bcm320

Week Eight: Autoethnography and Bubble Tea

Sitting down to write this, the resulting headache and the sugar sweats from two concurrent bubbles teas has me wanting to trade in my laptop for a dark room and midday siesta….

Embarking on the cultural adventure of the very strange bubble tea, I decided to find a couple of locations to sample, and sit in, soaking up the atmosphere of a bubble tea house.

In the interest of acknowledging my subjectivity, I took two of my friends from Sydney’s northern beaches (the epicentre of Australian monoculture) on this expositional adventure.

IMG_9294.jpg

My two Manly bred friends Tim and Connor… A product of their suburb

Bubbleberry and Societea are the two Wollongong bubble tea houses I decided on. The attendant at Societea opened my eyes to the  huge variation popularity of the many options. She chose me a juicy mango. Beside the strange tactile experience of jellied balls in cold tea, the layout and exotic atmosphere of these establishments took me by surprise. Saturated in bright colours and poppy asian dance music, the tables laden with with games and colouring in pencils, the whole idea of bubble tea seems to be directed towards a younger audience; one of my first thoughts looked to a frozen yoghurt cafe as a western comparison.

IMG_9292.jpg

Funnily enough, Bubblebery was a mixture of both. My Asian friend Charisse made the point that bubble tea venues are increasingly attempting to gear to western customers – how perfect to combine it with it’s western counterpart?

IMG_9304.jpg

There is still so much I do not know, and further research and experience is required, but the exposure to bubble tea houses has definitely given me an insight into what Asian youth culture might look like. One thing’s for sure; whilst the flavours and sounds are different, this kind of place would have greatly appealed to me as a young teenager. With many publications such The Australian (1) promoting Australia’s fantastic reputation for diversity, with particularly good Asian cuisine, I can only see more exotic food and drinks like bubble tea growing from novelty, to a mark of Australia’s increasing cultural diversity.
Furthermore, according to Franchise Business (2,) many businesses and individuals perceive bubble tea (paired the iced tea franchise, valued internationally at $4 billion) as an Australian growth market, ripe for cultural expansion. 

Whilst I confess to having found swallowing balls of jelly amongst sips of sickly sweet iced tea a little strange, I’m sure that my relationship with this exotic drink can only build from here.

References

  1. Liaw A (2013.) Australia: ‘Best Asian Food in the World,’ The Wall Street Journal. Oct 30, 2013.
    Accessed: theaustralian.com.au/life/food-wine/australia-best-asian-food-in-the-world/news-story/ff56be7b75ed34f2946eeb070c4770b8
  2. Franchise Business (2016.) ‘Why bubble tea is not just a trend,’ Franchise Council of Australia, Dec 15, 2016.
    Accessed: franchisebusiness.com.au/news/why-bubble-tea-is-not-just-an-asian-trend

 

 

 

 

 

Week Five: (My) Australian exoticism of Bubble Tea

In section two of Ellis’ paper, he describes the process of an individual collecting information for an autoethnography as ‘studying a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) better understand the culture (1.)’ How am I to embark on exploring a sect of foreign culture, with practises that speak not only to the activity, but also the people and the culture from it was created?

‘Bubble Tea, or boba tea, contain tea of some kind, flavors or milk, as well as sugar (optional). Toppings, such as chewy tapioca balls (also known as pearls, or boba), popping boba, fruit jelly, grass jelly, agar jelly, and puddings are often added. (2)’

A sect of Asian culture that has often eluded, confused and intrigued me has been the various Bubble Tea houses, with locations all over Sydney, and one or two in Wollongong. I have not once in my nice, whitewashed life ever tasted, let alone set foot in one of these houses. Whilst much of Asian cuisine has made their way into western culture and become normalised, including many variants of herbal green tea, it seems to me that various fast foods and snacks, mostly consumed by the young Asian population of Australia has not been as widely received as traditional cuisine.

