Daily Mind-ful 26 May 2017 (Central Saint Martins Graduation Show)

I make it down to London to catch the graduation show at Central Saint Martins between housefuls of guests; in Saint Pancras, a surprisingly high end train station, I ask the information desk about the closest exit to the Central Saint Martins campus and the Eastern European attendant has never even heard of the university; this is exactly the kind of thing which provokes outrage among Brexiters — and for good reason; there’s a ton of construction going on around the CSM campus; I FINALLY make it to uber-trendy Indian restaurant, Dishoom, but because it’s before 12 noon, they’re not serving rice, only breakfast foods. That’s a HUGE disappointment — because I’m Asian! My friend, Silvy, who graduated from Central Saint Martins last year, tells me that the students are getting ripped off by the university because the maximum face time with their tutor is 30 minutes per term, meaning a grand total of 90 minutes per year. That’s terrible. But making things far worse, she recounts how her tutor was expressly prohibited by the school’s management from spending additional time with any single student because it would make all the other tutors look bad. Teachers are not permitted to do the equivalent of uncompensated over-time because it makes all the other teachers look bad. It means that well-intentioned tutors are expressly proscribed from making themselves available for additional office hours with students, even on a voluntary basis; that’s a terrible indictment of the school’s culture: the deans are clearly more concerned about keeping order and maximizing enrollment rather than looking out for students’ interests; the same inadequacy of resourcing applies to the studio space allocated to students; there’s not enough of it, so most students do their projects at home; Silvy describes her experience at CSM as “a huge rip-off”; #CSMcome is the worst social media hashtag ever! We’re among the first people to enter the exhibition space and the students are still getting ready; I commit myself to filming positive feedback only but it’s hard NOT to be critical of many of the projects; Silvy reminds me that these are students and that I shouldn’t lay into them too hard; there’s way too much gratuitous incorporation of technology; the projects by the following students impressed me, for different reasons: Jessica Oag-Cooper, Hannah Willcocks, Olwyn Carroll; Silvy shows me a typical room allocated for 45 students’ studio space: it’s obviously inadequate; Central Saint Martins doesn’t emphasize technical skills or craft and that’s obvious from the graduation show (unfortunately); we visit a room upstairs is signed with a content warning outside the door – that these exhibitions might shock. They’re pretty tame and only slightly thought-provoking, transposing the sound of porn to footage of food consumption and swapping virtual guns for three-dimensional, “real” ones in a video game; the video art is probably the strongest corpus of work among all the genres on show; 80% of the projects I saw were impenetrable and left me feeling puzzled; the others were disappointing because they lacked originality or impeccable execution; there were less than five projects I would have termed outstanding; to speak with total honesty, I was seriously underwhelmed by the entire thing and I’m not sure whether it was worth the huge schlep out to Saint Pancras from the country; I rush back home to welcome my friend Michael from Hong Kong; he had to lug an entire suitcase to England in order to bring me a handbag I ordered from D’Auchel, a new accessories company based in Hong Kong; the reversible tote bag has been made entirely by hand and is comprised of hand-stitched leather panels in three different colors; John models it to singular effect.
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Daily Mind-ful 24 May 2017

It’s a cooking day, something I haven’t done for decades, because two sets of friends are descending on me this week, beginning tomorrow. Tomorrow, we’re going for a walk with John’s two best friends; I emailed Yale a letter, with my vlog link, in support of June Chu, the dean censured for her remarks on Yelp; I have the WORST tennis lesson and want to cry, not because my coach beat me up but because I beat myself up. It’s definitely an Asian thing; uh oh…I just realized that I’m going to miss the graduation show at Central Saint Martins because I’m overscheduled; I check up on our spring and summer gardens to see how they’re progressing, something I do most days these days. Finally, I’m beginning to understand the rich rewards of gardening; I figure out a way to fit in a visit with Silvy Liu (@tsquiggnome) to the CSM graduation show; Silvy’s a new friend who graduated from Central Saint Martins last year, whose project, The Pedagogy of Unlearning, at the graduation show impressed me so much that I emailed her and invited her to lunch; Silvy’s project, by asking members of the public to write their name in an unconventional, physically contorted way, so that they simply could not perform the task, proves the point that traditional educational regimes are so deeply inculcated into us that they permeate our very bones and muscles, literally.
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Daily Mind-ful 22 May 2017

