Month: September 2017

10 Urban Legends from my bed

Digital artifact

The Pink Protagonist Writes

I did a short “react” video to some urban legends found here, that apparently come from all over Asia. I decided to film this while I was in bed. A rather “spur of the moment” decision. The angle isn’t great, and the camera does move a bit, but I wanted to capture my immediate reaction, rather than do it again, and I really wanted to be comfortable (like I would be watching any horror movie) reading these as they’re quite creepy. I felt my skin crawl for a few of them. So enjoy, let me know what you think of the stories. What is your take on them?

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Youth suicide in South Korea: An auto-ethnography

Coffeehouse conversations.

September 14th – R U OK? day in my home country of Australia, a day created to bring awareness to those suffering with Mental illness. The nature of mental illness means that it is invisible in most cases, this organisation attempts to ask the question; Are you okay? in an effort to bring the intangible into light, to truly uncover the mental state of their loved ones and ultimately reduce the rate of self harm and suicide. The following infographic displays the mental health data from epidemiological study of New South Wales, Australia and how this translates into an economical burden.

The last point made in this graphic reaches me on a deeper level;

However, data measuring young men’s access to mental health care reveals that only 13% received any care for their mental illness.

I have seen this issue first hand, in myself and others as a young man suffering…

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Asian Food Revisited: Is it as simple as that?

In my previous post, I was looking into food and how it has influenced my life. In this blog, I’ll be analysing my previous blog post to see how well I properly understand Asian food culture; Spoilers. It’s not very much.
It’s interesting that despite my cultural upbringing, with an open minded mother (at the very least about food), that I have so many dishes that I haven’t tried, or dislike for some reason or another. I noted that my girlfriend described me as picky, but just the other week when we were out with friends for dinner, I was able to back up all my reasons for disliking certain foods. The truths for me in regards to liking food weren’t found in research, but an individual sense experienced when eating those foods.

“… scholars began illustrating how the “facts” and “truths” scientists “found” were inextricably tied to the vocabularies and paradigms the scientists used to represent them.” (Ellis et al)

You see, when I want something to be true, I can argue that it is true; and oftentimes, I’ll be able to convince the people around me that it’s true. Like if I say “I don’t like onion, I think it’s a bad food”, people will argue with me. However, if I follow that up with “It’s the soft-crunchy texture that I just don’t find appealing”, then people are much more open to my view, and some even agree (or at least agree that it is present, but they still enjoy onions).

But how in any way that this is going to shape my investigation going forward? Well, for starters, I’ll need a host of people to join me for my cooking adventure, kind of like a panel of judges. As well as this, another friend of mine who isn’t particularly good at cooking might be joining me for the adventure.

One element I really need to do is to compare my current Asian food experience with my experience of other foods, and how that differs. For example, I am quite a fan of Italian food, and as such, have quite the history with Italian food. I’ve even made lasagne and gnocchi! Although it was mainly my friends, I wasn’t very successful, but I was there!
This, coming from a guy who doesn’t cook is quite remarkable, as it shows that often we’ll do what we like even if we’re not very good at it. So, as I said in my last post I want to broaden my pallet. I want to try new things and get those new experiences.

Now, in the Ellis et al reading, it speaks of the personal narrative element of autoethnography as including the academic, research and personal aspects of their lives. I believe in my previous post that I was quite successful at the personal aspect, but my posts do lack a bit more of the research side. Going forward I will need to look more in depth at how the phenomenon of social eating has shaped and been shaped within Asian cultures. The previously included video is a good start, as it also looks into Idol culture, and how some people (Like “The Diva”) have been able to be successful with their food based livestreams.

