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为海蒂 FOR HEIDI
CHINESE DISSONANCE: A FOREWORD
A year or so ago I became obsessed with a particularly strange website. It was called ChinaSMACK and it is one of the few places out there, a pocket of the internet, dedicated to translating Chinese internet commentary into English. It links in various social network streams and curates the most interesting reactions to popular news stories, collating them into chronological, consumable order. At the time I was heavy-faced in some sagging co-dydromol stupor after having an operation on my sinuses. Somewhere between reading the collated comments of Chinese netizenry and awaking clear headed, I became conscious of having spent two weeks indoors in the dark left to my own devices. I had recovered and found that I had written fiction. Apparently there was something that compelled me to turn inside out the flurry of voices on that site. What I found were stories that had been deemed meme-worthy. What then, do these unfamiliar internet phenomena such as ‘Brother Sharp’, ‘Little Yue Yue’ and ‘Sofa Obama’ mean to the people voicing their opinion? Perhaps nothing, perhaps these stories will remain net-curiosities that garnered fleeting interest. But reading the collated narratives allowed me, prescription drug induced no doubt, to delve into these scraps of tweets and threads and spend some time with unfamiliar parts of the internet, sometimes dark, sometimes strange, always surprising.
Most of the stories gathered in this collection have been inspired by the flurry of voices found on sites like ChinaSMACK and ChinaGeeks, another. If nothing more than to stream through the kaleidoscope of commentary gathered about our own culture from afar, pay them a visit. Once translated, this stuff makes enthralling reading. The threads are as engaging, dubiously intellectual, crass and at times moving and as funny as anything you’ll find elsewhere. Sometimes all the wisdom you’ll ever need is typed into a message box by someone calling themselves “anon426″. The majority of character dialogue in these stories are directly culled from real comments now frozen on the web for posterity. Chinese Dissonance then is a book for global netizens. An attempt to storify snatches from a particular corner of the internet to illuminate our own place, and theirs, within it. Guy Gunaratne 2013
Memetics: Included at the end of each story I have placed links to the original comments and threads mostly collated on translation pages such as ChinaSMACK. I would urge readers to click through as these pages will, in most cases, lead you to the very netizens whose comments lead to the stories told here. If you were so inclined, send them a message and connect.
穷⼈人就是穷⼈人，在哪都是穷⼈人。⽽而且抗议的⽅方式也不是所有⼤大众都赞同，逐渐的不赞同的⼈人已经占到多 数。最后，抗议者也不是说⾃自⼰己是穷⼈人反对富⼈人，他们是说⾃自⼰己属于社会的⼤大多数99%，反对一些 少数 1%‘精英’的错误操纵，把世界引入错误的方向。老美真厉害，强制驱逐都打着民主自由的口号！这些所谓 的占领者，没有自己的政 占领，明显就是一群无聊
为他们知道结果。而如果 也不敢去占领 为什么那些
Young Chinese netizens watched and muttered amongst themselves musing on the images of protesters and police clashing at Zuccotti Park in New York over 2011.
汉都穿的那么帅，他们不 是穷，饿着肚⼦子，⼜又⽆无赖 才去闹事的吗？！媒体就是再抹⿊黑美国，也⽐比中国强。毕竟⼈人家还可以抗议，我们只能欢呼 我们只能欢 呼 我们只能欢呼 我们只能欢呼 我们只能欢呼 我们只能欢呼 我们只能欢呼 我们只能欢呼 我们只能欢呼.
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
ZUCCOTTI PARK: DISMANTLING DEMOCRACIES “Strange how they looks so well dressed right? Totally dapper.” Bao leant in over Lily’s neck. His breath smelt of undefined nastiness. She didn’t like the way he smirked at the countless images flooding her computer screen of enraged Americans on the streets of New York. “Supposed to be the poor over there? Sure about that?” His dry tongue gave out a click and dumped himself on her sofa. Lily swiveled in her chair to face him, “Are you serious, idiot? You look at an image of police beating innocent people and you comment on the clothes that their blood is dripping on? Idiot.” Bao smiled. “You called me an idiot twice just then.” Lily threw a book at him, Bao swerves. “Shit! Calm down sister, what’s your problem!” Lily stands, sidesteps Bao’s half-eaten box of yumi, and places her hand on the cold glass of her sixth-story apartment window. Ever since that Thursday she had felt bars on every window,
cracks in every mirror, everything that was once clear was now a grey murk. Fogged. He heard his voice from behind her. “All I said was that that brother looks good for a homeless person. He has no work, part-affiliation and he’s poor and hungry and he’s protesting because he’s poor and hungry right? But his khaki’s look fucking cool. That’s all I’m saying.” Bao sipped his cola and shrugged, “incongruous!” he said waving his cigarette at the screen. Lily stopped herself from telling him to shut the hell up. Instead, rising on her toes she peered down at the street below; a river of halogen veins criss-crossing people, heads down, ambling along unaware of history happening. “Poor people are poor, always poor wherever they are,” Lily turns now and faces Bao. He was just supposed to be casual friend, but he’d been expending his cool increasingly in recent months. “Okay Mother Theresa, what do you see when you see those pictures? A bunch of beggars?” Lily looks over at the picture of a man, red faced, mouth open, a row of helmets holding back the line. “No, but at least when they’re pissed off they do something about it, unlike us.” Bao snorts and has a look at the picture, “Hmm…I recall reading about a disgruntled rabble, pitched tents, making all sorts of unreasonable demands in 1989.”
“Yeah exactly and look what happened to them!” Lily crossed her arms. Bao crossed his legs the other way and puffed his cigarette. “Lily, you listen to too much American music. Too much Bono. I’m not going to feel sorry for first world problems okay? The police were clearing them out of their because of bad sanitation and drug-dealing. Have you seen those guys? Rape and drugdealing must be happening all over that place. NYPD should teach these counter-revolutionaries a lesson. Nightsticks won’t do.” Lily’s eyes widened, “Oh? And what would you propose? AK47′s and tanks?” Bao made that sarcastic grunt that misogynists make when they feel their women were being hysterical. “No Lily, gas the fuckers right? Of course not, but we have our own problems, yeah? There are 1.4 billion Chinese but if there’s an issue we don’t go disturb public property.” Lily sat down at her computer. “Maybe we should.” She said. Bao gave out a laugh, “Okay sure, go ahead. I’ll be right behind you!” Lily began to click through the images. There was a picture of an officer, his helmet and megaphone an inch away from a man’s face, the man unflinching, a mass of people zipped up, huddled, against the Manhattan winter, another of a young girl, hands tied behind her back at the feet of some officer, and there was another with a boy, an American Chinese – maybe Nepali – squeezing what looked like milk into the eyes
of another who had been pepper sprayed. She scrolled down the page and her eyes fixed on a comment: Zhou_21: Dear USA, caught the news of angry faces among your dismantled democracy. Are you surprised that the images of your children’s fists came this way East? Lols and winks. At least yours can shout, ours can only cheer. #occupy Her lips parted. She read it again. “…at least yours can shout, ours can only cheer.” She found her eyes re-tread the bright poetry of that line: “…ours can only cheer.” She sat back, took a breath. Felt like she had been hit by an empty bus. ”You’re wrong Bao.” she said finally, “the difference is just… expectation. They have one, some, we don’t. Ever.” She read the line again. #occupy. “In places with just, even basic human rights, people find courage to express their demands and, even in the face of police, have no fear. Why? Because they know the result. Whereas if the results cannot be predicted, they wouldn’t dare go occupy anything.” Lily turned and looked at Bao. “Americans can say no.” Bao sat upright now, “We can say no too. I say no all the time.” Lily smiles and leans forward, “Once, twice maybe. Depends what you’re saying no to right? But at least Americans can say no and expect to be arrested. Expect to be released. Expect to go back and say no one more time and do it all over if they wanted. For us? It’s not so certain. Would they have us sign a confession? House arrest? Re-education? Imprisonment for decades? No trial. If I broke 6
one of those window bars would I be beaten black and blue? Freedom is the right to say no and listen to others who say no and even meet others who also say it.” Her voice stopped saying words. For the first time she looked at Bao and saw that he was listening. With a poise that seemed out of character for him, Bao gently set his cigarette aside. He reached down to pick up the book that was thrown at him earlier in anger, read the title and author, smirked, “Whoever this Paul Goodman brother is, you’ve been reading too much of him.” Lily stared hard at Bao. She took a short breath. “Bao, listen, I think we should see other people.” Memetics: ChinaSMACK: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Cleared Out, Chinese Reactions Fauna: http://www.chinasmack.com/2011/pictures/occupy-wall-street-protesterscleared-out-chinese-reactions.html
日本地震后人们还能井然有序的生活着，而中国却为了盐争个你死我活，可⻅见中国人的素质不是一般的低 啊~ wenxinlan:
本地震 日本没疯 中国到疯
了 TXBB: 前苏联的历史 家 到现在还有多少国家 情还会越来越大 你们敢 看看历史 讨厌上班: 我是
When the Japanese Tsunami crippled the Fukushima power plant in March 2011, Chinese panic buying of salt became commonplace as some believed that sodium could protect against a rumoured ‘nuclear cloud’.
告诉我们 全欧洲有多少国 的人民受到伤害 日本的事 保证 不会扩散到中国 多去 盐城人，我家就没参与抢盐
这股脑残的⻛风波 @颤抖抖颤:都是些大妈大叔在抢,他们那一代就只能这样了,没啥文化,很容易受骗,又喜欢 跟⻛风 拉级: 日本人就是可恨 明明是个岛国 ⻛风⼒力发电最适合但是⼈人家却选择核发电 我他妈的恨小日本。
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
THE STORY OF THE TSUNAMI SALT RUSH Jianpeng could barely hear her orders above the din. “Ping! Ping! – More boxes, hurry.” She yelled as the throng of faces, wriggling, squirming, waving grubby notes at her face while she wrestled the till. She had made a fortune that day. A woman without a husband managing to keep her shop afloat was difficult in itself without earthquakes in Japan sending ripples across the sea. The people tsunami was over for today however; she was out of salt. In March 2011 a magnitude 8.9 earthquake sent images akin to a natural 9/11 across news channels across the world. As the breaking news beamed in from helicopters in Japan began to wan, focus had shifted to the now crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima. It was leaking noxious fumes into the Pacific air much the same way oil gushed into the Atlantic seas the year before. The worlds eager lenses were set-up at a distance as it was expected that at any moment the entire complex would yield a Japanese Chernobyl. Would it blow? Would it not? Those apocalyptic
newscasters had said it was a matter of time until the coastal Chinese would be breathing in a radioactive cloud. Jianpeng had received a call from her mother that morning, scared out of her wits that ‘the cloud’ would come, envelop Jiapeng and her shop on the coast, that her grandson would grow a third ear, a pigs tail and die poisoned. Stupid, thought Jianpeng, and then suddenly it was if the whole country had gone crazy. CHINESE RUSH TO BUY SALT read the headline. There had been word that the only way to prevent radiation poisoning was the iodine content found in table salt. Few outlets sold iodized salt however, but Jianpeng’s was one of them. In a single day her shop was ransacked by worried old ladies desperately seeking to survive the cloud. Not a single bag remained, not even for Ping. Oh that didn’t bother her – it was a farce anyway. Salt? Hah! She had got on Weibo that night to vent her frustration: 18:22 - Japan has an earthquake, Japan doesn’t panic, but what do the Chinese do? They panic buy salt! Now, it’s not that she felt bad for profiting off the frightened fools it’s just that she was angry at the damned Japanese for building nuclear power plants on an unstable faultline.
