Posts tagged ‘culture’


New Zealand Chinese Language Week: a podcast entry

29.09.2022

As we come to the conclusion of New Zealand Chinese Language Week, a review about how inappropriate it was by being the very opposite of inclusive, for those who’d prefer to sit back and listen rather than read one of my blog posts.
 

 

You’ll likely catch me on RNZ’s The Detail on Friday, September 30 (PS.: uploaded this morning here). The AM Show changed its mind, so you won’t see me ‘come home to the feeling’ on TV3.

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In one poem: Chris Tse on Chinese Language Week

26.09.2022

This is why poet laureate Chris Tse is awesome.

The Tweets that follow are must-reads, too, including:

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The reality of Chinese Language Week for many Chinese New Zealanders

25.09.2022

‘Chinese Language Week’ has rolled around again, and if you look on Twitter, there are plenty of Chinese New Zealanders (myself included) and our allies miffed about this. And we get the usual trolls come by.

First up, it’s not Chinese Language Week. It’s Mandarin Language Week. I have no problem with the promotion of Mandarin as long as that’s what it’s called. But to promote it as being representative of all Chinese people here is ridiculous and encouraging randoms to come up to us with ‘ni hao’ is tiresome. Thirty-six per cent of us might be OK with it, sure. But not the rest. (To Stuff’s credit, probably because it doesn’t promote a Chinese person as a force in politics, and because it now actually has reporters of colour, this is a great opinion piece from a fellow Chinese New Zealander.)

To me, Mandarin is unintelligible with maybe the exception of five per cent of it. When I watch Mandarin TV, I can catch ‘呢個’. If I’m immersed in it, it might creep up to 10 per cent after a fortnight, but that’s with the context of seeing the situation in which it’s used. It is—and I’ve used this analogy before—like speaking Danish to an Italian. Some Italians will get it because they’ve figured out the connections going back to proto-European, but others’ eyes will just glaze over.

If you’re someone who claims that we appreciate a Mandarin greeting, try saying ‘Καλημέρα’ to a Norwegian. Yeah, you’d look multilingual but we’d just think you were confused—at best.

This is a country that supposedly apologized for the racist Poll Tax, but, as my friend Bevan points out:

And Richard said around the same time:

Some initiatives have taken place, which is awesome:

But it’s clear that we need to organize something to counter a hegemonic desire to wipe out our culture and language. This is why so many Chinese get what Māori go through.

The first Chinese New Zealanders came from the south, and were Cantonese speakers, likely with another language or dialect from their villages. Cantonese was the principal Chinese tongue spoken here, so if there’s to be any government funding to preserve culture, and honour those who had to pay the Poll Tax, then that’s where efforts should go—along with the other languages spoken by the early Chinese settlers.
 
The trolls have been interesting, because they’re copying and pasting from the same one-page leaflet that their propaganda department gave them when websites opened up to comments 20 years ago.

In the 2000s, I criticized BYD for copying pretty much an entire car on this blog, when it was run on Blogger. BYD even retouched Toyota’s publicity photos—it was that obvious. The car colour even stayed the same.
 


Above: The Toyota Aygo and BYD’s later publicity photo for its F1, later called the F0 when produced. The trolls didn’t like getting called out.
 

Either CCP or BYD trolls came by. The attack line, if I recall correctly, was that I was a sycophant for the foreigners and anti-Chinese.

No, kids, it’s anti-Chinese to think that we can’t do better than copying a Toyota.

Nowadays even the mainland Chinese press will slam a car company for this level of copying. Zotye and others have had fingers pointed at them. BYD’s largely stopped doing it.

The trolls this time have been the same. The comments are so familiar, you’d think that it was coordinated. Dr Catherine Churchman pointed out that one of her trolls repeated another one verbatim.

All this points to is a lack of strength, and a lack of intelligence, on the part of the trolls, with uppity behaviour that actually doesn’t exist in real life. ‘I’m so offended over something I have no comprehension over.’