And it’s interesting, because every time I delve into an aspect of Asian culture, I realise how interconnected they are. I thought that food would be an easy task, like make something for dinner and film it. But through researching the snack culture in places like Japan and South Korea, I realised that my Western views and expectations are countered there again! In Australia at least, snack packaging is pretty bland and straight to the point, with dark or simple colours, like the black and red of a Mars Bar, or the deep (copyrighted) purple of a Cadbury Dairy Milk© Milk Chocolate bar. But looking at Asian snacks, the insanely bright colours and funky fonts are completely different. So perhaps I’ll have a dessert section of my livestream/video where we try some snacks. We’ll see.

asian-snacks.jpg

Refrerences

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

The More We Know, (2014) ‘New South Korean Fad: Watch People Eat A LOT Online’, Youtube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJJDtx5aD6Y

Tanaka, K. Umakoshi, T. Ichijima, A. ‘Iron Chef’, More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Chef

 

 

Asian Food and Me (They haven’t really mixed)

Who, Me?

My girlfriend calls me picky. I like to think that I just like what food I like. Apparently that’s picky.
I’m not a huge fan of onions, rice, chilli, curries (yes that’s apparently a lot of things), capsicum, celery, coriander, tofu, soup/stews (another big one, but I just don’t want my dinner to be wet), and I’m lactose intolerant. On top of that, I’m not really one to cook either. I can put together a mean slice of toast, or make a salad (if it’s already in a bag), but that’s about it. This leads to issues when we’re trying to decide what we should do for dinner.

I started this subject not exactly knowing what it was about, and as it progressed I realised that that seems to be a core aspect of this subject. Apparently, for me, this subject has become about food. While I am a fan of sushi (or sashimi. To be honest I’m not sure which is which), I tend to steer clear of Asian dishes. I can’t tell you the difference between a pad Thai, a stir fry, a jungle curry, or anything like that. I just stay away. This is starkly contrasted by my family, who love Asian food.

The Plan

But no more! I plan to change two things.

  1. I want to learn how to cook. Not just Asian food, but I figure, for this subject, that’s a good start.
  2. I want to be less picky about what food I consume based on taste preference.

So the best way to do this would probably be to look up the recipes, and start simple. Just make a small dish in the comfort of my home. That would be the best and easiest way, but that’s not how I want to do it.
I plan to start with some classic recipes and film it. Livestream it even, if I have the capabilities. I’m lucky that my family enjoy Asian food, as sourcing a lot of ingredients shouldn’t prove to challenging.

A friend of mine wants to do a similar thing (learn to cook), and so I’m planning on making it a bit of a competition, something like Iron Chef. Side note: Iron Chef may be, currently, my only known source of Asian food shows. There’s an interesting quote apparently at the start of Iron Chef; A title card, with a quote from famed French food author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin first appears: “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” I think this is a pretty good philosophy to adopt going forward for my research plan, regardless of whether I chose to film or livestream.

I am aware of the growing attraction to livestreaming everyday activities, like playing games, or less commonly watching movies/shows (akin to Gogglebox), or eating food at degustation parties as part of so-called “Social Easting”. In China, Kuaishou is one such video sharing and live streaming service which has gained popularity.
My current personal experience with livestreaming comes from TwitchPlaysPokemon and very occasionally watching Youtubers I like play on Twitch, so I’m also not very in the know about this aspect either.

The More We Know published a short video looking into the phenomena of people eating online, and it’s interesting to note that they believe the reason this is so popular in Asian cultures is because of loneliness, and people not wanting to awkwardly eat alone.

All in all, this experience is going to be quite fresh for me, and as such I expect that there will be plenty of hiccups along the way, but I’m going to try to minimise this with more research to come.

References

The More We Know, (2014) ‘New South Korean Fad: Watch People Eat A LOT Online’, Youtube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJJDtx5aD6Y

Alternative Ulaanbaatar

As suggested by Ellis et al (2011) this blog post is written to analyse my personal experience to understand Mongolian hip hop. I have had my initial experience of listening and watching a couple of music videos on Youtube, but has this really given me a full understanding? No. Not at all.

