Monday 23 June 2014, 6.47am HKT
5.50am local time, 26°C (79°F), rain
RATTA has a rather old-fashioned but terribly hip gift from her employer.
Ratta’s quizzer in blue mother-of-pearl resin
Foldable quizzer-style reading glasses with beaded neckcord, said to priced HK$180 (US$23 or £13.65).
It’s the female version of the more masculine pince-nez (pans-ney, IPA /ˈpænsˌneɪ/, literally ‘pinch-nose’).
Rimless, hard-bridge pince-nez, a.k.a. hoopspring spectacles
Actually, the hard-bridge types don’t work on most Chinese people — or most Asians for that matter — mainly because Asians don’t have high nose ridges like Europeans have.
Or try the oh-so-terribly-upper-class-and-pimped-up monocle.
Gold plated monocle with gallery and cord, English, ca. 1890
Believe it or not, I used to own a monocle back in the 1980s. It was for laboratory work but a lot of people thought it was for pretence. Cost £25 then (inclusive of lens) from Scrivens Opticians, Regent Street, London W1, which no longer has a branch there.
Anton Chekhov with a pince-nez
From a portrait by Osip Braz, 1898
Chekhov might have respawned himself as Robert Downey Jr without telling us.
Wednesday 4 June 2014, 9.00pm HKT
3.33pm local time, 33°C (91°F), very hot and sunny
IT was yesterday (3 June):—
Pushing a trolley,
Two heavy CD shelves,
MFW nearly got FQQN run over by idiot driver,
Yells back at me,
U wot?! U got 120 horsepower and I got 1 manpower,
Want your face rearranged?
Ratta was with me and helping out at the time. Blind sonofabitch driver in all-black SUV nearly ran HER over too. SUV not exactly a smart choice for this city, so not exactly a sign of general intelligence to start with. Ergo—
I know, I shouldn’t quote myself. Quoted from my post “Do this if you should get fired: A lifehack exclusive (3/3).”
Tuesday 3 December 2013, 6.52am HKT
4.30am local time, 18°C (82°F), coolish
FESTIVE greetings to all and sundry, and for those who dig Christmas, here’s my greetings to those who ‘understand’ the whole meaning behind the festivity.
I’ve gathered up a bunch of crappy but related pictures (some of which I actually took myself). I’ll make a supreme effort to
booze post them every day so that by the time Christmas Day comes, you’ll be so sick of them (just like the Christmas carols assaulting your ears everywhere you go now) that you’d want to beat the crap out of me.
Can’t accuse me of not giving
you all all of you a choice.
Doing things last week
For you nosey parkers out there, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends last week to set up a website for someone and also ‘administrate’ it on a temporary basis. Other than that, I can’t give out the website URL because I don’t have permission to do that (yet).
Pretending to be arty-farty
I’d also made two bloody brilliant portraits of the website owner specially for the launch of it. The portraits were half ‘actual’ artwork and half cop-out. The oil portrait was initially done digitally and then painted over in oils. The watercolour portrait was even more of a cop-out — watercolour sponged over photocopy paper with abject brushwork. I’m no artist, never been trained in that stuff, so workarounds and cheatsheets are my default faggotry.
Shame I can’t show those portraits yet. A substitute portrait (also by me) to keep you happy for the time being…
Sidewalk poles in traditional knitwear
… even the poles here have no constitution
For crying out loud, it’s not even ‘cool’ yet
The weather here in Hong Kong has turned a little bit cooler (basically from the mid-20s Celsius to mid-10s) over the weekend. Other than that, practically everybody has put on clothes that are probably more suited to the Antarctic. People have absolutely no constitution here.
Brothel creeper crazed crazers
Ever since I posted that story about brothel creepers about six weeks ago, a lot of people have started coming out of the woodwork with those shoes on. The shops have started selling them too since a week ago. Even conservative Ratta has bought herself a pair. Other than that, either I’m bloody brilliant about fashion trends or I’m bloody lucky talking about it.
I give you two of the creepiest brothel creeper persons I’ve spotted…
This androgynous lady (above) just stood there absoeffinglutely motionless. (Shot taken on Wednesday, 27 Nov 2013.)
