2012年1月10日 星期二

Mark follows up on 大山

Mark has had a good amount of time to think about why people hate his character (and maybe him.) But even in his responses he bends towards politico-speak (I’d say typical Chinese couching, but really every culture does this.)



Reason 4:

4) Political/Cultural – People wish Dashan had more of an edge;

No. Dashan is like a bucket of mush (which actually does have an edge, just go with it.) To wish that he had more of an edge is like wishing 新聞聯播 had more of an edge. They’re both the very opposite of the entire concept of an edge. To ask them to be “edgy” would be to miss the point entirely. It’s fine that the state news propaganda machine is the entire opposite of edgy. I mean it’s not “fine,” it’s just something we’ve come to accept from an authoritarian state that doesn’t believe in freedom of speech. And I don’t mean “accept” in a sense other than we hate it with a passion indescribable in words as it goes against the core assumptions of our civilization and our individual beliefs.

It’s not being a puppet or profiting off it that offends people. It’s being a puppet for evil that people resent. You can’t perform for the people in China and be big. You have to perform through the government to the people. That’s a sacrifice almost no one besides Dashan seems willing to make. And if they did, they’d get reamed out just as hard as he has through the years.

American (read: multinational companies) go through the ringer in the media for their cooperation with China. People remember and HATE, I repeat HATE and resent to their graves!, companies like Microsoft and Yahoo for turning over the names of individuals and their information that the Chinese government demanded. Google’s decision to enter the Chinese market has been a gigantic news story for years! Every major online service created by Americans (and some other countries in the West, like Skype, which originated in Estonia) has either been ridiculed, hacked, had surveillance software inserted into or around it, blocked, 山寨’ed, or worse. Never before has the contempt for Western (oftentimes American) progress and ideas been more obvious and rampant. You cannot consistently, freely, legally, and without fear of reprisal (without circumvention methods) access Youtube, Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr? and a host of other sites and services on the Internet in China. (As these are the core of our modern internet life, there is scarcely a more obvious rejection of all that the West stands for, is, and means to the people there.) Most foreigners living in China make their sacrifices to a government somewhat indirectly: they work for a company that has made a pact to work with China, they teach for a school, etc. Dashan has had to make a direct deal with censors at all levels (explicitly or implicitly) and at the same time has become a face, not a company, for them to exploit. No one denies his talent or accomplishments and all that. Everyone is sure Mark is a swell guy. What people cannot forgive is his how anyone could do all this in public for so long and not feel bad about it. We shamed people like Michael Jordan for not commenting about Nike sweatshops. Apple CAN NEVER EVER MENTION that all their beautiful disposable crap is made by people in China. That’s how far the shame and resentment goes. And they don’t mention it just because it represents outsourcing to cheap countries. They don’t mention it because China IS a repressive country that doesn’t believe in labor standards, human rights, and lots of things we take as first principles in the West, or at least in America, even if it’s merely all talk.

(Unlike the companies exploiting Chinese workers or land or the people just teaching or whatever, 大山’s career is PREMISED on the central denial of the freedom of culture, speech, thought, etc. He is/was the officially sanctioned culture “freely available” to all, the physical embodiment of censorship and its effects, offered up as the “acceptable” foreign element in contrast to all the truly free and thought-provoking culture/thought/ideas officially persona non grata in the halls of power or any halls the powers that be happen to ever find out about.) And it is this dearth of a free and open culture more than anything else in a China today without rampant killing and violence, that people find so utterly depressing and soul-sucking when they are encountered with real-life Chinese people. That and all the other shitty things the government still does.

In a free society you used to make the excuse that you were “merely a performer” before people fully grasped the power (and responsibilities) these performers had (or should have.) In a non-free society (China is undeniably a non-free society) the “merely a performer” argument has no force. All performers perform at the pleasure of the state. There is no “apolitical” in an authoritarian society. The apathetic, “apolitical” types are merely upholders of the status quo.

