

19 08 2013





Museum of Natural History

15 08 2013

As I was reading “Catcher in the Rye” (scroll down) I was interested to see the Museum of Natural History, which JD Salinger describes in the book. Much to my delight, surprise and also dismay, the venerable museum overlooking Central Park  seems to have changed little since the book was written.

I had expected the institution to have been ‘updated’ with interactive panels and computer touch screens but much to my delight, the museum if still just as it is described: halls of stuffed animals presented in glass cases. I loved it, it was so…Victorian.

In other ways though the museum really does need to change. For a start there is an implicit racism in displaying artworks and artifacts from non-Western cultures in a “natural history museum” next to whales and stuffed elephants. I was astonished that in a country as PC and race-conscious as America this practice has gone unchallenged. In fact, much of the collection, perhaps the bulk of it, presents ethnographic, artistic and archaeological products from the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Pacific – but none from Europe. These would be displayed, presumably, in an “art museum”.

Still, despite this I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The dinosaur halls were jaw-dropping, with their Triceratops and T-rex skeletons and the entrance hall’s art deco murals depicting a kind of bizarre history of the world (sans black people, noticeably) were fascinating.





Alligator limbs sprinkled over Brooklyn street

2 08 2013

Ghastly images from a Williamsburg street show reptilian claws scattered along a sidewalk.

There’s no sign of the body of this beast of Brooklyn — and no apparent reason why the claws were placed on an industrial street in the northern end of the neighborhood. There are no pet stores or exotic food spots nearby the N. 10th St. stretch.





New York Historical Society

31 07 2013

Located in the Upper West Side’s “Museum mile”, not far from the Museum of Natural History, the New York Historical Society is another starchy institution dedicated to exhibiting art and artefacts – in this case from the city’s past.

I had missed a Keith Haring retrospective but went there to see two very different displays – one the work of 19th century illustrator James Audubon whose illustrated ‘Birds of America’ was acclaimed as a work of art and science alike, and the other a sobering historical display on the early years of AIDS in the city.

“AIDS in New York: the First Five Years” opens with euphoric scenes of the city’s swinging 1970s gay scene. This was a time when bath houses flourished (see the amazing poster for one above) and hundreds of men would sunbathe (and more) naked on the rickety Chelsea piers on sunny afternoons. All of this is now gone, and many of those men are too.

The exhibit shows with frightening clarity the confusion about the emergence of a strange, terrifying new disease dubbed GRID (gay-related immune deficiency). TV reports and newspaper clippings from the time give a real sense of the confusion, the misinformation and the fear. Then, there was of course no cure and very little treatment. AIDS meant a lonely and painful death – and no one knew, for the first five years, how they had got it. There were rumours that it came from chemicals in amyl nitrate. One article, published in 1981 from the Center for Disease Control, was an attempt to reassure gay men that the ‘rumours’ of a gay plague were just that. In hindsight of course, we know how tragically wrong this was.

There was of course massive prejudice. One writer at the time said: “Pity the poor homosexual. He has declared war on nature and now nature is fighing back.”

The exhibit also highlights the heroic work of those people who stood up to the disease and the hysteria; a synagogue that called a meeting to discuss sexual health for gay men was one striking example. Doctors who worked tirelessly to treat the patients despite the fear that they might somehow contract the virus are also highlighted.

It was a sobering exhibition but all the more powerful for that, a reminder of a terrible time for many in the city’s history.



After that harrowing display I was in the mood for some more restful viewing, so I was disappointed to find the Audubon prints were not on show. A couple of swans were out, and the giftstore was full of the images on postcards and sunglasses boxes, but the majority of the pieces are for the moment under wraps awaiting a new 2014 exhibition.





8 07 2013








Best friends

8 07 2013

Beautiful pictures from photographer Miyoko Iraha showing the relationship between her grandmother, and her “best friend” – an amazing-looking cat.








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