MOLLY VS. ETHEL
tags: east vs. west
(This originally started as a Facebook post that got cut-off so I’m going to re-write it.)
Here’s the gist of it:
The West (N. America, Europe) is essentially Molly, the hot blonde cheerleader in HS. China/India is the Ethel, the completely un-sexy chick representative of most of the rest of the student body (38% of the entire school population in fact).
Molly dictates where people sit at lunch, who gets in the yearbook, really just runs everything in the school. Ethel works hard but her family fell on very hard times due and she never had the proper resources to develop fully.
Molly goes to college and joins a sorority. Still enjoys the limelight but is increasingly unaware of anything outside her system. She lives a lifestyle worthy of a MTV reality-show, with parties, vacations, social events and is quite good at it…she works hard but the entire structure has been built for her to succeed so it’s not stressful. Just follow the yellow-brick road already laid before her and she’ll be dandy.
Ethel does all the hard classes in school, puts her head down, lives quite a ‘bland’ lifestyle by sorority standards. Doesn’t party much, unfashionable clothing, builds Popsicle skyscrapers affixed with solar panels, studies alternative energies, you know – works on the problems of the new world.
So Molly is great at networking by now and the system is set up for her to succeed. She works hard, but has relatively coasted smoothly into a successful marketing job with the help of her sorority connections. By all standards, she will live a remarkable life. But something bothers her in the back of her mind and she can’t put her finger on it, it’s never occurred to her to think about anything outside of her beautiful bubble.
It’s probably because Molly’s children will not have the easy-going success she had. Ethel didn’t have a “fun” life but she put in days at the library and found quiet time with a book much more exhilarating than slurping vodka off a ice sculpture at Phi Gamma Alpha and became upwardly mobile after years of being held back.
Ethel will pass her hunger for success down to her children, who still feel their mothers sting of rejection when guys (Industries) didn’t want anything to do with her in HS, the yearbook thought she was invisible (Media), and had her clothes and general ugliness insulted (Disrespected by the West).
So how does the story of Molly and Ethel end?
Does Molly get with the program and send some books with her children on the bi-annual trip to the cabin? Does Ethel sustain her rapid upward mobility or do old problems pop up to disturb the trend?
Does Molly try and stop Ethel? Does Ethel have so much pent up resentment for the way she was treated back in HS that things get dicey?
Stay tuned for the next few decades!
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If anybody noticed, it’s been a minute since I blogged anything. What started as a momentary lull of Internet access turned into full-borne hiatus.
Since my last post, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my journey (which is still in it’s infancy) as well as reassess my situation.
After some thought, I concluded that Beijing is not the right place for me to base my entertainment career out of. I also received an offer in Hong Kong that I ultimately felt wasn’t right for me. So I’m moving to Taipei, Taiwan. The epicenter of Chinese entertainment.
I don’t regret any time I spent in Beijing, it was crucial to developing the foundation I plan to build everything on. It’s all in God’s plan.
So – I am back blogging and keeping y’all updated!
P.S. Grand Master Chu, Inglish, and I cut a Mixtape that’s due out in 2 weeks!
Hey wassup ya’ll,
It’s been a minute since my last update, I assure it’s been largely in part due to lack of consistent internet access!
I got some stuff for ya’ll coming up! Til then, I’m in HK – celebrating Thanksgiving by throwing some plum sauce on roast duck!
TIME BY YOURSELF
categories: beijing, china
tags: big picture
It’s been a little bit since by last blog post. The lull was expected because when you first arrive you’re wide-eyed and excited to share your new found insight but eventually you slip into a routine and for various reasons, are less inclined to blog about what’s going on.
For anyone who’s fairly intellectual and has the time to think about social inequity, welfare, justice, or pursue any other anthropological inclination China can be an absolute brain-twister. The country is experiencing the fastest large-scale economic growth in the history of the world and it’s truly incredible to witness it – provided you have the opportunity to step back for a second and let it sink in. There are people who 40 years ago were digging ditches in the countryside as part of a re-education camp who have now amassed billions of dollars in wealth for themselves and their relatives/friends with the promise of more to come. I mean…where they do that at?
