Happy Easter!

Am I shamelessly reinforcing gender stereotypes? Yes, I am. Our baby girl, pretty in pink.

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Is it 1984? All that’s old is new again

The People column is one of those little I.H.T. bits not put online, at least not in the tidy little package they are in print. (The travel briefs are another).
I was reading the  line-up and thought: Am I 10 years old again? Is it the 1980s? Do I still have to share that red dirt bike with my little brother? 
Here’s item #1: Madonna and  Lionel Richie dominate the pop charts. 

 Above is the Madonna I first knew and loved. Her “True Blue” was one of the two first albums (LPs!) my brother and I bought ourselves with money from a paper route. (I always say I started my career in newspapers — by delivering them door to door as a child.) Below that is Madge today. I don’t know if it’s plastic surgery or crazy dieting, but she still looks good.
As for Richie — O.K., don’t blame me if this gets stuck in your head but “Say you, say me…”

Here’s Peep item #2: A musical version of β€˜β€˜The Nutty Professor,’’ directed by Jerry Lewis, opens in Nashville.  
I’m obviously not old enough to remember the real original “Nutty Professor” from 1963.
But I do remember what used to pass as humor in the 80s — a black guy in a fat suit.

My only memory of Jerry Lewis was being encouraged (ahem, strong-armed) by our mother into giving up some of our precious paper-delivery money to the charity Jerry Lewis supported, on that TV fundraiser that seemed to go on forever.  Wait, it was forever. He supported the Muscular Dystrophy Association from 1954 to 2010.
Questions abound. Why can’t kids today come up with their own pop stars? Why recycle our old ones? Why are the French still obsessed with Jerry Lewis? And are any of the teeny-bopper stars today planning to dedicate more than half-century of their lives to charity?

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Another call for freelancers

Anyone in Shanghai or Hong Kong interested in freelance work on the luxury sector? (This is journalism writing work, not PR work). This is not for me, but for someone I know. You know where to find me.

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Who wins our “elections”? Not us.