I went, as I’m sure any self respecting young auto ethnographer would, to the cultural gem that is Buzzfeed Australia (3,) to try and gain an impression of the standard Australian opinion of Bubble tea. With your standard assortment of dull gifs and memes, the article explains just how wide the variation of Taiwanese bubble teas can be, using a combination of jellies, tapioca pods, powdered creamer and mousse to flavour their drinks. It’s also gluten free.

The article however, did not mention ‘why’ it wasn’t as popular as other modern Asian cuisines. Whether this is due to the cultural barriers, or simply due to it being plain ‘weird’ in the eyes of Australia, bubble tea houses seem an interesting sect of Asian culture to explore, and experience, from a set of totally fresh eyes. I plan to go to two or three different bubble tea houses, armed with pen, paper and camera and soak up the atmosphere, whilst consuming one of these seemingly exotic drinks.

Through this process I hope that I can discover not only the taste of jellied tea, but also how contemporary Asian food culture has made a life for itself in Australia; and possibly why it is not as widely accepted by myself and my Australian peers. It is relevant however, as our Asian population (and influence) grows and brings with it many seemingly strange and exotic forms of culture.

(DISCLAIMER: there’s a big chance I am guilty myself of painting bubble tea as oriental, and myself contributing to the dialogue of othering. But I believe one has to start with what they know, and acknowledge it. Depending on the success of this autoethnography, I could have a very profound epiphany about Asian youth culture; but we will have to see.)

Referencing

  1. Ellis C, Adams T E, Bochner A P (2010.) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview.’ Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 1
  2. Wikapedia (2018.) ‘Bubble Tea,’ Wikapedia.org/en
    Accessed: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_tea
  3. Cooke E (2016.) ’19 Things You Need To Know About Bubble Tea’ Buzzfeed, Oct 15, 2016.
    Accessed: buzzfeed.com/emmacooke24/heres-everything-you-need-to-know-about-bubble-tea

Luk Thung, Thai Funk, and Sita Sings The Blues

Initial experiences with my chosen field site in one word: Revelation.

Luk Thung, or literally translated to child of the fields, is the genre of Thai music I will be auto-ethnographically investigating, along with some of its relating and neighbouring genres. For lack of a better description, let’s call it Thai folk music, however I’ll later get into why I believe it’s far more than that.

You’re probably thinking, why the hell would someone choose to investigate Thai folk music? Sita Sings The Blues, that’s why. However, please don’t be mistake – I despised the film. I wholly and openly accept there was probably a deep and well thought out plot beneath the madness, however my brain simply couldn’t handle the visual mess the film presented, destroying any opportunity to enjoy – or even understand – the film. There was just one element that saved it for me, one element that could even be enjoyed if one shut their eyes (ขอบคุณพระเจ้า), and that’s the soundtrack of Annette Hanshaw.

(Peep a taste of the film and Annette Hanshaw’s work)

I’d like to think I’m a wide listener of music as a whole, and this film’s score only widened that listening scope. Although Hanshaw is American, AND the music she produced for SSTB has some strong Western influece, it’s the sound she birthed for this film that inspired my research. My ears sent thanks for the warm production pairing beautifully with the bright, angelic vocals, and it’s impossible to not love plentiful use of the sitar.

Enough drooling, now some inspiration had formed. I searched high and low for the genre I wanted to look at, until I finally landed in South-East Asia. The epiphany came while listening to the record of one of my favourite bands in the world – Khruangbin. They actually genre themselves as Thai Funk, which isn’t exactly Luk Thung, but there’s some undeniable links there.

(Enjoy them on this funky number via Night Time Stories)

For the sake of a flowing research process, I’ll be limiting my field sites (as the scope of the genre is rather broad) to some of the sub-genres of Luk Thung that are a little more niche, and contain some interesting links to my own personal tastes.

My main focus will be a record, or compilation, called The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz and Molam in Thailand 1954-1975. It’s more-or-less a mixtape of traditional Luk Thung, along with some groovy variations, some a little more jazzy, and some with a psych-rock edge you’d otherwise find on a Pink Floyd track.

I was able to give the compilation a thorough rinsing as my Sunday mornings are traditionally spent by putting on an album and listening through as I nurse a hangover or make a big breakfast, which is exactly what I did.

