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:





Dead duck

4 11 2013

Brace yourselves – the duck is dead!

The giant rubber duck that has been enthralling much of the Chinese speaking world (and this blog) exploded this week (EXPLODED!!) during its stop in Taiwan.

Following an earthquake, the duck’s air supply was cut off and “rescue workers” overzealously re-pumped the 18 metre high inflatable artwork too quickly, leading to a rupture.

The duck’s deflation, following its tabloid-baiting “death” in Hong Kong earlier this year, caused an internet sensation with this photoshopped picture of the mascot in a traditional funeral home doing the rounds under the caption “First victim of the earthquake”.





Asia weird

16 10 2013

China’s Paris.

Vegetarian blood-letting in Thailand.

And Hong Kong’s UFO scare.





Like sand through the hour glass, so the ducks of our lives

30 08 2013

Just when you thought the never-ending saga of Hong Kong’s giant rubber duck was over (its jubilant arrival! its ‘murder’! Its internet censorhip scandal! Its rapidly proliferating bastard-children!) comes this absolutely brilliant postscript. The much-loved icon has now turned up – seemingly dead and roasted – as a Shanghai ferry. I absolutely love the tongue-in-cheek attitude. Cheers for the dead duck!





Zoltar the Magnificent

16 08 2013

Wandering through the streets of the Lower East Side, I came across this: Zoltar the Magnificent, a fortune telling mannequin in a glass case, straight out of a Stephen King novel. For just two dollars the talking, moving Zoltar revealed my future – that for success I should get out of bed earlier.

Thanks for that.





Bag full of heads

12 08 2013

A brilliantly disturbing find on the streets of Chelsea.







The Brooklyn mummies

1 08 2013








Amazing pet-pop-art!

19 06 2013

Great pictures from this gallery in the Guardian of pet portraits by photographer Ren Netherland, taken at American dog grooming shows.





Dead: who deflated Hong Kong’s dream duck?

16 05 2013

Earlier this week I was enthusing about Hong Kong’s latest attraction, the giant rubber duck that had floated in Hong Kong’s harbour, and heart, on a worldwide mission to promote peace, togetherness and knowing kitsch. The duck was a beacon, an irresistable symbol of playful optimisim in a city in dire need of it and the the Hong Kong public went crazy for it.

But yesterday the dream came crashing down. Under fittingly dark and gloomy skies, a tragic discovery was made: the once-proud duck was found listing severely, deflated. Soon it was a pancake-flat glob of yellow floating in the grey harbour, looking pretty dead.

As if this “tragedy” wasn’t enough to capture Hong Kong’s imagination, a new twist on the story emerged today. Rumours were spreading through the city swiftly that the duck had been murdered! Hong Kongers were quick to lay the blame at the much-despised mainland tourists, with rumours (seemingly unfounded) of a “tourist from Shenyang” who “flicked thirty lit cigarettes” at the duck, while swearing and cursing.

This shadowy hate figure was a perfect call to arms for the anti-China brigade, ever ready to pounce in this city, wher resentment is high against the growing influence of China’s super-rich, driving up prices even as they deny Hong Kongers political freedoms. In the wake of anger over the duck death, the Chinese state media was forced to hit back, claiming the story was unfounded.

Its an interesting example of human nature that something so trivial (a rubber duck) could bring out such base, and potentially scary scapegoating.

Meanwhile the media has been having a field day with headlines like “Fowl play?” “Giant duck burnt alive by mainlanders” and “Sitting duck”.





Sailing into Hong Kong

27 04 2013

Hong Kong is abuzz this week over the secretive movements of a giant, inflatable duck which has arrived in the city on a worldwide tour to “promote peace”. The 17 metre-tall rubber ducky designed by Dutch artist Florentjin Hofman arrived in the city a few days ago to be secretly inflated and stored. It will theb be moved into a prime position by the Star Ferry terminal next week. But where do you hide a 17 metre-high floating duck? The HK tabloids have been hot on its tracks, trying to leak the exact whereabouts of the monstrous bath toy.





Spot the odd one out

2 04 2013





Free your mind!

13 02 2013
  • hk_freeing_hk.jpg
  • The South China Post had an article today  on a hot new “craze” to hit Hong Kong – paying to be locked up. The paper reports:

Being blindfolded, handcuffed and locked in a dark room under the gaze of a surveillance camera is not everybody’s idea of fun. But a new game in high-pressure Hong Kong is playing on people’s escapist fantasies.

Freeing HK is a “real escape game” in which players are pitted against a ticking clock as they desperately try to work their way out of the room by finding clues, cracking codes, and solving puzzles.

The phenomenon originated in Japan, and has spread to China, Taiwan, Singapore and the United States.

But the creators of the Hong Kong version say it has struck a chord in the ultra-crowded city of seven million, as highly stressed students and over-worked young business people look for a literal – and metaphorical – way out.

“I think Hong Kong is the most stressed city in Asia,” said Freeing HK creator Instant Wan.

“There are long working hours, everybody is always talking about money, and there is little entertainment – we only have films and karaoke.

