Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ding dong, the Great Leader's dead...

Well well... the day has finally come, Kim Jong Il, the leader of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea has passed away (that's North Korea by the way).

Young Kim Jong Il
I've read countless articles and have watched many videos of the events surrounding the "great leader's" passing. I've seen the throngs of North Koreans crying in the streets, thumping their chests, wailing. "Oh whatever shall we do now that our great leader is gone!?" What a spectacle! But honestly, I expected as much. The same thing happened back in 1994 when Kim Il Sung (Kim Jong Il's father) took leave of this world. One interesting thing though, is a few of my friends have been asking me some interesting questions as for some time I was quite the North Korean enthusiast and have done extensive independent research on the subject. I like to think know a bit about how things work over there. I used to be a member of the KFA (Korean Friendship Association), an online group endorsed by representatives of the DPRK in an effort to bolster international relations. Suffice it to say it was fairly interesting getting the North Korean side of things. But more on that later... perhaps.  

North Korean citizens weeping for their great leader. I could believe a lot of the older people are probably crying for real.

 The first question I hear a lot of people asking is, "are those North Korean people really crying or is it all a show?" Well, good question...

In my opinion, I would have to say that its likely a mish-mash. What you have is a group of people who:

A. Are actually bawling, because they actually give a shit about Kim Jong Il and have been brain-washed into thinking he really was the only thing standing between North Korea and the swarms of evil American "imperialists" waiting to invade the North Korea at a moment's notice.

B. Actors who are likely party-loyalists who have been inserted by the party into these groups of people to quite literally "give a show", and show all the international news broadcasters just how much everyone loves the "great leader" and are devistated by his passing.

C. People who are forcing out tears or even flat out faking it cause they don't want to show that they really don't give two shits about the "great leader" because they are fearful that the people who do may notice and report them (or something like that).

 I'm not sure about the ratio, and I don't even know for sure if this is the case of course, but if you watch the videos of the sobbing masses it feels like its fairly easy to tell who's genuinely distraught and who's faking. I do believe that some North Koreans are genuinely devastated about his passing. The national psyche over there is really something else, with the "Kim dynasty" enjoying a status that lies somewhere between "war heroes" and "gods on earth" with their own mythology to boot. Its pretty hard to wrap one's head around. However, it has been discovered in the past that there are those in North Korea who oppose the regime, or are at the very least indifferent towards it.  It would be these people that would likely fit in category "C". Just like any country, North Korea and its people are complicated. It's never a good idea to generalize too much.

 The other question I've heard people asking is "What happens now?"

Old propaganda poster depicting a North Korean soldier smashing the White House.
 Well, its hard to say. Kim Jong Il's health had been declining for some time now and its safe to say that the DPRK has likely had a contingency plan for the great leader's potential demise since before he assumed the position. So the answer to that question is "probably not a whole lot." For those of you who think that North Korea is going to undergo some massive transformation as a result of Kim Jong Il's death... well.... get ready to be disappointed. How can I make such an absolute assumption? Well I can't really, after-all what do I know? I'm just a Canadian University student. But consider this; how much power do you think Kim Jong Il actually had? How much of North Korea's governance fell to the party and its members? Was Kim Jong Il just a figurehead? and for that matter, how long has Kim actually been dead? I don't really know the answers to these questions but these are all things to think about when addressing this question.

The "crown-prince" Kim Jong Un, successor to the Kim throne. (Ahem... Kim Jong Il's Son)
I think it could be possible that, assuming Kim Jong Il really did have most of the power, if his son is not up to snuff, then we may see some pretty interesting developments in North Korea. After-all, a regime such as North Korea's that relies largely on the ignorance of its people can't really be expected last forever in this mass information age we live in. That's my opinion anyway. I'd just like to get to visit North Korea before any of that happens, just to take some "before shots" and to say I was there.

Last question I'll answer is "What did you think of Kim Jong Il?"

I dunno if that's supposed to be Kim Jong Il or Kim Il Sung, but I could not imagine either of them riding a horse like this... especially not the former.
 Well personally I think that anyone who rules over people, who lives in the lap of luxury while keeping their people poor and ignorant, has failed in their purpose, is the scum of the earth, will be judged harshly by history and hopefully will get whats coming to them. In other words, Kim Jong Il was a despot of the worst kind and enjoyed a ridiculously decadent lifestyle at the expense of his people. However, he died prematurely, probably as a result of that lifestyle. So perhaps there is some justice. I can't imagine what his son is going to be like. 

Regardless, it will be interesting to see what happens with North Korea over the next while and I sincerely hope for the safety of South Korea and all the loved ones I have over there.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Korean Zombie bom-ba-ye!

If you know me, you know I like me some MMA action, and where better to go for that then the leading promotion of the sport, the UFC? This weekend was UFC 140 in Toronto (my base of operations) featuring a STACKED card with big names like, the half Brazilian, half Japanese, karate master Lyoto Machida, the young and lighting fast, Champion John Jones, UFC veteran and former champ Tito Ortiz, both Brazillian Jujutsu savvy Nogueira brothers, former champ Frank Mir, goodness gracious what a night! And man did it deliver! Every fight was explosive and exciting, few left the first round, the final fight of the evening was intense and culminated in Machida passing out from a choke, or guillotine, I couldn't really see what Jones was doing. But anyway, it was pretty darn exciting!

