Dive into the archives.
- What I learned in the youtube blackout
I haven’t cared much about this holiday since I grew out of candy in high school, but this year is special since it coincides with the return of my beloved youtube. As I mentioned earlier, since the opening of the People’s Congress in Beijing, youtube has been blacked out in China. But today, All Hallow’s Eve, a day when, according to witches and goths and librarians, a portal to the underworld opens up and the spirits of the dead are allowed to return the physical world, China’s omnipotent Net Nanny has allowed Tay Zonday, Bas Rutten , Reh Dogg, and all my friends to return to the Middle Kingdom.
- GET ME OUT OF HERE: the all-nighter mixtape
A couple days ago we wrapped up work on MAD Dinner, the book I’ve been making for the past couple months.
As in any publishing project, the end of MAD Dinner production involved a lot of long nights. I’ve had this experience a lot of times and it’s disturbingly similar every time. So I thought why not make a little diary of how it went this time. Then I realized that would be pretty boring, so I decided to set it to music. The result is below – Pain Release 2007 – an all-nighter in mixtape form….
Below is a tracklist and hour-by-hour account of the last night of design. Each song sets the tone for my emotional state….
18:00 Shaun Escoffery – Let it go (Jazzanova remix)
State: Unrealistic Optimism
I arrive around 6 knowing it will be a long night of labor and misunderstandings. As I enter the graphic designers’ studio I give myself a silent pep talk. No matter how dysfunctional things become, I say to self, I must, like the man Shaun Escoffery says, “Let it go.”
19:00 Da Lata – Ronco da cuica
State: Productive hubris
Before I can start editing the texts, a lengthy negotiation takes place. The designer insists that he make all the changes, knowing full well that we can barely communicate. I explain that I can easily make the changes myself, thereby saving us both lots of time and frustration. “This will be the easiest night of work you’ve ever had!” I say good naturedly and then demand that my words be translated. He kind of smiles awkwardly and counters with a series of new concerns. Had I ever used Indesign before? Yes, well this is a Chinese version. You can figure it out? This is a mac, have you used a mac?… Eventually he went to use the toilet, which I took for a sign of surrender. I celebrate by working hard and foolishly predicting that I’ll be able to go home “a lot sooner than I thought…”
20:00 MIA – 20 dollar
State: Unproductive irritability
After an hour or so of work, one of the designers’ girlfriends arrives with a kitten. This is taken by all (apart from me, the animal-hating anti-social foreigner) as a cue to stop all work and bullshit for the next hour. I continue, but feel weirdly hostile.
21:00 Crime Mobb – Knuck if you buck (instrumental)
State: Bummed-out incomprehension
As the kitty-inspired break stretches on past an hour, I become slightly despondent. The scene takes on surreal qualities as I watch men who have tons and tons of work to do – as they so often point out when I suggest making changes – flipping through magazines and reminiscing over cell phone photos. I feel strongly inclined to get my workaholic parent on and go tell the kids to break it up, but remind myself of my commitment to “let it go”.
22:00 Damian Marley w/ Stephen Marley, Capleton, Drag-on – It was written
State: Half sad, half soothed
The designers have come back to work now. I know that the last hour of free time will have to be made up, most likely in the early hours of tomorrow, and I’ll probably have to stick around for that. But at least we’re making progress. Who knows?
23:00 Dennis Brown – Slave driver
State: Perseverance in the face of tedium
The day before it was explained to me that, when romanizing Chinese characters, it makes more sense to break up words by their characters. For Chinese readers, it seems unnatural to for instance write Mao Zedong, since it’s 3 characters. Mao Ze Dong or Mao ZeDong makes more sense. The logic seems good to me, and I noticed that, especially for longer, less familiar Chinese words, breaking it up phonetically makes them less intimidating to read. So I figured why not, and decided to handle all of the romanized Chinese words in this way. So I set about going through all the texts in the book and changing them according to this system.
24:00 Rankin Joe – Slave driver dub
State: Depressed deja vu
While making changes to an interview with a city official who repeatedly mentions Beijing and Shanghai, I realize that if I follow the new system and change the words to BeiJing or Shang Hai, they look totally ridiculous. In great pain, I abandon the grand punctuation experiment and go back to the typical, less readable way. The next hour is spent retracing my steps and painstakingly re-changing all the changes that I’d spent the hour before making. The most painful part is I have no one to blame for this enormous waste of time.
