Thursday, 27 February 2014

What Makes A Good Writer?

Language: 'An instinctive tendency to acquire an art' (Charles Darwin)

The masterclass started with a spelling test that majority of the participants would have barely passed had a grading system been applied. I take pride in my ability to spell, but on that night, I realised I was just as bad as those who rely on a spellcheck function. 

My spelling test. My seatmate was kind enough to remove 'ed' from fine-tooth to give me a score of 5. Only one in class got 9 correct answers. The rest, including myself, slid lower in our seats. Some didn't even manage to get at least 1 right. By the way, the first entry should be abattoir, and not abatoir. I'm very pleased to  have my deserts right though!

I thought it was a clever tactic by the speaker to remind me that I have to brush up on my technical writing skills. I believe that being overly technical gets in the way of creativity, but it always helps to review our knowledge as the English language keeps evolving.

I signed up for the Guardian's masterclass called 'How to Use Grammar' recently in my bid to be more confident about my usage, syntax, and punctuation. 

It was conducted by David Marsh, production editor of the Guardian. He edits the Guardian style guide; the Guardian's Mind your language blog; and the @guardianstyle Twitter feed. The veteran journalist--nearly 40 years in the business--is an external examiner at Sheffield University, where he also runs a masterclass in subediting for students of MA Print Journalism course. His book, 'For Who the Bell Tolls: One Man's Quest for Grammatical Perfection', was recently released. I bought one of course and had it signed by him.

I won't go on and on about the details of his talk; instead, I will share with you the highlight of what I learned on the night. Some of you may have known it for awhile; some of you may not. One thing is guaranteed though: all of us will learn or relearn a thing or two.

During the customary Q&A, a participant asked: what makes a good writer?

Mr Marsh pointed out the sheet of paper included in our information pack. It is entitled '10 tips for clear communication', which according to him, where all good writing starts from. Go on, go through it and pin it at your work station.

Let's all do our best to mind our grammar.

Happy blogging, writing, and reading everyone!

Friday, 21 February 2014

What Does The Sun Make You Do?

It's sunny, the skies are blue, the clouds are summery laid out, and the people are unusually chirpy.

It's a novelty. It's rare.

That is today's London weather. 
The sky view this morning at work

It's still winter. At 8 degrees Celsius (46.4 degrees Fahrenheit), we're not even at the cusp of spring yet, but the moment the sun's warmth hit my face and I squint at the direction of the blinding rays, I knew my Wayfarers will have an outing.

So does my mood.

For us who sometimes emotionally struggle with grey and gloom, seeing the sun alive is perhaps similar to those from  tropical countries experiencing snow for the first time. The accompanying elation makes you do things ironic to the weather.

Aside from being a Friday, I was just generally more enthusiastic this morning and looked up Sports Direct for additional sportswear. I managed to find the items I needed, plus something else I don't need but may in the next few months. Any bag purchase is always justified.


I have no immediate plans to hit the beach, I haven't booked anything, I'm not dying yet to soak up the sun, and I'm not even sure if I can afford to do so this year, but at £7, I couldn't pass up the sale. I read the product details at least thrice to make sure that the raffia beach mat is included. I was sold. This Hot Tuna piece bought me.

Have you ever heard of that advice to never decide on anything when you're happy, angry, or sad? Or maybe when the sun is out?

 Blame it on a single shot of Vitamin D.

What does a sunny weather impulsively make you do?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Why Trendsetting Can Be Old-Fashioned

Fashion trends are clothes you thought you've donated to calamity relief operations or shoved at the top of the farthest corner of the back of your wardrobe but they still keep falling off your head whenever you pull out something else to wear.

In fashion, some trends make a comeback either because fashionistas can't get enough of it, or fashion houses pull out the 'archive-inspired' excuse line. But unlike Top 40 or Top of the Pops (TOTP) hits list which we revisit for nostalgia and admiration of musical genius, there are some fashion looks that we prefer to remain one-hit wonders.

ASOS Premier magazine preview of Spring-Summer 2014 trends. The magazine is only distributed to premier account holders who pay £9.95 for unlimited next day delivery service for a year.

 Before you slag off ASOS and start being condescending about its fashion credentials not matching Vogue's, you will find as you scroll down that despite the two publications seemingly on opposite poles of the fashion market, they share the same sartorial tips, with the online retailer understanding a more urban streetwear lingo. 

