Thursday, 29 April 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 15: Vivienne Westwood for Cole & Son wallpapers

photo © Daniel Groom

One of The Hawaiian Sybarite's favourite anarchists, Dame Vivienne Westwood, has partered with Cole & Son, royal warrant holder and official purveyor of wallpaper to Her Majesty The Queen, to release a hand-printed collection of wallpapers based on Westwood's textile designs.

In 2000, Vivienne Westwood moved from the council estate in Clapham, London where she had lived for 30 years into a Queen Anne style house built in 1703, which once belonged to the mother of Hawaiʻi's most famous stabbing-victim, Captain James Cook.

Perhaps the blank walls and architectural details of her new home in the Queen Anne style—18th century English Baroque—piqued Westwood's interest in period wallpapers. Whatever the impetus for the collaboration between her and Cole & Son, we like the result.

photo © 2010 Cole & Son (Wallpapers) Ltd. All rights reserved.

"It is good when my ideas get carried over into other artistic media. This collection is a perfect opportunity to be able to work with a heritage company like Cole & Son and to see my ideas from fashion translated into the world of interiors and wallpaper," Westwood told Women's Wear Daily.

photo © 2010 Cole & Son (Wallpapers) Ltd. All rights reserved.
The Vivienne Westwood for Cole & Son wallpapers are taken directly from her fashion textiles. An exquisitely detailed trompe-l'oeil tartan print is straight from the designer's iconic plaid runway looks, the "Cut-Out Lace" print is taken from her Spring-Summer 2007 "I am Expensiv" collection, and our favorite wallpaper of the selection,"Squiggle," is based on a pattern that was originally created for the "Pirate" collection of Autumn-Winter 1981.

photo © 2010 Cole & Son (Wallpapers) Ltd. All rights reserved.

Cole & Son have designed and printed wallpaper collections and bespoke designs since 1875, and are the only company in the world to use the original method for hand flocking wallpaper to imitate silk velvet, and are also now one of the last two traditional hand block printers remaining in the world. The company's archive holds approximately 1,800 block print designs, 350 screenprint designs and a huge cache of original drawings and wallpapers representing styles from the 18th century to the present, and a bespoke service is offered for the designs, as well as for custom colorways and hand gilding.

photo © 2010 Cole & Son (Wallpapers) Ltd. All rights reserved.

We appreciate Cole & Son for its elegant use of traditional handcraft while at the same time employing new machine printing technology, advanced papers, metallic links, lustres and foils together with patterns by some of the designers that we like the most, such as Tom Dixon, David Hicks and the iconic Italian artist Piero Fornasetti.

And now, you can add Vivienne Westwood to that list.

photo © 2010 Cole & Son (Wallpapers) Ltd. All rights reserved.

The Vivienne Westwood for Cole & Son wallpapers dont come cheap, with prices ranging from £55 to  £200 (roughly US $80 to $300), but if you are undeterred, the collection is available in North America from Walnut Wallpaper & Trim Shop, 7424 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, USA 90036-2725, (323) 932-9166 and from  Lee Jofa, 101 Henry Adams Street, Suite 490, San Francisco, California, USA 94103-5223, (415) 626-6921.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 14: "As Tears Go By"

"As Tears Go By" may have been written by her future boyfriend, Mick Jagger, together with fellow Rolling Stone Keith Richards and her manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, but to us, the song will always belong to Marianne Faithfull.

Marianne Faithfull originally recorded "As Tears Go By" as a B-side in 1964 when she was 17 years old. Decca, her record company, realized that they had a major hit in "As Tears Go By" and switched the it to an A-side, and the track became hugely popular, both in the UK and the US and in so dong, made Marianne Faithfull a huge star.

In the years following "As Tears Go By," Faithfull's formerly angelic persona shifted to one more associated with her fraught and now finished relationship with Mick Jagger, the unborn child that she miscarried, the overdose and resulting coma that nearly killed her, her subsequent sordid and desperate affairs and, especially, her magnetic attraction to drugs.

Faithfull lived in London and on the streets of New York in the late 1970s, addicted to cocaine and heroin, with her career and personal lives in shambles.

The years of drugs and chronic, untreated laryngitis had, as one journalist wrote at the time, "permanently vulgarized her voice." The once-pure, almost fragile, high soprano had cracked and fallen two octaves into that rarest of female vocal quantities—a genuine contralto.

In 1979, still in the depths of opiate addiction, Faithfull released "Broken English." The listening public hadn't heard from Marianne Faithfull in a decade, and when the album started to spin, the voice knocking at their eardrums was dark, deepened, ragged and altogether different than the wistful innocence of Marianne Faithfull, ca. 1964. What's more, the ablum's lyrics stood in extraordinary contrast to that contained in her previous recordings—explicit tales of infidelity, oral sex, terrorism, aging female angst—which scandalized and polarized public opinion.