“People want to find something new and escape from their stress in the money-hungry city. Here, they come from reality into the game.”

Read the rest of the article here.





Day of the Dead

4 11 2012

The Guardian has a fun photo gallery of the world’s largest “zombie walk”, held this weekend to celebrate Mexico’s beloved Dia del Muerte in Mexico City.





Shopping

3 11 2012

Daisuke and I did some shopping in Taipei too. One of the most amazing things we found, above, was in the upscale Eslite lifestyle mall (one of my new favourite shopping spots in the world.) It is a pair of “neurotech” headphones attched to fluffy fake cats ears. Censors monitor the tension of muscles in the scalp and adjust the position of the ears up or down in relation to your mood – when your face is tightly drawn into a stressed-out grimace the anime-ears go up, and as you relax they hang down. Amazing technology, and a useful mood indicator to those around you, I thought.

The most intriguing shopping district I passed through at night in a taxi. As we drove past on Minquan East Road Section 5, I glanced out the window to the amazing site of a street lined with fluoro-lit aquariums. In them, swam all kinds of incredible exotic beasts – Amazonian fish, sting rays, and in one store, half-metre sharks. This is Taipei’s “Aquarium Street”. I’d love to go back in daylight and explore (the photos below were all scavenged from the web)

   

In addition we shopped for snacks – the best known souvenirs of Taiwan being pineapple cakes (more like little tarts really), dried meat, and – bizarrely – Mister Donuts doughnuts, for Hong Kongers at least. HK’s Mister Donuts franchise had folded in the 90s but it was common knowledge in the city-state that the brand lived on in Taiwan, so Hong Kong visitors were often pressed by coworkers and acquaintances into bringing packs back home.

My favourite souvenir though is this – hot pink, playful (yet thrifty), modern, fun, but still in touch with its historical roots. This pop-art inspired plastic Buddha piggy bank, now in my kitchen, reminds me of Taiwan each time I look at it and makes me smile.





Walk on the wild side – Siam Park City

1 08 2012

Siam Park City, known in Thai as Suan Siam, is a vast, ageing amusement park located on the city’s Northern fringe. It is best known for its lagoon pool with wave machine, and the flume ride which malfunctioned a few years ago, leading to a fatality. Not surprisingly then, it is not very high on many visitors’ priority lists. But having worked my way through the upper-level attractions, and being a devotee of kitsch, I decided it was time to visit.

As we pulled up outside the badly painted Disney castle entrance (seemingly built of plywood) I was surprised to see so many white faces. I had thought I would be the only one. But I had forgotten one vital component of Thailand’s international tourism industry: Russians. Everyone there was Russian – many seemingly bussed in for the day from the beachside resort city of Pattaya an hour and a half away. I guess when you are coming from Yekatarinburg, any opportunity to wander around a theme park in your bikini all day (which is what they did) is welcome.

Inside I passed the tempting flume ride.

Then it was on to the attraction I was most looking forward to – The Africa Adventure. For this, you ride around in a little boat as animatronic rubber animals move stiffly about on the river banks amid recorded jungle sound effects. There are also spectacularly un-PC representations of black people. For example, some of them apparently live in trees. Like monkeys. And they have real monkeys tied up next to the animatronic black people, as if to prove it.

   

The climax – for want of a better word – is a bizarre scene of black people burning a car (just like the LA riots!) and gleefully crucifying a white man. What fun!

After this was the Jurassic Adventure – a similar attraction except this time you rode around in a jeep full of Chinese tourists ( well, I did), who squealed each time a rubbery dinosaur would emerge from the undergrowth.

It was pretty fun. The best part was one dinosaur who was spitting out water. We all expected, I think, that it would stop just before the jeep arrived – and it did – only to spurt out another jet directly at one of the Chinese passengers. We all laughed – although if it had hit my camera I probably wouldn’t have.

This was about all the fun that I could handle for one day, so I headed into a (viciously price-gouged) taxi for the hours trip home.





Manila By Night

9 07 2012

 

Manila has a famously vibrant, and infamously dodgy, nightlife. One bar that has become an institution by straddling that line is “The Hobbit House”, a blues rock bar staffed entirely by ‘little people’. I’m not sure if they have to wear Tokienesque costumes, but there is a large mural of Gandalf on the wall outside in case you missed the allusion.

I was in two minds about going; I was frankly curious, but wondered if it was not too exploitative. But then, I thought, these people have chosen to work there…

It was not until I saw surprising numbers of “little people” sleeping rough on Malate’s streets that I realised what an empty ‘choice’ this was. In the end I decided not to go out of principle, (but I still stopped by to take this voyeuristic pic of the fabled Hobbit house door.)





Night Out in Quezon City

9 07 2012

Quezon City is Manila’s San Fernando Valley, a sprawling community housing the overflow of people from the capital (in fact technically it has more people than Manila itself). It is also the home of the University of the Philippines and, I had heard, a funky indie-student scene in the quiet, leafy streets near the campus.

