Sunday, 26 December 2010

Taiwanese eye for the Western guy

When first arriving in Taiwan, I wanted to do my best to fit in. Obviously this meant dressing like the locals- flowing silken robes, bobbled slippers, long fingernails and a Fu Manchu moustache. Guess what? Turned out that my outfit was racist! I know! I suppose that'll teach me to watch just the one movie about China as research. Lesson learned- Don't trust Hollywood, kids.

So it was back to the drawing board. I guess I can't try the Asian look again, because I'm not Asian (yet) so I felt the next best thing was to look at how Asians see western people and conform as best I could. With this in mind, I set out on the streets with my trusty(i.e. old) camera and took a few pictures to see how westerners are represented over here, in the hope that I could find a new look that would straddle the barrier between the East and West.

Buy! Sell! Buy! Sell! I hope I can look like these guys when I grow up. Sweet shirts, ties, glasses phones... And that's without even mentioning the hair. This photo just works for me on so many levels. So, an incredible suit and a magnificent tie was definitely the first thing to get. A good start.

Now, this is EXACTLY where I've been going wrong. When I look at people and smile I try to be genuinely friendly. I want people to know this and feel comfortable, if at all possible. Oh, you foolish boy. What this photo shows me is that to fit in, I need to grow the moustache of a Spanish paedophile and smile like a smug, disingenuous prick. I've been so wrong for all these years. To be honest I think this information is gold in or out of Taiwan. I hope you're all taking notes.

Cinema Secrets is the place that's really changed the game though. The shop tweaks the curtain back and ushers us in, showing how all of our favourite sexy celebrities pull off their fantastic looks. Let's just spend some time looking at the hip, young styles they offer.

Barbra Streisand- What can you say about Babs that hasn't already been said? Sexy. Modern. Cool. Down with the kids. I agree with none of those things, but maybe someone does. I'm trying to appeal to a larger audience here, so bear with me. I don't think her look really applies that much to me anyway, so I'll move on.

Captain Kirk and Mr Spock- Yep. If you're talking sexy, you don't get much better than Captain Kirk. Spock's got the eye-liner thing going on, but Kirk definitely takes it.

The cast of Planet of the Apes- Now, ask 1 in 10 young people what celebrity look they'd like to emulate, at least five of them are going to say 'Cornelius from Planet of the Apes', right? BOOM. Cinema Secrets has you covered.

The Golden Girls- I know you've been feeling left out so far ladies (Mainly cause this whole exercise is all about my new look! You are so selfish sometimes!) but here we arrive at what I think is the epitome of hot, fashionable, relevant women. Finally you have the answer to the question that's been burning inside of you for so long- 'Where can I go when I want to look like Bea Arthur?'

Sally Field- Sure, why not.

As you can see, deciding which look to go for was going to be tough with this awesome selection. Mulling over my choices, I went into Cinema Secrets and asked for the 'Captain Kirk'. Though a Planet of the Apes was tempting. Another important step in the road to a new me.

Right- I have my outfit, my facial expressions and my make up all sorted. That just leaves the most important step. My hair. And where better to go, than Phil Salon. In case you're wondering, Phil Salon is a man. A man with a dream. A dream of quality hairdressing. He cut my hair like a fiend. Ok, just for full disclosure, the only reason I put this up here is because the name Phil Salon amuses me so much and I had nowhere else to put it. It totally works here though, right? Right?

Which brings us to the new me. The all new besuited, make up wearing, hair styled wonder and all the while, smiling like a complete prick. Let me tell you, it has went down a smash so far. It probably helps that I'm getting my girlfriend to wear a Betty White mask, mind. Which is, by the way, VERY hot.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Another Year, Another Xmas

My brain has been entirely elsewhere the past week or two; planning my trip to Korea and making as clean a break as possible from my current job. Sitting here on a Sunday, I've found it hard to really think of something to write for this entry. I have some half-baked ideas, not ready to go..... so, the next logical path? What's going on at the minute? Christmas! My word, I'd almost forgotten.

This is my second Christmas in an Asian country and I doubt it'll be my last. It's a strange sensation not being bombarded by Christmas music, trees and various signs of festivity around every corner. That's not to say you don't see it. Quite the opposite- many shops and schools have Christmas decorations plastered liberally, well, everywhere. But it just doesn't seem as omnipresent as it does back home. Just another way to promote your products or chisel some more money out of the parents as they pay for a pageant to a holiday they don't even celebrate. A system which has worked so well for us over the years, of course.

I'd say a lot of people who may read this don't particularly enjoy this time of year and I can understand why: It's cold, the streets and shops are rammed full of people and you'll often have way too many gifts to buy. I've been there, I get it. It sucks. I can't tell you how good it is to be away from all that.

But wait! I actually really enjoy Christmas. Part of me misses the madness, even. Why? Because it's the perfect excuse to spend time with people you care about doing things that you enjoy. What's not to like about that? For most of us, it's our idea of what a traditional Christmas should be that prevents us from having a good time. I've been lucky to have had a few years away from home at Christmas and although it was difficult at first it's really allowed me to see why and how it can be the very best time of year.

