The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'chinese'
There are red faces at the Max Planck Institute, after the institute published an issue of its journal with a special report on China, and decided to include some Chinese characters on the cover for visual impact. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to have any Chinese speakers on hand, and after the journal went out to publication, it was discovered that the text on the cover was from a flyer advertising a brothel, describing in lascivious detail the talents of the "pretty-as-jade housewives" therein:
Editors had hoped to find an elegant Chinese poem to grace the cover of a special issue, focusing on China, of the MaxPlanckForschung journal, but instead of poetry they ran a text effectively proclaiming "Hot Housewives in action!" on the front of the third-quarter edition. Their "enchanting and coquettish performance" was highly recommended.
The Max Planck Institute was quick to acknowledge its error explaining that it had consulted a German sinologist prior to publication of the text. "To our sincere regret ... it has now emerged that the text contains deeper levels of meaning, which are not immediately accessible to a non-native speaker," the institute said in an apology. "By publishing this text we did in no way intend to cause any offence or embarrassment to our Chinese readers. "The faux pas apparently caused much amusement amongst Chinese internet users, with the exception of some who thought it was a deliberate insult to China. Then again, some people said the same thing about that Guns'n'Roses album. Having said that, this is by no means the first instance of clueless Westerners making fools of themselves in Chinese:
There are tales of drunken teenagers walking out of tattoo parlours with characters reading, "This is one ugly foreigner" or "A fool and his money are easily parted". Another web-user wrote: "I recently met a German girl with a Chinese tattoo on her neck which in Chinese means 'prostitute'. I laughed so loud, I could hardly breathe."The brothel-keeper could not be reached for comment.
A package just arrived in the mail, containing a Buddha Machine.
For those not familiar with the Buddha Machine, it is a small plastic device, about the size and shape of an old-fashioned transistor radio, which plays several loops of what sounds like minimal electronic ambient music, through a built-in speaker or headphones. It was designed by two artists from Beijing's electronic-music underground, Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian.
Built in Chinese factories (though what isn't these days?), the Buddha Machine proudly embodies a made-in-China commodity-gadget aesthetic. It comes in a box decorated with lotus flowers, Buddhist swastikas and a photograph of a temple, and looking more like it would hold patent medicines than consumer electronics. The box contained two AA batteries (designed to resemble Duracells, only more cheap-looking) and device itself. The device made of thick plastic, its pieces fitting together slightly roughly (no iPod sheen here), and all the labels are exclusively in Chinese, with the exception of the creators' URL on the bottom. The Buddha Machine comes in six colours, though there is no means of choosing one; they are distributed at random, and which you get is the luck of the draw. Mine was green.
When switched on, the device plays a randomly-chosen loop through its speaker or the headphones. It has a small, ordinary-looking switch on the side; when this is flipped, it changes the loop to a different randomly-selected one. (It has 9 built in.) The loops come from performances by the two artists, and are stored in memory on the device. They sound, in a word, ambient, varying from glitchy, saturated chords and slowed-down instrument sounds to minimalistic micromelodies played on a variety of lo-fi drones and distorted string-like instruments, to what sound like fragments of larger works, chopped out of their context and fashioned into textures. The loops are chosen at random; flicking the rather ordinary-looking switch on the side of the unit switches to another loop. It is probably a cliché to describe it as "oddly soothing", though the effect is.
And here is an interview with the creators, describing how they came up with the idea, and how surprised they were to sell as many as they have; they had expected to sell a few hundred, but then various bloggers and hipsters (notably Pitchfork Magazine) picked the Buddha Machine out as a techno-fetish object to file alongside their Lomo ActionSamplers.