What’s interesting is my own pre-research interpretation of the sound of the songs (obviously not the lyrical interpretation as I don’t speak Thai) somewhat matched the supposed meaning of the music, which is hardship, pain even. It’s the music of the working people, those in the farm, or the field (child of the field)… and I felt that! Or at least something along those lines. I found it incredible that music with such beauty in the loud, high-pitched vocals can carry such a melancholy meaning.

This is something I look forward to investigating further through my auto ethnographic research, because:

  1. The music rules
  2. The music rules
  3. I want to know more about Luk Thung and the craziness in its history and meaning.

Stay tuned Thai jazzers…

 

 

 

 

CLAUDIA MULLER: INDEPENDENT DIGITAL ASIA AUTOETHNOGRAPHY

https://claudialouisemuller.com/2018/09/11/claudia-muller-independent-digital-asia-autoethnography/

Ola mi amigos, time for another autoethnography project!

Utilising autoethnography as an approach to research can reveal qualitative insights into areas that may go amiss with traditional research methodologies, made evident by the hundreds of BCM students to pass before me. I can particularly see how the process assists many in Digital Asia, encouraging students to view Asia as ‘another’ rather than ‘other’ through immersing themselves into the culture or point of interest. This week, we were tasked with selecting a specific area of Asian interest to become literate in, prompting an account of our experience with a topic, text, product, service or platform of our choosing, to be broken down into a field site, a data type, speculative research area, and a communication format.

Now, if you ask me what the one thing of interest I have about Asia that I have yet to look into and better yet to barely begin to understand, its cosplay. I have always been aware of its existence and acknowledged its seemingly large following purely from interactions online, but with friends recently getting into it and my club having several interactions with the Universities’ Cosplay society, my interest has been peaked. Although, I was particularly curious to understand cosplay surrounding a broad spectrum of fandoms, but also that which surrounds styles adopted from Studio Ghibli. I’ll get to how I got to this point later in the blog, but growing up I didn’t get the chance to watch much anime at all, I was rudely informed only at the ripe old age of 20 that Winx Club was actually Italian and very much not anime (although it did apparently have a cult following in Japan in the 2000s).

Despite this, in high school my two best friends agreed that we should all watch the others favourite movie. While I picked Gatsby and our friend Tom picked Casino Royale, we were very lucky that our beautiful friend Georgie showed us Howl’s Moving Castle as hers. It was the beginning of my love for Studio Ghibli films. I have seen it twice more since that first movie night, and I have seen a few other cult favourites over the years such as Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service to name a few. Each and every time I have fallen in love with the illustrations, the colours, the settings, and the ability of the films to transport you elsewhere. This may stem from many years of art classes growing up, or from my studies in Design throughout uni, but I can never let my mind pass over the images without admiring them.

So here we are. Combine a need to understand and know more about the world of cosplay and an appreciation for the style and aesthetics of a studio’s animes and boom. You’ve got yourself a project. Not just any project, an

~** i n d e p e n d a n t   d i g i t a l   a s i a   a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y **~

The thought of tackling cosplay in a project like this is daunting to me, and it isn’t necessarily the idea of dressing up that scares me but the act of putting yourself in a vulnerable state perhaps? It is definitely not the costumes themselves, as I have always been fond of them for their excessive nature and the likeness to the imagination. I taught myself to sew growing up, and I was forever making weird and wonderful pieces that weren’t practical for everyday use. Most of which I have never shown anyone. I am curious, nonetheless, of cosplayers confidence when in character – I will make a very generalised assumption that it’s the ability to be someone who you are not that allows it to bloom, but who am I to know for sure? This fear of vulnerability may be perfect for this particular project, especially with the intended methodology. Ellis and Bochner (2006) support autoethnography ought to be “unruly, dangerous, vulnerable, rebellious, and creative”. My interest in anime, similarly, most likely stems from an appreciation for illustration and art; I was always drawing growing up.

Which brings us to the breakdown of this research project. I needed to set myself some guides as my mind does tend to wander when it comes to research, particularly ethnography.

Experience/Field Site:

  • Cosplay + Anime: wearable pieces?

