Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mooi Trouve

This cafe and curiosity shop is one of many of the ShiDa area's hidden gems. It a charmingly refurbished space, savouring the rustic character of the building's shell and pitched country cottage-like roof and beams, but adding contemporary and retro elements for style and comfort.
There is a generously sized courtyard with a large timber deck, and the side of the cafe facing the courtyard has been glazed with floor to ceiling windows to afford light and a view onto the courtyard.
I was disappointed to discover a lack of op-shopping opportunities in Taiwan. I was expecting a treasure trove of asian curiosities to rummage through, but alas, not so. Either Taiwanese people don't value recycling furniture and clothes and throw them out, or they hoard them away never to see the light of day. Who knows? So it was of some delight, that I shuffled around this little magpie's nest, adjoining the cafe at the front of the building. It's only small, but the curiosity shop is full of fab knick knacks, gifts, homewares, and the odd pieces of furniture, both retro and contemporary.

The courtyard deck.
Retro bits and pieces.
Fun window display.
The cafe. Exposed beams, clever refurb.
Peaking through the shelves of the curiosity shop into the cafe.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Treasure Hill Arts Village

You would never expect this quaint little neighbourhood to be tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Gongguan. Treasure Hill was formerly a settlement for KMT veterans in the 1940's. It has since been rejuvenated as an environmentally sustainable arts village.

It almost has a Mediterranean feel, as you wander through the jumble of lanes, stairways and rooftops arbitrarily connecting the buildings stacked like building blocks. The hill overlooks the Xindian River and there are many vantage points to appreciate it from.

It remains a residential community, with a few of the homes still inhabited. Other buildings have taken on a new lease of life, some are galleries, studios, cafes and there is even a youth hostel. It is a very welcoming environment, I felt at ease to wander around and experience some of the interactive elements.

(left) View of the village from the base of the hill. (right) Interior of one of the cafes.

(left to right) Wandering up the hill through one of the lanes. Another cute cafe. Making origami
rabbits and eating PB&J sandwiches in the cafe.

(left) Designing an evening lighting display for the village skyline. (right) A painting class
painting landscapes of the village.

(left) Detail of a humourous art installation. (right) Getting interactive and tryingto be
humourous with another installation.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mike's 100 Fav Films

I'm a bit of a fan for compiling lists of personal superlatives. It's a fun way of organising your personality into list form. I've wanted to make my own top 100 films list for a while, mostly to see what it looks like as a complete entity and what it reveals about me. Also, because I love to recommend films.

So what does it reveal? A few things. The most obvious is that I have a penchant for sentimentality; coming of age films, underdogs overcoming obstacles, geeks becoming heroes, ugly ducklings, etc.

It's interesting to note the majority of films are from the 80's and 90's, my formative years. On this note, I have to point out that I called this list my 'fav films', as opposed to 'best films'. Films I like, rather than films I think are 'good'. Hence, a lot of films on this list I have significant emotional connections to. But then others I just find particularly entertaining, gripping or plain funny.

The other interesting thing that came out of this exercise, was noting where and when I saw these films. I was able to categorise the films according to specific periods of my life. For instance; the 80's, on video in my childhood neighbours' living room; early nineties, late teenage years and the independence to decide what films I watch; mid 90's, when I first started working in the cinema in Canberra; late 90's, working in the Prince of Wales Cinema in London; early naughties, the Palace Cinema in Brisbane, late naughties; the Sun Cinema in Melbourne. The films I've chosen from these different periods often reflect who I was and what was going on in my life.

Despite this predominately being an exercise in self indulgence, I hope you enjoy my fav film list. I'm sure it will tell you something about me. I hope it might encourage you to see one of the films. Even better, I hope it might encourage you to make your own list. And if you do, please share it with me!