1:00 Eek-a-mouse – Long time ago
State: Caffeine & sugar serenity
Around one everyone agrees that they’re hungry and someone offers to go to McDonald’s. I ask for a cheeseburger. It arrives with a coke. I never drink coke. In high school I worked at a burger king and part of my job was to replace the bags of black syrup that fast food restaurants dilute and serve to the customers as coke. Since then I just don’t fuck with it. But everyone has a drink, and it seems rude to reject it. So I drink about half. The impact is immediate and pleasurable. I suddenly feel more positive, more hopeful, invigorated and affectionate. I start making random small talk with no one in particular. One of the designers suggests we fire up the Wii to work off some of these calories. I’m absolutely psyched by this idea and spend most the next hour losing at tennis.
2:00 Kool and the Gang – Summer madness
State: Sweaty disorientation
After all that passionate Wiing, I’m sweaty and a little light headed. I know I have to get back to work, but can’t concentrate. Some of the caffeine-fueled tranquility remains, but I can see a comedown on the horizon. I finish the coke.
3:00 Handsome Boy Modeling School w/ Cat Power – I’ve been thinking
I finally get back to work. I feel very tired, particularly when I think of how much more has to be done and how little coke remains.
4:00 John Mayer – I don’t trust myself (with loving you)
I finally finish the section I’m working on. Before I can start the next one, I need to wait for the designer to finish the layout. This takes about on hour. During this time I’m mostly resting on a bean bag chair. Big shout out to bean bag chairs.
5:00 Anthony Hamilton – Do you feel me?
State: Inexplicable emotionalism
As dawn approaches I am overcome with feelings of sadness, affection, nostalgia, and fatigated euphoria. A few times while I’m making sure the punctuation is consistent and there aren’t any widow or orphan lines, I feel like I might start crying.
6:00 Platinum Pied Pipers – The light
The sun rises, and I start to think about this night actually being over. There’s not that much more work for me to do. Barring some sort of catastrophe, we should be coming to the end. I feel stronger for having made it through the night. I feel something like what Gandalf must have felt after surviving his bout with the Balrog of Moria.
7:00 Common – I want you
State: Satisfaction and longing
I’ve finished my stuff and feel pretty good, but I need to wait around for a few things to be finished before everything can be signed off and sent for a test print. I ask if they have a dancing game for the Wii. They do not.
8:00 Spank Rock – Chilly Will
State: High on life, low on patience
Been waiting around for over an hour, so I start to pressure the designers. They don’t appreciate this, understandably. I’m just trying to get out of here. Just show me the stuff I need to check and I am out of here. You can color correct all you want once I’m gone.
9:00 Club Kings – Boy don’t waste my time
State: Forced finesse
I am doing my best to stay cool, but inside I feel like I’m going mad. I feel like a hostage. Nevertheless, I maintain a kind of chummy, sympathetic demeanor when asking (for the 50th time), when I’ll be able to finish up and move on.
10:00 Club Kings – Wanna fuck you
State: Angry happiness
When the time finally comes, the designer acts like he’s going me a favor. “I’ve still got so much to do,” he says, while getting up out of the seat that I’ve been hovering around for 2 hours plus. I am so happy and tired that my hands are twitching while I give everything a final check. These are moments when you have to somehow find a way to maintain your discipline and be thorough even though you’re tired and want nothing more than to get the fuck out. I still haven’t managed to find a way to do that though, so I just kind of quickly read through, hit apple+S and I’m out!!
11:00 Rod Lee – Dance my pain away
State: Post-traumatic, pre-grimey
I leave the office to the hustle and bustle of Beijing’s CBD. It is impossibly bright. I briefly consider getting a massage, but I’m sure I’ll fall asleep. I put on my ipod and head home, looking forward to the drunken dance floor action awaiting me that evening.
Anyway, in a moment of sleep-deprived, thank-you-jesus-it’s-over euphoria, I blended it all together into a single mix. I think this captures the ebb and flow of sanity better… Please listen and let me know what you think.
