lørdag, desember 26, 2009

Industrial eating at The Wapping Project

I am a sucker for inventive renewal of old industrial properties, turning defunct factories into libraries, museums, shopping centres or restaurants as in the case of the London-based Wapping Project. Located close to the canals of St. Catherine's Docks, the project is an amazing mix of restaurant, bar and art gallery.

You eat under a high, bricked ceiling surrounded by the machinery of the hydraulic power station. A magnificent space and best of all, the food is of a very high standard, easily makes my top five in London. A bit out of the way, but the Project as well as the interesting walk through the docks make it a strongly recommended outing.

fredag, november 06, 2009

Civic conscience

Few things put a downer on your day more than stepping on dog shit. The frequency of this hazard varies wildly from country to country, but it should come as no surprise that it is almost non-existent in Japan.

Witness this woman walking a dog in the northern town of Otaru. While in some countries you might come across the conscientious owner carrying a scoop and a doggy bag, this woman additionally brought a big bottle of water for splashing posts, corners and other spots the furry friend chose to urinate all over!

Most impressive, a challenged city like Buenos Aires, mired in dog poo, could do well with an export of 10,000 ladies like this one.

fredag, september 11, 2009


Just when you thought it was all lost to infantile effects-centered trash like Transformers, this year's unexpected sci-fi pleasure is British sci-fi Moon. Remniscent of 2001, Bladerunner and Alien (yes, there has not been much in the vein of intelligent sci-fi for that long a time), Moon is a film stuffed full with ideas and questions, as well as a masterful use of a relatively small budget.

Moon follows a lone lunar worker, extracting energy to keep Earth going, only accompanied by a cheerful computer. His three-year posting is coming to an end, when things start to happen. This definitely is one of those films where knowing as little as possible of the plot greatly enhances the experience, so I will leave it at that. A must see.

fredag, august 14, 2009

"Tonight Whites only pay a fiver"

It was a Friday night in the posher parts of London nightlife. Walking past a club, the very friendly tout approached our diverse group of near dozen people, promising a discount to the Caucasians, seemingly oblivious to the fact some of us were Asians.

"You pay only five, cause on a Friday we like 40/30/30, and now it is more like 20/40/40". When asked the meaning of these numbers, he eagerly explained it meant the percentage distribution of Whites, Blacks and Asians! Needless to say, a rather surprising concept in multicultural London.

The tout? He was Pakistani.

onsdag, april 29, 2009

The poker kids of Buenos Aires

They come primarily from the US, but some also from a smattering of European countries. Almost exclusively aged between 20 and 25. Their mission? Making it as professional poker players.

The last couple of years have seen the virtual establishment of a colony of expat poker players in Buenos Aires. Between 50 and 100 live in the city, less when the brief, mild Argentinian winter sets in.

What drives them to Argentina? Motivation is served by reports in an internet poker forum of reasonable living costs, great steaks, never-ending nightlife and hot women. As well as an established community of fellow players, making for a less scary transition to the unknown, since for many of the Americans this is the first step on foreign soil.

The actual setup varies between the ones who play for smaller and bigger stakes. While some go for relatively mundane housing, others rent luxury apartments far beyond what is possible in Europe or the US. Rooftop jacuzzis, maids - even hiring personal assistants and chefs to facilitate spending as much time as possible playing online poker.

The fact that Argentina boasts a pleasant climate and is close to both the European and American time zones makes Buenos Aires a convenient place to live for the poker pros. Some plan to save up money for starting different careers in the future when the poker boom may wane, others just stay afloat to enjoy the lavish lifestyle possible in this great city. A way of life most guys in their early 20s can only dream of.

onsdag, april 01, 2009

Korean e-sport bizarro

Expanding on the previous post on South Korean TV's live transmission of so-called "e-sport", this is the studio found on top of a shopping mall in central Seoul. The show featured two contestants along with promogirls and three quite enthusiastic presenters.

The live audience largely consisted of teenage girls and nerds like this. Like most others in the audience he had made a sign cheering on his favourite player, ready to lift it up to when the cameras required. Sadly for him, the cameras preferred to focus on the girls' elaborate anime-style drawings of their favourite cute player.

Worse, when two professional players appeared to take a seat in the audience, they pointedly ignored his attempts at communication, understandably rather opting for flirting with the female presence. Nice social microcosm right there.

No introduction of players complete without screams.

Game over!

tirsdag, mars 17, 2009

Global TV: Starcraft, mail-order brides and food porn

While I have not been watching a lot of TV on this round-the-world trip (apart from Argentinian football of course), what I have seen does grant some insight into different cultures. And as always, it is the weird shit that tickles the interest the most.

In South Korea for instance, there are multiple channels broadcasting live matches of the 10-year old computer game Starcraft, still massively popular on the peninsula. The best players are treated as minor celebrities, as I saw when happening upon the TV studio on the top floor of a huge shopping mall. The production was very dramatic and came across as an enthusiastically nerdy sporting event.

The weirdest thing to be seen in Taiwan's late night TV are long shows of Vietnamese brides, who get a five-minute segment each to dance around semi-provocatively in flimsy clothing, while the essential figures about them are displayed, including the number to call if you feel like marrying one. Taiwanese men will spend close to 10k USD for a marriage to be set up, and the business is popular enough that the ethnic demographics of Taiwan are changing. Crass commercialisation of human relations or just efficient marketing?

Cooking shows are also widely popular in Taiwan, but not to the insane degree of Japan. Food porn is always on, and while given the extremely high standard of Japanese cuisine a certain focus in understandable, but not to the obsessive degree of these shows. Frequent, loving pornographic closeups of bubbling dishes are accompanied by tacky music and idiotic commentary. This is all a build-up to the money shot of a celebrity or just an average Joe finally tasting the dish, unfailingly exclaiming "Oishii!" (delicious) with an orgasmic grin, non-pixellated. Apparently this is what Japanese viewers want, certainly there is a telling lack of a debating public sphere in the media. Harmony and harmless food is the order of the day in Japan Inc.

Over in Argentina the national obsession of Maradona-land is of course football. It is everywhere in daily life and of course all over the media. In addition to fluff like interviews on the daily lives of players and their families, there is an in-depth show called "Ping-Pong", which shows every goal chance of the match, adding them up and coming up with a ping-pong score of missed chances, thereby providing an analysis of who really should have won. The ball is, as we know, round. I eagerly await the hypothetical Hooligan: The day-to-day life of an Argentinian mobster.

lørdag, januar 17, 2009

Love in Lima

Call me a romantic sap, but I found this Peruvian declaration of love rather sweet. Located in the district of Miraflores in Lima it has at least lasted three days at the time of writing, forever might yet prove wildly optimistic. Perhaps a modern-day inspiration from the Nazca lines a bit to the southeast?