To really understand in an ethnographic sense the cultural significance hip hop has in Mongolia I really have to do some research into certain parts of the practice. In this blog post I will be exploring hip hop as a cultural practice, the significance of music culture in Mongolia, traditional throat singing and where that fits in and how this all ties into the cultural act of hip hop in Mongolia. By the end of this hopefully I will have more of an understanding and reflect on the possible transformative epiphanies I hope to have with this experience. Everyone else is having them, I want in on that!

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What is Hip Hop?

So to begin this exploration into Mongolian hiphop one must know what the hip hop ideology is in itself and how the Mongolian society embraced it for themselves.  Hip hop has been a cultural phenomenon in countries around the world specifically in African American culture. The roots of hip hop have been in African oral traditions, passed down through slavery and then through a way of social commentary (Blanchard, 1999). The appeal that hip hop had on a society that had been in the grips of a soviet backed government called the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) was massive.
The MPRP had attempted to isolate Mongolia from the outside reaches of the west but alas, the curiosity of youth will prevail. Illegally circulated music and items piqued the youth of Mongolia’s interest and as MPRP realised, they did not have the power to stop it all together. They invested in their own brand of popular music and created bands to create their nationalistic music (Marsh, 2010). This only lasted as long as it took for technological and communications to evolve and for popular culture from the ‘West’ to seep in through media as well as influences from a struggling economic and political climate to create a window of opportunity for the young Mongolian population to move on.  Mongolian artists turned hip hop into way of exploring and announcing their societal and cultural problems and issues (Marsh, 2010). This is the essence of hip hop and Mongolian hp hop is no different, it just has a different sound and face. 

Music in Mongolia and Traditional Throat Singing

The Mongolians have been known as “a people of music and poetry.” Their singing, sonorous, bold, passionate and unconstrained, is the true reflection of the temperament of the Mongolian people. (China.org.cn, n.d.)

Mongolia has a rich and deep musical history. When one thinks of Mongolia one might think of the image of a nomad perched on the top of a mountain that is sprinkled with snow, surrounded by… goats? Singing but not in the way you and I might sing. A throaty, raw and echoing call. It’s not the first thing that may come to your mind when you think of modern Mongolian music but there are those who are blending this ancient act into the new music culture.


In my ethnographic research the first and foremost group that stood out to me was Fish Symboled Stamp. They are a Mongolian hip hop group that incorporate their traditional throat singing or “Koomei” into their songs (Campbell and Singh, 2017). The undulations of the Koomei mixed with the 4/4 time stamp of heavy hip hop makes for a seriously confronting sound. But instead of just listening to their sound I know I needed to go deeper into what a Mongolian hip hop group write about, why and how it is received in Mongolia.

Mongolian hip hop artists are writing in this modern age about the cultural themes and  values that they are observing through their lives where they live. Hip hop for young Mongolian’s is a creative way to express ‘one’s self, angst and perception of life, which requires no ghetto-like background or experience” (Wallace, 2015). Here is where it gets a bit hard due to the language barrier, of how to find out what artists are writing about. As explored in Marsh’s article there have been groups that rap about women, alcohol and money and even “imitating” African American rappers, but this has not been welcomed by some in the hip hop community (Marsh, 2010). But most that have been translated by Marsh have been regarding the social and economic issues that relate to their communities and society. In history, Mongolian music is made up of songs about stories, epic tales, love and nature. Songs particularly pertaining to horses, historical events and legends (Hays, 2016). In an interview with the artists Bataar and Odsaikhan in Fish Symboled Stamp, they reveal that their lyrics are dominated by their culture including Mongolian history and legacies (Campbell and Singh, 2017).

My Epiphanies Regarding Mongolian Hip Hop 

I’ve realised throughout this research whilst listening to the music I’m engaging with, that it’s more than what’s on the surface. To understand why this music style is so popular, it’s more than just the type of music. It is the content, the lyrics, the meaning, the cultural significance of using the throat singing and the context of the artists in Mongolia. I’ve realised that I am so constricted by my own language barrier that exploring into a different culture and therefore language has barred myself from fully enjoying and ‘getting’ the music. I feel like to appreciate the music, you really need to realise and understand that there is a cultural significance to the words and feelings.

