venus flytrap – visa for love

It’s been about three months since I first mentioned Venus Flytrap, the ultra-tranny manufactured pop group from Thailand, signed to Sony Records, and something of a cash-in on the success of Korean tranny group Lady who first appeared some two years ago, and now seem kinda quiet. Like all good manufactured pop commodities, they have a mountain of publicists behind, and are no slouches at self-promotion, as their high-content blog shows.

But allow me a moment of smugness (or maybe despair) as once again something I stumbled on courtesy my insatiable consumption of media goes mental (and give me a job as a trend-spotter). I can understand why a group like this could get huge in Asia, where for a few years someone like Harisu is a mainstream icon, and from personal experience (and making a generalisation here based on my time in China and Taiwan), the cultural attitudes to sex and gender are quite different from English speaking countries and Europe.

I’m not so sure of the media push for Venus Flytrap into Europe though. Dana International was the Eurovision winner back in 1998, but this is single-capital-letter-pop, as in J-pop, or Canto-pop, which besides oddly socially awkward geeks like myself, westerners tend to look down on with a good blizzard of colonial disdain. Still, stealing candy from babies and all…

Anyway who cares? Venus Flytrap. They look hot, they sing ok-lah, they’re trannies and they are getting spread over european press like crazy. In no particular order, Metro in UK wonders Thai ladyboys next Spice Girls? (no, Spice Girls were a crap 90s record company stunt, Venus are actually human, and are probably only given Spice Girl names because westerners are generally too thick to pronounce any names not in Queen’s English), and have their video Visa for Love. attempts something like an interview. Reuters has a a video report filled with lots of Venus looking smutty for the camera. in Italy has more pictures and video. Plus a few others that do the one paragraph plus photo filler thing. They also have one of those revolting MySpace pages now:

Dana International proved that gender reassignment need not be a block to Eurovision success. The UK showed its fleeting love for transsexuals when Nadia Almada won Big Brother in 2004.

Coming our way, and to possible success is Thailand’s first ladyboys band called Venus Flytrap. to The five members were picked from over 200 applicants and have already signed to Sony BMG the global music joint venture with a roster of artists such as George Michael, Beyonce and Christina Aguilera.

The ‘girls’ wore white bridal corsets for their debut public performance last November. They weren’t introduced as sex-change starlets, they merely took the stage like any other girl band

In the middle of performing their debut single, ‘Cause I’m Your Lady’, the 10,000 audience at the Virgin Hitz Radio concert in Bangkok started murmuring, ever since then, they’ve proved quite a sensation.

— UK

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when in doubt … cliché and generalise

Two almost opposite examinations of art or culture came from Ou Ning’s blog today, the first a textless photographic documentary, 乡土凋零, observing a village barren of people, the end of the world, even an empty outdoor opera stage, home to motorbikes and a table of distant, seated figures.

The second, from New York Times Magazine on contemporary art in China. I used to lament the execrable editorial retardedness that could induce every newspaper and magazine to endlessly refer to Mao or the Cultural Revolution in every title of every article about China. In an effort to see hip and up with the times it’s now often a reference to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon just leaves me thinking they’d be better off and advance Euro-Sino-Freundschaft more if they just shut up.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Agenda is an atrocious article full of name-dropping and disconnected sprawling from one topic to the next, almost a shopping list of every foreigner who has even glanced at Chinese contemporary art in the last two decades. As a magazine filler story, which in English language media is largely what writing about art is concerned with, this is not such a surprise.

What is hideous and smacks of the very ‘orientalist’ racism the author charges certain nameless collectors with (though Uli Sigg’s name appears immediately afterwards in a deliberately obscure conjunction of two sentences) is such remarks as “I’m not convinced that we Westerners really understand what’s going on there.” That the writer is also a former curator of the Venice Biennale, Francesco Bonami is disturbing, as he plays on one hand with some odious “inscrutable China” generalisations and on the other with sympathetic, cultural insider, and defender of Chinese contemporary art.

The last paragraph though, is full of bizarre and non-sensical tangled mess of metaphors, undefined allusions, and outright cultural colonialism, an illiterate scrawl of meaninglessness. This is lazy journalism at its worst, and certainly does no favours for the artists it profiles. It highlights a certain impoverishment in traditional journalism, despite the massive resources underpinning a paper such as NYT. Contra this, a blog like Heaven Tree, writing frequently on Chinese culture, history, art is emblematic of the phenomenal quality of individuals writing out of passion.

