The Game of Watching and Being Watched

Live streaming on Taobao has been gaining more and more popularity since its launch in 2016.

Like this one above, they all seem very entertaining to watch, and especially engaging by allowing users to ask questions during the streaming process.

This kind of sales model doesn’t require much set-up or training. For the sellers, not only are they providing services and promoting their products at the same time, it is also an opportunity for them to show off their personality, build trust with customers, as well as to stand out from hundreds of other sellers who sell pretty much the same thing.

Similar to the spread of live streaming on Facebook, Instagram, etc., being filmed has never been this common. From a viewer’s perspective, live streaming is probably something with more genuinity and interaction than many other things one sees on everyday media. The impact is also spontaneous, like reality TV but the audience gets invited to be part of the show as it is happening. Here’s another example in advertising:

However, the dark side of technology has quickly emerged. There also seems to be a tendency for murder, suicide, crimes being broadcasted on live streaming, and they got circulated online faster than ever because of social media. Suddenly it feels like Hunger Games could happen anytime soon in the real world. But Facebook has already reacted to that and found a solution, which is to hire 3000 “Content Monitors” to review the live streaming content as they go live. A solution that is not so high-tech but perhaps effective for the time-being, which seems to suggest that more violence simply leads to more surveillance and regulations.

What do people gain from going live? Profit, leads, or just pure entertainment? There is never a standard answer. As broadcasters, as viewers, we are all being watched, willingly or unwillingly.

Ghost, Shell, City

Ghost in the Shell (2017)
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Based on my limited knowledge of Japanese sci-fi manga, I initially thought the film Ghost in the Shell is a remake of anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (EVA) or a western adaptation of EVA. Even when I saw Scarlett Johansson’s posters on the street, I still thought she plays Rei Ayanami in EVA and it didn’t occur to me that this is actually a different piece of work.
Major Kusanagi
Left: Rei Ayanami(EVA).Right: Major Motoko Kusanagi(Ghost in the Shell)
Aside from my ignorance to Japanese sci-fi manga classics, Major Motoko Kusanagi actually does share some similarities with Rei Ayanami. They both have purple hair and red eyes, have limited or no emotions, and were built to fight as some kind of augmented human-like robots that are superior to normal human beings both physically and mentally. Being faces of the future world, they have tough bodies, but they are also longing to develop their own identities and connections to the outside world.
Major Kusanagi demonstrates what a “Ghost” would be capable of once she overrides the power that comes with the “Shell” and has established her own thinking and execution system. Scarlett Johansson did a great job expressing Major’s frustration and struggle of being a robot that takes orders and a proper mastermind that makes the decision, though this is not the first time Johanson plays a character that is surreal and from the future. Her recent characters include the seductive girl in  Under the Skin (2013) , the mentally enhanced Lucy in Lucy (2014) , and most impressively, the digitally augmented female voice of a virtual girlfriend in Her (2013). Johansson has given these “super-humans” a female voice with her appearance in these movies by following a path of creating female “super-humans”  that are expected to be prettier, sexier and smarter in all dimensions. Yet their fragile and complicated minds are as mesmerizing as their physical charm.

Major Kusanagi’s jump from the top of a building into the dark, gigantic urban jungle background is inevitably the highlight of the film. As a cyberpunk movie, Ghost in a Shell inherited the futurist and postmodern urban setting like the ones from Blade Runner (1982), with ubiquitous high-rises, flickering digital screens and rotating animated projections. Though obviously a duplicate of the skyline of Hong Kong, the 3D effect of  city created by the latest CI technology has improved tremendously compared with the augmented film scenes in Blade Runner from the 80s. One day when the digital technology is mature enough to present such settings via virtual reality glasses, it would probably be another step closer towards the cyber-world that is depicted in the movie.

Ghost in a Shell City
Top: Ghost in a Shell (2017). Bottom: Blade Runner (1982).

Ultra Rich Asian Girls

Reality shows featuring pretty girls and their luxurious lifestyles is an eye-catching topic in every culture, just like people can never get bored of checking out celebrity gossip magazines. Whereas it is also common for this kind of show to receive all kinds of criticisms and controversies.

There is no exception to this show — Ultra Rich Asian Girls, which is a reality show featuring 4 mandarin-speaking Asian girls who lead luxurious lifestyle in Vancouver Canada. The show takes audience to have a glimpse of their daily activities including trip to private island, designer bags shopping spree, million dollar villa parties, etc., as well as documents how they interact with (or loathe) each other. However, as it is set in a special context where these girls actually represent the tip of an influx of Asian wealth into western societies, extra discussions involving racism, cultural identity and its unavoidable political implications among the diaspora group are triggered on top of the usual level of criticism over “the rich” and “materialism”.

Source: http://www.hbictv.com/

In a more realistic environment, the “invasion” of Asian students, investment, and culture has affected the local economy in many countries such as Canada and Australia. As much as these countries welcome the wealthy migrants, they also need to face some pressing issues like the rapid rise of property prices and the changing face of their local communities, which in a way has shaped the wealthy Asians into a form of special community and sometimes given the concept of “yellow peril” a new form.

Leaving all the”why”s and”how”s that people have towards these Asian migrants alone, what this reality TV did is simply to give the “ultra rich” group a voice and to satisfy the outsiders’ longing to know them. Besides, there is also no doubt that the group will continue to grow, bringing more change on both inside and outside of many western societies, just like a side effect of globalization. The consequence is obvious – one can either embrace it or feel intimidated by it.

