Monday, September 28, 2009

GDYE 9/27

Quick Links, Grouped. More in depth on all of these eventually.

1. Visual Arts.
MOCA (The Museum of Chinese in America) had a grand opening earlier this month. The space - designed by Maya Lin - looks beautiful, though the opening exhibit seems to have garnered mixed receptions. I sympathize with the reviewer in the NYT:
"But the first-person stories here suggest that the dominant identity model has its own form of exaggeration, heightening trauma and minimizing promise. The hope is that over time this will be amended (and not just in this museum) with a fuller understanding of both sides of a hyphenated identity."
But the sentiment under-girding it is a much broader one - that Asian-American identity doesn't fit into the standard civil rights discourse... or its genre . "The dominant identity model" in this case must refer to the Af-Am model (yes, no?), and in many ways, the notion that the form "heightens trauma" is a elliptical way of hinting that there is not comparable trauma in the Asian context, or, that is is now erased because there are not comparable issues of endemic poverty, etc.

On another note, Wallpaper* and cognac house Courvorsier bumped heads to create a listing of peeps capturing the essence of the 21st century. Of note and new to me on there were architect Pei Zhu and photographer Li Wei.

2. Thuggery
A recent bust releasing five sex slaves in Changning revealed again the links between organized crime, prostitution, and kidnappings. Kerry Brown at OpenDemocracy spent a month traveling in rural areas of China, and fears that in many districts, local government has become hostage to the "hidden sector" of organized crime.

3. Lettres.
Via Paper Republic, Penguin is sponsoring a Lu Xun Translation Contest! Fears of 2046 begin - China attempts to bar publication of a book, Chinese History Revisted, in Hong Kong. The Guardian reports. Bao Pu, head of the Press - and also lead editor of the Zhao Ziyang papers (Prisoner of the State) that recently came out - ignored the suggestions and pushes forth today.

Sadder news: The Far East Economic Review is being wiped out into the fold of the WSJ as Dow Jones "reorganizes." And Time's China Blog is folding as well, though they've begun a Detroit blog to make up for it.

On good news, Evan Osnos reports via Guangzhou newspaper Southern Weekend of the awe of some Chinese denizens that fact-checking still exists in some venues, though ever rarer. See “I WAS FACT-CHECKED BY THE NEW YORKER.”

4. Migrant Workers
A film debuted at the New York Film Festival yesterday - Ghost Town - chronicling the lives of migrants from one small city in Yunnan. Trailer here.

In a New York Times piece on the film, director Zhao Dayong said:
Mr. Zhao, 39, said getting the approval of the censors was never a consideration. “It’s like asking to be raped,” he said this month in an interview here. “The government certainly has its own agenda. They want us to stop. But at the same time we know we’re doing something meaningful.”
See also Howard French's photos, and the Global Post's excellent web-portal (I know no other word for this.)

5. Human Flesh Engine Search Documentary.
I haven't opened it yet, but it seems worth it. As described by an old Forbes article, for explanation of this new form of frontier justice:
"A human flesh search engine is where thousands of volunteer cybervigilantes unite to expose the personal details of perceived evildoers and publish them on the Web"
6. Fashion Week
Pick up the new "Trand" - Warren Buffet's loving a new menswear brand from China. Yes. Called Trand. I don't think this detail made it into Ralph Nader's new utopian novel, starring in part the Oracle from Omaha.

And Louis Vuitton makes chopsticks now. Nice!

7. Intellectual History
The Global Times charted "60 foreigners who shaped China's 60 years" - I thought this list would be more revealing, but a lot lies between Isaac Newton (1) and Michael Jordan (60).

This beautiful feature allows you to scroll through the covers over 60 years the mag China Pictoral. Really, really amazing.

Lastly, Warcraft is back online in China after a temporary ban - more than half of that social imaginary is populated by PRCers, it appears. Also, in my browsing I came across an wild consulting company - CHINA YOUTHOLOGY. Friends at McKinsey take note.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

On Friendship - Matteo Ricci

From the Columbia University Press:
""On Friendship, with its total of one hundred sayings, is the perfect gift for friends."—Feng Yingjing, renowned scholar and civic official, 1601
Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) is best known as the Italian Jesuit missionary who brought Christianity to China. He also published a landmark text on friendship—the first book to be written in Chinese by a European—that instantly became a late Ming best seller. On Friendship distilled the best ideas on friendship from Renaissance Latin texts into one hundred pure and provocative Chinese maxims. Written in a masterful classical style, Ricci's sayings established his reputation as a great sage and the sentiments still ring true. Available for the first time in English, On Friendship matches a carefully edited Chinese text with a facing-page English translation and includes notes on sources and biographical, historical, and cultural information. Still admired in China for its sophistication and inspirational wisdom, On Friendship is a delightful cross-cultural work by a crucial and fascinating historical figure. It is also an excellent tool for learning Chinese, pairing a superb model of the classical language with an accessible and accurate translation."

