Daily Mind-ful 17 May 2017 (Goldfinger Factory)

You can’t live in Primrose Hill unless you’re a super high achiever, based on the caliber of speakers featured in the neighborhood’s lecture series. WOW! I book a ticket to the Philip Glass/Laurie Anderson concert at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival after picking up a program guide at the Colchester train station; I visit Westbourne for a reunion with my former intern, Marie. The neighborhood looks gritty as hell but is apparently trendy these days; Marie and her partner, Oliver, have founded a sprawling social enterprise called Goldfinger Factory. The main nut of it is a B2B carpentry operation which employs local craftspeople to make premium custom furniture plus a retail operation selling upcycled recycled furniture and a restaurant in Westbourne Grove, all of the same name. (Oh yeah, they’re also operating an incubator!) The long-term intention is to train and employ local people to custom-make upcycled furniture on a large scale basis. Marie interned for me at Shanghai Tang three years running so I’m not surprised at all — just impressed by the ambitious scale of her business. We eat gorgeous Italian food in the cafe so I can experience as much of Goldfinger Factory as possible during the scant hour I’m in Westbourne Grove. I then hop in a cab to meet up with a friend at Photo London, an overwhelming, confused affair which leaves me feeling like the photography industry is in a deep existential malaise. What accounts for my dissatisfaction with the fair? There was no curation, it was nakedly commercial and all different species of photography were jumbled together; I join up with a friend who brings me to a jewelry event, my first one in many, many months. It feels weird to be attending such a youthful and patently superficial event where making selfies with the designer, Ara Vartanian, is more important than inspecting the cutting-edge diamond jewels; so glad that I don’t have to host events like that any more, because that was my life before; the bank of photographers and we wait for a VIP to exit from a black car, in a moment of Instagram bated breath; alas, it’s “only” Suzy Menkes, meaning that no flash bulbs went off and there was zero fanfare; just to be clear, Menkes is a god for me and I’d be happy to intern for her any day; the best way not to lose an umbrella is to take a photo of the one you’re using on the day and to make it the screensaver of your smartphone for as long as you’re carrying it — and in danger of losing it; my friend takes me to Hunan, one of the best restaurants in London, in any category or cuisine. They serve an endless menu of Chinese dishes, tapas style. Unless you ask them to stop, they won’t. At course sixteen, Ming says, “Don’t go all white on me. You’re not allowed to stop eating.”
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Daily Mind-ful 16 May 2017 (Rosey Chan)

John goes back to the country, leaving me to my own devices. YAY! Now that he’s gone, I can expatiate more on Rosey Chan’s concert at the Cafe Royal Hotel from the night before. The concert brought together ideas, music, and elements from very disparate sources. For example, there was a spoken word piece featuring Fanny Ardant and a filmic backdrop provided by Chan’s long-time partner, Mike Figgis. Rosie Chan and Mike FiggisChan’s artistic practice combines not only very different types of music but a wide range of cultural references. Long before it became commonplace – or even a necessity – to master a wide range of expertise, Chan lived and breathed the life of a modern-day Renaissance woman, romping between centuries and cultures,
to create a corpus of work which defies easy classification, except for the cornerstone of keyboard instruments; on the necessity, today, of being a jack-of-all-trades, a new graduate who seeks to make a living as a writer can’t just write brilliantly. They must be able to promote themselves effectively on social media, create and continuously update their own website and, these days, make video content to accompany their written work. For that matter, it’s hard to stand out in a crowd unless you know how to aggressively promote and distinguish yourself from your peers; if you’re still ensconced in a cushy corporate job, these prescriptions don’t apply to you. But keep in mind that your species is now officially instinct and, therefore, hold on very tight to that job! My first outing of the day is to the Saatchi Gallery and the exhibition, From Selfie to Self-Expression, which turns out to be much more thought-provoking than I ever would have expected; first, the display of Old Master paintings in the format of continuously moving slideshows projected on video monitors means that viewers must pay much closer attention than usual to the artworks in order to ensure that they don’t miss anything on display, no doubt a paradoxical result for viewers unaccustomed to paying more than a few nano-seconds of attention to anything; next, there’s no original artwork on the ground floor at all. Such a presentation asks the question: without any presentation of real artwork or consideration of its materiality, isn’t this “art exhibition” really a conceptual exercise which could have taken place outside of a museum? Not having to consider materiality means I can blow through the exhibition FAST; just met with the executive director and communications director of fantastic London-based, art non-profit, Studio Voltaire. Studio Voltaire promotes and brings attention to emerging and, sometimes, ignored, artists, like Phyllida Barlow who represented Great Britain at this year’s Venice Biennale; can’t believe Fabio Fognini beat Andy Murray at this year’s Rome Open! It’s Murray’s worst match in FOUR YEARS; my fave Indian restaurants in London aren’t Gymkhana or Trishna. But non-trendy Zayna. And my absolute fave, Chutney Mary.
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Daily Mind-ful 6 May 2017 (London shopping)

