06 January 2007

Basketball and Chinese pop


Kelley tells me that shorter posts get more readers, so from now on, short posts.

Tonight my parents are watching Center Stage, this talent variety show on CCTV (they get it free with some basic cable) which features some mediocre dancing, sometimes good singing, and some interesting fusions of minority cultures and belly-baring pop. Chinese pop is usually this kind of mix of shaky dancing and sometimes good singing.

I think the kind of dancing that goes along with pop music goes over in China just like basketball does. It's a western form, and so of course it's not done as well as it is in the U.S. A friend used to always point out to me that Yao Ming is considered mediocre in the NBA, so it was weird that Chinese-Americans were so crazy about Yao Ming. To which I say: if you find me an American who can even come halfway close to Jet Li's gongfu, I'm totally willing to get excited about him too. Basketball is just as foreign and exotic to Chinese people as gongfu is to Americans; and mastering it when everything you've done in the past is totally formally different is pretty tough.

A lot of people write off the fact that most Chinese bballers are not as good as Americans as due to the height difference between Chinese people and American people. But a friend of mine in China was explaining to me once that he thought the problem wasn't height; it was the kind of competitive training that you get playing on American high school teams, and the rewarding of coordination among teammates that American coaches practice. I guess this just means that in America, the culture of basketball is so ubiquitous that in high school you always have many other pretty good local teams you compete against, or pretty good friends and neighbors you can pick up a street game against. You have that in China too, but people generally aren't as good. Then the real big factor is that coaches train players to work together collaboratively. In China, you're more likely to learn more from tv than from coaches; and on tv, you see a lot of lone superstar players celebrated for ostentatious skills and big jump shots. So less collaborative teamwork among Chinese players.

I dunno anything about basketball. But still, Chinese pop derivative may be derivative, but then, so is western gongfu and taichi. Plus I can't think of any white pingpong players at all. So I still like Chinese pop.

My friend was telling me about this Taiwanese rapper, MC Hotdog, who raps about typical things Taiwanese teenagers deal with. He raps about his parents who make him study for the college entrance exams even after he gets home from cram school, about his friends who are all too busy studying to chill with him, about girls, about worrying about college entrance exams. I think even Jay Chou has a song where he laments not getting the girl, then the next immediate line is about not getting into a good college. Pretty nice. Pretty accurate.


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