Question: What does it mean to be a "late Ming best seller?"

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Monday, September 14, 2009

1626 Magazine - Very Punny

Via Danwei, fashion magazine 1626, teaches the masses to more accurately pronounce the transliterations of names in haute couture... so that they may "freely make the most of big-brand style, and if we use other brands we can still find a name-brand feeling." Iconic? Ironic? Hypnotic?

I've been long looking for a place to embed myself and do a wild experiment in internet ethnography. I'd never seen 1626, let alone logged onto its site, let alone seen its social networking side - "1626 Club." ("They have to be making these people up," I think, before I fabricate my own profile.)

I'm not sure if I should be telling American Apparel or Harajuku to be eating its/their heart(s) out. Either way I see trouble on the horizon.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Psychological Returns on Stamp Collecting in China...or Not.

Sometime last month I saw the following study on an SSRN's (the Social Science Research Network - where academic working papers go to procreate) Cognitive Science Network newsletter: "Does Psychological Return Matter? Evidence from China Stamp Market"

ABSTRACT: Previous literature has challenged the traditional claim that collectibles have high returns and expensive collectibles tend to return more. However, only financial returns were examined previously while psychological returns was completely overlooked, which may result in underestimation of returns on collectibles. This paper examines the returns from investment in China stamp market and the existence of psychological returns. The empirical results suggest that stamp returns in China stamp market are very dispersive and expensive stamps tend to have a low return. Potential psychological returns generators have negative effects on financial return of stamps, which implies the existence of psychological return.
After fond flashbacks to trolling around moving sales in St. Louis through childhood (dusty stamp collection were a staple of the event), the first few questions in my mind were
  1. Why stamp collecting? Don't behavioral economists at Peking University have something more...interesting to study? Like pornography or blood donations ?
  2. What are those most expensive stamps in China these depressed collectors are staring at?
So towards an answer this article in City Weekend Beijing describes the Yuetan Stamp and Coin Market in Beijing. Pictures above are: the one and two cent Mauritius stamps that sold for $3.8 million each in 1992. The rarest stamp in the world - the Tre Skilling Banco Yellow, first stamp of Sweden and one of a kind and sold for $2.3 million in 1996. The most expensive stamp of China was a 19th Century Qing stamp - "One-Yuan Red Revenue Surcharged Small Issue" (Red, Top). A "1897 Three Cents Red Revenue stamp" going to auction later this month may be the next catch though.

PS. Most predictable/hilarious instantiation of the state in the aforementioned study: "special stamps” (including "less serious topics, such as folklores, flowers, birds, vegetation, architectures as well as paintings of famous artists") have a significantly higher psychological and monetary return than "memorial stamps" (which cover political themes such as "the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Liberation Army, the victory of the Resistance War against Japanese Invasion and the opening of the 17th National Congress of CPC.")

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Monday, September 7, 2009

The Founding of the A Republic (建国大业)

So much has been written on film and the project of nation building - but the pending release of "The Founding of a Republic," to be released on the 60th anniversary of, (surprise), the founding of the People's Republic, makes the association all too obvious now. [I'm a bit slow on this, I realize.]

Anyhow, see a 2007 article in JumpCut, "Dialect and Modernity in 21st Century Sinophone Cinema," by Sheldon Lu, for a cool excursion on the general topic.

The New York Times story about the production is here, and the trailer is below. The original footage from the announcement of the PRC's founding below as counterpoint.

Key questions: will there be a resurgence of Mao suit chic? And was that soundtrack pulled from one of the Final Fantasy games?

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Green Dam Youth Escort Daily Log

After another period of delinquency, I have decided to update regularly at the cost of topicality. This blog now traces the madness cycling in the contours of East Asia writ large, for an audience writ large.

As broader background, the Green Dam Youth Escort was a content-filtering software mandatorily installed on all computers sold in Mainland China. One is not required to boot it, but the program (according to Colin Maclay at Harvard) does log all pages users access. To hold myself accountable, I now offer the panoply of links that the GDYE captures, though unfortunately it may reveal my more economically lilted day-job:

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