However, the album was a supreme critical success and is considered one of the greatest of all time, and certainly the greatest of her career; Faithfull herself simply describes it as "the masterpiece."

A version of "As Tears Go By" was recorded for the 1987 album "Strange Weather," and the dissonance between the voice of 1965's Marianne Faithfull and the Marianne Faithfull of 22 years later shifted the tone of the song from cool longing to world-weary wisdom.

Just last year, Faithfull appeared on an installment of the BBC4 Sessions program with the realease of her latest album "Easy Come, Easy Go." For the first time since the 1960s, she sang "As Tears Go By" to it's full, original arrangement.

Marianne Faithfull's albums are available from iTunes, and are available in both mp3 and CD format from

Additional stockists include:

Barnes & Noble Booksellers Ala Moana Mall, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Suite 1272, Honolulu Hawaiʻi, (808) 949-7307.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 12: Air New Zealand's Skycouch

"Eh-crayft … eh-crayft … not set-ees-fyyed … eh-crayft," were the words coming from Eh No Zillun's (that's probably Air New Zealand, to you) chief executive officer Rob Fyfe during a recent press conference in Auckland, and it appeared that communication was taking place in the room, but we weren't part of it. The language may well have been isiXhosa.  

Oh! Aircraft! Not satisfied! Not satisfied with what Boeing had on offer for Air New Zealand's soon-to-be-delivered 777-300ERs! We finally understood.

Not being satisfied with the prêt-à-porter seating offerings from Boeing and its suppliers, Air New Zealand developed a bespoke Economy Class seat and with it, the Economy Class Skycouch.

"The seats themselves are our Economy seats with armrests that disappear into the back of the seat. There’s also a cup holder, a trinket tray, a winged headrest and a sleep pillow on every seat. What makes the Skycouch different to other Economy seats is the way the trio of seats transform," Air New Zealand's website explains.

"With a touch of a button, a footrest will come out from under each of the three seats which you can pull up to create a flat, flexible space for you to use however you like."

“For those who choose, the days of sitting in economy and yearning to lie down and sleep are gone,’’ Fyfe said in a statement. “The dream is now a reality, one that you can even share with a travelling companion—just keep your clothes on.”

Air New Zealand recognized that its customers are largely leisure travelers, often on overnight long-hauls, so creating an onboard environment conducive to sleep became their highest inflight service priority. Three years on, horizontal seating hardware—to now a bragging right reserved for the plutocracy—in all three service classes has been the result of their toil.

Business Premier, Air New Zealand's business class, remains largely unchanged through the airline's service upgrades and will continue to employ the same swish seat developed and licensed by Virgin Atlantic that converts to a 6' 7.5" bed.

In its updated Premium Economy Class, a class somewhere between YMCA and country club, passengers will enjoy seats and services approaching the standards of the last decade's business classes. Arranged in pairs, the middle column of seats swivel towards one another and a shared dining table/expansive armrest. And while Premium Economy doesn't feature leg-rests, it does feature a charming beanbag chap named Otto who "would like to be an ottoman but [he] isn't quite." Otto and his clones will not even take to the air in earnest for another eight months, but Air New Zealand is already correctly conceding that they "anticipate that these will get stolen in huge numbers."

From December, 22 sets of the Skycouch will be available on Air New Zealand's flights between Auckland and Los Angeles. In 2011, Air New Zealand will introduce its new service concept in all classes on flights to London, whereafter the improvements will be introduced throughout the existing long-haul fleet, making it available to all of the airline’s Asian, North American and United Kingdom destinations by 2012.

Those that are acquainted with The Hawaiian Sybarite will be aware that we find Aotearoa continuously admirable. We find its candid-yet-intelligent informality refreshing, we find its egalitarianism and humanism reassuring and so we find it no coincidence that the first major innovation in economy class hardware since its invention is brought to us courtesy of New Zealand.

Exact pricing for the Skycouch has yet to be announced, but its intended demographics are families traveling with young children, who will be able to stretch out across the trio of seats that comprise each Skycouch, and couples who will purchase their own two seats and also the middle seat at a discount to occupy what Air New Zealand rather grostesquely refers to as its "Cuddle Class."

New Zealand's characteristic humanism was expressed by Air New Zealand's Rob Fyfe, when he identified "the pivotal point that took [Air New Zealand] in a different direction" as "the decision to be about flying people and not about flying planes."

