Monday, August 31, 2009

Lloyd Popp - awesome Indonesian talk-box guy

This is pure dopeness in so many ways. Another reason to thank the guy who invented Youtube.

His name is Lloyd Popp. He's from Jakarta (represent!), and he's a producer and rapper, but most of all he plays the talk-box. And as you can see from the above video, he f***in' loves it.

Auto-tuney-stuff is everywhere right now and experiencing serious overkill thanks to T-Pain, Kanye West and the like. Thus Lloyd Popp's schtick should be annoying. But instead it's pretty much the coolest thing ever.

And anyone who can rock those glasses with so much enthusiasm gets instant legend status in my book.

And the way he mispronounces th as d ("let de rhyddem get into you") is distinctively Indonesian. And only makes the whole thing more awesome.

He's got some g-funk-styled Indonesian rap up on his Myspace page, which you may or may not get into depending on whether you need Indonesian rap in your life.

Also he's got a heap of stuff up on Youtube, mostly covers, including this video below - it's a cover of "Computer Love" by Roger Troutman & Zapp, which is the big daddy of talk-box songs.

Let's help make this guy into a Youtube sensation.

(Hat tip: Soul Sides)

Like this article? You may like these:

Daichi, amazing Japanese beatbox kid

Global Funk Connections: Maliq N D'Essentials

Artistic interpretations of the "Super Mario Bros" theme

Dancing Filipino prisoners

Meet Namata, Flava Flav's Cameroonian clone and world's greatest dancer

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Free speech is a wonderful thing, innit? Pastor calls for death to Obama and gays

Just in case you thought Islam had a monopoly on insane preachers of death and hate...

So there's this pastor in the US named Steven L Anderson (pictured). Perhaps what you might call a "fire-and-brimstone" preacher, but worse. At his Faithful Word Baptist Church, located in Phoenix, Arizona, he preaches on his favourite topics - usually "faggots". (It's a passion he shares with the uber-crazy Reverend Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church.)
Despite Christianity's dominant teachings of love, forgiveness and compassion, for Pastor Anderson those qualities are just not as much fun as wishing death on people.

According to the good pastor, homosexuality is a sin which is just as bad as murder and should be punishable by the death penalty. He believes that homosexuals are all predators who recruit others by rape and molestation, and likens them to predators that thrive in nature - the problem being, to use his nature analogy, that "they have no natural predators." In other words, gays should be put to death.

Also in his sermons he has stated that God hates Barack Obama because, having allowed abortions to take place in America, he is a "mass-murderer". Thus Anderson prays for Obama to die and go to hell, saying the President should be "aborted."
Funnily enough, in the same conversation Anderson quotes Psalm 11, saying that "him that loveth violence is so hated [by God]", in reference to Obama. The irony is clearly lost on him however.

Of course, Anderson's not going to kill the President or any homosexuals himself, heavens no. In an interview with liberal radio host Alan Colmes, this imbecile even denies that he might carry any blame for whipping up sentiments that may lead to murder. The Colmes interview is well worth listening to, since the host's challenging questions display Anderson for the hate-ridden, moronic maniac that he is - although admittedly Anderson does a pretty good job advertising this for himself.

I gotta say, it amazes me that someone can get away with this in the US or anywhere else. Free speech is important of course, and I'm fully supportive of someone's right to express their views... but incitement to commit murder? I can't believe the First Amendment covers that. Of course, he didn't outwardly tell anyone to kill anyone else. But an influential figure like a pastor, proclaiming how much gays and the President deserve to die and how he prays that Obama dies - it doesn't take a genius to work out the subtext. And it only takes one nutjob with a gun to do the unthinkable.

Actually got me thinking of this brilliant sketch from "That Mitchell and Webb Look". You'll see the connection.

Like this article? You may like:

Knobhead of the Week: Danny Nalliah

Knobhead of the Week: Samir Abu Hamza

Islamic "moral police" need to get lives and real jobs

Don't drink in a pub - drink cow's urine instead!

Malay mob drags cow's head through the streets in protest against Hindu temple

It's not enough that Malaysia's image has been tarnished in recent weeks by the controversy surrounding Kartika Shukarno. Now this:

About 50 residents of Section 23 in Shah Alam, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, were protesting against the Selangor state government's decision to relocate a Hindu temple into the area. They have every right to do this, of course. But they also promised bloodshed if the relocation went ahead, and dragged the head of a cow (revered in Hinduism) through the streets and stepped on it to emphasise their point.

As disturbing as it is to watch these men taunt followers of another religion in such a grotesque and arrogant manner, the moment in the video that elicited the most revulsion for me was about 3 minutes. A young boy who cannot be older than 12 mimics the older men by kicking the cow's head, grinning. So young, yet already being brainwashed to become part of the next generation of brainwashed bigots.

This incident happened not only during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer, but on Independence Day weekend, which is meant to be a celebration of national unity.

The Malaysian Insider reports:

“I challenge YB Khalid, YB Rodziah and Xavier Jeyakumar to go on with the temple
construction. I guarantee bloodshed and racial tension will happen if this goes on, and the state will be held responsible,” shouted Ibrahim Haji Sabri amid strong chants of “Allahu Akbar!”

Ibrahim identified himself as the Deputy Chairman of the Resident’s Committee against the building of the temple in S23 here, which is perceived by some as being a Muslim majority area.

He told the press that the state should move the temple to Section 22 as
‘originally planned’, and also labelled Khalid a “traitor to the Malay race and

It is understood that the protest is an immediate reaction towards the Selangor MB’s visit to the Hindu temple site yesterday, an act seen by the "residents" as disrespectful to the Muslims of the community.

Mohd. Zurit Bin Ramli, who claims to be the secretary of the "Coalition of Malaysian NGOs" echoed Ibrahim’s stand on the matter, saying that it was irresponsible on the part of the state government to approve the construction as there was apparently a "90 per cent” majority Muslim population in Section 23.

“With a temple on our residential area, we cannot function properly as Muslims. The temple will disrupt our daily activities like prayers in the Surau. We cannot concentrate with the sounds coming from the temple,” stated Zurit.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the vast majority of Malays would find this abhorrent. Indeed, PM Najib Razak himself has condemned the action and ordered the police take action. Condemnation throughout the Malaysian media has been seemingly universal.

But the incident is a symbol of the sense of arrogance and entitlement that some Malays have acquired due to the Government's constant upholding of them as a privileged ethnic group. It threatens to severely damage the relationship between the nation's Muslim Malay majority (who make up just over half the population) and the minorities: Indians, Chinese as well as other indigenous ethnic groups.

UMNO youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin condemned the protest, asking those involved to consider how Muslims would feel if non-Muslims desecrated the Quran.

Well we all know what would happen then. Had those protesters been Indian or Chinese, and stepped on the Quran or thrown a pig's head into a mosque, there would be murder in the streets. Although of course, the police would never allow such a protest to happen in the first place - they would lock up the participants and detain them under the draconian Internal Security Act. Yet yesterday, the Malay protesters acted freely within full view of riot police, who stood by and did nothing.