The fact remains that those advocating for Cantonese, Taishanese, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, and all manner of Chinese languages love our Mandarin-speaking whānau. In many cases, we feel a kinship with them. The trolls are probably not even based here, and have no idea of the cultural issues at stake. Or the fact they already have three TV networks speaking their language.

Is it so hard for them to accept the fact some of us choose to stand up to hegemony and insensitivity, and want to honour our forebears?
 
For further reading, Nigel Murphy’s ‘A Brief History of the Chinese Language in New Zealand’ is instructive, if people really want to know and engage in something constructive. It’s on the Chinese Language Week website, who evidently see no irony in hosting it.

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September 2022 gallery

04.09.2022

Here are September 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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The very simple Maramataka and Chinese lunar calendar conversion table

26.06.2022

When I first started commemorating Matariki a few years ago, I had figured out, since both ancient Māori and Chinese worked out the lunar calendar, that it was roughly five lunar months after ours. I was also told that it marked the Māori New Year.

Maybe it’s due to local iwi, but my recollection was that Matariki was about three days before exactly five months had passed, which would make it today, June 26.

As it’s incredibly common among Chinese people to have calendars that show both the Gregorian dates and our dates side by side, I began looking for a Māori equivalent. In fact, here’s my Windows version:
 

 

I came across this page from Te Papa (our national museum, for those who mightn’t know), which at least gives the names of the months in te reo Māori. And this was a pleasant surprise:

In the traditional Māori Maramataka, or lunar calendar, the new year begins with the first new moon following the appearance of Matariki (Pleiades) on the eastern horizon. Usually this takes place in the period June-July.

In other words, Matariki might mark the start of the New Year for Māori but isn’t the exact date.

From what I can understand, and I am more than happy to be corrected by tangata whenua, the Matariki holiday can encompass the exact first day of Pipiri (the first month of the lunar year under the Maramataka), and this is among the celebratory period.

What’s exciting for me as a person of Chinese ethnicity is that there is an exact parallel between our cultures in how we mark new months with new moons, and that this extends to the year, too.

In the interests of cross-cultural sharing, I’ve taken the Māori months and placed them alongside ours, so we can figure out when each of our people celebrates the New Year.

It’s so delightfully simple and way easier to convert than, say, the Islamic or Jewish calendars to Gregorian.
 

Pipiri 六月
Hōngongoi 七月
Hereturikōkā 八月
Mahuru 九月
Whiringa-ā-nuku 十月
Whiringa-ā-rangi 十一月
Hakihea 十二月
Kohitātea 一月
Huitānguru 二月
Poutūterangi 三月
Paengawhāwhā 四月
Haratua 五月

 

I assume Māori, like us, figure out when repeat months happen in order for Pipiri to fall right after Matariki, which technically makes their calendar lunisolar, too.

It’s then very easy for someone with a Chinese calendar to figure out when the Māori New Year begins, namely 六月初一, and it’s very easy for someone with a Māori calendar to figure out when ours begins, namely Whiro, or the first day, of Kohitātea.

Celebrating Matariki has always come very naturally to me, and even how we observe it (family time, giving thanks to the year gone and for the one ahead) is similar. And no wonder.

I apologize if this is way too simple and already basic general knowledge but I only found out today!
 
PS.: It does mean, for instance, that this page (and presumably, many others) from the Parliament website is dead wrong. January 26, 2017 is not the same as 26 Kohitātea 2017:
 

 
So it seems it isn’t basic general knowledge.
 
P.PS.: There’s a lot more information confirming the above here, including the leap months. However:

The maramataka was revived in 1990 by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission). Instead of using transliterations of the English names, such as Hānuere for January and Mei for May, they promoted the traditional names cited by Tūtakangāhau. However, lunar months were dropped in favour of calendar months, so that, for example, Pipiri became June.

