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.

100 Years of Beauty – Episode 4: Korea (Tiffany)

 This video has picked a good country to do 100 Years of Beauty, as the dramatic contrast between North and South Korea after the split in 1950s adds more fun to it. It’s very fascinating to see how fashion trends evolve in either country, while some cultural symbols in the video have constantly reminded audience how different things have become for the two. I’m particularly impressed by the “Gangnam Style” dance in 2010s South Korea.

Go Out by Blur

This video by Blur is quite brilliant. Initially I thought I have clicked on the wrong link, so I kept going back to search for the “real version” of this music video again and again. This “fake” video looks like an amateur DIY ice-cream cooking video made by a Chinese girl, just like many other DIY cooking videos out there — the uploader wanted to trick audience to click on the video by titling it after Blur’s new song. However, after my few attempts to find the “real” version..I  realised that that is it, even though I couldn’t believe my eyes for a few seconds.

I am quite surprised by the Chinese elements they brought into this song…the subtitles are basically the cooking recipe in traditional Chinese and have nothing to do with the song… except for a few random appearance of the lyrics. but apparently it is an album that has deep link with Hong Kong. The songs were made in Hong Kong while the band were stranded there between two concert tours. They seemed to have nothing else to do there but to make some songs to entertain themselves.  To me, Hong Kong brings some degree of culture shock to them….food, crowds, protests, so shocking that it actually inspired them to look for a way to attack and cure by creating something more shocking and hard to understand.

So far this is the first track released for this album- The Magic Whip. The cover is an ice-cream-shaped Neon light…a pretty straight forward symbol of urban night life… This whole idea would fit well into one of Wong Kar-wai’s movies…stranded city dwellers trying to break out of the suffocation of urban life with their imaginary magic whips….shocking it might seem, but it is probably also one of the fascinating things about urban life.

Brain Failure

 

“Don’t addict me, I know it’s heaven.

Don’t talk about political, I know it’s hell…”

———-New York City by Brain Failure

I went to the gig of Brain Failure with my friend the other night (22th Oct). Brain Failure is one of the best known Chinese rock bands and has been around for almost ten years. The gig was part of 2009 Melbourne International Arts Festival, and the Beijing-based band was also backed by one Australian band The Go Set and rock singer Goldie Lux. Strong political orientation, expression of frustration within the changing urban landscape, plus a bit of innovation or a sense of black humour would be a summary of the spirit of Rock and Roll in China, while Brain Failure happens to be a representative of that spirit.

I was actually a bit surprised by the venue and its atmosphere when I first got to the gig place. I expected the gig to be held in a sort of “underground” places like a pub or even a renovated garage, with people crowding around the stage and concentrating on the performance at anytime, as that’s what a gig is like in China. While this venue, the Forum Theatre on Flinders Street, is a huge place with sofas, bars and plenty of room for people to walk around with drinks and socialise with each other. I feel that while rock music might be a form of collective expression under the social context of China, it seems to be more about a way of lifestyle here in Melbourne.

Brain Failure’s show started with the vocal Xiao Rong repeatedly murmured “Come… come…. to see the city of Beijing” in Mandarin in the total darkness with strong bass in the background. Then the spotlight moved slowly to capture a Chinese girl playing pipa– a Chinese musical instrument in the middle of the stage. The audience was all attracted by this kind of arrangement and came to gather around the stage, when suddenly all the lights went on and Brain Failure began to rock people with their song “Living in the City”. The inclusion of pipa seemed to be a new experiment they band wanted to try in this performance and was actually impressive.

Language was not a big problem for Brain Failure’s performance as a good number of their songs are written in a mix of Chinese and English, and the band tour internationally quite often. The three-hour performance included some of the band’s classic songs, such as “One Coward”, “Stay Free”, as well as some new ones. During an English rap Xiao Rong improvised some lyrics by incorporating their experience of this trip to Melbourne, like “we come from the east but this is “the place to be”’, “We were nearly ‘paralyzed’ got off the plane, but feel bloody alive seeing you”, which all generated a wave of screaming among the crowd down the stage. The climax was reached at the song “Anarchy in the P.R.C”, when everybody waved their hands and shouted “An-ar-chy” with the band together. In the final song, the guitarist Gao thanked the audience with an awesome 30-second guitar solo.

After three-hour of shouting and rocking, we left the theatre all half-deaf and half-mute. It is a really cool thing to experience the spirit of Beijing rock in a place far from China.

Some Photos taken at the gig:

Pipa + Rock Crossover:

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Vocal Xiao Rong:

Vocal Xiao Rong

Xiao Rong + Gao:

Xiao Rong + Gao

And also, check out this Interview with the vocal Xiao Rong before the Melbourne performance.

Web 3.0 Asia?

I have mentioned the decreasing popularity of the term “Web 2.0”, this brief speech by google CEO Eric Schmidt in Seoul Digital Forum might provide us with a more concrete evidence.

 According to him, Web 3.0 is “applications that are pieced together. They are relatively small…very fast and customizable, and distributed virally…” I looked up for some other definitions about Web 3.0, it has been frequently referred as a form of “semantic web”, with applications that tailored to the specific individual’s needs. It is not necessarily restricted to specific web sites or services, but is more invisible and embedded in our everyday life.

 

What I’m concerned about is how such new form of web construction might influence the Asian web system, as it is based on highly customizable feature and rapid communication, would it make people more connected to each other, or further separate them as distinctive individuals? With its penetration into everyday life, would it bring about more freely expressed content, or actually be applied as a new system of censorship? And as for its feature of viral distribution, would it become a network that is truly global or actually generates networks that are more locally focused? Anyway, looking forward to the spread of this new wave of technical revolution.