Meet the Plumber King

Last summer I wrote about the Plumber King, who writes advertisements for his plumbing services in unusual corners of Hong Kong. Contractors usually promote themselves by scrawling their name, number and occupation on utility boxes or lampposts. But Kui Wong, as the King is known in Cantonese, carefully paints his ads in back alleys, street […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Meet the Plumber King , , , ,

It’s Not Christmas Without Inflatable Snowmen

One of my favourite Montreal traditions is the annual onslaught of Christmas kitsch. The official decorations are actually pretty tasteful — the elegant tree at Place Ville-Marie, the demure little wreaths installed on lampposts — so to compensate, people buy the tackiest decorations they can find and install them on balconies and in front yards […]

Hong Kong Rooftops: You Are Being Watched

Last month, I paid a visit to Hong Kong Reader, a great independent bookstore on the seventh floor of a building in Mongkok. Before I entered the shop, though, I gazed up the stairwell and wondered whether there was an interesting view from the roof. I climbed an extra few floors and emerged onto a […]

Cabbage Season in Beijing

Beijing, 1994: Mountains of Chinese cabbage — 396 million pounds by the reckoning of the Beijing authorities — began advancing on the capital this month, as one of old Beijing’s agricultural rhythms persists against the onslaught of modern supermarkets and glitzy shopping centers that have sprouted here. Rough-hewn peasants who have been sleeping with their […]

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A Contemplative Evening in Villa Freud

Of the two habits in which Argentines surely lead the world — psychotherapy and plastic surgery — it seems peculiar that the first, rather than the second, would boast a dedicated neighborhood in Buenos Aires. After all, the point of cosmetic surgery is to be seen, whereas therapy is a much more private affair. Maybe […]

Posted in: Latin America, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on A Contemplative Evening in Villa Freud , , ,

Fighting Food Inflation in Shanghai

Built in 1715, the Shangchuan Huiguan (商船会馆) or Merchant Shipping Hall, was a place for business traders to congregate for wheeling and dealing, or to rest for the night before continuing their journey. Their boats would be moored off the ports located southwest of the Bund, along the Huangpu River.

While the Hall itself is authorized for preservation, all the surrounding living quarters have fallen to the wrecking ball. Currently, a family from Anhui lives onsite and are responsible for organizing the razing. On my last trip, I noticed many plots of vegetables surrounding the Hall, on what had been rubble only months ago. Any left over vegetables were laid out to dry in various parts of the house.

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Food, Heritage and Preservation, Society and Culture by Sue Anne Tay Comments Off on Fighting Food Inflation in Shanghai , , , ,

A Bend in the Road

Castle Peak Road, Sham Tseng, Hong Kong

Posted in: Asia Pacific by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on A Bend in the Road , ,

History Hidden in Corporate Archives

Hung Hom and Whampoa in the 1970s. Photo courtesy Hong Kong Heritage Project If Hong Kong’s businesses don’t stop throwing away their records, a vital part of the city’s history will be lost forever, a group of archivists and historians warn. Every day, millions of documents are produced by Hong Kong’s companies, but only a […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, History, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on History Hidden in Corporate Archives , , ,

Modernism Debauched

Villa Besnus in 1922 and 2010. Photo compilation by Laurent David Ruamps In 1922, Le Corbusier was hired by a man named George Besnus to build a new house in the Paris suburb of Vaucresson. It was the architect’s first chance to put the Purist ideals he had been toying with to practice: an architecture […]

Judaism with a Hong Kong Flavour

Rabbi Asher Oser opens the heavy doors to Ohel Leah and steps inside, pausing for a moment to consider its vaulted ceiling, intricate woodwork and marble floors. As the door closes behind him, the sound of traffic fades, replaced by the quietude of Hong Kong’s oldest synagogue. “It’s a building of such history and gravitas, […]

Street Signs and Street Art

San Telmo, Buenos Aires Palermo, Buenos Aires

Tokyo Serenity: Naka-Meguro

Whether surfacing, globetrotting, or merely in transit, it’s best never fully to trust the travel section. Take Tokyo, where over the last few years a number of writers have labored to portray the southwestern neighborhood of Naka-Meguro as tragically hip. Descending from Naka-Meguro’s elevated subway station into a quotidian landscape of utilitarian shops and services, […]

Sleepy West End Afternoons

Sometimes Toronto impresses with the precocious energy of a metropolis on the make. Sometimes, if you walk down the right streets at the right time of day, it’s just a sleepy old town in Southern Ontario.

Posted in: Canada by Christopher DeWolf 1 Comment ,

Online Shopping in the MTR

The Internet meets the MTR: trying on a jacket bought online. Photos by Oliver Tsang for the South China Morning Post Nobody seemed alarmed by the sight of two 17-year-old boys playing with guns in the Hong Kong MTR. It was early Wednesday evening at Prince Edward Station and Kelvin Cheung was inspecting a pistol […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Interior Space, Public Space, Society and Culture, Transportation by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Online Shopping in the MTR , , , , , ,