Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

Yellow on the inside front cover

"Yolk is being the yellow surrounded by white. Yolk is also the 'centre of life' of an egg," writes Lincoln Tan in the inaugural issue of Auckland's newest 'Asian youth' publication. Presumably, the whiteness surrounding this yellow centre is the crappy tasteless stuff no-one's interested in.*

Yep, the irrepressible Lincoln Tan, editor of New Zealand's first bilingual Chinese tabloid rag cum voice-of-the-people paper iBall, has returned to his Asian roots. That is, to Auckland. The mega-Asian central-city foodcourt free-pulp reading market was calling to him from afar. From the deep southern reaches of Christchurch, Lincoln could hear the Auckland international students crying out for a more authentic kind of colourful ad-filled crap to drip their sundubu onto.

Here it is kids: Yolk. Not to be confused with ...Yolk. Nor with Hardboiled. No sirree, this shit is fresh. Fresh and for the freshies.

A Korean girl graces the cover of our local no-gloss namesake of the classic Asian-American mag, but with the paper entirely staffed by Chinese people from S'pore, Malaysia, Mainland China and Taiwan, and with half the text in fanti,** I don't think this is really an 'Asian' paper. But it is a Chinese paper. Shame, the first issue's covergirl won't be able to read her own profile.

Don't worry Gayoung, neither can I. Online tests prove that I am almost half-literate in jianti,*** but have a fanti reading age of however old I was when mum stopped with the flashcards. Three I think.

So here's my NZ-born Chinese translation of the heart and soul of Yolk editor Vivienne Ni's first editorial: "A lot of friends asked me why you'd want to something something translate Chinese something funny something something. My answer is that Yolk represents something something new something something."

Sure does.

I'm already liking Yolk a lot more than that similar English-language youth market colourful advertising rag I see in the foodcourts (what's it called? Max? Mono? Maxo?). At least some of Yolk is vaguely relevant to me, and with its bilingual content and accessible writing style, it's good practise for people in need of brushing up their Chinese - or English - reading skills. In that sense, Yolk could provide a new window for semi-literate huaqiaos into the world of their new-generation contemporaries, and vice-versa. That is actually... something. Something worth something.

Here's something else to cheer the semi-Chinese-illiterates. This glossary box: 'Don't speak English, Speak Kiwi' explains a few choice turns of phrase - such as that here, 'Mainlander' means a hick from the South Island rather than a hick from Mainland China. You get a little nervous round-about the 4th entry down. Now let's get this straight. Lincoln is from Singapore, therefore his English is perfect. But he's also from Singapore, where lesbians are either illegal or officially nonexistent, I don't remember which. He also lived in Christchurch for three years. So maybe in Christchurch 'Dyke' really does mean 'toilet', and uppity women get called 'toilets' as an insult. I dunno.

The gossip page bearing the questionable glossary is a highlight: Jay Chou balding rumours sparked by excessive wig use! Faye Wong slammed in China for having a second baby! Shu Qi on pashing Tony Leung!

Another chunky crumb of Yolk worth savouring is the short feature where an uncredited writer goes out and asks some Chinese kids in noodlebars what they want out of Auckland. Answer: 24 hour noodlebars. Hell yeah! Taller Park, I'm looking at you. It's so embarrassing when Keith Ng comes to town, and expects to find noodles at 4 am because this is Auckland, not ethnically desolate Wellington. He's all like: "Where my noodles bitch? You find me some fuckin' noodles and a lemon coke 'afore I put the Hong Kong Gambling Authority on yo' ass!" The word 'GenerAsian' is also used seriously in this article. Hoo-boy. I was like, kind of kidding.

You can guess what a magazine full of uncredited stories, and featuring a caricature of Winston Peters drawn by the managing editor means. It means 'our editorial team of two-and-a-half wrote all the stories.' It also means Lincoln has forgotten that this is a city of super-slick Asian graphic artists (who could probably draw him some cool killer Winston Peterdroids inside of a minute). My dear fellow yellows-on-the-inside, if you've been doing your own reviews of Yolk in the foodhalls, you probably couldn't go far wrong by emailing them with your own glossaries and story ideas, and all the rants and opinions you've always wanted to send to Yellow Peril but were too afraid of my sneering judgement to do so. Yolk probably hasn't developed any sneering judgement yet. My bet is that they would welcome more writers with something to say. And you could Win Atrium on Elliot Shopping Vouchers. This rag is ours - own it. It's free after all. Email yolk(AT)iballmedia(DOT)co(DOT)nz.

There's another element of Yolk to get involved in. Here's my crappy translation of the Yolk Covergirl's curriculum vitae.

Name: Gayoung
Gum-colour?: Pink
Birthdate: 1982.12.31
Nationality: Korea
Height: 157 cm
Weight: 46 kg (this can't be right, surely)
Star Sign?: uh... Capricorn?
Blood type (I'm pretty sure it's blood type, though at first glance I took this answer to be either bra size, or lowest Grade ever in an internal assessment): B
Zodiacal year: dog
School: Auckland University
Home something change something: parents and something something little brother
Something good: walking around the streets
Favourite food: Sukiyaki
Favourite flower: some dumb flower
Favourite colour: pink?
Favourite... um... exercise?: Walking around the streets
Favourite something something: Peace something something something something (everyone loves peace)
Favourite singer: Christina Aguilera
Favourite film: Far from Heaven
Favourite... um... plum?: Some kind of plum?
Favourite kind of clothing: cute with a hint of sexy
Favourite place: Mission Bay

So far so barfy. Dear Yellow Peril readers - only YOU can stop babydoll princess-cut cute-with-hint-of-sexy, long-haired Mission-Bay-loving Yolk Girls. Our people need to know that Christina Aguilera is now an approved form of military torture. Pleeeeeassse, there has got to be a Yolk Girl out there whose idea of a good time is a little more than 'walking around the streets'. If you're in Auckland, are between 18-30, "have a fresh exciting look and a great personality", fill in the Yolk Form and send a face and full-length shot to Yolk Magazine, iBall Media Works Ltd, PO Box 46018, Herne Bay, Auckland. The Chinese version specifies that you have to be over 160 cm tall. I guess the girls who read English are likely to be taller already, because of all the English-language protein we get.

* Derek Cheng made this joke, while wearing a Yolk t-shirt, reading Yolk, and popping the yolk of the egg atop a bibimbap masquerading as a chicken donburi at Mercury Plaza.
**Fanti: traditional Chinese script, used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the old diaspora
***Jianti: simplified Chinese script, used in Mainland China and Singapore

The distinction between fanti and jianti is a purely written one, and does not relate to oral dialect. For example, there is no relation between the fanti/jianti split and the Mandarin/Cantonese dialect split. You cannot 'write in Mandarin' or 'write in Cantonese' except in the sense of idiom specific to each dialect. Never ask if something is 'written in Mandarin or Cantonese', especially if you are a NZ-born Chinese journalist working for a major daily, attending an Asian media networking lunch. Not that this has ever happened to anyone I know.