The wicked style

Friday, April 28, 2006

I'm in Japan, in the small town of Hokota, about 100 miles north of Tokyo. I'm here visiting a friend who works as an English teacher. She had to attend a work function this afternoon so I was left to my own devices. I wandered around the town, looking at the none-too-plentiful sights. After walking around the main street, and the nearby bridge (with Gaudi style mosiacs), I went to a shopping mall (with 3 shops) where I discovered the basics of Japanese fashion.

The highlight of the underwear section were a pair of shocking pink boxer briefs and a pair of cornflower blue boxers with a deeper blue suedette pouch. Fancy!

Japanese clothesI also discovered this jacket - with 2 zips! And these trousers - with two waistbands! Japanese fashion is amazing!

But I stopped short of buying the boiler suit. In fact, I didn't buy any of these as if this is just what a small-town department store can offer, I'll be buying like crazy when we get to Tokyo and Harajuku.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Commuting by public transport is not an exciting way to spend your time, so people read, listen to music and do things to keep their minds occupied. At times commuting can feel mind-numbing, as you sit not thinking about anything in particular. To keep my mind agile, I've started to do a game in which I notice the names of books that people are reading and try to remember them. I then write them down when I get to work. So, yesterday and this morning, people were reading:

Labyrinthe - Kate Mosse
The Right Nation - John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge
A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
The Consolations of Philosophy - Alain de Botton
Beyond Black - Hilary Mantel
Angels & Demons - Dan Brown
A Pimlico Military Classic by John Keegan
Tourism - Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal
The Adventure of Augie Marsh - Saul Bellow
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka
Difficult Conversations - Roger Fiske
The Alchemist - Paolo Coelho
L'ecume des jours - Boris Vian

As for me, I was reading Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey, which I'm reading to learn about Japan in advance of my trip there. Tomorrow I fly to Tokyo, and spend two nights in Hokota, a small city north of there. This coming weekend is spent in Tokyo, and we fly on Monday morning to Fukuoka to spend 2-3 days there. We then get the Shinkansen bullet train to Hiroshima, and spend 2-3 days there and then fly back to Tokyo for another 2 nights.


Let's not go to...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I recently picked up 101 Places not to Visit, a guide to the world's most depressing, ugly, boring and dangerous destinations. The book's premise is that you're better off staying at home. Adam Russ' list of 101 cities tells us why we really should just stay away. All in the tradition of Great British xenophobia, the reviews are not to be taken seriously, very tongue-in-cheek and quite funny.

Some of the worst destinations are: Mogadishu, Astana, San Salvador, Murmansk, Atlantic City. Ulaanbaatar is described as the ultimate destination for those wanting to get away from everyone and everything. Western cities do not escape criticism with Copenhagen (amongst others) labelled boring. The Little Mermaid statue, he claims, looks mournfully at the water wishing she could swim away.

In the spirit of fairness, I'm going to test the accuracy of his criticisms for places I have been to.

London, he claims, is full of angry commuters, and workers who must get their drinking in before everything shuts at 11pm.
Barcelona is full of street entertainment - only mildly entertaining unless you like pickpockets, political rallies and fires.FALSE-ISH
Norwegians in Oslo are "most unbearably smug people that you'll meet in Scandinavia".TRUE-ISH
Riga's red-brick cathedral is like any old library or STD clinic in Britain. FALSE

So, only about half right, then. I finished the book and found myself really wanting to go to all the places he'd listed, just to see them!

Words in motion

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I love to travel and love reading travel literature. The first travel literature book I read was Dervla Murphy's In Ethiopia with a mule. Since then, I have read about numerous regions, countries and cities, each book illuminating the subject. The key to travel literature is personality: you have to want to go on the journey with the author as they are your guides. I'm going to write more about my favourite travel books in due course; today I'm focusing on Yoga for People... who can't be bothered to do it.

Lured by the title, I hoped that this was a travelogue about self-help and the many ways that people around the world try to find calm and relaxation in their lives. Indeed, the blurb on the jacket gave this impression. Instead, we're offered Geoff Dyer's own self-indulgent whining. He speaks about drifting and his feelings of nothingness and... well, that's it. I gave up after about 5 chapters, realising that I didn't have the time to waste on this man and his non-journeys. Dyer continuously asserts that's he's not bothered about what he's doing.

So, really, the question is: why should we be?

Two Men do not make The Summer

Friday, April 14, 2006

Today was a nice day in London. Despite starting dull and rainy, the sun came out and the temperature reached 16°C. Later in the day, I spied two men wearing shorts and flip-flops. Surely it's a bit early for that?

This, however, is a good thing as men in shorts is a sign that summer's coming. Which is ace.

Schlager Queens

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I recently went to Göteburg in Sweden for a weekend. It seemed to be a quiet town - on the Sunday night, especially, very little was open. I had expected there to be a party atmosphere as Melodifestivalen was in town. Melodifestivalen is the Swedish competition to select their Eurovision entry. It takes place over 5 weeks and is big news in Sweden. Carola, the biggest name in the competition and eventual winner, was plastered all over tabloids and tv news.

The Swedes have (unfairly) been labelled sombre, sensible people - not so, they love their schlager music. I found the party I was looking for in a club called Greta's - named after the great Garbo. I photographed these people there - all having the best of fun, dancing to schlager hits.

Swinging girls Hands in the air

Schlager Queens

Schlager Queens

Schlager Queens

Schlager Queens

Schlager Queens