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Thursday, 7 February 2008

That's Entertainment

Chinese New Year-Day 2

Greetings to all faithful blog readers- how is your holiday so far? Did you wake up ready to greet the Year of the Rat with a laugh, a smile and a merry quip? Those who did are the fortunate ones- I was rudely awakened from a blissful dream involving Alex Kapranos and light gauge electric-guitar strings (sorry, too much information...) by a horrid wailing that issued from the living-room. I stumbled to the source, unsure if my previous dream had segued into a nightmare state. No such luck-reality proved to be much worse.

The source of the infernal caterwauling was a cheong-sammed female songstress on a Chinese variety show, belting out oldies in a paint-stripping falsletto. Now, before certain parties level charges of cultural bias and prejudice at me due to the language barrier ("You were born in London and don't understand Mandarin/ ! Of course you don't like Chinese songs!"), let me categorically state that the singer was singing an English song. I recognised it as, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco". (Pity she didn't leave her voice over there as well) Bad singing requires no language to make itself understood, and by extension finds a very wide and captive audience. Something which is supported by the proliferation of numerous reality shows and boy-bands.

The same audience of Chinese variety shows are intractable in their ardour. My attempts to lower the volume were met with an instant backlash- "Oy! We are watching that!", "It's an old song!", and "Let us watch, it's Chinese New Year!". As the banshee in a cheong-sam vacated the TV stage for the next act (a chorus of garland-waving schoolchildren), I told myself that if this be nostalgia, then give me neuralgia at any time of the year.

The vehemence that my volume-reducing efforts met with only confirms that violence lurks beneath the festive veneer. Movies shown on TV during Chinese New Year are of the Kung Fu pugilistic type such as, Jackie Chan in,"Police Story: Mr. Nice Guy Drunken Master's First Strike" or Jet Li in, "Once Upon A Fearless Time In China The Fist of Legend Fong Sai Yuk Must Die." Parallels are found in the British Boxing Day James Bond movie TV screening, " You Only Live and Let Die Another Spy Who Loved Me From Russia With A View To Her Majesty's Secret Golden Gun For Your Living Daylights Only." Why are action movies staple holiday viewing? Do we enjoy abit of vicarious violence when surrounded by our nearest and dearest? ("IF AUNTIE SO_AND_SO ASKS ME ABOUT MY SINGLETON STATUS AGAIN I SWEAR I'LL EAGLE-CLAW PUNCH THIS WHOLE STACK OF EMPTY ANG POW PACKETS DOWN HER LAYER CAKEHOLE...!") Or hemmed in by the confines of the filial home or visiting other people's homes, and lacking any emotional space we are grateful for any semblence of activity and assertion? The answer is both, according to Adorno and Horkheimer:

'The enjoyment of the violence suffered by the movie character turns into violence against the spectator, and distraction into exertion.'
(The Dialectic of Enlightenment, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkeiheimer, 1944)

I wholly agree with Adorno and Horkheimer, as my interrupted dream turned out to have a satisfyingly rousing climax last night. (No, not in that way, all of you with gutter-mentalities...) After comparing types of electric guitar strings with AK, I joined him, a youthful Elvis Costello and a militant Joe Strummer onstage during a Chinese variety program. We proceeded to punk up and new wave traditional festive songs, smash our guitars onstage to the horror of the audience and made cheong-sammed banshees and rosy-cheeked schoolchildren quake in their dressing rooms. 

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen and goodnight

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