A revolutionary concept, to judge his philosophy against the actions of his airline's competitors. Flying with an Asian airline can be pleasant enough if the social costs of Singapore Girl are ignored, and flying within Europe is often not altogether tortuous, but flying in North America is reminiscent of the worst days of Stalinism.

As for the state of aviation in our archipelagic kingdom, we at The Hawaiian Sybarite thank Mark Dunkerly for raising Hawaiian Airlines up from its bad old days to the solidly acceptable airline that it has become.

It is our advice to airline executives in Tokyo, Beijing, Seattle, Chicago, Fort Worth, Atlanta, Montréal, Copenhagen and Stockholm, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Madrid to visit Auckland and Air New Zealand, immediately, with a pen in your pocket, your company's checkbook in your attaché and your hat in your hands. Ask thoughtful questions, take fastidious notes, and then beg Air New Zealand to license their interior hardware to your airline.

Finally, to the aforementioned list of executives one is missing and must be added—that's you, Mr. Dunkerly. We offer our sincere thanks, but praise such as "acceptable" and "better" and "not as bad as it used to be" simply isn't good enough for us. You've done well, but you've got a long way to go—3814nm to be precise.

Air New Zealand is our preferred transport to New Zealand, Australia and other points in the South Pacific. Air New Zealand now flies from Honolulu to Auckland every Wednesday and Friday evening, with Monday departures added during the airline's summer timetable. Flights to Honolulu depart Auckland on Thursday and Saturday mornings, with additional Tuesday departures this summer.

All images © Air New Zealand Limited 

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 11: The Wishbone at 60

Hans Jørgen Wegner's Wishbone Chair turns 60 this year and in honor of the occasion, the chair's manufacturer, Carl Hansen & Søn, is issuing a limited-edition production of the Wishbone in twelve different colors over the course of 2010, beginning with the four shades of this spring's blue series. In addition, a selection of textiles has been created in cooperation with Kvadrat, in shades matching the 60th-anniversary Wishbone Chairs, to clad the range of Hans Wegner's upholstered furniture also manufactured by Carl Hansen.

Hans Wegner's Wishbone Chairs in shades of blue ($960) are available from dkVogue, Suite New York, 625 Madison Avenue, Suite 218, New York, New York, USA 10022, (212) 421-3300 and from Coporate Culture Australia, 21-23 Levery Street, 2008 Chippendale, New South Wales, Australia, (02) 9690 0077.

For additional stockists, consult Carl Hansen & Søn.

All images © Carl Hansen & Søn A/S

Quality of Life Improvement 10: Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller, Asgaya-dihi in Cherokee, died on April 6. She was 64.

Mankiller's life-story is worthy of a book and, thankfully, she wrote one.

The sixth of eleven children, she was born on the Cherokee reservation in rural Oklahoma but her family was moved to San Francisco's Tenderloin in 1942 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Indian Relocation Program, despite the fact that no one in the family had the remotest conception of a "city." At 17 she married an Ecuadorian college student, had two daughters and later graduated from San Francisco State University, notably participating in the Occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969.

in 1977 she divorced and returned to Oklahoma and to the Cherokee Nation. Two years later, Mankiller was gravely injured in a head-on automobile collision, and she continued to suffer from a multitude of other ailments throughout the remainder of her life including myasthenia gravis, a kidney transplant, breast cancer, lymphoma and pancreatic cancer.

Storied preamble notwithstanding, the singular characteristic that made Wilma Mankiller "one of the most influential Native Americans in America" was the power of her conviction to rewrite her own constitution—in the process becoming the Cherokee Nation's first female principal chief.

During her tenure as chief she saw the population of the Cherokee Nation grow from 55,000 to 156,000, raised $20 million for infrastructure projects on the Cherokee Reservation and also attempted to reunite the Cherokee of Oklahoma with the Eastern Cherokee of North Carolina. Mankiller was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, the John W. Gardner Leadership Award and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993, as well as the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame. In an intriguing side-note, in 1994 Mankiller and the singer Patsy Cline were among the inductees into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

An accomplished and best-selling author, Mankiller published two books: "Mankiller: A Chief and Her People" and "Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women."

Gloria Steinem said in a review of "Mankiller: A Chief and Her People" that "As one woman's journey, Mankiller opens the heart. As the history of a people, it informs the mind. Together, it teaches us that, as long as people like Wilma Mankiller carry the flame within them, centuries of ignorance and genocide can't extinguish the human spirit."

Wilma Mankiller humbly explained her seemingly supernatural imperturbability by a complete absence of fear of death that came from her many encounters with her own mortality.

In the month before her death, she issued a statment explaining to her family and friends that she was "mentally and spiritually prepared for this journey; a journey that all human beings will take at one time or another. I learned a long time ago that I can't control the challenges the Creator sends my way but I can control the way I think about them and deal with them."