ASOS has helped North London-based Fashion Enter grow from 15 to 84 staff members since 2006 by buying 85% of their garment production. The social enterprise is involved in designing, cutting and creating garments to sell to major retailers. In partnership with homegrown brands such as ASOS, Fashion Enter aims to bring back and strengthen manufacturing in the UK to give skills and job opportunities to younger people.

For the above reason alone, my purchases from ASOS are justified.

High-street trends take their cue after luxury brands, with the former adding its own take and twists. So whether you want to spend or save, you'll find something to update your look at any price point. But if you look close enough, that new trend may just be hanging or folded in your wardrobe.

Vogue trend no. 1: earth colours. If you don't own anything tan or brown, which is a basic colour, then you're just not into this shade.

ASOS and Vogue say pastel colours are back. I didn't even realise they made an exit. I've always thought they're the top picks when blacks, browns, greys, and even whites are off duty.

A sweater tied over the shoulders is so 'Trading Places', but I don't know what to make of a sweater tied around the waist. An apron?

Vogue trend no. 2: box type tops which I remember wearing in the mid to late 80s.

The 90s come crashing back emblazoned in logos. This is one trend that made head-on collision with understatement. Not my cup of tea, but I do love my shirts with Coke and Minnie Mouse on it.

Vogue trend no. 3: pleats. Don't worry if you don't have a single piece of pleated clothing; you're not missing out on anything.

I agree that too much flowers on a print can be freaky especially when it's lifted from a Science reference book. If the pattern's overly floral, your dress can look like your mother's curtains or brocade chaise lounge. I'll replace my floral print summer dresses when the garment itself has wilted.

The logic of summer is bright and bold colours, so bring out all your old yellows, pinks, blues, and reds--that is, if the colours haven't faded yet.

ASOS' take on brights is pop art. Céline renders the brushstroke prints. JC de Castelbajac's on the lower right corner is reminiscent of artist Julie Verhoeven's design for MAC's cosmetic pouches 2 years ago. 

I've been hearing about safari dress code for at least the last two years. And I've been been wearing exactly the same cut of skirt as the red one on the upper left (except it's not Hermès) since I was 10. Dungarees have crossed my mind when I was 19. And yes, I've worn a top with a jersey number on it. Except for the skirt, I won't entertain the thought of ever wearing the rest again in public.

Tommy Hilfiger in Vogue and Tommy Hilfiger in ASOS (Is that the same model?). Athletic to Vogue is So-Cal to ASOS. Who would have thought that pool slides are now considered fashionably trendy? I'm sticking to my Havaianas straight off the market in Rio where they're sold for a pittance.

What about the shoes?!

Phoebe Philo, the Céline designer, is at it again. Credited for boosting the sales of New Balance 620s and Nike Air Max to unlikely worshipers of trainers, er, sneakers, she's given the iconic Adidas Stan Smiths a catwalk debut, as seen above at the Paris Fashion Week.

The first ever leather tennis shoes, Adidas Stan Smith was originally named Adidas Robert Haillet in 1965 after the French tennis professional. When Haillet retired, Adidas offered the endorsement to Stan Smith, the American tennis champion who was ranked World No. 1 in 1971. The tennis shoes became the German brand's entry to the American market. In 2011, Adidas announced that they will stop marketing Stan Smiths, but there was a buzz about reintroducing it in 2014. True enough, Phoebe Philo has been sporting a pair. And Kate Moss, of course.

We've seen collaborations between fashion designers and sportswear brands (Stella McCartney, Raf Simons, and Yohji Yamamoto for Adidas; and Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci for Nike). Are a creative director's face and signature next on the tongue? 

ASOS has other things in mind. I think they're ugly.

See where the arrows are pointing? These are the ring leaders and rule breakers.

There they are again. If you lose them, remember that I warned you.

I say stick to your own natural brows rather than trying to achieve a trendy cray-pas oil pastel-drawn variety.

Pinks and nudes according to Vogue

ASOS beauty pundits say otherwise. I refuse to accept the suggestion as I just bought a Bobbi Brown Long Wear Cream Shadow Stick in violet plum. As for the new Dora the Explorer super haircut, see below.

I nailed the bowl cut when I was about 4, and I'm not revisiting this along with shoulder pads!

Now, off you go to raid your wardrobe! 

For the next season's trends, have a look at what you haven't worn for awhile. 