This one (of indeterminate sex) is just too creepy for words. (Shot taken on Sunday, 01 Dec 2013.)
Ratta’s first-ever and only pair of Japanese brothel creeper shoes. (The feet are hers.) Creeper purists consider leopard print to be OTT (‘over the top’). She looks completely stupid and funny in them — two essential qualities when teaching very young children. Very suave-looking.
Chow and grub
Food prices here are going through the roof right now. My philistine tastes in snacks (such as vino tinto with crisps/chips) are having a rough time because crap food has become even more expensive than the non-crap. Other than that, the charcuterie I usually patronise have reopened from its renovation. Unfortunately, the prices equally ‘renovated.’
Helpfully, IKEA is now my next-best go-to place for getting stuff befitting of my disgustingly European tastes in crap/non-crap food.
My supermarket downstairs is still selling Spanish sangria (a kind of red wine) for HK$29 a 1½-litre bottle, so not too bad. (That’s US$3.74 for 3 US pints, or £2.26 for 2½ UK pints).
Need a new Death Star
In other food-related news, my home microwave died a long time ago. I never got round to buying another because, one, I was lazy and busy with work, and two, I was pretending to be busy to produce exciting and useful posts for you lot. Failed in both, apparently. Other than that, I need to get a new microwave from IKEA.
Chrissymassy decorativity over-spendity
The streets are starting to fill up with Xmas nonsense. Their effect is to shave away the IQ and make people hyper-spend. Believe it or not, I have only one lonely credit card, and it’s usually in the desk drawer. Jesus saves, so I save too…
My telly’s on the flippin’ blink. If I shut it off, I can’t get the channels back on again. So now I just leave it on all the flaming time.
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. (B13408)
Thursday 14 February 2013, 12.01am HKT
THIS IS is the 1,000th post since the day this blog migrated to WordPress on 19 August 2008 during a Force 8 gale storm.
That comes to 1,641 days (or 4 years, 5 months, 27 days including today) — or an average of 0.609 post a day.
This blog has been around much, much longer than that, of course.
Pretty good going, isn’t it?
It’s a milestone — a milestone of my utterly breathtaking disbelief that I managed to churn out such utter crap over such an utterly long period of time for utterly no remuneration whilst waiting utterly so many nights hand and foot on utterly indescribable customers.
The good news? Utterly worth the utterly abject effort for my utterly lovable and adorable readers — you, you, and you there — and YOU RIGHT HERE!
Yours truly and Ratta
Realising the stuff I could write about her, it’s better to contourise her appearance.
About the Polaroids above:—
Graphic designer Mr Jacky Chow took the Polaroids of me and Ratta in the streets with an old-school press camera — something I literally hadn’t seen used since the 1970s. He plonked himself in the middle of a busy street thronged by piles of people, and graciously took Polaroids of anyone who cared to want one from him. In return, he asked for nothing but a voluntary donation (of whatever amount we wished) towards the cause of keeping alive non-digital instant photography. Truly smart personal gig.
Date taken: 11 and 12 Feb 2012
Place: Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island
Photographer: Jacky Chun-kit Chow | Facebook
Equipment: Mamiya Universal Press camera with 100mm ƒ2.8 lens and Polaroid back | Photo
Media: Fujifilm FP-3000B Professional Instant Black & White Film ISO 3000 3¼×4¼ inches
TO MARK THE OCCASION, The Naked Listener’s Weblog, in its inestimable might of hindsight, foresight and rifle-sight, present a super small selection of pictures taken during the Chinese New Year:—
Day before the new year
Edamame (twig beans) as hors d’oeuvres
This was the day before the actual Chinese New Year (“CNY minus 1”). A couple of us wanted to have a traditional Chinese meal, but ended up doing Japanese instead — well, all the Chinese restaurants were abso-jam-packed-lutely to the hilt.
Napkin in very traditional Japanese style
Remember the phrase ‘pigging out’? It’s cross-cultural…
Yeah, we were so famished that we forgot to shoot pics of the main deal… *sigh*
Weird chrysantho-plum-blossom-lilacky-purple-DayGlo lights at the Times Square shopping complex. Great fun for everybody though.