The protesters' claims are also ridiculous. The population of Section 23 is not 90% Malay but apparently closer to 60%. In any case, even in overwhelmingly Muslim states like Kelantan and Terengganu, Hindu and Buddhist temples exist unmolested, as the vast majority recognise the rights of minorities' freedom to practice. And regarding the claim that the sounds from a temple would disrupt their daily activities - that's crazy when you consider that the azan (Muslim call to prayer) is audible everywhere in Malaysia, even in areas like Penang and Sarawak where Malays are in the minority. Non-Malays put up with it without complaint.

It is to the shame of a nation that barbarians like these protesters are indulged by the authorities in such a way. It is an incident that cuts through to the core question about Malaysian national identity: can the Malay people as a whole ever truly accept that the Chinese, Indians and others (whose history in the country dates back to the colonial era and beyond) are more than mere visitors to "their" country?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sitar grooves: Daniel Merriweather - "Impossible"

The sitar in the West tends to mean one of two things; either the most obvious musical marker of Indian-ness, or as a symbol of trippy 60s psychedelia. In this series of posts I'm going to explore some of the different ways that the sitar has worked its way into Western popular music. But mostly its just a chance for you to dig some slammin' tunes.

Daniel Merriweather is a Melbourne soul boy made good. Having moved overseas and teamed up with uber-producer Mark Ronson, his debut album Love and War bulleted straight into the UK chart at number 2. The Australian media should be all over this guy but for some reason they're not yet. I remember seeing him at a gig maybe 8 years ago when he was a virtual unknown, and I couldn't believe how this nondescript white boy from Belgrave seemed to be channelling D'Angelo and the spirit of classic soul music, like virtually no one in Australia had managed before.

Impossible is his new single, and I think it's a killer. Reminds me a lot of Ronson's work with Amy Winehouse - blatantly Motown-esque in its musical arrangement, with a deep funk breakbeat courtesy of the backing band, the awesome Dap Kings. The sitar is only an extra colour in the busy arrangement, but it gives it that distinctive extra edge to make it memorable. The combination of sitar and funk breakbeat is generally a winner - check US3's You Can't Hold Me Down, The Dave Pike Set's Mathar, or Belle & Sebastian's Legal Man for other examples.

More soulful sitar-ness here.

The Asian penis in popular culture

So I finally got around to seeing The Hangover, the wildly popular comedy about some dudes who run into trouble while highly intoxicated on a bucks night in Vegas. It was pretty funny. There has been some discourse around the blogs recently about the way the film perpetuates a number of ethnic stereotypes. It's possible to see it that way - I didn't worry about it and just enjoyed the film for what it was.

However, one scene in the movie struck me as notable - a scene when the effeminate Asian gangster Mr Chow (Ken Jeong) jumps naked out of the trunk of a car. One thing you don't notice is his penis, which is apparently so small that it's barely visible in that camera shot. It struck me later that despite the story later explaining why he is in the trunk, there is nothing in the plot that explains why he should be naked. It certainly adds to the humour of the scene, and apparently it was Jeong himself (a comedian who loves making jokes about his unimpressive penis size) who had the idea for the character to be naked. Jeong is a funny guy, but I wonder if he questions his role in perpetuating that common racial stereotype in popular culture - the Asian man with the small dick.

It clearly made an impression on one reviewer, Bobby Rio on the TSB Magazine website, who when mentioning the cameos lists "Ken Jeong (who flashes us his tiny Asian penis)". WTF? Given that Jeong is Asian, wouldn't his penis be Asian as well?). Rio has since removed the words "tiny Asian" from the review, presumably after myself and another Asian guy gave him sh*t in the comments.

(I've written more about Ken Jeong and his penis-flashing habits here.)

Let's take another movie, the stoner comedy How High. The two black lead characters are sharing their college fraternity with an Asian kid who is a prodigy, but also has a small penis. He even says to a woman at one point "I got 2 inches of hard dick." Which no doubt made the films teen male audience chortle about small Asian dicks. Hooray!

In the clever award-winning Australian mockumentary series We Can Be Heroes, actor Chris Lilley rehashes this stereotype. In one segment, Lilley's yellowface character Ricky Wong talks about how similar Aborigines are to Chinese, adding that one of the only differences is that an Aborigine would have a much bigger penis.

Now, let me say from the outset that I'm not sure whether this stereotype is true or not. And since I haven't gone around f***ing a whole bunch of dudes of different races, I'm unlikely to get the background research that this article really needs. (Sure, I'm familiar with my own - exceptionally so, in fact - but that's a pretty, um, small sample. Plus I'm mixed race so I don't even know where to start with that.)

I could try checking a diverse bunch of guys out at public urinals, but would probably only come away with a beatdown. I wouldn't be surprised if there's some truth to the stereotype though. Does that matter? Maybe, maybe not. They say girth is more important than length. Do Asians have more girth? I don't know that either. (Sorry. What, you thought this was gonna be a serious academic study?)

But the stereotype is mostly being spread by white males. Do a google search on "small asian penis" or something like that, and you'll find a whole heap of derogatory joking references to Asians and their junk. (You'll also find a whole lot of porn too, but that's another matter.) It's funny. You don't hear a lot of women going around saying stuff about Asian penises, but there are plenty of white guys with opinions on it and ready to make jokes.

So why are so many white guys obsessed with Asian guys' nether regions?* (And why does no one realise how gay that is?)

I guess it makes sense. The prevailing stereotype is that people of African origin have significantly larger members than white guys. Now if you're the sort of white guy who cares about these things, its a bit of a prick to the ego (pardon the pun). But that lost self-esteem can easily be regained by focusing on someone who allegedly has even less than you - the Asian man. This is not to say that Asians necessarily do have less, but it clearly suits non-Asians to believe so. For white dudes who feel threatened by Asian men for whatever reason, it is reassuring to fall back on their perceived superiority downstairs.

The problem with this (well, one of them anyway) is that despite most research playing down the importance of penis size, its something men are fixated on. The other thing you'll find from googling "small asian penis" is Asian guys posting on forums worried about whether they are normal in size. I heard that in the Vietnam War the US planes dropped extra-large condoms over enemy territory, in order to psych out the Viet Cong who were meant to believe they were fighting massively-endowed supermen. I'm not sure if this actually did intimidate the VC; you never know, maybe it made them fight harder out of resentment and jealousy. Or maybe they didn't even make the mental connection. In any case, well-pronged or not, the US lost.

Young males these days are forever bragging about the dimensions of their todger, and insinuating about others' lack thereof. Hey, I do it all the time, it's funny. But on a subconscious level, its a bit like alpha male herd behaviour in animals - seeking to establish status and dominance by a demonstration of superior strength and physique. Because for many men, a penis is more than just that thing that you piss and f*** with; it represents the very essence of a man's masculine identity.

So you could argue that the wide currency of the Asian-small-penis stereotype represents an attempt at racist domination by the white man over the Asian man.

Or maybe Asians just have small penises and it's funny. I dunno - like I said, I haven't done it with enough Asian guys to know for sure.

By the way: don't think too much about why I was googling "small asian penis" to begin with, all right? Just assume it was research for this article.

Above: This Filipino man shows off his impressive cock.
Below: Vietnamese people are known to have a whole lotta Dong.