So get out there- go out for some drinks, some dinner or just go out with the people you want to be with. Yes, that is an order. If that doesn't work, just watch 'It's a Wonderful Life'. You'll be all Christmassed (that'd a word, right?) up in no time. In fact, that's what I'm off to do right now.

And if you're already psyched for Christmas? Ummm... ignore all that. More LOL's next week, I promise. Now go watch 'It's a Wonderful Life' too. It's tops.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Rough Riders

As you may or may not know, I have recently joined the pantheon of great bikers. My name can now sit easily beside those of James Dean, Marlon Brando, Dog the Bounty Hunter, that bellend Paul from American Chopper and of course Tim Allen, William H Macy, John Travolta and Martin Lawrence. Not a dud in the group. Every one a great man.

It's not all fun and games though, riding about town with the boyz, wearing leather jackets and just generally being cool like in Wild Hogs. It's a goddamn death race out there on the mean streets of Taipei. I know crazy driving too. I've been in Korea. The very country where when a taxi driver takes you on a short cut in a back alley, he doesn't slow down or anything like that. God no, what would be the point? Instead he drives just as fast but holds his hand directly over the horn in order to more quickly warn people of their imminent death. Taiwanese drivers spit on this sort of kindness. 'Warning people? What a bunch of faggots.' the Taiwanese taxi driver would say. Or what the cackling, evil taxi driver in my minds eye says anyway. And he's been right about most of the things he's told me.

I'd say most Taiwanese drivers wouldn't actually know where the indicator was on their cars or bikes. They just have no use for it. Accelerator, brake (rarely), car horn and hazard lights are the main tools of the job. Honestly, I think I see hazard lights used just as often if not more than indicators over here. They're used in one of two ways. Firstly, the 'I'm WAY too lazy to actually find a parking space' use. This takes the form of a car being abandoned, normally in the most inconvenient place possible for everyone else. Bus stops, bridges, fire stations. Places the inconsiderate government hasn't built parking spaces, the pricks. And when you need a packet of cigarettes or to sit down for half an hour to talk shit and eat some food, what kind of jerk walks for five minutes to get to the shop/restaurant? That's what cars are for, bro! So simply fire on the hazard lights, stop and boom. You have parked my friend.

Secondly, and my favourite use, is the 'I'm driving and using hazard lights' way. What this broadly seems to mean is that the person driving the car is a borderline psychopath and wants you to know it. The hazard lights in this case say 'I am a MENTAL and will drive accordingly.' I guess its nice that they let us know, at least. You learn to be grateful for these things.

Anyway, this is a small slice of the madness I have to deal with on my 30 minute commute into work on my mean machine. I drive fast, but safetly, I think. You may feel that those two things are not mutually compatible, but seeing the way others drive I'd have to disagree. Having said that, I think that getting into some mayhem on the roads over here is a matter or when not if. Another excellent reason for quitting my job! It's either that or go splat against the side of a bus, taxi or one of the other assorted auto mobiles that fill the roads in the mornings. You know, so long as I can take a BMW driver down with me, it might be a pretty good way to go.  

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Epic Fail(book)

Since I quit facebook a few months ago, a few people have asked me why and I've always felt I've been a little dishonest with them; largely due to my inherent laziness but also because the answer would contain a bit more detail than they were probably looking for. But hey! That's what blogs are for, right? So take my hand, friend, and follow me into the murky world of my thoughts on facebook. As you'll have notice, in a classic heel turn since all this, I've went back hat in hand to that very place. Though it was for a good cause, I felt- pimping the blog. And now here we are with this entry, which is talking about why I left it in the first place. Layered, yo.

I knew that turning off my account was going to happen sooner or later, I was just waiting for some impetuous to finally make the move. When it happened I didn't regret it for a second, but then started to ask myself why I didn't. I'd found it so useful and often more enjoyable than I'd care to admit. In the time between now and then 'The Social Network' has been and gone and I think Mark Zuckerberg's description of what he wanted from facebook sums up exactly why I love it and hate it. I'm paraphrasing here, but the core of his idea was distilling the college (or university) experience and putting it online. You remember, college, right? All good times, all the time, yeah? Of course it wasn't. Christ, it was horrible at times. Exactly the way facebook can be horrible at times. The way things can flair up out of nothing and how an innocent joke or comment can have unforeseen repercussions or leave hurt feelings. The big difference is that the things you write on facebook will often be there for days, weeks, months or years. Yeah, you can delete them; but writing, even in digital form, tends to last a lot longer than something you've said. That's not even to mention the things that go unsaid.

