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Executions of Symbolism

I just found this little computer animated short created by a guy in China hoping to land a job as an animator. I can’t really say when or if I was ever impressed with animation from China, but this is one pretty good. It’s not as smooth as what we’ve expect from Pixar, but it’s only one guy doing it so we’ll have to cut him some slack.

One thing that was interesting was the way he used symbolism to get his anti-war point across. Depending on whether you come from a Western or Eastern sensibility, I’ll bet that you received the imagery quite differently. I caught myself doing that.

At first I thought it was too literal and insulted my intelligence. Then I realized that the execution of the symbolism was, in fact, very entertaining and the value of the piece was in the technique. The symbolism was just a platform to direct our attention to what the director really wants to showcase: his animation prowess.

I wonder if Michael Bay thinks this way?

How Was Your Fish Today?

Late last night I sat down in front of the TV with the intent of staying long enough to finish my soup before I went back to work. But I got caught with this film (How Was Your Fish Today?) about a writer who gets writer’s block and starts living the life of the character he created.

I started it maybe half way in and it was very surreal and strange at the same time as it was filmed documentary style. The plot took the writer (and his character) to Mohe, a desolate Chinese village near the Russian border known for the Northern Lights.

The reason why it’s so interesting is because the writer and his character had this idea of Mohe was like based on textbooks from grade school and word of mouth. The imagery of an artic village without electricity, untouched by civilization was used as a means of inspiration/curiosity and as a sanctuary for another. It ties in very closely with a project I’m doing for class where I have to market Canada as a tourism destination to the world.

Right now, we’re looking at imagery and myths. What kind of myth can we give to Canada and what tone should that myth be told? These images and myths about places don’t usually come from marketing. Instead it sort of exudes itself through culture. A lot of the American myth was constructed through bits and pieces of the culture we export. And a lot is also constructed through people’s experiences and how they retell those stories to their friends (In America, they have hamburgers the size of your head! No kidding!).

The reason why this film is still stuck in my mind is because it seemed very aware of what I just talked about. It had tourist friendly photography of the landscapes. It showed parts of Mohe that it look very relatable but also things that made it seem strange and exotic. And it even had a part where a guy was talking about turning his house into a hostel and getting a computer with internet connection so people can book rooms from abroad.

I’m just saying.

中国嘻哈,北京 vs上海

I somehow stumbled upon a series of videos on Youtube documenting a freestyle battle in Shanghai. They brought in a couple of Beijing rappers and let them loose on stage with the Shanghai guys and this is what happened:

Man, it’s so vicious. A lot of different ways to say I’m gonna fuck you up, fuck your girl and straight up fuck you. It’s interesting that all the Beijing guys are dressed kind of thuggish (if that’s possible) and the Shanghai guys look like random dudes off the street.

If you watch most of the clips, MC Jverson (Shanghai) seems to dominate a lot of the battles, but he just sort of shouts obscenities and really going at people. There was a guy from Hunan that was trying to calm things down. And another Beijing guy that used his time on stage to say “we’re all in this together” (sadly, that’s how long they lasted). And the last clip, Young Kin (Beijing’s finest!) steps in and rips Jverson a new one.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful feud.

中国嘻哈,大妈

When I was in Shanghai a couple of years ago, there would always be these guys who walked around with these long portable grills. They’d setup shop on a street corner and grill these little kebabs that looked pretty gross. It wasn’t until the end of my trip when a friend told me that they sold weed. Check out this link about weed in China.

I’m not too clear on the drug situation in China. I know that people use ecstasy, but only because I walked into club where everyone was on that stuff. But other than that, I assumed that it was a pretty big crime to have it. Which is why I was so surprised to hear this song: 大妈 from 天王星 (as an added bonus, there’s a guy that sounds like Lil’ Jon on this track). EDIT: Or, check out the MV which is titled the cheapest looking MV in all of China by the person who posted it.

天王星 seems to be more popular than most groups – with their weekly radio shows, appearance on TV shows and higher profile concerts – and that usually leads to more scrutiny from the Censors.

Anyways, here’s another weed-related track from MC茶米 a Taiwanese rapper. You can also check out my anywhere.FM profile for other songs.

中国嘻哈,真假靠想法

If I’ve learned anything at school, it’s that there are many different versions of the truth. It all depends on where you are coming from and how you use those past experiences to interpret what you’re seeing.

With that being said, one of China’s first hip hop group 隐藏 had a song called 在北京 (Welcome to Beijing) which was pretty much sounded like a song commissioned by the government’s tourism bureau. Part of the reason for the uninteresting interpretation of Beijing is that out of the four people in that group, only one of them was born in China. And with two of them being white, you can safely assume that their day to day experiences are very different from the typical Beijing-er.

Now, a southern Beijing native 爽子 redid the song to show that some of the more mundane details of the area – boredom, drinking, traffic, Southside ghetto, etc. He even ends the song with就是大北京,能不来就别来! (That’s Beijing, don’t come if you don’t have to!). Check out the song here: 在北京 南城.

中国嘻哈, 中文版

I just finished watching an interview on Mogo.com.cn with MC Webber. The guy asked him about whether or not there was a Chinese hip hop sound or style, to which MC Webber said that there wasn’t because everything they did was inspired by the American hip hop atheistic. Which is true, kind of. Everything I’ve found definitely sounds American-ish, right down to a guy that sounds just like Lil’ Jon. While they have those songs with a lot of Chinese flava’, it’s really just background instrumentals that anyone can really do.

Now, earlier I said, “kind of true” because I have this one song by 爽子 called 爱情史诗 where the chorus is recited the way they recite poems in Chinese. The cadence and voice inflections are unique enough that it can be instantly recognizable for foreign ears. It’s too bad that he didn’t do it for the whole song. But at the same time, doing for a whole song might be a challenge.

However, combine that type of flow with the Chinese instrumentals and the content regarding life in China, then we’ll have definitely have something close to a style of hip hop unique enough to be considered it’s own.

Here’s an example of what it sounds like when they recite Chinese poetry for you to compare to the mp3 above: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dapTFIpLoRs.

Check It!

Hip hop started in China.

This was actually produced by Nokia to promote the N-Series in China. Cool. What’s Cool?