Like this article? You may like these:

Race, IQ and penis size

Comebacks to stereotypical and racist comments

A bit about Asian men and white women

Random comic genius: Eliot Chang on racist questions

Random comic genius: My Black Friend

Asians accused of being bad drivers - by a senior citizen

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is Peter Chao racist? You be the judge

Vancouver-based comedian Peter Chao has amassed a significant following on youtube with his fobby rants. They're funny enough if you're into Chinese accents and humour based almost entirely on ethnic stereotypes.

He was recently suspended temporarily due to one of his posts in which he dons blackface and pretends to be his black friend "Jamal Jenkins". I guess someone thought it was too racist to be on youtube; interesting considering youtube is perhaps the most racist environment you can ever experience.

Below is the offending video, now back online. It's an endless parade of stereotypes - but is he mocking black people, or mocking the stereotypes? I'm inclined to think the latter. Judge for yourself.

After being suspended, Chao posted this:

Like this? You may like:

Racial humour - is it ever ok?

Comebacks to racist and stereotypical comments

Eliot Chang: Racist questions

Joe Wong on Letterman

Random comic genius: My Black Friend

White People Problems

Now Kartika Shukarno wants to be caned - for real?

In an update to the news item that has put Malaysia in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has requested that the authorities just hurry up and cane her and get it over with.

Kartika was found guilty by an Islamic court of the heinous crime of drinking a beer in a hotel back in 2007. The 32-year-old married mother of two was sentenced to endure 6 lashes of the cane. This would have made her the first woman to receive such a punishment in Malaysia. But at the last minute, the decision was made to defer the caning because it was month of Ramadan.

Now a number of prominent Malaysians (and Muslims at that) have weighed in on the matter. Prime Minister Najib Razak has advised Kartika to appeal the case, believing that the justice system will be sensitive to the controversy and eventually let her off.

Former PM Mahathir Mohamad has written on his blog: "Is it possible that a judge may have been unfair or mistaken in his consideration? Is there no room in Islam for mercy toward those who commit an error for the first time?"

Or this from Chandra Muzaffar, president of the Malaysian think tank International Movement for a Just World: "She should not be caned in the first place. What we should do is advise her. This punitive psychology is a bane for Muslim societies, and we should get away from it."

But Islamic fundamentalist enforcers being what they are, Malaysia's religious courts are unlikely to let compassion or common sense get in the way of an opportunity to beat a woman for no good reason. Religious affairs legislator Mohamad Sahfri Abdul Aziz states that "The sentence is not being canceled." So they are merely delaying the punishment on compassionate grounds due to Ramadan. How compassionate of them, indeed.

Kartika, for her part, has said she would rather accept the punishment and move on. She has even requested it be carried out in public (rather than in a prison as stipulated) so as to be an example for other Muslims not to consume alcohol.

Strange - makes one wonder why she would wish for a caning, when none other than the Prime Minister himself has implied that should she appeal, she'd probably escape the punishment.

It's easy to write this off as another example of whacky Muslim behaviour. Which perhaps it is. But remember that in Sudan right now, journalist Lubna Hussein also faces a flogging for wearing trousers (arguably an even greater threat to public morals than beer-drinking). Hussein has refused a presidential pardon and is using the trial as a spectacle to shame the Sudanese authorities.

Is Kartika attempting to do the same? It's not clear. Is she sincere about wanting to use the caning as a public cautionary lesson for other Muslims? Not clear either. Maybe she's got a thing for S & M. But probably not.

Most likely, she just wants the end of this whole farce. As backward as the idea of caning a woman is, in reality it would not be as harsh as you might think, physically at least. The rattan being used is smaller and lighter than that used for men, and is administered over clothing, rather than bare flesh. So quite likely, Kartika figures she'd rather endure 6 such strokes than continue to be a part of the circus that has sprung up around this case.

Let's hope the authorities see sense, in any case.

Like this article? You might also like:

Don't drink in a pub - drink cow's urine instead!

Indonesia's anti-porno laws get stupider and stupider

Is Sarkozy right to want to ban the burqa?

Samir Abu Hamza says raping your wife is all good

"Mr James" gets gaijin in a tizzy

There's an interesting debate going on about racial stereotyping in advertising right now; interesting because it is a reversal of the usual paradigm.

McDonalds have a new mascot in Japan, named Mr James. He's a nerdy tourist who loves Japanese culture, speaks heavily accented and flawed Japanese, and of course loves burgers.

This character has upset many people of Western origin living in Japan, who claim it is a derogatory stereotype of white people in Japan. Blogger Arudo Debito (aka David Aldwinckle) is running a campaign to shame McDonalds into dropping the character.

Here's an example below of Mr James. Not understanding Japanese myself, I didn't find it particularly interesting.

Meanwhile over in the US, the two authors of the Disgrasian blog have described the portrayal as a kind of karma, since Western media have long perpetuated unflattering stereotypes of Asians. Disgrasian's flippant take on it has not been well-received by some, as you can imagine.

So is this a kind of racism against non-Japanese living in Japan? Is Mr James a kind of white minstrel sellout? It seems to me to be an overreaction, but then again, I'm not a foreigner living in Japan, and perhaps I don't get some of the nuances in the ad.

The point has been made that if an equivalent Asian stereotype was portrayed in American media (as it has been and still is), then Asians would bleat about it - so isn't it wrong to stereotype gaijin in Japan?

Consider this: in Western popular culture, it's usually somewhat acceptable to poke fun at white people in a way that would not be acceptable with blacks or Asians. This may not seem fair to white people, but it comes down to power. Since Anglocentric Western culture dominates a country like Australia or the US, it is a fair target for sending up. Making fun of the culture of, say, Aborigines, who are downtrodden and relatively powerless, seems in poor taste by comparison - like kicking someone when they are down.

So, transferred to Japan, where Japanese culture is so dominant, is it still okay to make fun of the 1% of the population who are Westerners, who are denied some of the basic rights available to native Japanese? Hmmm. Dunno if I have an answer for that one.

Like this article? You may like:

Green tea is intent on world domination

Japanese entertainment - the dark side

Awesome Asian Ads: Japan

Random comic genius: Hard Gay Ramen


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some Tamil rap for yo' ass - Yogi B & Natchatra

I posted recently about the ways that US hip-hoppers have appropriated Indian cinematic music for musical inspiration. And while some of those tracks are pretty cool, generally speaking they do not connect or engage with the source material in any way - it is merely another sound to be borrowed.

But what if the hip-hop artist is of Indian background? Below is an example of music from a Tamil movie being interpolated into a Tamil hip-hop song. The artists are Malaysian-Tamil rather than Indian Tamil - Yogi B is a veteran of the Malaysian hip-hop scene and sounds more like Xzibit or Ja Rule than any desi has a right to. Whether or not this is your thing, it's an example of what feels like a more natural blend of hip-hop and Indian music.

Takes a bit before the song itself actually kicks in.

I find it pretty catchy. As a language for rapping in, Tamil doesn't sound too bad - not as good as English or French, but better than German.

Although the singer looks a bit too much like someone's Indian uncle to be rocking that hip-hop gear.

The source material is the song Madai Thiranthu from the 1980 Kollywood* flick Nizhalgal. The video is absolutely whacky, but I expect nothing less from an Indian movie. Nice melody.