But again, I realise through this research and this language setback, is that I’m so white and ‘western’. I take for granted that the music that I surround myself around usually is english based. I get the lyrics, I can sing along without getting the words wrong, I get the language and 9 times out of 10 I get the meanings.

 

References

Blanchard, B. (1999). THE SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF RAP & HIP-HOP CULTURE. [online] Web.stanford.edu. Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/mediarace/socialsignificance.htm

Campbell, J. and Singh, K. (2017). Mongolian melody: Hip-hop duo splices traditional singing and urban beats. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mongolia-music/mongolian-melody-hip-hop-duo-splices-traditional-singing-and-urban-beats-idUSKBN1AE011

China.org.cn. (n.d.). Ethnic Groups – china.org.cn. [online] Available at: http://www.china.org.cn/e-groups/shaoshu/shao-2-mongolian.htm

Hays, J. (2016). TRADITIONAL MONGOLIAN MUSIC | Facts and Details. [online] Factsanddetails.com. Available at: http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat5/sub88/entry-4593.html

Marsh, P. (2010). Our generation is opening its eyes: hip-hop and youth identity in contemporary Mongolia. Central Asian Survey, 29(3), pp.345-358.

Culture-Tinted Glasses – Japanese Attitudes towards Foreign Exchange Students

brookiyuki

In my first blog post concerning my upcoming study in Japan, I investigated two possible host universities.  Both are similar in that they offered courses in English, are private institutions in Tokyo, and are both UOW partner universities.  Without any prior knowledge or any past students’ reports to assist me, I utilised the web to decide between the two and ultimately make a decision that I will be living with for the next year.

I had anticipated that it would be an easy task, given Japan’s affinity for technology and their perceived fondness for foreigners; however, I found that their websites were difficult to navigate and hard to understand.  It’s off-putting for a hopeful exchange student to encounter such barriers, but my experience has led me to a few epiphanies as to why this may be the case.

rainbow-bridge-2086645.jpg Tokyo is home to over 20 million residents, and only 1.5% of…

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There’s no ‘me’ in ethnography until you add ‘auto’: an understanding of autoethnography

Autoethnography as Carolyn Ellis et al. (2011) describes, is a methodological approach to research that analyses personal experience to understand cultural experience. To further specifically define, Ellis cuts down the word ‘autoethnography’ by splitting the word in three and explaining each part. ‘Auto’ Ellis clarifies, is from personal experience, ‘ethno’ is to understand cultural experience and ‘graphy’ is the approach to research and writing that describes and analyses (Ellis, 2004; Holman Jones, 2005).

Previously I wrote a blog post on ethnography and my account of Gojira (1958). Here I spoke about my cultural background and how I made sense of the Japanese culture by reflecting on my personal experiences. I think I had this wrong. This is autoethnography, when I reflect on my own experiences to understand and make a connection with another culture. Ethnography however, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the scientific description of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences” (Oxford University Press, 2017). Essentially, ethnography is researching a culture from afar, without personal involvement. This for some reason took me a while to grasp, but I understand it now. There’s no ‘me’ in ethnography until you add ‘auto’.

Previous post: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/gojira-1958-reminds-me-of-a-power-rangers-standoff-an-ethnography-account-from-an-aussie-millennial/

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

‘Ethnography’ 2017, in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, viewed 18 September 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ethnography

SAINT☆ONIISAN – What is going on?

In my last post, I narrated my first time watching Hikaru Nakamura’s Saint Oniisan. From the get go, I found it hard not to express my reasoning for interacting with this text in a certain way. However, I now have the freedom to acknowledge and accommodate my subjectivity, emotional response, and my overall influence on this text through further research (Ellis et al., 2010). For this post, I will address the epiphanies I had during this experience.