Hominick and Chan at the weigh-ins.
 But one of the fights I was waiting for with great interest was a fight that wasn't on too many peoples radar, which was the Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jun vs Mark Hominick, a Canadian boy from London, Ontario, just an hour or so drive from Toronto. Well needless to say, I have an affinity for both these fighters. I think Koreans are totally under represented in MMA as few Koreans are competing and those who do, usually have little success internationally for whatever reason. Chan Sung Jun has so far achieved some success, winning his first two fights in UFC against decent fighters and being really exciting in WEC (his former league). so go zombie! However, Mark Hominick is a homeboy, a really nice guy, and a good, well rounded fighter. Basically I was on the fence with this one.

Chan showing off his national colours.
Though I was rooting for Chan as the underdog I, like most people, expected Hominick to take it, as he is a top contender in the lightweight division, and Chan has yet to prove himself. I was very interested to see this fight because, I had watched Chan in his WEC debut in what essentially was a non-stop brawl against another brawler Leonerd Garcia which ended in a loss for Chan by split judge decision. His second fight saw him knocked out with a nasty head kick. Upon going into UFC Chan seemed to step up his game, winning against Leonerd Garcia in a rematch via "twister", a nasty sumbission move which had never been used in the UFC until Chan's use. He said he had trained his defense for his match against Hominick and I was really curious to see how he was going to try to deal with Hominick's well-roundedness. Their match was the first of the evening and, well suffice it to say, imagine my surprise when I, sitting in a pub with my chums last night, looked down at my beer to take a swig as soon as the fight started, only to look back up at the screen and see this...

Chan's the one on top if you couldn't tell.
Chan won the fight in under 7 seconds with a hard shot to Hominick's chin, knocking out the Canadian. I nearly spat out my beer! I thought they were playing a reply video or something! But no, Chan won immediately. The whole pub was pretty damned surprised. Though I was happy with Chan's win, I was kind of dissapointed, because I never got to see how Chan changed his game, or how Hominick was going to deal with Chan's aggressive style. It also kind of sucked for Hominick because this was his second fight in Toronto and his second loss in Toronto, which puts him at a 2 loss streak on home ground. Also as a Canadian I feel sad for my fellow country and province-man (is that a word?) cause I know Hominick is a capable, top-tier fighter. Basically I wanted to see an awesome fight that both fighters could be proud of, win or lose. Nonetheless, congrats to Chan and I'm really curious to see both of these guys next fights! Keep up the good work Chan! and don't sweat it Hominick!

Oddly enough Chan is not very famous in Korea and seems to be overshadowed by UFC welterweight fighter and fellow countryman Kim Dong Hyun, currently 1-1 in the UFC and though showing that he is a capable fighter, has frankly given a rather underwhelming performance so far. Hopefully Chans's current success in the UFC will inspire Kim to step up his game! One can only hope!

Kim Dong Hyun, quite a bit more popular than Chan within Korea.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This Game Looks Awesome!

Have you been looking for a game where you play as a Hindu/Buddhist deity and are forced to battle other deities in a crazy science fiction/cosmological world? Yeah... me neither... UNTIL NOW.
Allow me to introduce, Asura's Wrath, a game by Capcom coming next year to PS3s and 360s everywhere. Though not much in the way of gameplay has been released, numerous trailers feature a world unlike anything I've seen in games, with the possible exception of the Shin Megami Tensai series. (it's okay if you don't know what that is). So yeah, here's what the game's protagonist looks like during a battle!

Pretty damn cool eh!?
In the game, the main character doesn't always have six arms, I think its just a technique or something, but I think the six arm thing here is pretty awesome, because Asuras come from Hinduism, a religion known for its many-armed deities. In Hinduism, Asuras are apparently deities that control the social phenomena of the world, such as love, and marriage, and anger and all that. They are apparently thought of as sinful and materialistic beings and are opposed to the Devas, the deities responsible for natural phenomena. Asuras also have a presence in the more cosmological elements of Buddhism and mystic Daoism as well, though I'm not sure exactly what their function is in these practices. I think it will be pretty interesting to see how the game incorporates these elements into its world.

Here's some game play footage, I love how the enemy looks like an idol.
So based on the trailers it seems that you play as an Asura, a god of sorts, whose wife has been killed and whose child has been kidnapped by other Asura or deities whom you must battle! Though the story doesn't sound like anything new, the games aesthetic looks really unique, using the same sort of textures and colours from Street Fighter IV , which is AWESOME! The game seems to take place in a fantastical sci-fi world of the Asuras and Earth. My guess is that the Asuras are sort of these galactic beings that humans heed as gods or something like that. Anyway it looks really cool, especially with the Hindu/Buddhist deity character designs.