* Kodambakkam + Hollywood = Kollywood. Kodambakkam is the district in Chennai that is the base for the Tamil movie industry.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Health Care = Nazism. WTF?

Background to this clip: "Socialism" is by definition a system in which the state guarantees all people receive access to wealth and health care. However, in America, "socialism" seems to be a dirtier word than "c***". Therefore Barack Obama's proposed new health care plan, which attempts to guarantee even the poorest people get some health care, has been labelled socialist and by extension, reminiscent of the Nazis. At least that's the point one ignorant young lady is trying to make in this clip.
To his credit, the man she is addressing, Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, gives her the verbal smackdown she deserves. Hats off to the guy, it's quite a brilliant retort. Given that he is both Jewish and gay, you know he ain't playin' that Nazi sh*t:

What is truly stunning from that clip though is how the FOX News "journalists" slam Frank for being rude. And you can see how, taken entirely out of context (which is what FOX do), some may think he was rude. But his response is no less than what that idiotic woman had coming. Surely any sane person can see that, right?

But then, this is FOX News we are talking about. So its not that stunning really. Perhaps from their perspective, the woman's comparison is not rude and actually is logical.

Health care: helping more people to be healthy.
Nazism: systematic murder of millions of innocent people due to ethnic background.

So um, the same thing then, right?

Baby names and criminality

I recently read an article suggesting that children who were born with certain names have a higher likelihood of ending up as a criminal. For real?

A US study in Social Science Quarterly indicates that boys with certain names, such as Michael, Joshua or Christopher have better chances of growing up to be decent law-abiding citizens. I'll vouch for that, although I thought I'd worked really hard to be a good person - apparently all I had to do was rely on my Christopher-ness to get by.

However, should your name be Kareem, Luke or Malcolm, chances are you are going to be some kind of delinquent.

It seems the top 10 names which are likely to turn your bundle of joy into a depraved serial killer are (in no particular order):


Wow. I had to deal with a guy named Luke the other day for work; fortunately I've still got my wallet. And Ivan? No wonder there was a guy named Ivan the Terrible.

But seriously, what are the links between these names and crime? I mean, if I was named Garland, I'd probably want to tear sh*t up too. And given that this is a US study, it's probably fair to say that any kid named Kareem or Tyrell has a better-than-average chance of residing in the ghetto, with all that entails. But Alec? To me that's one of the most upper-crust, silver-spoon type names I can imagine. Maybe boys named Alec all become fund-embezzling merchant bankers or something.

Actually, I've got my own ideas about which boys' names are more likely to belong to criminals. This is strictly based on my work in Melbourne, going from school to school. I see around 5000 kids every year, so I reckon I've got a pretty good idea. And besides, it's a little while since I wrote anything that really offended people, so I guess its about time.

Harley - the favourite name of Dads who are "motorcycle enthusiasts" (ie. bikie gang members).

Mohammed - almost every kid I've met with this name thought he was a tough guy and enjoyed using the word "slut".

Jayden - no name says "bogan" quite like this one. Boys bearing this name have a high chance of displaying classic bogan characteristics (frequent coarse language, mullet, alcoholic by age 13, a father by age 17.)

Brayden - see Jayden

Zoran - may be destined to grow his hair into a rat's tail, take up kick-boxing, lose his drivers' license for doing burn-outs and get sacked from his job as a bouncer for using undue violence.

Then again, it could be worse. You could be like Ashlee Simpson and name your kid Bronx Mowgli. Barely out of the womb and already in counselling.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Miss Indonesia 2009... who barely speaks Indonesian

This story is a couple months old, but I'm behind the times as usual (hey, I still use a VCR!)

Karenina Sunny Halim, who was recently crowned this year's Miss Indonesia, is unusual in that despite being born and raised in Jakarta, she speaks little Indonesian. Having been home-schooled, and with an American mother, English has always been her main language. She needed a translator to answer the judges' questions, and claims not to know much about Indonesian culture.

Seems like a strange choice for someone to represent Indonesia. And certainly, there are plenty of Indonesians who are angry at the judges choice. But hey, she's hot, and hot goes a long way in my book. In any case, it's not like she's been elected President or anything.

(Although she doesn't seem thick by any means: the 23-year-old holds diplomas in public relations, sales and marketing, primary school teaching, economics, performing arts, and music and art.)

And she speaks the lingo better than I do, so who am I to throw stones?

You can see a brief news story here on her winning the pageant. Even if you don't understand Indonesian, its interesting for a few reasons. Firstly, check out her American-accented Indonesian in comparison to the "normal" accent of the voiceover. Secondly, check out how many Indos (Eurasians) are in this video. Not just her brother, popular actor Steve Emannuel, but at least one of the runners-up. It's true, Indonesians love that Indo look, and why the heck not? (Yup yup, don't hate us, just appreciate us.)

But also noticeable for me was the fairly homogeneous look of the contestants as they walked out - from a distance they look like clones, and all are light-skinned. Given the diversity of Indonesian people, it's a shame we don't embrace it more when it comes to the physical.


UPDATE (28/8/09): Ok, so Youtube removed that video, dammit. Try this one instead (unless it gets removed as well...) It's different, but really shows Karenina struggling with her Bahasa Indonesia. Watching that, I actually think I speak it better than her, which is not saying a whole lot.

Shah Rukh Khan detained at airport in US - oh the irony

Indian film megastar, Shah Rukh Khan, was detained at a US airport this week, while in the country promoting a movie about... um, an Indian man detained at a US airport. The Daily Show covers the story in their usual amusing fashion.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Shah Rukh Khan Detained at Newark
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dog-rescuing Indonesian-Australian becomes worldwide hero

It's funny how some news stories get buried and some spread like wildfire. Definitely in the latter category is the story of Raden Soemawinata. The 20-year old part-time model was performing a solemn ceremony with his family at Brighton pier in Melbourne, scattering his grandmother's ashes into the bay. Nearby, Sue Drummond was walking her dog Bibi when the gale force winds blew the tiny Maltese-shitzu into the bay. Soemawinata, stripping to shirt and boxers, dived into the icy water to rescue the dog.

It's the kind of example of everyday heroism that on a different day may not have made even the local paper; but since someone was on hand to take photos, it not only made the Melbourne news, but around the world as well. Google Raden Soemawinata and you'll find the story covered in news services from Vietnam to Poland, to the Netherlands and the UK's Telegraph and Daily Mail.

Kudos and respect to the guy, representin' the Melbourne Indos!

Btw: I read about this in Melbourne's Herald-Sun. It was one of the few stories involving an Asian I've read in that paper's website recently that don't have commenters calling for them to be sent back to their own country.

Mainstream Hip-hop's Bollywood Flirtations

I posted a week ago about one of the first American R&B/hip-hop hits to borrow from the vast catalogue of Indian filmic music - Truth Hurts' "Addictive".

But that it's hardly the only example. Indeed, since the start of this decade, Indian music has appeared with increasing frequency in tracks by mainstream hip-hop artists. As producers increasingly look for sample fodder outside the genre of 70s funk which has been the staple of hip-hop since its beginning, something about Indian music has proved alluring. Is it the music's filmic quality? Or an attempt to add some kind of pseudo-exotic impulse?