You can download it HERE. Just right-click/ctrl-click the link and choose “save target as” (windows) or “save link as” (mac).
- The revolution will not be televised
There is so much that can be (and has been) said about China’s special brand of liberal authoritarianism.
Some say the approach is unsustainable, that economic reform without political reform is impossible in the long term. They predict that, as soon as the economic growth from which the Chinese government derives all of its authority slows down, people will start to demand more, and without elections, a free press, etc. there will be no way for these grievances to be addressed without violence. Others counter that a project such as the one in which China is currently engaged (bringing in, going out, coming together, raising up…) is too complex to leave to the instability and short-sightedness of electoral politics. Maybe down the line, they say, we can think about opening up the leadership, but for now, everyone has to sacrifice for the good of the nation.
Not being Chinese, I’ve never felt obliged to contribute much to this kind of discussion. That’s partly because I’m generally turned off by foreigners who dictate from a distance what China “needs” to do. Also, I know very well that my opinion (as well as theirs) doesn’t mean jack here.
BUT I now realize that my reticence is also partly due to the fact that I haven’t had a cause behind which I can put my self-righteous all. Well, that more innocent time came to a crashing halt two days ago when I learned that the Chinese government decided to block YOUTUBE.
Surfin’ the Web can be an exasperating experience in China. It’s not at all that the CPC has a complete lock down on all would-be offensive content. Certain high-profile sites like BBC news and Wikipedia are inaccessible, and for a long time all Blogger-hosted blogs couldn’t be accessed unless you used a proxy server or a site like anonymouse.org. But a huge number of similar sites – like IHT or Answers.com – are freely available.
And this is what I find so frustrating. The system seems so arbitrary and ad-hoc. One minute you’re sailing along smoothly, looking at all sorts of pornography, Tibetan freedom blogs, and Tian’anmen tank images and then suddenly google shorts out or an image you want to save can’t be accessed. It’s a kind of blue balls for the information age.
As one would imagine, the Chinese censors are more thorough when it comes to Chinese content, but with over 24 million Chinese-language web pages to monitor, only so much ground can be covered.
Perhaps that’s why the Beijing Public Security Bureau recently appealed for greater public participation in limiting personal freedom. In August it released a virtual police unit comprised of uniformed cartoons who roam the cyberspace beat, encouraging China’s hardy netizens to narc on one another. According to China Daily:
A Beijing netizen need only click the two cartoon police if he or she wants to report malicious information or pornographic websites. Then the netizen shall fill in a form to end the whole reporting processing, Beijing police said Tuesday at a press conference.
This idea of a self-policing internet has uncomfortable parallels with the informant system that was used to control and terrorize the population during the Cultural Revolution. It’s not of the same severity, of course, but it’s part of the same snitching tradition that the government has encouraged for decades.
But if you hear from the government itself, virtual censorship is virtually non-existent. From another China Daily article:
Regulation of China’s Internet is fully in line with international practice, and the country welcomes foreign Web businesses to provide lawful services, a top cyberspace regulator said yesterday (February 14) in Beijing.
In trumpeting the openness of China’s net, the regulator, Mr. Liu Zhengrong, employed another favorite weapon of the officials here (as well as many other countries) – the criticism deflector shield:
Liu said “It is unfair and smacks of double standards when (they) criticize China for deleting illegal and harmful messages while it is legal for US websites for doing so.”
He was referring to the policies of sites like the New York Times to edit or delete comments left by users. That’s a fair point. Unfortunately, it’s also misdirection, since what most people criticize China for is not deleting the odd offensive comment, but instead for deleting, say, 18,401 websites in the last five months.
According to a story published in Shanghai Daily last month:
A total of 9,593 unregistered Websites were shut down while 8,808 Websites were closed for disseminating pornographic, illicit or fraudulent pictures and information on the Internet, said Miao Wei, deputy general manager of China Telecom, the country’s biggest telecommunication carrier, which was involved in the campaign.
Which brings me back to youtube, apparently one of the gang 18,401.
