Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Village Voice - 11.7.2006 - Yellow Fever

I just stumbled onto this article by Vickie Chang from The Village Voice, dating back to late 2006, and, upon further inspection, was left highly impressed. It breaks down in fairly adequate detail (actually, to a highly satisfactory degree, given its mass-media limitations: I suspect that I would only consider a lengthy, if not outright doctoral, dissertation on the topic acceptable) the forms and root causes of Asian sexual and social objectification. The author, presumably a Chinese-American woman, seems to draw motivation and social rationale largely from personal experience, but does not ignore the ubiquitous nature of objectification: she touches, again to a reasonably contenting degree, on the complex interaction of other emasculative and exotificative threads, including those drawn tautly around Asian males and the gay Asian community.

Chang's article - again, presumably - for the reasons of (1) length constraints and (2) lack of personal experience, does have a limited (albeit wide-ranging) scope: she seems to rein in her criticisms to focus on a primarily White Other, not problematizing the behavior of any other ethnicities (self-problematic: I myself nearly wrote 'minorities', rather than 'ethnicities', before rebuking myself for thinking that Whites form the Majority; they do not, in a global sense). Of course, I understand to at least some degree (or assume I do): to discuss White stereotypes of Asians is largely an enterprise of digressing on the well-worn tropes of Imperialism/Colonialism that are well-established (if not outright cliche) in the world of Ethnic Studies, and to do so calls down on the author little scorn.

To discuss Black objectification of Asians (note: I saw recently - I don't recall where - Asians referred to as Yellow in the same way Black and White are used. Is this OK? Is there a memo I missed?) is to navigate entirely different waters, including the hypermasculization-/oversexualization-objectification (albeit largely predicated upon the action of Whites) of the Black male and female. Not to mention Latino/Native American/other ethnic populations whose interactions with Asians are more limited, and less likely to operate on easily-streamlined paths (for this reason, I strangely and broadly accept the limiting of discussion of Asian objectification to White and Black. Is this an oversight on my own part?). I have few qualms, however, about this: it is, given what the piece itself is likely intended to do (to wit: stimulate discussion, rather than serve as proxy for independently conducted discussion and thought), well within the author's perquisites to limit her discussion in such a fashion.

More potentially problematic is that the author overlooks the Asian lesbian community, instead focusing on the gay Asian population. Why is this more problematic? Well, I have two issues: one personal, one academic. By the former, I mean simply that, again, writings on the emasculating objectification of Asian males is unsurprising and fairly commonplace: another well-established theme of ethnic critiques, as widely known as the Sambo/Stepin Fetchit problem amongst Black ethnic commentators. I would have much rather learned more about the (at least relatively) unexplored topic of Asian lesbian fetishization. As for the latter, academic, critique, I feel that focusing on the emasculation of Asian gay males while simultaneously ignoring the (whatever) of Asian lesbians (a thought: should Lesbian and Gay be capitalized? Is there another memo?) may be treading close to expected - in a more sinister manner - and patronizing views.

Specifically, gay Asian men are often stereotyped (and desirable) as emasculated and ladylike "Bottoms", perhaps stemming from (or driving onwards) the popular ladyboy/hermaphroditic/transvestite fetishes of the Southeast Asian sex markets. Gay Asian women, on the other hand, are simply marginalized or often unspoken-of in broad discursive contexts (caveat: by "broad," I simply mean, that which I personally have read). Of course, this may have an innocuous and acceptable root: the author, interested in critiquing and broadening discussion on these topics may have constrained herself to stereotypes easily-accessible to a wide audience.

In any case, these minor qualms aside, I am quite satisfied with the article. Any coverage of Asian issues in mainstream or White-owned/-run publications without a disparaging sly wink or nod by an editor (or, even worse, a non-Asian author) is encouraging, especially in the White- and Hipster-voice skewed Village Voice. Even if it is two years old.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summer Wrap-Up: Korea

I've arrived in Delaware after ~20 hours of travel: 13 from Seoul-
Incheon to Atlanta, a 2.5 hour stopover in the A (pause), then 3 hours
from Atl to Philly. Yesterday morning, I was in Korea; the morning
before that, 北京.