Saving itself from some of the roadkill is the slideshow and accompanying notes on several prominent artists including Ou Ning and Cao Fei from Guangzhou now based in Beijing, Xu Zhen from Shanghai, and Yangjiang’s Zheng Guogu. Skip the article and go right to the slideshow.

god made you a boy

After the tranny-medical adventures I had yesterday, I probably shouldn’t even be going anywhere near reading an article like this because it is certain to make me want to kill kill kill for inner peace and mental health. But whatever, lance the boil etc. Anyway read this rather long article from Speigel Online, it will make you a better person.

“We always saw Kim as a girl, but not as a problem,” says the father. “In fact, our life was surprisingly normal.”

Normal until Kim was twelve, and experienced the first signs of puberty. She was overcome by panic when her voice began to drop. She had no interest in becoming one of those brawny creatures with gigantic hands and deep voices who dressed like women but looked unfeminine. Only hormones could prevent Kim from turning into Tim again, and time was of the essence.

The family was at a loss when it came to seeking medical advice. “If your child has a heart defect you send him to a specialist,” says Kim’s mother, “but when your child is transsexual everyone seems to have an opinion.”

— Spiegel Online

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some stuff i read this week

Lazy Saturday afternoon post-dragging myself out of bed and thinking of going climbing pretty soon, but first a random trawl through my news feeds of stuff that for no apparent reason I’ve ended up reading and getting all contemplative (in the philosophical not religious sense of the word) about. Reading: it might make you a better person.

The Useless Tree, one of my new-found favourites compares the United States prison system unfavourably with Qin Dynasty and Warring State period Legalism and offers some Confucian and Taoist interpretations on the world’s leading jailer.

Every socially responsible blogger and other do-gooder is going mental over Psyphon that will miraculously set free entire nations under the iron fist of internet censorship. Ethan Zuckerman though, of …My Heart’s in Accra is waiting and seeing, while Ann Condi at Danwei says yeah cool, but … wtf, apathy?!?. Personally, I prefer Tor; encryption, talk dirty to me.

Net/computer/new media/whatever it’s called this semester ~Art has been really annoying me lately, like it’s reached a threshold of dumbness where any single-idea conceptualism is received with vacuous, rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights “ohh! cool! art!” uncritical praise. Thankfully “A la recherche du temps perdu” is being performed in machine code, that is to say in binary, like one of those plays that goes on for a week.

Back to the War on Terror: Lenin’s Tomb posts the leaked EU Draft Report on Renditions. Can anyone say “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”? Nah, I didn’t think so.

Around to China, which is really what this blog was all about until I lost my way and purpose and direction and … Making sense of Beijing Propaganda, yeah I used to photograph, translate, read, memorise new characters from all the white on red proclamations around Shaheding. My favourite was one warning against muggers who were targeting single women in the suburb and how this was lowering the tone of the whole neighbourhood. Actually I just discovered Shanghai Journal - 日记 Journal today and straight away it goes onto my news feeds.

Sparrow War! Take that capitalist intellectual running dog avian!!! Turns out that “while sparrows have flaws like intellectuals”, as with a rehabilitated Chairman Mao, they are “70% good, 30% bad”.

Feng37 is now blogging at 在桥下流 Under the Bridge, in Guangzhou.

Sometimes I really think I should have gone off and done Astrophysics or Particle Physics. It’s just so unbelievably sexy, I was really ecstatic when a Bose-Einstein Condensate was first produced and deservedly won the Nobel Prize in Physics, and as for Higgs Bosons … Anyway, the Large Hadron Collider is nearing completion near Geneva, 27 kilometres of particle accelerator hell. Check out the Quicktime VR of it, and more and more.