In any case, this trend has produced a range of material, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Jay-Z, ever the canny marketer and trend-spotter, released this remix of Panjabi MCs "Mundian To Bach Ke", already a worldwide hit due to its appearance on the soundtrack of "Bend it Like Beckham". The Jay-Z rework ensured both a crossover of Panjabi MC into the hip-hop scene, but also an increased following of Jay-Z among a desi audience worldwide.

Timbaland, the highly in-demand producer and occasional rapper, is well-known for pushing the sonic boundaries of hip-hop and R&B. Initially this was through unusually-timed beats and sound effects, but this came to include the incorporation of Asian music, particularly Indian and Middle-Eastern sounds.

Missy Elliot's enormous hit "Get Ur Freak On" is another Timbaland production from way back in 2001.

Erick Sermon's "React" is a solid track, but it raises the issue of cultural appropriation without appreciation. In the lyrics, Sermon seems to refer to the sampled female vocalist as an "Arabic chick", when the song is in fact in Hindi. As well, his interpolation of the Hindi sung lyrics with his rap apparently is nonsensical if you understand both languages. There's a good article here about the pros and cons of sampling Indian music in hip-hop, which details the contextual silliness of the Erick Sermon track.

And lastly, for the ridiculous. Snoop Dogg has produced a fair amount of crap in his career, and his contribution here to "Singh is King" certainly qualifies. It's funny though.

See also:

Hip-hop's Ethiopian flirtations

Let's play Spot the Sample - Lata Mangeshkar, "Tere Mere Beech Mein"

Sitar grooves - US3, "You can't hold me down"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Send them all back"... even if they are Australian?

When does an immigrant to Australia, or even the child of an immigrant to Australia, become an Australian? For some, apparently never.

Recently, a bashing occurred in Melbourne's CBD. An extremely brutal and nasty incident in which Queensland tourist Jeffrey Pooler was beaten senseless by up to 11 men and left in a coma, from which he only recently emerged. The assailants apparently were all Asian, and were captured on CCTV. Five have been arrested; only one, 20-year-old Quoc Pham of Sydney, has been identified at this point. The attack was quite possibly racist in nature but that is not clear at this point.

You can read more about it here. It's a disgusting sort of attack which is symptomatic of the epidemic of violence that afflicts Melbourne right now.

Now, Pham being of Vietnamese background, I'll make the assumption that the 11 men are most likely also Vietnamese, or perhaps Chinese or Cambodian in origin. I don't know anything about Pham or any of the other guys, but based on probabilities and their age, I'm guessing at least half of them were born in Australia, and most of them if not all of them would be Australian citizens.

Why does this matter? Because whenever crime such as this is reported in Melbourne's most read newspaper, the Herald-Sun, the websites are swamped with comments arguing that the perpetrators are sent back where they come from. Here are some examples from comments on that very story:

Immigration DOES NOT equal intergration. When will governments learn?
Posted by: Miranda of Melbourne 5:49pm August 13, 2009

MICK of BRISBANE , What a great idea. and i'd like to add if they or there parents has citenship then revoke it and piss them off back to their own country!!. Its time
australians stand up to their values and drive a hard line against this type of scum.

Posted by: charged up of perth 5:28pm August 13, 2009

Look at the arrests of bikies for the airport killing - over representation by ethnic groups who don't want to be part of society. Too many ethnic based gangs everywhere - drugs, bashings, shootings. How is this a positive for Australia?
Posted by: Neil 4:39pm August 13, 2009

I have to agree with Brenda here. The deportation laws and citizenship laws need to be changed so the government can revoke citizenship and deport people. We have a massive over supply of immigrants coming to Australia who do the wrong thing and make Australia a less desirable place to live. This is the legacy of the Howard Govt. with loose immigration policy based on labor demand especially in the mining sector. What the greedy mining companies should have done is keep out put low (rather than recuit more people into the country) and force export prices up therefore gaining a lot more profit in the long run. This would have curbed the migration problem.
Posted by: Brendan of vermont 12:18pm August 13, 2009

Once caught, and only after they've explained why they did it, free boat ride, and the taxpayers will provide the paddles. To anywhere but Australia. Best wishes for the victim of this ignorant crime. I hope his recovery is swift and complete. I hope his payback is a lawsuit and hefty payout from these peasants.
Posted by: Carole Badge of Melbourne 12:07pm August 13, 2009

I'd deport them. They are not worthy of living in our great country.
Posted by: Fred Hunter of Melbourne 12:01pm August 13, 2009

Unfortunately if the vermin have Australian citizenship we can't deport them. About time for a change of laws, folks. And good stiff gaol time. The judge who presides on this trial will probably be a lily-livered do gooder who is worried about the offenders' prospects of rehabilitation and not the victims. Folks out there, you voted for the inept government we are obliged to tolerate.
Posted by: Brenda of Melbourne. 11:12am August 13, 2009

So, despite the likelihood that the men are Australian citizens and probably Australian-born, deport them anyway? It shows the assumption that no matter how long you may have been in this country, if you don't look white you will never really be Australian.

Don't get me wrong, I hope these thugs are made to feel the full force of the law. And I'm not necessarily opposed to deporting criminals who are foreign citizens, depending on the situation. But if a criminal has been born here or brought up here, it is our problem and our responsibility. Because they are Australian.

More Japanese efficiency: Ramen-bot

This is either the dawn of an amazing new age, or the worst idea ever: robotic noodle chefs. Instead of actually giving a human a job to make ramen, you can get it made by a mechanical arm, hopefully without a hint of engine grease.

Btw check out the awesome porno-moustache on that guy towards the end of the piece.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Racist anti-African leaflets distributed in Frankston and Mildura

Man, I don't really want this to turn into the "Racism in Australia Blog". I'd rather post about happy and funny things, honestly. But this sort of thing just keeps happening.

In two different parts of Victoria, unidentified persons have been distributing leaflets spreading hatred of Sudanese immigrants.

The first spate of material was detected last week on car windscreens in Mildura, in northwestern Victoria, claiming the local council had tried to "sneak" 30 Sudanese refugee families into their city.
The leaflet says Sudanese refugees "will cause endless social terrorism" and bring "a primitive lawless tribal culture and a pack mentality" into the community.
It also claims people of Sudanese origin are 400 to 800 per cent more likely to commit a serious crime than an Australian national and says "many of them are infected with AIDS". Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria (ECCV) chair Sam Afra described the material - which has no clear author but includes links to anti-African and Muslim websites - as "racist scaremongering" of no substance.
Another anonymous leaflet circulating in Frankston, 40km from Melbourne, is under police investigation after it was found in mailboxes and on car windscreens this week.It reads: "Do you want Frankston to become like Dandenong?"
"The levels of violence in Dandenong and Noble Park have risen sharply since the huge increase in the African population." It claims 386 high-rise commission flats are due to be built in the centre of the outer bayside suburb, to be "filled with Africans".
The leaflet lists gang rapes, machete attacks and smashed shops as crimes associated with African migration.
Frankston mayor Colin Hampton rejected the material as "absolutely disgraceful" and said the suburb was comprised of many races. Mr Hampton said the figure of 386 units earmarked for Frankston was also wrong. One proposal for 70 social housing units in Frankston was being examined by the Victorian Government for construction by December under the Federal Government's job stimulus, but no plans had yet been confirmed, he said.