The next day and a half will be spent with my family, then I'll be
heading out tomorrow afternoon back to New Haven... It's been a
long while since I saw the city.

The pictures below are the beginnings of the final cap to my summer's

A day out with students

As the summer SAT courses wound down, there were several times spent
getting together with my students before their return to the States.

One Saturday, I met a group of my students who had finished classes
the previous Friday. We assembled in the late morning at La Festa and
hit up an arcade to play some shooting games, etc. After the arcade,
they were hungry, so we went to one of the many snack restaurants
scattered around the area.

With students
A restaurant specifically dedicated to ramen and variations thereof.

After lunch, we considered our options: seeing as how I had to leave
in a couple hours for Gangnam (to meet Gabe), we settled on spending
the remainder of our time together at a Karaoke room/노래방 on the
3rd floor of the mall called 喜story/History that turned out to be a real
bad (bad like Michael Jackson Bad, not poor test results bad) option:
15000KRW for 1.5 hours of Korean, English, and Chinese music,
including free ice cream.

The room we got included a drum set and some shiny marble floors/

yeah, yeah.

Shut up i know what i look like

Brian and Gabriel

with students 2
After we finished our time at the KTV, my students walked me over
to the Jeongbalsan subway stop, where we parted ways one last time.
On the way, we stopped to converse with an overly enthusiastic stilt-

A good day.

Church with Brother Lee

My pastor's old Navigators discipler, from his days of working at a
bank in Seoul, still lives in town, near Sinimun/Hankuk University.
Twice I made the journey over to Sinimun on Sunday morning to join
the Navigators meeting in Sinimun; the second time, Brother Lee
invited me to dessert at his house after lunch and before church. We
ate some fancy fruit (an expensive, if not outright exotic, luxury in

Me and Mr
Brother Lee and me.

Me and Mrs
With Mrs. Lee.

A weekend with James

One weekend shortly before I left Korea, my good friend James Kim,
a sophomore at Yale and UCW, arrived in Korea to remain for a short
stint with his extended family still living in 충무로, having recently
wrapped up his summer program in China (the very same as that
which I attended two years ago at 首师大). On August 15, a Korean
national holiday, I went into the city to spend the afternoon/evening
with James.
(all pictures taken from James' excellent blog post)

After spending some time catching up in his hotel room (provided
gratis by his uncle), we decided to see The Dark Knight - me for the
second time and James for the first - then spend the evening
discussing the theology and worldview presented therein.

There exists a similar picture of James in the same pose. For some
reason, he has not posted it.

Waiting around for the movie to begin, James and I noted a sign in the
lobby for "Magical Rose Garden" on the 7th floor of the multiplex.
Intrigued, James and I headed up; I was looking forward to failure, but
found, instead, precisely the vision conjured up by such a title: a floor-
sized expanse of 五颜六色 roses, with seating, couches, and swinging
loveseats scattered liberally but discreetly throughout.

Explaining... something?


My uniform for the summer: plain white Hanes tee, rigid Levi's 501
raw denim, black/white Puma clydes, and my red Gap satchel. All
courtesy of Yale's famous blue bins.

After the conclusion of the movie, James and I spent some time in the
lobby-adjacent Starbucks, breaking down the themes and motifs of the
film; afterwards, emerging onto the cool nighttime streets of Seoul, we
were confronted with the spectacle of a mass of Korean humanity
marching in waves of 10- or 12-abreast. Pausing to watch, we were
further engrossed as marchers continued to stream past, chanting for
the impeachment and removal of the wildly unpopular President Lee
Myung-Bak (이명박/李明博).

Of course, having already invested such time, James and I were
compelled to continue on to their ultimate objective. With the end of
the procession still out-of-sight, we walked alongside, then were
swallowed up by, the marchers, for a good 15 minutes.

