Archive | September 2007

Conversation from Dinner

We were having dinner the other night when some of my friends were telling me what the word was on the street about me:

Me: What?! How do you guys know more about my shit than I do?!

中国嘻哈, Voices of Dissent

One of the things I admire about hip hop in general is its ability to give those who are disadvantaged a musical medium to tell their stories. But I think the Blue Scholars say it best in “Blink”:

It’s said talk is cheap, but war is expensive
I speak cuz it’s free and these words are my weapons

One reason why I’m into Chinese hip hop is because I’m looking for those voices of dissent. Frankly put, there are a lot of sociological problems in China that a very crafty PR campaign nullifies before we hear about it. And the relationship between those who are disproportionately affected by those problems and those who want to say something about it is directly correlated.

Strangely enough, you can get away with some stuff in China, but only if you’re a small fry – one of those kids recording in their rooms and sending it out on the BBS. But in general, the more people that listen to you, the less you can say. That being said, I didn’t find anything like that from China, but I did find it elsewhere.

The first one is from Malaysia, by Kawanku called “My Friends”. The sweet thing about this song is that he raps in Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay. I think the point of the song is to call out the social tensions between Cantonese Chinese, Singaporeans and Malays in order to move people towards resolving them (he literally says this at the end).

The part that I understood the best was the part where he dissed on Singaporeans for being a nation of spoiled and weak willed people. I remember a friend telling me that there was a lot of tension between the two countries, and the prime reason why Singapore has an army to begin with. If you flip through the comments, it created a lot of visceral reactions. But that’s the greatness of this medium.

The next clip is from a Mongolian group called LA Face titled “Fuck Them Chinese”. The little description on this clip talks about the abrasive relationship between the two groups that date back to the dynasty days.

I took a class about minorities in China in college and the Mongolian situation was eerily similar to the ethnic minority situation in America where there is massive pressure to assimilate and dump their cultural heritage. These sorts of things hit especially hard as part of the assimilation process involves the person believing the hype that their cultural heritage is second class, thus leading them to abandon their communities through the act of self hate and interracial racism (wow, did I just type that?).

I don’t understand a single thing in the song. But the fact that it exists is exciting. A lot of conscience hip hop – especially ones that are locally based – serve as a means to get people to move. It’ll be interesting to see how this moves the Mongolian community and perhaps other ethnic minorities in China.

Conversation from Main Street

On my way home a lady stopped me and said:

Lady: Hey! You look like someone…Bruce Lee!

That was actually the first time I got Bruce Lee. For those who have never met me in person, this is what I look like.

Don’t piss me off or I’ll go Jeet Kune Do all over your ass.

中国嘻哈, 北京风格

I’ve had incredible luck pulling tons of Chinese hip hop songs off the web recently. While I haven’t heard nearly enough to know everything, I think I’m starting to hear some regional differences. For sure there are regional differences in attitudes and characteristics in the people; it makes sense that it would be reflected in their music.

I ran across an interesting podcast where this one guy is talking to 杨帆 an MC from the hip hop group 功夫. They start talking about language and words and they get into how people from the South (which they identified as anyone south of Beijing) come up to Beijing and start adding “-er” and “-cher” after everything they say to blend in or be cool.

This happens in hip hop as well. In 2004, Taiwanese R&B star Jay Chou came out with <> as the title track to . That song got a lot of buzz because he used a very heavy Beijing accent.

Likewise, I found this guy 张伯宏 who is a singer in mainland China, but spent much of his youth abroad, who released his own song <> with a heavy Beijing accent to a lot of buzz.

Now, listen to hip hop music that’s actually from Beijing. This is 隐藏 with their song <<在北京>> And then check out <<代表北京>> by Ablazecrew.

I’m assuming that the difference that you hear is that the Beijing native stuff sounds a lot more mainstream and normal whereas the other stuff had a more exotic spin to it. I’m not sure what it means, but there’s a part of me that thinks artists outside of Beijing still see it as the cultural capital of China – but in an old and traditional kind of way.

Beauty as Access

Thanks to all those who commented on the last post about beauty, it was helpful in the direction we eventually took for the project.

I was doing some research for the project and found this article off of Salon.com about a writer’s argument that beauty and aesthetics has a place in the fine arts. However there was a line in there which I’m taking completely out of context to think about. But it’s so strong that I think it can stand on it’s own.

…beauty leads to social equality; that beauty is democratic…

This quote led me to refer back to my idea of combining beauty and access, but this time beauty grants access.

Think back to all the American Idol type of reality shows where kids go in convinced of their own greatness and that great longing to become famous. Then there’s that Sweet Sixteen show where kids set themselves up to be treated like stars. And then Youtube, which is full of kids cam-ing it up, turning themselves into semi-celebs as well.

What this little insight might imply is that beauty for them is way to access fame or to feel famous. This is unique to this generation because celebrity hype and coverage wasn’t as intense for the older generations (at least I don’t think so).

Cultural Exploration: Little White Balls

Culture: Foosball
Values: Sportsmanship, community, kaizen (continuous self improvement)
Types of people: Control freaks, detail oriented, driven,
Places: Sports bars, tournaments, online
Artifacts: Wraps, tables,
Heroes: Jim Stevens, Cindy Head, Jim Wissel, Mike Bowers, Doug Furry, Bob Hayes

In middle school, we would stuff our faces with food as fast as we could and then rush to the foosball tables in the corner of the cafeteria. I’m not sure how we got into the game, but when we did, we were pretty into it.

The interesting thing about the game is that it’s emergence and popularity was completely driven by money (but then, what isn’t these days?). The game came from Germany. When US soldiers were fighting WWI, some of them got to play the game and when they went home, one guy had the idea to import the game.

In the beginning there were two companies that created two different types of tables. One was the Tornado (the kind we see around all the time) and the other one was the smaller, crappier tables where the little guys had blunt feet. The guy who manufactured the crappy tables setup a huge tournament and everyone switched to chase the money.

Tornado Table
Crappy Table

For most of the 70s foosball was huge as the tournaments and awards got bigger. The sport lost out when bars started install arcades instead of tables. And the final nail in the coffin was when organizers failed to pay the winners of this huge tournament that was supposed to revive the sport.

Today, it seems to be on the up again. There was a tournament in Richmond over the weekend with awards in the $10,000 range. There seems to be a clash between the old school players and the newer guys over rules and play. There is also a difference between European and American foosball – one of which is that it’s more of a family game over there while over here it still lives in the bars.

Sources:
http://www.insidefoos.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foosball
http://www.foosmovie.com/

I’m Like that Kid with Down Syndrome

There are a couple of Italian medical types who studied the similarities between Asians and people with Down Syndrome. Observe their brilliance:

“Down persons during waiting periods, when they get tired of standing up straight, crouch, squatting down, reminding us of the ‘squatting’ position … They remain in this position for several minutes and only to rest themselves. This position is the same taken by the Vietnamese, the Thai, the Cambodian, the Chinese, while they are waiting at a bus stop, for instance, or while they are chatting.”

and

“The tendencies of Down subjects to carry out recreative-rehabilitative activities, such as embroidery, wicker-working, ceramics, book-binding, etc., that is renowned, remind [us of] the Chinese hand-crafts, which need a notable ability, such as Chinese vases, or the use of chopsticks employed for eating by Asiatic populations.”

After reading this, I rushed out to the nearest DMV to demand my handicap parking pass only to realize that I don’t have a car.