To me, that’s a shame; there’s a reason ancient Māori created their lunar calendar. I can understand why the Commission did it, in order to keep the names of the months alive, and of course these names are preferable to transliterations. (Something similar has happened with our culture, but we don’t have cool names for the months as Māori do.) It’s just that Pipiri isn’t June, and this year, it spans more of July. Therefore, the conversion table only works with the traditional Maramataka, not the one adapted to the colonists.

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How to end social media censorship

16.04.2022


Kristina Flour/Unsplash
 
This Twitter thread by Yishan Wong is one of the most interesting I’ve come across. Not because it’s about Elon Musk (who he begins with), but because it’s about the history of the web, censorship, and the reality of running a social platform.

Here are some highlights (emphases in the original):

There is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0 (late 90s) and early Web 2.0, pre-Facebook (pre-2005), that had a very strong free speech culture.

This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late-90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship were religious conservatives. In practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn (or other imagined moral degeneracy) on the internet …

Many of the older tech leaders today … grew up with that internet. To them, the internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit, and a great optimism that technology could birth a new golden age of mankind.

Fast forward to the reality of the 2020s:

The internet is not a “frontier” where people can go “to be free,” it’s where the entire world is now, and every culture war is being fought on it.

It’s the main battlefield for our culture wars.

Yishan points out that left-wingers can point to where right-wingers get more freedom to say their piece, and that right-wingers can point to where left-wingers get more. ‘Both sides think the platform is institutionally biased against them.’

The reality:

They would like you (the users) to stop squabbling over stupid shit and causing drama so that they can spend their time writing more features and not have to adjudicate your stupid little fights.

That’s all.

They don’t care about politics. They really don’t.

He concedes that people can be their worst selves online, and that the platforms struggle to keep things civil.

They have to pretend to enforce fairness. They have to adopt “principles.”

Let me tell you: There are no real principles. They are just trying to be fair because if they weren’t, everyone would yell louder and the problem would be worse …

You really want to avoid censorship on social networks? Here is the solution:

Stop arguing. Play nice. The catch: everyone has to do it at once.

I guarantee you, if you do that, there will be no censorship of any topic on any social network.

Because it is not topics that are censored. It is behavior.

I think Yishan’s right to some degree. There are leanings that the leaders of these social networks have, and I think that can affect the overall decisions. But he’s also right that both left and right feel aggrieved. I warned as much when I wrote about social media and their decision about Donald Trump in the wake of the incidents of January 6, 2021. I’ve seen left- and right-wing accounts get taken down, and often for no discernible reason I can fathom.

Generally, however, civil discourse is a perfectly fine way to go, and for most things that doesn’t invite censorship or account removal. Wouldn’t it be nice if people took him up on this, to see what would happen?

Sadly, that could well be as idealistic as the ‘new frontier’ which many of us who got into the dot com world in the 1990s believed in.

But maybe he’s woken up some folks. And with c. 50,000 followers, he has a darn sight better chance than I have reaching just over a tenth of that on Twitter, and the 1,000 or so of you who will read this blog post.
 
During the writing of this post, Vivaldi crashed again, when I attempted to enter form data—a bug that they believed was fixed a few revisions ago. It appears not. I’ll still send over a bug report, but everything is pointing at my abandoning it in favour of Opera GX. Five years is a very good run for a browser.

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Stanley Moss’s latest Global Brand Letter out now

10.01.2022

Finally, a happier post. For many years (since 2004), my dear friend Stanley Moss has been publishing his Global Brand Letter, which is not only a wonderful summary of the year (or the last half-year, since he often writes every six months) in branding, but an excellent record of the evolution of culture.
   He has finished his latest and, for the first time, he has allowed me to host a copy for you to download and read (below). I commend it to you highly. Keep an eye out for future issues, while past ones can be found on his website at www.diganzi.com.

