Friday, April 27, 2012

What Bo Guagua didn't say

For those who don't follow Chinese soap operas politics, Bo Guagua is the son of Bo Xilai, a scandal-ridden ousted Party official, and Gu Kailai, who is being investigated in the death of her son's English tutor. (For a nifty graphic outlining the family's exact relationships, go here).
Bo Junior has become a symbol of the Chinese princelings (or, in his case, grand-princeling) the offspring of top cadres who live lavishly, often overseas. Photos of him drinking, partying and cavorting with pretty foreign things at Oxford and Harvard have drawn the ire of Chinese netizens -- most of whom, I'm sure, are stuck in crappy dorm rooms, cramming for exams, and dreaming of drinking, partying and cavorting with pretty foreign things at a Ivy League school.
Adolescent jealousy aside, the whole mess has stuck an angry chord with people fed up with corruption, a widening income gap, and the behavior of "little emperors."
Guagua wasn't that big a part of the story until he penned a statement defending himself in The Crimson, the Harvard student newspaper. Suddenly, he put himself and his lifestyle in the spotlight.
(Note: While I understand journalists jumping on a hook like this -- my own employer included -- and while I understand that the letter was sourced to an email sent to The Crimson,  I wish articles cast just a bit more doubt that it might not be authentic.
Now, maybe The Crimson knows something we don't. Maybe they had a way of confirming, officially through the university, that it was definitely him. And the rumor that it came just from Gmail is not true. But still...)
The statement mostly deflects rumors about his lifestyle and academic performance. But honestly, I don't care whether he drove a Ferrari or a Porsche, or how good his grades were, or how wonderfully involved he was in extracurriculars.
What struck me was what he didn't say -- which is a single word for anyone else.
Imagine this. Your mentor is dead. Your father lost his job and was shamed in front of the world. Your mother is accused of murder.
Even if you don't want to address politics, wouldn't you spare a few kind comments  for those around you? A condolence for Neil Heywood's grieving family?
Even if you don't want to address the investigation on your parents, wouldn't you at least ask for a fair and open trial? Ask about their well-being?
A Chinese friend offered that maybe Guagua was advised to write a statement not mentioning his parents. Maybe. But if he sought legal counsel in the U.S., I can't imagine they would tell him to stick his neck out with a rather gossipy statement that would draw fire in the form of 1,300 (and counting) mostly negative comments. (If anyone has benefitted from this, it's that student paper).
There are many more serious accusations being thrown around, but I have a minor one. If this letter is real, then Guagua, now 24, is rather self-involved  -- as if the main problem is whether someone doubted his A-levels.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Sartorialist visits my hometown

I guess you'd call The Sartorialist a fashion blog, but it's not, really -- not in that brandname-dropping, advertorial sort of way.
He takes ordinary people, on ordinary streets, and turns them into fashion statements. He captures fleeting flashes of beauty that most of us walk by everyday -- sunlight on a  French summer dress, a tough New York girl on a bicycle, a tailored business suit that says more about its wearer than words could describe.
He almost never shoots Hong Kong, so I was happy to see him here.
Given that everyone thinks we're all about bling-bling mainland Chinese in head-to-toe LV, I love the fact that The Sartorialist chose for his main Hong Kong image little Indian girl, in what looks like a homemade bright yellow costume and a schoolbag. 
There's also one weird-looking hipster on Wyndham, amid the brick and bamboo scaffolding at the back of the Fringe Club. A more typical image is that of two sexy Asian girls in miniskirts; but the fact that they're at a daipaidong keeps it real. 
He's always asked that his images not be reproduced, so I have to respect that. Click on the links to see them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How women media bosses dress. Part 2

Every now and then, a woman boss from Paris will grace us with her presence. And, me being me, I blog on what she wore. (I do pay attention in meetings. I really do).
The last time, it was a more senior European woman who favored tortoiseshell shades, black jackets, chunky orange jewellery and pearls.
Our latest visitor was more plainly dressed in the Media Woman Uniform: plain grey trouser suit. She paired it with open-toed high-heeled sandals and bright-red toenails -- a colorful detail that only worked because of the somber backdrop. Otherwise, her fingernails were clear, her hair was natural, and she had no obvious make-up except lipstick. A grey shell, a black button-down shirt, and two scarves meant she could get several outfits out of a few pieces.
She wore quirky silver jewellery, which also seems to be a media standard. (Why don't media women wear classic gold? I have no idea).
What women media bosses wear, part 2

If you are a Baby Journalist and want to splurge on one new outfit, go for the Media Woman Uniform. That's what I did when I got my first real job at 22 at Canadian Business Magazine. I was so poor, I was living for free in my aunt's spare room. I had almost no experience with big-city department stores. But I went to the Holt Renfrew in Toronto and spent my first paycheque on a classic wool crepe grey suit with faint pinstripes. It was the first time I had anything tailored specially for me.
It was worth the investment. It was worth more than a dozen cheap outfits from the strip mall. That jacket, knee-length skirt and trousers lasted me five years, three jobs and two continents.
If you're a Baby Journalist going for a job interview, you won't go wrong dressing like the above. For a summer internship -- particularly if you're a student or new grad, and particularly in a hot place like Hong Kong -- you could get away with no jacket.
This is an outfit most young professionals can afford. The Polyvore suit shown above is about HK 800, or US $100, from Uniqlo, a mass-market Japanese chain. A media boss would not be wearing Uniqlo but if you're young and in-shape, you can pull off a lot. 
In Hong Kong, Giordano Ladies is a good mid-range option and is getting increasingly fashion-forward. These aren't your plain white Ts from the 1990s.
O.K., these particular Polyvore shoes are Prada -- but if you got the less-towering copy-cat version from Nine West or somesuch, few people would notice. 
I'd invest in good shoes --  I've always favored Donna Karan's and Kenneth Cole's.
I've kept in touch with many of my wonderful student interns over the years. I had lunch with one the other day, who was lamenting that her only comfortable heels were boots. I advised her against getting cheap, fad-ish footwear. (Sorry, but cheap shoes = blisters). If she had a limited budget, she should save up for one high-quality pair of classic black leather pumps that will last her 100s of interviews.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter!

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

Saturday, April 7, 2012

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 ‘‘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?

Monday, April 2, 2012

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.