By all standards Wang Meng (1934- ) has had a tremendously successful career. Easing out of his problematic role as Cultural Minister in 1989, Wang was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1994 by the Chinese Literary Society. He has published more than 100 books and was listed as the 24th most commercially successful writer in China in 2010 with a net worth of 1.75 million yuan. This past year a village on the border of Kazakhstan opened a museum in his honor.
Some Old Time American porch music this week, in anticipation of Friday night's big "Roots Rage" show down at Mako Livehouse. The gentleman on the fiddle is Michael Ismerio, visiting us in Beijing from North Carolina. He's been gigging around town, sitting in with the Yellow Hutong Weasels and others, doing roots music workshops, playing shows, and calling square dances. Serious. He was the caller at last night's square dance at the Home Plate BBQ Sanlitun preview dinner. Goes something like this. Dare to be square, man.
Junkyard Planet, the first book by Bloomberg Shanghai correspondent Adam Minter, offers a look at the often unheard and unseen $500 billion global scrap and recycling industry, which has formed in the shadow of burgeoning Western -- and increasingly Chinese -- consumerism. Minter is himself “a proud junkyard kid” from a Minneapolis scrap trading family that established themselves through hard graft in the post-Depression period. This background provided him the connections to offer an invaluable insider perspective on this unknown trade -- and also informs his somewhat Romanticized, American Dream-inspired perspective.
In his book The Gift the Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov describes the mountains of Northwest China as a “transparent and changeable setting” where “the dryness of the air produced an amazing contrast between light and shadow: in the light there were such flashes, such a wealth of brilliance, that at times it became impossible to look at a rock, at a stream; and in the shadow a darkness that absorbed all detail.”
If music is an international language, French musician Jean Sebastien proves that Mandarin Chinese is becoming one, also. Although he plays in several bands, the focus of this episode is his "Djang San" persona, a folk artist playing traditional Chinese instruments, singing in the Chinese language, and mixing Western experimental and jazz influences into ancient melodies. See what Chinese music is, and can become, in the eyes of a talented outsider.
No words are necessary here. Just check out this beautiful timelapse called China in Motion 2013, via Timelapse China, featuring 56 photographers taking stunningly high-definition shots in 49 Chinese cities.
Here's a laowai who loves his hometown of Cleveland so much that he raps about its charms to a Chinese audience. Cleveland, the city whose football team has had more staph infection lawsuits than playoff appearances since 1999, the city with a sulphuric I-71 cutting through it, the city consistently ranked one of the worst in the US, the city...
Our friends at Beijing Today will be swinging by every now and then to introduce art and culture around the city. This week, please meet independent filmmaker Lei Yong, whose debut The Young Play Games, The Old Play Tai Chi tells the life of China's "parasite singles," young people who have enjoyed education and opportunity but remain unemployed and hapless.
The first time Tasken competed on the TV show The Voice of China, the Chinese version of America’s Got Talent, he didn’t get through to the second round.
But the second time, he sang the song “A Lovely Rose” in Chinese. The judges were so impressed, they asked him to sing it in his native language – Kazakh.
Outro time! We're featuring an independent artist from Limerick, Ireland tonight, John Carroll, who has been singing and songwriting for the last decade. It was a tour that brought him to China in 2007, where he married and settled. He's been living in Hangzhou ever since.
It was more than a year ago (has it been so long?) that we posted about a Kickstarter called "Awesome Asian Bad Guys," in which two Los Angeles-based filmmakers sought to make an action-comedy Web series featuring a bunch of Asian bad guys you might have forgotten.
Ylvis's hit "The Fox" (What Does the Fox Say?) was the surprise viral song of the late summer. We can't believe it's taken all of nearly two months, but here, finally, is a parody of that video set in China, featuring that other wonderfully mysterious creature of the woods, by which we mean -- of course -- the giant panda.
The sketch comedy that I outlined last week ends with a return to proper gender norms: a husband taking responsibility for his wife and children. But before this can take place, Abdukerim’s character is confronted with the wide range of his sins and their social effects.