You decide what they’re supposed to be.
Visitors and their kids love ’em, so that’s what counts.
(click image for larger size: 800 × 600)
Street posters on my way home. The above are for some music magazine, and the below is rather atmospheric for some club party thing.
(click image for full size: 800 × 600)
Actual first day of the Year of the Snake
Light displays inside the Times Square shopping complex in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island.
Every traditional Chinese household should have live, blooming plants to symbolise rebirth and new growth. After all, Chinese New Year is properly called the Spring Festival. It’s not called Spring Festival because it’s spring (it’s actually in mid-winter), but because it’s for want of springtime. It is preparation, not celebration, folks.
Chinese culture is a culture of flowers (only the Japanese are more so). As the Chinese New Year approaches, people will start to display plum blossoms (méi huā 梅花, the national flower), red azaleas (yìng shān hóng 映山紅) and red gladiolas (táng chāng pú 唐菖蒲) as well as large pumelos (pomelos, a.k.a. shaddock), oranges, tangerines (jú-zi 橘子) and mandarines (jú 桔 or gān jú 柑桔) with their leaves still attached.
By the way, the Cantonese for pumelo is ‘luk yau’ (碌柚), or ‘sha tin yau’ (沙田柚) in Hong Kong. The colloquial Cantonese is “bu luk.”
Mandarines are mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata) — ‘kut’ or ‘kat’ in Cantonese (or quat in old-style English). Quat is different from kumquat (金橘 : Citrus japonica). Interestingly, the Kumquat Capital of the World is St. Joseph in Florida, USA. The annual Kumquat Festival is held on the first Saturday of January at nearby Dade City there.
So the Times Square management decided to make petal-shaped lounge chairs from fibreglass for people to take pictures in. They’re actually quite comfy, so inevitably some people just doze off in them.
As all of you probably should know by now, The Naked Listener doesn’t notice mundane things like how comfy chairs are. Instead, he notices life-inspiring things like how nice-looking this lady’s derriere is…
Err … umm … best forget that remark quickly…
Moving on to other sights quickly:—
(click image for full size: 1280 × 960)
(click image for full size: 1280 × 960)
The actual shop window
On the way home, noticed this WTF creepy thing in a “scavenging lane” (that’s Hong Kong lingo for the gap between two tall buildings). No idea what the words say in Chinese.
I honestly don’t want to know.
On the second day (‘CNY 2’)
First order of the (holi)day, cup of joe at the local IKEA bistro
I’m used to using cups and saucers, but don’t use them anymore after long living in Hong Kong, so I make do with my pocket notebook instead. And that’s not a Moleskine either — I wouldn’t pay US$13 for such a thing, ever. Notice my two Roman torcs, one of which might give the wrong impression about me for some people.
During any festival, nearly all buildings are lit up and no lights turned off because that’s considered poor taste and bad vibe by the Chinese.
This building would be considered ‘darkish’
Tree-lined street leading home
I think it’s a ‘she’
Whenever this stray and I meet up, I always meow out to it. It meows back, always. And always the same number of meows that I made to it. It’s got some really humanlike behaviour too, and kind of hard to explain right now.
The stray is my neighbour. It roams in the vicinity of a ‘hipster’ coffee shop just a street away from my home — so it stands a good chance of getting a running supply of good-quality leftovers from customers who only ‘touch’ their food. The kitchen staff also obliges by leaving out newspaper for the stray to keep itself clean and as bedding near some warm-air vents — useful on cold days. This cat looks cleaner than some people, to be honest.
Smart thing, cat, well played, well played.
By the way, cats in this part of the world don’t meow — they “weeow.”
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. (B13057)
Images: All by author, except Mamiya Universal Press Camera by Jacky Chow Chun-kit.
Saturday 2 February 2013, 11.43pm HKT
1.47am local time, 21°C (70°F), warm
TODAY is the 115th birthday of my printing company.