As the march drew nearer to the city center, it paused for some time
to finally allow traffic to pass. The heavy humidity turned gradually
into a light drizzling rain, and James and I found other diversions
with which to entertain ourselves.

A group of b-boys blasted breakbeats in a nearby mall atrium, while
small groups of teenaged girls lip-synched on a nearby stage,
contorting pubescent bodies in a simulation of the latest K-pop videos.

Afterwards, James and I wandered through the malls, a fair
approximation of the Chinese 市场 to which we were both well
familiarized. He tried 讲价 a few times, coming away with a t-shirt and
tie, while I surreptitiously noted and critiqued the relative quality of
Korean and Chinese fake goods/假货. We then walked the half-mile or so
back to James' uncle's hotel in the cool dankness of the Korean post-
precipitation starlight, ending the night with praise songs.

And that's it for my Korean summer: the last few memories in Korea
proper remaining yet unchronicled. Next post: my Beijing vacation and
subsequent travels (3 countries in 3 days).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Last update from Asia

Back in Ilsan International Airport, for one last time. Just hoping that Delta/Korean Airlines doesn't lose any of my luggage on the way to Atlanta (where, it seems, I'm going to have to pick it up; they didn't check it through customs).

I haven't checked in since Monday due to an increasingly busy itinerary in China; it ought (temporarily) to suffice to say that plenty got done - shopping, recording, and catching up with my Bust Out 哥们儿 - and I have hundreds of photographs to document it, that ought to be upped soon after my return to the States. I also have photographs of some of my students and co-workers that I took over the last day and a half, during the time that I spent back in Ilsan.

For now, though, I'm headed back home. I'll get back to Philly around midnight Friday night, spend Saturday getting ready to head back to New Haven, get together with some of the px brothers on Sunday for lunch, then head home later that afternoon.

It was a good summer. More thoughts later.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Note from Beijing

Note; in the singular, rather than the plural, as this is intended only as a brief placeholder to catalogue my movements through the past few days and reassure my near and dear that I continue to, as it were, exist in the corporeal.

Immediately following the preceding update of Saturday afternoon, I boarded my plane from Seoul to Beijing. 1.5 hours later, I touched down in Beijing, passed through customs (hilarious story that will be reviewed later: my passport picture being 5 years old, it took 4 pairs of customs officials' eyes to verify that I am, indeed, myself), and jumped on a cab to Billy's.

OK. This is going to take too long. Here's a more concise summary, courtesy of my facebook status update mini-feeds:

August 23: Jason is at Billy's in 北京!with Billy, Carrie, and Jingyi.

August 24: Jason is heading to BICF with Billy. (morning)

August 24: Jason is back at Billy's (afternoon)

August 24: Jason and Billy are going to Jingyi's house. Dinner and Olympics' closing. (evening)

August 25: Jason is chillin with Dirty Paco at Bust Out HQ. (~1 AM)

August 25: Jason is watching movies with the Bust Out crew, heading to the store in the morning (4 AM)

August 25: Jason on my way to the Bustout store (~11 AM)

August 25: Jason is loaded with Bustout gear (~11 PM)

and here I am. Copious amounts of photographic and prose updates (and maybe poetry?) to follow when I find time (i.e. when I get back to Seoul or the States).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thoughts in an airport

I sit in the Incheon International Airport, a scant 9 weeks after my arrival in 韩国 AKA Ko Rea. It's been a halcyon, whirlwind penultimate week; with an ever-dwindling number of students, final meals to be shared, goodbyes to be said (most poignant: my bidding farewell to the bustling and cheap fried chicken stand near work...), and hella packing what to do up, I remained in constant (or at least, consistent) movement over the past four or five days.

I'm sure I'll later confront more directly my break-down of the summer, and those musings will comprise the cornerstone of another update; but, for the moment, I'm content to sit, satiated by the ever-passing moment. Let me paint a picture for those of you not embroiled, at the moment, in the unique, ubiquitous milieu of the international airport.