Although its pretty far from the coast where I was staying, Quezon is reachable – in theory – on the subway. I made two attempts at this and then gave up. Manila’s subway is the WORST. Massively oversubscribed, lines just to buy a ticket can stretch to forty minutes – and that is not forty minutes of patient queuing, but forty minutes of sweaty shoving.  When I finally got to the platform I was frankly frightened to see the near-fisticuffs breaking out over commuters desperate to squeeze into already-suffocating carriages. I backed out, forfeited my fare and hailed a taxi.

I still don’t know if this was the right choice. The train might have been a probable security risk and definite sweat bath, but it would have taken me just fifteen terrifying minutes to Quezon. Instead, I now had in front of me a mind numbing nearly two-and-a-half-hour ordeal in the infamous Manila traffic. The cab crawled up EDSA, the much-hated arterial road which clogs under the sheer weight of vehicles. We shuffled forward, metre by metre, my cabbie cursing and shaking his head – as he must do every day. I had no idea how long we would be, or even where we were. All I could do was wait. Outside, as night fell, gigantic billboards loomed by the sides of the road, taunting me with their peppy slogans (“Its more fun in the Philippines!” courtesy of the Department of Tourism) or their bizarre choice of models. Icons of trash culture towered before me one after the other, Ivanka Trump for Trump Tower Manila (“Live exquisitely!”), Paris Hilton and then a monstrous collosus – Leighton Meester of Gossip Girl who blocked out the setting sun. I still don’t know what she was promoting.

Finally we reached Quezon and plunged into a different world of leafy American-style suburbia, with ranch houses and upscale little businesses. Cute boys rode around on skateboards. This was where I was to get off for my destination.

 

“Vincent Van Gogh Is Bipolar” is a unique little restaurant in a converted Quezon City apartment. Although it took half my night to get there, it was completely worth it. I loved it. Guests are ushered into an eccentrically decorated and moodily-lit lounge room, full of books and trinkets, and seating no more than eight or ten people by the owner, Jetro. He is charming. He then explains the menu: there is only a set course. This is chosen by Jetro and made up of ingredients scientifically proven to induce endorphin production in the brain, leading to a sense of wellbeing. He explains that he began researching the effects of diet on mood as part of his own therapy and has since decided to incorporate it into his own ‘slow food’ restaurant. While you wait for the food, he invites you to write on a wall, carve your name on the sideboard or flip through a book of artistic nudes. The chandeliers throw creepy shadows over the walls, and the toilet is decorated with white light skeletons.

Of course all of this appealed to me. But the food itself, when it came, was also surprisingly astonishly good. I had a “Virginia Woolf” soup which was spicy and sour, followed by chicken in guava sauce (amazing!) with black Philippines mountain rice. The whole time Jetro would drift by to explain how the ingredients would enduce my brain to perform its mood-lifting magic (he particularly recommended honey and cabbage, as a matter of interest). Other times he would talk about art or the Philippines or his backpacking trip to Lithuania.

I was so touched that I left him a present when I went, a book on Philippine art I had just bought, and he reciprocated with a book of his own travel photography ( a renaissance man!) and signed it in Tagalog, Lithuanian and his local tribal language of Ilocano.

I had meant to check out the nearby bars of Quezon City’s Cubao after this (see below) but it was so late that I decided to head home instead – fully satisfied . I guess the food had worked. I was in a great mood. The journey back – with no traffic – took twenty minutes.





Gay sharks and blood baths

8 06 2012

 

More from the weirdly fertile Japanese imagination, above a manga gay shark ( you can imagine what happens on the next page) and below, this “blood bath” transfusion-themed shower gel:

Who else would conceive of a ‘sexy’ gay shark?





The bewildering face of China

2 06 2012

A slideshow from the UK’s Independent newspaper zeroing in on the bizarre stories that come out of China, from two legged pigs to gigantic babies, freak accidents and zoos that let three-year olds tightrope walk over hungry tigers…. Its a weird, wild world.





Crime and punishment

2 06 2012

This week in Bangkok, police collared five Vietnamese nationals who had been pickpocketing the crowd at the Lady Gaga concert in the Thai capital. The gang, several members of whom were arrested at the airport fleeing the country, have apparently been jetting into Thailand specifically to steal at large events, before heading back to Ho Chi Minh.

Also in Bangkok, police have revealed that they were tipped off to the recent foetus smuggler by reports of  babies’ cries emanating from his hotel room. The question now being asked by many Thais, were they the ghostly wails of the infant souls, or the cries of living babies…and just where did he get those foetuses and babies’ bodies (some were up to 7 months old) anyway?

A thief in Brasilia walked out of a sex shop robbery with a five thousand Euro gold-plated vibrator…but forget to get a recharger.

And of course, in Miami a naked man high on drugs was arresting for trying to “eat another man’s face”. It has been all over the mainstream news.





Build it and they will come

26 05 2012

Renderings of an as-yet unrealised but brilliant plan to build giant-shaped electricity pylons in Iceland.

Just do it.








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