18:57 - Japan is surrounded by wind and tide power but they choose nuclear? Is it really for electricity??? She had written it out of anger. A guilty corner of her heart gleaned forbidden satisfaction from seeing the sweeping destruction of Japan on TV – if only for a moment. Jianpeng slid down to the floor, her back to her chair. She eased her toes out of her worn flat sandals and plugged in her laptop, relaxed, warming her hands with a mug of tea. She sips, reading, away from the ignorance of the world, seeking solace in the Tudou message boards. One new message: [ B ig Sh o w 1 9 :2 2 : La st n ig h t in a ce rta in supermarket, everyone was fighting with each other over who got to buy the salt, while a single old lady on the side calmly browsed the other goods, even shaking her head and laughing. Someone nearby walked up and asked her why she wasn’t fighting to buy some salt and the old woman laughed and answered: I still haven’t used all the salt I bought during the SARS incident!] Jianpeng gave out a huff, typing: From this we can see much about China’s circumstances she wrote in reply and scrolled down. [Bolo
19:35 - This is what the state of the country is like!!! Education is still the key!!! and another; [wenxilan 1936: Sigh~~~ embarrassing us in front of the whole world, ignorance is truly frightening...with the little iodine in salt….it needs to be eaten like rice to have any kind of effect, still no ones afraid of getting a thyroid tumour?!] Jianpeng looks up, shaking her head, taking another sip of tea. Hell, she thought, is this what we have come to? Scrambling around like dogs as the world laughs at us? Balancing the mug between her thighs she types; 19:48 - Japanese laugh at us while we go an buy salt!!! Send. [Yuku333 20:06: My mother came home with two bags ~ after waiting one hour for it! I am so embarrassed! I will take it back tomorrow ~~] She wonders how many bags her own mother has stocked up if ever the dreaded radiation cloud get that far inland.
What chaos rumours mixed with earthquakes bring. Tomorrow will come another tsunami of fools no doubt and the Japanese and Americans can continue to laugh at China thanks to them. Jianpeng had heard that some unscrupulous supermarket owners had hiked up the price at the end of each day. Maybe she would do the same tomorrow, why not? Her hands slips pouring boiling hot tea over the keyboard, “Shit!” she springs up, sets down her mug, shakes her laptop downward. She lets out a terse growl at her tea-stained lap. Jianpeng can’t help blaming the Japanese for this too. She fetches a cloth. Memetics: ChinaSMACK: Salt Panic: Chinese Fearing Japan Radiation Rush To Buy Salt Stubear: http://www.chinasmack.com/2011/stories/salt-panic-chinese-fearing-japanradiation-rush-to-buy-salt.html | Koreans Panic Buy Salt Seaweed Fearing Japanese Radiation - Stubear: http://www.chinasmack.com/2011/stories/koreans-panic-buysalt-seaweed-fearing-japanese-radiation.html
刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的 空椅子刘晓波的空椅子刘晓波的空椅子刘晓波的空椅子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘 晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空 椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓 波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子 刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的 空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓 空椅子的故事 波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅 ⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的 空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘 晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅 ⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波 的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘 晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空 椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波 的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子 刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空 椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓 波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子 刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的 空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓 波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅 ⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的 空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘 晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅 ⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波 的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘 During the days after Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize the 晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空 term ‘Empty Chair’ began to disappear from micro-blogs, websites 椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波 的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空椅⼦子 and message threads across the Chinese internet. The micro- 刘晓波的空椅⼦子刘晓波的空 histories of thoughts posted up in immediacy at the dissident who was present only by his words was being erased from record. In the end the very absence of provocation became the cause for censorship.
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
THE STORY OF THE EMPTY CHAIR It was the day of the ceremony. The bouquets had been flown in specially from Holland. Huang, a flower delivery man who had emigrated to this cold climate seven years ago with his wife and daughter, snatched some time to suck on a cigarette with the two Norwegian security men outside to hall before he drove in. They had asked him if he had heard of Liu Xiabo – pronouncing it ‘loo-shabow’ - and pointing at the VG frontpage. A picture of a bespectacled Chinese, smiling. He hadn’t, he replied, he was just delivering the flowers. All this fuss, thought Huang, all this finery. All for a man who wouldn’t even be there. Still, the Nobel people had paid handsomely for extra flowers at the last minute and Huang’s boss ably supplied the extra tulips and petunias. What he had heard about Xiaobo though, he had heard from his daughter who recently was getting worryingly political. Huang’s efforts to placate her furious rants were not being heard. She just wouldn’t keep quiet and had left the dinner table last night upset. She had bemoaned China and their ‘lack of human rights’. Why was China intimidating the rest of the world? She had said that as if ready to shout down the planet because the West had given an award to a man who’s
only crime was ‘daring to speak his mind’, her words. She had become so goddamn dramatic as a teenager. Her mothers doing, no doubt. “Why!” she had yelled, “…why should she be ashamed of being Chinese?” For this outburst Huang had banned this Liu Xiaobo’s name from being mentioned inside his house. It was getting tiresome. That she would so quickly take up a cause of an adopted country over her motherland. Intolerable. Growing up in Oslo had led her astray. Oslo, with their pop music and skis and riddles of mittens and mollycoddled youth. His daughter had excused herself that night, fled to her room, her headphones and her computer screen. That left three chairs at the dinner table, his, his wife’s and her daughter’s, empty, and her cold food left untouched. He had fought with his wife after that, she had claimed that he was acting like a old fool though he’d be damned if his own flesh and blood would begin agitating like this in his house. Order needed to be restored, discipline and a heavy hand. This was a foreign place he had brought his family to, brimming with high minded insistence and he had no time for any of it. His daughter didn’t understand. Oslo was only a place to hasten this families lot so as to return of Guangdong and live a better life, a Chinese life. One day she would thank him. She had to understand; her life and her thoughts were at this moment secondary to the family’s future happiness.
Huang opened the back of the van and hauled out the wreathes of Dutch tulips. He put out his cigarette and shifted a wreath onto his shoulder. He’d be glad when all this stupidity was over. As he entered the great hall, chairs all ordered before a grand stage, the room was busy with anticipation. His neck hurt as he looked upward at the halls splendour. Huang set down his wreath to take it all in. Women with clipboards were fluttering, men with wires and cables scuttling. It was quite an occasion, apparently. He was told that royalty would be present, his arrangement, his boss had mentioned, would be admired by the King and Queen of Norway. He didn’t care for any of that, all he did was deliver the flowers, didn’t care how they looked.
he thought. He shuffled out and left the granduer to those that cared.
Memetics: KnowYourMeme: Liu Xiaobos Empty Chair: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/liuxiaobos-empty-chair | China Digital Times: Empty Chair: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/ space/Empty_chair
A bald man in a suit pointed over there to the stage. Huang picked up the flowers and set foot onto the large sparse stage. He walked past the lectern, past the row of wooden chairs with blue fabric seats. It occurred to him then that he would be the only Chinese man to set foot on this stage tonight. He took off his cap and nodded to the suit as he set down the wreath. The suit gave him a wave, thanks. As Huang left the stage he took a glance at the row of chairs as he passed, one had some kind of light purple book placed delicately upright as a photographer with a camera for a face took pictures of it. There was something written on the cover, three letters inscribed on the front: LXB. Huang gave out a huff, I’ll scratch those initials on my daughters chair, the next time she comes down for dinner, 14
抱得美人儿归: 顶。。帅哥⼀一枚啊。。。瞧那⼩小眉头皱的。。啥也别说了。。性感。。yumi717: 真的很帅 也~~怎么会沦落街头
此男不幸就是其中一名，被发到网上的照片，他会不会很危险？左栏悠郁: 中原大陆实在是帅哥无数啊， 犀利哥你实在是太帅了蔷
啊，应该是流浪者更合适 错，有⽻羽绒服、棉夹克、 然脏了些，却都很完好， 那 种 。 ⾛走 路 那 张 确 实 很 的⼀一个演员。甜小豆: 好
吧。此⼈人上⾐衣的质量都不 ⾥里⾯面⼀一件还是⽪皮⾐衣，⽽而且虽 不是乞丐在垃圾堆⾥里捡来的 帅，很⽇日韩。还有些像⾹香港 man好酷啊啊啊... 只是..只
猫. 犀利哥流浪着的时候, 流浪了,浪人的气质就没 的是为(犀利哥)谋得⼀一份 之 忧 ， 不 连 累 家 ⼈人 。 先 命运的⼀一次机遇 抓住 回归
In February 2010 a candid photograph went viral on the Chiense internet. A man, dressed in what was called ‘hobo-chic’ became dubbed ‘Brother Sharp’ by the Chinese netizens who eventually found out that the ‘Brother’ was in fact a mentally ill homeless man living off the streets of Ningbo.
就是时尚的标杆. 犀利哥不 有了. 轻⻛风逍遥: 我们更想 稳定的⼯工作，解决他的后顾 知: 犀利哥
静: 犀利这真的是你想要的嘛??? 谷尘: 内心不再犀利 眼睛怎么会犀利？是谁
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
THE STORY OF BROTHER SHARP It had begun to rain. Yao slung his backpack down to his feet and began to rummage for a cloth to wrap around his camera. He was promised a lot of money to take this picture and he’d be damned if he had made it all the way down to Ningbo to have his camera destroyed by water. He found the dirty cloth and wound it, binding his hand to his Panex. He sighed, looked up at the immovable smog cloud oppressing him from above, a fat droplet smacked his eyelid. Fuck. Three hours in this infested town and not a sign of Brother Sharp. Yao did not want to photograph homeless people in the rain. He did not to photograph any person at all. The first time he viewed the world through a lens it was pointed at a hummingbird in the nature preserves of Jiuzhaigou. He had no inclination to ever photograph anything in a cage. That’s what Ningbo City was, a cage for the poor and transient. Free birds, beasts and fauna did not dwell within this jungle of concrete and glass and ambient misery. Nevertheless this was a paid assignment and he had been out here in the rain, since four, trying to hunt down an urban myth; a vagabond icon sought after as to be studied, dissected, his arms clipped of swagger, preserved as a fashion curiosity. The tentacles of fad-chic had found a new poster boy
to cling to; the Handsome Peasant, the Beggar Prince, Brother Sharp.
The story of Brother Sharp was one of 21st century folklore. His tale had been spread through meme whispers on message boards and comment boxes across the Chinese netizenship. Yao had heard that at first, he was mistaken for a hipster – his hair parted and sheared to the latest trend, his slim model gait and middle distance stare made it easy for netizens to dub him the most handsome underdog of this century. Turned out he was not a hipster. He was a homeless and mentally ill man scavenging off the streets in the filthiest parts of the city. This however had only fed the curiosity of baying eyes. Brother Sharp as he became known – for his sharp eyes and attire became an internet celebrity and images and videos of him began to be posted in a nationwide ‘human flesh search’ by those willing to seek him out, to capture those good looks and immortalize him further. Whether he knew why these strangers had approached him and why they wanted to steal his likeness, Yao had not known, but he had bought a ten pack of cigarettes to bribe him just in case.