1 Ferris Bueller's Day Off John Hughes 1986 USA
2 The Piano Jane Campion 1993 NZ/AUS
3 The Color Purple Steven Spielburg 1985 USA
4 Amelie Jean-Pierre Jeunet 2001 France
5 Magnolia Paul Thomas Anderson 1999 USA
6 LA Story Mick Jackson 1991 USA
7 Little Miss Sunshine Jonathan Dayton 2006 USA
8 Once John Carney 2006 Ireland
9 Not One Less Yimou Zhang 1999 China
10 Lost in Translation Sophia Copola 2007 USA
11 The Princess Bride Rob Reiner 1987 USA
12 Cactus Flower Gene Saks 1969 USA
13 Bring It On Peyton Reed 2000 USA
14 A Room with a View Merchant/Ivory 1985 UK
15 Amateur Hal Hartley 1994 USA
16 Edward Scissorhands Tim Burton 1990 USA
17 Bullets Over Broadway Woody Allen 1994 USA
18 Everybody Famous Dominique Deruddere 2000 Belgium
19 The Big Blue Luc Besson 1988 France
20 Love Serenade Shirley Barrett 1996 AUS
21 Orlando Sally Potter 1992 UK
22 Wonderland Michael Winterbottom 1999 UK
23 Fargo Cohen Brothers 1996 USA
24 Parenthood Ron Howard 1989 USA
25 Secrets and Lies Mike Leigh 1996 UK
26 Anne of Green Gables Kevin Sullivan 1985 Canada
27 Tootsie Sydney Pollack 1982 USA
28 Breakfast at Tiffany's Blake Edwards 1961 USA
29 Run Lola Run Tom Tykwer 1998 Germany
30 The Dark Crystal Jim Henson 1982 USA
31 Remains of the Day James Ivory 1993 UK
32 Brokeback Mountain Ang Lee 2005 USA
33 The Ice Storm Ang Lee 1997 USA
34 Baraka Ron Fricke 1992 USA
35 Stand By Me Rob Reiner 1986 USA
36 The Party Blake Edwards 1968 USA
37 Cyclo Tran Anh Hung 1995 Vietnam
38 Slumdog Millionaire Danny Boyle 2008 UK/India
39 All About My Mother Pedro Almoldovar 1999 Spain
40 The Muppet Movie James Frawley 1979 USA
41 Priscilla Queen of the Desert Stephan Elliot 1994 AUS
42 The Castle Rob Sitch 1997 AUS
43 A Fish Called Wanda Charles Crichton 1998 UK
44 The Breakfast Club John Hughes 1985 USA
45 Happiness Todd Holondz 1998 USA
46 Inception Christopher Nolan 2010 USA
47 The Year My Voice Broke John Duigan 1987 AUS
48 Trainspotting Danny Boyle 1996 UK
49 Bend It Like Beckham Gurinder Chadha 2002 UK
50 The Blues Brothers John Landis 1980 USA
51 Aliens James Cameron 1986 USA
52 Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino 1994 USA
53 Terminator 2 James Cameron 1991 USA
54 Being John Malkovich Spike Jonze 1999 USA
55 Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind Michel Gondry 2004 USA
56 The Lives of Others Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck 2006 Germany
57 Pan's Labyrinth Guillermo del Toro 2006 Spain
58 Hedwig and the Angry Inch John Cameron Mitchell 2001 USA
59 Happy Together Wong Kar-Wai 1997 HK
60 Brazil Terry Gilliam 1985 UK
61 Rocky Horror Picture Show Jim Sharman 1975 USA
62 The Wizard of Oz Victor Fleming 1939 USA
63 The Shining Stanley Kubrick 1980 USA
64 ET Steven Spielburg 1982 USA
65 Heathers Michael Lehmann 1988 USA
66 28 Days Later Danny Boyle 2002 UK
67 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Ang Lee 2000 Taiwan/HK
68 Mary & Max Adam Elliot 2009 AUS
69 The September Issue R.J. Cutler 2009 USA
70 Naked Mike Leigh 1993 UK
71 Reservoir Dogs Quentin Tarantino 1992 USA
72 Pleasantville Gary Ross 1998 USA
73 Annie Hall Woody Allen 1977 USA
74 North By Northwest Alfred Hitchcock 1959 USA
75 Like Water for Chocolate Alfonso Arau 1992 Mexico
76 Life of Brian Terry Jones 1979 UK
77 My Neighbour Totoro Hayao Miyazaki 1988 Japan
78 9 to 5 Colin Higgins 1980 USA
79 Happy Gilmore Dennis Dugan 1996 USA
80 Driving Miss Daisy Bruce Beresford 1989 USA
81 It's a Wonderful life Frank Capra 1946 USA
82 Steel Magnolias Herbert Ross 1989 USA
83 Cocoon Ron Howard 1985 USA
84 Ghostbusters Ivan Reitman 1984 USA
85 The NeverEnding Story Wolfgang Petersen 1984 USA
86 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Ken Hughes 1968 USA
87 Mighty Aphrodite Woody Allen 1995 USA
88 Husbands & Wives Woody Allen 1992 USA
89 This Is England Shane Meadows 2006 UK
90 City of God Fernando Meirelles 2002 Brazil
91 Man On Wire James Marsh 2008 USA
92 Soapdish Michael Hoffman 1991 USA
93 Fried Green Tomatoes Jon Avnet 1991 USA
94 Napolean Dynamite Jared Hess 2004 USA
95 Opposite of Sex Don Roos 1998 USA
96 American Beauty Sam Mendes 1999 USA
97 Mulholland Drive David Lynch 2001 USA
98 Babel Alejandro González Iñárritu 2006 USA
99 Notes on a Scandal Richard Eyre 2006 UK
100 Best in Show Christopher Guest 2000 USA

Saturday, August 20, 2011


On the Saturday morning after Fred's surprise birthday t-shirt party, we went for a birthday brunch at VVG Bistro in DunHua.

