Back in Adorable Action

The kittens are growing and they’re fuzzy and lovey and lovable. LOOK AND REVEL IN THEIR CUTENESS!!!

We now return to our regularly scheduled weekly-plus programming, sorry for the interruption this month, I didn’t really have a desire to write and there wasn’t much to write about.  There still might not be, but seeing as my last post was more educational than updating, I figured I’d fill y’all in on how the Fulbright thingy’s going and then see where it goes from there.

Of course, no news compares to the adorable specimens above, but nonetheless there’s some interesting stuff to include.  As far as my research, still trying to get my Chinese piece edited, but luckily I pitched a couple pieces to Yale, one of which pertains to my research, and they both got picked up! Literally so excited I have a chance to publish something about this research! Going to try to do the best job I can with those, and I’ll hopefully feel accomplished when it all comes out.

As far as the book project, I’m still in the reading phase (and having a blast doing it), and taking a step back to reevaluate the project as a whole.  I think I’m going to tighten up the narrative further and focus on the stories of three Jewish Harbiners (two fictional, one real). While I’m not entirely comfortable with relegating the Chinese members of the cast to supporting roles, their voice definitely deserves to be heard, I think for my first attempt at writing I’m going to “keep it simple, stupid.”  Rest assured, Chinese stories will be told in the book, just indirectly.  And if I feel I want to go back to the original direction, I can always build back out.

In the interest of research, I went out to the Harbin beer museum over the weekend to learn another snippet of history.  As you can see from the pick, it’s out in the middle of nowhere, about 16km from the city center.  Managed to be out and back within six hours though.

Sadly, the museum was much less robust in terms of history than the Qingdao museum, but I did learn some tidbits I can share.  Harbin had the first beer brewery in China, established in 1900 (thank you Russia), and the owner spoke fluent Japanese, which was a bit unusual as far as I can tell.  That’s about all. Aside from the first brewery burning down and then changing it’s name to “Harbin Brewery” from “Gloria Brewery” in 1933, the museum had nothing relevant to the period I’m writing in.  It jumps immediately to the 80’s when Harbin Beer as it is today became a thing.  Admittedly, it is my favorite cheap Chinese beer (it’s on the sweet side), and it’s actually been owned by Anheuser-Busch (aka the owners of like half the macro beers in the world, including Budweiser) since 2000. ‘Murica!  Perhaps as a result, they have sponsorship deals with the NBA and some Taiwanese rappers.  Here’s some pics from their replica street of old Harbin.

Quick lesson, beer in Chinese is 啤酒 (pijiu, pee-jeeow), I suspect from the russian piva. Harbin in Chinese is Haerbin (pronounced ha-r-been), put the two together and you get ha-pi as an abbreviation for Harbin beer, which you might realize sounds a lot like happy.  That’s where the the Taiwan link comes in. Taiwanese rappers Zhang Zhenyue and MC Hotdog have a song “Let’s be happy” which, in light of the above abbreviation, could be heard as, “Let’s do Harbin beer”.  The marketing team couldn’t have spent more than two seconds thinking that was a good idea.  Here’s the song if you care to listen, you’ll notice Harbin beer in the video.  Now that I write it out, perhaps they were approached to write the song by Harbin Beer.  Who knows the truth?

This makes a nice transition to Chinese hiphop, which is a topic that comes on and off my radar.  I’ve always thought Chinese as a language is really well suited for hip hop.  Traditional Chinese crosstalk is all about being clever with the language, speaking quickly, commenting on life, and showing off your education with clever allusions to literature and culture.  In my opinion, those are exactly the skills required of a good hip hop artist.

This article offers a great overview of Chinese hip hop, with links to other songs if you’re interested.  The point it ends on though, that hip hop’s tradition of being part of counter culture, criticizing authority and being a bit vulgar when the mood suits it don’t really mesh well with the Chinese government’s views of a “harmonious society” and proclivity to censor willy-nilly (as some of the groups in the article have been). So that creates an interesting implications for this song below, sponsored by the Communist Youth League.  It’s honestly good music, got flow, and considering the group’s rapping in their second language it’s damn impressive.  It’s also stuffed to bursting with propaganda, and so can it really be called hip hop?  I suppose it can if you view it from the angle of global society and China saying, “hey, stop shitting on me all the time!” which would make it counter-mainstream.

Still though, I’m not sure, and  the Taiwan line in that video rubs me especially the wrong way.

In the interest of giving you some balanced sources, there’s mixed opinion on the prevalence of east Asian rappers, whether or not they’re appropriating black culture. Here’s an article talking about how cultural appropriation is just as harmful when it’s being done by non-white people, while here’s one about a documentary on Asian rappers directed by a black woman who seems pretty on board with it as a whole.  As a non-Asian, non-black, non rapper, I’m pretty unqualified to offer a definitive opinion. I’m also not sure what my opinion is.  In the end though, coming from a responsible place of respect is important, and without talking to these guys it’s hard to tell where they’re at.

This is not the end of my thoughts on this, in a way I’m just revisiting the topic and giving you all some food for thought, very interested to hear your opinions if you have them.

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