He had heard that the Brother had been sighted near Xinhua bookstore, the east entrance. Yao had frequented that store often and had read Old Man Of The Sea for the first time under it’s towering shelves. He had been relieved to find out it still existed and had not been swept away in the years since he was 16
last in Zhejiang. For Yao everything that came with ‘progress’ seemed to stamp out all that he valued. Modern China was Urban China and had purged anything resembling plainness to the edge. He had always found himself on the fringes, just on the outside looking in, observing, from a distance at all that was latest. Inside, deep inside, he felt that Brother Sharp was a symptom of the times – a world so cosmetic and accustomed to artifice that honesty became novelty. He remembered a comment he had read attached to an image of Brother Sharp on a message board, it read:
yumi717:Wow, he is really handsome~~how did he sink to living on the streets?? As if there was a bar set by the beautiful, a fashion quota for how pretty the poor were meant to be. These thoughts though, he kept to himself – he was but a staff photographer there to supply candy to the fickle.
Yao could see the bookstore now, across the street. Clutching his camera, he dodged cars and lorries and made his way toward it. The place looked the same, except now half of it was sectioned and bordered up. Like all relics it still existed but was on its way out. Yao glanced around the area for a likely spot. There was an alleyway by the side of the building that looked promising. He approached it, slipping the cloth from over his lens with his thumb. As he approached the corner, he imagined
that this was what it would be like to stalk a gazelle in the Serengeti. He found himself creeping, his back to the dripping wet wall of the derelict bookstore. Keeping his camera to his chest, he craned his neck around the corner. It was dark, dirty, the only light that reached this narrow gap among progress was a flickering light above a back entrance. Yao could see a figure making his way through the garbage as rats scurried away. He ventured a step further to gain a better vantage point but, damn, couldn’t get the angle. Was it him? It had to be. Couldn’t be sure, the parka was covering most of his face. Yao swallowed and took another step toward him. And another. Sensing perhaps the eyes of someone behind him, figure turned to face his voyeur. Yao instinctively raised his camera in defence, “hello?” he managed, “Uh, brother…” The figure stepped away from the garbage. Said nothing as he raised his right arm to pull down his hood. As the flickering light fell upon his high cheeks and his eyes pierced the dimly lit alleyway, Yao could see that all he had heard was true. Brother Sharp was indeed just another lost soul wandering in the bowels of the city. It was him, after so many hours, he had found him. Oblivious to his fame, the bohemian babe was searching for his next meal at the bottom of the barrel. Yao stepped forward to greet him but then stopped, looked down. He noticed Brother Sharp had bare legs under his parka. Yao squinted and he saw what looked to be a hemline above his knees. Whats this? He thought, is Brother Sharp wearing a dress? It was true, a woman’s dress, dark brown, frayed with a lace trim. For a moment Yao thought to laugh but halted. “Brother…” he began 17
before his subject moved away, raising his hand as if to say no, not again. He made a noise, a moan, guttural and in pain. “I have not come to harm you, just to take a picture.” Yao stepped closer with his camera up. The rain had not ceased but had quickened. There were many rumours about exactly how Brother Sharp had come to be this way. One whisper suggested that he was the victim of an extraordinary love affair with a beautiful woman, a woman who had left him for another man which had led to him losing his mind. In another, his love had died tragically in a car accident, and another it was his father. Whichever it was, Yao saw that Brother Sharp was not the romantic hero everyone wanted him to be. He was here, in this hell for a reason. The Brother then, back against the wall began wailing silently, his eyes were squinted revealing a thousand wrinkles worn into his once handsome face, he cried dry tears and revealed horrid teeth, gums of blood and his pain wrought for all to see. He began rocking, back and forth, back and forth. Yao stepped backward as if his presence was the cause of the poor mans hurt. He glanced around to where the alley began, should he run or get help? He looked back to Brother Sharp. His camera suddenly felt unusually heavy, yet his finger hovered ready over the shutter. As Brother Sharp swayed to swipe away the world, Yao felt the impulse to shoot. He raised his camera. Looking through the viewfinder and pulling focus he framed the pathetic creature for his close-up. Hesitation then, sought justification from his soul. Perhaps, he thought, taking this picture will help him, show the world that Brother Sharp was not for them to ogle, but a man in need of
help and sympathy. He re-positioned and placed his finger on the shutter. And stopped. Brother Sharp had stopped wailing, had forgotten why he was doing so. Slowly he knelt down onto his bare knees and crawled over the damp ground toward a scrap across from him. He snatched at it and ate it. Some discarded piece of food, thought Yao, at least he hoped. Would taking this picture really help when there were already hundreds of pictures of him online, thousands of people commenting about who he might be, where he might have come from. Would one more image change any of that? No, thought Yao, a tiger in a forest is a tiger. A tiger in a cage is a big cat. Mediocrity would soon swallow Brother Sharp as people would tire and move on to another Brother soon enough. Yao lowered his camera. These are the people rendered beasts by this city. Left abandoned, they become animals, never free. Sometimes, passers by will stop and throw them a bone or a scrap, though mostly never do. Yao felt his pocket and took out his ten pack of cigarettes. He reached down, “Brother,” he called. The homeless man looked up, “Here,” said Yao. The man reached up and took the pack, stuffed it into the pocket of his parka, wanting nothing more than to be ignored.
Memetics: KnowYourMeme: Brother Sharp (犀利哥): http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/brothersharp-%E7%8A%80%E5%88%A9%E5%93%A5 | ChinaSMACK: Brother Sharp: Beggar Hailed Most Handsome, Fashionable: http://www.chinasmack.com/2010/
pictures/chinese-beggar-becomes-famous-online.html | ChinaDaily: Brother Sharp Returns Home:http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010-03/10/content_9563822.htm
省阜新市网友: 向救人者致敬！纯爷们！网易上海市网友: 要死很簡單，不要造成別人的困擾！
点）。网易河南省焦作市 的好干部~ 网易湖北省孝 易江西省南昌市网友: 想
In May 2011 a 22 year old woman wearing a wedding gown was seen attempting to commit suicide from a fourth floor balcony. She was saved by a local official who was then hailed as a hero by Chinese netizens.
区网友: 玛雅 太惊险
网友: 这样的干部才是⼈人民 感市网友: 好人有好报！网 死之前
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
PAPER DOG AND THE SUICIDE BRIDE FROM CHANGCHUN Guo put his hands in his pockets and felt his car keys. Jingled them. He had exhausted the usual procedure talk. He swatted his eyes around the small dank stairwell. The Suicide Bride had chosen, for whatever reason, the awkward square porthole of a stairway from which to launch herself. Guiyang Street had amassed a crowd, several hundred strong, anticipating her freefall. They had inflating a giant yellow dingy, started cutting the telephone cables below incase her white dress caught and sliced limbs the way down. He had been asked, ordered actually, to try and convince this girl, dressed in white finery, to relent with this childish performance and seek a solace not dependent on a concrete splatter. There had by now, elapsed
several seconds since the last time they exchanged words. Mostly she sobbed. “Hey listen, you want to hear a story?” Guo couldn't reach her from where he was standing, he could if need arose, he had reckoned, use the strut by him to launch himself at her. For now however, only his words had hope of coaxing this troubled girl from her perch. “Is it a fairytale?” She asked, wiping her cheek, not looking back. “Sure.” He said, “If you want it to be.” Guo could not see if she was still crying, though the delicate timbre of her voice gave tell of tears. “I don't like stories. Stories are lies. Stories are cruel jokes for young girls who dare to dream of handsome men. Handsome men who lie and leave and leave me. You are cruel for having suggested it.” Guo popped his cheeks at that. He supposed these dramatic turns were to be expected form a girl wearing a bridal gown attempting to leave the world. “Sorry I didn't mean to upset you. But, listen, I'm going to tell you this story anyway, if you don't mind.” He paused, “So you will just have to wait there, listen and stop being such a bitch about it all.” Guo heard her snort mucus back and take a beat. “You are a bad negotiator.” She said finally.
“Sister, I'm just a sub-district officer, I'm no negotiator. Either way by the way, you have no hostages to speak of.” “Didn't they send you up here to get me to come down? To negotiate my coming down?” “I said I'd try. Trying is all I can do. I think they think that you'd like me, that's all.” The Suicide Bride made an attempt at turning around to see his face, “Please don't move.” Guo felt himself compressing to launch at her. “Don't make any sudden, you know.” She stopped moving and sat, still in silence. Guo retracted. After a few seconds he felt it pertinent to re-initiate contact. “Are you still with me there sister?” “Yes. You said to shut up and listen. So.” Guo gulped and took a breath. He unzipped his sport jacket and brought out some chewing gum. Unwrapped the paper slowly, rolled the stick into a cylinder and began mawing. “It's a story about a paper dog.” “Okay. Go ahead. But look, I'm in a fragile state. Sad endings are not on my list of things to cry about today.” “I can't promise that, but it is a sort of fairytale but it's not a lie. It's true.” “A true fairytale sounds like a lie to me.” She said. Guo watched the Suicide Bride lean her head against the window ledge, gripping the side of the frame, her perfectly manicured nails skirting the grime aside. She was a silver silhouette of abandoned innocence. A parody of herself. Guo could usually
tell in the first few minutes whether the jumper would end up jumping. This one he wasn't so sure about, one could never be so sure when it came to that unpredictable concoction of young lust and lost love. “I'll begin the story now. Listening?” “Yes be quick. I have a date waiting for me on the ground floor.” There was absent sadness in her voice. She was close. “I will.” Guo said. And he began. “When the Paper Dog came into this world, it was a world that met him with indifference. He was an orphan puppy. He had no mother, no money and no home. In his youth, the Paper Dog yearned for a friend. A master he could call his own. Someone to look after him, play and take him for walks at the local pier, to play checkers with. Paper Dog would watch as other dogs, real dogs, would run and fetch branches for their masters. How happy they seemed, so not empty they looked. Paper Dog wanted that and so began his search. He went from doorstep to doorstep looking for a master but no-one would take him as he was just a paper dog. He would get soggy when wet, and crumble when dry and had a limp hind leg, the left one. So nogood, they said, try someplace else. He kept trying, such was the want in his heart for a young boy or girl to love him they way he could love them. So long he tried until one day. One day, much like today, the clouds parted, and an angel descended. 22
Her name was Wei-Fang. Paper Dog had met Wei-Fang at an amusement park in Yangdong. She shared some cotton candy with Paper Dog and from that day forth they were friends. WeiFang would take him everywhere, even to school as she would put him in her pocket during class. Wei-Fang even placed a paper clip on his hind leg to help with his limp. Paper Dog had never been happier. He learnt to fetch branches like other dogs, to play in the leaves and to jump trampolines. He even learnt to play guitar. It was the life he had always dreamt and more. Paper Dog loved Wei-Fang and Wei-Fang loved Paper Dog. He felt as if it would go on forever. But then one day. Quite without thinking, Wei Fang forgot to take Paper Dog out of the pocket of her jeans on the morning of laundry day. Wei-Fang's mother absent mindedly put her jeans among the heap of dirty clothes in the washing machine to be washed. Paper Dog was trapped and for all of his barking couldn't hear his cries. There was nothing he could do as Wei-Fang's mother sorted the whites from the rest, preparing the detergent for the spin cycle. From inside the pocket Paper Dog felt that it was maybe time to pray to a Paper God...“ “No!” The Suicide Bride turned to halt Guo's story from reaching tragedy. “Don't kill the dog.” “Who said I was going to kill the dog?” Guo caught a glimpse of her face for the first time. Beautiful but with hurried make-up smeared awry.
