Monday, January 31, 2011

What Song Did Pianist Lang Lang Play at White House

Chinese president Hu Jintao has visited and left behind a little background noise regarding if the Chinese born mass entertainer and pianist Lang Lang, who had "mimed" to his pre-recorded soundtrack in Beijing Olympic Stadium and recorded soundtrack for Sony PlayStation's Gran Turismo® 5, intentionally or accidentally played music insulting to the hosts, the US president and first lady.

Washington Times claimed that "The song in question originally appeared in the soundtrack of "The Battle of Shangganling Mountain," a 1956 Chinese propaganda film lauding China's alleged "triumph" over the U.S. during the Korean War. Its lyrics describe Americans as warmongering "jackals"—hardly the kind of stuff, it would seem, that’s appropriate for a state dinner."

Indeed, Mr. Lang played the theme song music from 1956 Chinese movie Battle on Shangganling Mountain (aka Triangle Hill).  The song was hugely popular in China, not only because it pops up Chinese people's national pride, it's melody was also quite beautiful in the sentimental and saccharine way - considering Chinese people were used to be treated with militant songs, its popularity was easy to understand.  The movie and the song were denounced in China during Cultural Revolution, due to its petty-bourgeois sentiment and its daring to tough on human emotions.  Only after the death of Mao and the arrest of his widow, the movie and the song made a comeback and many people who lived through 1950s welcomed the song with great nostalgia, which many young people, perhaps include Lang Lang, never made connection to the song's Korean War background, despite the lyrics:


Wikepedia gives another translation:

A great river flows, its waves wide and calm
Wind blows through rice flowers, bearing fragrance to both shores
My family live right there by the water
I am used to hearing the punters' call
And seeing the white sails on the boats

A great river flows, its waves wide and calm
Wind blows through rice flowers, bearing fragrance to both shores
My family lives right there by the water
I am used to hearing the punters' call
And seeing the white sails on the boats

This is the beautiful motherland
This is the place where I grew up
On this expansive stretch of land
Everywhere there is wonderful scenery to behold

How like flowers are the young ladies
How big and determined are the hearts of the young men
In order to usher in a new era
They've woken the sleeping mountains
And changed the face of the river

This is the heroic motherland
This is the place where I grew up
On this stretch of ancient land
There is youthful vigor everywhere

Great mountains, great rivers, a great land
Every road is broad and wide
If friends come, there is fine wine
But if the wolves come
Those who greet him have hunting guns

This is the mighty motherland
This is the place where I grew up
On this stretch of warm and friendly land
There is peaceful sunshine everywhere

The movie segment including the song can be viewed on YouTube:

Now you can decide if there was a nationalism fever or not.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coca Cola, Mercedes-Benz and Yosemite

Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz and Yosemite - what do they have in common?

For Chinese speakers, they represent the examples of best translation.  The Chinese translations for Coca Cola is 可口可乐 (pronounced as: ke-kou-ke-le), which means delicious and cheering.  The truncated form Coke was simple 可乐 (ke-le), cheering.


Most Chinese speakers don't know what Mercedes is but they now Benz.  The translation of Mercedes-Benz, at least in mainland China, usually leaves Mercedes out and Benz is called 奔驰 (pronounced as: ben-chi), meaning racing.  Some translations do keep Mercedes, which was simply a phonetic transliteration (梅塞德斯, pronounced as: mei-sai-de-si) with no special meanings.


Yosemite in Chinese is 优山美地 (pronounced as: you-shan-mei-di), which means superior mountain(s) and beautiful field(s).


I have discussed many times regarding what constitutes good translations.  To me, the full meaning of the original language is the essential.  As for brands, a phonetic proximity is important as well.  Besides those, if the translated language can add extra layers of wonderful meanings to merchandise brands, then the translations reach sublimity.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Eva Hesse and James Abbott McNeill Whistler in Berkeley Art Museum

Berkeley Art Museum is exhibiting two small but fascinating shows - Eva Hesse's Studiowork and James McNeill  Whistler's graphic works.