Again, I quote 大山:

“So I work within cultural norms. This spills over into the political realm, because, to be honest, Chinese cultural acceptance of foreign political criticism is almost nil. In short, I don’t have to worry about what government censors might say because Chinese audiences would never let me get that far anyway.”

Yes, that’s the sacrifice, the submission you get from working for MAINSTREAM audiences. Plenty of Chinese audiences would be happy to see you, perhaps those very same people, but never in the mainstream when mainstream is defined by what the government allows. I’d argue your cultural force, self-respect, and respect from your audience would all go up if over the past 20 years you had been operating outside of the pre-set mainstream means. Maybe that was impossible 20 years ago, but it certainly isn’t now. There’s a reason nobody watches (well, they watch, but they don’t often like or respect) horrible Chinese TV anymore and all the cool kids download or stream foreign movies and TV shows or just play video games. The kind of nonsense that the government has been pushing, that you’ve been a core part of, is what has turned people off. When that was the only thing people could watch some watched it. Now people know better.

"I could make a short public statement like that of Christian Bale recently or Björk a few years ago. It’s very easy to do and ensures you get very good coverage in the Western media. You go home and everyone thinks you are a person of moral conviction who stood up to the great Chinese monster. But the fact is that these kinds of statements elicit almost no sympathy whatsoever from ordinary Chinese citizens. They simply are not culturally acceptable to the broad Chinese audience. And it’s very difficult to see what impact they have other than to further convince ordinary Chinese people that China is misunderstood and that the Western world is antagonistic towards China and resentful of China’s development. What use is that?”

You’re right. Idiots who know nothing about China, who go and say one thing about how China is evil after learning about it for 2 months or whatever are useless. You know who’s kind of statement wouldn’t be useless? Yours. Someone who they understand, have sympathy with, respect, etc. If you wrote some impassioned book or article or held a conference it would mean something. You probably would never work in China again. And who is more qualified to make sure the arguments and comments are not misunderstood than you?

Furthermore, the Western world IS antagonistic towards China. China does not respect human rights and dignity. It does NOT sign onto the core definitions of what makes a society not-evil in the 21st century as defined by not only the US and the UN, but nearly all countries in the world. What countries in 2012 don’t have elections? Seriously.

But you yourself already know this. No one is resentful, in any serious way, of China’s development. All countries cheat a little in economics. Japan did, the U.S. does all the time. The only reasons there is true resentment towards China is their stance on the treatment of individuals. Period.

And no, I’m not signing up for Quora to read the other responses. I find their model to be the repulsive anti-Wikipedia model: volunteers contribute free content which Quora monetizes and returns none of the money to the volunteers. Sounds like Google to me, actually, except I don’t have to “login” to use Google.


Judging from the beginning of the Quora question, I could tell it was going to be bad:

He seems like a nice guy. Does he secretly eat children or something?

Mommy, Hu Jintao seems like such a nice guy in the pictures, why do people hate him?

Dumb-ass question.

Dashan builds off a stereotype that centers around “foreigner speaks our language!” People nowadays would prefer to be treated as people, not some crazy thing that speaks Chinese! In fact, I’m not sure anyone ever preferred to be treated as an oddity. Dashan does nothing to help this stereotype. His whole performance is centered around fish-out-of-water, oh look, you live here and speak our language and understand our culture. Great, how about you just deal with him and us as a people with real ideas and thoughts and differences. When you come to America (or go to other countries) you’re just some person, period. But that’s the difference between a true multicultural culture, other countries in the world and whatever 55 different 少數民族 means.

THINK HARDER! Or don’t post at all if you’ve already thought harder and can’t say it for whatever reason.

Too harsh?

OK, back for more.

In America, if not other places, we’ve come to expect a lot of celebrities over recent years. We want them to be socially conscious, we want them to have causes. If they don’t, we call them people like Kim Kardashian. But even there, in the bottom recesses of our sextape-turned-socialitish celebrity culture, we at least see intimations of caring about the world. Maybe it’s only PETA or it’s some insincere commitment to “the troops” but the idea that any celebrity of any standing would be immune from “caring about the world” is almost unthinkable in American in 2012. Even the UN has recognized this with its “cultural ambassadors” like Angelina Jolie and George Clooney going around the world being the people Nicholas Kristoff always wished he could be (and probably doing more for the cause than he ever did, which is still sadly not very much.)