Normally, like free-to-air Murdoch News, I’d finish with the tranny/shemale/girl equivalent of Cute Kitten Story, allowing you to wash your palette of the not-so-nice real world-195×130. Instead, as I have been having one of those peculiar turns lately, possibly due to changing hormones from injection to pill and thus “finding the right dose”, which is a Metaphor for the tranny equivalent of PMS, and I do mean Mood Swing, or possibly due to being the better part of a long-overdue pregnancy since I made it quite clear which pronoun was inappropriate (hint: using he, him, his, lad, mate, boy, man, sir, mr, might win you a swift poke in the kidney), today there is No Cute Kitten Story.

Instead: Trans Respect/Etiquette/Support 101. Read it. Now.

stuff i read today

Having dragged myself out of bed at the rather late hour of 1030 and still working my way through a strong coffee that is scouring my intestines like a mouthful of Draino, I’m quite happy to announce I am vacillating in doing everything I need to do today, viz. washing, waxing legs, shopping, eating.

Starting with Language Log who has been unleashing dispassionate and comprehensive slaughter on the current pseudo-scienctific rubbish flying around the media lately on the emerging science of sex differences. This morning he is at it again with Gender myths: letting science mislead.

Back to Guangzhou: Q: Why 18,000 family members of Guangzhou subway staff get free ride? Lu Guanglin, the general manager of Guangzhou Subway Company: “That’s for anti-terror.”

North to Shanghai, where it is not a good time to be a corrupt political crony of former number 1 Jiang Zemin, or really to have anything to do with Chen Liangyu and the Shanghai Gang. China Digital Times 中国数字时代 has been covering it: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

we make money not art is at the Emergence Festival in Paris, where you can play Motor Karaoke and the loudest screamer wins, Beijing Accelerator is also there.

Finally, instead of a cute picture of a kitten after acres of severed limbs and human suffering I would be presenting in an impartial and balanced way if I was a Sunday newspaper, here is some geek humour from Popaghandi for geeks. If it doesn’t make you snort whatever you are eating up your nose, you are not a geek.


goodbye susan

Susan Sontag died yesterday. The New York Times has a long obituary to one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

Ms. Sontag’s work made a radical break with traditional postwar criticism in America, gleefully blurring the boundaries between high and popular culture. She advocated an aesthetic approach to the study of culture, championing style over content. She was concerned, in short, with sensation, in both meanings of the term.

“The theme that runs through Susan’s writing is this lifelong struggle to arrive at the proper balance between the moral and the aesthetic,” Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic and an old friend of Ms. Sontag’s, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “There was something unusually vivid about her writing. That’s why even if one disagrees with it – as I did frequently – it was unusually stimulating. She showed you things you hadn’t seen before;she had a way of reopening questions.”

Through four decades, public response to Ms. Sontag remained irreconcilably divided. She was described, variously, as explosive, anticlimactic, original, derivative, naïve, sophisticated, approachable, aloof, condescending, populist, puritanical, sybaritic, sincere, posturing, ascetic, voluptuary, right-wing, left-wing, profound, superficial, ardent, bloodless, dogmatic, ambivalent, lucid, inscrutable, visceral, reasoned, chilly, effusive, relevant, passé, ambivalent, tenacious, ecstatic, melancholic, humorous, humorless, deadpan, rhapsodic, cantankerous and clever. No one ever called her dull.

Ms. Sontag’s best-known books, all published by Farrar, Straus &Giroux, include the novels “Death Kit” (1967), “The Volcano Lover” (1992) and “In America” (2000);the essay collections “Against Interpretation” (1966), “Styles of Radical Will” (1969) and “Under the Sign of Saturn” (1980); the critical studies “On Photography” (1977) and “AIDS and Its Metaphors” (1989); and the short-story collection “I, Etcetera” (1978). One of her most famous works, however, was not a book, but an essay, “Notes on Camp,” published in 1964 and still widely read.

what i read this week

Back for another wash-cycle of what happened in Asia this week (that I read about), and no matter what else happened, there was only one event that everyone was talking about (well, some people were, anyway).

Simon World has launched the second annual Asia Blog Awards. Go on, nominate me for something, I’ll buy you a beer.

In other news…

Hemlock gets to go to Macau and chase a runaway trust-fund kid around the Thai massage parlour scene.

China officially plants a bullet in the back of the heads of 5000 people this year, making it the number 1 gangsta. EastSouthNorthWest has some interviews with the trigger-pullers and some very gory photos.