Eva Hesse _ BAC 1415

Though I am not a sculptor and have no affinity to conceptual art, I cannot deny that installations usually hold public's attention better than others nowadays, for better or for worse.  Eva Hesse's work falls into that category.  The two room exhibit Eva Hesse: Studiowork, which runs from January 26 through April 10, 2011 showcases her rarely seen small-scale works, many from Berkeley Art Museum (BAM)'s collection, according to BAM own description that they illuminate Hesse’s studio practice and capture moments of experimentation.  BAM's website describes the exhibit as below:
Eva Hesse: Studiowork features works made from a diverse range of materials, such as plaster and latex, painted wood, metal, sculp-metal (a vinyl and resin suspension of aluminum powder that could be applied over objects), fiberglass, rubber, plasterboard, cardboard, cotton, polyester resin, cheesecloth, wire, string, paper, and nets. This exhibition also includes a series of largely papier mâché works never before shown in public. Hesse’s interest in using unconventional materials and in pushing the materials to their limits—in an attempt to achieve thinness and translucency, or formlessness and density—meant that she produced works that are both fragile and subject to deterioration. These transient materials make clear the temporal dimension of art: they have time built into them. Hesse’s focused and intricate actions and hand gestures can be imagined from the evidence of their production: folding, pinning, piercing, cutting, stapling, layering, threading, wrapping, molding, and casting. Her arrangements and rearrangements of the works were also important to the making of the work.
 I was not very taken by these small works, except for several translucent small objects made of perhaps fiberglass, grouped together on top of a large, square platform.  They are like living creature and breath serenely.  Otherwise, I didn't find the show very engaging.  Comparing to her 1968 Sans II below, these objects look unfinished, perhaps that precisely they were and hold more interest for curators and researchers rather than general public.

Sans II, 1968, Fiberglass and polyester resin, Eva Hesse, 1936-1970 // 75th Anniversary Show, SFMOMA _6737
Sans II, 1968, Fiberglass and polyester resin see at 75th Anniversary Show, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The other exhibit I stopped to see was Indeterminate Stillness: Looking at Whistler, which runs from January 26, 2011 - April 17, 2011.  This exhibition, celebrating Sharon and Barclay Simpson’s gift to BAM/PFA of seventy-six prints by James McNeill Whistler, looks at how Whistler subordinated Realism to the Modernist concerns of design, color, and tonal variation.

Whistler _ BAC 1412
Again, BAM informed the public that "James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), the expatriate American artist, was a prolific and innovative painter, watercolorist, and printmaker. Throughout his lively career Whistler was known as a discerning collector of Japanese prints and as a quick-witted, sharp-tongued advocate of “art for art’s sake.” Whistler’s roots were in Realism, but his approach Modernist; his brand of Realism eschewed narrative and sentimentality and instead set the incidents and characters of the everyday into compositions determined by design, color, and tonal variation. For example, Whistler uses prosaic details to serve design and composition in numerous images of life along the Thames River, such as Rotherhithe (1860). Similarly, in his Venetian works, the minutiae of daily activity on the canals and lagoons are subsumed by the atmospheric effects of mist and fog. Whistler approached portraits in the same vein, posing the figures in vague flattened spaces where they blend into harmonious environments of tone and color, composed intervals of stillness and veracity."
Many of the works shown were very fine and detailed and it was no denying the accomplishments here but they were also somewhat dull, due to the sameness of the large quantity work on display.  I did particularly like the etchings he made during his stay in Italy - moody and other worldly.  My fascination with graphic art has been revived recently and I am deeply convinced that the monochromatic chiaroscuro has boundless power to express whole range of emotions and feelings.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A New Showcase - 3Dvas Gallery

The curator of 3Dvas - 3D Virtual Art Space ( invited to me join and submit my works to this innovative website.  The 3Dvas gallery is a network of 3D virtual galleries provided free of charge to artists around the world.  Artists that exhibit on 3Dvas enjoy a powerful multi-user system that allow artists to communicate live with every visitor that enter the gallery, and artists can also use this platform as a tool to simulate future exhibitions in 3D.

My first gallery features fourteen pieces of my portrait works and below are the screenshots of my 3D portrait gallery:

3DVas Portrait Gallery Screenshot

3DVas Portrait Gallery Screenshot 2

The dynamic gallery can be viewed if you download the software:

3D VAS - Portrait Gallery (Please use arrow keys to navigate)

Label: 3D Virtual Art Space

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tiger Mother or Sheep Mother

It was fascinating and sickening to read about the recent raging debated about the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.  However, the most telling part for me was that she was not mainland China herself, nor did her parents.

From my observation of my extended family and friends in China, such "tiger mothers" were hard to find there, at least in big cities I am familiar with.

A cousin of mine, who emigrated to Canada with his wife and daughter, who is a freshman in university now, two years ago and he or his wife talks to their daughter daily on the phone, especially in the morning, in order to wake her up.

Another cousin of mine would go to Japan with his wife to take care of their grand-daughter and cook for their son and daughter-in-law, alternative with the two-year-old baby's maternal grandparents.  Their son plans to have three children and the free babysitting/cook/maid seems endlessly long.