“It's a washing machine! He’s paper! If she pushes the button he'll die! Like receipts.” “Well. Yes.” “Thanks for a depressing story, sub-officer. Why did you tell me that? And you did lie, that wasn't a true story at all. What was the point?” “To show you that sometimes people are careless with things they love.” “That's shit.” “It's life.” “It's shit. And it was shit story.” “It was a story about a paper dog. Yours is not a paper heart and is not so fragile. It could handle a spin cycle and whatever your boyfriend has done it can handle that also.” The Suicide Bride looked out below her at the crowd awaiting her demise. To not fall now would be a flat ending, she thought. She glances back at Guo. A handsome man himself. She liked the way he chewed his gum and that his shoes matched his belt. “Can you reach me Sub Officer?” she looks directly at his eyes. Brown, the same colour as her former groom. “I think I can. Yes.” He says carefully. “Good.” The Suicide Bride feels her fingers relax and loosen. “You can choose how my story ends.” She shifts weight and feels gravity take hold of her soul. Guo lurches. Her dress flutters as she falls. 23
Memetics: ChinaSMACK: Suicide Jumper In Wedding Dress Saved By Local Official: http:// www.chinasmack.com/2011/stories/suicide-jumper-in-wedding-dress-saved-by-localofficial.html | Sina English: Heart-broken Woman Who Attempts Suicide Rescued: http://english.sina.com/china/p/2011/0517/373794.html | VRForums: Suicide Jumper In Wedding Dres Saved By Local Official: http://forums.vr-zone.com/chit-chatting/ 1351814-suicide-jumper-wedding-dress-saved-official.html
西⻉贝佳佳a: 他们在上面尽情的展示，完全投入了哈哈 烟消浮云散: 太玩命了，印度真的是个神奇的国度 允-樂: 人类已经无法阻止阿三了! 博洛尼大头兵老苏: 呵呵。。。这都是我们上初中时经常玩的。其实真的 没什么危险。不过这么大密度 皮肉伤。对于血气方刚的
的 这钱挣得真⾟辛苦 初级
帮助别⼈人去跟⽋欠薪的⽆无良⽼老 zf李振芳: 我的天啊，穷疯
比现在的现状，再打一场 黑绿苏打: - -在中国学的
In November 2011 a trashy YouTube video of an Indian talent show went viral across the Chinese internet. The video dubbed ‘Warriors of Goja’ showed Punjabi men carrying out death defying feats on live television. Many among the Chinese netizenry commented and compared China’s fearlessness with India.
如果印度军人都是这精神对 中印战争的话就值得担忧啊 吧。。回避！城管执法: 都
出血了 硬气功不到家啊 说三道⼋八: 流血是男人的标志 虚怀居士: 印度文明也会象中国文明一样被这样的摧
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
THE BLOOD OF THE A-SAN GOJA Ben had seen this one already. Two nights ago when he was trying to get over Leila, when he spent the night burping up calico root and carbonated grape, interspersed with ISPshielded masturbation and a Youkou search. Watching the viral video entitled 'Warriors Of Goja' was at the tail-end of that derelict night. The video was truly spectacular. It was a recording of a performance where a gang of turban headed Indians proceeded to smash bricks, blades and spikes into their flesh in reponse to horrified and baying audience members. It was a group calling themselves Warriors of Goja on what looked like some splashy Indian talent contest. Apparently the video had been copied hundred of times and was doing the rounds at the university message boards. It had sent him to a shuddered sleep, with imaginary echoes of crushed bones, shattered fluorescent tubing and shrieking voices under his stagnant dormitory bed. He had done a search for the 'Warriors of Goja' the morning after, for which the internet spewed a vast amount of similarly eye-gouging delirium. Xian and Pat had come over shortly
thereafter, as they usually did on Wednesday's before heading to Old Yang's classes. “Sikh khalsa warriors, yeah” he had told the them, “apparently it's a dying Indian martial art someplace in India. Crazy fuckers.” The others muttered, mute. Xian and Pat had become Ben's default social group that year after being selected as party leaders at the university politics constabulary. Memorable highlights over their sophmore year included a night in August where Pat came back to dorms with a particularly elderly woman convinced she was a socialite with American dollars between her thighs. Or the time all three of them draped a six storey finger salute to the principal over the western wall of their administration building, got caught and fined a hundred rembini for every storey. Or the time Pat contracted yellow fever but declined aid from either Ben or Xian to drive him to the medical centre. He slept it off with a mixture of dubious pills and Xtra Kool Cola. These were the times that Ben believed would someday be recorded in his memoirs and read by students still smoking pot in 2045. Most of the time though, they trolled on message boards and hung out, trading thoughts on the constant absolutism of the fact that their futures were foregone. Pat piped up after a while, gathering his summation, “So basically Indians are so piss-poor that they go on TV and bleed for prize-money? Have they gone crazy from poverty finally?” “How much did they win? Did they win?” Xian's head was still shaking 'no way' 26
“I don't know.” Said Ben, sipped a nutmeg tea and sat facing them. His sister had brought a bag full of strange scented teas from her trip to Europe, he had become partial to none of them except the nutmeg, mostly for the smell, the taste was okay to good. Xian slumped and put his feet up on the couch, bringing the filthy soles of his Adidas toward Ben's nutmeg. “This is exactly why no matter how much China spends on jets and missiles, a Sino-Indian war would mean a war to end all wars.” He gave a huff just then that Ben recognised was from his father, an official in the party, “Truly a mysterious country.” He said with sober weight. Pat spun around on his chair from the computer screen to the others. “Yeah but they bled. Their Qigong isn't good enough, see? They bled at the end.” That was to be expected of Pat Luwong. A flagrant some would call him, an unbearable prick but a social pragmatist. The type who would start a fight over the distinctions between Chinese homogeny by quoting Kissinger, and end it by offering the backwash of his beer. “My point Luwong,” began Xian (Here came the retort) “is that these glass eating death machines are what Indira Gandhi was talking about in the 80's. You can piss off 95% of the Indian population with no consequence, but don't piss off the Sikhs. You piss of the Sikhs you wake up with a Tata motor up your asshole. Any case, bleeding is the mark of a man.”
“You know I've been listening to you Xian, that's the third time this week you've mentioned asshole and bleeding in the same sentence. You worry me with these things brother.” “You're the asshole.” Like this they go on. “China and India are historically the wealthiest civilizations mankind has ever produced.” This was Ben's way of forward motion; the other two would patter, he would thrust ahead with solid statistic; “4,000 years we've been neighbours without a war of any significance.” “Yes except now the void has never been as big. They are a democracy, a rising one.” Pat held a his thumb and forefinger poised, a mannerism he had picked up once watching his favourite Tony Blair on television. At this eyes were rolled, “Fucking jīngyīng. Always.” spat Xian. “What did I say? It's a fact! They are a democracy. What of it, flag fucker!” “Listen, I've heard your shit about short cuts to economic prosperity. I'm on that ride and I don't care for your quibbles.” Xian stood up then and spread apart his legs in front of the others, “I’ve seen a far more impressive video, the Chinese army performing at Tianmen Square on October 1st. Seen that one? There I saw a true army! A standing army. Uniform. Perfect symmetry.” He then flapped an arm at the computer screen, behind him, “these circus bears don't scare me. Bears with beards. Beards can’t kill with friction alone. Missiles brother, heavy duty!” 27
“All these soldiers, tanks, and missiles, yet the government quivers at the thought of Youtube.” Pat took a sip of cola, “when information is your biggest enemy, it’s a hard battle to fight.” That was the button to push with Xian and Pat knew it. His nostrils would flare and his hands would grip his belt buckle in concern that his response would not defeat the point. “Who would you invest in?” He suddenly bellowed over them, quite over-dramatically. “Fuck off.” Pat had won and again, he knew it. “No, come on. Put on the fat fuck American hat on now and make a pragmatic decision. Here is the proposition: you have a million American dollars. Where would you invest your money? A country like China that can build a mini-city from blueprint to purpose in the middle of an Angolan jungle or a country whose people bathe in a river of corpses and shit in the road? Which?”
“It is a matter of systems.” He said, “India is chaos. And so they produce warriors that pummel and clash. Who eat bricks, bleed and shit houses. The Communist army of Mao was bred under the Soviets and so followed suit with their hammer and their sickle, swiping at history but leaving no trace. But Western armies? They vaunt individualism and liberal morality, engendering armies that brand themselves with tattoos and watch copious AV. Ours? Well like you say, they are uniform and follow a singular march. A perfect symmetry bereft of any margin for anything beyond form and structure. It follows then, that ours are akin to the system that produced it. Like prisoners in a jail cell” He looked up, “It is a matter of systems.” Memetics: ChinaSMACK: Warriors of Goja on Indian Talent Show Goes Viral In China: http:// www.chinasmack.com/2011/videos/warriors-of-goja-on-indian-talent-show-goes-viralin-china.html | YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLVPbeEaxGM
Always like this, Ben thought. They would wind themselves into sprockets of righteousness. Baiting and scathing with illinformed suppositions. Plotting not to solve, never to solve, but to abet the debates of the day. That's how they would go on for hours, staking their right to bellow hardest, digging into ever thinning ground to throw sand grenades with insistence at each other. Eventually their words would wilt and the flat cola would bring them to an inevitable come down. After a pregnant pause, Xian tilted his head.
市网友]: 不是漠视，是不敢，要是遇上南京法官，就死定了 杀农民工 [网易北京市朝
你会去救不？网易广东省河源市网友: 走过的那些人是畜生，不对，畜生有的都有感情最起码会停下来看 看，路过那十八个猪也得
友 [贱男春浪贱]: 楼上那
们只是凡人，看到这样的 但我会和那18个人一样麻 人！！！！Jasonwu: 自己，我们在怕什么？六
On October 13th a 2 year old girl dubbed ‘Little Yue Yue’ was involved in a hit and run accident in Foshan. The resulting CCTV video depicting seventeen people passing by the body of the bleeding girl went viral around the world and prompted many Chinese netizens to call into question issues within their society.