"On balance, I have been blessed with an extraordinarily rich and wonderful life, filled with incredible experiences. And I am grateful to have a support team composed of loving family and friends," Mankiller continued. "It's been my privilege to meet and be touched by thousands of people in my life and I regret not being able to deliver this message personally to so many of you."

Quality of Life Improvement 9: David Hicks

There's a special place in our hearts at The Hawaiian Sybarite for designer David Hicks, and we would like to think of him as a kindred spirit. The New York Times obituary for Hicks remarks that he was "[k]nown for his love of graphic color combinations as well as for a temperament that veered between disarming charm and apoplectic rage." We can only dream of having such praise lavished upon us after we've died.

Written by his son Ashley Hicks, "David Hicks: a life of design" is a richly-illustrated survey of the designer's career. Ashley Hicks has had unprecedented access to Hicks’ archives, personal photos, journals, and scrapbooks, and he has produced a monograph that leaves the reader with an understanding of the atmospheric, regal oases that Hicks spent his life working to create.

''My greatest contribution as an interior designer has been to show people how to use bold color mixtures, how to use patterned carpets, how to light rooms and how to mix old with new,'' Hicks himself wrote in his 1968 volume "David Hicks on Living—with Taste." His interiors were highly controlled and carefully considered, though Hicks was no minimalist. He stood outside of identifiable design-idioms and created the jet-set chic of the 1960s, with a clientele to match.

His interiors juxtaposed neoclassical antiques with Modernist furniture, Georgian and Victorian architecture with modern, geometric prints, all in a riotous color palette that often included shades that ranged from purple, maroon, crimson, magenta to the brightest pink. According to his wife, Lady Pamela Hicks, a glossy brown paint was eventually added to his palette after she began throwing glasses of Coca-Cola at him during moments of marital discord.

Hicks' outsized personality often overshadowed even his boldest work.

''He was an absolute volcano to live with, but so life enhancing,'' Lady Pamela said. ''I already miss his slamming of doors. David filled your sails with his enthusiasms. When I met him, I was visually blind, always with my nose in a book. He opened my eyes.''

His tantrums, his pedanticism, his domineering, his perfectionism, his his brilliant creativity, his love of grand gestures and passionate scenes and the operas of Richard Wagner—his affection for playing Wagner at ear-piercing volumes is legendary—none of these traits could have been excised.

Even after death, Hicks continued to exert his formidable power. He left epic instructions about for the disposition of his body in a document titled "The Demise of David Hicks." Among other final requests, the hearse was to be "a trailer pulled behind a Range Rover festooned with ivy," the funeral was to be held on Saturday at a 15th-century church near his home and his coffin was to be filled with his obituaries and press-notices.

David Hicks' confident refusal to follow anything but his own intuition created a style that often seems avant-garde today. He is remembered fondly by his design descendants, notably Kelly Werstler and Jonathan Adler, who draw on all periods, past and future, appreciate all design philosophies and use who don't hesitate to use all colors, just as David Hicks did generations earlier.

Hicks' detractors remind us that the patterned carpet lining the halls of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" is, in fact, Hicks' most famous pattern, "Hicks' Hexagon", and his connection with the dark, satanic energy that consumes Jack Torrance in the film is no coincidence. These same committed un-funsters often remind us also of Hicks' famous idolization of Richard Wagner and his famous love of Wagner's music, in specific his love of Wagner's marathon, six-hour apocalyptic opera Götterdämmerung. A person who likes Wagner is already suspected of being a dangerous sociopath, so their logic goes, and actually enjoying his operas, Götterdämmerung no less, simply proves the case that he was a talentless, degenerate pervert.

Maybe we shouldn't tell you this, but Götterdämmerung is our favorite opera, too.

"David Hicks: a life of design" from Rizzoli is available on and is available locally at Barnes & Noble Booksellers Ala Moana Mall, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Suite 1272, Honolulu Hawaiʻi, (808) 949-7307

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 8: Hitachino Nest Beer

Arne Jacobsen, architect and one of the godfathers of Danish-Modernism, was asked about the formation of his philosophy of æsthetics.

"A pastry usually tastes better if it looks nice," he said. "A cream pastry, now that looks nice—in fact, there is nothing I mind as long as it looks nice."

We at The Hawaiian Sybarite live by these sage words, and we fall hard for beautifully-designed packaging. Rarely is it that we see packaging as nice looking as the Hitachino Nest line of beers. We were entirely ready to enjoy Hitachino Nest solely for the novelty of its packaging, but were surprised by the quality of its contents. This is excellent beer.