A third cousin of mine, he loves to stay in my parents' place on weekends, along with his wife and son.  My parents had to get up earlier than usual on Monday morning to cook for my cousin the breakfast and wake him up, so he would not be late for work.

As for my own sibling, these kind of stories need a volume of an Anna Karenina, if not War and Peace to contain.

Everywhere I see in China, if there is a tiger in a family, it is the child or grandchild.  Parents are mere sheep in front of the much doted children.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One More Life Drawing Video from Last Year

My last video presentation of my drawings was a compilation of female nudes done in life drawing session at University of California Berkeley.  Male models were used during the session as well, somewhat less frequently.  Here is a video compilation of some male nude drawings:

>> Video presentations of paintings and drawings, Part XX: Video Presentation of My Abstract Paintings
<< Video presentations of paintings and drawings, Part XVIII: Ready to Go Back to Drawing Sessions

List of Video Presentation of My Artworks

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Natural Beauty in Berkeley

Recently, we had very beautiful days.  Even when the wind was extremely strong as this early morning, the large moon shone brightly and it was eerily beautiful.  I have taken pictures in last few days to record the natural beauty in Berkeley.

17 January 2011:

Berkeley 17 January 2011 _ 1040

Berkeley 17 January 2011 _ 1043

18 January 2011:

Berkekey 18 January 2011 _ 1171

Berkeley 18 January 2011 _ 1177

Berkeley 18 January 2011 _ 1179

Berkeley 18 January 2011 _ 1188

19 January 2011:

Berkeley 19 January 2011 _ 1210

Berkeley 19 January 2011 _ 1202

Berkeley 19 January 2011 _ 1205

20 January 2011:

Berkeley 20 January 2011 _ 1219

Berkeley 20 January 2011 _ 1222

Berkeley 20 January 2011 _ 1225

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You'd Think We Living in a Prosperous Time - Two Observations On San Francisco Opera's 2011-12 Season

San Francisco Opera (SFO) just announced its 2011-12 season of nine operas.  It has novelties along with the usual suspect of Puccini.

I could say much more about the line-up but will confine my discuss to the two observations I made.

First, SFO will present an opera by Handel - always a cause for celebration - Serse (or Xerxes).  However, the timing is rather curious.  San Francisco Bay Area just was treated a wonderful production of Serse by Berkeley West Edge Opera in November 2010.  Why such overlapping?  Shouldn't the regional art institutes coordinate in a better manner?  Considering that there were more than 40 operas to Handel's credit and SFO has only presented six Handel's operas, one would hope that SFO would have chosen to present another masterpiece of Handel, and present this Serse in a couple year's time.  Or Berkeley West Edge Opera should have learned the long-planned SFO season and present other opera rather than Serse last year.

Second, Mozart's Don Giovanni returns.  Yes, it is a masterpiece.  Yes, it has terrific music and great dramatic strength.  But so often?  Last presentation of Don Giovanni at SFO was in June 2007.  Considering that another Mozart is offered in this season as well.  If must be an easy one, why not Rossini, Strauss, Bellini?  More curiously, the previous production which just got ditched was a new one then to SFO, credited to David McVicar.  This year, we are to have another new production.  Why so soon to replace the last one, which was unfailingly musical, dramatic and thought-provoking, and despite its relentless gloom and austerity, it was hugely exciting.  Unless the financial sheets stated otherwise, I thought that it was a hit.  If a new production is a terrible misfire, I can understand the need to have it replaced as soon as possible.  But why this one?  You'd think that SFO is drowning in the sea of checks from donors large and small.

San Francisco Opera _8750

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Confucius Statue in Tiananmen Square

Poor Confucius!  After decades of being denounced by the Communist regime, now, at the eve of Chinese president Hu Jintao's visit to the USA, Confucius's status took a strong foothold in the heart of Beijing - Tiananmen Square, which had witnessed many upheavals in the imperial and republican times.

Chinese governments love to tinker with his images, in accordance to their political needs.  Oftentimes, he was assigned to the role of a political whore - against his will, I am certain.

Confucius, who championed a way of living and governing by moderation and middle-road, was often used to buttress up a regime who became dangerously out of steps with the populous, while the discontent often targeted him as the foundation of all things evil.

During the revolution ushered in republican time in China, precisely 100 year ago, was accomplished with the denouncement of Confucius and its doctrines. The Communist revolution in late 1940s repeated that feat and in the height of the Great Culture Revolution in late 1960s, Confucius temples were destroyed everywhere, including his birthplace.

