Buns, Balls, and Crabs

…Or, how I ate my way through Taipei in five days and lived to tell the tale. (Part 1 of several parts)

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Entrance to Keelung Miaokou Night Market. Taiwan is crazy with night markets and they’re fabulous places to eat, drink, eat, shop, eat, meet friends… and eat

This was a company-sponsored bonding trip that happened mid-2013. Yes, a bit late to be posting it now more than a year later, but you know how it is — sometimes things just pile up! So Taiwan. Had to admit, it’s not on my travel bucket list (I don’t really have an actual list; but when pressed on where to go, I can name a few places) — in fact, it’s not even top of mind of places that I would consider visiting. Blame a friend’s comments more than a decade or so ago when she was on a business trip to Taipei and had a miserable time of it because ordinary people didn’t speak English and there were not enough signages in English to make your way around on your own. But since then, had heard great things about Taipei and Taiwan in general, so when the office went for a trip there, I was excited. Who wouldn’t be, when it was practically a free trip to go gallivanting?

Continue reading Buns, Balls, and Crabs

Today is catching up on my (magazine) reading day

Clockwise from upper left: Vanity Fair October 2013 Special Anniversary Issue with Kate Upton on the cover; Esquire October 2013 Life of Man 80th Anniversary issue; Glamour November 2013 with Rhianna on the cover, Vanity Fair November 2013, with Jay-Z on the cover
Clockwise from upper left: Vanity Fair October 2013 Special Anniversary Issue with Kate Upton on the cover; Esquire October 2013 Life of Man 80th Anniversary issue; Glamour November 2013 with Rhianna on the cover; Vanity Fair November 2013, with Jay-Z on the cover

I used to be a voracious magazine reader. However, since I started working in magazine publishing eons ago, reading magazines has ceased to be the pure pleasure it once was. I would start out opening one for the sheer fun of it but even before the halfway point, I would be thinking of story ideas, which layouts worked and which didn’t, and of course, agonizing over the articles. The last part was envy mostly — why I can’t write the way the writers in these magazines wrote. And so, ironically, while I was putting together my own publications, I was reading fewer and fewer of them. I still browse through a lot, but they were mostly for professional reasons, not for the joy of actually having a new issue of a favorite magazine in hand.

Until recently, that is; reading them is fun once again. Maybe because my work, though still in publishing, is about one step removed from the glossies I used to work in before. I have come to accept though that part of me will always view them as work; I go through them with half a professional eye open. Occupational hazard I guess.

Anyway, today, there’s no work as it is Hari Raya Haji here in Singapore. So I’m spending the day puttering about the house and reading the four magazines that have always been on my reading list. (Though I don’t buy as many issues as before because they take up too much space!) These are the magazines that I would (still!) want to work for, given half the chance.

Vanity Fair: In this magazine, gossip and serious issues all get the same level of in-depth reportage. The result? A very engrossing read. I bought both the October and November 2013 issues, because I always try to buy the special issues and the October issue is the magazine’s 100th while the November issue has Maureen Orth’s interview with Mia Farrow about Woody Allen, among others. Explosive stuff!

Esquire October 2013: This is the magazine’s 80th issue. Esquire has always been one of my go-to magazines for great writing and this issue does not disappoint.

Glamour: I always buy this magazine. For me, it contains the best balance of fashion, beauty, advocacy and serious reportage that’s possible in a fashion lifestyle magazine. Of course, I don’t know how long the formula will remain the same. Rumor has it that Anna Wintour is eyeing a revamp of the magazine. I hope it’s not true because I like what Cindy Lieve has done to Glamour and no disrespect to La Wintour, she’s going to make a Vogue clone out of it once she’s done.

So anyway, back to my catch-up reading. Esquire first…

One of those issues that must be read cover to cover
One of those issues that must be read cover to cover

Watercolor portraits of fictional heroines

Watercolor portraits of fictional heroines

Holly Golightly, <i>Breakfast at Tiffany's</i>

I know I should be writing more original entries. I’m coasting, I know. But I can’t help posting about this article. It’s about the book, Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines. I would love to own this book! The artwork is gorgeous as is the depiction of the women. That’s Holly Golightly above from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I love that Nancy Drew is in here, too! Wonder who else is included? See more of the artwork here.

I’ll definitely be watching out for this in the bookstore when it comes out (and screw the book debt!).

[image borrowed from The Cut]

Deep think of the week: Can women’s magazines produce serious journalism?

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Elle EIC Robbie Myers says yes — and I wholeheartedly agree!

Basically, if you’re saying women’s magazines don’t care about good writing, you’re saying women don’t [either], because that’s who reads women’s magazines.”

So why do women’s fashion/lifestyle magazines always get the short shrift when it comes to credibility and seriousness? It’s now time for a rethink. As someone who has been on both sides of the fence and is a voracious reader to boot, I think it’s doing a disservice to women readers anywhere (and in the magazine world, we are the bigger market than the men) to marginalize women in this way — because it is marginalization when we view the issues that are relevant to a group of people as “less than” or “other” and not important enough to be part of the main conversation.

Anyway, read the rest of Robbie’s interview here here.

And here’s the link to the article in New Republic: “Can Women’s Magazines Do Serious Journalism?” The title alone is enough to infuriate me, frankly.

Says the piece:

“Crowe didn’t ask other female editors in Wintour’s—or any other’s stead—because, as he put it, ‘unfortunately these are not the people editing’ truly excellent magazines. This reveals another pernicious assumption: that what women’s magazines publish is not as influential or important as what men’s and general interest magazines publish. How and when did this assumption arise?”

Unfortunately, this way of thinking is not limited to the foreign press. I’ve encountered journalists — men and women — who look askance and condescendingly at the fashion and lifestyle press as if what these were doing were not as important as their work. In my opinion, it takes the same amount of skill and chutzpah, if not more, to report about lifestyle subjects and make them come across as relevant pieces as it does to report “serious” news. And equally as important. Because more than the national headlines or the major stories, it is the “trivial” the fashion/lifestyle/cultural writing the sort that comes out in women’s publications when they report about everyday ephemera that makes an impact and resonates down the ages. Picture this: Two millennia from now, when archeologists are digging through our records of what our lives are like, it will be popular culture, as recorded in women’s magazines (among others) that scholars will look to for leads, the same way that archeologists now look at cave drawings and artwork on jar shards to know what life was like ages ago.

There is enough space in the journalism playground for both kinds of writing to exist.

Punk and fashion, power and femininity, poverty and class

Punk and fashion, power and femininity, poverty and class

Fashion regularly shocks me in all sorts of small and large ways. I am dumbfounded by the practically immoral prices of handbags and shoes. But the design of a pair of towering armadillo heels? Eh. I am appalled by the inability of so many designers to recognize the moral responsibility that comes with visually defining class, power, and femininity. I don’t understand why, in an increasingly global business, fashion doesn’t take a more activist stance on labor laws and fair wage issues.

And every now and then, I am left speechless when designers tell a story of such astonishing beauty or intellectual richness that it pushes all sense of logic and practicality out of a woman’s mind and all she can do is stop, smile, and think.” — from the article, “If Punk Can’t Shock, Fashion Still Can”

I love this article. In all my years as a magazine writer and editor, I’ve only written about fashion peripherally, and certainly not as incisively as Robin Givhan. See, kids? This is what fashion journalism is all about!

[link and image borrowed from nymag.com]