March 28, 2014 7:46 pm

How to enter a theatre when late – and China’s flair for fashion

‘Chinese women put into trousers after the 1949 revolution were years ahead of Yves Saint Laurent’

Several readers have sent in their comments on my view that my motherland China, already a great power, will still need many decades to usurp the superpower status of the US. It is all fairly erudite stuff, although an agony column like this, largely designed to ignite a giggle or two at the weekend, might not be the best platform on which to continue the debate. Suffice it to say, in the 4,000 years of our history, we have never managed to design a comfortable chair, still less a sofa.

I am particularly intrigued by how modern Chinese taste and style will develop in this generation. It doesn’t augur well looking at the consequences of the collapse of the USSR and the Berlin Wall. The Russians who have all the means, legally or illegally, to lead the world in a new fashion have instead accentuated vulgarity and the worst kind of bling that would make Fabergé spin in his grave. And looking at my rich compatriots, I am afraid I have also witnessed mindless excesses without any acorns of originality.

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David Tang

I hope the young Chinese generation will make haste and not forget that for China to be truly great, she must encourage a renaissance of art and culture that would lead her newfound wealth, and not let the wealth take the lead simply towards sheer monetary greed. We have to reverse from the devastation of the cultural revolution. But however depressing the era of Mao was, the way women were put into trousers after the 1949 revolution meant that we were years ahead of Yves Saint Laurent who has always been credited, wrongly, in the west as the fashion guru who invented pants for women. I’d love to see more of such an example.

. . .

What is the proper way to enter a seating row in an orchestra hall when many patrons are already seated? Private parts facing those seated or buttocks? (Many do not stand as a courtesy, including women.) I find both somewhat offensive, particularly when I am seated and standing or when sliding aside is often difficult given the tight spacing of the rows. Ahem, with sometimes – too-often – offensive odours following. A reason to keep a box, surely, but often not practical.

There is no satisfactory solution especially when the gap between the rows is tight, which is indeed usually the case in a concert hall or theatre. So you might contrive to get to your seats at the last possible moment yourself and become the late comer. Then the lesser of two evils is definitely sliding through facing the stage because then at least you wouldn’t be caught by an ocean of eyes giving you funny looks. Besides it’s easier to arch forward than backwards. The only disadvantage is, as you point out, the possibility of any involuntary fragrant activation on your part. That would be most unfortunate and the only thing to do would be to get to your seat as quickly as possible and look dramatically dismayed in order to create the impression that somebody else is the culprit.

Wearing a box would be a little too dramatic. Just consider its scratching sound against the back of the seats. Your suggestion reminds me of the time when the captain of England’s women’s cricket team was asked to name the equivalent of the box that she and her team would wear. Her answer: “a manhole cover”!

. . .

One should not just thank waiters but also, in establishments where they announce their names before reeling off the specials or sport name badges, try to remember and address them by name. A waiter is usually treated as an unseen, anonymous servant. In fact, most good restaurants train them to be as unobtrusive as possible. If you treat them as human beings, chances are that the quality of service provided will magnify 1,000 times.

I dislike waiters coming over to the table, announcing their names and regurgitating the plats du jour. Some of them stumble over the ingredients and some declaim as if they were casting for an acting part, although that is precisely what a lot of them are in LA or Noo Yawk; doing part-time jobs to survive the harsh reality of an aspiring acting career, hoping one day a producer or director among the diners will be impressed by a good memory for lines. For me, I have no desire to remember their names. I just like to study the menu myself, although the print is nowadays minuscule and illegible for anyone over 30 years old.

I would like readers to post comments and questions online at the end of articles rather than via email. That way we can have a debate of spontaneous and dynamic responses, an arena for opposing views.

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