However, he found a new favor now when the Chinese Communist regime found itself must account for some of their actions and existence.  Instead of ruling the country by law, Chinese government found that it was much more convenient to champion governing by virtue, allegedly promoted by Confucius.

Envious of the success of Goethe Institute, Chinese government started to fund Confucius Colleges in the world.  But what would they teach?  Telling world citizens that they shall not crave for a set of fair laws, but pray for a benevolent ruler? Goethe was a great humanist, while Confucius was not.

That said, I will not deny that he is a great thinker and deserve reverence.  But again and again, he became a prop in farces.

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Chinese dissent Liu Xiaobo enraged Chinese government and someone established a Confucius Peace Prize, echoing Hitler's establishing his own alternative Peace prize and declared that no Germans were to ever accept the Nobel prize again.

Even many Chinese citizens were nonplused about his emergence in Tiananmen Square.  Enough of using this cultural icon for political purposes.

Confucius in Tiananmen Square

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ready to Go Back to Drawing Sessions

New semester is about to start and it's time for me to collect myself from holiday slumber and be ready to go back to my weekend drawing sessions, which were often challenging and stimulating.  Below is a collage of my female nude drawings done during the sessions last year:

>> Video presentations of paintings and drawings, Part XIX: One More Life Drawing Video from Last Year
<< Video presentations of paintings and drawings, Part XVII: Looking Back One More Year

List of Video Presentation of My Artworks

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Schmap New York Sixteenth Edition: Photo Inclusion - Greek Vases, The Metropolitan Museum

I just got a rather cool news - one of my photos taken in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City was chosen to be part of "Schmap New York Sixteenth Edition".  The notification reads:

Subject: Schmap New York Sixteenth Edition: Photo Inclusion
Date: 13th January, 2011

Hi Matthew,

I am delighted to let you know that your submitted photo has been selected for inclusion in the newly released sixteenth edition of our Schmap New York Guide:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This latest release is our first to include real-time local buzz for New York events, restaurants, bars and more...

Thanks so much for letting us include your photo - please enjoy the guide!
Below is the snapshot of the said picture on Schmap:

Greek Vases, MET - New York Schmap

and below is the picture itself:

Greek Vases, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, September 2010 _8205

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Looking Back One More Year

By the end of year 2010, I looked back at my efforts of that year and made a compilation video to present all my paintings and a couple drawings I completed in 2010.

Due to positive responses, I am going to looking back even further. Below is the 2009 recapitulation of my paintings finished in 2009:

>> Video presentations of paintings and drawings, Part XVIII: Ready to Go Back to Drawing Sessions
<< Video presentations of paintings and drawings, Part XVI: 2010 Recapitulation

List of Video Presentation of My Artworks

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Three Wonderful Installations at De Young Museum, San Francisco

During my recent trips to De Young Museum to view collections from Musée d’Orsay, I also stopped by to see three very interesting installations, which are part of De Young's permanent collections.

The most poignant one was Anti-Mass, 2005, Cornelia Parker (b 1956), Charcoal and wire, which was a 3-D explosion of suspended debris constructed of the burned remains of a Southern Black Baptist church destroyed by arsonists:

Another anti-war or anti-violence peace was The Spine and Tooth of Santo Guerro, 2007, Al Farrow (born 1943), which was made of Guns, bullets, shot, steel, glass, tooth, bone and 15th century fabric:

The third one was Hovor II, 2004, El Anatsui (b 1944), which was a large sheet of "fabric" made of woven aluminum bottle caps, copper wire, an indictment to the consumerism, perhaps:

These works were as timely as timelessly and they haunt me often.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Political Correctness" Running Amok?

I have complained about caprices of some translators often, when they made edits to the books they worked on.  Now, this practice has encroached the books written in English and would be marketed to the American readers.  Julie Bosman reported for New York Times that Publisher Tinkers With Twain.

She reported that a new edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be release the edition in February by NewSouth Books, a publisher based in Alabama is to replace the word "nigger" by "slave," 219 times in all.  The book also substitutes "Indian" for "injun."  She reported that:

Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery, approached the publisher with the idea in July.  Mr. Gribben said Tuesday that he had been teaching Mark Twain for decades and always hesitated before reading aloud the common racial epithet, which is used liberally in the book, a reflection of social attitudes in the mid-19th century.

"I found myself right out of graduate school at Berkeley not wanting to pronounce that word when I was teaching either 'Huckleberry Finn' or 'Tom Sawyer,'" he said. "And I don't think I'm alone."

