Author: Sam Hazeldine

Everything Asia: K-Drama

Coffeehouse conversations.

Emergence of an idea…

This week I was drawn into the world of K-drama, with an off-hand comment from my university lecturer, I decided I wanted to delve into the weird and wonderful world of Korean drama TV.

I searched the internet for “best Korean drama” and ended up watching a few episodes of The Heirs which felt immensely influenced by its American co-producers. With the vast majority of dialogue in Korean, the scenes at first appear genuinely Korean, however the series progresses to provide a stronger resemblance to a teen drama such asThe O.C.with petty drama, betrayal and sunny California peppered throughout.

Heading into this experience I can safely say I didn’t/still don’t, possess a wealth of knowledge in regards to foreign TV and each culture’s subtle spin on the dominant Hollywood narrative style. So when I experienced The Heirs although it was different, it didn’t feel different…

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Everything Asia: E-sports athletes

Coffeehouse conversations.

In my experience, as a middle-class Anglo boy from Australia sport was important, consisting of soccer, AFL with a sprinkling of cricket. As a viewer, I spent entire weekends absorbed with the games for that round, hoping for my teams to get the win. As a participant; I began playing soccer 15 years ago, when I was 6; the thrill of practicing my skills throughout the week to put all together on Saturday morning when it counted – the wins were sheer elation, the losses were painful and sometimes they would ruin my weekend, however I became self-aware reasonably young and understood I was not an exceptional talent. This was frustrating at first, however I had that much more respect for my peers I could see working their way up to the top, while myself; still enjoy playing and watching soccer.

As my childhood began to wind it’s way into…

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Youth suicide in South Korea: An auto-ethnography

Coffeehouse conversations.

September 14th – R U OK? day in my home country of Australia, a day created to bring awareness to those suffering with Mental illness. The nature of mental illness means that it is invisible in most cases, this organisation attempts to ask the question; Are you okay? in an effort to bring the intangible into light, to truly uncover the mental state of their loved ones and ultimately reduce the rate of self harm and suicide. The following infographic displays the mental health data from epidemiological study of New South Wales, Australia and how this translates into an economical burden.

The last point made in this graphic reaches me on a deeper level;

However, data measuring young men’s access to mental health care reveals that only 13% received any care for their mental illness.

I have seen this issue first hand, in myself and others as a young man suffering…

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Evaluating my experience: Asian Hip-hop/Rap music

In my auto-ethnographic exploration of the diverse and intriguing Asian hip-hop/rap culture in the blog post; Everything Asia #1: Asian Rap Music I attempted to outline my personal bias, i.e. the lens I was consuming this media from. The ultimate goal was to understand and familiarise myself with this non-dominant media artefact.

“The radical, performance (auto)ethnographer functions as a cultural critic…His [her]…[autoethnography]  becomes diagnosis, not just of him [her] self, but of a phase of history.”(Spender, 1984, p. ix) [Accessed here]

I believe my original blog post achieved my goal through Spender’s process of diagnoses of a phase of history; in this case being the emergence of this [sub]genre of Asian musical culture into the wider consciousness.

However in understanding the need for generalisability and integrity of my writing, in this post I will evaluate the following important aspects of creating an Asian autoethnography;

  • Identifying and addressing the existence of orientalism
  • Dissecting and explaining any East/West comparisons
  • Reiterating any personal bias against or presumptions towards Asian culture

Ellis et. al (2011) place emphasis the eternal struggle of auto ethnography to appear ‘scientific whilst still being artful’. In other words; the author loses interest for the pursuit of the truth or presents an entertaining narrative with little factual basis.

I attempted to walk this line in my blog post by explaining my context in the beginning to set the tone for any possible imbalance in favour of subjective narrative. This combined with my initial skepticism formed a clearer framework to consume my writing and opinions.

As for East vs West, this is absolutely the most difficult part of this topic as the roots of Hip-Hop/Rap are embedded deeply in African-American culture since its conception in the 1980’s. An industry still heavily dominated by this demographic to examine rap as a cultural output is to examine ‘black’ culture. I made efforts to sidestep this tempting comparison by discussing the influence of U.S. imperialism and the effect it has had on all cultures particularly Asian, and not pitching modern U.S. rappers vs Asian rappers. Instead of imposing my perspective of the artists included, I simply embedded curated links for the audience to decide and explore. I did however, slip up and compared the flow of Rich Chigga’s “Glow like dat” to Cleveland rapper; Kid Cudi, an epiphany which I would welcome genuine disagreement on. Instead of allowing the East vs West comparisons to alienate listeners, I took the angle which asserts that many Asian rappers will struggle to break western markets into dominant media channels unless they alter their sound towards the current norm.