Kiuchi Brewery (木内酒造) of Naka, Japan, began brewing Hitachino Nest Beer in 1996. Kiuchi's history stretches back to 1823, when the company was founded to produce sake and shōchū (焼酎). In the 1990s, Kiuchi struck upon the rather clever idea of using the techniques and implements—and even ingredients—for the manufacture of sake and shōchū in the brewing of beer, thus hatching Hitachino Nest Beer.

The Hitachino Nest Beers are top-fermented ales and, at the time of writing, are brewed in no less than 13 varieties: Amber Ale, Espresso Stout, Ginger Ale (and another version that Kiuchi curiously refers to as "Real Ginger Ale"), Japanese Classic Ale, New Year Celebration Ale, Pale Ale, Red Rice Ale, Sweet Stout, Weizen, White Ale, and XH, a Belgian Strong Ale that matures for three months in shōchū casks.

Hitachino Nest's White Ale is a Belgian-style witbier, surprisingly creamy and deeply spicy. Kiuchi has strongly-spiced theier White Ale with clove and coriander, and, in the tradition of Belgian witibers, there are strong suggestions of citrus. The clove lingers after you've enjoyed the last of this beer, and there's little sweetness to it, which makes it an ideal pairing with Japanese food.

New Year Celebration Ale seems to us at The Hawaiian Sybarite to be an obvious descendant of the Scandinavian breweries' tradition of releasing special Christmas- and New Year's-beers. Like its Nordic antecedents, Hitachino Nest's Celebration Ale is sweeter and spicier than traditional beers, with aromas originally drawn from Gløgg, the season's mulled red wine.

Kiuchi's Celebration Ale has all the requisite ingredients in well-crafted harmony: cinnamon, citrus, plenty of coriander, nutmeg and vanilla. The ale itself is eminently enjoyable, but we encourage you to take note of the bottle and its labeling; we think that it's the most arresting packaging we've encountered, with a representation of Fuji-san reminiscent of Hokusai and our favorite owl friend front-and-center flying dangerously close to cute overload territory but ultimately winging away from the precipice.

The Red Rice Ale pours guava-hued with a head both tinted and scented strawberry, courtesy of this beer's eponymous ingredient. It is surprisingly sweet and also surprisingly sake-like, owing its fermentation by sake-yeast and its 7% alcohol-by-volume content—give us the keys to your car now and let Kiuchi Brewery—their owl—take you on a journey.

The Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale is rumored to be the last Red Rice beer in the world, and if you like your beer boozy, exotic, fruity, malty and subtly-complex, drink up. After all, the owl always was the wisest of all birds.

Hitachino Nest Beers are available at Whole Foods Market, 4211 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu Hawai‘i, 96816-5340, (808) 738-0820.

For additional stockists, consult Kiuchi Brewery or, in the United States, B. United International Inc.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 7: the Non Random Light from Moooi

© Moooi B.V.

Moooi, the Dutch design house founded by industrial designer Marcel Wanders, can rightfully claim to have created one of the 21st century's first design classics in 2001 with Bertjan Pot's Random Light.

Pot's bird's-nest-like globe of spun fiberglass soaked in epoxy resin was originally constructed by hand, but demand eventually became such that a switch to mechanized production was necessary.

It should have been obvious at the time, but machines have a difficult task in manufacturing truly random structures. The paradigm of enforced uniformity and precision inherent in mass-manufactuing inspired the Random Light's designer Bertjan Pot to create a design tangential to the Random Light, one that capitalized on uniformity and precision.

The result is the appropriately-named Non Random Light.

© Moooi B.V. 

While crafted from the same materials as its "random" sibling—fiberglass and epoxy resin—the Non Random Light gives an altogether different quality of light. The Random Light gives an omni-directional light, but in the Non Random Light, the bulb is carefully concealed by the light's reflector, which concentrates most of the light downwards. As light passes through the strands of fiberglass it illuminates the entire nest of the structure and, through a shoji-like effect, allows flattering light to softly fill its intended space.

© Bertjan Pot

The Non Random Light from Moooi is available at Cliq Lighting Gallery at Honolulu Design Center, 1250 Kapiolani Boulevard, Honolulu Hawaiʻi 96814-2803, (808) 956-1250.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 6: The Waikīkī Edition, the first Edition Hotel to open from hoteliers Ian Schrager and Bill Marriott

Photo courtesy of francesjane. 

Honolulu has long been in need of a new hotelier to clear the stagnancy that has settled over O‘ahu's hospitality trade.

Ian Schrager, together with Bill Marriott, may be the hoteliers to do it.