I've never been to Mildura and know little about the situation there, so I won't comment, except to say that it's interesting that both leaflet campaigns have appeared around the same time. I look forward to seeing who has coordinated this crap.

As for Frankston... this sort of thing doesn't surprise me. This beach-side suburb on Melbourne's southern fringe has its share of nice areas and nice people, but there is a real ugly side to "Franga", which has made it the butt of jokes for many Melbournians. North Frankston in particular contains some of the highest rates of domestic abuse you'll find in Melbourne, and is like a factory churning out troubled teens. And the majority are Anglo; Frankston is pretty monocultural, although this is gradually changing.

So it's funny that someone in Frankston would contrast it with Dandenong as an example of what happens when you let black people in. Dandenong is no paradise by any means, but I'd wager most people would choose Dandy over Franga anytime. Because unlike Frankston, Dandenong's embrace of ethnic diversity has made it a place worth visiting - its Saturday market is pretty cool, and in Dandy's main shopping hub you can find some of the best Indian, Sri Lankan, Afghani and African food in Melbourne.

I'm not going to say there is no problem with Sudanese youth in Dandenong and neighbouring Noble Park, because there is. But young Sudanese thugs, being tall and very dark, are simply the most noticeable of all the young thugs that frequent Noble Park and to a lesser extent Dandenong. There are lots of at-risk young people in these areas - Anglo, Turks, Islanders, Sudanese, Bosnians and so on. Noble Park has been a depressed and troubled area for a long time, much like Frankston. The reality is that in these areas, kids have a higher than average likelihood of getting into gangs or generally involved in trouble. The only difference is that in Frankston those kids are usually white and in Dandenong or Noble Park they are usually ethnic, since that's who lives there.

When CCTV footage at Sunshine Station caught 3 young Sudanese men violently assaulting and robbing a man in an unprovoked attack, predictably the Herald-Sun website was bombarded with letter writers talking about the supposed barbaric nature of Africans and their inability to settle in our society. Yet when Carl Williams and his gang were going around Melbourne murdering with impunity earlier in this decade, I don't remember anyone mentioning the savage warlike tendencies of Anglo-Australians.

Thing is, I worry that if Sudanese do move into Frankston, they will struggle. Not because of the reasons the leaflets are mentioning, but because with such negativity and hate being directed at them already, they'll be up against it from day one.

And this is an example of how we are selling our refugees short. If we gave Sudanese families places to live in Glen Waverley or Toorak or Brighton, you might hear complaints from the locals, but you would also hear less about Sudanese gang crime in general - because the kids would grow up in an environment that is all about academic success and social advancement. Instead, we house new arrivals in places like Sunshine and Noble Park which are already ridden with social problems, and then wonder why some of them get in trouble. The answer is that they're just doing what everyone else is doing in that area.

Having worked with a lot of Sudanese youngsters in my community education work, I think they're pretty cool people and I have a lot of time for them. But no doubt, having fled from a bloody and traumatic warzone, they come with some baggage. If we are going to welcome them into Australia as refugees, we owe it to them - and ourselves - to make sure they have an opportunity to make it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Random comic genius: Russell Peters on Bollywood

Seeing as I'm posting a few things about Bollywood these days...

"Always a good day when you can bag a sand nigger."

I hope the people who slammed Barack Obama for questioning the police force's handling of minorities in the Henry Gates case can read about this.

This time its another professor (from the English department at Central Connecticut State University), named Ravi Shankar. (No, not the great Indian musician Ravi Shankar, this is a different one.) Yet for some reason this story hasn't captured America's attention like Gates' case did.

To summarise, Shankar was pulled over in NYC for a breathalyser test. He passed this with no problem, but then was suddenly apprehanded - there was a warrant out for his arrest. Well, someone who looked like him anyway. Actually, scratch that - the warrant was for a 5'10", 140 lb white male. Shankar is 6'2, 200 lb Indian male. As you can see from his picture (left), he's not particularly "white". At least they got the "male" bit right.

Pushing him into the police van, Shankar overheard one cop say "Always a good day when you can bag a sand nigger."

He was then taken to a cell. This was Friday night. Not until Sunday morning was he allowed to contact his family or speak to a public defender.

"Sand nigger"
If you ever want a two-word phrase that marks you out as an absolute racist redneck douchebag, this is it. If you haven't heard it before, it tends to refer to people of Middle-Eastern descent. (Yes, Shankar is Indian, not Middle-Eastern...)

Seriously, how bad is this term? Think about how many "wrongness" buttons are pushed by its use.

* The term "nigger", for a start. Implies hatred of black people. Nuff said.
* Blacks, Arabs. All the same, aren't they? The only difference is that some live on sand, apparently.
* Indian people, Middle Eastern people, they're also all the same, right?


(hat tip: Sepia Mutiny)

The teenage sex scandal that rocked Australian radio

If you are in Australia and reading this you're probably sick of hearing about this story now, since it dominated the news for a week or so. 2Day FM hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O were suspended after a stunt that involved a 14-year-old girl being strapped to a lie detector while her mother asked her about whether she had sex. This is bad enough, but the girl's statement that she had been raped, and then Sandilands' reaction, caused a media storm. Here is the audio of the incident:

I give Jackie O a bit of credit for showing some compassion after the bombshell was dropped, but the warning bells should have gone off long before that. I expect nothing more than that from Sandilands, he's a vile worm of a guy who thinks nothing of crudely demolishing the self-esteem of teenagers in front of a national audience in his role as judge on Australian Idol (how does a kid recover from being called a "mong" on national TV?). But the girl's mother also deserves condemnation for exposing her daughter to those questions so publicly. Even the Jerry Springer show would have misgivings about something like this.

However, what really amazed me was the interview this week of the girl's aunts and cousin, on Channel 9's A Current Affair. They claimed that the girl, "Rachel" had not in fact been raped and the sex, which occurred when she was 12-years-old and drunk, was completely consensual. Watch below, it's jaw-dropping stuff.

"Rachel" clearly has a lot of problems, but in my experience, a messed-up kid usually comes from a messed-up family. And that footage proves it.

A few points to raise here:

1) She "consented". She was 12. The boy apparently was 14. While the ages alone do not make it rape (2 years age difference is the legally defensible limit for kids at this age), it is still technically illegal. In any case, her family seem to think she had the decision-making capability of an adult, rather than a girl barely out of primary school.
2) She was drunk. Let's not even begin to talk about why a 12-year-old girl was drunk. The fact that she was in an altered state of mind means that her "consent" is very questionable indeed. Let's not forget that there still exist many males who see a drunk female as fair game to be taken advantage of.
3) "The boy had time to put on a condom" and "there was another girl on the top bunk." So what? By saying this, the aunt simply displays her mistaken notion that rape always involves the victim actively fighting the other person off and screaming. A naive young girl who is drunk, with a boy 2 years older, is in a very low position of power in this situation.

