Gone with The Wasted Times

Wasted times

This is a film about 1930s Shanghai and its gangster past during the chaotic Japanese occupation period.

As a Chinese film, it is a nice piece of work that entails a sophisticated storyline and a unique style of art-house aesthetics, while still maintains its clear commercial intentions. With an all-star cast, it depicts the stories happening around three leading characters including a ruthless gangster leader (You Ge),  a Shanghaiese- speaking Japanese spy (Tadanobu Asano) and a lustful concubine (Ziyi Zhang) of a gangster boss. Each of them was after something they wanted during the wartime, and all thought that they had had  full control of the situation during the process of pursuing, while the end is pretty much tragic for all of them.

To me the film pays tribute to a wartime era where everything was unpredictable, all relationships seemed fragile, and people’s fate could turn into different directions at a blink of an eye. This might be the case for any wartime stories, however there seems to be an extra level of fascination involved when they are told in the 1930s Shanghai — back then a city under influences of different political parties, east and west cultures, while the local gangster groups still dominated the backend of the city’s criminal activities, and determined the ways things should be done in many circumstances.

I especially like the touch about the lives of a few supporting roles who have side stories that are peripheral to the main storyline. They include a maid who served the gangster family loyally but died as a victim as the result of a revenge spree by an enemy group, a dying gangster chauffeur who got rescued by a prostitute and then fell in love with her, and an actress who rejected the courting from the gangster’s top leader and hoped to get back with her estranged husband. They help the audience to catch a glimpse of people’s mentality during that era, where everything had some sort of unspoken rules, but they could also be steered away as lust and caution intervened.

The Chinese title, which literally means “A history of disappearing romance”, conveys a sense of both nostalgia and melancholy. With the end of war, aspects of the wartime humanity, genuine or distorted, all started to fall apart and became powerless, to a point that all comments seem absurd and further interpretation no longer seem necessary.

To remember, to forget, to heal

It’s been a while since the last time I watched a stage show in a small theatre…and I forgot what an intimate experience this can be. What made me feel this way are two Japanese theatre productions at Arts House Melbourne as part of the AsiaTOPA festival.

Both productions deal with the topic of 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, reflecting on the disaster’s impact on people’s living with a close glimpse to their inner minds. The simple settings on stage open up a new dimension where my attention is exclusively dedicated to the stage and the performance happening there.It hence becomes quite intimate — like witnessing a tragic process that interweaves the past and the future, the deceased and the lived and is something that is very delicate, fragile and easy to be overlooked if not contemplated carefully.

The first production: Time’s Journey Through a Room is about a man’s dialogue with the spirit of his deceased wife and his new girl friend, revealing his desperation for hope while also a sense of frustration of being worn out by the sadness.

arts-house-times-journey-through-a-room-photo-by-bryony-jackson-review
Source: http://artsreview.com.au/times-journey-through-a-room/

The second production: Kagerou – Study of Translating Performance is a performance involving simultaneous interpretation of a woman’s voice talking about her husband who died in the earthquake. Performed by one person with headphones on, the production also uses a projection of moving images in the background as the person does the oral interpretation. Her shadow projected on the background creates a special presence of a person among the images of objects and sceneries.

jap-journey-1

Each of the two shows has a unique way of depicting the character’s mental reaction to their loss at the natural disaster, by gently letting the character’s voice being heard with a series of subtle and distinct expressions. They captured moments after a person is finally settling in the fact about death of the loved one and is trying to get on with life. Somehow, making sense of the unforgettable is actually helping the lived ones to forget, to move on and in this case, to heal as part of a national tragedy.

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

Taboo No More

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).

#Key

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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.

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.

 

Iphone Asia

Iphone has started its expansion of Asia market since 2008, while it seems that there are a number of complex issues they need to take care of at the same time of the launch of this world’s revolutionary smartphone in Asia. 

Japan— Aggressive Competitors
Release date: July 11, 2008

( Source: NY Times)

Japan is one of the earliest Asian market targeted by Apple, while its selling in Japan hasn’t been very good compared with other smartphones produced by companies like NEC, SHARP, and PANASONIC. Acccording to a report in 2008, iPhone only made up a tiny portion of Japan’s 115 million cell-phone market. Takeshi Natsuno, the Japan smartphone pioneer who developed Japan’s first Internet-linking cell phone service “i-mode” in 1999, said “smartphone has already reached a very mature market in Japan, so Apple might need to struggle a bit to reach its expected share of Japanese market.”

 

China – Priracy, better choice?
Relase date: Oct 30, 2009 

It is said that the largest ratio of pirated digital application is found in China (37%). Like some people commented, “Chinese don’t wait for Apple launch to get ‘iPhone’ ”. Actually the pirated version usually share a very similar looking of iphone, but integrates with a more local smartphone features such as handy Chinese typing applications, more compatible hardwares, and functions that help to speed up its internet speed under the Chinese telecom network…..and more importantly, their price is usually stunningly low.

 

(Source:www.iphonasia.com)

 

South Korea — in the shadow of battery meltdown

Release date: possibly November/December 2009

 

One of the main reason for the delay of the launch of Iphone in South Korea is related to Apple’s recall of 1st generation iPod nanos in South Korea happened early this year. Since December 2008, four users filed complaints with the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards over bugged iPod Nanos — three of them were for battery meltdowns while recharging. The issue was reported by mainstream Korean media and the pictures of melting Nanos have been circulating on the internet. In June 2009, Apple apologized for their neglect in selling the problem products and issued the recall and later released a statement reassuring owners of current-model Nanos. This incident generates pretty negative brand image and reputation for Apple Korea. As a result, South Korea’s telecommunications regulatory body has not given approval for iPhone to be sold in the country until 23 September 2009, and the actual launch date is still not known.

 

 

(Source: http://www.cultofmac.com)