Friday, July 8

Get the pregnant look

Pregnant bellies are in vogue! Whether your womb is housing a single fetus, twins, triplets or more, it doesn't matter. Sometimes you don't even have to be really pregnant - as with hair colour and designer handbags, there is always a way to fake it.

It's amazing to see how many celebrities and royals have latched on to this new trend. Everyday it seems there are more and more ordinary people getting impregnated to copy this popular look.

As far as maternity style goes, it's no longer fashionable to hide signs of pregnancy behind layers of chiffon, elasticised gypsy skirts and Liz Taylor's old caftans. Women are choosing to have their bloated midriffs painted by freelance Faberge egg artists and exposed for art lovers to enjoy and possibly critique.

In Toronto:

At a soccer match in Hanover:

And in Beijing which recently held its first belly painting contest:

The tiara, that smile, those hands! They know not how to pose for the camera but yet they want to win this thing so bad. Then again, there are worse things than painting a giant cabbage over your unborn child, like wearing a spangly singlet and knickerbockers in your third trimester:

Or being contestant no. 10 who really ought to be declared unfit to dress a child.

Wednesday, July 6

Hong Kong Shopping Festival

Now that Hong Kong banks have raised their savings deposit rates together with their prime rates, it's believed that you could earn a tiny bit more interest on your savings by leaving it in a fixed rate deposit. Or you could play it smart and spend it all during the 2005 Hong Kong Shopping Festival. This tourism promotion takes place annually and as the press release goes, promises a citywide festive ambience.

Indeed the avenues are decorated with brightly coloured shopping bags in good quality paper that can be re-used for shuttling things like packed lunches and working notes to and from the office. Shopkeepers perform a merry little jig and dance as they bid you welcome into their humble establishments. In the balmy evenings, people cram the sidewalks engaged in convivial discussion and back-slapping over their harvest of purchases.

What better place to hold a shopping extravaganza than Hong Kong - a place where you can get practically anything including rare mid-Triassic age dinosaur fossils!

The shopping festival also provides the setting for a blistering physical and mental contest. Eighteen teams from around world will compete for the coveted Hong Kong Shopper of the Year title. Will the French team try to demoralise the British team with snarky remarks about their contributions to European agriculture? The winner is decided by how wisely they spend an allowance of HK$3000, which is, as our new Chief Executive would say, quite a lot of bow ties.

To get an idea of how last year's competition went, you can read this account. If sending out stressed foreigners on wild goose chases to buy gaudy trinkets and dodgy electronics is what it takes to get people spending here then I'm all for it. Somebody needs to get those cloisonne toads moving off the shelves.

This year, I will be supporting the Malaysian finalist who won me over with this charming little ditty:

Carrying shopping bags I adore,
I can sniff out bargains galore,
every nook and corner I explore,
all the other contestants out-floored.

It's like something out of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven"!

There are many bargains to be gotten over the coming weeks so please strike while the iron is hot. Make hay while the sun shines. Don't put off tomorrow what you can do today. Oh, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, especially when that bird is 24 carat gold.

Tuesday, July 5

Commonly confused words

In my spare time, I exchange language lessons with some of the Hong Kong Chinese people who are eager to improve their English. This way I can learn to appreciate obscenities or pleasantries that strangers on the street shout at me in their native dialect when I drunkenly grope them, and likewise they don't look so baffled at me when their Marlboros drop out of their back pocket and I have to chase them halfway down the block and say "excuse me sir, you just dropped these cancer sticks".

One subject I often get asked to explain is the subject of commonly confused words. Words that sound a lot alike but mean different things. Very very different things.

A Disney remake about the adventures of a self-thinking Volkswagen Beetle and a foxy teen actress who incidentally got her big start in another Disney remake. Not to be confused with HERPES: FULLY LOADED which is a home movie that isn't very family-friendly at all.

Little wrinkles appearing around the corners of the eyes after a certain age indicating that, unlike Nicole Kidman, a person has chosen to eschew Botox for the natural aging process. Not to be confused with CROWE'S FIST which can come into contact with your eyes at any point in your life, for no apparent justification whatsoever, and even in spite of the fact you were the only person who bought a ticket to go and watch Cinderella Man.

A built-in feature of a car that can be used to automatically maintain the same driving speed and which the driver is entirely free to turn on or off. Not to be confused with CRUISE CONTROLLED which is something you can't switch off at will and you only agree to if you've lost your f***ing mind.

A longtime global problem that needs to be dealt with if our future generations are to have any chance of living in a sustainable world. Not to be confused with DIESEL HAIR POLLUTION which is a relatively recent phenomena that goes hand in hand with crappy scripts and wooden acting, but can be easily avoided if one isn't a fan of previously bald actors with voices of thick caramel.

Popular beverages that offer instant refreshment in the summer heat and winter chill respectively. Not to be confused with ICE-T and COCO who provide little relief no matter what season it is.

A term derived from a French phrase literally meaning "pretty-ugly" to denote someone with unconventional looks that exude a certain charm, for example Benicio del Toro. Not to be confused with JOLIE LAID which describes a very very lucky man indeed.

Monday, July 4

Land of the free, home of the brave

Happy Independence Day, America! Just a couple of days ago, Hong Kong also celebrated a little milestone of its own - its return to the sovereignty of China and formal establishment of a Special Administrative Region (SAR), a handy little acronym which in time would become inextricably associated with deadly respiratory disease and fake designer facemasks.

As is tradition, thousands took to the streets on SAR day, risking the glaring sunlight (sometimes even without umbrellas!) to walk the good walk for democracy. Your numbers may be slowly dwindling but march on, brave citizens! Never give up hope that one day we will be awash in civil rights. One day we will be land of the free, where women with taut bodies can wear bikinis AND semi-automatic assault weaponry.

We've got the bikinis (even if they are excessively padded in this part of the world) already and once we get "people power", we can hand out gun licenses to everyone with breasts and an acceptable hip to waist ratio. I admit that deadly firearms used to frighten me a great deal but that was before I visited the Guardian Angel's Gun Site. Not wanting to deal with intricate political arguments that might make me form a view on something, I bypassed the masses of text. It was a wise choice because all my concerns melted away when I saw that guns, when posed in the right hands, can be kind of sexy. Just a dab of anti-frizz shine serum, and we're ready for some hunting.

And hunting away we go! Just a tip, if you are lucky enough to live in a place which affords you such wide-ranging freedom. Pack spare separates because many a bikini top has been lost during and after the heat of the chase. Now go off and exercise those civil liberties!

Sunday, July 3

Fashion Roadkill of the Day: Vol 34

Let's play a little game today! A group of dastardly evildoers have infiltrated every wardrobe in Hong Kong overnight and completely jumbled up their contents. Consequently, everybody has been forced to walk about in grossly mismatching outfits.

Your job is not to apprehend the villains (we have superheroes, various secret agents, law enforcement officers about to retire or ex-law enforcement officers that can be coaxed back into service for that) but to sort out the mess on the streets.

There are 5 pictures below - using your keen fashion sense, find out which top matches which bottom. Ready to make the world right again? Here we go!

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Answers will be provided tomorrow. This is a take-home exercise. You are not required to provide detailed proofs but can do so for extra credit. You may assume negligible friction and air resistance.

UPDATE: Answers are revealed! I hope you put on your lateral thinking caps for this one. Most answers along the lines of "none of them match", "ew, that is so wrong *shudder*" or "you don't bury the survivors, stupid!" will be marked correct! But whatever you do don't even try to put pictures 3 or 5 together because the world can only take so much ugliness.