I would describe the interior as stylish kooky/comfort. It is furnished with the usual mish mash of op-shop treasures that always do their part in making any venue halfway charming. The stand out features though, would be; the huge floor to ceiling windows at the front of the venue looking out into the patio garden, the open modern kitchen in the centre where the on-view food preparation adds to the lively bustle of the venue, and the use of unusual objects as wall decoration like, marbles, elastic bands, pasta, vacuum cleaner tubes, grappling hooks.

We ordered one of the famous set menus each. They were served on huge ceramic trays and consisted of a collection of dishes. Each dish is served in its own unique way, in small portions but together it all adds up to a very generous meal.

VVG encompasses a few venues; the VVG bistro, a restaurant VVG Table next door, a VVG B&B upstairs and an art and design bookstore VVG Something across the road. Their combined presence makes this patch of Taipei real estate ooze with style.

Chefs busy in the kitchen and a full house of dining punters makes for a lively atmosphere.

Huge windows looking onto the garden patio make for a conservatory feel.

Overwhelmed by the size and presentation of our lunch sets.

VVG Something, the art and design book store across the road.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

T-Shirts Just Keep On Coming

Yet another t-shirt party. This time a surprise birthday party for Fred. More of the same; food, fun and creativity.

Designs this time included; squid head, lollipop wielding stranger, embracing kangaroos and the latest in Jason's 'b/d' series, binosaur.

Finished products hanging out to dry, and a weary screen taking a well-earned break.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Taipei Pottery Class

Recently, I mentioned to Fred that I had a hankering to take a pottery class. I wasn't expecting much, maybe just an opportunity to sit at the back corner of a community college and fumble my way through with my limited Chinese.

One evening, Fred asked me to meet him after work in the Zhongshan area. He had a surprise for me. I had a hunch it might be a pottery class, probably at the Museum of Contemporary Art which was in that area. But my suspicions were dispelled when we headed into the shady little lanes off the main street. So curious!

The studio, when we found it, was a pleasant surprise. It is tucked away on one of the many unassuming, non-descript Taipei lanes with no sign, lighting, paintwork, nothing to distinguish it from anything else. It is not big inside, but the space is used economically and comfortably. Everything has its place. The walls are lined with shelves of work in various stages of completion. There are three pottery wheels, a kiln, a sink, bins of clay and glazes, and a work table.

We spoke with the teacher and got a run down on how the classes worked. Simply, you could come in once a week and work on whatever project you wished. He would walk you through the process. He suggested starting with the basic pinch pot and working toward throwing pots on the wheel. This was exactly what I wanted. The only problem was that he couldn't speak English. So Fred was roped into coming along as well. We signed up there and then, and started our classes a week later.

We've been attending our classes for a couple of months now. It is a welcome escape from the tedium and toil of the working week. Just last week, Fred took home our first completed piece, a vase. For an absolute beginner I'm impressed with his skill.

Fred's first two pieces were a mug and bowl using the pinch pot method. Great shape for only using his fingers and thumbs.

Finished pieces set out to dry.

I made a tea set for my first piece. I am in Taiwan, after all.

The tricky part, attaching the spout.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Inspiring Venues IV

This little cafe/bar was a lovely surprise. Unassumingly tucked away on one of Da'An's many lanes. T.Loafer is an incey wincey place that is big on coziness and charm. It is owned by a group of young friends who share the responsibilities of running this sweet little venue.

Primarily it's a hang out, a place to have a cup of tea, coffee, a beer or a bite to eat. They also sell the wares of local creative types like, jewelery, zines, potted plants, postcards, etc.

The main design feature of both the exterior and interior is the mosaic mish mash of windows. There's something about the ramshackleness and the cosy glow from inside that feels fairy tale-ish. Like you've discovered Red Riding Hood's house in the middle of Taipei.

You can find T.Loafer here: No.20, lane 141, sec. 2, Jinshan S Rd, Taipei.