Data Type

  • Reactions + feelings during experience
  • History and insights on cosplay
  • Physical clothing items and created pieces:
    (HMC) Calcifer earrings, skirt?
    (HMC) Sophie’s hat
    (HMC) Sophie’s dress
    (HMC) Howl’s wings – dress/top
    (Akira) Kaneda’s red jacket
    (SA) No face earrings or patch

Research/ to Speculate

  • Speculating that the fashion and aesthetic of anime often translates into cosplay which is a high level of commitment, is there a middle ground?

Communication & DA Format

  • Instagram account with vlog-style stories and photos to post. Photographs of alike finds, videos of creating processand/or blog posts to accompany.

To kick the project into gear, I began by creating an Instagram account (@cosplaystudies) to detail all of my data in a curated means, and begin to work my way through the topic. I started by looking for inspiration and put my ‘feelers out there’ but trawling through s o   m a n y   hashtags across Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr to see what people were actually cosplaying as. I feel that I mustn’t let my own preferences get in the way of understanding cosplay as a whole, rather than a specific alley of the culture itself. A true testament to the ability of autoethnography, as Rachel E. Dubrofsky & Megan M. Wood (2014) dictate “privilege participation in the form of self-reflexivity and active fashioning of the self” can act as an extension of the data or rather as a constraint. A starting point nonetheless, there’s much more to be investigated. I am most looking forward to getting to what I hope to be a very tactile part of the project.

 

That’s all for now,

Claudia

Dubrofsky R. E., Wood M.M., (2014) Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Vol. 11, No. 3, September 2014, pp. 284

Ellis C., Bochner A. P. (2006). Analyzing analytic autoethnography: An autopsy. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, pp. 433.

The Overzealous World of Anime Food

insight

As a connoisseur of fine – although technically take away – food I can safely say I have had my fair share of experiencing different foods from a number of varying cultures. All be it the often-watered-down western version of these traditional dishes that are either delivered along a sushi train or in a paper bag in a takeaway container. Never the less I’ve always been open to a wide array of different foods and open to trying new dishes despite my stereotypical Australian tastebuds that would often take a glass of milo over most other drinks or actual food.

DjkUtSOUYAEAY-R

One particular facet of international cuisine that I take a particular interest in is traditional Japanese food. Growing up out west over the blue mountains there were never any Japanese restaurants or small sushi hubs – or really anything other than old Jaza’s bakery and pie shop – for me…

View original post 674 more words

Akira: A deep dive into the tortured soul of Japan

 

DISCLAIMER
*Back in week three, I viewed Akira both in class and at home. I was so thrilled at the ending, I decided then and there at 1am, to write down my thoughts (1.) This piece is an extension, and development, of those thoughts.*

Akira left a particularly strong impression on me. A self confessed film buff, I am yet to properly delve into the world of Anime, and could not have asked for a better introduction. With an deeply symbolic plot, beautiful musical score and rich animation (years ahead of it’s time,) unpacking it’s many layers could constitute an entire book in itself. But personally for me, the autoethnographic process saw me perceiving and analysing this, both due to my background in film, and as a product of a privileged Western upbringing,

Coming from my background, a viewpoint rooted in Western cinema, Akira is somewhat of an enigma, not only stylistically but also structurally.
Budget wise, when 8 number figures are tossed around, films backed by large amounts of money are usually marketed to the common denominator – Take Marvel Studios for example; and their tendency toward big budget transmedia production, mass marketed to successfully reach deep into the pockets of the world’s teenage boys (2.)

As a result, It is quite unusual that a high budget film takes stylistic and conceptual risks, grappling with themes of the human condition, nuclear devastation and imperialism (usually left for the low budget and the indie) but when coupled with the ability to afford beautiful artists, animators and musicians, sophisticated ideas are given the presentation they deserve – and identify with the viewer, right down to their core.
Maybe it’s my tendency to dabble in film snobbery, but I often find myself shaking my head at the amounts of money thrown at your standard cookie cutter, high action blockbuster, and (what I feel is) it’s it’s incredible wastage. It is wonderful to experience a film of incredibly high artistic quality, with not only money, but thoughtful art direction behind it.

