The announcement yesterday that Bangkok had been voted "Top City" by the travel magazine Travel + Leisure caused a few surprises given the city's very recent turbulence. But the survey was completed before the civil unrest in April began, and the two bomb attacks, one on Saturday evening and one early this morning have only added to the incredulity.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The Daily Mail has shared details of the former home of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. Holmwood House is actually Gothic-style, but actually who cares? In addition to the GBP13m price tag how much would you have to spend to make it less horrific?
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
It clearly isn't just me who thinks these coral carvings of the Chinese Goddess Kuanyin and other figures are very desirable judging by the number of bids at auction and the prices achieved over their estimates. Given the destructive environmental considerations, I would be loathe to buy anything new, and the same applies to ivory sculptures, but I suppose I do contribute to any trade in these resources when I state my liking, and I'm not entirely sure what the answer is. All of these items shown here are manufactured in China, but all are for sale in the United States.
As a child I remembered, (perhaps incorrectly) that they were sold in great quantities at quite reasonable prices in the large Chinese store in Hong Kong, The Chinese Merchandise Emporium, (better known as the "Commie Shop", to reflect it's Mainland roots pre-Deng Xioping's "To get Rich is Glorious" second revolution).
On a recent visit to Hong Kong I tried to find the old Commie Shop, but it has long since given way to something much more entrepreneurial, which would have pleased Father Deng. A similar shop, Chinese Arts & Crafts did have coral pieces, on a much grander scale than those I'm showing. The prices, like the pieces, were staggering, in the hundreds of thousands.
How do you weigh up ethical versus beauty issues?
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
During our April visit to Penang we went to see the house where my family used to live in the late Sixties. This is not it, as it was demolished some years ago, but it is the one opposite where we lived, and very similar in architectural design, probably post war. Clearly it is no longer residential, and in a sad state of disrepair. From our house we had a view of Penang Hill:
and a lush garden of which the strongest memory for me was that of Flame of the Forest trees. It's sometimes not good to revisit places from one's youth, especially when they have changed so much, but I had last been to Penang in the mid-Eighties, so I knew the house had gone, and had been replaced by several modern ones. There still remain a number of the old houses in the area that were full of life when we lived there, but many have either been demolished, or have taken on Miss Havisham-like qualities. Here is another one:
Sadly so much has changed through overdevelopment throughout this once tropical island paradise that this visit after a nearly twenty five year interlude will probably be my last. The trip was in some ways out of necessity - seeking a temporary refuge from the civil unrest in Bangkok, and the hope of finding solace in a place I once called home. Unfortunately these wishes were unfulfilled by an environment of tiredness interspersed with rampant and ill-thought out construction.
Friday, July 16, 2010
This is the temple of the Khoo Kongsi, (the Khoo clan), in Georgetown, Penang. It was built between 1894 and 1906 and is considered the most ornate clan temple outside of China. From the last picture you can see how it dominates the clan housing around it. Kongsi has a number of connotations, including the less savoury one of triads, (or mafia). When we lived in Malaysia as children my mother would refer to a doctors' partnership as a kongsi, as it was quite widely used in references to businesses. The strength of Chinese communities both socially and economically has been attributed to the concept of the kongsi, or keeping it in the family. Jewish communities prospered in a similar fashion.
As noted here, from Wikipedia:
The system of kongsi was utilised by Chinese throughout the diaspora to overcome economic difficulty, social ostracism, and oppression. In today's overseas Chinese communities throughout the world, this approach has been adapted to the modern environment, including political and legal factors. The kongsi is similar to modern business partnerships, but also draws on a deeper spirit of cooperation and consideration of mutual welfare.
It has been stated by some that the development and thriving of Chinese communities worldwide are the direct result of the kongsi concept. A vast number of Chinese-run firms and businesses were born as kongsi--many ending up as multinational conglomerates. In the Chinese spirit, derived in large part from Confucian ideals, these kongsi members or their descendants prefer not to boast so much of their wealth but to take pride in earning worldly and financial success through their work ethic and the combined efforts of many individuals devoted to group welfare.
In Thailand today a number of large families control huge swathes of economic life in the kingdom, and although they are Thai now, with Thai names, their origins are distinctly Chinese - the so-called Thai Chinese. Despite their huge wealth, they usually live modestly, although in the younger generation, this is beginning to change, as the scourge materialism takes control.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
A friend and neighbour recently asked my advice about one of the options available from Surface View, a company that for me provides very exciting images to fill up wall space that I no longer have. As readers will know, I am very keen on architectural prints, and Surface View provides a decent selection from which to choose. The excitement for me is the drama that can be created by the enlarged version of these images, and all at affordable prices. Beware, the site is quite slow, and once you get going, it does take a while to understand the navigation. My preferences are for the Architecture prints under the V&A tab, which include this C18th Design for a Window by Sir William Chambers.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
I paired this ceramic Kenzo lotus flower with a Thai green celadon offering bowl, mirroring both the green and the pink in my sitting room colour scheme. In Buddhism the lotus flower symbolises purity, acknowledging that it grows from a muddy pond to produce this divine beauty. The fact that the flower blooms and sheds it seeds at the same time also reflect the theory of karma - what goes around comes around.
This bowl with its lotus petal decoration, has on its base the blue seal mark for the Qianlong period (1735-1795), but is probably much later, and is for sale at auction on Saturday. Although very pretty, in its shape as much as the colour combinations, how many decorative bowls does one need?
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
When you're faced with an expensive roof repair bill you have an attic sale. Some roof repairs cost more than others. Earl Spencer needs GBP10 million for his, so Christie's are having an attic sale of items from the Spencer country seat, Althorp House. I am being a little unfair to suggest that all of it is tat, (such as these Victorian and Edwardian Spencer family document boxes, with an estimate of GBP500-800). But there is just the slightest thought that the estate is hoping to cash in on the association of the most famous of the family's recent members, the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
As this Daily Mail article suggests, Some will also find it pretty rich that Lord Spencer is flogging a mountain of antiques and art when he condemned his stepmother, Raine, Countess Spencer, for doing
the same in the Eighties. Despite all those ‘acid Raine’ jibes over the years, the Countess is maintaining a dignified silence about next week’s disposals.
Full Christie's catalogue here. Image from Christie's catalogue.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
I am very keen on mirrors in any decorative scheme, whether in the more traditional singular display, or grouped together, as in this photograph. I have used a group of six mirrors in my hallway, as below.
In this case the recessed wall to the right of the grouping is also mirrorred, from floor to ceiling. Did I mention that I liked mirrors? The space enhancement attributes are significant. Other owners of flats in our condominium are always surprised that our flat isn't somehow larger than their own similarly sized flats. Other tricks employed to achieve this are reflective glass panelling, white shiny granite tiles on the floors, and no wooden panelling. Dark wooden floors, doors and panelling were all features of the flat before we renovated, and other residents have not altered that which came with the initial fit out of the property. Elementary, my dear Watson.