事情我只能用心痛来形容， 木。。。因为我是一个普通 把责任推给社会，问问我们 十夕
缺德的时候! 做个自然人: 我中国人大部分基本已经处于变态！网易江苏省苏州市网友: 哭 了。。
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
THE DIARY OF LITTLE YUE YUE Diary of Wang Yue, Aged 15 Tuesday 12th There is a firefly above me. It dances along a breeze. It keeping me up and I cannot sleep but am too afraid to call for company. I must outgrow my fright of the night. That will be my first resolution as a woman. I will try to declare more before my sixteenth. My mother says my eyes grow older by the day. I think she means my inside. My insides feel growth even though the rest of me seems not to. I must forget pretenses. Pray more and find love. Be with a boy at least once, alone, but not go too far too soon. Attend more rehearsal. On my next birthday I will look back at this entry and either smile or wince. Either way, it's good to plan. Tuesday 19th I heard a horrible rumour today. There was a girl in our year that did something really bad. I did not know her but she wasn't a dance girl. She had become pregnant and was only 14 so. She bled and bled but did not die. It was the reason rehearsal
was suspended that Monday afternoon. I don't know how to feel, I didn't know her. Everyone was so sorry though I don't know, I didn't know her. I feel sorry for the janitor that had to clean up. It seems selfish. Too me it is stupid and careless. Even Chen was upset. I don't know. They blamed she had no friends. She had friends, I had seen her with the Pusan girl. They blamed the school some of them, that they should look after their girls better. Well, I got to the same school. My wrists remain. Not sure if they will tell us what happens tomorrow. Tuesday 26 At dance rehearsal today Lai told us all to try extra hard tomorrow. I didn't know why but I guess that there will be someone from Běijīng Wǔdǎo Xuéyuàn. Most probably to watch the other girls. Most probably Fay-lee. I could be as good as her if I pushed myself harder but I don't know, I'm scared. I know I need to push myself harder. My mother always says. But it is a myth that every girl wants to be a ballerina. I know no other but the attention seeking is not as strong in me as it is in other girls. Though most girls want to be married or sing pop songs in their underwear. They think they can have sex with boys with harmonicas and end up famous like Poppy Ku. I dislike those girls. My future asks for not so much but at least more than that, not to be someone important just not someone like that. Sometimes I feel like I am older than I am. Music doesn't move me in ways that it does others. I know that. I 30
know that I am not so important and where I live is not so nice but every morning I wake up and there is still something in me that wants to do something with my feet, my legs, my body. At least that's something and it's all I need for now. Tuesday 2 My father took me for a long car ride today through the wheat fields to my aunty's house in Hezou. A red roof house I remember only in memories of when I was a child. I enjoyed the car ride there. I sometimes do that thing where I fix my eyes on a spot out the window and watch as the world becomes one blurry constant until we stop and something holds. There are horses here and my father sometimes swears in English as we swerve the shit on the roads. I think I like the countryside more than the city. In the city the buildings stay still, solid things that don't react, here the trees reach over and touch one another. They mingle grow outwardly into the world. No wonder my aunt smiles more than my mother does. I always liked her. But I heard a story once that she drowned my mothers kittens in a river when they lived in Zhaoqing together. After my accident they hardly spoke until recently. Family matters they say, no matter feuds or whatever, blood is thicker than river water they say. Anyway, I'm sure she had her reasons.
Tuesday 9th Raining today. It has rained all week. Writing this in class and I'm watching the face of the clock slowly leak time. I've lost interest in Chen. He seems to like Fay-lee anyway. I saw him look at her legs just now, she wears those knee socks that boys drool over. I don't care anyway. It is they who are abnormal for that stuff. I'm not so curious anymore anyway. I'm happy here, back of the class where I can see things as they really are. The __ between the lines. Noticing noticing. I sometimes wonder what would happen if someone were to find this and read all this stuff aloud to class. Doubt anyone would care, apart from the bits in which they feature anyway. Maybe once I'm done with this I will burn it, it'll evaporate as if it never existed. Tuesday 16 I read something in the paper today about a newborn baby left abandoned by whoever. When the nurses found the child, she had callouses on her lips as if strays had beaten them to it. Sometimes I think that the world would be a nicer place if I didn't read newspapers. Like I wouldn't see the ugliness if I never looked in the mirror. Would it be better that way or worse? If for a moment or two people just went on unreflecting, not blind just unseeing. Just function. Moving forward, forward, forward never pausing to assess because most of the time their judgements are based on nothing anyway. When I was young I used to be curious about such things. But now reading this 31
back I see it's naïve to hope the world was a certain way when it isn't ever. I wonder what my older self will make of this and the me that was, and the world that was the way it is, as it is now. Tuesday 20th I noticed today that I have lived a while having never really experienced love. I was listening to a Beatles song on the train yesterday and I thought of that. The train whistled through the city, boxes after boxes. And there I was listening to the Beatles sing about some other girl. It made no sense to me, like most things. After that it made me sad I guess. Recently most songs about love make me sad. I don't know why, perhaps I am getting depressed. The other day I saw a crow peck at another dead crows eyes. I was at a bus stop and I just kept staring and staring. I wasn't disgusted, this is just what happens in nature I think. I felt nothing. Maybe that means I will never know about love maybe not. I wish I could fast forward and see how this all pans out. But it turns out life isn't like it is on video, there is no close up or button to skip over unpleasant events. But whatever. People are like passing clouds. Maybe someday...
Memetics: ChinaSMACK: Yueyue: A Tragedy of 3 Seconds & Flawed Heroism: http:// diaspora.chinasmack.com/2011/malaysia/christine-tan-yueyue-a-tragedy-of-3seconds-flawed-heroism.html | The Hypermodern: death by Indifference: http:// www.thehypermodern.com/2011/10/19/death-by-indifference/ | ChinaDaily: Youths Search Their Soulds After Yue Yue’s death: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/ 2011-10/27/content_13990087.htm | Shanghaiist: Hit and Run Toddler Victim Yueyue P a s s e s A w a y : h t t p : / / s h a n g h a i i s t . c o m / 2 0 11 / 1 0 / 2 1 / h i t - a n d run_toddler_victim_yue_yue.php | TIME: A Small Incident, Echoes Of China’s Tragic Yue Yue Case From Almost A Century Ago: http://world.time.com/2011/10/20/a-smallincident-echoes-of-the-chinas-tragic-yue-yue-case-from-almost-a-century-ago/
Tuesday 27th Last night before I went to bed my mother hugged me. She said if
cui404739600: 这些⼈人都该枪毙！ 连给⾃自⼰己打下江⼭山的⾰革命⽼老前辈都这样欺负！ 更 百姓了！ 天使糟蹋我: 我们都想国家好~可是这个国家 太多的畜生 太多
吗~让我们拭⺫⽬目以待 看看 这个所谓“社会主义国家”能折腾到几时。 可悲 可叹。tianshijieJIEER: 大爷 看那 机烂成那样 估计只能
万的样子 诡刺211: 狗日
峰⻛风峰: 禽兽 这样对待⽼老
⾰革命 还有⼈人性吗 国家对于
midea88: 中国特色 平庸
的巴掌: 连抗⽇日英雄的房⼦子 In Janurary 2011 a retired war veteran came home to find that his
都敢拆，⾃自⼰己当年和众多 house had been demolished overnight by development personnel. 连⾃自⼰己⽴立⾜足的地⽅方都没有 The old man came out to ‘meet the enemy’ and commandeered one of their excavators in protest. 钱，看利益了，还会管他 ⽼老⾰革命，住院看病⽋欠⼀一点 药。草原之 : 一个没有生机和希望的民族。xiangbudaoni: 怒火中烧
英雄们打下的天下，现在却 热⽔水器: 现在这世道都只看 是不是⽼老⾰革命。我爷爷也是 钱没来得及交，就⻢马上停
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
THE CONFESSIONS OF COMRADE WAI After the bulldozers left, leaving one lonely excavator perched atop the rubble, she came. They sat for a while in silence as they often did. It occurred to him then that he couldn't remember the last time she looked at his eyes this way, deep, as if she saw his truth already. Patient and still, her mood was patterned in the way she held his hands in hers. There was no need to wonder why, given the occasion. It was early and he felt the chill in his shinbones and back. Gently, gently, he unlinked one of his hands away and traced his flyblown fingers through a mound of gravel by his side. He pinched some grain and sprinkled the speckles of his former home into his granddaughters palm and smiled. His face caked in baked cement, it made his eyelids crack and disintegrate dust. He blew a wisp away from his face. “I promised didn't I?” He said closing her palm over the ashes of his ex-house, “didn't I? That one day all that was mine would be yours.” At that she offered him that gift of her own smile. A smile that caressed and unbound his torn guts with mercy. There was a something else in her eyes now. He tilted his head
up so as to see through his cataracts. Her eyes were wounded, yes. No doubt his misery had cut her a hole inside. “What have you called me here for grandpa? Is it to make me cry?” She wilted. “Never. Rather I would perish, here in this housing graveyard.” “What did the developer say, he visited you yesterday?” “Ah same old shit. Nothing new. He didn't even come out of his car. He sent some young punk.” “What did he say?” “Nothing new! Same shit. Always.” “And the journalists?” He watched her look around at the now silenced noise of scattered rubble, tiles and fragments of wooden beams pointing out of dunes of hollowed out hovels. It had not taken long to reduce the messy familiarity into neat piles of nothingness. The others had all taken the money and ran to new homes, new lives, their own designated corner of the new world. Even his neighbour the old navy man and his wife had left him alone, there, with nothing. It wasn't nostalgia that kept him here. Nostalgia was for pricks. He stayed to fight. The urban housing developers had offered him a pittance to be rehoused someplace further out of the city, the fringes, as ‘progress’ ebbed finally onto his doorstep. He was a veteran he insisted, he had marched all his life but never fled the future. He would meet the enemy at his door and that's where they found him the day the excavators came and crushed the brick walls around his home. One morning he arrived from the pharmacy 34
after collecting his cocktail to find what he believed to be the roof he would die under obliterated. But it wasn't his house he mourned, though they never understood that. The future was a succubus. “The journalists.” He said and nothing more. “We keep getting letters. Offers. Deals. Of course, you know we won't do anything unless you are there with us.” She said it in that tone. Comrade Wai breathed and noted that this was a trait that she picked up from her mother. A reassuring tone, a hint that his opinion still mattered to people. That they cared. False fiction. Nevertheless. “You're a good girl.” He said, patting her palm and dusting off the gravel from her hands. It was time. Holding himself steady, the old man switched curses to his confounded knees, clicking them in place with a clack. He stood as his grand daughter followed on beside him. “I know what you're thinking. I will leave soon enough. When I'm ready. Of my own will. No orders. Not anymore.” “We all wish you weren't so stubborn.” “I'm sure you all do.” “And you know we have your best interests at heart.” “Oh this we, we, we.” He halted his steps just then, so she would know that he meant it. “I have one request of you child.” “Anything.”
“I wish for you to speak to me as yourself and not as them. No more we. Just me. And you. The birds are spies but no matter them.” She took his arm, her mittens against his flanneled overcoat. Just like she did as a girl he thought, and softened instantly. “There is a reason I asked you to come to me today.” “Yes. “The day today is December 14th ‘two thousand and eleven.’ ” He said the last words in English, “I am not an educated man. I am not some snobby egg head.” He stopped again and spotted a mound he could sit by. They moved over. He felt the pointed bones in his ass judder as he sat. He suddenly felt conscious of being an old bastard dragging a dove around a shit-storm. “What was the reason Grandpa? Why did you ask me here.” She knelt in front of him. Okay, it was time, he thought and rolled his shoulders in place as he began. “There are few people in this world from whom I wish to gain acceptance. You little girl are one.” Twenty or so years - the numbers were a haze by now - twenty or so years ago, Wai awoke to his Grandaughter screaming. Then a girl of four or maybe five, running, barefoot, in distress. She awoke him, lead him by the hand to the wall of the old house in Nanjing, the little place he knew he missed but could never picture. There, spray painted in white, on the wall he built
first, some stealthy wretch had written words that seized back evaporated memories from within his mind. “Pity for the guilty is treachery for the innocent.” it read. She had asked the meaning behind those strange glyphs, he remembered. They were old ivory whispers. It was not time then, of course, to tell her. He had decided that day that the past needed to gather more moss before the words revealed their meaning. It was an old man's story not for telling then. But now, twenty or so years later after a half-life worth of progress it was time to confess. “I remember that.” The girls eyes flickered to the middle distance as she spoke, as if following fireflies caught in her irises, “I was young, I awoke you and I was confused. I remember reading an unfamiliar words.” “Do you think you know me child? My past life before the likes of you appeared and breathed happiness into this old basket? Recite it for me then.” “Of course Grandpa, you were a revolutionary hero. Brave, fearless, daring to die for the motherland. You won many battles and defended this nation against the Japanese, the Nationalists and - “ “Yes.” He said to stop her. “Yes.” he said again to let her finish. “You were a member of the New Fourth Army, you were at Wannan and HuaHuai.”