But financial management and creative competency aside, it the the film’s dark tone, coupled with vivid scenes of violence and destruction that truly drew me to Akira. Japan’s wartime history obviously lends itself to exploring themes of nuclear violence, not only in the political sphere, but also the visual; a morbid fascination with the imagery of destruction. One only needs to look as far as 1988 film ‘Barefoot Gen’, and it’s famous scene, shot from the perspective of the ground, in Hiroshima on the 6th of August (3.)

I talked of this in my previous piece, but as a young white man, safe in his Australian bubble, I am not often exposed to the true horrors of human nature –  and to immerse into scenes of mass destruction is an experience seldom felt by myself or my peers.
Jed Smith (4,) a favourite journalist of mine, has written extensively on the idea of lived experience. “Without a lived-experience, we are unable to understand or truly empathise. So what’s important is to find some way those sensitivities can be acquired.”
Akira was an especially earnest and powerful experience as it allowed me, lucky enough to have lived a life predominantly free of suffering, a window into the experience of someone literally watching their world fall down around their ears.

As a medium to convey lived experience, Akira hit the nerve for me in two key ways.
Firstly, I watched the tortured character of Tetsuo descend further into madness and anger, before being enveloped by his power, begging for the help of those closest to him. Followed the final scenes of Neo Tokyo, bathed in light before it’s end spoke to me on a level further then imagery, themes or metaphor… For the first time in my life, I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination, at just how devastating mass destruction can be, both on a large and individual scale.

(1) Isaksson N (2018.) ‘Week 3 – Akira.’ Digital Asia, August 10, 2018.
Accessible at: https://digitalasia.blog/2018/08/10/week-3-akira/

(2) Admin (2018.) ‘Avengers: Infinity War and the Marvel Marketing Machine,’ Flickering Myth, March 12, 2018.
Accessible at: https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2018/03/avengers-infinity-war-marvel-marketing-machine/

(3) Kuroihitsuji (2017.) ‘Hadashi No Gen – Release the Bomb,’ Youtube, Feburary 14, 2017.
Accessible at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D22kzf_bDvg&t=1s

(4) Smith J (2018.) ‘An Idiot’s Guide to the Australian Class System,’ Monster Children, March 7, 2018.
Accessible at: https://www.monsterchildren.com/71836/idiots-guide-australian-class-system/

Akira – A new found love

Akira, I wasn’t expecting that.

Having not been aware of this film’s existence prior to our live tweeting exercise, I was astounded at my research divulging the world’s love and praise for this strange film’s style and message.

I’ll be dissecting my own reaction to the film (I’ll try my best not to get too excited and HSC-analysing-stuff-until-my-thesaurus-breaks-ish) along with my thoughts on the live tweeting activity that fortunately brought it to my eyes.

To my joy, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels Akira held with that of one of my all-time favourite films – Blade Runner.

blade-runner-1982.jpg

(A shot from the film Blade Runner via https://variety.com/2017/film/columns/how-blade-runner-became-a-geek-metaphor-for-art-1202583468/ )

The first and most obvious being the incredible Neo-Tokyo cityscape, featuring an eclectic combination of metropolis sky-scrapers and grimy industrial wasteland. Just like Ridley Scott’s dystopian city, the landscape beautifully mirrors the overwhelming gap between the powerful and the poor.

Now let’s talk about that colour, wow. I rarely get to throw around the word iridescent (see definition below) but it fits wonderfully here.

iridescent
adjective
  1. showing luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles.
    “the drake’s head has an iridescent purple sheen”

Whether or not the effect of shifting colours and double exposures was a result of the lack of tech at the time, it plays to the chaos of the scenes and landscape in an awesome, almost accidental way, and I could hardly look away to do my tweeting.

Finally, the soundtrack. THE SOUNDTRACK. I could never salivate more than I do when listening to Vangelis’ soundtrack of Blade Runner, but Akira sure gave it a good crack. Relatively simple production, perfect rise and fall with the action, and careful selection of sounds and instruments to give it just enough Asian flavour. As a music and sound nerd, I believe soundtracking can dictate the immersion we feel in a film, album, or any life situation, and to Geinoh Yamashirogumi for doing this with Akira, I tip my hat.