To my right: a dark sky gives way to rushing clouds. As piscine white scales slink by, the sun peeks coyly out from behind them, vacillating between hiding herself and teasing us with portents of glad weather.

In Korea, I've found her character to be that of a scintillating ingenue: in the last week, our relationship has been a tempestuous (though yet short of actually abusive) and attractive one. Three days of joyful, walk-about weather (we went running through the park Thursday afternoon; we'll always have that) gave way to a final Friday of fat, loud raindrops drumming in a cavalcade of tiny , frantic impacts against the windows of my building and the drenched Seoul streets outside. But she relented from her tantrum (my boss, at lunch yesterday: "I think Seoul is crying, that you are leaving"), coming out to bid me farewell today; I appreciate it.

Baby blue planes striped with white and emblazoned with the Korea Airlines symbol dot the runway, taxiing lazily into the gate. Below, airline workers bustle about, unhurried but efficient. From their pace and bearing, I imagine their conversation to be laconic, comfortable. Familiar.

I'm at my Gate. A line of passengers ebbs before me; from the demographics represented therein, I assume (is that ever safe?) that it is a midwest-bound flight. Obvious G.I.'s (a safe assumption, judging by the "JAMES" "ARMY" velcro-patch firmly attached to backpack) mingle with what looks like a college students' basketball team - ridiculous, in gym shorts, t-shirt, and tourist-issue rice paddy hat (he will never wear it in the States; it will lie in the corner of his dorm room, wind up as a frat house cast-off story, or in his basement) - and Korean mothers and fathers placating their hyperactive children. A White woman walks by me, bumblebee-yellow neck pillow already affixed: after the sartorial standards of Korea, it is hard to forget (but I will, I shall, forgive) the sight of loose sweatpants, threadbare ragged hems dragging under thin sandals, a loosely-worn hoodie bulging over a t-shirt one or two sizes too large.

The line empties. Two last basketball girls wait for their friend; she ambles out of the bathroom, gathering up her baggage. Her t-shirt (she looks like an M; it is an L; I notice these things now. Good or bad or what?) reads, in starkly white-on-black, off-centred, comedic (think Comic-Sans sans-cliche) typography: POLLY'S KITCHEN
an epitome of expatriated, exported culture(?). (I mean the t-shirt, and not the girl)

One last White woman jogs up, gulping for breath. An Asian man follows her, headphones askew and bouncing.

All is quiet on this front.

Then! Suddenly, out of nowhere, it seems, a rush. More out-of-breath travelers - the dilatory crowd - bolts up: a mother and her son, a tall Black man, and a few others. The procrastinators empty in, and again serenity takes her place in line. The people-mover scrolls by, travelers bound for other gates and destinations (Dubai? Mumbai? The Bay?) scanning past, as the waiting area lies dormant, deserted: floor lined with thin strips of cheap laminated-looking dark wood, cush L-back leather seats, and a sprinkling of early travelers either accustomed to caution or unaccustomed to traveling.

The Korean Job is over; now the Beijing Journey.

Post Scriptum, Visions of Seoul redux: A young girl in the airport passes, carting a small wheeled carry-on. Her shirt: AMERICANPIE AND FITCH. Clever parody or simply plagiarism? You decide.

Post Scriptum, Part Second: [excerpted from gchat]

Me: ...the 30-something woman with a young child sitting next to me is taking like 10 pictures of herself Myspace-style

P: hahahahahhahaa
are you in airport
how long until boarding

Me: like an hour

[a few minutes later]

Me: ....she's still taking photos

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In the news: What the heck??