We understand that celebrities have great power. And nowadays we believe that power comes with great responsibility. Our sports and entertainment stars become our politicians and key movers on issues that matter to our societies. It is the blandness and one-dimensionalness of “personalities” in China that feels so retrograde and, frankly, wool-pulled-over-the eyes/constantly distract them with endless entertainment news (and particularly of people who never say anything about anything not related to stupid tabloid shit) that engenders such resentment and just flat out ignoring of mainstream Chinese TV, Music, Journalistic and Film culture. People who are from there kind of get a pass, since they are from there. But people who aren’t, who are smart enough to know what’s going on, don’t get a pass.

via http://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2012/01/10/dashan-on-why-foreigners-hate-dashan

For a slightly less extended commentary on 大山 please see the comments of this page:


I know, I shouldn’t have posted this.

2012年1月3日 星期二

Sorry, but it’s Zhang Ailing, not Eileen Chang

“At the age of 10, Chang's mother renamed her Ailing, a transliteration of Eileen, in preparation for her entrance into an English school.”


Sorry, still no.

You’re not who you say you are. You are who others say you are. If you write your entire corpus of merit in Chinese, your “Englishicized” name is not the name of record. At least not in this era anymore. There is an eternal tradition of using the names of writers and others of merit in the name of their own language. Only in a few selected cases do we find this kind of nonsense.

It was and is still very important to many to have the moniker of a “western name.” That’s fine. You can have it. You can use it for yourself. You can even force your family and friends to use it. You can even try to force strangers to use it as well. But you’re certainly not Eileen. And even if you are Eileen, your work certainly wasn’t written by someone named Eileen. And when we’re preparing something for translation, we’re looking at the name of the author of the work, not the little emblem you have close to your heart which has nothing to do with your work, but rather some sociological and psychological or silly issues you or your mother needed to work out.

Names emerge from group inclusion. If your work doesn’t belong to that same group, your name doesn’t apply to that work either. Especially when that work specifically belongs to and is written exclusively to and for another group for which you already have an existing name that applies.

It would seem easy to blame the missionaries here. Check. And Hong Kong. No, because the blame in that case really falls to the British. But the real issue here is from shitty publishing entities exoticizing and otherizing things because they were racist that way. But their crappiness is certainly added to by their own ignorance and pushback by their source material creators who viewed cross-cultural activities through their own lens, disregarding the customs of cultural transfer of the target culture. If someone tells you their name is Eileen and asks you translate their name that way you politely decline. Yes, that is English, but it is English in the context of a different culture. Cross-cultural English to English translation is nothing new. But in this case it’s even worse than that. Leaving trousers untranslated is nothing compared to this. We’re not even pretending that Eileen was a name that meant anything to her in the context of the Chinese society and work. It was an entirely independent thing. To attach it to her writing translated into English would be to miss the point entirely.

Ken Oe walking around in New York forcing all his English-speaking friends to call him Ken while writing his material in Japanese for a Japanese audience who knows him exclusively by Kenzaburo does not get to dictate that his translated material will be listed as written by “Ken Oe.” Think about it. Even if we would have put up with shit like that 50 or 100 years ago or a while ago doesn’t mean we should stand for it for a second.

Al Huxley.

Fred Nietzsche

Pete Dostoevsky

Group membership. Think about it. It applies to work and to people. People, despite clever sayings to the contrary, are not their work. People are people. Work is work. I’m not saying that people or work can’t have multiple existences and identities, (in fact translation is about creating such an existence/identity) but that this not necessarily be true in every case. And before deciding such membership exists careful consideration must be undertaken.

And we go back and change things that are crap. The Mao Tse-tung era is over for many, many good reasons.


"I self-identify as African American - that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed.” – Barack Obama, 2009