I’ll admit my moments of frustration having to look away from the scenes of Akira to live tweet, but I enjoyed the process nonetheless. There’s a sense of community you feel as a result of participating in the feed. It’s like when you’re in a big crowded cinema for a premiere and you’re wondering if everybody else is loving or hating the movie as much as you are, well this answers those questions.

There’s certainly some interesting merit to a constant flow of extra context to the film you’re watching too. Fascinating pieces of trivia made public by a peer, or subtle elements of the film you might’ve missed are just few of the interesting benefits of a live forum environment, benefits I didn’t expect to find.

 

(Featured image courtesy of ESPIOARTWORK-102 via https://www.deviantart.com/espioartwork-102/art/Akira-1988-500416653)

 

 

Gojira: Nothing beats the timeless

This reflection of the 1956 original story of big, weird train-eating Lizard thingy is a little different.

Heartbreaking as it is, I wasn’t able to enjoy the viewing of Gojira with my seminar buddies as I was completing the last week of an internship. However I soldier on with an alternative take.

Personally, I’m a lover of anything timeless. In the current day and age we love new. We need the new technology, new clothes, new foods, new, new, new. But why? We get so wrapped up in the shiny screen or flashy fit of our recent purchase that we’re blind to the fact that our love for it will probably fade and die as quickly as its level of trendiness in our society does.

If I was to ask what your favourite song or piece of clothing was, I’d bet it’s not in the charts or trends right now. In fact, I’d almost bet it wasn’t even made in the current decade. This is my definition of timeless, the things in life that stand the test of time as the flashy and new fall to waste around them.

I’ve compared the reaction of the internet to Ishirō Honda’s 1954 original Gojira, to the 1998 and 2014 Godzilla remake, and it pleasantly justifies yet challenges my rant about timelessness.

The original kills the competition with its ratings 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, 97% on Film Takeout, and 7.6/10 on IMDb.  The ratings stoop quite magnificently with the 1998 Matthew Broderick remake, a dismal 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, 32% on Metacritic, and 5/10 on IGN.com (sad face). A surprise comes with the most recent take, fetching 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, 6.4/10 on IMDb, and 9/10 on IGN.com.

Equally as interesting was the observations made by critics and fans alike. One theme I continued to find through feedback was the poetic nature of the original flick (as poetic as a film about big, weird train-eating Lizard thingys can get), and how the reimagined films lacked the same poetic qualities. The reviews for the middle child film are hardly worth giving words to, but I’ll summarise by noting I’m not rushing to see it. To the admiration of critics the 2014 Godzilla did borrow some of its classic predecessor’s most loved qualities, making it a worthwhile visit to cinemas, but alas, it still just simply didn’t live up to the standard of the original.

I’m not here to trash the modern film industry, or the modern anything to be frank, I watch new movies, buy new clothes and new technology. I just want to explore and justify my love for anything that is too wonderfully classic to be outdone or replaced by the new versions.

Now that my rant is over, go and have a laugh at this hilariously made You Tube review of the 2014 film by the AngryJoeShow.

 

Are you a fan of the timeless side of life too? If so, what’s your poison?

‘A Country Bumkin Confused in the Presence of Culture’

insight

Western culture is a hard thing to escape.

giphy

Growing up the main contributor to my knowledge of other cultures came from the golden chalice of all morning TV programs – Toasted TV.This gem of my past may have fuelled my obsession with Nickelodeon, but it also sparked my interest in cult anime classics such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh, all be it the watered down ‘4Kids’ versions of the original anime. Other films such as Empire of the Sun and the Last Samurai also helped to shape my easily impressionable perception of Eastern culture, however, looking back there is a common theme across all of these narrative and that is the looming presence of western culture as many of these shows were still filmed or altered to be presented from a western viewpoint.

This western glazed frame that I viewed most cultures from was also influenced by my…

View original post 452 more words