There are alternatives you might say. And it’s true that metacafe and liveleak are still up. Not google video though, that’s never been up as far as I know. Not dailymotion either, so forget that. There are of course local alternatives like tudou that run a lot faster here, but illiteracy prevents me from making any meaningful explorations of them. Plus youtube was my first love. It opened up a world of concert footage, teen exhibitionism, low budget documentaries, and TV bloopers that I literally can’t image going without now. So I can’t just start using some shit like ebaum’s world like it’s no problem.
The question now is what’s to be done? Having been woken from my apathetic slumber, what do I do? What does a 29-year-old foreigner with a tourist visa and poor grasp of the language do to induce radical change in an emerging superpower? I’m totally open to suggestions. But, just to be safe, better post them in code. I’m not trying to get shut down.
- Hate it or love it
October has been hard on rappers. With Lil Wayne getting arrested, Prodigy getting sentenced, the already incarcerated Foxy Brown refusing to go to court, and TI getting busted by the ATF all within the span of NINE DAYS, it’s safe to say we’ve reached a new low in hip hop’s public relations.
This is, of course, great news for the factions in the American media that feed on the troubles of misbehaving celebrities, and even better for the subset dedicated to denouncing black athletes and entertainers. That group, having already gorged themselves on the reputations of Barry Bonds, Michael Vick, and the leftovers of OJ, will now set about tearing into this new feast. O’Reilly, party of 400….
So I can’t do a thing against this well connected, highly motivated machine and, to be honest, when I read about a rapper getting arrested for skipping court or illegally purchasing machine guns, even a fan like myself has to shake his head and say, “Fuck it, these idiots get what they deserve.”
But what I don’t accept is the one-sidedness of the coverage. So in my own small way I want to shine light on a much less reported story that took place during the same nine-day period that Weezy, Bandana P, Fox Boogie, and TIP were having all their troubles.
Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi has declared Friday “50 Cent Day” and will honor the rapper with a key to the city and an official proclamation.
The rapper, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, will also present a check to Hall Neighborhood House, an inner-city nonprofit group, and speak to about 30 students from city high schools as part of his charity work to improve young people’s lives.
He also happens to be filming a new movie in Bridgeport with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Fabrizi says he met 50 Cent on the set of “Righteous Kill” and asked him if he would be willing to talk with some local students. He says the rapper agreed without hesitation.
Here’s a clip of the event:
I don’t know, maybe it’s the mood I’m in, but there’s something about this clip that I find really touching. So anyway, enough of that other shit, happy 50 Cent Day everybody…
- Flash Fwd:2
This installment of Flash Fwd comes courtesy of my we-go-way-back friend Prolifik. He’s one of my main suppliers of amusing internet things, so when he sent me a link to www.larsholdhus.com I clicked expecting comedy. And it is, but it’s so much more. First, some background…
Of the myriad improvements that Web 2.0 has brought to life on earth (heightened efficiency, greater connectedness, mobility, freedom of expression, etc.) there are two particular components that I cherish above all others. They are:
1. Clips of unfamous people awkwardly mouthing the words to famous pop songs
2. Webcam erotica
So any dummy can find and enjoy these things, but only an artist (like Lars Holdhus) would ever think to put them together, and not as some cut & paste mash-up thing either, but in real time (not RealTime) through the medium that sites like youtube were supposed to smother: video art. “We should still move on” (2007) is not your run of the mill TV host vomiting or crack head preacher dancing clip. If anything, it adds much needed dignity to the venues that have been so degraded by that kind of frivolous material. Enjoy
- VOTE FOR THIS MAN!
The baller pictured above is my father, James “Coach” McGetrick. He’s been living in Beijing for a couple years teaching and raising funds for a school for the children of migrant workers who, due to China’s policy of fixed residence, aren’t legally allowed to go to school is Beijing. It’s a noble cause, and if you’d like to learn more about it, check out this site
made by Compassion for Migrant Children, a local NGO.
But that’s not what this is about. What this is about is my father’s quest to be one of eight foreigners chosen to carry the torch as it makes its way to the Beijing Olympic Stadium (now under construction) for the opening ceremonies of the Summer Games in ’08.
He’s written a short text to explain why he’d like to carry the flame. You can read it and vote for him here.
Please vote. Apparently there’s a one vote per IP address rule, which, frankly, has made it much harder for me to undermine the fundamental principles of democracy.