Ian Schrager—yes, that Ian Schrager, of Club 54 fame—established the Edition Hotels & Resorts brand with J.W. Bill Marriott, Junior—yes, that Bill Marriott, of Marriott Hotels fame—to, as the Marriott website enthuses, "combine the personal, individualized and unique hotel experience that Mr. Schrager created with the operational expertise Marriott is known for."

From the foregoing explanation it should be apparent that the Edition Hotels & Resorts are not going to be in any way boutique hotels, but instead tarted-up Marriotts. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Ian Schrager created the concept of the boutique hotel in 1984 with the opening of his Morgans Hotel in New York City. Schrager started with a derelict 1927 flop-house that happened to have excellent bones, his Morgans Hotel Group inexplicably managing to purchase the structure while also using it as collateral. He then retained the services of the venerable Parisienne interior designer Andrée Putman, without whose expertise the boutique hotel as we know it might well have never been born.

The Morgans Hotel was a tremendous success, and Schrager opened eight hotels over the following 15 years, each with French post-modernist designer Philippe Starck. The Royalton and Paramount in New York, the Delano in Miami, and the Mondrian in West Hollywood soon followed, all masterful examples of stylish packaging selling average hardware.

What Schrager hotels did possess was a sense of arrival and occasion. His hotels made people feel glamorous and sleek, and those reasons are enough for many members of his demographic to overlook poky rooms or thin walls or non-existent services.

Schrager and Starck perfected their formula of gloss and surreal yet carefully considered idiosyncrasies at a string of properties, including New York's mammoth, 1000-room Hudson Hotel. Housed in the former headquarters of PBS-affiliate WNET and with a face that only a father could love, the Hudson compensated for it's cell-like rooms with public spaces pulsing with zeitgeist. After opening the Clift Hotel in San Francisco and the Sanderson and the St. Martin's Lane Hotels, both in London, Schrager divested himself from the Morgans Hotel Group in 2005 to concentrate his energies on his Gramercy Park Hotel project in New York, crafted in close collaboration with artist Julian Schnabel and, now, the Edition Hotels venture with Marriott International.

The first property in the Edition Hotels portfolio is rumored to be opening this July, in Honolulu. While July is only slightly less than two months forward, details remain illusive, but from what our sources have told The Hawaiian Sybarite, "The Waikīkī Edition" will occupy the building that was known formerly as the ʻilikai Hotel's Yacht Harbor Tower and will offer 350 rooms.

Apart from those precious few details, Honolulu's FOX affiliate KHON 2 reported that "[o]ne part of the redevelopment involves bringing in internationally known Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto to open Morimoto Waikiki Restaurant."

Ian Schrager's foremost talent always was, and remains, the contriving of compelling spectacles. Schrager's website credits him with the creation of "pioneering concepts" such as "the hotel as home away from home, the hotel as theater, 'cheap chic', 'lobby socializing', the indoor/outdoor lobby, the urban resort, and the urban spa."

It has been our experience of Schrager's hotels that they are very much like the fashion world's top models: fulfilling objects for idolatry and pleasant enough to look at—as long as it's remotely. But once you pay the near-extortionate price to get close enough for the satisfaction you've been conditioned to crave, you see how tawdry and threadbare and, often, just plain ugly they are without the flattering lighting and the cocophany of media hype.

Still, we'll take Schrager's overpriced and under-delivered universe of "hotel as theater" over the recent decades of the Hawaiʻi tourism-industry's stubborn commitment to mediocrity. A combination of vast overdevelopment, cruel underpricing, wrong-headed marketing, absentee American and Japanese landlords, local slothfulness and simple, vulgar greed have left Hawaiʻi resting on its laurels with an embarrassing bric-a-brac of failures of innovation in the visitor-industry.

It is the hope of The Hawaiian Sybarite that Ian Schrager will lead Marriott and its hulking, tasteless horde towards a more sensitive, more well-designed, and hopefully, more stylish future. We hope that Schrager will present alternatives to the sterile sameness of the typical Marriott property, et al, and we maintain the hope that he will introduce a concept for the Hawaiian hotel of the 21st century that doesn't rely on shameful acts of cultural prostitution or environmental degradation.

The marriage of Ian Schrager and Bill Marriott, Jr. is one whose days are seemingly numbered from the beginning. Ian Schrager is a wheeler-dealer, an æsthete, an ex-con and will forever be powdered with the excessive glamour of the late 1970s, whereas Bill Marriott is a conservative, Latter-day Saint businessman, the son of a conservative, Latter-day Saint root beer salesman. How exactly the businessman behind Studio 54 and the businessman representing the polyester of religions will pool their respective talents and synergize remains baffling to us at The Hawaiian Sybarite, but we are hoping that the opening of The Waikīkī Edition will be just the boot in the ass that all hoteliers in Hawaiʻi need in order to raise their game to a level that begins to befit our archipelago.

