Monday 30 August 2010

Did you do any fornicating?

I really like Oliver Stone's work. I think he's consistently dealt with the most excruciating themes of the American 20th century in a candid way that most Americans aren't ready to deal with. I also like that he did two tours of duty in Vietnam despite being part of that privileged elite who could have avoided the draft, as did the Neocon chicken-hawks; Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol et al.

I just rewatched Stone's Nixon earlier because yesterday I finally got round to seeing Frost/Nixon, a clip of which I've used above. It's extraordinarily good and made me want to revisit Nixon the man because in the thick of all the Bush bashing (when it's evident he never really had the intellectual gravitas to manipulate the world but was instead a subject of manipulation) I took great delight in telling people Nixon was one of my favourite presidents. I can't say it now because I've dug a bit deeper after watching this, though I will say that despite the carnage that Nixon authorised, particularly the unconscionable bombing of Laos and Cambodia he still presided over the most geopolitically volatile period apart from all out world war. It's easier with hindsight but the question remains did he exploit that geopolitical volatility? Was it really necessary?

The answer's probably no because proxy ideological wars in far away places are at a primary assessment level abysmal failures though arguably have much more complex secondary geopolitcal angles like the suggestion I read today that Afghanistan and Iraq is about having an experienced army  at hand if middle Asia becomes the arena for conflict over resources (not just oil). Believe me the only peaceful ideological solution we have for that is a sharing one. Marx came close and I suggest we need to try again, because the profit motive is hitting a dead end and hey, even the Wright brothers didn't quit when their first plane nose dived. However my ideological chin sticking out affirms a simple principle. Don't bomb and maim small Buddhist countries to achieve larger geopolitical ends. Take some pain on the chin, and I most definitely am looking at the United Kingdom as well as the United States too.

It's time to open up an Easter Egg on this blog because when I wrote that last Nixon piece it had another story behind it. It was allegorical too, because my apartment was being broken into at the time. The protagonist(s) were also reading my blog (note the personal Wifi router the case is sitting on) so I thought I'd land a punch when it suited me and today it does. So I guess I got to write about it, share what I think about Richard Nixon and pluralistic thinking, as well as nail a date and a time to that period when things like my Porsche briefcase had it's combination lock popped while I wasn't at home.  I did walk away with my full deposit from that affair. That's unheard of in Asia when two warring sides choose to go their separate ways with a tenancy contract between them.

I don't mind confessing there were days when I thought I'd lose a lot more than the deposit as I'm stubborn. It's irrespective of what influence or power I'm up against though a shiny motorcycle police escort one early morning while nipping down to 7 Eleven prompted me to settle for the cash. A foreigner never actually win's in Asia so I did OK given who I was up against, and that post I wrote time stamps accusations without ambiguity. Not that I didn't appreciate it being nominated for post of the month too because the dual narratives were completely coherent and utterly sincere. You'll forgive me if I killed two birds with one stone. It's the mark of a really lazy person not an industrious one ironically.

Anyway that was  all wild and I learned that snakes really do writhe when you have them by the tail but the reason for this post is very simply to outline that Oliver Stone is for me, more of a patriot than any of the abysmal Tea Party crowd and (I contest) a brave creative American icon. Which is kind of my way of saying sorry, because I met him in a nightclub once, here in Bangkok. He'd been filming Alexander the Great and unfortunately I'm less amusing after a cocktail than I think I am so I confirmed if his name was Oliver and leaned into his ear sharing something along the lines of 'I hope you didn't omit from your film, that while Alexander was pinning down Asia, he was also pinning down his Generals'.

Oliver immediately backed away as if purgatory was imminent and his entourage protectively engulfed me from saying another word, sweeping me away back into a less interesting world. The moral of the story I guess is just be nice, say hi and 'how are you' when you meet someone you respect instead of being a smart ass, and also just make sure they haven't directed a turkey of a movie.