As a society we all-too-often make the mistake of seeing rape as a black-and-white issue - it was either rape or it was consensual. I'm not saying this girl's situation was definitely rape. But if it wasn't, it certainly falls into that grey area between consenting and unconsenting sex. The high profile case of the group sex involving former rugby star and TV commentator Matthew Johns also illustrates this point. There is a difference between clearly giving enthusiastic informed consent and simply "not saying no". ACA host Tracy Grimshaw won some respect for her tough interviewing of Johns about his conduct, and she does inject a little sanity into the above interview with "Rachel's" family of ignorant bogans. But really, she and her sordid show should not be giving these people an airing in the first place.

Don't wanna get all moralistic or nothing, but because sex in our society frequently has nothing to do with love, caring and affection any longer, this sort of thing is the result. I'm not opposed to people having one-night stands or freaky group encounters. But since sex for many young males is more about conquest and bragging rights than it is about actually liking the female participant, and since alcohol is such a common factor in young people's sexual encounters, these rape and almost-rape scenarios are going to be more and more common.


UPDATE: The initial ACA video was taken off youtube for copyright reasons. I've replaced it with a new one - it may or may not stay up.

China warns students about racist attacks in Australia

First it was India up in arms about the numerous bashings of their students in Australia. Now China has expressed concern as well, warning students of threats to their safety. It comes after a recent road rage attack on Chinese students in the Gold Coast. Three young men were charged with assault after they pulled their car alongside that of the four students and attacked them, leaving one of them with a broken cheekbone. The 17-year-old driver was additionally charged with drink driving.

Was it a racist attack? Dunno. This sort of thing does happen quite a bit, regardless of ethnicity, but I don't doubt that their foreign-ness, and the perception of Asians as a soft target, increased the likelihood of the attack.

Recently there was also an attack on 2 Chinese men as they left a pokie venue in north Adelaide. 2 young men aged 20 and 21, one of whom was draped in an Australian flag at the time, bashed the men and took their wallets, then continued drinking at the pub. Again, it's not necessarily racist, but looks suspiciously so.

And of course I posted recently about the teenagers sentenced for the manslaughter of Chinese student Yuxiong Han in Melbourne last year. Racist motivation is not clear either, but read the account of some of the teens involved and you can almost smell the hint of racism in the air.

Let's not deny it - Asian people in general, South Asian or East Asian, are more vulnerable than other types of people to attack in Australia. While there is really no KKK-style organised hatemongering here, there is an entrenched dislike of anything foreign or different amongst a lot of people. A kid in one of my classes the other day casually joked about throwing eggs at transvestite prostitutes in St Kilda. I think it is part of the same spectrum of behaviour - someone who is different and is an easy target being victimised.

Easy target? Yes. It's a stereotype with many exceptions, but broadly speaking, Asians tend to be less aggressive and macho than people of European, African, Pacific Islander or Middle-Eastern background, and therefore less likely to pose a threat when attacked. It's a character trait that has actually helped Asians succeed as migrants, but it also makes them easy prey for cowardly thugs.

If you like this, you may like:

Racists are out to get me! Aiyah!

Putting a racist slant on things - the "Chinky-Eye" Hall of Shame

Australia is a backward, racist country, says Sol Trujillo

Yellowface is still alive

Your guide to the "F*** Off We're Full" Facebook group

Friday, August 14, 2009

Awesome Asian Ads - China

3 more Indian students bashed in a fortnight

Last week, Gaurav Kakkar was ringing his family back in India from a phone booth in Carlton at 12:45am. A gang of youths grabbed him from behind, beat him with a some kind of rod, sprayed capsicum spray in his face and stuffed chili flakes in his nose and mouth, before taking his wallet. A week later and he still cannot see out of his right eye. Kakkar also claimed that the although he rang the police after the gang left, they took 55 minutes to arrive as he lay blinded and in agony on the footpath.

You can watch video footage of that story here.

For a while it seemed like this disturbing trend had waned, but seemingly unprovoked attacks continue against Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney.

Early Monday morning in Sydney, Mohit Mangal was on the way to the mall where he worked, when he had a beer bottle smashed on his head from behind. Four youths then beat him with a baseball bat.

While on July 27, 23-year-old graphics student Paramjeet Singh was training it home in the afternoon to Glenroy in Melbourne's north. Seated behind him he noticed 5 or 6 young men harassing two girls on board. "One of the girls was Indian. When I went to defend her, threatening to press the button that activates the camera on the train, the guys stepped back." But after he alighted at Glenroy, the gang followed and beat him up. "One White person tried to help me, but the group assaulted him also. They chased me as I raced from one platform to another."

Interestingly, none of these cases seemed to have got any coverage in the local media, instead I came across these through Indian news services. I'm not sure if Australian news outlets do not consider this a worthwhile story, or if the Indian victims are only talking to reporters back home. There could be a possibility that the police are wanting to keep these cases out of the public eye so as not to publicise it as a trend which other youths might start copying.

Also this week on ABC news was the sad story of Shivendra Singh, a 30-year-old IT student from Uttar Pradesh who has been robbed 3 times in the space of 4 months while working at a corner store. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder which has affected his ability to study and work, he has experienced periods of homelessness. Now his student visa is expiring and he fears being forced to return to India with nothing to show for his endeavours here. Immigration Minister Chris Evans seems unsympathetic, with the Migration Review Tribunal having rejected Singh's appeal. Bureacracy teeming up with thugs to ruin a young man's life. You can watch the video of the story by clicking the link above.

To read other posts about the disgraceful phenomenon of curry-bashing, click here.

Burqini banned from a French pool

The burqini - a swimsuit for Muslim women, designed by a Lebanese-Australian woman and fast becoming a hit throughout the Islamic world - has controversially been banned at public baths in France. A 35-year-old woman wearing one was ordered to leave a Paris swimming pool, apparently because the suit constituted a "hygiene problem".

"The lady was almost fully dressed," a spokesman for the pool said. "The personnel simply applied the rules that are all pools in France ask: wear a bathing suit and take a shower before entering the water."

Whether this is merely stubborn adherence to the existing rules, or part of a broader picture of discrimination against Muslims, it's hard to say. But on face value, it seems silly. Particularly when Olympic swimmers like Ian Thorpe (pictured) virtually wear burqinis anyway.

I have a few family members who observe hijab, and frankly I'm not particularly enthusiastic about the rigid culture of concealment that surrounds it. But hey, that's just me. For the most part you gotta live and let live and apply common sense. And I can't see how women wearing a burqini really has anything to do with anyone else.

I wrote in an earlier post about French President Sarkozy's intention to ban the burqa and niqab (which cover all or most of the woman's face), which I actually think might be a worthwhile idea.

Is it hypocritical of me to support women's right to wear burqinis but not to wear the burqa and niqab? I don't think so. Firstly, I believe to function in society people need to show their face - the burqini allows this, the other two costumes don't. And secondly, its all just a matter of degree. We accept people wearing mini-skirts or short shorts, but we don't accept them traipsing around in nothing but a g-string. So covering most of the body is OK, covering the whole body, perhaps not.