“Stop.” He closed his eyes and nodded. “You were always a good listener. You remember all my stories and can recite my glories.” He brushed up his sleeve and exposed his forearm. There, skin green papery and dry, his tattoo, faded with his memories were the letters of his regiment: N4A. Comrade Wai used to tell people it was Mao's right arm, not his. “History is a lie. As are all stories. This country is full of beasts and moths child, and I am a traitor.” “What?” “I am a traitor. I have lied to you all but especially you my dear. I must confess finally, you above all, the one that dotes the most, must know that your grandfather is a traitor.” “I don't understand. Speak to me.” Comrade Wai sheathed his forearm again and held his hands together into a cup. Two palms, opposites. “Long ago when the land was divided, there were but two ways of divining the paths ahead. Either we were here, bunkered together as brothers or we were dogs, bearing our teeth and fighting over every scrap of meat. I chose to fight along brothers and for Mao. For sacrifice and the good of our children and the nation, of us all. That was the China we wanted to build.” “You won that fight Grandpa. You were victorious.” Comrade Wai leant forward then and took hold of his knees, pressing his legs into the earth. He felt as if time had cheated him of his hour, a pitiless joke, cursed to play is part as the perpetual cast off, with thunder clouds above sapping him of his 36
forward motion. Even the liquid eyes of his grand daughter would not soften this compaction he felt inside. Wai looked about him at the dust and sunder, “Yes we did didn’t we? Win. Look around you. What has this victory achieved?” His grandaughter fluttered as Wai went on possessed, “I could stand and mark a circle around my feet and some city suit would come and tell me to remove my shoes. Yes, we won our fights, indeed.” He grabbed her and pulled her closer, “There, that was the treachery! I see their motorcades. I see the red flags on their car bonnets as they drive by. The flag I helped to mast. I have sent slugs into mens chests for that flag. I have killed for it. Raped for it.” She was silent, air escaping her chest. “I shot down a line of rabble women and sliced open the horses of the enemy. I cheered at the trickle of Japanese blood and stole their boots before butchering their bodies.” He stood now, “I have forced myself onto the six women in Yunan because we all believed we were siring a mighty dawn. I did all this for the red flag. For a revolution that devours its children and it’s elders alike. This is not Mao’s China. The greatest betrayal is having helped it into being.” Comrade Wai stood and looked behind him, pointing at the digging arm of the excavator gloating over the mass of plasterboard and roofing beneath it. “And now I sleep, cold, clothed in shit inside a rusted cabin of a fucking Japanese imported excavator. Hitachi it says. The same blasted iron arm that demolished my house. I have lost the ending to my story, a
quiet place to end my days. My history, buried beneath rubble, swept away by a future I thought I destroyed. What replaces me? What replaces me!” He felt himself shaking. His chest clogging the phlegm up into his throat, gumming his breathing. He looked over and saw a tear escape his granddaughters eye. He went to swipe it away but she caught his arm midway. Held it tight. “No more stories.” She said. And then Comrade Wai heard the last words before she turned and left, “tomorrow you'll sign the papers and forget all of this.” He signed the papers but never did he forget. It was his last act of defiance.
Memetics: ChinaSMACK: Elderly Communist Revolutionary Evicted, Home Demolished: http:// www.chinasmack.com/2011/stories/elderly-communist-revolutionary-evicted-homedemolished.html | Caixin Online: Man To Auction Bulldozer After Forced Demolition: http://english.caixin.com/2011-01-11/100215746_1.html\ | ChinaDaily: Ex-Soldier, 82, Can’t Be Found After Demolition: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-01/13/ content_11846675.htm
č‰žćœŞćœŞ Ai Weiwei @aiww RT @chinhaihuang5: ä¸ŠćŹĄĺŠśĺ„żçš„ć˛Ąčľśä¸ŠďźŒč‚ ĺ?çŽ°ĺœ¨čż˜ć˜Żé?’çš„ă€‚čż™ĺ›žć€ťçŽ—é€Žĺˆ°č€ č™Žäş†đ&#x;?Ż@fzhenghu: ĺ?ŻäťĽčĄĽä¸Šĺ€şä¸ťçš„é‚Žĺ?€ă€‚RT @ya8152ďźšć˛Ąćœ‰
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č‰žćœŞćœŞ Ai Weiwei @aiww
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RT @sex_gunner: @aiww
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Weiwei @aiww ĺĽ‡ćƒłĺ•Š
@xiaolin_1 @aiww ć‰“çŽ—ĺ€&#x;
ćœŞćœŞ Ai Weiwei @aiww ć—ĽćŠĽç¤žčŽşçš„ć„?ć€?ă€‚ RT
Artist and dissident Ai Wei Wei has become a globally recognised figure and his his tweets and commentary on the Chinese state and politics has pushed some fans to translate his words into English for the rest of us.
qidelong741 Shameless country and cursing his own country...
ĺ…śĺŽƒçš„ć–‡çŤ äť…äť…äťŁčĄ¨äşşć°‘ @liudimouse: ç?†čŽş // traitor, eating his own
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
FIVE QUESTIONS FROM @AIWW “Even if you did find him and talk to him, he won't remember you. No way, he'll remember you.” Sarah had repeated those words, Alex remembered. It was ust before he kissed him goodbye by the bookstand at Terminal 5. With the receipt of his newly purchased copy of DeLillo's Underworld folded in his palm, he had pinched her chin and informed her that he was not one to do things half-hearted, that the personal response from Ai Weiwei himself to one of his tweets wasn't in itself reason enough to traverse half the globe to seek an audience with the man himself. He understood that. But there comes a time, he told her, when a man chooses to call himself out on his own bullshit. That hit the spot. She had liked that. 'Fucking rebel,' she called him, 'Be Bold. And bring me back some tofu.' A Hallmark moment, and left him at security, clutching his laptop and duffel bag stuffed with pot-noodle and not much else. That was two days ago, when the idea of the 'audition' seemed still bright in his mind and any bearing of consequence for taking a week out fom his semester were furthest. But now, the perfectly placed cobble stones in front of the studio gate
made his 'Made In China' Adidas trainers aware of themselves. He was sweating and had convinced himself that he had caught a cold from the shitty plane journey, ten hours, to Beijing the previous night and had woken up with an ungodly migraine. There was no buzzer at the gate, and strictly speaking no gate, just an open arched entrance and what looked like a mews ahead. Just then he heard what could have possibly been a security camera whirr itself into life above and behind him. He pulled his hood over his forehead. This was for no other reason save that he very much felt that it was befitting of the place, the time, the gate. He entered the red brick enclave tracing a faint smell of earth and burning wood in the air. Crash. It echoed, the sound, shimmering against the walls as he entered. What was it? Who knew. A mystery. A million pieces of something ancient had been demolished, no doubt. Somewhere, some chamber, with a stone floor, now covered in fragments. Alex continued on. The mews was a vast square, a space surrounded by walls. Red brick with a criss-cross hatch and doors placed equidistant. Crash.
It was coming from the left. It sounded larger now, a bass note, there were definite fragments flying, he heard them now surrounded by space and air. He approached one door, wooden with a black, no something more, an almost obsidian knob, he'd say. Twisted it. It was not locked. He peeked through at a wooden wheel, stacked on top of stools, chairs, splattered with acrylic paints and white cloths smeared with colour. A storage space, cramped and dark. He closed the door and waited a moment for another crash. There was not a soul around him and he could hear no voices or laughter. He had expected laughter. Whatever was causing the clamour existed beyond these four walls. He approached the second door, another obsidian knob. Turned it toward him, then against, which opened it with a clack. It was the entrance to a larger room, a huge space where the ceilings were vaulted above. He had seen photos of this room, he felt a familiarity with the plinths and tables, wooden and speckled with paint. A woman appeared from behind a polystyrene screen just then, wearing a similarly speckled apron. Alex suddenly became aware of his lack of Cantonese, opened his mouth to speak. She nodded to him, smiling, past him, past the open door. He closed his mouth, and stepped forward past a pillar betraying a pencil mark from its construction. Everything, in fact, around him spoke to him of process, things were in the middle of becoming. Hans Obrist once said that all of Weiwei's work asked the same question: “when is art?”. He long wondered about that. When
not what. He was surrounded by objects and half objects, progressing. A little way on, he saw the shuffling of people working. They were sidestepping ten-foot porcelain vases that looked as they were dipped in deep cauldrons of pale, kitschy acrylic colours. People were looking them up, then down, pressing their ears against them, knocking, listening to the art echoing back, deciding whether its reply was worth their time. He approached one of the men, tapping him on the shoulder. “I'm looking for Ai Weiwei.” He said in Cantonese. He was aware he had an accent. The man gestured with his head behind him, silently. Alex turned and saw, on the other side of the pavilion, Ai Weiwei on the phone, texting or tweeting, wearing black slacks and baby blue polo shirt, more hair on his chin than his shaven head. Alex sniffed back his alleged cold and walked over, catching Ai Weiwei's eyes as he approached. “Hi.” Ai Weiwei spoke first, out stretching his hand. “Hello, it's really a great honour to meet you,” Alex said, trying not to sound too groupie. “Thanks.” He was probably used to this, Alex thought, random fans of his work, his celebrity walking in, disrupting his flow and claiming whatever important fraction of his day, to take a photo, take a piece. “My name is Alex. I follow you on Twitter.” Alex blurted, “and so once you replied to something I tweeted you. And that's why. That's why I'm here because I came from London two days ago.” 40
“Okay. I'm happy someone listens.” He said smiling, accommodating. “Well exactly. That's kind of why I'm here. I was wondering if you had a minute to listen to my idea.” Crash. Alex spun around and saw a formerly ten foot vase, now shattered fragments on the concrete floor. The silent man, who nodded him away just a moment ago, standing there with outstretched arms, looking dissatisfied with the fall. Ai Weiwei, looked non-plussed, tapped him on the arm gesturing to walking inside. “Yeah sure. You an artist?” He said, stepping inside toward an open macbook and a kitchen with mugs, tea bags and dishes piled, in this context, like a sink experiment. “Oh no, I'm an engineering student. I don't know anything about art, really.” He offered him sat at a stool at a white table, set up probably for journalists and the like that fluttered through here on occasion. “You sit here. Give me two minutes.” Alex nodded as Ai Weiwei sat at the laptop opposite. Tapping the keyboard instantly. Tweeting, Alex thought and tried to look away but kept wondering whether he was featuring in whatever tweet he was just now firing off. His eyes caught sight of some sort of
porcelain vase with a smear of industrial paint dripping down from the tips. He had heard of that work. A collection of Han dynasty pottery irrevocably altered from ancient to contemporary. A snark at a contemporary Chinese culture doing the same with its history. “You like that piece?” Ai Weiwei had been watching him. “I think it's genius.” Alex said, he was being honest. Ai Weiwei gestured to stand and walk with him over to the pot. “What does it tell you. This art piece. You.” Ai Weiwei was looking at the thing, a studied peer. “I guess. It makes me think. It's so ancient, and means so much. There is so much value placed upon it culturally but. Well. Well now it's the same colour of my sisters i-Pod. Which makes me think. I guess. How old is it?” “Neo-lithic. Very old. Priceless, in fact.” Ai Weiwei touched it, tilted it. “And it's ruined.” Said Alex without much thought. It was a fact. Ai Weiwei laughed at that and looked at him. “It hurts every time I smash one.” Laughed again, and sat down. He cupped his hands together and sat, slumped with a battered non-smart phone in his hands. “So you had an idea?” “Um yes, I guess I do.” “And you came all the way here to ask me, so ask me.” He smiled, expectant.
