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Friday Bites: ‘Asylum-Worthy’ Stand-Up, Canadian Election Interference, Fred Again in MSG
If a stand up set is delivered in the forest, Weibo will hear about it
Jordan and Irene—An ‘Asylum-Claim Worthy’ Stand-Up Set
Everyone on Chinese Twitter who didn’t shell out $500 for a ticket is wondering what exactly comedian 池子 Chizi said in his North American tour. Supposedly, it’s “asylum-claim worthy”: he has been completely wiped from the Chinese internet save for some articles criticizing his apparent betrayal even though no recordings exist of him actually saying anything objectionable.
A highly-upvoted comment on Xiaohongshu says, in regard to Chizi’s stand-up routine, that “it feels like our ticket prices are going to be funding his meals in prison.” Many netizens say they hope he can build a career in North America and tell the jokes he wants to tell.
One Canada-based YouTuber heard that his set included riffs on how jokes get censored in the mainland, Covid Zero policy, and how a popular Uyghur comic wasn’t allowed an exit visa to go on an international tour.
Ironically, Chizi was touring with Joe Wong, a Chinese American with a rather milquetoast reputation who spent a good part of the past decade in China saying really uncontroversial stuff.
Also, a few weeks ago staffers at China’s Consulate in NY apparently attended a different comedy tour also going around North America this February, so its probably reasonable to assume there were government minders in the audience at Chizi’s. Did they chuckle as they were taking notes?
Irene—Chinese Interference in Canadian Elections
The bombshell news north of the forty-ninth parallel over the past week has been the Globe and Mail report that Chinese influence operations interfered in the 2021 federal elections, despite Trudeau having been repeatedly briefed on the threat since at least 2017. Beijing not-so-quietly propped up (mostly Liberal) candidates it saw as less hawkish on China, working with diaspora groups and the local Chinese-language media to influence ethnic Chinese voters. It’s an unsettling story of long-term complacency that is setting off multi-party fury, and signs of impending action, in Ottawa.
The CSIS documents reveal that Chinese diplomats and their proxies, including some members of the Chinese-language media, were instructed to press home that the Conservative Party was too critical of China and that, if elected, it would follow the lead of former U.S. president Donald Trump and ban Chinese students from certain universities or education programs.
“This will threaten the future of the voters’ children, as it will limit their education opportunities,” the CSIS report quoted the Chinese consulate official as saying. The official added: “The Liberal Party of Canada is becoming the only party that the PRC can support.”
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Jordan—The Knockout 狂飙 Eps 5-10
Last week through the first five episodes I anointed this show the best Chinese drama of the 2020s. But after five more, the weight of censorship is beginning to hold down the writing. The entire creative team, from writers and actors down to the cinematographers and sound designer, have the capability to add nuance and complexity to every character. The good guy, however, is a little too good, and the bad guys a little too bad for the plot to really resonate. Only the lead remains as all that interesting a character. Unfortunately, we’re just not going to get The Wire out of China in the late Xi era.
I’m still obsessed with this Don. He has so many teapots!
I also love the interior design of the low-class gangster who made it rich.
Julia Lovell Searching for Chinese Folklore in Western Pop Culture
Julia Lovell, professor and two-time ChinaTalk guest, and is hunting for appearances of monsters from Chinese folklore, religion, and fiction in Anglophone popular culture (in any form: anime, manga, gaming, film, TV, fiction, song, etc.). “Monsters” here can include ghosts, demons, zombies, gremlins, goblins, vampires, or other supernatural creatures. She’d much appreciate if people dropped her a note about any such sightings they might have had at email@example.com.
Phil—Fred Again MSG Concert Review
Fred Again, the twenty-nine-year-old DJ and producer from South London, made his stadium debut in Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden this past Saturday. Tickets sold out in ninety seconds as Fred is simply that big for the world of electronic music. He’s cut through a genre dominated by superficial club culture and inflected it with his own humanity.
Fred’s music functions as a diary. His past three albums (Actual life 1, 2, and 3) sample real-life encounters he records on video. The voices we hear before a Detroit-house-inspired drop are those of ones dear to him. There is a sense of empathy, of individuality, of care that seeps into his compositions.
Unfortunately, that was not the Fred Again these brothers got at MSG this weekend. The Londoner couched himself in the household names of Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia, as if his presence warranted theirs. But we weren’t there for the stale dubstep, corny Taylor Swift samples, or repetitive industrial techno…we wanted Fred. We showed up for his vulnerability, frankness, and melody. And we got it, if for a moment.
Magic relies on the right context. Fred tended curiously to the acts that preceded and followed him. Or he had changed, invited into the upper echelons of international dance music and content to lose what made him unique with his newfound fraternity? Maybe once he gets his bearings with fame, it won’t matter who he performs with, as long as his practice stays singular to himself.
Either way, have a listen. He’s a beautiful musician who speaks to something buried within us. I just hope we haven’t already seen peak Fred.