So what about orientalism?

Edward Said  understood the concept of orientalism to be that ‘Middle Eastern and Asian cultures are undeveloped and static societies compared to the west. Implicit in this fabrication, writes Said, is the idea that Western society is developed, rational, flexible, and superior.’

Thus, to have the slightest sense of orientalism in one’s writing, involves the comparison of the east to a culturally-imperialist west. Although there is passing comment made in the initial blog it is hard to see even a faint sense of cultural inferiority/superiority.

I am glad I chose to research and represent this topic in my blog as I have now been listening to more and more of this music and am beginning to realise just how easily this cultural output transcends language barriers, i am hooked on the artistic fusion of many of the artists introduced to me by the 88rising record label.

**All references are in the form of hyperlinks**


Diving deep into: Asian Rap Music

Coffeehouse conversations.

Hip-Hop/rap has long since become a subculture in music which attracts certain personalities – there’s those who want to prove something to those who doubted them, those who have a young family to support, those who seek to break the cycle of poverty and then there’s those who want to be a part of that lifestyle. By that lifestyle I mean excess; designer threads, diamond chains, European cars and American money showers.

As a suburban kid growing up in a conservative household in Sydney in the early 2000’s, the only exposure I got to anything resembling edgy hip-hop music was censored Eminem or Nelly tracks. These would come on compilation CD’s of the season’s greatest Pop music called ‘So Fresh’, as a white boy from the ‘burbs this was my first taste of rap and an influential part of my listening identity.

As the proliferation of music file sharing broke…

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Auto-ethnography: Explained

Below is an infographic I created to explain the research practice and methodology of auto-ethnography, I hope it makes it easier to understand what is often an overtly abstracted idea.






Godzilla, Cinema and Cultural Construction

In this blog post I will be delving into my understanding of the 1954 Japanese classic, Godzilla (ゴジラ). Using my understanding of auto-ethnography I will attempt to interpret this film’s cultural significance as an artefact of time.


During the week I watched this film for the first time and live tweeted throughout using the #DIGC330 hashtag on my Twitter (@hazeldinesam).

Even as the film starts there is immediately a distinct feeling that you are watching an old film, the aesthetic of projection wobbles and jerking, grainy black and white film and jarringly sparse use of music and sound effects. This automatically places the viewer at certain point in time, which for me as a millennial creates more a sense of regressive novelty rather than a nostalgic reminder of my earlier years. My nostalgic ‘early years’ of experiencing film are best understood as the era of flip phones, Justin Timberlake with ramen hair and the beginning of the never-ending Fast and Furious saga. So context for me took a while to be understood and formed as the viewer.

As it progresses growing suspicions of the film’s didactic plot I perceived were to illustrate the devastation of World War II and atomic weaponry, moreover reinforce the need to avoid such destruction for future generations. This approach by the director to use cinema as a warning to future generations that ‘big actions have big consequences’ is a common idea which film has used for decades to establish popular narrative.

In particular, throughout Cold War era Hollywood there appears to be a necessity to demonise the enemy (usually Russia) and condemn any opposition to western cultural imperialism. Examples that immediately spring to mind are the Roger Moore and Sean Connery

James Bond films, which without exception have an oriental, middle eastern or soviet enemy – all of which remain alien cultures to dominant U.S. narrative.

This idea of cinema as a tool of persuasion is undoubtedly a powerful concept, I suggest checking out this article from Business Insider which goes deeper into Hollywood’s impact on the Cold War.

More relevant to the ideas shown in Godzilla I believe this film was a part of a recognition process in Japanese culture. What I mean by this – this period of history for Japan unquestionably shook the nation’s identity, being overpowered by the might of the western military in 1945 was humiliating for their proud culture. As part of the years following the war, this film helps to form a common recognition of the scale of devastation and loss – in the film this is manifested as WMDs and a mutant lizard. With the real life experience being the allied bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima resulting in similarly horrific circumstances.

Of course, this is an armchair analysis from someone who admittedly knows little about the Japanese cultural construct, however to be able to remain detached of emotion towards the ‘facts’ is half the battle. Furthermore, I believe that in the present era of information proliferation, it is exponentially easier to understand the inevitable two sides to every story.