Shopping in London: Love Delfina Delettrez‘s wacky, surrealist jewels; at Purdey, we met Chris of English Handmade Knives who explained how intricate marbleized effects are created by folding sheets of steel again and again under intense pressure, to increase the metal’s strength while producing an incredible decorative effect; jokey cigar ashtrays in the shape of Havaianas; we visit Thomas Goode, the blue-chip destination for the best china and silverware in the world. But the place is like a museum. No doubt they make their budget each month by selling three or four trousseaus to Qatari princesses. Who else (besides my husband) continues to buy this stuff?; I discover a new and amazing handbag brand (misspelled in the Instagram story): LONB (“Love Or Nothing Baby”). My gut feeling is that their marketing and ad campaign misses the mark (black and white 1960s images) but their bags are to-swoon-for. Hard to believe that someone would launch yet another handbag brand in today’s saturated market. But this team, formerly from Labelux, definitely knows what it’s doing with the product. Equally brave, they’re not wholesaling and ONLY sell through their website and their first and only flagship boutique located on South Audley Street. Seriously, I’m saving up for the Vagabond already….; after a bang-up lunch at yummy new Indian restaurant, Jamavar, on Mount Street, we head to Hampton Court and take a walk around the gardens because it’s too late to enter the house; while buying some wine for dinner, I notice some of the most pretentiously labeled and branded alcohol products ever; trout for dinner; what do people see/taste in rhubarb?!
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Daily Mind-ful 4 May 2017 (Waitrose)

[Main topic of this vlog: How Waitrose gives insight into the British middle class.] I experienced a step change in my tennis game, largely because of some simple, mechanical, bright line rules. If only our emotional or professional lives were as easy to improve; Waitrose is a great window into the British middle class; I’m consistently impressed by the high quality of every single product and the evident concern with provenance. To wit, the green beans were from Senegal, so I didn’t buy them; while their product assortment overlaps significantly with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, there’s no liberal, progressive, hippie marketing schtick. Instead, the credo of whole, natural foods whose provenance and chain of custody is clearly documented is a mainstream, middle class concern. (Just remember that the British middle class is NOT the same as the American middle class. See this Quora post for elucidation.) Compared to a normal American grocery store, Waitrose has only the tiniest selection of processed foods; FINALLY, I signed up for Spotify, partially to get up to speed on Benjamin Britten in time for the Aldeburgh Festival; the Aldeburgh Festival is THE most important cultural event in my neck of the woods, East Anglia, and is a well-known classical music festival of global renown. Frankly, I would KILL to be involved with the festival in any way, shape or form; I’m a classical music fanatic actually, in case you didn’t gather from my content. Lately, I’ve become fascinated with contemporary classical music, of which, of course, Benjamin Britten was an early progenitor. Specifically, royalties from his music fund the Aldeburgh Festival. In fact, I’m a proud board member of Asia’s leading classical music solo recital series, which also founded the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival: Premiere Performances of Hong Kong. Honest to god, I would do ANYTHING for the founder, Andrea Fessler, who, in my opinion, has singlehandedly raised the bar on Hong Kong’s cultural scene for the past decade. How many people are insane enough to start a NEW cultural organization spearheading classical music in a city as culturally sere and vapid as Hong Kong?! As a board member of PPHK, I’m constantly thinking about how we can entice young people to try classical music for the first time; on vlogging: I deplore young bloggers’ preferred style of countless jump cuts. It’s too, well, jumpy; to avoid this effect, I only tape myself after I’ve worked everything out intellectually by laying down countless takes. These preliminary takes are me thinking out loud, rehearsing and logging my intellectual peregrinations as they occur. But at the end, I jettison those early takes and start from the beginning, striving to tape myself in relatively long, unbroken segments, in order to avoid that jarring jump cut style; indeed, I vlog in the same style as I write; and since we’re on the topic of speaking, I’d like to unequivocally condemn the excessive use of the word “like” — because it makes you sound like a teenage idiot; STOP already! Consider taping yourself in full conversational flow and you will see with your own eyes and ears how you come off. I assure you, you will not be impressed; the first track I listen to on Spotify is the sound track to the movie, Arrival, by Johann Johannsson. (I also downloaded Sicario by Johannsson.); in today’s United States, I can’t imagine venturing below the Mason-Dixon line, although Nashville does tempt me; hair elastics: will they last? They’re a prime example of the built-in obsolescence of cheap consumer products manufactured in China; fully one-third of British homes struggle to use the internet in the evening. I’m right to bitch about the horrendous lack of internet service in the countryside after all.
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Daily Mind-ful 28 April 2017