Most people have been to places with tremendous wealth. LA, NY, SF, HK (all top 10 cities in terms of # of billionaires, and I expect both Beijing and Shanghai to be on that list within 10 years) and they all have the full spectrum of wealth but nowhere does it seem more obvious than here in China (Beijing, Shanghai in particular but every major city). It’s just so visible because you see a recent migrant selling an onion pancake for $0.35 right outside of the D&G flagship store as heirs to various ministries/industries walk by. Now in NYC, you might occasionally see people pull up in chauffeured Maybach to wait in line for the halal cart on 53rd and 6th but you know the family who runs those carts easily earn enough to live a 1st world lifestyle.
There’s about 900 million people in a country of 1.3 billion who have yet to see any fruits of the explosive growth, and work for less than $1 an hour in a city that is more expensive to live in than New York (for an equivalent lifestyle).
I went to a Taiwanese restaurant whose clientele were well-heeled locals, overseas Chinese (heard a lot of HK Cantonese and Taiwanese Mandarin spoken), and foreigners, and was served by female servers who were all required to have androgynous David Bowie-like haircuts (which unsurprisingly, does not make you want to order more). Or yesterday, I went to a Chinese chaunr spot (bbq skewers) where despite having tons of meat around, the staff would eat primarily white rice and pure flour dumplings (mantou) for their dinner. This isn’t anything new to me to anyone else, but if you get a chance to sit and let it marinate it can be quite jarring. But I suppose it isn’t too different from the roaring 1920?s in America. Everything is developing at a breakneck speed and there is construction everywhere you turn. There is construction going on 24/7 outside of my window and a small older community right next to my high-rise apartment that is soon to be torn down.
If I was 35 and some sort of real estate developer, my eyes would pop out of my head everyday. But I’m 24 and interested in entertainment/media so it’s very very easy for me to gloss over the magnitude of what I’m seeing, and I do all the time. And I don’t blame any young people or just people in general for not catching it, if you don’t have the proper lens/mindset to focus and process (which I am only now starting to develop) what you’re seeing it’d be easy to miss it. You get caught up energy on the streets and in the $0.50 Tsingtao’s or street food that is 1/5th of the price of whatever they’re charging back home for dumplings and noodles.
I’ll admit, some of the shock and awe is due to being from America, where the median income of highest earning state is less than double that of the lowest earning state (NJ @70k and Mississippi @37k). That’s very good large-scale equality (although the income disparity is growing at a dangerous rate, it’s still one of the best in the world). It’s compounded by being from Seattle, where there is very little poverty in comparison with other major cities in the US and world. Also, America has already seen much of it’s large-scale development already take place. There aren’t any skylines being propped up anywhere anymore. We’re just trying to maintain/plateau, and some would argue we’re just trying to slow the bleeding and eventual decline.
The average income in Beijing and Shanghai is about $8,000 USD per year compared to the national $2,000 USD average. So you can see the discrepancy between the urban and rural areas. Much of the development in China’s coming years will be driven by 2nd to 4th-tier cities (basically the cities you’ve never heard of before and then some) although the Western media will naturally gravitate towards reporting Beijing and Shanghai.
Also, people have been asking me what I’m going to do now that I’ve got a rough picture of what the entertainment prospects are in China. I’ll let you know soon enough.
FOUR THINGS NECESSARY FOR ASIAN MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT SUCCESS
categories: motherland, music
tags: how to make it
A reader recently asked me a question: What would it take for a pop-star to be successful in the Asian market?
This was my response:
1) Money – whether in the form of a company backing you, or private backing, it’s important. Asia doesn’t necessarily embrace the same rags-to-riches story that is popular in America. Most of the entertainers actually come from upper-middle class or wealthy backgrounds. Feats such as high SAT scores or degrees from prestigious colleges, although seemingly unrelated to the quality of an artist, matter a lot in how someone is perceived and thus marketed.
2) Localization – unlike Korea (which tends to be heavily influenced by contemporary American music), Chinese pop music will have to incorporate traditional elements into it. Even hip-hop will need to be like how Jay Chou or Wang Lee Hom does it, mixing the East and West sonically, beyond just doing American music in Mandarin. This would be the beats, the lyrics, the overall feel. For rappers this will mean either learning to sing or getting into a group with someone who does sing.
3) A Buzz – whether it was from a reoccurring role on a popular TV drama, or a guest appearance in another popular artists song or music video, a much gossiped-about relationship, a celebrity co-sign, being non-local (i.e. JJ Lin, ABC artists) – there must be something (or even better, a combination of things), outside of music, that has to initially drum up excitement for an artist.