Quality of Life Improvement 5: "Wave" by Antônio Carlos Jobim

We at The Hawaiian Sybarite find much to admire in Antônio Carlos Jobim—Tom Jobim to us. We admire him for essentially creating bossa nova, together with João Gilberto and Vinicius de Moraes in Rio de Janeiro in six short years from 1958, the year when everything happened, as far as we're concerned. We admire him for leaving us with a songbook of jazz standards that includes "A Felicidade," "Agua de Beber," "Corcovado," "Desafinado," "One Note Samba," "Wave," and his valentine to Cariocas, "The Girl from Ipanema."

Above all else, we admire him for being a romantic.

"My work is all a song of love to Brazil, my land, people, flora and fauna—from the sight of my window or the window of the airplane."

Jobim studied architecture and even worked in an architect's office, but quickly realized that he'd much rather be spending his days playing the piano than sweeping eraser dust from his drafting table. A life of quiet fulfillment through rationality wasn't for him. (As an aside, we at The Hawaiian Sybarite have found ourselves in the same situation—except that we can't read music—and Jobim's life gives us hope that we may one day be called to the greatness that awaits us.) 

Jobim began his career as a professional musician by performing in bars and clubs during the early 1950's in Copacabana. It was in these bars that his unique talent as a musician was recognized and he was signed to a record company where he was first employed to arrange other artists' work. Gradually he became a more active composer, performer and recording-artist, and the result was bossa nova.

When speaking of the outstanding albums of Tom Jobim's catalogue, we're embarrassed for choice, but 1967's "Wave" is our personal favorite.

"Wave" is much too short at just over 30 minutes. Not that the album doesn't contain track after track of masterful tone-poems, we'd simply like the album to continue indefinitely. If there was ever a soundtrack for the days when a black cloud is stationed over your head, this is it.

An album to be savored in its entirety, we suggest listening to it while relaxing supine at sunset with a caipirinha close at hand. While doing so, keep an ear open for title track "Wave," as well as "Batidinha," and "Triste."

"Wave" seizes the relaxed joy of Brazil but just underneath the surface, it also captures the wistful recognition that this world can be a dark place, and there may be a light some place, but you don't know where. 

What makes the Brazilian personality and particularly the outlook of Cariocas so admirable is their seemingly effortless ability to both recognize their own suffering and then choose to forget it. There may be potentially terminal catastrophes. The planet is in peril. There is exploitation and sadism and abuse and indifference, but Brazilians are going to carry on having a good time in spite of the misery around them.

Those from the sober north may often consider this philosophy at best Dionysian and at worst, infantile and superficial. In his inimitable manner, Jobim answered that criticism.

"This is a country that prostitutes enjoy, where the dealers snort and where a used car is worth more than a new car. Is this or is this not a country standing on its head? Brazil is standing on its head, and if you say it's standing on its head, then put your head upside down, you see that it's head up."

"Wave" is available from iTunes, and is available in both mp3 and CD format from, but for the most authentic experience, we at The Hawaiian Sybarite highly recommend the vinyl release of "Wave," also availble from

Additional stockists include:

Barnes & Noble Booksellers Ala Moana Mall, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Suite 1272, Honolulu Hawaiʻi, (808) 949-7307

Friday, 16 April 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 4: Muji Wall-Mounted CD Player

Muji's slick wall-mounted CD player has long been available to neophiles in Asia and Europe and is, at long last, finally for sale in the Western Hemisphere through the MUJI USA online store.

Inspired by classic ventilation fans, Muji's wall-mounted CD player is operated by pulling on its dangling electrical cord. We at The Hawaiian Sybarite admire immensely such simplicity in a world of ever-increasing technocratic complication, and apparently we're not the only ones admiring the design; the CD player is part of the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art.

We've been fans of designer Naoto Fukasawa (深澤直人) for some time, appreciating his ability to create products in which sophisticated technology is elegantly simplified by a rational, clarified, æsthetic shell. He has elevated hair dryers to design objects for National Matsushita and his refreshingly simplistic mobile-telephones for KDDI (株式会社, KDDI Kabushiki Gaisha) present a counterpoint to the ophidian technology foisted upon the public by iPhone and friends. Fukasawa's designs for Japanese firm Plus Minus Zero include a much talked-about flat-screen television that resembles cathode ray tube televisions of the 1950s because, as he said, “It’s not about making things thin just because you can."