My diet has change dramatically since I moved to England, from rice, meat and vegetables to potatoes, bread and tons of cheese and dairy. It means I have to work out twice as much to avoid becoming a big cow; my husband has such white man eating habits: he can’t handle eating meat or fish on a bone; sorry if my stories have been prosaic lately, I’m entitled to be boring from time to time. Plus, you have to remember that I’m using stories to diarize my life :(( ; one thing about living in the countryside: My life and happiness are entirely dependent on one person, my husband. Therefore, my days go up and down depending on his mood. Most days, it’s no problem. But his grumpiness can definitely torpedo my day; the brain begins to shrink at the age of thirty.
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Daily Mind-ful 25 April 2017 (Cousins)

My cousins arrive this morning; my husband thinks 11 am is too early for lunch but Chinese people always prefer eating earlier than later; my wi-fi solution, utilising the mobile, rather than landline, telephone network, is unbelievably expensive; again, I can’t believe how the British government is letting the countryside languish in Luddite backwardness, adversely impacting economic productivity in huge swathes of the nation; an Instagram friend clued me into the fact that “posh crisps” can sometimes contain high levels of carcinogens called acrylamides; we love entertaining at home but it makes John tense; John can never remember the names of anyone, including my imminently arriving cousins; I can’t believe that Putin has sent troops to North Korea. So glad I’m no longer living in the US! I suddenly realise that the speed limit signs and our car’s odometer are calibrated in miles, not kilometres, as I had believed since moving to the UK, meaning that I’ve been driving much much faster than I ever imagined; Oysters, oysters, oysters on Mersea Island, the home of the Colchester Oyster; the Colchester Oyster Fishery supplies all the starred restaurants in London with oysters; John excels at table setting; Bluebells; a Coalbrookdale cast iron fern chair.
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Daily Mind-ful 24 April 2017 (Why desperate single women are unbearable)

Slowly realising that I live in England – FINALLY – after one year; workout clothes shouldn’t be worn unless you’re actually working out; thank GOD I no longer have to care about the jewellery industry; any opinion on Tyrell’s versus Kettle Chips? I bought both brands as part of my junk food stash in order to conduct a taste test; everything in the countryside takes twice as long because of the obligatory chit chat factor; I generally equate overcommunication with low native intelligence; ditto for repeating one’s self: I deplore it; one of the main reasons I can’t stand hanging out with single women desperate for a boyfriend is because all they do is talk about the same thing, over and over again, violating the cardinal rule I just stated; I love vlogging because it enables me to bitch about things in the abstract without pointing the finger at a particular individual; if you’re one of my female friends who recognises yourself in my comments, now you know why I haven’t talked to you very much in the past few years; my least favourite conversation with a single woman is, “Do you think he really likes me?”; amazing layout on the home page of Simon Aeppli. Then again, maybe it was the startling image! My favorite go-to resource for social media news, Tatiana Platt, shared a great post about the top ten mistakes on Instagram; and I’m definitely guilty of #10 because my main concern is thoroughly updating and optimising my own website.
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Daily Mind-ful 22 April 2017 (Country Fair)

