Friday, December 30, 2005

One of those things that you just don't need to see

Is Andy Lau's fricking face smiling at you on a sticker on the toilet, describing the toilet as our lifelong friend. I don't care if everyone has to use the toilet, Andy Lau, not every toilet needs a sticker with your face on it.

蓋世英雄 Heroes Of Earth

So I just bought 王力宏's new CD 蓋世英雄. As I've mentioned before, Wang Leehom has recently stated that he wants to revive Chinese interest in their own culture by sampling from it in his music. His first CD after this "chinked-out" thing, 心中日月 was in my opinion anyway, kind of dissapointing, and honestly kind of derivative. I don't think you can reSinify Chinese culture by copying Usher or Justin Timberlake (who is really copying from Michael Jackson, but that's a whole other story.)

Anyway, this second CD, in my humble opinion fulfills on the promise of 心中日月。There are definitely a couple tracks such as 在梅邊 and 蓋世英雄 that sound like hiphop and don't sound like they're borrowed from anyone. Also, they do seem to fuse Chinese music in particular Chinese traditional opera, with hiphop, which is a substantial accomplishment. Part of this may be just that I'm a Chinese nerd and I like 牡丹亭。

It's also interesting to me that Wang Leehom chose to collaborate with Jin the MC briefly the first (and only) Asian American with a contract with a major hiphop label. The sarcastic part of me would like to comment that perhaps this is why this is why the authenticity of his hiphop has increased so dramatically between the two albums. I would say that I now think that Wang Leehom raps about as well as Jay Chou, I mean that in a good way. Jin is sounding good, I've always thought he was good, but his first CD really sucked. I haven't heard the other one, although I'm curious about it.

Supposedly, according to a rather dubious source, (the Internet), Wang Leehom found his inspiration for this album from watching Farewell My Concubine, ironic considering that this film has frequently been criticized for selling Chinese exoticism to the West and certainly for a certain lack of authenticity in its portrayal of opera. I find it interesting that artists in Asia seem to be attracted to the figures in "Asian" culture that the West takes an interest in, martial arts heroes, opera, ninjas etc. I mean, if Jay Chou and Wang Leehom are taking their lead from Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, frequently attacked by critics for shameless self-Orientalism, then this becomes a post-colonialist's headache doesn't it. I can almost think of the word for it, some thing about a simulacrum right?

Also, in a similar gesture of Pan Asianism, Korean megastar Rain is also featured on this album. Furthermore, I've just remembered that both Chen Kaige's 無極 and 如果愛 feature Korean (male) leads, as did Jackie Chan's The Promise. What is going on here?

Also, one final question, I've been feeling that the writing on this blog due to working more or less fulltime and studying Chinese equals lack of time equals less coherent writing. Thoughts?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Hong Kong Movies

Here, I sometimes watch Hong Kong movies here. And I find that I'm introduced to the depths of sleaze and someitmes some pretty cool movies. It's interesting how Asian cinema translates here, some filmmakers that are really well known in the West, like Wong Kar-wai, aren't really big here although people sort of know who they are.

And there are megastars here, who aren't known in America at all because they never do artsy stuff, mostly just commercial things. So before I moved here I never knew who Miriam Yeung, Daniel Wu, Sammi Cheng etc. etc. were although their faces are used to cell almost anything and everything here. At the same times, I'm also starting to figure out why Chinese people get disgusted with Hong Kong movies because a lot of them are sort of dumb and rely on bathroom humor. Also the film world seems much smaller so the same people show up again and again and again, aka Chapman To who plays the same dumb character in every movie that he's in. Also, only the super good movies from Hong Kong make it over the ocean, so we're spared all of the pop star vehicles etc.

Also, why is it that these big name Chinese directors are all starting to make martial arts movies. First we had Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon which then seemed to spawn numerous people trying to cash in on the same trend. Hero by Zhang Yimou, The House of Flying Daggers (which in Chinese I believe is a much less Oriental name), Seven Swords which I'm not sure will make it over to the States, and now The Promise, apparently going to be renamed Master of the Crimson Armor (great job, Miramax) for stateside release. These all seem to have a similar sort of artsy melocholy combined with high budget special effects, bright colors and beautiful scenery. Also, the actors they employ are generally not trained martial artists. I enjoyed Crouching Tiger and I even saw it three times, but I kind of wish that it hadn't sparked this visually sumptuous, melancholy tale model that Chinese directors seem to have to follow to get released. Mostly because it means directors try the martial arts genre that really shouldn't, and the movies don't seem that fantastic. Also, it means they're all more or less the same, like how it seems that Japanese directors all have to make horror movies which involve women with long uncombed hair and white dresses.

Also, as nice as it is to see ancient China portrayed on screen, it would be nice to see Asian people in modern situations that don't involve gangsters. Maybe a nice romantic comedy and not just a Hollywood remake. What's now interesting is people like Jay Chou now borrow the same aethetic, ancient Chinese setting, love triangle, lots of red, sad ending, in their music videos. More on this later possibly.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Botanical Gardens Part 3

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Botanical Gardens Round 2 Part 2

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Botanical Gardens Round 2

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Christmas

For most of you Christmas is just beginning, but for me it's almost over. I spent them at the Botanical Gardens and then later at Taipei 101 with friends. I had a really nice time. Afterward, we went back to Heather's (my former) house and played Uno and watched TV.

I still miss people at home, but it was nice to spend Christmas in a low key way with friends. Otherwise, I have been watching Inuyasha and One Piece two series that run constantly on Channel 62.