My first epiphany was that not ALL anime is for my demographic. Maybe not a huge shock, but I genuinely wasn’t familiar with the style of drawing used. I wasn’t aware that there were different drawing styles for different audiences. Saint Oniisan is respectively ‘seinen’. Directed at an older male audience, seinen is characterised by more sophisticated and mature nature such as story line and realistic character proportion. During my teenage years, I spent a lot of time watching a particular type of anime… *cough* shoujo *cough*. My lack of familiarity with the seinen genre was prompted by the fact that it isn’t particularly aimed at a young female audience. Seinen shares many similarities to shoujo with an emphasis on character and plot development. However, shoujo is centralised around romantic relationships.

Looking back at my post, the whole ‘I’m atheist, but these are my opinions on religion’ seemed like a contradiction I was trying to justify. In recent studies, over 60% of people in Japan identify as atheist. This statistic makes me wonder what percentage of atheists make up Saint Oniisan’s overall audience. Japan is also characterised by syncretism; meaning, most people practice more than one religion, sometimes even combining them. Therefore, Christianity and Buddhism’s relationship throughout Saint Oniisan reflects Japans secular society.

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Christianity x Buddhism (Source)

Another point I found particularly interesting was the way characters interact with Christianity. Only a small percentage of Japanese people identify as Christian. However, many of its customs have become popular among the non-Christian population in modern-day Japan such as Christmas. Buddha even comments on how nobody in Japan really knows what Christmas is about.

Japanese Christmas Cake (x) Jesus’ Birthday Cake (x)

This knowledge comes with distinguishing religion from culture. In Saint Oniisans case, I believe that licensing it in some countries could be restricted, even without the language barrier. This is due to the contentiousness surrounding satirical texts based off religion. While the series plays light-heartedly on our affections towards the characters, fan culture can emphasise certain parts of the series. In this case, it is though the persistent, widespread phenomenon known as shipping.  Shipping knows no boundaries of age, demographic and gender. I am not new to the concept of ‘shipping’ or placing the label of ‘One True Pair’ (OTP) onto my favourite personas. With such lovable characters, fandoms sometimes have the tendency to overlook certain cultural sensitivities so I can understand why this was particularly heated. Even manga sites could help but highlight that these two were ‘like an old married couple’ or place them in hypothetical romantic relationships.

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Saint Oniisan Fan Art (Source)

Fan culture can be wonderful because much like auto-ethnographers, they draw from their own experiences to understand different texts. I found this reflection by a fan on Saint Oniisans’ manga.

‘Two who have seen every possible form of human happiness and unhappiness in the world and have now gone beyond it, and now seeking vacation in this world… just there feeling what it means to be happy by living an ordinary human life’ – Cited in Prohl and Nelson (2012)

Within my narrated response, one of my major epiphanies was the materialism perpetuated in the modern world. Specifically, around religious pursuits. This quote provides a different perspective, which is surely due to their own experiences. They emphasise that the interactions of the characters are not so much not superficial but genuine to modern culture. This comment also touches on my opinions on the slice of life genre. Which I liked to blame for my sleepiness during my narration. This genre focuses on how the character is shaped by the world.

During this process of research, I couldn’t help but read other blogs and their narrative experience with the anime. I found it particularly interesting understanding the different perspectives or points they highlighted. Whether it be the cinematography traditions or specific tropes  which are explored. Auto-ethnography has allowed me to reflect on my own experiences in the context of others.

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Love Live – Why I Understand It So Well!

Hey all!

Ultimately, I’ll be changing my DA because I understand Japanese gaming too well. However, I actually really enjoyed realising just how much I understood about Japanese Idol and gaming culture- and then realising that it was making this game easier for me to understand and interpret.

Here’s my podcast:

 

And as always some helpful links:

Saint☆Oniisan – What Did I Just Watch?

When you’ve been a die-hard anime fan for a while, you come to realise that there is something for everyone. You name it, there is probably an anime about it. For my original digital artefact, I wanted to focus on the depiction of the Chinese Zodiac across mediums. However, when I stumbled upon this GIF while scrolling through Tumblr, I found myself intrigued by ‘Anime Jesus’. Why had I never seen him? Where was he from?