"As the police gathered the mounds of bikes, they also found cocaine, crack cocaine, about 15 pounds of marijuana and a stolen bronze sculpture of a centaur and a snake in battle." (New York Times, archived online)

I would love to see that sculpture.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bust Out on sale at

Milk Magazine, Hong Kong's most popular and widely-circulated streetwear/urban fashion/lifestyle magazine, is now carrying Bust Out items (currently denim and the season 2 tees) on their official web store, choc店, at

Prices for the items are listed in RMB/人民币, so I'm not certain whether gear can be purchased online by 香港人, or just by inhabitants of mainland China. Whoever the target audience is, this is more evidence that the Bust Out crew is on their grind... expanding territory. Props to Paco, Zac, Paul, and the crew.

bustout milk
Bust Out 加油!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Big props

My brother Victor got all up on today... that's what I'm talking about.

Brother Vic all up in the news

My college homeboy Victor got all up on today.

"Yale track star balances practice, books and business"

"...Cheng saved his best for last and finished his career as the most decorated sprinter in Yale history." (full article)

...way to represent homey. Vic is one of the humblest dudes I've ever met plus a dope breaker/popper (notice the fly kicks stay on even when he sprinting) and one of the best brothers I known during my time at school. Throughout the last few years, he was a real pillar of our church, not to mention a dude that just stayed serving people left and right. Challah back.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bust Out Summer 2008 Lookbook

[Editorial note: This marks 美国梦想,中国英雄's 100th post: appropriate that this blog, whose creation was directly inspired by a growing need for flexibility beyond what Xanga was able to provide but, indirectly, by my desire to more widely discuss Bust Out's growth, should celebrate its centennial post with an overview of the future of Bust Out's commercial growth.]





















One week... 北京我快来了!

A higher-quality version of the 2008 Preview is also live on Paco's myspace.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Story of Bust Out

It's been a long time coming but here it is: the definitive (illustrated) story, from my vantage point, of how this whole Bust Out family / 中国制造团体 / [M]ade[I]n[C]hina cosa nostra started. From day 1 to infinity, moving the music, jeans, caps and tees, Harriet Tubman how we gettin' em free. Word.

All right. Rewind two years: we started picking up momentum two summers ago (late June/early July 2006), during my first summer in China, studying 中文 at 首都师范大学 through Duke on a Light Fellowship. For most of the summer I was living the standard study abroad life: broadly painted images of Chinese daily life mixed with a largely expatriate-dominated foreign experience and the occasional cultural outing (i.e. hit up a 市场 and 练习降价).

But, one day, I was out at a shopping mall, which was where my buddy Paco had his store, back when he was just hustling for dolo, selling clothes on his own, before the operation that became known as Bust Out. I was wearing a BAPE sweater that I had copped at another market, 动物园, and
Paco has always, even before the bust out days, been about selling that heat rox, high quality joints. So I saw some bape hoodies that matched my crewneck, not ot mention denim and some other items of interest, and went over to check them out.

[Paco, Paul, and Beibei in the old store.]

When Paco caught sight of my flamboyantly-attired self, he exclaimed - and I still remember exactly to this day his precise intonation and word choice - "DAAAMN BOY, IS THAT REAL?"

So we politicked and built for a little and started talking about hip-hop clothing and culture in China, and i forget how but the fact that I emcee came out and Paco was all YO SO AM I So he put on a beat and we had an impromptu cipher, freestyling back and forth for a few minutes

So Paco got the idea in his head - he's the greatest networker i've ever met, forget these YALE kids Paco knows how to build - he was like yo we got to collaborate, so I bounced out with my buddy Andrew who was with me, then came back the next weekend on my own. We wrote one or two songs together over the next few weeks, then one time Paco announced we were going to hit up a studio to finally record our long-awaited collabo. We dropped three joints that summer - including what would become our trademark song, From America to Beijing / 从美国到北京, and started making plans to keep building the dynasty.

[Paul and Yi in the old store]

Over the 2006-2007 school year, Paco and I corresponded over MSN after my return to college, and by October the name of the crew was MIC - [M]ade[I]n[C]hina. He and I, and some of the other crew members, collaborated to record songs together over the internet, and by the next spring we had amassed enough material together for the first mixtape, Made in China vol. 1. So, the next summer, when i went back to China to study through the Light Fellowship and Harvard's summer program, we had a CD out and more plans were coming together, all this under the umbrella of [M]ade[I]n[C]hina crew.