Praise God: The EE SIM for our home broadband finally arrived; the video camera is awesome – less so, the 179 new clips I filmed at FORMAT which I now need to cobble into a film. Uh oh; today, John and I are going to the East Anglian Game & Country Fair, which is about all things related to country living (except gardening), and takes place at Euston Hall in Thetford, the home of the Duchess of Thetford; you can’t attend an event like this without dressing in green, dark hunter green, from head to toe — of course. And since I’ll be the only Chinese person there, I really HAVE to wear green – to camouflage myself; battery-operated pigeon decoys; shooting (lots); fudge; giant Indian cauldrons called kadais which John swoons over (and which we end up buying, ultimately); it’s all new to me and I love learning the ins and outs of a new subculture; I fall in love with a hunting brand named Fortis clothing because of its urban styling which wouldn’t be out of place in Harajuku even; I see a clay pigeon shooter for the first time in my life; pies, pies, pies; garlic from the Isle of Wight; clay pigeon shooting; horseshoe making; alpacas make the quietest bleating sound, entirely disproportionate to their large bodies; the people watching at the fair is sans pareil, encompassing everything from urban hipsters, to farmers, to in-bred white trash; I email a complaint to the fair about one of the food suppliers, Farm to Fork, because of the disgusting, denatured, processed quality of the hamburger they sold me; you have to complain in life, not just take it lying down; otherwise, all that spleen, anger and resentment just ruins your day — and for what? It’s better to do something — at the very least — to save other unwitting consumers from a similar bad experience.
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Daily Mind-ful 12 April 2017

Day 2 in Amsterdam: Tulipmania was a bubble, just like China real estate; instead of tulips, we now have manias about gym shoes and handbags; I like Amsterdam because there’s no culture of conspicuous consumption; I’ve successfully avoided all global chain stores — so far; I take the train to Delft; the train is incredible: every city worth seeing is on the same rail line; tulip fields on the way to Delft; it’s shitty weather; the Oude Kerke (old church); Delft is adorable, especially since there are no H&Ms or Zaras; lunching in Delft at De Waag as John explains his Mooie IPA; the old city gate; after 4 hours, we end the day at The Dylan, over cocktails, including their namesake cocktail created in honor of both Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan; I didn’t record as many stories as I would have liked because it bugs the crap out of John; although Amsterdam has no sights of spectacular, defining aestheticism, the overall quality of everything is really high; consequently, there are few mainland Chinese tourists.
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Daily Mind-ful 11 April 2017

Daily vlog diary: Shopping and strolling in Amsterdam; bicyclists trump cars in Amsterdam and that means, watch out for them! Amsterdam — especially its dining and eating scene — is one of the birthplaces of global, urban hipsterism; it’s worth doing a video handbook about that topic — tongue-in-cheek, of course; Keukenhof (see full vlog on my visit); Keukenhof is a giant photo opp, especially for Asians; one of the main reasons to go is to get inspired for your own garden; huge rabbits on steroids at Keukenhof; more than anything, Keukenhof is very commercial; my visit to the Stedelijk museum without John; boy, it’s an ugly building; main mission: to see the Jordan Wolfson exhibition, even if I can’t see the crazy animatronic sculpture; how I visit museums as a rule; Jordan Wolfson (various shots of the video artworks without audio); I didn’t understand all of that art exhibition; SO I’M SAYING SO — OUT LOUD; but I still got a lot of out of it; there are no fat people in Amsterdam; Jansz – glamorous and dramatic; clothes for kids which are inexplicably, ineffably weird and unwearable; “Sino-Japanese” – whoever coined that clearly has neither Chinese nor Japanese friends.
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