Whenever I can, I make a point of publicising this. I do this because:—
- it’s grandma’s brother’s business originally, founded in 1898
- grandma took over the business when grand uncle died without issue
- grandma had always wanted to leave it to me
- it’s a comeback to some other relatives with their MBAs, high-end corporate experience, etc, who took over the firm at various points in time in the past and made an unholy hash of things with their MBAs, high-end blah-blah, etc
Four good reasons to mark the firm’s birthday, dontcha think?
For security reasons, I can’t show pictures of my firm or my colleagues there, so sorry about that. Best I could do, I’ll try an outside shot of the building next time.
To mark this day, I’ll instead show you a simple meal in honour of grannie’s firm.
Marinated duck breast on peanuts, HK$19 (US$2.45 or £1.56)
Za’atar (Zahatar) pita bread, bag of 10s, HK$22 (US$2.84 or £1.80)
Skittles Riddles, 2 packets for HK$10 (US$1.29 or 82p)
China-made cheapo beer with German name, 12 per box, HK$27 (US$3.48 or £2.21)
Total cost HK$53.25 (US$6.87 or £4.37)
I ran out of wine, so had to make do with the ultra-cheapo Chinese beer with the pretend German name. But it did taste genuinely German, that much is true.
Solid, solid meat in every bite
This specimen was bought by Ratta from the Japanese chainstore she worked for (but from another branch). It was cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of herbs in the marinate. It didn’t look much but it weighed 350 grammes (12 oz). It was a good deal even if it were at its regular price of HK$21.
Normally in Chinese culture (particularly northern Chinese culture), the traditional festive food is soy sauce seasoned duck (醬鴨 Mandarin ‘jiang ya,’ Cantonese ‘cheung ngaap’ : ‘sauced canard’). Although duck is more in line with the Midautumn Festival, it isn’t off-colour to serve duck for company celebrations or events close to the Chinese Lunar New Year like now.
Duck and goose are safe choices for celebrations anyway. Chicken sends a bad message — people who are going to get fired or be made redundant are traditionally served the 無情雞 (‘no sympathy chicken’ : Mandarin ‘wú ch’íng jī,’ Cantonese ‘moh ching gaie’).
However, the Cantonese tends to serve chicken more usually (mainly because chickens are more plentiful down south of China), so draw your own conclusions.
So now you know. Don’t make that chickenshite mistake, peeps.
Za’atar (or Zahatar) pita bread
Alright, I’m 80% renegade used-car salesman (just like Dad was) in food culture — I’m irredeemably corrupted by European and/or Levantine ways. Therefore, the pita.
(I also make a concession to American popular culture with Skittles, but that’s another story.)
Actually, this Mediterranean staple doesn’t look at all thrilling from the outside. It resembles some Babylonian clay tablet with cuneiform writing covered in ancient soot after being dropped on the floor. One bite, and I promise you, you won’t be able to stop eating.
Read about za’atar on Wikipedia.
THERE is meaning behind the meal combinations. I wasn’t going to write about it because it would sound so superstitious, but what the hell…
Duck, because it signifies the ability to migrate to better climes and better feeding grounds. Good omen for business, no?
Za’atar pita, because the Levantines traditionally serve this to children to increase their mental faculties just before an exam or homework. Good omen in these tough business conditions, no?
Skittles Riddles, because “the colours don’t match the taste” (so it says on the packet) and that could be taken to mean not stuck in one view or flavour. Good omen, no?
Beer, because the German proverb has it that one finds strength in beer. Good omen, no?
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. All images by author. (B13041)
Thursday 31 January 2013, 4.55am HKT
Updated 02 Feb 2013 (typo fixes)
12am local time, 17°C (63°F), cool
TODAY is exactly one year ago that Ratta (an alias) had been let go by Ferrari S.p.A. after 11 years there.
And I’m going to keep putting this reminder up every year, and keep at it for the next 11 years, thankyouverymuch.
For those who don’t know Ratta (from Swedish ‘råtta‘ for ‘rat’: but her personality is nothing like one), I’ve written about her before:—
- Ratta’s bother | 20 Jan 2012
- Do this if you should get fired: A lifehack exclusive | 3 parts | 01 Feb 2012
- Ratta’s progress | 6 March 2012 (which, incidentally, gives my ‘take’ on the utter bollocks behind the so-called ‘Tiger Mother’ neurosis about rearing kids)
- Cat bench | 07 March 2012 (a photo by Ratta)
- Not what it turns out to be | 09 March 2012
- Anger and resentment, delayed for now | 11 March 2012
- 10 things this week | 10 Oct 2012 (see item ‘Five’)
If you’ve ever read any of those stories, you’ll appreciate why I am in sympathy with her.