"I'm by no means sanitizing Mark Twain," Mr. Gribben said. "The sharp social critiques are in there. The humor is intact. I just had the idea to get us away from obsessing about this one word, and just let the stories stand alone."

The news set off a storm of angry online commentary, scolding the publisher for "censorship" and "political correctness," or simply for the perceived sin of altering the words of a literary icon. Twain admirers have turned his hefty “Autobiography of Mark Twain,” published last year, into a best seller. 

Some English teachers were less than thrilled about the idea of cleaning up a classic.
"I'm not offended by anything in 'Huck Finn,'" said Elizabeth Absher, an English teacher at South Mountain High School in Arizona. "I am a big fan of Mark Twain, and I hear a lot worse in the hallway in front of my class."

Ms. Absher teaches Twain short stories and makes "Huck Finn" available but does not teach it because it is too long — not because of the language.

"I think authors’ language should be left alone," she said. "If it's too offensive, it doesn’t belong in school, but if it expresses the way people felt about race or slavery in the context of their time, that's something I’d talk about in teaching it."

To criticize this attempt as "Political Correctness" running amok is actually quite mild.  Looking deeper, one can detect something more sinister.  This new edition attempts to re-write history by hiding some ugly truths of our nation's most wrenching past, the truth made some of us uncomfortable, particularly to those who don't want to be reminded that using derogatory terms was once social norm and don't welcome any reminder of that and would be gladly to pretend that those ugly truths never existed, not here anyway.  By substituting words, the publisher is denying readers, particularly less informed young ones, a piece of crucial information.  By looking away from our heinous history, we would have missed a great opportunity to educate people of our history and our values.

If such trends continue, I wouldn't be surprised that one hundred years from now one, people would claim that slavery has never existed in the U.S., as some people, be it in Germany, Iran or America, who have been trying to deny the occurrence of the Holocaust.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Two Christmases in China

2010 winter holidays are behind us now but the memories of my "Christmas time" in China lingers.

Though without religion, I was intrigued by the rather mysterious rituals of Christmas and the allure of a secretive cult, and tried twice to participate or at least observe a Christmas mass in China and both times, I failed.

The first time, it was in the late eighties.  I was in Dalian, a beautiful port city in northern China for my undergraduate study.  On one Christmas eve, several friends and I went to downtown, and find the unremarkable small parish church near the center of the city.

Dalian ChurchThe little courtyard in front of the church was half-filled when we got there around 7 or 8 pm.  We were able to peep into the nave and it was almost full, and the empty seats were all reserved as well.  Even our attempt to take a quick look of the interior was thwarted by the vigilant guards who obviously distrusted anyone unfamiliar.

We lingered a bit in the courtyard, trying to assess what we might gain by waiting out patiently.  An old woman circled around us slowly and made small talks to us.  She seemed nice enough so we chatted with her a bit.  She was willing to help but she told us that only people who were affiliated with the church could go in for the service.  Disappointed, I asked her for a consolation prize - a Bible.  I had read selected stories from the Bible but not itself.  Bible was and is not allowed to be sold in bookstores there.  She carefully watched our surroundings, and took me to a corner, out of ear shots of the others and briefed me that if I was indeed interested in the Bible, I should try to visit the church often and they'd notice me and invite me to services and eventually they'd give me a copy.  It was not allowed to do it publicly, therefore I need to be discreet about her help.  The tenacity it demanded was too much, considering that it took more than hour-long expensive bus ride from my remote campus to get there, I gave it up.

Catherdral, ShenyangMy next try was the winter after I graduated from college and before I came to the U.S.  There was an immense cathedral in my home city, Shenyang, which was the center of Christmas Eve mass, which my sister and I tried to be part of it.  However, our effort was thwarted once again, by the incredibly thick crowd, braving the freezing cold night.  We were there rather late and only caught a glimpse of the procession - a bishop, following choir boys waving incense, led an impressive solemnly and fancifully attired entourage through the thickets of the onlookers, towards the heavy gates, we knew it would be impossible to get pass.

Those were the two only attempts I tried to enter a church on Christmas eves.  I have returned to the Cathedral but never got chance to see the interior.  The gates were always closed when I visited the site.  In the U.S., despite the freedom to do so, or perhaps because of it, I felt no interest in participate of witness a Christmas service.

I do have a Bible at home, but haven't really read it, despite the importance of it.  That said, I don't think I am totally ignorant of the doctrines of Christianity and over the years, I even produced some paintings full of religious undertones, such as the 2003 painting Dissonance below:

Dissonance / 不和諧音 / Dissonanz

>> My Path, Part VI: To be continued
<< My Path, Part IV: My First Devastation and Cynicism