Usually, I poke fun of the Hong Kong elections I’m allowed to vote in —  the  half-hearted campaigning, the typos in the crappy pamphlets, the fact that the winners have reasonably limited powers anyway, since only half our Legislature is elected by the people.
But I walk over to my neighborhood poll station and cast my vote every time.
Even the dinkiest district elections are better than what we had today, which I don’t call an “election,” since  there were only 1,193 hand-chosen elites — out of a population of 7 million —  allowed to have a say in the chief executive, the guy who heads the government that spends my taxes and runs the city I live in.
In the end, they “chose” a guy named C.Y. Leung. Though how much they actually chose — or were told to choose by Beijing — I don’t know.
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Maybe I shouldn’t call them “elites” either. The tycoons, etc., are elites. But who are the rest?
According to a relative in a New Territories village, there were guys going door to door last year asking for their vote, so that they could vote on the villagers’ behalf for chief executive.
How complicated. 
“Why can’t we just vote directly?” the campaigning guy was asked, and he had no answer.
My relative added that this guy had a mainland accent, no campaign materials, and no idea about local issues. He couldn’t answer simple questions about his political position or platform, much less how he could help the people he was talking to.
Meanwhile, another family member wrote this on his Facebook  today. “Over 200,000 people made their voices heard in the pseudo election! This city is not dead yet.”
(He was referring to the 220,000 Hong Kongers who participated in a mock vote held by a university — one that mainland hackers tried to ruin.  For a nicely written blog post about that, go to Journey to Hong Kong.)
It’s  interesting for me to see how my extended family reacts to these things, since they have nothing to do with the news, politics, blogging, etc. They’re just ordinary working folk.
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There have been reports that the Chinese government office here have been calling publishers and editors to rewrite columns — to say good things about their chosen candidate, and to not print negative things about Beijing interference. I hope that’s not true, because we don’t want a censored, state-run media like the one on the mainland.
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Here’s what I don’t get. Let’s set aside the debate of how and when and if Hong Kong should be a democracy, since that’s a whole other blog post.
Currently, Hong Kong is not a democracy. So why does it pretend to be one?
If Beijing is just going to hand-pick the guy they like, why bother with the facade of having people run public campaigns? Why bother “consulting” villagers and Chinese traditional doctors? Who is fooled into thinking that Hong Kong acupuncturists are choosing our leaders? For whose benefit is this song and dance?
Why bother hacking into a mock election held by a local university? What’s the point of interfering in newspapers if — at the end of the day — they get to choose their man anyway?
They have a guaranteed win. Are our leaders so insecure that they also have to manufacture a false sense that everyone agrees with them?
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What’s an “election” without conspiracy theories? America still has its “birthers”. Here are a few I heard around HK:
– By switching sides from Henry Tang to C.Y. Leung, Beijing lost the support of a traditional ally, the pro-business folk like tycoons and the Liberal Party.  
– Beijing is going to punish Hong Kong tycoons for not backing their Chosen One.
–  The government timed the election for the Rugby 7s weekend — the biggest expat sporting event of the year — so that socially conscious foreigners would be too busy (ahem, drunk off their faces) to make a fuss.
– The controversy over the high-level hob-nobbing  Donald Tsang was just a way to detract from even worse controversy over the wife-cheating, illegal basement-building Henry Tang, who was Beijing’s favorite until recently.
(Please note that I do say “conspiracy theory” above. I don’t know if any of these are true.)
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Another interesting tid-bit. During the campaign mud-slinging, one insult hurled at C.Y. Leung is that he is (or was) a member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which he denied. The local CCP is practically an underground  society here. While Hong Kong politicians will admit to sitting on various Chinese government boards, etc., few in their right mind would admit to being card-carrying CCP members.
And yet, that’s the Party in charge of the country that runs us. It’s all so very weird.
*
I was on my way to the office today. (Sigh — working on a beautiful sunny Sunday. At least Marc and I got to take Baby Chloe to the park beforehand.)
Anyway, I was on my way in and saw protesters along Gloucester Road.
I read later on the South China Morning Post website that protesters tried to storm  the convention center, and that the police turned to using pepper spray.
This is very worrying.
I’ve always prided Hong Kongers on being peaceful, orderly demonstrators. We have the ability to take to the streets en masse — like during the 2003 Article 23 debate, or  annual commemorations of the June 4, 1989 Beijing crackdown. But it’s gotten a bit unruly recently.
I spoke to a HKU professor recently who said the same. He said that, after so many years of democracy protests going nowhere, the crowd is getting more aggressive. Meanwhile, the police were getting more aggressive, too. He said it’d turn ugly soon.
I hope not.
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At the end of the day, do people really care how many wines Tang has in his illegal basement? Or that Tsang is retiring in style in Shenzhen? Or whether Leung is a CCP member? I don’t think so.
What angers people is — no matter what we find out about these guys, no matter who we like or don’t like — we can’t choose them.
It’s a sense of helplessness, and it’s an awful feeling.
There’s another worry. Whether or not Leung fulfills his promises to preserve freedoms in this city — we know he is not beholden to us since we didn’t choose him. 
We’re told that we can have the vote in 2017. I’ll believe it when I can walk to the polling booth behind my house, show my HKID, mark a piece of paper and put it in that little box. Until then, I’m staying skeptical.

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Opportunity for new (and old) journalists

I have a new job at work. I’m now in charge of the I.H.T.’s education coverage, particularly a page of education-related articles we publish every Monday. (Yes, I will still be writing about culture. This is on top of what I normally do!)
We have one great main writer based in London, but the page also uses contributions from freelancers, particularly Masters of Journalism graduates who have recently finished work internships.
If there are any young (or not so young) freelancers who want to pitch, my email is on the right.
For now, we’re focusing on tertiary education, particularly medical, law and business schools, and issues related to international exchanges.
Send a resume, short cover letter, contact details, and several story pitches that are 1-3 paragraphs each. These should be concise, original ideas that you can feasibly report and write yourself. Also, they should not have any conflicts of interest — you can’t write about the school you attend, the school your rich dad donates money to, the school whose PR department just gave you a “hongbau”, etc.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but judging from the correspondence I often get, I will: Your pitches should be written as professionally as you can manage. I’m not fascist. One typo is not a deal-breaker. But I’ll delete anything that’s lacking in basic grammar or spelling — meaning, lacking in basic respect and effort. Also, if you’re going to pitch, pitch a good idea. Sending email that says, broadly, that you want to write is not good enough. You have to have an idea of what you want to research and say.