This is apparently what an Asura looks like. 
The game is also made by Capcom, probably my favorite video game company of all time. Though some say they are not as good as they used to be, with a number of their creative talent leaving recently and forming Platinum Studios (also an awesome company), I hope this game can show that Capcom's still got it. Check out one of the many trailers below! Hope it's good!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Than Words

I was supposed to blog about this ages ago... Alright, so a while ago I watched  some friends of mine play in their band on the mean streets of Toronto, and they were pretty awesome! They are a group of musical Japanese working-holidayers who go by the name of "More Than Words", which is fitting because they're an instrumental group. Their style is Jazzy with a soprano sax playing gal on the lead and two young lads playing base and rhythm guitar. The guy who put it all together is my buddy Kenzo, the drummer.

Here They Are! More Than Words!
So a few weeks ago I hung out with them for a couple of hours to snap some shots and take a few low-res videos just for fun, and they received quite a lot of attention and money! People seem to really love that soprano sax! Here's a video of their cover of isn't she lovely! Woo!

So they're pretty good eh? Well here's a bit of music magic.... while they were playing one of their songs this RV rolled up right behind them, stopping at a red light, and then suddenly this dude opened the door and started playing one of those piano-mouth organ things, which matched perfectly with my friends music! And then when the light changed, he drove off! What a magical moment! I got a video of it too, but sadly I missed the part when he arrives, check it below!

And that was a TOTAL coincidence! Ah... the magic of the everyday. More Than Words play around Toronto on random dates so you might end up seeing them if you walk the streets of downtown Toronto. However, if you'd like to see some listings, check em out below. With a Jazzy sound and an ever-expanding roster of music, they sure are a blast!

Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/morethantoronto


Saturday, December 3, 2011

How Not to Make an Asian American Sitcom

Holy pooptown! Someone finally did it! Someone in TV land finally realized that Asian-Americans represent a considerable American TV watching demographic and decided to make a good ol' American sitcom just for them! Wow, what a swell age we live in! ...Can you detect the sarcasm yet? Meet The Chin Chens!

I know what your thinking, that title looks pretty ominous.
 Though it has not aired yet (and might not as the production company apparently is involved in an unrelated financial scandal) this is a real project. I found out about it from angryasianman.com (check it out, great blog) where it was mentioned with grave sentiments. Alright so what is this? Well its one of those laugh track, family sitcoms, like Fresh Prince of Bellair, or Two and a Half Men or Friends or... well you get the idea. Only the big twist is its about an Asian-American family. Alright so nothing wrong so far right? Figure its about time Asian-American family life was represented in a funny and lighthearted television sitcom right? Why not? And then I saw the demo reel... (watch it now)

Alright so I'll be fair. Most of the scenes in this reel are just really corney and badly written, or dumb or silly or whatever, but that sort of stuff is kind of expected in this genre so I can let it slide (YEAH I SAID IT!). But HOLY SHIT, that theme song is F**KIN RIDICULOUS! Is that how the producers really think Asian Americans feel? "Americans at heart, Asians by blood"??? "...red, white and blue mixed with Yellow coloured "something or rather?" (I think they said love... or mud) WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT? R to the A to C-I-S-T! What does that spell? I don't use this word lightly friends, but goddam! That's racist, no two ways about it. Also, why is it called the Chin Chens? Chin, and Chen are two family names respectively, so you'd only need one of them... like "The Chens" or "The Chins" but using both of them makes it seem more incorrect and MORE RACIST! Though I don't know for sure, it seems that this show was produced by white folks. Yeah... NO EXCUSE!

Ethnocentric sitcom done right! (that's arguable, I suppose, but it has been running for 6 seasons free of racially charged scandals!)
White people wrote "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Shogun", which were both well written and accurate portrayals of traditional East Asian settings and characters. Neil Gaiman, an acclaimed author and white Englishman, wrote "Anansi Boys", an excellent bit of fantasy in which nearly all the characters are west-Indian. Point is, you don't have to be a certain ethnicity to write accurately about ethnic characters, you just gotta check your facts or, alternatively, not be an IDIOT.

It just seems to me that a total lack of effort and sensitivity went into "The Chin Chens" which SUCKS ASS! Because I truly and deeply believe that a sitcom portraying the daily lives, triumphs and hardships of the "average Asian American family" even from a comedic angel, is due and might be pretty damn interesting. I'm also all for making that huge unemployment line of Asian-American actors that I'm sure MUST exist, shorter. I mean there is a lot there to work with! They could explore the "am I Asian or American?" identity crisis that some people seem to go through, the 1st gen vs. 2nd gen culture gap, immigration, stereotypes, ALL KINDS OF INTERESTING SOCIAL ISSUES COULD BE EXPLORED! But as far as I can tell from this reel... no dice. Which is sad considering what could have been done here. It could have been like Little Mosque on the Prairie... which is GOOD... and CANADIAN! Oh Canada... sometimes I just love you so with your little CBC *hugs ground*

P.S. I'm aware that because this show hasn't aired yet and I haven't seen a full episode yet, my criticism may be premature, but seriously... that theme song is not a good sign of things to come.