Archive | August, 2012

China vs Japan – which is better? There’s only one way to find out…

25 Aug

japan imperial flagYou might have heard recently about a bit of diplomatic aggro between China and Japan. I say a bit. I mean what may in 20 years’ time be referred to as “the origins of World War Three”. As with most disputes in Asia Pacific, it revolves around a disputed set of rocks. Literally little more than jagged stubs of nothingness poking wilfully out of the deep, shouting “claim me, if you DARE!”.

Now, you might hear a lot of nationalistic posturing on both sides about their rightful claims, but here’s the deal. I can pronounce the islands in Japanese – Senkaku, since you ask – while I have more difficulty, as with most words, with the Chinese Diaoyu. This, in my book, means Japan wins by default – if half the planet can’t pronounce the pesky name then you forfeit sovereignty rights … is the new rule I’ve just made up.

Ironically in this instance, and for about the first time in such disputes, I think China probably has the more valid claim. If you look on the map, the disputed lands are bloody miles away from Japan – Taiwan has a pretty valid claim on them too, but definitely not Japan. I say ironically because China claims just about everything in the South and East China Sea because it has an old map with all of these islands, atolls, reefs and sandbanks depicted as belonging to the Middle Kingdom.  Not very convincing if you ask me but who’s going to argue with China? Well, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan, now that there are signs that there could be precious minerals or even gas and oil under the crabby bits of rock.

As tensions mounted over the Senkaku dispute, a boat full of Chinese and Taiwanese activists sailed off from Hong Kong to plant the Chinese (and Taiwanese) flags on them. Now I found this propaganda stunt particularly, err, fishy given that Hong Kongers in my experience do not consider themselves to be a part of that whole Chinese territorial posturing nonsense. Yes, they may feel ethnically aligned to their cousins across the border, but when it comes to geopolitical matters, they would rather remain aloof of China’s insatiable land grab. They are happy in their difference from the PRC because it means they can hang on to things – rule of law, press freedom, financial independence, freedom of speech etc etc – that mainland Chinese can only dream of.

The whole thing smacked of a Communist-sponsored PR stunt – making sure the activists came from Hong Kong to distance the act itself from the PRC, but still showing Japan that the government has popular support for its territorial stance.

Anyway, long story short, no-one in this or any of the Asian maritime squabbles that have erupted over the past few months have particularly covered themselves in glory. What there needs to be is some kind of international arbitration in all this, some kind of union of nations which could decide on who gets what. A United Nations, if you will. Oh, wait a minute. There is.

Sonic Mania desu!

20 Aug

sonic mania shotWhat do you get if you stick several world-class electro DJs in a gigantic conference centre, fill it with 20,000 crazy Japanese yoofs and fill each one of them with far too much booze? SONIC MANIA DESU! Saikooooo!

Never having been to a Japanese festival or even club night before, I was slightly dreading this all-nighter in the Tokyo suburbs. It certainly was an evening full of surprises. Just 690 Yen and 38 minutes from Tokyo Station, Makuhari Messe is a beast of a building about the size of three Earl’s Courts. More commonly home to Japanese Jeremy Clarkson wannabes at the capital’s auto-shows, the venue did not look particularly appealing for a gig, but actually a storming sound system and up-for-it crowd made it feel more like Alexandra Palace on a good night.

I think the idea was the best of Japanese + the best of international musics, so true to form we eschewed the local stuff and focused on those old favourites Soulwax/2ManyDJs and Basement Jaxx. Despite some dodgy Japanese MC-ing, the latter were actually pretty good – the Noodle not being a fan of their own tunes. Sadly there was no time to haul ourselves to see other promising French electro music-makers like Surkin, Para One and Madeon – the Messe being a victim of its own size.

So. Highlights of the night? A man staggering through the crowd at 2ManyDJs with a half-eaten bowl of udon; a massive queue at every bar which, true to form, was almost non-existent by about midnight; being able to see over most heads to the stage; a sea of bodies asleep on the tarmac by 4am, brutalised by too much Asahi and fried octopus balls…

So was it Manic? Well, once the initial euphoria had passed and we realised the most dangerous thing we could do there was smoke a contraband cigarette and get largered, yeah, it was a bit. You know how you’ll always get a token couple of Japanese girls at any club in London, dancing badly, looking bored? Well, here there are thousands of them and they’re bloody loving every minute.