It was twenty years ago today. CSR Asia remembers Bhopal. The rest of the word remembers with a compensation hoax by The Yes Men that left the BBC looking really stupid, and reminds us that Union Carbide have still got away with not paying compensation.

One a daysays 杀鸡给猴看 kill the chicken and show it to the monkey.

World AIDS day was last week, and China Digital News (which should be daily reading for anyone interested in what’s going on in China) wrote alot about it. Hu Jintao shakes hands with AIDS patients on state TV, condom machines in Shanghai, and AIDS in Yunnan, . China also released gay numbers for the first time.

Over at Peking Duck though, there’s a bullet for any optimism over seriousness in dealing with AIDS in China.

If it’s not a campaign against right deviationists, it must be time for Public Intellectuals are on the Road to Debauchery”. Sounds like a fun party over at Danwei, if your idea of fun is senile 90 year old hard-line reactionaries with colostomy bags getting apoplectic over the Nanfang Daily Newspaper Group again.

Can’t these fuckers grow up? China and America get ready for another cold war as China gets one up with their new submarine over at Angry Chinese Blogger. Do us all a favour and die.

Robot Action Boy gets around the Taiwan art scene, and salivates just as much as me over Werner Herzog at the 4th Taiwan International Documentary film Festival.

And speaking of documentaries, July, directed by Tammy Cheung is out, covering the massive 1/2 million people protests in Hong Kong last year.

Finishing where I started, Simon World does a monthly Regional Briefing for Winds Of Change, China and East Asia Highights.

Now back to the art stuff.

what i read this week

Just in case I ever need to recall what I read this week that didn’t have anything to do with the arts, and is what’s going on around Asia at the moment, in no particular order (beyond my bookmark listings) here is a bunch of stuff that I liked. In looking over all this, it struck me just how much stuff gets written about China every week, and how much of it I read. This is a really selective summary too, just the stuff that I did more than scan, and stuff that I think is pretty fine writing, the equal of and in many cases far superior to buying the local fish n’ chip wrapping paper.

Peking Duck shows us what happens when the village idiot gets hold of the Great Helmsman’s Little Red Book.

Nui Nui gets busted when her old man, a juiced up cadre in Shenzhen makes local school kids pay to see her latest fantasy flick. Danwei has the Niu Niu on the cover of Sanlian Life Weekly.

Lots of stuff going on at China Digital News, which is always a daily goldmine but the Chinese Blog Revolution, spawned by a piece in New Scientist and technologist/blogger Dan Gilmore is probably what I read most. This piece and the many surrounding articles have also been sumarised at T-Salon.

中国农民调查, The Chinese Peasant Study, is something that EastSouthNorthWest has both written about alot and provided translations, and goes the extra mile with the verdict on the lawsuit against the authors immanent.

Simon World’s twice-weekly Asia by Blog is the best summary of what’s going on around Asia. Perfect for compulsive clickers like me.

Dan Washburn of Shanghai Diaries has made it back there after four months playing Jack Kerouac (or maybe Ma Jian) including hanging out in Guangzhou with the orchestra and making me miss already Liwan.

It’s just another day down the mines at CSR Asia where a gas explosion has left 187 miners trapped, in a month of similar disasters.

One a Day says 无懈可击invunerable, and I wonder if I can hack their rss feed so I can put the daily idiom over to the right somewhere…

Shanghai Crimewatch I only just discovered. Anyway, being the ardent anti-religion person I am, I got a kick out of the bitch fight for peasants’ souls between the Three Grades of Servants and the Eastern Lightning.

Angry Chinese Blogger talks about the idiocy of the Beijing Universities halting the distribution of condoms to students, just when a Beijing initiative to deal with HIV/AIDS was starting.

Running Dog looks at why China has such a bug up its ass over Japan, especially after the recent tourist excursion by a Chinese sub into Japanese waters.

While even the garbage trucks here play ear-splitting casiotone tunes doing their rounds, thanks to A Better Tomorrow I now know the non-garbage ones serve a much higher purpose – democracy. It’s election time in Taiwan and ABTOM has the skinny – and the dirt on all the players.

After all that seriousness, it’s good to know there’s someone in China paying attention to the important things in life: drinking, smoking and fucking. sinobling takes it away with the lowdown on The Hangzhou Babe Scene.