[Summer 2007 concert in 河北]

That second summer, we were immensely productive... concerts outside the city, our first round of crew t-shirts on sale, recording sessions every weekend. By this time we were straight professional with our business: the first night I touched down in Beijing, I was writing verses, and 24 hours later I was in a taxi on the way over to a studio to lay them down.

crew 3
[MIC ca. 2007: Grand Master, Bei bei, ABD, Slim Paul, Zhang Yi AKA Crazy Yi, Dirty Paco]

By that time, in addition to Paco, who ran the clothing line, me doing studio engineering and the mixdowns, and ABD running PR and advertising, Paco's other homeboys had gotten into things, too: Slim Paul and Zhang Yi rapped, and we had two singers, Bei bei (a dude) and Jing Hui (a chick). That was one of the best times for us - we were, by then, comfortable enough to chill, and had plenty of time to do so. My weekly routine was to just get through Monday-Friday morning (the HBA curriculum being fairly rigorous, my only pastime during the week was 背生次 and 为考试作准备), then, Friday afternoon after working out and eating lunch with my 同学们, pack a duffel bag with whatever I needed and grab the subway or a bus into the center of the city. I'd hit 西单 around dinnertime and just kick it with the crew for the rest of the weekend (as recounted in more vivid detail here): watching DVD's at Paco's crib; driving around blasting music; eating 串儿 and 喝啤酒 at a 小摊儿; or heading off with Paco to some high-class hotel, both arms weighted down carrying garbage bags full of jeans, tees, and kicks. During this time, we also finished the material that would eventually become Made in China Vol. 2.

Paco -me
[Joking around at the photo shoot]

So, that was our one-year milestone, which drew to a close with a photo shoot in a 胡同 (for which I had my first cold of the year...), with the brand new Made in China tees on display (the progenitors of our current Bust Out clothing line)

crew 2
[Notice the MIC tees]

After returning to the States, though, some things went down between ABD and the rest of the crew. Without making judgments as to liability (as I was not in the middle of it when it was happening), all I know is that the rest of the crew separated from him and re-formed as the Bust Out Family, focusing more on the fashion angle now, with a revitalized streetwear line as the center of the operation. I'd gotten wind of all this via Paco and Slim Paul's MSN status changes, but wasn't exactly sure what Bust Out was: an affiliated store? some of Paco's buddies? a Taiwanese line? Anyways, Paco and Paul were hustling hard on establishing the new line, so I didn't see them on MSN for quite some time; but in the early Spring, I had a conversation with Paco where he revealed the recent developments (and our first season, STREET WE ARE), and I was quickly enlisted as Bust Out's English-language factotum; my contributions were quickly incorporated into the second round of designs, released as season 2: SAVE THE WAR.

Hat 1.jpg
[Bust Out Season 1 caps]

Basically, way I see it, Paco was the one as what took me in (his apartment was my home on the weekends last summer), literally clothed me, fed me, did whatever just to hold me down. So if I am not loyal to that and stick with my boys, what kind of a dude am I??

[Season 2: Save the War]

So that's where it is today. Prior to the reorganization, we were a rap crew with some official tees; now, we're a multifaceted fashion/music (rock, not just rap)/street lifestyle family with a flagship store in Beijing. The reorganization of MIC was made complete by finally officially inducting Paco's Taiwanese designer buddies into the crew, including Zac, with whom I'd kicked it Summer 2007, and who designed the first MIC shirts. The crew has been straight hustling hard, including a feature in Chinese streetwear magazine So Cool.

[So Cool magazine feature.]

So that is the story. Two years, two continents, two names, a bunch of CD's, more trips to Beijing than I ever expected to take, and a new line that's been getting buzz in the scene. In one week, I'll be making that trip again... Bust Out family 走起来!WE RUN 北京 (eff tha 奥运会)!

[Bust Out store external]

[Bust Out store internal hallway]