Trials and tribulations
ACH! I don’t think you’ll like to hear the recap. I’ll make it short so you (but mostly me) won’t shat ourselves from the shape of things possibly to come for the rest of us.
Enumerated below in Italian, because it’s nicely sarcastic.
Primo, Ratta spent 11 years at Ferrari personally in charge of the showroom and two Ferraris, each costing a cool HK$4½ million (US$580,000 or £370,000). After 11 years of blemish-free service, she was let go by reason of cost-cutting (if that is to be believed at all). My personal view is it’s 100% bullshit anyway, considering I spent some of my formative years in Italy.
Secondo, Ratta then landed a teaching job at a nursery crammer (i.e. tutorial school), despite having no teaching qualifications or experience. And, yeah, it’s a CRAMMER for nursery-age children the likes of two- to five-year-olds. (You are definitely not sure of actually reading this…)
Very quickly, the place didn’t turn out to be “something else, man” and she left (or fired, I can’t remember which). Like all crammers in Hong Kong, it’s for sphincter-expanding butthurt of children, let’s put it that way.
Terzo, Ratta then landed a secretarial job at a trading company. She thought, finally, a proper job more in tune with her abilities and temperament. Yet first day at work and she was categorically told she was to be a salesperson! Unbelievably, it’s peddling nutraceuticals — to and INSIDE hospitals!
Alright, alright, Ratta thought, after all this is a job and see what comes out of it. Thankfully, the sales manager fired her over the phone one evening after just one week into the job.
Nutraceuticals are “very interesting from a psychopathic standpoint” (as one of the characters in the 1940 movie “An Angel From Texas” nicely puts it). This is the potentially effing dangerous pharmaceutical-containing crap disguised as either foodstuffs or nutritional supplements. People in the olden days used to feed this stuff to a rich parent or some other family member with a view to getting a premature but healthy inheritance. It’s nothing like the pharma drama we see in movies like “Love and Other Drugs” (2010).
Can you actually picture in your mind the actual moron instructing actual employees to flog this actual stuff right within actual hospital grounds and also hoping to secure actual food and drug licence for it???
Nutraceuticals are the kind of night-soil that brings on a number of interesting legal ramifications for employers and employees alike. One of them is conveniently called ‘accessory,’ if you get my legal drift. Vicarious liability isn’t going to get anyone off the hook, I’m afraid.
Only nice thing to come out of that experience for Ratta was going on a company junket (on behalf of the company) on the HMS Bounty (you know, per Captain Bligh and Lieutenant Fletcher).
Quarto, she landed yet another teaching job around third-quarter 2012 — another kindergarten crammer. This one fared better than her last teaching job and many parents at this place liked her teaching very well, it seems.
The only hiccup was that she’d been put on part-time roster, so money has been very tight for Ratta.
Quinto, to supplement income, Ratta becomes a part-time assistant cashier/shelf-stocker at a Japanese chainstore. You’d never guess a person who’s previously worked in a major British publishing firm for 10 years and then 11 years at an Italian luxury automaker would literally end up being a shelf-assistant in an overglorified supermarket.
Despite the job’s low level and low pay, Ratta said this Japanese store job has been the most enjoyable of all her previous jobs because things were done the Japanese way, not the perverse Hong Kong way.
The basic Japanese commercial mindset in running companies is for steady profits and lifelong employment. Whilst that kind of employment no longer exists even for the Japanese themselves in these troubled times, the Japanese still operate along that line. They understand happy employees do a better job of things, and doing a better job means good business. It took two atomic bombs to stop Imperial Japan and still the Japanese are living in the 22nd century — while the rest of us imbeciles are pretending to live in the 21st with fiscal cliff and QE3/4/5/6/whatever. Speaks volumes. So there.
(I’m not apologising for my view either. So there too.)