I’ve gotten some impressive submissions from the interns / ex-interns from our Paris office, many of whom seem well on their way to becoming excellent professional journalists. I haven’t had quite the same response from young Asian writers. It’d be really great if we could have some fresh, new voices from this part of the world.

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What to wear to a Black Tie event?

I sank to fashion lows the first two months of motherhood. I’m sorry — no matter how hard designers try, nursing tops will never be flattering, nor will jeans with stretchy tummy panels.Now I’m back in the real professional world — though not back into all my real professional clothes, unfortunately. And I’ve been invited to a black tie event. 
So what do I wear now that I’m between sizes? (Maybe fashion bloggers like Privilege or Hong Kong Fashion Geek can help me out).
When you’re pregnant, it’s cute to show off your big belly. From Linea Negra, I bought a  black stretchy dress with a sweeping long skirt and a halter top. It worked as a summer dress. It worked for the office with a cardi. It worked for evening with jewels and heels.
But it doesn’t work anymore, because it’s embarrassing now that my baby is 6 months old. 
On the other hand, I still can’t quite fit into my old formal evening dresses, most of which date from around the time of my wedding which was (gasp) more than five years ago. 
So I need a Black Tie gown. And I need one that does not expose too much still-flabby skin or require my old nipped-in waist; but also does not look matronly or like a muu muu.
 ***
Honestly, Black Tie in Hong Kong is usually not really Black Tie.  I’m sure there’s some echelon of society far, far above me, where people swan around in diamonds and enormous puffy ballgowns. But in my world, the  rare Black-Tie invite is usually for something media or arts related —  and scruffy journalists and free-spirited artists are not good at this stuff. For men, the terms are straightforward. But for women, Black Tie basically means Cocktail. 
It means, C’mon, You Can Do Better Than Smart Casual. 
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OPTION #1
Here’s the economical solution: I have a plain Little Black Dress from Giordano Ladies, a mid-range local brand. It’s  not high fashion, but you can’t really tell with Little Black Dresses. Sans label, it could be a simple shift from Prada. 
It’s my most reliable piece of clothing — it doesn’t fade, it doesn’t sag, it stretches, it can be used a million ways. And with some new accessories, I could probably doll it up to an acceptable level — maybe not Black Tie, but definitely Cocktail.

Accessorize

OPTION #2
Or I could wander  Elements and Lane Crawford and splurge on a new gown.
Practical? Not entirely. Like I said, I only go to these events maybe once a year. I’d have to buy it a size or two too big. And then, after I lost the rest of the baby weight, I’d have to get it re-tailored.
But a part of me is a little sick of being so practical. 
Motherhood is absolutely wonderful, but it also makes you forget to take care of yourself. In the beginning, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You give everything up — your body, your sleep, your free time, your social life, your hobbies, your professional work, your hard-earned money — to your baby.
Every day is planned far in advance — from getting a nanny if I have to work on Sunday, to pre-making homemade baby food.
Shopping is entirely at places with names like Bumps to Babes. I’m not thinking about frocks. I’m thinking about whether I’m out of breast milk storage bags.
And except for some ridiculously un-attractive shoes I bought to accommodate edema in my ankles (yeah, sexy), I haven’t done anything fun or luxurious for myself for a long time. Hell, I’ve barely been out for dinner with my husband.
Still, at some point, you have to find a balance and become yourself again and not feel guilty about it.