Or it could be what you're wearing now.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

My Instagram Eye (Part II)

Armed with our phone and compact digital cameras everywhere we go, it has become more accessible for us to have another set of eyes to take a closer look at little things we normally would just cast a glance at. Most of the time, it's much more revealing to show a photo than to go through the whole storytelling complete with gesticulation. 

As mentioned, here's Part II of a glimpse at my Instagram account, which you may want to check out from time to time.

I looked up from my duffin and latte and saw Bear perched on her own seat, sat next to mummy, with her bag in tow

Take your pick from Orly nail lacquer swatches in a Sharjah ladies-only salon. I chose the red one on the upper left corner

Here are things a size won't tell you (plus your preferred size for a sales assistant to tell you), according to my first ever Zumbawear

Poor casualty of the winter sales. Found under an empty rail in a department store

Keyhole image of the main prayer room of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Hats off to the lady who wore this at a glittery Zumba Christmas party/fundraising for the victims of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

Glimpse of the winter sun on my first day back to work from my UAE visit

Seen at the bottom of a packet of butterscotch Border biscuits I demolished in one sitting

I don't see lizards in the UK, so it was a delight to see one in Sicily. It took trials with several camera settings to capture this lizard which appeared to be sunbathing inside the lamp

My niece shopped for a London bus

Full parking

Chandelier earrings. Two installed at a former slaughterhouse in the outskirts of Paris for a work do

Indulging the rarity of an empty London bus during rush hour en route to work

Please click My Instagram Eye Part I if you missed it. Thanks for looking.

Have a lovely weekend!

Monday, 10 February 2014

My Instagram Eye (Part I)

I signed up for Instagram nearly a year ago just for the sake of it. The account was idle until I posted my first shot roughly 33 weeks ago (I wish Instagram would just stamp the exact date). Since then I've been regularly posting snapshots which sometimes are unavoidably of very personal nature (images of me with family or purchases), which I try my best not to be the case. I'm human though and have been afflicted by the 21st century social compulsion to unnecessarily let everyone take a peek into my personal space. I just leave the door ajar; the front room is still off limits.

As with this blog which is a collection of my thoughts on topical issues I feel strongly (or fashionably) about, my Instagram page is for my spur-of-the-moment observations which on its own can speak for itself. Photos are a great accompaniment to articles, so Instagram also works as my rehearsal grounds.

On this post, allow me to share with you my favourite images from my Instagram account, all taken via an old Blackberry Bold 9790, Sony Cybershot DSC-W730, and my very capable HTC One mobile camera. 


Captioned #happy #Monday. This shot of my corner vase at home had the most hits when I reposted it on my Facebook blog page. The flowers are called Alstroemeria or Peruvian Lily or Lily of the Incas, which has become my favourite summer home accessory.

The very first Instagram entry which wasn't captioned as I had no clue of hashtags at all back then. Taken one fine summer afternoon close to Battersea, London.

#Happy #Sunny Smiley ducks at a village fair. The weather was dreadfully gloomy and rainy on the day.

One super full moon. The moon was so huge, it was a flood light. Taken from the bedroom window where I left the curtains open.

A resident tourist in London. I hopped on the London Routemaster 2011 after taking this photo around Westminster. This type of bus only runs in Central London.

Popped into my friend's house whose fashion sense is also reflected on her choice of home phone. Her retro phone rang like the old times with a very crisp 'bbrrinng bbrring'. I had a toy replica in powder blue which my sister and I used to phone each other within the house when we were about six and three.

Makeup brushes doing a bit of sunbathing. Just a bit. I still didn't know what hashtags were for. And I didn't realise my kitchen roll had lolly prints until I posted this after washing my brushes. Very apt.

Captured at London Overground Willesden Junction platforms for Clapham Junction and Richmond during the Tube strike on 5-6 February, 2014.

Couldn't get through, so I stepped back and took a photo.

Willesden Junction station on the last day of the Tube strike, while I was en route to Watford. I asked if everyone was down the pub waiting for the 9pm end to the strike.

Play time. Found in the gardens of the villa where my friends and I stayed in Sicily.

Sleeping Beauty. A vintage movie poster found in one of the rooms at Villa di Bella in Sicilia. I love vintage treasures.

Bless her, but Valentine's Day has come a tad early for this lady on a date in our local bar on Saturday. She didn't just wear her heart on her sleeve, she wore all her hearts all over her dress!

Thank you for looking and I'll share Part II very soon.

Have a lovely week everyone!

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