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.
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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.

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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.

Leave to Parliament everything about my future..

It’s been a couple of tough months for Park Geun-hye’s political career ever since the corruption scandal involving her close confidant Choi Soon-sil has emerged into the public’s eyes. Furious protestors on the streets of Seoul have constantly questioned Park’s administration and request her resignation.

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There has often been a mysterious aura over Park Geun-hye, who came from a family where both of her parents were assassinated due to political reasons. Her life seems be vastly shadowed by her father Park Chung-hee, and the tragic childhood. Her tight relationship with Choi soon-sil,  the daughter of a shaman-esque cult leader has revealed her dependence of spiritual advice in making presidential decisions, which is something extremely disastrous from a political perspective.

When looking at another example of female Prime Minister in Asia- ex-Prime Minister of Thailand –Yingluck Shinawatra, Park’s current situation looks not that unfamiliar. Yingluck, whose brother Thaksin Shinawatra was once the Thai Prime Minister, stepped down from her PM position after a military coup in 2014, and is now also facing charges over the rice-pledging scheme from Thailand’s Attorney General. Both Park and Yingluck came from families with inherited tradition of being in the centre of their countries’ political scenes, and came into power as the first female Prime Minister of their counties, while they are both currently under close legal scrutiny and criticism by their governments.

The struggles that Yingluck and Park are facing are probably just a moment in their destinies. For them, entering the political stage seem to have been closely tied to their family tradition, from which holds a deep sense of connection to the generations of supporters and also commitment to the country. They dedicate their lives to what they believe, and more importantly to fulfill what the family group have been trying to achieve. And now when they are struggling to continue holding the power, the merciless side behind a political scene has replayed on them, just as how it played out on their family members previously. For Park, the scandal has obviously infuriated the country, she doesn’t have much choice but to leave her fate to the judgement of the country for now. And in Yingluck’s case, she has determined to fight back with the best possible dignity.

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I stand firm to fight my case, I had duties and responsibilities to fight on. All eyes are on me. I assure you,  I never thought of fleeing.“–Yingluck Shinawatra

She&She: FKA twigs & Ella Chen

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Screenshot from “Are You Normal 你正常嗎” by Ella Chen 陳嘉樺
Official video release date:13 April 2015

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Screenshot from “Pendulum” by FKA twigs
Official video release date:15 Jan 2015

“Are You Normal 你正常嗎” is from the first solo album Ella Chen released outside of S.H.E, the popular Taiwanese girls group she belongs to. I just couldn’t help but think that this music clip is a clever adaptation of the whole set-up of FKA twigs‘ “Pendulum”  when I saw a picture of Ella having the same kind of “double-bun” hair style and the hanging stripe in the background. The movements she takes in the video seem to further confirm that. And here is another music video in the same album of Ella’s with elements of chains, characters being tied up and scenes of “struggling to be free” , which again remind me of “Pendulum”.

Ella Chen and FKA twigs each has quite distinct target markets and obviously very different things to express in their music videos. However it’s still interesting to see how the relatively artistic set-up in “Pendulum” can be turned into something that fits into Asian pop culture and then go back to the commercial world.

Here are the two videos for those who would like to compare in details.

“Are You Normal 你正常嗎” (from 3’20”)

“Pendulum”

Madam Kwa and her glasses

Images of Mr Lee Kuan Yew‘s beloved wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo, have shown up very frequently in articles, videos, reports after the passing away of the great man.

Apparently Madam Kwa had been a great partner, adviser and assistant to Mr Lee. As a highly-educated woman, she also led a successful career as a lawyer and made great contributions to Singapore.

In most of the photos of Kwa across all her life span, she wore glasses and smiled elegantly. The black and white photos that were taken while she was at her 20s and 30s are especially impressive. The glasses nicely brought out this woman’s inner sense of intelligence, independence and a little bit of determination, which is a great definition of feminism for smart young woman like her during that era. At a time when educated Asian women like Kwa were still not very common, these glasses are no doubt a symbol of modernity and surpass their actual practical purposes.

Kwa’s glasses reminded me of Coco Chanel‘s little black jacket — probably invented around the same time when these black and white photos of young Kwa were taken. While just like how the little black jacket has been consistently reinvented in the new world of post/neo/hyper modernity, the feminism that was defined by Kwa’s glasses has also rapidly moved to a new and exciting stage.

Here is a fresh example of that:

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However I probably wouldn’t remember as clearly about Hillary’s glasses after flicking through any article full of her with glasses.

Back to the topic, this is my favorite photo of Madam Kwa:

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Source

— To memorise this amazing woman who had set up a great precedent of woman behind a great man, also to celebrate many other women who are standing or about to stand right in front of every other man.

Soeda San

Sony released its PlayStation4 (simplified Chinese version) in Shanghai on 21 March. This gentleman— Takehito Soeda (添田武人) caught my attention. He is the Vice President of China Business Strategy department of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Asia. As a Japanese, he speaks very fluent Beijing-style mandarin and seems to be very confident dealing with Chinese media in this interview and many others.

According to this report from WPDang based on Global Manager. Soeda san has lived in Beijing since he was a child, and holds a B.A in Literature from Peking University. He also completed an MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management as an “aged senior student”, which makes his education background more “global”. He has worked in companies like DELL, AT Kearney, Baidu Japan and is apparently experienced with cross-cultural marketing and management.

A quote from him: “When you communicate with someone, you should approach the topic on the same level and from the same perspective as the person, and also communicate in a way that can be understood by the person.”

Given that there are only 13 games available on PS4 for mainland Chinese users. Soeda san seems have done a good job in keeping the release of this new device a hot topic among the Chinese game players. Seen on various Chinese social media, he actively interacts with his team at Sony Entertainment China, as well as PlayStation users online. He has a nick name “Uncle Wu ten er”(五仁儿叔) and his fans has recently discovered that he was a special guest actor in Feng Xiaogang’s 2001 movie Big Shot’s Funeral.

Here are some screenshots of the film. Soeda san’s name can be seen on the cast list (top). He plays a Japanese film producer in this movie (bottom, man with glasses).

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Images: http://www.weibo.com/a9vg#_rnd1427109341244

I think this kind of “celebrity strategy” works well for Sony PlayStation in China. Soeda san represents a very friendly, competent, and unharmful Japanese senior businessman figure, which easily surpasses many political awkwardness and subsequently shortens the distance between the developer and its targeted consumers in China.

Maybe Sony Film should be considering applying the same strategy when they would like to expand its market in North Korea one day.