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Saint Oniisan (Tumblr)

After some investigation (A.K.A googling ‘Anime Jesus’), I discovered that the GIF was from a slice of life/comedy manga series called Saint Young Men (Saint Oniisan).

‘Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha, the founders of Christianity and Buddhism, are living together as roommates in a Tokyo apartment while taking a vacation on Earth. The comedy often involves jokes about Christianity, Buddhism, and all things related, as well as the main characters’ attempts to hide their identities and understand modern society in Japan.’ – MyAnimeList

Why did I decide on this anime? Well, growing up my primary education on religion was through scripture, which was spent as a bludge more than a time to practice Christianity. Religion is often something I would sweep under the rug as ‘complex’ and ‘unnecessary’. As someone who identifies as atheist, I am not tied to any form of religion. However, a common theme I have noticed in many anime, are the references of spiritual manifestations or religious entities. This theme is always something I passed as a spectacle and paid no mind in understanding it’s deeper context. For this experience, I thought to understand how Saint Oniisan touches on the influence of religious beliefs in Modern Japan.  Spending most of the anime discovering if it trivialises the relationship of the two religious worlds of Christianity and Buddhism when they collide.

Scouring the streaming sites, this series was adapted into both a 2 part OVA (Original Video Animation) and a Movie. I decided to watch the Movie, due to being easier to access on online sites such as KissAnime, Gogoanime and Crunchyroll. There were only subbed versions available and as it was later in the night and I had my fingers crossed that I could stay awake for the length of the animation.

Within the first few minutes, I could already notice that Saint Oniisan’s drawing style, especially of the characters, was quite different to what I was familiar with. Think a more proportioned, ‘realistic’ depiction. Despite their ethnic backgrounds being of foreign decent, Buddha and Jesus have predominantly Japanese features. Their ‘foreignness’ is emphasised in other ways during the animation. For example, the scene where Jesus is mistaken for ‘Johnny Depp. I found this scene particularly interesting, as in this reality, Japanese girls were more likely mistake Jesus as a celebrity rather than a religious figure.

Although this is fictional, I believe there is some truth behind the attitude of community members such as the elderly and children towards the prominent religious figures. I couldn’t help but observe their ideas on ‘happiness’, ‘enlightenment’ and ‘revitalisation’. One of the more interesting characters in the anime, was the yakuza. We are introduced to him during the sauna scene, where his Buddha tattoo grabs their attention. Characterised by his criminal behaviour, he parallels Jesus’ historical experiences with his own.

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Yakuza with Buddha Tattoo (Gogoanime)

Modern means of expressing faith are challenged throughout Saint Oniisan. Presented by events, food, places and objects scattered throughout the anime. Buddha and Jesus are continuously seen wearing different shirts which I’m assuming had relevant virtues of their religions printed on them. I wasn’t aware of this until one of the community members commented on it and I was upset that these sayings were written in kanji so I couldn’t read them.

Like its name says, slice of life commonly presents the ‘every day’ experiences of a culture. Buddha and Jesus engage with places such as theme parks and spas in the location of Tachikawa. Contextualising their experiences to a specific Japanese suburb (which I had never heard of) presented it in an almost touristic nature. Despite these new and exciting adventures for the characters on earth, the place itself was not particularly new and exciting for me. The repetitive nature of slice of life was well… boring. Nearing the end of the movie, I found myself checking my phone every so often. Even having to re-watch parts as I was distracted by thoughts of hitting pause and going to bed. The one thing that kept me watching was Jesus and Buddha’s relationship, which I couldn’t help but label a ‘bromance’. Almost feeling borderline sacrilegious, it was hard not to wonder whether or not this was avoidable.

I was surprised how much this text made me think. I’m my next post I will be having a more in-depth look at what stood out as epiphanies during this experience.