4) Appeal to Women – women are a big part of any music/entertainment industry, but in Asia I believe sales and revenue are particularly female-focused and driven. Artists must have mass appeal to female audiences and be very good looking and must have charming/sweet personalities. Due to this same reason, Asian male pop-stars cannot cross over to the US where the females demand a more masculine, macho, alpha-male image.
Nothing but a song. Enjoy!
BEIJING WINTER AND HIP-HOP
categories: china, music
tags: music industry
So I arrived to Beijing in October, which is apparently the worst month (weather-wise) out of the whole year. I don’t doubt it. Sure other months have things like blistering heat and sandstorms blowing in from the Gobi Desert but October is just “blech.” The weather has been drizzly, dreary, gray, and really reminded me a lot of home – Seattle. Except unlike the Northwest there is no solace in the fresh smell of lush evergreens after the rain – just concrete, steel, and occasionally sewage (although it does smell better after a good shower).
Originally this was going to be a post about how cold it was and some metaphor about how that all tied in with some larger life philosophy (or at least that’s what I would like to think would have happened), but let me just post a video and some random thoughts/pictures instead.
Here’s me rocking at Yugong Yishan’s (venue name) Section 6 Hip-Hop showcase (once a month).
Some of the other emcee’s were REALLY impressive and deserve way more exposure than they get (they practically have none).
Unfortunately (or fortunately some would say) Chinese generally do not understand or gravitate towards hip-hop to even close to extent of their other Asian counterparts (Korea, Japan, Phillipines etc.). I think Chinese are the most conservative amongst the Asian race in terms of adopting Western lifestyles for a variety of reasons. The 5000 year old culture is so strong coupled with various historical, economic, and social factors etc. No current American hip-hop artist (unless you count Black Eyed Peas) will be able to pack out a stadium in China for a very long time. You decide if that’s good or bad.
It’s interesting because basketball culture is becoming huge over here (only second to the Philippines in Asia) and so is street fashion, both of which have strong ties and crossover appeal with hip-hop. People may not know who Jay-Z is, but they’ve seen the ROC dynasty hand sign because Lebron James throws it up. They don’t know that hip-hop culture blew up Nike Air Force 1?s and Dunks but they want them. It’s an interesting paradox.
I think part of it is because a lot of the streetwear/clothing culture comes in from Japan and HK. Both of which are heavily influenced by American styles, but also have their own Asian design aesthetic. So then it get’s “Asianized” once more before it hits China so by the time it’s filtered through two lenses the rap aspect gets lost in the shuffle.
I believe different cultures are more or less inclined towards certain elements of hip-hop. For example, in Kazakhstan they absolutely love American mainstream rap. It’s probably their youths favorite type of music. But they don’t really get into the basketball, streetwear, or urban clothes as much. Here in China they might (increasingly) love streetwear/sportswear and basketball but may never embrace hip-hop music. Perhaps it will always be this way.
And as much as record labels, whether they be American, Korean, Japanese, or otherwise want a piece of the Chinese music youth culture market – it’s going to be extremely difficult, even with mass resources. Why?
Anyway, more pics coming soon!
DAY 5 FROM BEIJING
categories: beijing, china, music
Wow, it’s only my fifth day here in Beijing. Feels something more like day fifteen to be honest.
Here are some highlights:
Here are a few pics:
Dongdan Courts and suffocating traffic (not as exciting as a tiger vid I know, but I’ve had zero pics in the last couple posts)
Also here’s a new track featuring my boy Grand Master and myself: DL HERE
Oh yeah and I made Jin’s blog, he gave me props on my question asking skills.
CAUGHT BETWEEN WORLDS
categories: random, sports
Many of us have felt the tug between two worlds before. For some of us, the challenge to balance two seemingly conflicting sides of us is so common it has bore a whole new understanding of ourselves, to a point you couldn’t imagine life without it.
The question is: is it a strength or a weakness? Are you caught between two worlds or do you have the best of both worlds?
Here’s a few thoughts for the argument that it’s a weakness.
It’s true that life is simpler when you choose a side. Jock vs. Nerd, Mainstream vs. Underground, Blue vs. Red, white collar vs. blue collar – it’s human nature to be simplify complex issues into black-and-white, for us to separate ourselves based off traits (those both real and superficial) and be inclined towards tribalism. There is a valid reason for this.
