Friday, July 05, 2002

Eurasian Journalists

In general, Eurasian journalists make me wanna cry. If they're not spouting out "best of both worlds" nonsense, they're proselytizing for the Democratic Party and calling it balanced reporting. I really think this is psychological. People who have no idea how to express their Asian side in their everyday life think that they will somehow be seen as more Asian if they maintain lockstep with the Asian-American English language ethnic press' viewpoints.

Look at Phil Tajitsu Nash's (always insists on getting that middle name published) idea of journalism, written for AsianWeek. He doesn't even bother with a balanced presentation of the issues, just takes the National Education Association party line and inserts "Even though some Asian Pacific Americans may have benefitted from this, it does immense damage to our community on the whole" every other sentence, without any thoughtful analysis or presentation of the non-leftist side of the issue.

I have no respect for those who allow their heritage and ancestry to be used as a blunt weapon for Asian-American activists to smash their perceived enemies. I spit on those who see politics as a channel for the expression of their cultural identity, at the expense of the community.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

This isn't very closely related to the usual EA topics I focus on, but it still relates to cultural interchange, so I thought I'd post it up. It came out of an email I was writing to the author of an article I read. I've been speculating a bit on the reasons for the popularity of Japanese music in Hong Kong. The whole "Asian Pride" thesis that Hong Kong people are looking to fellow Asians for their image and starting to develop a pan-Asian conscious would seem to be contradicted by all the Hong Kongers (and Malaysian Chinese, and Taiwanese) who leaped on board in criticizing Korea and accusing them of cheating after their spectacular run of victories in the 2002 World Cup.

I think it's due to two gaps in HK popular culture. First, female HK singers produce almost nothing but the same old ballads, and an occasional cheesy dance song. Many HK guys feel their style of dress, haircolor, etc. is very strange yet still overly conservative - basically, neither classy & cool, eye-catching & sexy, nor wild & cutting edge. The lyrics are generic and the musical style shows little creativity. On the whole, it leads to an anemic feel. A powerful female vocalist with a catchy beat and a stylish image tears through the local market, which is why Ayu, Misia, Utada Hikaru, etc. are so popular.

Also, teenagers see little reflection of themselves out in the media world. Many pop stars are quite old. Jacky Cheung, Aaron Kwok, Andy Lau, and Leon Lai are two to three times the age of some of their fans. TV shows largely focus on late-20s/early-30s unmarried lawyers, unmarried doctors, or unmarried wandering kungfu masters and princesses, and their adult (in the sense of emotion, more so than physical) relationships. Kids 10 and under as well as grandparents may be seen as side characters. Teenagers are almost entirely absent, except from commercials. Japanese singers tend to be younger, so students feel more affinity for them despite the language barrier. This is also a major reason for the recent popularity of Korean groups.

Strangely, though, many HK natives will not recognize the names "Utada Hikaru" or "Hamasaki Ayumi" if you said them. They only know the characters used to write the names, not the actual names, so you'd have to say "Yue Do Tien Gwong" and "Bun Kei Boh" (the Chinese pronunciation of those words) before they could understand.

Finally, the language barrier between Japan and HK is coming down fast. I studied as an exchange student in HK this past semester - that university had about 12,000 undergrads, and the 4th-level Japanese class had 24 people, in a university of 12,000 undergrads. University in HK is only 3 years - almost everyone in the class were 3rd year students who had started Japanese in their first year, spent a year in Japan, and came back. They all scored 80% or higher on JLPT-1(the highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, intended for people who are fluent and fully literate in Japanese - kinda the equivalent of the TOEFL) when 2 1/2 years before the test they barely spoke any Japanese. At my home university in the US, we have 6,000 undergrads and 4th-year Japanese was me and 5 others. I don't think any of us even felt qualified to take the JLPT.

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