Friday, October 25, 2013

Ave, Noe!

Noe Alonzo, @noealz on Twitter and Noealz1 on YouTube, has been working with the good folks at Arirang TV to produce some video segments on life and food in South Korea. The first of several such vids is here. Although there already exists a plethora of large- and small-scale video efforts by expats who want to tell the world something about their host country, what sets Noe's Arirang videos apart is that he's not afraid to ask frank, pointed, and potentially offensive questions of his Korean interlocutors.

Let me talk for a second about my dislikes. I can't say that I'm a big fan of shows like "Eat Your Kimchi," which seem to pander shamelessly to Korean tastes in a transparent effort to be liked (this is why Koreans themselves know of and enjoy "Eat Your Kimchi").* Nor am I a fan of many of the smaller-scale podcasts and vlogs out there, run by people who seem to know little about how to minimize their annoying tics when presenting to the camera. To those pro-wannabes I say: Be simple, be honest, be clear, and be yourself.** Watch your lighting, your sound levels, and your spoken rhythm. Don't be the cringe-inducing Bedroom Broadcaster. Have a realistic notion of what you actually look and sound like when you're pontificating to the masses. And for God's sake, avoid pretentious-sounding pseudonyms—anything with "-wolf" or "-goddess" or "-warrior" or "-explorer" or "-wanderer" in it.

Noe's videos (check out his above-linked YouTube channel) are professionally done, but Noe himself comes off as natural and unpretentious. He also makes no effort to disguise his dislike for certain aspects of Korean living: he's talked about his distaste for this or that region of Seoul before, and in his latest Arirang video, he asks some potentially offensive questions to a Korean man: wouldn't it be embarrassing to you, as a Korean, to see a foreigner eating in this dirty place? What might the foreigner be thinking? It was a totally unexpected direction in which to take the interview. Noe could have asked fawning, softball questions about Korean cuisine; he could have appealed to Korean nationalism (the interviewee does, in fact, try to go the nationalistic route early in the exchange, before Noe hits him with the "this dirty place" question); instead, he went right to the heart of Korea's image-consciousness in order to tweak some of those insecurities.

To his credit, Noe's interlocutor responded with aplomb and civility, which I found refreshing. He was a decent English-speaker, and he fielded Noe's questions intelligently. That's the sort of thing I want to see more of among podcasters: intelligent, civil exchanges that contain a potentially provocative edge. Credit goes to Arirang TV, as well, for allowing Noe the freedom to ask these sorts of questions.***

All in all, I found Noe's latest Arirang video to be a pleasant contrast to most of the podcasting and vlogging dross that's out there. Keep up the good work, Noe!

*For all I know, the couple behind "Eat Your Kimchi" are perfectly fine individuals. I cast no aspersions on them personally. I just can't stand their damn show, which is as fluffy and overproduced as a Korean variety show. There—I said it.

**Again, these may all be good folks. I don't question their intentions, but I do question their professionalism. True: you can't become a professional without going through the awkward stages first, so perhaps a little compassion is called for. But some of these podcasters have been at the game for years, and still haven't grasped the fundamentals of good TV or good video. Stop aping and mugging, guys! Be serious, be professional—be like this guy, who knows his stuff and doesn't fuck around.

***In an ideal world, such freedom should be taken for granted: it's not as if Noe is in North Korea, walking on eggshells to avoid offending his hosts.



John from Daejeon said...

I think I was most surprised by their choice of Noe's video camera. Sony and not Samsung. I'm still shocked that they didn't edit his mention of the Japanese product out. Looks like some (professional) people do get it after all. So, kudos, to Arirang TV for going with the best product and not caving into pressure like so many here do strictly out of nationalistic rote instead of judging the products/people based on their own merits.

As for "Eat Your Kimchi," their recent road trip into the fringes of mainstream Europe to spread their love of Kpop with their nasties was really out there. I was both horrified and oddly envious of their free (maybe even paid) trip and swag. I still can't believe that they spoke to sold out crowds of 300 and 700 on their Omona tour. Maybe the world is coming to an end soon if they constitute an evening's entertainment. It's not like they are Weird Al or even a good dinner theater production of "Cats."

noe said...

Well, they wanted me to use my DSLR but at the time I had sold it so I could save funds to buy a newer DSLR. So they had me use a camcorder, which made me feel kinda...well...consumerish hah