In any case, its hard not to see the burqini controversy as part of a broader cultural conflict in France, which seems to be a very divided country these days. In the age of war and terrorism that we live in, this sort of thing is understandable to an extent, but lets hope the hard heads can meet in the comfortable middle someday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Indonesian Film Festival in Melbourne

If you're in Melbourne, check out what's new in the world of Indonesian cinema over the next week. Now it is to my shame as a half-Indonesian that I've only ever seen maybe 2 Indonesian films, so this maybe my chance to atone for that.

Check for details here:

There looks to be some interesting docos, plus others like the teen drama of Queen Bee, or the Mo Brothers' Macabre, which looks a bit like Saw meets The Shining - preview below.

From Bollywood to Black America and back - the evolution of a sample

One of the best examples of the hip-hop world's flirtation with Indian music is Addictive by R&B singer Truth Hurts, which was a hit in 2002 (reaching #9 on the Billboard Charts). It was also the focus of a $500 million lawsuit, since the record label Aftermath neglected to properly clear the sampled song.

The song in question is Thoda Resham Lagta Hai, from the 1981 movie Jyoti. It's lip-synched in the below sequence from the movie; the real vocalist is the great Lata Mangeshkar.

If you've not heard of Mangeshkar, she is one of the greatest "playback" singers in Bollywood. It is claimed that she holds the record for the most recordings of any artist, anywhere (somewhere approaching 25,000), and she is the sister of that other queen of the Bollywood song, Asha Bhosle.

For Addictive, producer DJ Quik (who'd heard the song on TV one morning) sampled Mangeshkar's vocals over a beat cribbed from the 70s funk hit Do It Til Your Satisfied by BT Express. Throw in soul diva Truth Hurts and a rap from the legendary Rakim, and you have a slammin' track. Dr Dre is the executive producer, whatever that means.

I first heard Addictive in a club called Shadows in Kuala Lumpur, where the mostly Indian clientele were going crazy over it. This was before Indian samples became really mainstream in hip-hop, and so I figured at the time it must have been some local mash-up. I doubted that big-name US hip-hoppers would have actually used a Bollywood sample so prominently - only to later find it was blowing up in clubs all over the world.

The drum sample can be heard in BT Express's track below, which is also a killer and makes me start involuntarily strutting. It is interesting how the distinctive conga pattern from this 70s funk track has such similarities with the dholl beat of Thoda Resham Lagta Hai; while not exactly the same, it is similar enough that it's not hard to see how DJ Quik got the idea to combine the two songs.

There is also another version of Mangeshkar's song which appears to take its beat from Addictive. It's called Kaliyon Ka Chaman and is sung by South Indian actress and sex symbol Meghna Naidu. This song also around the same time as Addictive, so truth be told I'm not sure who copied who. Not sure how purist fans of Bollywood music would feel about either of the tracks, but this is nice enough even without the hot babes cavorting throughout the video. And an interesting example of how cultural appropriation can go both ways.

See also:

Mainstream hip-hop's Bollywood flirtations

Hip-hop's Ethiopian flirtations

Let's play Spot the Sample - Lata Mangeshkar, "Tere Mere Beech Mein"

Sitar grooves - US3, "You can't hold me down"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Melbourne experiences China's propaganda machine

All nations practice propaganda and brainwashing of their citizens to some extent - the so-called "free world" governments are hardly innocent of this. But few excel in the art of propaganda as China's rulers.

Put it this way - remember the Tiananmen Square massacre, which horrified the whole world back in '89 as we watched the Chinese government unleash the tanks and soldiers on its own peacefully protesting citizens?

Well, the vast majority of people in China have no idea that this ever happened. That's how slick the Chinese Communist Party is. No matter what accusations are levelled at them, they just make like Shaggy and say "It wasn't me". And at least in their own territory, they mostly get away with it.

The decision by the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) to screen the film "10 Conditions of Love", about exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer (pictured), has brought the Chinese propaganda machine Down Under.

China claims that the 62 year old Kadeer, a millionaire businesswoman, mother to 11 children, and former political prisoner now living in the US, is a terrorist. They charge the organisation she heads, the World Uighur Congress, with orchestrating the riots in Xinjiang in July that resulted in the deaths of around 200 people, both Uighurs and Han Chinese. Whether Kadeer is a terrorist or a peaceful activist is a matter for conjecture. But perhaps the Chinese government's labelling of her as a terrorist should be taken with a pinch of salt, considering they also regard the Dalai Lama as a "wolf in monk's robes, a devil with a human face but the heart of a beast."

So first the Chinese government protested about the film being shown. Fair enough, that is indeed their right, but of course MIFF was hardly going to give in to that and thereby lose all credibility. Next, all the Chinese filmmakers will features at MIFF withdrew their films in protest. How much choice they had over this is anyone's guess.

Next, the MIFF website was hacked by Chinese vigilantes. The site was forced to shut down temporarily, while the hackers also booked out all film sessions and replaced information about the festival with slogans and Chinese flags. When the site's administrators blocked all access to the site from China, diasporic hackers in other countries tried the same tactics. Even the Melbourne International Arts Festival website was targeted, apparently by hackers who confused it with MIFF.

Although it has been claimed that the hacking activity was directed by the Chinese government, it is clear that much if not all of it was by Chinese civilians who saw it as their patriotic duty. Likewise, the Chinese protestors complaining about the film's screening, like those who were seen recently scuffling with pro-Tibet demonstrators, seem to be acting purely out of nationalistic fervor.

And this is an aspect of China and its culture that many in the West struggle to understand. We were surprised at the joy felt by Hong Kong residents when the island city transitioned from British rule back to China's authoritarian grip. We all know that the Chinese government is a totalitarian dictatorship responsible for all manner of oppression and cultural genocide, right? Well, while that may seem obvious to some of us, there is an enormous level of patriotism felt by Chinese inside and outside of China which often leads them to believe the party line in a way that us cynical Australians will not. Tibet, Xinjiang (East Turkestan) and Taiwan? All irrefutably part of China, despite whatever the residents of those places may think - at least according to the average person in China. Oppression and discrimination against ethnic minorities? Never happened.

Of course, don't think this sort of thing is exclusive to China. If you want to see parallels, try putting forth the following arguments, which are generally accepted by most people:

* Try telling a Turk that his country was responsible for genocide against Armenians in the early 20th Century.
* Try telling a Greek that Macedonia is a country in its own right.
* Try telling an Indonesian that the occupations of East Timor and West Papua were brutal and unjust.
* Try telling an American about the amount of bloodshed their nation has indirectly caused throughout the Third World by the backing of violent coups by fascists.
* Try telling a Palestinian that Jews are, generally speaking, pretty nice people.
* Try telling a Serb that Bosnians and Kosovars have a right to self-determination.

And at least half the time, you'll have a passionate argument on your hands in which logic and facts won't necessarily count for much. You'll see how on some level, most of us are sucked in by propaganda and nationalistic brainwashing.

But I still maintain that when it comes to propaganda and nationalistic brainwashing, few do it better than the Chinese government. Kudos to those evil geniuses.

Oh, and "10 Commandments of Love"? Due to the media buildup around it, mostly due to China's kerfuffle, the film was a sellout at the festival. Plenty of people who had never heard of the plight of the Uighur people are now awakened to it.

So maybe even the experts in propaganda get it wrong sometimes.