For better or worse, being able to see it “from the other side” isn’t always conducive to action. Why else would John Stewart and Stephen Colbert want to launch a “Return to Sanity” campaign? It’s not because America is completely devoid of people who can see through the rhetoric, it’s because those who do simply do not take action.
I know people who are educated, can see both sides of an important political issue, can articulate their thoughts (at least in a blog or on Twitter), and STILL DO NOT VOTE. For anything. See how that kind of apathy poses to be a huge problem long-term?
On the other hand, the seemingly deluded people on the fringe clearly understand the political process and are making moves. Then the rest of the world stands by with its mouth wide open astounded how what appears to be increasingly, a caricature of American politics (first Bush then Palin etc.). I mean honestly – everyone talked about how monumental it was that Barack was African American and while it was definitely noteworthy, was anyone shocked that a son of a President became President and a former First-Lady almost did?
From my rudimentary understanding of American politics (I was a good student in Jr. High) wasn’t our country founded on principles whose initial intended purpose could be interpreted to mean imply something like son’s of Presidents (ahem) and wife’s of Presidents (ahem) probably should not also become President? Isn’t that exactly what happens in a monarchy? Sure, everyone should be able to run, but has America become so indoctrinated with corporate-style brand-name recognition that we’ll cop any President with a label we’re familiar with?
Anyway, I’m off track.
Mixed-feelings, while often a trait of a rational well-thought person, are not always the most productive emotions. If you’re the coach of a basketball team, you want everyone on the same page twice-over. No existential debate about whether the winner-takes-all aspect of competitive sports is fair from your starting PF can possibly help him grab more rebounds. Hating his opponent on-court and throwing a few stiff elbows will though. And perhaps even worse is that if he truly hates his opponent off-court – he might actually grab 1 or 2 additional rebounds.
And with this very Machiavellian way of thinking do many leaders rule. To a large extent, it will always work because it plays into human nature.
I’m not encouraging anyone to be one way or the other. Just make sure you’re aware of where you stand. If you’re playing the party line, that’s fine, but just be aware that you’re partaking in tribalism. If you’re an independent thinker who stays away from polarizing issues, that’s fine too but just be aware that’s going to make it harder for you to build a dedicated tribe.
Anyway I got off on a bit of a tangent from the original purpose of my post but that’s how it be sometimes.
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FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF BEIJING
categories: china, motherland
tags: beijing, motherland
Here’s a few observations after spending my first 24 hours here in Beijing.
Beijing has a mix of ultra-modern and ancient structures that is probably unlike anywhere in the world.
Northern Chinese cuisine is vastly different than the Cantonese or Americanized version we often see in the states. (Since I’ve weaned myself off junk food, I will be consuming lots of local food and it will take getting used to). There are quite a few different styles available.
Of the Westerners here, there seems to be a higher ratio of Americans compared to Shanghai (where Europeans far outnumber Americans).
As far as ABC’s go, there are still far less here than in Hong Kong or Taiwan and they don’t have a community developed yet. (Hope one will soon).
The subway system is pretty good and you can go most places in the city for 2 kuai (about 15 cents).
I am definitely not trying to stay in the University District here. There’s literally over 10 colleges in this part of the city and if I was 20 and looking to party that’d be cool but I’m 24 and looking to build a future.
The city is much cleaner and less hectic than I remember. Overall the pace is much slower than Shanghai.
I think there are less distractions here than in Shanghai, especially for expats. I think on average, foreigners are far more productive here and less business oriented. Met a few people involved in the local arts and culture scene here (which is thriving and the hottest in China).
People in Beijing, on average, are pretty tall. Northern Chinese (and really just people in general) are usually taller than their Southern counterparts. At almost 5’8, I’m still shorter than most grown men.
The smog is on another level. Like perennial All-Star level.
The people in Beijing in general are much nicer than those in Shanghai. People say that even though Beijing is increasingly becoming a world-class city, people retain a certain a small-town charm and good nature that is very rare in a gigantic metropolis. Having spent time in the often “dog-eat-dog” environments of New York, LA, HK, and Shanghai, it’s refreshing.
Alright, I’m hungry for some cheap ($1) breakfast. Time to head out!
P.S. I posted this from an iPhone so forgive the formatting.