I could fall in love with interval training: not only does it make me want to vomit very soon into a session but it has disproportionate health benefits for older people; I’m working on a vlog about June Chu and other outrageous cases of PC bullshit; it dawned on me that I’ve been vlogging ONLY when I’m pissed off about something; a mandatory element of Salisbury Steak, an American invention, is Campbell’s French Onion Soup. It means I have to scratch it off my list permanently; I’m done with my June Chu vlog. It’s really long. But I’m glad I got off my ass and actually channeled my outrage into something concrete.
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Daily Mind-ful 21 May 2017

Goose eggs: they’re richer, creamier and much much bigger than chicken eggs; my friend sent me news of June Chu,
Yale dean, being put on leave because of certain Yelp reviews in which she used the terms, “white people” and “white trash”. I’m dumbfounded and upset that she’s been publicly censured and suspended because, honest to God, when I read the reviews, that could have been me writing them, literally; can’t believe it: Zverev beats Djokovic. He’s the first player born in the 1990s to win an ATP1000 tournament. WOO HOO — because he’s my fave!
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Daily Mind-ful 20 May 2017

When local retail serves the community in which it’s located, the stores aren’t jarring or incongruous as they are in, say, upstate New York, where villages and towns which were originally charming and idyllic are now marred by stores selling plastic tchotchkes made in China; it’s small (but intense) pleasures like my drive home through an arcade of trees and the heady fragrance of a rose enjoyed all day long which make living in the country, all worth it; despite the gorgeous weather, I’m still glued to the Rome Open; Djokovic ends up thrashing Thiem in the final, dammit.
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Daily Mind-ful 19 May 2017 (Zabludowicz Collection)

My standards for my son’s behavior are pretty low: as long as he’s not a drug addict and doesn’t contract AIDS, I’m happy; I don’t look down on affordable art fairs. If anything, I like their obvious raison d’etre; high-end art fairs are the same thing but with a circus of snobbery around them; I visit the Primrose Hill studio of Djordje Ozbolt with Olga Ovenden, a London-based art consultant who, in addition to privately consulting clients one-on-one, also conducts art tours in London (and elsewhere, like Venice); Ozbolt’s paintings are vivid, sardonically whimsical and he himself appears to be incredibly hung-over accounting for why he prefers to let his gallerist do the talking; no matter, it’s an interesting excursion which allows me to capture the customary format of Ovenden’s art tours on film; I’m bummed I didn’t meet Ozbolt earlier because I definitely would have checked out his exhibition, The Grand Detour, at Holborn House last year; our next stop is the Zabludowicz Collection which is housed inside a private museum located in Primrose Hill; Paul Luckcraft, the Exhibitions Director, gives us a private tour and it’s a huge treat, because of Paul’s insight and glibness, which totally belie his youthfulness; in contrast with Photo London, which I liken to drinking from a fire hydrant without slaking my thirst, Luckcraft’s careful and restrained curation speak volumes about the evolution of art photography, with the main exhibition entitled “You are looking at something that never occurred,” containing images from Lucas Blalock, Sara Cwynar, Andreas Gursky, Elad Lassry, Richard Prince, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman, Wolfgang Tillmans and Jeff Wall, among others; I’m introduced to the layered reworkings of Blalock and Cwynar for the first time at the Zabludowicz Collection and find their images fresh and timely; Photo London proves the point: there are too many “art” photographers working within the arena of traditional method. Any keen observer of photography over the decades can see that these “purists” are now grasping at straws because of the universal availability of good, affordable cameras; finally, after an insanely jam-packed week in London, I’m back home! The best fish & chippery in Suffolk is in The Codfather, in Sudbury, my nabe; as I get older, I’m beginning to suffer from what I call “rolling short-term memory loss”; the main reason that Instagram stories are addictive is because they’re literally kinetic; Stories are a great way to winnow away Instagrammers who are a waste of protoplasm, either because they have personalities which repel you or because of their sheer vapidity (especially if they post prolifically); another sin is overweening vanity, a widespread symptom among striving fashionistas who seek to telegraph their desirability as clotheshorses and VIP guests; making matters worse, these same would-be divas, use the word “like” every few seconds and end every declarative sentence as if it was a question.
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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 15 May 2017 (London)