“Well, I said that I follow you. I also retweet you endlessly. I think that when you say things, you say things that spark ideas in people. You wake them up. Shake them up. Because of what you do, and how you express your ideas. It's a great inspiration to people, actually.” He had practiced this pitch sixty two times on the plane here. Be flattering but don't suck his dick, Sarah had instructed, he's a guy who has shit to say, so are you. “What you say should be on posters, be on t-shirts, your tweets are signposts. But there's one thing.” Here came his USP, “you tweet in Chinese.” Alex leaned in. “So my proposition is that I set up a website, blog, tumblr maybe from England, where I can officially translate your tweets to English for your English speaking audience.” It was difficult to tell if he was interested in any of the words coming out of his mouth. His beard, black with flecked grey strung out like alternating current from his cheeks, made the focus of his face his eyes and the top of his head, that creative cranium. His fingers knit through the hairs on his forearm for seconds while listening before returning to the plastic buttons of his mobile phone, in what seemed like their ready state. “Interesting idea but you didn't have to come here to do that. You could have just started.” “I wanted it official. To get your permission. To audition for you. Here.” “I understand. An audition.” He thought about this, “you know here I do what I want. Within these walls. Sometimes outside
too. This gets me into a lot of trouble, though, you know. Outside. But inside here I can go on my own power trip and sometimes it is not nice for the people who have to work with my ego. It might have been easier to just do it without asking. I would not have minded.” “I wanted to ask. Your words are powerful and so. I felt that responsibility, I guess.” “You know this digital world. It's very interesting, the kind of communication we have for this generation. It's like a gang fight. It's exciting. You are right, it changes people. It changes society. This massiveness of individuals. It's truly freedom. That's why I tweet so much, actually.” “But in Chinese. There are people out there that can't hear you but exist in that space.” “Yes but it's different. In English you can give some singular information or something. But in Chinese, the words are so complicated. It's the nature of the language. 140 characters could give so much, so many more ideas, double meanings. I could write a short novel, tweeting with Chinese words.” He placed his phone on the table and spun around, “To me it's wonderful. Every tweet is like an exhibition. I can open a hundred time a day if I wanted. And 154,621 people would turn up every time. It's important to what I try to do.” “Yes, of course.” Crash. 42
The ancient clatter of destruction was ignored by Ai Weiwei so it was ignored by Alex too. “How about this. I ask you five questions.” “Okay.” “If you get them all right, then I will give you my permission.” “Um okay.” “But. If you answer even one incorrectly, then you will not get my permission. Okay? “Okay. Okay. What kind of questions?” “I don't know. I will make them up as I go. And there may be sub-questions!” He laughed. “Right.” Alex laughed then too, his was nervous but determined, he had asked for this after all. “Okay.” Ai Weiwei began, “five questions. First question.” Alex watched as he searched his mind for what in all probability would be a surreal exchange. His eyes were closed and then opened having settled on some mischeif in his mind. “First question: What makes you, Alex, most happy?” His mind raced, images, faces, places, flashed before him. Then a word. “Freedom.” “Elaborate.” Weiwei was not satisfied. He thought for a moment. “Choice. Not like, which tomato sauce choice. Real choice. Like. The freedom to love or leave.” He waited for a response.
“Good. Question two: What makes you sad?” “My dad leaving.” He paused, he spoke without thinking, but then shrugged. “He was free?” Asked Weiwei. “Maybe he felt more so.” “Okay.” He stroked his beard and leant back in his chair. Satisfied. Alex, wondered what have been the wrong answer to that question. Or whether there was one. The image of his father came into his mind. Ai Weiwei continued. “Question Three: “What's your biggest fear?” Alex looked down at his fingernails. Grime underneath the tips. He picked at his index as he thought. “That what I do doesn't matter. That this doesn't go well? That I go back to England and just continue to study and hate Engineering. And just continue being mediocre.” “Mmm.” Ai Weiwei was studying him. Deeply, his eyes had a calculating. “Question Four: To what or whom are you most loyal?” “To my girlfriend I guess.” “You guess?” He smiled. “To myself.” Alex said, puzzled at himself for saying that. Thinking about Sarah. Shit. “Your girlfriend. If you could” he began, “would you destroy something you love to begin again anew?” He asked that without a beat. “Is this the last question?” Alex asked. Ai Weiwei shrugged. 43
“Um” he said. Maybe it was the previous question or the manner in which they were asked but he was thrown. His conscience was tugging him. Be fearless. Be human. “I don't think so. No.” He said finally. Ai Weiwei nodded. Like a sage, he sat there. His phone spinning like a pebble on the desk. “That was the last question. Thank you for answering. Words are important. I'm glad you came.” He smiled. “So. Do I have your permission to set up?” “No. I'm sorry. You don't.” Again, not a beat. “Wait. What? I...” The surreality of what just happened formed before him caught up with his conscience, sat there in front of an internationally reknown artist and activist, a man who stood and spoke for what he believed in, and then himself sat there having been emotionally catapaulted by his strange and peculiar questioning. “I don't get how any of those questions could have had a wrong answer. I'm sorry.” “Yes. It is a great injustice.” With that he raised his phone, aiming the camera lens at Alex and raising his other hand made a 'Fuck you' sign with his left index finger at his face. A camera click, he took the picture. Smiled. Flipped the phone to show Alex. A signature shot of Ai Weiwei giving the finger to his bemused face, sat there in the background. “I'll tweet you that picture.” Said Ai Weiwei and stood up to leave.
Alex stood then, with a sullied feeling of WTF just happened in his gut. Some weird sense of yes, injustice but also a caustic detachment from everything around him. His legs started walking him away. Desk, the laptop, the splatters of colour on dusty pillars. Past the plinth with the the ruined neolithic vase. Crash. Correction. Former-neolithic vase. Hi looked over and saw that his arm was hovering over where the former vase stood. He suddenly felt the weight of the blood that had apparently rushed to his head and temporarily numbed his frontal lobe, the part of his brain that tells him, No. Stop. You don't want to smash a priceless antique. His felt his spleen noose itself around his stomach in an attempt to choke his guts as he looked of the broken splinters of history. His arm fell to his side as he glanced back and saw Ai Wewei, arms folded staring at the fragments of broken pottery. Hand made by ancient Chinese hands, in Han China. Monotone, he said, “What did you do?” “Smashed it. Smashed the ancient pot.” Said Alex, turning. There was a pause as Ai Weiwei seemed to be assessing whether it sounded right smashing. “Did it hurt?” He asked. “Not really.” Ai Weiwei then began to laugh. Billowy and amused. 44
“You see?” He said palms flat gesturing to the fragments, “you must destroy something to create something. Smash something to learn something else. Lose something of value to - ” “To create something worth anything.” “And be bold.” Alex stood there in what he perceived to be a moment between the two. Ai Wewei turned to leave, “Call me Weiwei” trailed his voice behind him. Leaving Alex, hand frozen by his side, staring at the empty space where he had been, amid the broken fragments of which some tiny Chinese woman had appeared and began sweeping away from around his feet.
Memetics: Birds Nest: Ai Wei Wei On Twitter In English: http://aiwwenglish.tumblr.com/ | Twitter: https://twitter.com/aiww | Twitter: https://twitter.com/aiwwenglish
Allen Taylor: 沙發 霍建波: 中国人来了王志永: 总统啊,要尊重人权啊,你自由了伊拉克,利比亚是不是也该给 我们自由一下下
佳斌: Obama, you do not contribute to world peace, but earlier get the Nobel
peace prize, do not you feel ridiculous? You to attack terrorists without the permission of a sovereign state without authorization to send 沙发 troops into the country, and the manslaughter of a few 60 people in this country, and finally, only say “We regret that”. Please tell me what is your human rights? Joepo Ding:这个就是⾃自由的味道 吗？tianhao shen: 知道 为什么你们那么容易抢到 沙发吗？那是因为外国人
色”吧 王华庭: 实在不好意
总统不要只盯着中国可以 ⾃自由。总统能够施加您的 语哦
facebook，we hate great
After Google introduced an uncensored social network for Chinese netizens in February 2011 many took up the call to ‘Occupy Barack Obama’s Google+ page.’ by sending spam messages to his comment thread. Many claiming it was the first time they had the chance to air their views so strongly.
赚钱，中国更需要民主和 影响的。闵晨: 我说的是英 freedom,we need fire wall. 秋山晴子: 你们不
CHINESE DISSONANCE 中国失调
+SOFA Brian sat for a second and noticed that the leather chair he bought at Staples two winters ago fit the curvature of his butt a little too well that morning. Was he becoming a hermit? Not a good sign. Shit, there was a taste of ammonia in his mouth, probably from the pillow he had failed to dry-clean after the cat had peed in the bed two nights ago. Shrugged. He dusted the crumbs off the keyboard of his battle-scarred macbook and realised he hadn't spoken to a single person in over three weeks. His two roommates, of course, notwithstanding. He finger hovered above the on switch but there was a dull sense of gloom hovering over his heart that made him stop and retract. It was never a good move to start renting with a couple, he thought, remembering that he got that advice a little too late. Mikey and Judy started off being fucked up funny to watch fighting but since July, the ennui of their three year relationship was beginning to show signs that both of them were truly awful people when together. The arguments just got sad to watch by the end, like watching two people coming to terms with a bad smell in a small room. It was the same gross regression that he had experienced with Damon Lindelof while watching the end of season six of Lost for the third, fourth time. But anyway, it was getting uncomfortable. More than uncomfortable. Almost debilitating. He had begun to store food in his room so as to not
cross their paths in the kitchen. There were knives in the kitchen. Despite this, for some reason, watching their portrait of young love turn sour, didn't stop him wanting companionship, some other person to exist with, a little mutual sex. He reached for a can of Diet Coke and slurped. Tasted flat, he thought, and then wondered whether the astringency of cat piss had somehow damaged his ability to taste anything meaningful. Or maybe it was his loneliness. Either way, he needed other people, this was becoming clear. Time to start the day. His macbook whirred into life and taking another slurp of Diet Coke, Brian inspected an open bag of chips on his desk. His eyes found the bouncing email icon chirping for attention, clicked it and then, rubbing his eyes clear of sleep mucus, scanned his unread inbox for the days instruction. First message, under his name in nice bright Veranda 8 point was an invitation from Google+ to 'join the conversation', just launched. He vaguely remembered typing in his e-mail address into something or other in regard to a Google+. Whimsically, almost like a child asked to join a freight train, Brian wondered whether this, maybe the fourth, fifth network of digital foster friends he'd been asked to join, would yield a person who would give a damn about him. Worth a shot, he clicked. That would be his Monday. Brian filled in his profile, mechanically, unconsciously, autofilling what his browser said he could, his fingers twitching their way 47
through the form. Under interests he wrote: “TV” and then deleted it and wrote instead “Good TV. i.e Grey’s Anatomy, BG and Naruto. He decided to leave it at that. Next. Ah. Suggested friends. Perhaps, there were others out here, paired with his projected self, that the internet would toss his way. He browsed through a peppering of faces. None of whom, in his internet-induced bias toward off-hand dismissal, seemed remotely interesting enough to add to any circle of his own. He pilfered another rice cookie. Browsed on. He eyes fell on familiar looking smile, charming, disarming. Barack Obama. Oh come on. His official page? Sure was. Well, thought Brian, he always felt like the type of guy a young Barack Obama would share a toke with. It was a better place to start than any, he thought, and moved the mouse over the 'follow' box. Click. There. Followed. Barack Obama is now a follow friend. A facebubble in a circle of acquaintances numbering +1. Brian stared at that circle and for a minute felt the urge to fill it up, like a bucket, with as many people he could find to water down the amount of white space on the page. He wondered whether Mickey or Judy were on here, whether he should invite them to ‘join the conversation’ that included himself and Barack Obama and bunch of other American faces who, look, shared his love of Grey’s Anatomy and such. The thought petrified him and so he moved on.