Both Nixon and Frost Nixon are brilliant films. The first historically and the second, well the second did something that a small screen has never done for me before. I've been moved by actors on the big screen theatre but the Nixon character in this second movie. I was spellbound by the end. I never believed that a small netbook screen could ever command  or impose such pathos and yet it was all there. You should watch it because even if you don't care about politics you should care about how the mightiest can fall and once again how little in life is black and white all set to a Greek tragedy of biblical proportion. I just discovered that Frank Langella was nominated for an Oscar in this movie and that's the most deserving nomination I can think of for some time. I also think it's great to see actors doing very fine jobs of David Frost and John Birt. Both of whom now I think have knighthoods. Watch Langella in this. Sometimes it's like a bear leaning over you baring perfectly ominous but preternaturally perfect teeth. Or is that Frost as well?

Friday 27 August 2010

reality hunger

Love this. I've been fast forwarding through the boring parts of Dexter earlier. I love the character but all that contrived futile love angle? It's maddening. Though I realise that sounds like ironic psychopathy. for more wisdom (Go on type it. You'll remember it that way)

Yes We Can - Michael Moore's Roger & Me

I like documentaries. The older I get the harder it is to immerse myself in fiction and suspend disbelief. Yet despite enjoying the documentary genre, I've never really gone out of my way to watch them, except for maybe Michael Moore's work, and that was only after watching Bowling for Columbine. Before today,  I'd never seen Moore's first work 'Roger & Me'. I was aware of it and yet somehow I always assumed that because it was his earliest piece it would be less polished. Well that's wrong. It's right up there with the rest of them.

I've been working my way through recommended documentaries. If it wasn't for that cease & desist I recently received (complete with Microsoft identified malware attached to the word document) I'd probably be inclined to do a (hard) drive-by 'cloud' stick-up-job to secure them, but that's not sensible now so instead I've seen what's available for free online or else headed over to my 'Pirate' DVD dealer on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 5 open from 1am to 5am to purchase the 'Pirate brand' of merchandise. I assume that's an ironic wordplay joke by the entrepreneur in question, but you can check him out along with the other hundred or so late night media specialists that are quintessential Bangkok if the 'right to copy' has been infringed. 

Hell I can't tell. Who can?

Where was I? Oh yeah, Roger & Me. It's essential viewing. I think his talent lies in a sublime ability to make the most incendiary contrasts of video (house eviction over Christmas for a young family while GM CEO, Roger B. Smith quotes Dickens on festivities after laying off 30000 workers). Moore is consistently mild mannered in his requests to interview the well paid heads of corporations who were all gearing up in the late 80's to shift manufacturing abroad while essentially filleting the American way of life.

And it's the diminishing American way of life which is so resonant in this documentary. I know it's fashionable now for the art photography boho-set to relocate to ghost town Detroit and shoot long decayed hanging chandelier anterooms from ghostly and vacated semi decadent lower upper class mansions but it's all so vibrant now that Moore was shooting this pivotal change in the way that America structurally operated over 20 years ago. It's all there. Moore focuses on Flint but the Corporations' absence of sentiment is evident right from the git go.

The burning question for me as an Americanophile: one who grew up under the benevolent arm of Marshall-planned Wirtschaftwunder Deutschland is simply this: Does America (The U.S.) step on the back foot clumsily? 

The answer if Detroit or Flint Michigan is an indicator, must be yes. The sheer range of excessive and baseless optimism staring in the face of nation state downsizing was, in this documentary, the most disconcerting example of disconnect I've ever come across. I often wonder how the obese will manage if the food chain breaks down in the US when peak oil arbitrage suddenly excludes the citizens of a country that calls Iraq 'way out East Texas'. The answer to that one 'aint purdy' but who knows when that call gets made or who is pointing what tactical nuclear warheads at whom to squeeze one more fix out of the system.

I digress.