Sesto, because the Japanese cashiering job didn’t bring in enough bacon, Ratta finally ends up being a full-time cashier at a baby-supplies store in a shopping mall. The job’s okay, but the co-workers there were (are?) standoffish, deadpan and a bit dog-eat-dog in mentality, according to how I heard Ratta told me.
She resigned from this job a few days ago because of good news (below).
Banalità (trivia): Ratta is (was) the only staff member who could handle a full-blown conversation in English with customers. Since her joining that store, the store manager (40-something) had suddenly decided to ‘up’ his English-language skills. The rest should up theirs too, in my view. *Smirk* (Geddit?)
A little good news
Settimo, now that Ratta has resigned from the baby store, she’s managed to negotiate a deal with the kindergarten crammer she’s been part-timing for (the one in ‘Quarto‘ above). She’s now hired on a yearlong contract, full time.
I understand from Ratta that her imminent boss/headmistress is making some changes to the business model of the kindergarten, and Ratta’s performance in part-time teaching has been steady and careful.
Frankly, it’s also because Ratta has absolutely no ambitions to learn the ropes and steal away fee-paying
customers parents to start her own setup — as many tuition school teachers in Hong Kong have a reputation for doing.
1. RATTA’s situation is the shape of things to come for older employees.
Six or seven jobs in the space of 12 months. This is no effing joke for the one on the soggy, receiving end.
And that trading company hiring Ratta for one job and immediately switching it to another completely different job happens more times than we’d like to think.
Can’t speak for most other countries, but this is the kind of despicable Hong Kong way of doing things I see all the time. Employers like that bring a goddamn bad name to employers like me, and I take this very personally as ‘them’ causing me to lose ‘face’ in the presence of foreigners.
The Hong Kong way — it gets results, no question about that, but I JUST DON’T LIKE THE WAY IT GETS RESULTS.
All my life before Hong Kong, I’ve lived, grown up or worked in the capitals and first-tier cities of First World industrialised nations. I’m not about to start now and choose the business antics of some colonial or ex-colonial place. I’ve come to be extremely snooty about this.
2. The 50s are being elbowed out, thereby we lose our profit-making know-how.
IN our troubled times, people on reaching their 50s are being elbowed out and shoved into pointless jobs. The usual excuses are cost-cutting, need for new blood, the dynamism of younger employees, and so on and so forth.
Wouldn’t a shelf assistant’s job be better for a younger person? No, of course not, because younger employees have more (and longer) to contribute. What, against the decades-long experience of still highly active and able-bodied older people?
Colour me ignorant, pray tell what are the mechanics of that contribution you speak of?
Pleeeease, I heard nearly all of the
standard excuses reasons before. I’ve personally used quite a few of them myself on others in my day.
If I ran a business with a view to making profits, running a company full of just young, dynamic new blood just doesn’t seem the way to make profits. For starters, the older folks’ experience, insights and commercial know-how will have been absent to steady the business running. The Young Turks will be forever trying to REINVENT the wheel that the older ones have already REFINED. And people wonder why there’s been a steady loss of commercial know-how in all businesses worldwide all these years.
If you sincerely want to run a business properly (that is, profitably), I’ll tell you and put money in your pocket RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT IN YOUR FACE, if you please:—
You need to have a balance of all ages, all abilities, all experience, and preferably all races. At the very, very least, elders lend stability, young’uns give oomph. Simple as that.
I am Managing Director and Principal Equity Holder of a 115-year-old printing firm AND I APPROVE OF THIS MESSAGE.
Is your anus jealous of what comes out of your mouth?
Wait till YOU get to OUR age, mate…
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. (B13037). Updated 02 Feb 2013 (typo fixes).
Images: Rat doll via furry.org.au | Sportscars via eWhoKnow | School Prank via c4c | Pink Slip via Homeowners Insurance | School Sign via c4c | HMS Bounty via Pirates Wikia | Nail polish display shelf via Ali Express | Birth training mannequin via mix4fun | Baby hamster via c4c | I Love My Job via OfficeLive.com | Blood bag by Antonia Reeve/Science Photo Library via sciencephoto.com.