I cut my fringe — and myself — before heading to London; I realize that The Mall and Pall Mall are two different places in London! I check out the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, the best resource for commissioning a traditional portrait if you live in the UK, with the artists painting across a huge and very affordable range of styles and price; I love being a tourist in London because I’m married to a great tour guide; we visit the Cabinet War Rooms now called the Churchill War Rooms, from which Churchill ran Britain’s WWII campaign because 10 Downing Street was destroyed by bombs; for the first time, I realize that, rather than developing a cold, the air pollution is causing my scratchy throat; our next stop is the National Gallery and the temporary exhibition, Michelangelo & Sebastiano. It doesn’t spark my imagination much. Instead, the exhibition fleshes out an important historical footnote in Michelangelo’s career: that he joined forces with Sebastiano del Piombo, in order to compete better with Raphael when the latter began to enjoy favor among the same patrons. Their styles and contributions to the various artworks on display were very different but didn’t elevate the works on show to anything spectacular or memorable. Then again, I should point out that I’m not a wild devotee of Renaissance art; though we went to three museums, I feel pretty uninspired; the highlight of my day is actually the benefit recital of Rosey Chan, a friend and multi-disciplinary musician, who plays a very unusual concatenation of accordion, electronica and classical piano, in a recital to benefit the hard-hitting non-profit, Client Earth, lawyers advocating on behalf of the ultimate client, Planet Earth, and to launch her own LP — YES, a pressed vinyl album — entitled “Eight Years of My Life,” containing works written during, you guessed it, the last eight years of Rosey’s life; we end the evening with an exquisite dinner at our favorite restaurant in London, The Greenhouse; the last clip documents an unexpected and thoughtful detail from the chef – a small ball of putty stuck underneath the souffle ramekin to prevent it from slipping off the saucer, a detail which impresses and delights John.
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Daily Mind-ful 14 May 2017 (Luddite)

It ain’t easy being married to an angry and reluctant Luddite: the husband insists on using checks, can’t understand why computers don’t come with manuals and it takes him ages to complete online forms because he never learned to type; I try be sympathetic because a grey tsunami will inundate the UK soon and many older people will be helpless when confronted with today’s online, self-service economy; one of the benefits of being a Luddite, if such a thing can exist, is being able to watch something grow over a very long span of time, say, ten years, in the garden, something a young person cannot relate to at all these days; since we’re on the topic of housekeeping, I wanted to clarify my objection to cleaning and housekeeping. It is a philosophical and ethical one. Cleaning is a form of continuous reinstatement of the past. There is a major opportunity cost to such an activity. If you devote all your time and energy to constantly putting your house back in order — to the way it was before (clean versus dirty), you don’t very well have any time left over with which to learn and discover new things and experiences; in a related observation: have you ever noticed that there are only two kinds of people – people who trot out experiences and anecdotes from the past and people who never do that (preferring to keep their eyes and mind on what’s ahead of them)? I book my favorite restaurant in London, the Greenhouse, despite the fact that they were guilty of a hygiene infraction last year; like a good wife, I plan my itinerary in London tomorrow based on John’s preferences instead of my own, meaning that our day will be devoted to traditional, not contemporary, culture and exhibitions; that’s not to say that I don’t love old things. But that I’m always seeking out new experiences and objects which ill expand my mind. Old paintings don’t pass that test 98% of the time; similarly, and to cite another binary character typology: have you noticed that there are only two kinds of people, the first kind will seek to return to a favorite place again and again, whereas the opposite types avoids visiting the same place twice, even if he or she likes it a lot; while there’s no doubt that technology increases the quantum of our output, does it actually enhance brain function — or diminish it? Don’t buy Green & Black ice cream, it’s too aerated without any scrumptious, enlivening sparks of flavor; John sees me posting my negative comments about the ice cream and we have an altercation, with him saying that British people will never like me because I’m too confrontational and obnoxious; I ignore him completely; that’s the thing about Brits, they prefer to put up and shut up in public while fuming and seething about it in private. I’ll never understand, let alone condone, that.
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