Barack Obama. Click. Brian had voted for the guy the first time around. He got swept up in the whole band-wagon and despite advice from Mickey and the like to the contrary, he was still hopeful that America's bullshit was better with Barack Obama in the White House than any of those other guys. Jesus, Sarah Palin, really? He would say. Then Mickey would come back with some Daily Show quirk that Brian would silence in an instant with facts he got from exercising more than a search engine. How he yearned for a conversation that didn't end with the invocation of Nazis, 9/11 or Jon Stewart. Near impossible with the likes of Mickey. He scrolled down Obama's profile, strapped with images of stars, stripes and West Wing tinged shots of Barack and Michelle looking throw-back gorgeous together. He clicked on the 'posts' tab and read one of the call outs posted by the President. Something about immigration and a Arizona bill. 500 comments. Another about the Affordable Care Act. 500 comments. Women For Obama. 500 comments. Picture of some guy with an Obama t-shirt on. 500 comments. Joe Biden. 500 comments. Weird, he figured, popular today and clicked the comment section. For a few seconds he thought his macbook had crashed. “What the fuck?” he mumbled to himself as his webpage sputtered with what looked like a 90's computer virus. Chinese letters, web-dings and emoticons flashed up his screen. Hundreds and hundreds of comments left by people, Chinese people, mostly going by the glyphic avatars, posting comments in quick succession. He scrolled up where the post 48
began. His scroll bar just kept on going. Jesus, he thought, 500 comments. It must have been the Google+ maximum allowable comments per posts. What the hell were all these people saying? No way on the planet there were this much people in China have this much to say about Joe Biden's opinion on healthcare. Brian, scrolled down further, scanning for anything comprehendible. And then there, maybe around the 300th mark, large all caps in English, a blinking scream:
Darrly from Maine: If you’re going to flood an American politician with comments, at least put them in English so those of us who actually live here
OCCUPY GOOGLE+! MUST CAPTURE WHITE HOUSE!
Dylan Bozarth: “Dude, I need to learn Chinese.”
After five more minutes of scrolling Brian determined that the internet citizens of China were undertaking some kind of net blitz. 'Occupying' Barack Obama's Google+ profile for what looked like days. Every new post was instantly flooded to the 500 mark with random posts, most, Brian found out via some web-based, copy and paste language translator, referred to the word 'sofa.' Again, Brian, thought, there is no way this many people are talking about sofas. 'Translator must be clunky,' he murmured to himself. But why do it? Why go to the trouble? He visualised some Chinese nerd, listening to j-pop, in some multimonitor hideout in whatever equivalent of a mom's basement in China, sitting there, on a spamming mission to scattershot confusion all over Google's new baby. Was it a statement? Or just an obnoxious finger aimed at a declining power? Every so often there would be bleats from confused American commenters asking what was up.
He decided to ask himself. He had no point of reference as to whether he'd get a coherent response from someone behind all this Chinese dissonance. But he'd try. On one of the odd posts that hadn't reached the 500 comment mark he quickly clicked and tapped in a question:
can read them? Jackson from Texas: Are these people looking to get a green card or something? Shit's not gonna happen.”
BRIAN: I think it's awesome that China has g+. But could someone explain to me (in English) why you all are doing this? I want a genuine response from someone. Seriousltly. He hit return and waited. Staring at his mis-spelling ‘Seriouslty’. There are those pockets of unsettling moments people have, spaces between spaces, that suddenly send a shiver after an action of completion, moments that specifically stem, Brian thought, from the lack of something complete. The moment after you send an e-mail to someone you spent a little too long 49
writing. Or when you fire off a tweet that you know is addressed to a person inhabiting your life, though addressed in-directly to everyone else. When you delete a friend who won't care either way that you do, that you really do. Some quiet, inner need in actions that usually consist of instant forgettability, tainted by some kind of human interference. At times he wondered whether making the internet social made people feel more alone. There was a reason why Brian wanted a response, though deep down knew if he dwelt on this any further he wouldn't feel good about asking why. An unfamiliar chirp, broke his thoughts, and he clicked on a red box that had just that second appeared on his toolbar. A follow request from the other side of the world, and a message:
and someone named John who had tried to convince him that the Gulf War never happened. Once in a while there would be something different. A truer connection, like when about a year ago he had spoken, for long hours, to an Indian girl about the ocean that separated them and the distance between stars. This was, of course, pre-facebook and he had never found her since, leaving him free to conjure up an ideal in his mind of her as beautiful. He stared again at the message he had just received and clicked the follow icon, curious to see where this conversation would lead him. Whether it would be raindrops or oceans. He began typing.
武廷建: Hello Brian. So this is what freedom tastes
BRIAN: Hi. I’m not mad at all, just curious at all the Chinese?
like. Don’t be mad. ;)
Again that chirp, an immediate response:
Brian wondered at the words for a few seconds. His wrist tense, finger poised. He had often felt a strange murmur of apprehension whenever he had spoken to strangers online. They were always inevitably meaningless connections, fleeting, random spurts of conversation. He remembered once that he had spoken to a man in his 40s from Austria about baby giraffes, there was a woman in Norway who spoke to him, perhaps five entire minutes, about raindrops and the Beatles,
武廷建: The Chinese are curious about you too it seems! BRIAN: Um...are they? 武廷建: Of course. But what are you curious about?
BRIAN: Well, for starters, why are you guys spamming Barack Obama’s profile? A few idle seconds past. 武廷建: Because we are jealous of your freedom and want to get back at you for it. BRIAN: Okay....Really? 武廷建: Lol. Not really.
you. So to answer your question; With Facebook and U2B banned here, we seldom get the chance to connect with people beyond our firewall. G+ is the first time. First real time at least. Where we can express ourselves without censoring our words. So forgive my fellow netizens for being a little overzealous upon discovery. It is honestly curiosity that lead them here, just like it was for you. I hope that answers your question.
BRIAN: Okay. So just for fun?
Eyebrows raised, Brian flexed his fingers, they cracked with morning stiffness.
武廷建: Probably, but then...do you speak for the
BRIAN: Wow. Your English is better than mine!
entirety of your country? Because I don’t.
武廷建: Thank you, I learnt early, it was hard not to.
BRIAN: Of course not. We’re an incredibly diverse country. Got lots of different opinions around here.
BRIAN: Your welcome.
武廷建: Yes. As are we. As do we. You guys really
Brian arched his head up, feeling his back rest against his chair. He took in a breath.
aren’t so unique. BRIAN: Hey, I didn’t say we were, but come on this is just trolling. 武廷建: Relax Brian, I despise trolling too. I am
BRIAN: Um, say that’s pretty bad. That your government censors everything. It’s awful. 武廷建: It’s worse than that. Worse because it has us censor ourselves with a shrug.
actually looking for a conversation - as it seems are 51
BRIAN: No-one cares?
武廷建: You misunderstood. They...We...shrug
武廷建: No-one can care. Other priorities, you see?
because we can do little else. Right now. There are
Housing the poor, rural development. And also, other things to be angry about, such as corruption. BRIAN: Well, okay but, freedom of speech is a sort of big deal over here. I mean, it’s like a fundamental. 武廷建: Lol. So is housing. Brian, you realise that it isn’t your position to claim either way right? BRIAN: I get that, I’m not trying to sound arrogant. But like, there are certain things happening right now, over here, where they want to restrict internet piracy? Lot’s of people up in arms about it. Me included. 武廷建: Then be up in arms. If it’s something you think is bad for your society, than sure, get angry. It is your society, help change it. But it’s none of my business as it’s not my society. See how it works? BRIAN: Okay, well, I get it... I just don’t get how you can’t get angry about something so important. That they shrug at it?
plenty of people who are angry about it, believe me. There are a few comments, you can’t read them, that are asking Obama to exert his influence, asking for democracy etc. BRIAN: Yeah, exactly, I stand with those guys! 武廷建: That’s the thing Brian. It is not your fight. Nor is it Obama’s. What is worse than not being able to say what I want in my own country is being pitied for not being able to say them. Don’t pity me, us. You saw today that we have lots of voices, some day we’ll change the conversation toward freedom and democracy. But that change will come from China, no place else. In the meantime we’ll shout ‘Sofa!’ in as many places as we can. Me included. BRIAN: Okay. I’m getting to see what you mean. By the way what is this ‘sofa’ thing? 武廷建: Ha. It’s an internet meme. It means first to reply on a comment thread. BRIAN: Right! 52
武廷建: Look, I do appreciate it Brian. You are unlike most American netizens I’ve spoken to. BRIAN: Yeah? How’s that?
武廷建: Yes. China has no hummingbirds. BRIAN: Huh. Really. 武廷建: None. Zero.
武廷建: You have the courtesy to know that you might not know better. Brian smiled as the kitten appeared from her snuggled slumber, quietly nuzzling the open packet of chips, empty. BRIAN: This is kind of weird. I’ve never talked about this kind of stuff with someone on the other side.
武廷建: You didn’t know that? BRIAN: I really didn’t. There was a longer pause as Brian stared at the blinking cursor anticipating a chirp. Then, 武廷建: There is a lot we can learn from each other
武廷建: The other side?
BRIAN: Other side of...um...the internet?
He smiled again. Perfect.
武廷建: Lol. Yes maybe there are two internets. One
BRIAN: Yeah...I guess so.
for me, one for you. The only way to travel across is to bang on the fence I think.
武廷建: I will have to leave shortly. I will return the
BRIAN: Hey, you should come to the U.S sometime. Hell, I’ve got a real sofa! 武廷建: Yes. Someday. To see the hummingbirds. BRIAN: Hummingbirds??
gesture and ask that you come to China someday. It was good speaking over the fence neighbour! BRIAN: Sounds good! Bye.... Seven thousand miles away 武廷建 signed out of his Google chat box. Nice fellow, he thought to himself, and moved ‘BRIAN’ 53
from his circle of ‘Acquaintances’ to ‘Friends’. He shut down his laptop and walked across the veranda, his cup of tea still warm. He stood looking over the dock, at the workmen conducting crates, lowering them to bays. He slurped thinking that he would have to tidy the place up before his sister arrived with her new boyfriend from the city. He glanced at the wall-clock. Quarter to six. He heard seagulls clawing on the roof above him. Still time, he thought, to breathe and admire the ocean. Memetics: ChinaSMACK: Chinese Netizens Occupy Obama’s Google+, Americans Annoyed: http://www.chinasmack.com/2012/stories/chinese-netizens-occupy-obamas-googleamericans-annoyed.html | China Bubble Watch: http://www.chinabubblewatch.org/ 2012/02/28/chinese-netizens-occupy-obama-movement/ | Offbeat China: Chinese Netizens “Occupy” Obama’s Google+, Calling For Help To Make Change Happen In China: http://offbeatchina.com/chinese-netizens-occupy-obamas-google-calling-forhelp-to-make-change-happen-in-china