Follow my Existential Exile. . .

Thursday, March 31, 2011

for Japan

 In light of the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster that has devastated Japan, The Design Society has created 8 T-shirt designs to help raise money for the victims. Support the people of Japan and help Design Society raise over $30,000 (Singaporean dollars).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hip Hop in Ho Chi continued. . .

This is for real. A real music video from a real hip hop artist from the streetz of Saigon. It doesn't get more hood than old folks playing Chinese chess on plastic chairs, chickens in the hem outside your crib and toothless men selling lottery tickets. I met the young man in the hat once in a club. As soon as I read his style, I exclaimed to my friend Linh, "Awww shoot it's the Viet T.I.!!" From the video you can tell this boy is serious about his craft. Although I can not decipher what he is saying, according to my Vietnamese linguist source he is talking about the reality of living in a poor Vietnamese community. No different than what Biggie or Tupac, or T.I. himself have to say in their music. Again, I admire his adoration for hip hop culture. He is shaping the new generation of "Youth Music" as the communist government calls it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

the Bastardization of Hip Hop

Proper language usage can get lost in translation. Symbolism may get reinvented when taken out of its original context. I went shopping with my home girl and boy the other day. We hit up every hip hop shop in Vietnam on a quest to find birthday gifts and the perfect b-boy hat. Yes, there are hip hop shops in Vietnam. Imagine a Harlem store front, or 47th street shop in Chicago, with all the same hood-architecture and decoration (Cue the old sun-washed posters of the game, snoop dogg, and ciara), but a little less authentic. The store that did manage to have a "Vietnamese" flare to its design is Peace United, owned by Viet Max and his crew. Cue the "Vietnamese hood" props: Organized inside of a typical Vietnamese style house, with motorbike parking in the front. Shoes must be off before entering this "kingdom of hip hop." Inside of the small show room, graffiti coats the walls, tees, hoodies, sneakers and of course baseball caps adorn the shelves. At first glance, I'm slightly impressed, they have the look down. However, with further examination I realize, like most creative endeavors taking place in Saigon (especially my classroom), instant gratification is key, no real depth, no authenticity in the work at hand. Rap lyrics are taken out of context and slapped on t-shirts; leading to highly offensive content (ex. "Let's Get High Niggaz!" is on a shirt) Is that an appropriation of Ludacris? I doubt they got his permission. AND, in case I truly forgot that this is not Bronzeville or Lenox Ave, but the land of bun bao and spring rolls, there is this cat straight chillin in the back of the store. . . literally. . . a pet cat, chillin; well here, just look for yourself.

(please excuse the "noise" on the photos, my camera is broken)

excuse me?!@@#$



Friday, March 18, 2011

truth be told "they" really do love us. . .

No Vietnamese were harmed in the making of this photo.
New Negro.
A term popularized during the Harlem Renaissance, it was first used by the scholar Alain LeRoy Locke. To have used the term "New Negro"(because no one in the 21st century uses this term except these people) was to imply a more outspoken advocacy of dignity and a refusal to submit quietly to the practices and laws of Jim Crow segregation. Most Black people "up on their history" know this already. What I'm trying to figure out is, why a group of designers from Japan felt it necessary to use this term in their brand. I mean, Black people don't even say this anymore. It's 2011 ASIAN PEOPLE!!! WTF Did you miss the memo??? Black people don't dance around in top hats and black paint; Black people don't wear hip hop gear and call themselves "new negros", because there is nothing "new" about wearing hip hop attire, and no one has used the term "negro" since 1975. I admire the flattery. I appreciate the infatuation. But I find it troubling that my culture is being taken out of its context. Take for example the "New Negro" brand. I have noticed this baseball cap for a while. It adorns the shelves of two of Saigon's hip hop stores. After seeing it a second time, I had to do some research.

New Negro Group Co.  [I don't see anything "Black" or "American" about this logo.]
"We are not just a clothing company. . . Our intention is to change the mind of the person who wears our clothes [i.e. Vietnamese boys?] and everyone who sees them. [Riiiiiigght, cause Vietnamese actually know where the heck the phrase "new negro" comes from] When you wear our bold collection you are refreshing your mind to a possible new world. [Are Asian's the new Black People?] We are the Defenders of the Dream of Unity. [I assume ref. of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech] Spread the word: "Peace, Love and Respect, by showing your true color [Again, if your audience is Asian, then that color would be "yellow" not Black] . . . New Negro." Our clothing expresses the "New Mind" we feel when dressed for the New Life of Respect for Everyone.

Innocent enough, the overall angle seems to be based on positive vibes. I still have no clue if the company is run by real live Black people, or a group of Japanese staging as such, or others. Why does it matter you ask? The problem is this: When you come to America, you will NEVER find Black people participating in the commerce of goods and services that are based on another culture that is 180 degree difference from their own. If you go to Harlem, you won't find a man selling Puka shells on the street and calling it "The essence of Filipinos." When you go to Chicago you won't see Black people in China town selling whitening cream. We don't bastardize other cultures. We don't try to take hold of someone else's cultural practices and make it our own. But maybe we should? Perhaps we should start to participate in the global economy, educate ourselves on the practices and customs of other cultures and based on supply and demand take part making millions off of the needs of these foreign customers.
Korean's have it down to a science!
Shouts out to the My cousin's Martial Arts Academy!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

freshen those PEARLY WHITES!

Darlie Toothpaste. It used to be called "Darkie" Toothpaste. If you look closely, you'll notice the logo is a minstrel character that has now been modernized like Aunt Jemima's hair-do; easy on the eyes, but still just as offensive. Now I'm going to interject my African-American expat opinion: Asian folk born and raised from Asia don't have the best tooth-care/oral hygiene practices to begin with. So on a positive tip, Thank you for admiring the naturally crest-white teeth that exist among most Africans. What can I say? We just got it like that! Add it to the long list of other natural talents like dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, sports and staying creatively fresh.


This is 2011, and playing off of an ethnic groups stereotypes to market products is so 1933, the year that Hawley and Hazel (the company who created Darkie Toothpaste) was created. Although the company has tried to clean up their act and change the name, you can't hide the original derogatory meaning. You can mask it up with "minty fresh", But I'm sorry, What the hell does a Black Man in a top hat have to do with "fresh breath"???

soo late!

I know, I know I've been slacking on the Blog posts. My internet has been acting shady mcgrady. Also had a dear friend leave Vietnam, so happy for her! She's gone back home to France :-( So I HAD to spend quality time with her. I'm back in the game though, so here goes the latest craziness from the FAr EaSt. . .