For me, the minefield that is socialising in 'real' life was more than enough. When I go home, I want to escape that minefield, not immediately leap into another one. It's so DAMN compelling you can't help yourself, though. You want to know what's happened to your friends. You want to know what that change in relationship status means. Have they split up? Why? Who was that person they were with in that photo they posted? What did that status update REALLY mean? People love to gossip and they love to know what’s going on with their friends especially. It's like Heat magazine except all your mates are in it. The pictures tend to be at least slightly less sexy though. Most of the time. Deny it all you like, you've done it too. An innocent look at an interesting photograph has led to a half hour of facebook trawling (or stalking in some cases) for the vast majority of users, I guarantee. This is what facebook has made us. A generation of social voyeurs. And I wanted out. So I got out, but they pulled me back in. For now.

I'm sure people will tell me not too take it so seriously or the like, but I think you'd be missing the point. For better or for worse, facebook is such a major part of most of our lives now, even for those who haven't signed up. It's a cornerstone of our digital and our real lives. Too many of us rely on it in ways we don't even really think about. It's an insidious beast, for sure.

I know that a lot of this has been said before (and far more elegantly, I'm sure), but I've been mulling about how we're being affected by facebook and online networking in general for a long time now. I don't think I like it and I don't think I like how it effects us. At the very least, it's not a good fit for me, social retard that I am. I do love technology though and they're becoming increasingly difficult to separate, so I guess I'm just going to have to get used to it. I wonder if this is a sign that I'm getting old? My hands do seem to be becoming increasingly hairy, which must be another of the early warning signs. To either old age or lycanthropy, I guess.

Hey, I am excited about the way things are progressing mostly, though. The iPad and the iPhone genuinely blow me away. We're getting increasingly closer to the Star Trek style future I'd always hoped I'd live to see. At least the original series, anyway. Have you seen those sliding doors at Tesco's? Woah.

*Yeah, I couldn't find an image I liked to go with this article, so I just posted a picture of some bunnies in cups. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Fashion consultant

In my line on work ('teaching', in case you don't know), acting amazed at the banal is something you need to get used to in your day to day bizniz. It's far from all banal, truth be told, often my students conversations are considerably more enlightening and enjoyable than those I have with most adults. I guess it's the way they think, unburdened by the boot on the throat that life so inevitably presses against you as you get older. Enjoy it kids!

Daily, my younger students often show me the item of clothing they're sporting, with an expectant look, as if asking me to turn my critical eye to their new outfits. Either that or they just point at their new shorts and go 'Teacher! Look!'. Clearly they recognise someone with a high sense of fashion. In turn, I respond with 'Holy Shit, your Winnie the Pooh socks are amazing' or 'Dude, your Snoopy shirt has just blown my mind.' and the like. It keeps them happy and if they're happy, their parents are happy and if their parents are happy, my boss is happy and I get to keep my job. So it's all good.

Which leads me to the most recent case of this. One of my students turned round to me, grin on her face to point out the words on her socks- 'Hot Biscuits'. Now, how to react to a child wearing an item of clothing saying 'Hot Biscuits'? Intense laughter? Well, that's what I did, anyway, so let's hope I got it right. I love the idea that someone, somewhere thought that 'Hot Biscuits' was an appropriate name for a children’s clothing line.

I don't know what the point of all this was. Anyway, I'd like to end this post with two requests- one for someone to point me in the direction of some adult sized 'Hot Biscuits' socks and the second to ask if anyone wants to be in my new band of the same name. Socks will be provided.  

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Diplomatic Immunity

The worst bit about arriving in another country is that as soon as you land you've got to stand in a big damn queue for immigration. I'm not the worlds most patient person, and when I'm tired and smelly, even less so. It's a cruel thing to do to people. Obviously, you've got to be careful with the whole terrorism thing and blah de blah, but do I look like a terrorist? More to say, do I still look like a terrorist, with my new streamlined look? If you'll allow me to so gratuitously abuse the definition of the word 'streamlined'.

My passport photo doesn't exactly do a great job of detailing my non-terrorist qualities with the 'look' I seem to be going for in it, so I have to reluctantly stand there, waiting my turn. So, like any normal person I pass the time casually looking over shoulders in the immigration queue at other peoples passport photos and, of course, judging them. Everyone of the photos, certainly with all the asian folks at least, was amazing. Each of them was like an actors head shot. You know, like the kind I send instead of a CV, with the words 'That's right. You are seeing this.' written on back. No email of course- I figure once they see the photo they'll make the effort to track me down.

But I digress- 'Don't smile' they tell you back home in the instructions for the photos required for passport, driving license etc, etc and I dutifully oblige. So why the hell can they get away with it over here? They photoshop their passport photos. They smile and fucking glow for that matter. These are the photos they use for their legal documents! They usually bear a passing resemblance to the owner at best. Which is probably the only thing they have in common with my photos, only on the reaction scale I'm more on the 'Jesus CHRIST.' end of things as opposed to their 'Why, hello there'.

What fresh madness is this? Also- how do I get in on the action? Like I really needed more evidence to convince me to defect to the Asian cause. Yes, it's official, I'm removing the 'Cauc' from my Caucasian. I'm a race traitor and proud. My application form is in, I just have to pass a few tests- advanced chop stick skillz, beating Street Fighter 2 on hard and doing a whole mess of math problems. I am so in.