It's clear from this documentary that when hope becomes nothing but linguistic vapours (you can't eat hope after all) that the reality check for mindless consumption in the States will be an ugly affair. I don't mean that in a triumphal sense one bit, because for those of us looking closely at the Oriental Leviathan over here (China) it's clear they've bought into a discredited money model before it's had to time to conclude it's economic momentum. It's a bit of a shit sandwich all in all but I urge you to avoid taking a carbon footprint rich flight to Bangkok to buy this documentary at the kick ass price I did, and just download the mother off a disruptive peer to peer sharing network at a hard drive near you before the Feds get wind of it. We get very few chances in life to redistribute wealth from the the wealthy to the less wealthy and I have it on good authority that Michael Moore is cool with cutting out the middle man.

Lastly I couldn't help but noticing that the TV evangelist that Flint hired for 20 000 bucks in 1989 to cheer up the 'po' people, a Mr Robert H. Schuler, had an interesting programme title that I took a screen grab above. Someone once said that you can never go broke betting on the stupidity of the American people and I see now that it's irrelevantly true but equally when it comes to a venal and psychopathic corporate class, there is no smarter and more cunning beast than the American CEO.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Information Graphics

Bits of this are great. It's also the second time today I've watched Neville Brody (I was catching up on Helvetica earlier) and it's the third or fourth time in the last few days that a name emerges more than once from completely separate and distinct internet travels. 

I've talked about synchronicity-frequency related to increases in data consumption and it's almost worth a statistical probability paper if anyone other than me was interested in it, but more importantly this catch comes from Dhiren Shingadia who strikes a nice balance on his blog between taste, tasty and digital or all three at the same time if you wish ;)

Monday 9 August 2010


My favourite meal of the day is breakfast. I started taking the definitive cooked breakfast a bit more seriously when I lived in Camden from 97-99 (around the time I worked at HHCL).

My girlfriend and I, at the time would go exploring Greasy Spoons and try out Hi-So Fry Ups at swish hotels and bourgeoisie cafes. I can still remember the first time the mushrooms arrived in a full cream sauce and I realised that an upper crust cooked breakfast wasn't such a bad thing or indeed a class transgression worthy of pejoratively labelling an injustice.

Last year I lived in Hong Kong twice on the Island of Lamma which is a lovely island only a half hour ferry ride away from Central where kids and dogs intermingle freely at all hours like they did in the old days when the car was less dominant and main stream media scaremongering was restricted to those bad old communists. Now it's a never ending stream of paedophiles served up with Roe vs Wade (poltical in-joke for observers of right wing psychology). 

While living on Lamma I got into the habit of breakfast experimentation and discovered that straw mushrooms are an extraordinarily good replacement for meat in a cooked breakfast for both taste and texture dimensions, and so because it's been a couple of years now since I blogged my morning victuals, I thought I'd share some low res mobile snaps of my creations.

I love cooking (particularly for others) and for some reason or other I find breakfast a truly beautiful sight. It's a never ending quest nailing the perfect British Beauty though. If I'm lucky I'll be able to weave this post into another about cultural drift because I see what's happening here in Asia and it's very interesting some of the unifying aspects of global culture as good ideas catch on everywhere.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Policy Wonk

God I really lucked out on this sucker. Not sure where I heard about it but any biographical political film whose reach exceeds its grasp (up to an academy award nomination) had to be worth downloading  (stealing) and my god it was fucking ace.

However long it lasted (it felt like an hour).... from the opening scene of a baby face George Stephanopoulos though to it's climactic end, I was back on my political junky fix of 2000-2005. It's remarkable even in this day and age of diminished privacy just how far Clinton was up for disrobing from behind-the-scenes come-back-kid (warts and all) as well as sharing with considerable political aplomb and generosity, the people who took him to victory in 1992.

I still maintain that those 8 years of Clinton were the best years of my life outside of living inside the Wirtschaftswunder of Germany in the 70's. I'm not saying Bill "Jim'll fixed it" for me. It's just that we all loved him, we forgave him the skirt semen - spunk if you will. Definitive spunky right?

