Friday Fun Links: West Rocks East, or, Why Don't They Hate Us?


If YouTube doesn't get Napstered out of existence or supplanted by something better, does it have the capacity to make all other forms of media storage obsolete? I'm beginning to think so. Just a few weeks ago I put out an inquiry about what hits readers would include on a Rhino CD collection of rock 'n' roll Orientalism. Now I realize what bronze-age thinking that was. Just 15 minutes of searching on the world's favorite video dump produces almost enough material for a double-CD:

"Turning Japanese" by the Vapors; "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas; "China Girl" by David Bowie; "Hong Kong Garden" by Siouxsie and the Banshees; "Japanese Boy" by Aneka; "Visions of China" and "Canton" by Japan; "Hong Kong Phooey," theme from the cartoon series; "One Night In Bangkok" by Murray Head; "Chinese Eyes" by Fancy; "Reptiles and Samurai" by Oingo Boingo (very short and unsatisfactory clip from a 2005 Oingo Boingo tribute concert); "Tokyo A-Go-Go" by Magnetic Fields (actually just some fool lip-syncing it in his car); "Kyoto Song" by The Cure; "Tokyo Joe" by Bryan Ferry; "Big In Japan" by Alphaville; "Holiday In Cambodia" by the Dead Kennedys; "China" by the Red Rockers. (Strictly speaking, this last song shouldn't make the cut because it doesn't have the distinctive dinga-dinga-ding-ding ding ding ding riff, but the video kind of mandates that it be included.)

Some thoughts after this unsettling trudge through pop's yellow fever swamps: "Turning Japanese" is still an awesome song, which proves that you can't judge an era by its novelty hits. How could the eighties have sucked so hard after being ushered in by this masterpiece? And how did the nineties, entering under the cloud of "Ice, Ice, Baby," end up being a ten-year party? More disturbingly, what does this outbreak of Asian fetishism (weirdly confined to about a ten-year period) mean for the rock nation? Thomas Jefferson trembled for his country when he reflected that God is just. I tremble when I reflect that within living memory our hitmakers were doing yellowface routines that would drive Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yunioshi to commit seppuku. Don't ask why Arabs knocked down the World Trade Center, but why East Asians didn't.