The reality show is now preparing to launch for its 4th season. After all, it is all the controversies and criticisms that contribute to the success of this TV show series.

Lunar Chinese New Year 2017

First day of Year of Rooster in Melbourne, a summery day spent with blue sky, sunscreen and ice teas. To join the celebration, I went to Crown by the side of Yarra River, an alternative Asian Chinese gathering precinct in the CBD other than laneways of Chinatown.

On the big screen outside of Crown, Serena Williams won Australian Open Women’s Single over her sister Venus Williams — A happy day for the Williams sisters, so does it seem for most of the Asian-looking people who spent endless time and money at the Casino tables inside Crown on that day, or at least at face value.

I got corrected at work a few days ago, for calling the New Year “Chinese New Year” rather than “Lunar New Year”, because apparently for Asian Chinese who do not come from China but also celebrate the New Year, they would prefer to use the word “Lunar”… It’s interesting to think about the connotation behind that — to downplay the “Chineseness” side of New Year.

The hustle and bustle of people at Crown’s riverside night market has a good resemblance of the New Year shopping crowd in China. Other celebration features include lion-dancing, fireworks, and display of the Zodiac Lanterns, which all attract a great deal of crowds and cameras.

Lunar Chinese New Year in Melbourne, a quick dose of Chinese culture accompanied by  the colour of red, sound of drum from lion-dancing, and an influx of foreign wealth, largely fulfills people’s curiosity towards this traditional festival and brings deeper understanding or misunderstanding of the culture.

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First dinner for Year of Rooster, at a Thai restaurant, due to not being able to get a booking at preferred Chinese restaurant.

 

Delicacy or Bizarre Food

I spotted many Asian delicacies in James Corden’s “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts”. Not sure if the production team was inspired by internet posts like this or Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Bird’s saliva seems to have appeared in a few episodes, but I wonder how much actual bird’s saliva is in that cocktail glass, as a small quantity of decent quality bird’s saliva can sometimes cost a fortune.

spill-1

When some of the food above were presented as “gross”“disgusting” and “horrific”during the show, it does trigger some amusing effect to see celebrities literally “spill their guts” in front of these food – whether it’s a true reaction or just a form of act.

Food is probably another strong aspect of everyday life that defines a type of culture other than language. I could just imagine that food like meat Pâté, blue cheese and jellied eel (or maybe a vegemite/marmite juice? ) would receive the same reaction if there was ever a similar show in China.

Besides, I noticed that SPAM is also categorised as “bizarre food” in this episode, maybe that’s prepared for some female celebrities who only eat kale, which certainly represents a very trendy subcultural group.

spill-spam

Sheng Nv (Leftover Women)

“Leftover Women” is more a fact, an issue, a phenomenon that happens on a personal and social level, rather than propelled by the government through propaganda .

“To marry or not to marry”should be a personal choice rather than something pushed by other people, especially from a western-world point of view. However, this is an idea that doesn’t fit in the traditional family value of most Chinese parents, who believe that young woman, due to biological reasons, should get married  before a certain age to fulfil the role and expectation of  a wife and a mother. Therefore “leftover women”, most of whom grown up in urban settings different from their parents’ age, have to bear the burden of being called “selfish”, “unattractive”, “career-oriented”, or even feeling discriminated among the public.

Leta Hong Fincher (@LetaHong) attributed “Leftover Women” to the result of a big propaganda campaign focusing on urban educated women orchestrated by the Chinese government.

However, to my view, the existence of this label of “leftover women” is more a fact, an issue, a phenomenon that happens on a personal and social level, rather than propelled by the government through propaganda . The pressure faced by “leftover women” would mostly be from their parents and friends, while being a problem for “China’s population planning strategy” would probably be their least concern. With the loosen-up of China’s One-child Policy, the pressure of “having kids”might be felt even more by “leftover women”, as the idea of having more grandchildren are favoured by many Chinese parents. The feeling of “being left” is already there once these women reach their “age of starting a family” perceived by their family and peers, no matter whether the government decides to spread the idea on the state media or not.

 

Taboo No More

타투랑 많이 친해졌군요..ㅎ . 😸 . #빙글이#cat#cattattoo#soltattoo

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I am quite amazed by the South Korean cat tattoos featured in this article, but not really surprised to learn that “Under Korean law, tattooing is defined as a medical procedure” and thousands of the country’s tattoo artists are still remain underground. In most Asian cultures (and many other cultures!), it’s common to associate tattoo with gangsters, criminals, an antisocial attitude or possibly a degenerating lifestyle. While traditional Asian cultures seem to have particularly low tolerance in accepting this kind of unconventional form of art which requires using human skin as canvas. For example, in Japan, where tattoo designs had been observed as early as Yayoi period, you can still be prohibited from entering hot springs or public baths because of tattoos in 2010s Japan.

Tatoo ban Image source
An oppressed environment for this kind of art form is probably not such a bad thing.  Every individual tattoo by these South Korean tattooists exists like a quietly burgeoning flower from muddy underground — subtle, delicate, telling unique stories just on their own (thanks to Instagram).

. . 천칭자리 + 꽃 #tattoo #타투 #플레이그라운드타투

A post shared by •Playground Tattoo• 플레이그라운드 타투 (@playground_tat2) on

#Key

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