Evening gown

I chose these at random off Polyvore, not paying attention to the labels. It turns out (big surprise) that I have expensive tastes. The red toga-like dress on the left is Lanvin and the silver one next to it Valentino — both outside my budget. The surprising floral one is actualyl a budget no-name brand. The short white one is Diane von Furstenberg, which I can afford financially, but not in terms of the current shape of my legs.
And the poufy prom gown? Totally impractical. But I added it because I happened to love its write-up: “1950’s Vintage Persimmon-Pink Beaded Sequin Chiffon-Couture Sweetheart Low-Cut Plunge Shelf-Bust Strapless Nipped-Waist Rockabilly Ballerina-Cupcake Princess Circle-Skirt Bombshell Bustle-Peplum Formal Wedding Evening Cocktail Prom Party Dress.” I mean, how many adjectives is that?
*** 
This seems like a good time to dreg up that old joke that was bouncing around the blogosphere way back in 2008. Here’s the classic world’s worst maternity evening gown, from uglydress.com:

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Blogging in triplicate? And news flash: The art world is pretentious

I don’t always love going to gallery openings — but you do get to meet the artists. I like that Gilbert & George refer to everyone outside of the two of them as “the enemy.” I presume that means me, too.

The I.H.T.’s new Rendezvous blog means that I sometimes hwrite my articles twice.  I do my proper critique — usually a carefully penned 1,000-1,300 words — that appears in the proper paper edition. Then I do a snappier, more casual 300-400 word thing for the  I.H.T. blog.
The pro of the longer article is that, well, it’s a proper article. I  worry if the craft of writing (and thinking) is getting lost, as the younger generation depends almost entirely on very short social media posts. Also “proper” print articles are more carefully edited than the quickly posted stuff that just goes through a web producer.
The pro of the Rendezvous post is that we can put more links, video, etc. Plus, it has an RSS feed. One complaint I hear  is that people have a hard time following a particular writer on The New York Times website unless they’re scouring the whole thing all the time. Since all N.Y.T. and I.H.T. material from all over the world goes to one place, it’s easy for smaller articles to get lost. 
And art has a hard time competing with war, politics and business.
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Once that’s all done, I put my writing here on Joyceyland, my personal blog. 
It feels a little weird to be doing everything in triplicate. 
I guess, if I were really ambitious about self-promotion, I’d  be tweeting and pinging every time I wrote, but I don’t bother. I figure if people want to read my stuff, they’ll come here. (This is probably why I’ll never become really well-known — as everyone knows, it’s all about promotion).
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Speaking of promotion, the new White Cube gallery opening was a PR mad-house. I hinted at it in my I.H.T. article(s), but I can be more straightforward here  — it was one of the most pretentious opening parties I’ve ever been to. That’s saying alot, since I’m an arts writer. I spend much time hanging out with people far, far richer than I, buying things that are equal to my entire year’s salary, so I’m no stranger to pretension.
It wasn’t White Cube’s fault. It’s their job to get the biggest crowd they can, with the most buzz and the most buyers. They definitely succeeded at that.
And, from a measly critic’s point of view, they were a joy to work with. They were friendly, down-to-earth, organized and open with information. Since they’re from London — which has a famously critical press — they didn’t do the smarmy Hong Kong  thing of insisting on seeing articles in advance (which I never do) or trying to force me to guarantee that I’d only write positive things (which I also never do). * There’s a reason I am not universally loved among PR folk.
So they’re not responsible for the high number of hipsters ironically wearing bowties (you’d figure Donald Tsang would have shot that fashion trend out of the water by now) or the Chinese rich guys’ pretty dates who were so clueless they didn’t even know who the artists were.
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I’ve been writing about art in Hong Kong since I started at HK Magazine in 2000 — long before Art Walk, ARTHK, international big names, or anything fashionable at all. Then, there were a handful of modest galleries in SoHo and Central, selling mostly Asian stuff for reasonable prices. In 2000, a struggling young journalist in her mid-20s could afford to buy art, albeit on monthly installments. Now, forget it unless you have a rich daddy or husband. Even when I became the SCMP’s art editor in 2003, it wasn’t trendy like it is now.
Even back then, I didn’t like openings. Again, I’m not blaming galleries, whose job it is to promote and sell their art. I just didn’t like standing around with a bunch of drunk people who would never go to a gallery otherwise, and would stand in front of the art (so I couldn’t see it). 
I’d only go to openings if I was writing a story and wanted to catch some color for my article, or chat with the artist, or get some quotes from the gallery owner.
Otherwise, I’d wait for some random Tuesday afternoon and go anonymously. Since all I really cared about was the stuff on the walls.

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