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John Shaft beats Luke Skywalker hands down

03.11.2021

I always had decent pencil cases at kindergarten in Hong Kong and then when I started school in New Zealand. Usually they were car-themed but the pièce de résistance was this one, far nicer than what my classmates in my new home country had.
   While other kids were into Star Wars and things I had no interest in at that age, I could at least show off my badass side with my Shaft’s Big Score pencil case. John Shaft isn’t going to muck around with pussy stuff like the force.


 
I was thinking earlier tonight how cars were the one thing that helped me navigate Aotearoa when I got here with my parents. I might not have understood the culture immediately, and very little outside the faces of my family was familiar to me. But I saw Toyota Corollas (the E20s) and Honda Civics outside. And BMC ADO16s. These at least were an external source of familiarity, since they were commonplace in Hong Kong. A neighbour had a four-door Civic back in Homantin, the first car whose steering wheel I ever sat behind as a child.
   The cars here in New Zealand were much older generally, since there was more of a DIY fix-it culture, and Hong Kong prospered later, resulting in a newer fleet. Those early days were like a history lesson on what had gone before in the 1950s and 1960s, filling in the gaps. But my eyes still went to those newer 1970s shapes. Curves? Who wants curves when you can have boxy shapes and those groovy vinyl roofs?!
   I didn’t say I had taste at age four.

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On Cantonese, for Te Papa’s Chinese Languages in Aotearoa project

26.10.2021


 
What a real honour to promote my reo! Thank you, Dr Grace Gassin and Te Papa for spearheading the Chinese Languages in Aotearoa project and for this incredible third instalment, where I get to speak and promote Cantonese!
   Obviously I couldn’t say anything earlier, especially during Chinese Language Week, but I am extremely grateful the very distinct Chinese languages are being given their due with this project!
   My participation began with Grace and I having a kōrero last year, and how Chinese Language Week was not inclusive. The organizers of that make the mistake of equating Chinese with Mandarin, and claim that Cantonese and other tongues are dialects, which is largely like saying Gaelic is a dialect of English.
   Do read more at the Te Papa blog as Grace goes into far more depth, and brings everything into the context of the history of Aotearoa.
 

 
   It turns out that Grace had been thinking about this for quite some time and had already shaped ideas on recording the Chinese languages here in Aotearoa as part of her job as curator, Asian New Zealand histories. She is a fluent Hokkien speaker, a dialect we Cantos often write as Fukkien, though that can lead to unfortunate puns with Anglophones. She also has some command of Cantonese—certainly far, far more than any Hokkien I know.
   There was such an amazing crew on this, with Yong-Le Chong (who is a Cantonese speaker, incredibly learning the language from television!) directing and prompting me off-camera and Tim Hamilton as DOP—plus Grace and Daniel Crichton-Rouse from Te Papa producing and supervising. Luckily I said nice things about Tim’s work in Lucire (not knowing he would be the DOP) prior to this!
   I was a bit under the weather when we filmed, having had a cough for many weeks and dodgy eggs at a café two days before. Big thanks to the crew for putting up with this and for believing me when I said it was not COVID (a test had confirmed that, and it was just before the August 2021 lockdown, when the notion of COVID in the community was unfamiliar).
   My thanks to Kent Favel and Erica Harvison for their permission to film at my Alma Mater, St Mark’s Church School, and to my darling partner Amanda.
   Note that the Māori terms in this post are only italicized because of the international readers who form the larger part of my visitors; in New Zealand these are words that are commonly used, and are not italicized.

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August 2021 gallery

11.08.2021

Here are August 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Volkswagen Gol G4—more at Autocade.
   The fake friends of social media being the junk food equivalent of real friendships, from this post by Umair Haque.
   Stay at home, wear a mask—geek humour shared from Twitter.
   Thaikila swimwear—seems to have an interesting history.
   More on the Fiat 124 Sport Spider here at Autocade.
   Jerry Inzerillo, first male on the cover of an issue of Lucire anywhere in the world, in this case the August 2021 issue of Lucire KSA. The story can be found here on our website.

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