Good thinks (things) happened around then. Or maybe I'm deluded and I was just young. It was rock and roll whatever you slice the Polish salami because the single most knockout blow watching this documentary was finally meeting James Carville. He's so impressive, he's even better than the person I've lasciviously read bundles about over quite a few books for half a decade or so, and wanted so badly to stare at. 

I admit I think there was quote about him wearing a Nylon suit that made me sit-up reading some other hack journalist's interpretation of the Comeback Kid. I've always had a thing for the blindly indiscriminate & unfashionable Nylon suit for reasons it would be too indulgent to get into here, but in truth his clothes/style is worth deconstructing but only in that trainspotter way I'd  get lost on with a person who rolls like Mr Carville. He'd look the bollocks in Commes de Garcons but lets just say because he's from Louisianna he also would know how how to drop it like its hot in Yohji Yamamoto even though a man his age cuts a sashaying swish draped in Kenzo. I'm slightly kidding of course on that last number, but it's true his clothes are unconventional for a policy wonk. The guy knows how to 'do' when a T Shirt works.

Just in case there's some cloud computin' dysphoria shit hanging over you. I fucking love this bro. He's a politico prophet, a one man focus group - part bleeding heart liberal...part sneering hammerhead shark snorting his way to the kill. I've never seen anything like this dude and I've read up on him. He exceeded my expectations.

But you know. If there's one bit I connect with the man it's when George (Hi My Name's Bill Clinton and I think this Greek kid is smart as fuck) Stephanopoulis takes a bow towards the end as victory was looking assured; and attempts to articulate how deeply rewarding it was to work with James Carville.

Apart from Mr Carville breaking into tears of redemptive reconciliation with his dreams of the past manifesting themselves in the future (as dreams do), there's just something utterly Liberal - pinko fascist communist if you lean towards those incoherent bastards who throw dirt better than they implement policy. There's something noble, something that reveals the dignity of the left when the Director of Communications (George) hands over to James, and is received with a mutual respect that reflects the honour of why all change starts at the bottom and fist fucks its way up. 

Not Maserati down.

Watch the first clip (part one) if you want to understand why.

Watch it. 

Lose your greed.

The Business Of Skin Whitening In Asia

I've been talking about this for so long that the only thing that really interests me is why anybody in marketing and advertising who would want me do for some work with them, might not have googled my name and Unilever + Skin whitening

In any case it's still worth making a quick summary because money doesn't come first in my universe. Skin whitening creams in Asia are broadly speaking about hierarchy. The whiter the skin the less likely you are to be fresh from the rice paddies. The less likely you come from the rice paddy, the more likely you are to be hired, promoted, secure a Blu Ray DVD player, iTablet, BMW 3 series and/or shiny white teeth.

Though it strikes me that for someone who argues a woman is entitled to make her own decisions about abortion that the final decision on what colour one wishes to be is down to that person. So I'm not anti skin whitening.

They say that holding opposite and conflicting thoughts in our heads at the same time is a mark of evolution and so the only position I can take when thinking about this category is that it behooves the multinationals; that is the onus is upon them. That they bear the responsibility that there is a clear responsibility to fulfil and articulate, that melatonin expectation transactions should come with an unambiguous message that Unilever, P&G, Johnson & Johnson et al respect all people of all colours. The reverse isn't true for tanning lotions because that hierarchical imposition isn't present within that context. I maintain it's a great communication opportunity of the win win variety - if it's with sincerity.

Anyway, above are a series of ads by Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong regional office. They look innocuous and in some markets they may well lean more towards the beauty end of the spectrum than concealment but as I've mentioned over here in the comments; the focus groups are revealing because with skilful moderation, the kind where dirty secrets surface...well they tell the story of skin whitening. 

And it aint pretty.

Friday 6 August 2010


I think what's most interesting is how clearly the child is mimicking the father and seeking approval (enjoying it all nonetheless). Though the nose scrunching is uncanny.