For the sheer balls-out, pissed-up, good natured crowd, shamefully nice food and wicked music, Sonic Mania, I salute thee! Kampai…

Olympic Fail, Hong Kong style

10 Aug

london flagWhat an epic two weeks of sport eh? I love how London is revelling in its position at the centre of the world again – its stately monuments and beautiful city-scapes beamed across the planet to the envy of, well, people, everywhere. I’m loving how the worst premonitions of a Games dominated by greed and dirty commercial interest has given way to the sheer unadulterated joy of Great Britain suddenly, collectively, realising it is great at something – two things actually – putting on a show and winning at sport. Yeah, for all our cynicism and shoulder shrugging, we do actually like to see our boys and girls kick some ass – even if it is at mainly sitting-down sports like horse gymnastics and cycling.

I say I’m loving all this of course but I can’t really comment since Hong Kong TV isn’t showing a BLOODY THING! I take that back, if endless table tennis and badminton matches are your bag then you’ve come to the right place. It is an unmitigated, shameful broadcasting disaster with the laughable banner “A Games for All”. Err, not quite. A Games for none of the tens of thousands of TV subscribers on the island that aren’t locals. Even the most biased domestic broadcaster surely has some kind of public interest remit to switch occasionally to see what the host nation’s up to?

Nope, not a bit of it here. Not even a sniff of Andy Murray’s amazing men’s tennis final, zero football and virtually no track and field. To add insult to injury, the bi-lingual commentary in the studio involves the English anchor team relegated to what looks like a glass-fronted break-out room on a mezzanine behind the main presenters – you can just about see them if you squint really hard.

So that’s my Games. Am probably better off following Samuel L Jackson’s excitable Tweets than switching on Hong Kong TV. Still, hope you’re having fun. I wonder if I can apply for a refund on my London Council Tax for the past decade?

China’s obsession with porn: what a colossal waste of time

2 Aug

XXXChina is truly a unique nation and no-where is this more evident than its nonsensical attitude to pornography.

Yup, since the People’s Republic was founded in 1949, the production, distribution and consumption of any smutty content has been illegal, but why?

If you look at all the countries of the world, the ones which have restrictions on such material 99% of the time do so because of religious reasons – or religion masquerading as morality. Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Iran the list goes on and on for a depressingly long time, with the majority of oppressive regimes located here in Asia.

Then we come to China – a nation where religion is barely tolerated by the Communist Party. Just ask the Falun Gong, a religious sect hounded out of the country as a “heretical organisation”, or the Muslims of Xinjiang Province, who have been told this month that they cannot fast during Ramadan.

The Party’s not keen at all on organised religion yet behaves in a quasi-religious way towards pornography.

Just this week, Chinese police smashed a massive porn site and arrested over 2,000 unlucky punters. Many of them will get let off with a warning but this will mean serious jail time for the site admins.

Ironically, the site, which had been going since 2009, was only discovered after a nosy Mum decided to find out why her son’s high school grades had taken a sudden turn for the worse…

What a colossal waste of everyone’s time. Seriously. Can you imagine the police hours involved in the three-month investigation, which spanned the entire country?

And for what? So the Party can prove once again it is protecting the moral health of the populace?

In reality, it often uses porn – lumped in with internet fraud, gambling and malware – as an excuse to ‘clean up the web’ periodically. The real target in these clean up initiatives is usually political opponents of the Party or just general troublemakers.

Surely the Party is missing a trick here. A wank-happy population with a steady supply of porn is far less likely to rebel against its masters than one deprived, agitated and excluded, seeking out underground forums like the site recently shuttered.

If religion used to be the opiate of the people, then today surely it’s internet porn.

We need to get organised on this people because one day China is going to rule the world, and I for one worry about the future…