Today was a good day. Happy Holidays no matter what your faith or lack thereof.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Botanical Gardens

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The trees

in this picture seem oddly bent. Posted by Picasa

Peace Park

I didn't want to take a picture of it at first because I think it's kind of obvious, but then I thought, ah, what the hell? Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Joys of Teaching English

Our school had a Christmas carol competition. Never have I heard so many dispirited renditions of "Frosty the Snowman" "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" and "Deck the Halls." Especially the ones where people lost their place and couldn't remember where they were. I had to be the judge and listen to all the kids sing. They hate singing. So do I.

However, I recently gave up my least favorite class to another teacher. There were a lot of kids that I liked but there were also a lot of ill behaved kids in that class. Anyway, it meets in the room right after my other class. One of the girls from my least favorite class came in, and she said, "Don't go. Teach our class." I told her that I wouldn't and the teacher that they had was better. I had brought some blocks to the class I was teaching and she grabbed them and said, "No, stay and teach our class." I felt kind of sad, because as much as I was happy to let that class go, I did like some of those kids a lot. And I was sort of happy that they missed me.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Rich people

Generally, I find that I can tell if someone I know is wealthy or comes from a wealthy family by the way that they spend or talk about money. One of my friends recently told me that she judges how wealthy people are from the condition of their teeth which seemed to me just as good as my test. What ways if any do you determine wealth or class? Do you think that it's important?

Pan Asian Stuff (again)

I've noticed in a lot of Hong Kong movies, that the casts are becoming increasingly Pan Asian. For example, in Seven Swords, the movie had a rather substantial Korean subplot as well as a Korean actress. In Chen Kaige's new movie The Promise, there's another Korean actress and some Japanese guy. Then of course there's the Geisha movie, which isn't exactly Pan Asianism. It's more like Orientalism, but anyway there's another movie where Japanese actors and Chinese actors are on the screen together.

It sort of makes me wonder what's going on. Do people put Korean actresses, and usually it is actresses, into their films because they think it will make it more exotic or interesting to domestic or foreign audiences? Or possibly just because Korean cinema is so damn hot right now? Who knows?

Loch Ness Monster?

I'm not sure if that fish down there is a baby Loch Ness monster or what, but it definitely doesn't look like the other fish down there. Posted by Picasa

排骨麵

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Morning in Jilong

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Radio Entropia

I thought this was cool. A website about an art show involving an imaginary country, its vehicles, its people, and its stamps. You can read about it here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wang Leehom

Since Jay Chou has received so much attention from everyone, I feel like I should talk a little bit about someone else. Jay recently released a CD which was pretty much inescapable for about a month. It was recently dislodged from its number one chart position by S.H.E.'s new CD although it's still at number 2. However, on the heels of this release by the King of Pop, is a future release.

For some reason, that is possibly the product of a permanently caffeine addled brain, Wang Leehom and Jay Chou have always seemed opposed. Fans of one rarely like the other. Wang Leehom for some reason is a bit more respectable and more people seem to publicly profess a liking for him. At the same time, he appears to be both ridiculously good looking, besides writing most of his songs. Whereas Jay Chou, when he first appeared, was apparently referred to as "the ugly kid with the squinty eyes" to quote a friend of mine. He is still labeled by many people as ugly.

As for me, I guess I see Wang Leehom as a sort of master imitator. He went to grad school for music at Berkeley, so there's got to be more going on up there than your average pop star (or your average thug) but at the same time he seems to borrow to put in kindly, others might say copy, let's compromise and say mimic American hip hop artists. At the same time, he says that he's trying to raise interest and pride in Chinese culture through his music. Ironically, most Taiwanese people I've talked to think his music is quite Americanized and commercial. His music is definitely commercial, and he models in ads like there's no tomorrow. At the same time there's this professed intellectual, ethnic, and cultural agenda that he pushes, and at the same time he's probably the most unabashedly commerical artist I've seen here.

He's also an ABC, and there's definitely times when I hear him singing and he sounds like he just translated his lyrics into Chinese from English. Anyway, these are just a couple thoughts. Feel free to rip them to shreds if you like. I'm going to bed.

I'm thirsty

Today, I was practicing the sentence patterns, "He's thirsty. He wants _____." One of my kids who has been pretty quiet until now started saying things like, "I want apple milk. I want orangenade."

A couple kids failed, so I guess the slot for loud and rowdy kid have now been taken.

A picture from the Botanical Gardens

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The Botanical Gardens in Taibei

And a sign showing all the things that you can't do there. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Random Thoughts

Today, one of my students, Andy Wu, kindly pointed out that I had a pimple on my face. I really wish I would outgrow this, but I'm beginning to think I never will. Anyway, he said, "What happened to you? You are like this." He put his hands together and with a pretty good imitation of a Buddhist monk began intoning "A mi to fo."


Also I never really understood personifying things like M&Ms or chickens that you end up eating. That seems vaguely ghoulish.

Speaking of ghouls. I recently taught the word vampire to my favorite class, and so today, when practicing the past continuous, we used the events of William and Andy Wu dying to ask what other people were doing when they died. William decided that Andy and him were going to be vampires and drink people's blood.

The shot I'm proudest of

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A tree

growing on top of a building in the middle of downtown Taibei. Posted by Picasa

Taiwan is not a slum

A picture of Taida's campus. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jay's signature

I'm not sure how I became Jay Chou's champion of intellectual and academic worth. (I'm not really sure that he needs it.) But anyway, in a strange turn of events my friend, Daniel who saw Jay in Taipei a while ago, gave me his framed autograph, which he got from him at the time, although he didn't tell me about it.

Honestly, I'm less excited by the autograph itself than the circumstances by which it was obtained. But at the same time, it's another reminder of how life here is unpredictable and sometimes kind of awesome.