Muji (無印良品, Mujirushi Ryōhin), has, since its formation in 1989, distinguished itself by its minimalistic approach to design and its marketing ethos wherein Muji goods are "lower priced for a reason." Mujirushi Ryōhin is translated as "No Brand Quality Goods" on Muji's European website, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Muji "aspires to modesty and plainness" while declaring itself to be "rational, and free of agenda, doctrine, and 'isms.'"

With that explained, Muji also informs on their website that "the heart of Muji design is the Japanese concept of 'Kanketsu,' the concept of simplicity," a philosophy that imparts "a quiet sense of calm into strenuous everyday lives."

A quiet sense of calm is all well and good in a zendō, but there are few things that we at The Hawaiian Sybarite like more than forgotten, trash music from the 1980s being played loud enough to reverberate through the fillings in our teeth.

If you are inclined to join us, the Muji wall-mounted CD player ($178) is available directly from MUJI USA and the MUJI USA online store.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 3: Monoi—the fountain of youth does, in fact, exist in « la Nouvelle Cythère »

Monoi is reputed to mean "sacred oil" in reo-Tahiti, the Tahitian language. While there are no linguists here, we can write with confidence on the qualities of the product itself; Monoi smells heavenly.


Created from the Tiare (Gardenia Taitensis), the national flower of Tahiti where it grows in luxuriant profusion, and Copra oil, Monoi was previously reserved solely for the chiefly class, the Ari‘i. Now, the term "Monoi oil" is a protected Appellation of Origin which requires Monoi to be manufactured in Tahiti of Tahitian materials under strict, specific conditions. The involved production of Monoi requires that at least 15 unopened Tiare flowers be mascerated in each liter of refined Copra oil for a period of at least 15 days.

Monoi has the mysterious ability to reduce the signs of aging—something about stimulating collagen production and improving microcirculation through hydration, we've been told. Whatever the reason, it works. 

When Captain James Cook arrived in Tahiti, he observed Tahitians using the oil in myriad circumstances, both sacred and profane.

Monoi was used to lubricate the skin of newborns and to prepare the bodies of the recently deceased for their transit to the afterlife. Tahitians carried Monoi in their vaa (outrigger canoes) on their jaunts to Hawai‘i and Aotearoa so that their mariners could protect their skin from the elements and dehydration; divers used it for the same reason, and still do.

To the original Monoi formula has been added new ingredients, including: flowers Pitate (Pīkake/Arabian Jasmine), Santal (Sandalwood) and Tipanie (Plumeria/Frangipani); sunscreen/UV filters; and iodine (to accentuate the appearance of a suntan).

Our advice? We're traditionalists and so we are partial to the original Monoi formula, but if you prefer a subtly exotic yet more discreet and masculine fragrance, we suggest Monoi Santal. If you must try something different, both Tipanie and Pitate are mostly inoffensive, but in our opinion they're no improvement over the classic Monoi.

Avoid Monoi Rouge with iodine as well as Monoi products with an SPF factor and use a proper sunscreen instead. If you happen to burn, Monoi will help to relieve the pain and heal the skin. And speaking of pain, cosmetics company Nars is marketing an attractive 4 oz. bottle of classic Monoi—for over seven times the price of its Tahitian import siblings.

We should also suggest passing-over Monoi Coco (Coconut). While not offensive, it is a gourmand scent, which is the problem. If you do choose to slather Monoi Coco over your nubile flesh don't be surprised if a bartender adds crushed ice, a pineapple wedge and a cocktail parasol to your décolleté, since you'll smell oddly similar to a Piña Colada.

Monoï Tiki Tahiti brand Monoi Oils ($7.59) are available at Longs Drug Store, Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu Hawai‘i, (808) 941-4433.

Additional stockists include:

Whole Foods Market, 4211 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu Hawai‘i, 96816-5340, (808) 738-0820
Monoi Tiare Tahiti

Quality of Life Improvement 2: some good time on the couch

Our family and friends may listen to our tales of woe but sometimes an expert's training is necessary, and the experts do not come any finer than Dr. Clare Rountree.

Many—indeed most—psychotherapists are able to milk their clients' teenage angst or familial frustrations indefinitely; it's just good business and though we may not be much, we're all we think about.

The Hawaiian Sybarite has determined that most psychotherapists are businesspeople first and problem-solvers second, if ever. Bearing that in mind, an introduction to Dr. Rountree comes as completely surprising because, in her, a person finds a rare example of a therapist that is actually a professional practicing their craft with skill and care and integrity.

Maybe your mother gave you sponge-baths until you were 17 or maybe when you were a child you had acne and braces but no friends or future or maybe even still you're a sad tomato (boo-hoo)—no matter.

Have a sit and let it all out. Nothing is intractable. You could be much worse off.

You could be Amy Winehouse or Pete Doherty.