Category Archives: anime

Shaking Hands

Skull

Living in South Korea, I think it would be a bit odd if I didn’t comment about the historic event right now regarding North and South Korea. Honestly, I’m very optimistic about the first steps towards a friendlier relationship with North Korea; however, I really don’t know what that friendly relationship means for the country going forward. But whatever it is, it is still better than the North Korea a few months ago that was testing nuclear missiles and insulting its neighbors.

First off, I worry about John Bolton’s comment that they are going to use the Libya model to denuclearize North Korea. This model has been looked at negatively by the people in power in North Korea, especially since it eventually led to the ouster and death of Colonel Gaddafi. As friendly and as willing North Korea may seem to be with denuclearization now, I’m not sure how far those talks would go and what true denuclearization would lead to. Also, factory jobs and the military are the biggest way out of poverty for many North Koreans. If you don’t have a need for a military, you have millions of men potentially on a crisis to transition to other industries. North Korea needs to maintain a perpetual sense of threat in order to justify its bloated military. Also, without the west to fight against, why would North Koreans need Kim Jung Un to save and protect them? It’s a disconnect in the cult of the Kims’ dogma which I’m not sure if Kim Jung Un would survive politically.

So yeah, shake hands with Kim Jung Un, take photos, and make promises. But remember that the North also just decimated a mountain due to their nuclear tests and that Kim Jung Un has killed relatives in order to save his skin. Optimism with a grain of salt is in order.

A friendlier North Korea would do well for the South Korea. I don’t imagine open borders anytime soon, but as I mentioned in past posts, with South Korea relatively meager and stagnant GDP growth rate, a friendlier North could help companies in the South by opening its population to commerce. It would also ease tensions with China and prevent issues like the THAAD missile crisis from harming companies that do business in China and South Korea.

What annoys me, however, is the extremely partisan atmosphere in the country. Just last weekend, there were street protests from the hard right calling the president a traitor and accusing him of selling the country to North Korea. This is insanity. How does that even work? Last time I checked, South Korea is far richer than its northern neighbor. But the problem is the left can be just as toxic with their tribalism as well. I don’t lean on any Korean political parties nor do I subscribe to any particular Korean publication (which can be terribly partisan). I will read anything and I also read/listen to analysis from foreign publications and commentators.  But the minute I say anything negative or express a bit of concern regarding the current president’s actions, I get accused as being brainwashed by the right. And  sometimes this is my wife accusing me of partisanship!

What’s also annoying is Donald Trump taking credit for any headway into North Korea’s denuclearization. I could forgive him for taking some credit. Despite him name calling and trying to compare nuclear buttons with Kim Jung Un just a few months ago, he is still the leader of the United States and he did send Mike Pompeo to meet Kim Jung Un. I don’t know what they talked about and I suspect Trump only sent Pompeo to the North in order to boost his credibility as a Secretary of State nominee, but he still sent him there to presumably open a dialogue. But what’s annoying is Trump taking 100% of the credit to the current North and South Korean situation. What an annoying gnat! He just dismissed all the work of his allies in the South. What’s worse, I suspect if the talks don’t result in meaningful progress, he would gladly throw South Korea under the bus without even remembering President Moon Jae-In’s name.

As for President Moon Jae-In, he should really calm down with saying “Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize” for his work in the inter-Korean talks. I know he’s just trying to be gracious, but Trump will take that graciousness and use it as a cudgel.

I wasn’t in the country during most of the Sunshine Policy of previous administrations, but this feels similar to that attempt to a more peaceful coexistence between the two countries. What’s mostly missing from that previous policy is the North acting in good faith. They were occasionally aggressive during the period and have failed to return much of the goodwill shown to them by the South. I certainly hope things will be better this time around. I personally don’t care so much about nuclear disarmament, especially since North Korea still has thousands of traditional weapons aimed and could destroy Seoul should it ever choose to (I live and work in one of the busiest parts of Seoul), but it would be a great first step at easing tensions in the region. However, I suspect that the song and dance following a true denuclearization, i.e. claims of not following agreements, accusations of hiding nuclear facilities, misleading inspectors, etc., would long be used by political actors to scare each other long after the last rocket has been decommissioned. I’m optimistic, but it will be a long time before people truly no longer see North Korea as a nuclear threat.

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On Making Art

Framed

With my work framed, the illusion of a fake movie leaflet for a fake Japanese animation about Canadian residential schools is complete. A friend of mine is not a big fan of these works. I don’t think she really likes it when I stray away from my traditional drawing styles. It’s hard enough to sell my current work as it is. It’s even harder to sell my works especially if I’m making fake movie posters or action figures.

The problem is what sometimes works in my mind doesn’t really translate into the image. Or I have trouble putting myself into the viewers’ shoes, especially since there’s often a lot of context I’m putting into the work which viewers may not particularly know nor care about. Let’s look at this work in particular.

The work is titled “Residential School,” but the idea of a residential school is way too subtle. There’s an obvious reference to religious boarding schools, but it would be rare to find someone who would assume that the girl in the center is an Aboriginal. The work is one from a series of posters inspired by Canadian history. I resent that not much of Canadian history is known outside of Canada, especially when a lot of our neighbors’ histories (particularly our neighbor in the south) is told in books, movies, and are part of the global consciousness. I think the horrors of residential schools and the silent genocide of Aboriginal communities should be told just as much as the plight of the slaves or the persecution of the Jewish people. But then again, borrowing imagery from Ghibli Studios might be a bit too tongue-in-cheek and not many people might see it nor appreciate it when/if they do.

Also, I’m not sure if there are many people who like Japanese animation, are appreciative of Canadian history, and are willing to pay good money for fake leaflets that cater to both.

My Japanese is non-existent. My wife speaks Japanese and she’s confused by Japanese I use in the image. They translate in the most basic Google-translate sort of way, but I don’t really mind. The characters make for an interesting visual. The Japanese names don’t mean much either.

“Himax” and “Colby Digital” are rip-offs of “Imax” and “Dolby Digital.” But I doubt if anyone would notice that. “Blamco” is a fake company name I once used for a line of toys I made. Again, no one would know this.  “Taken” is a reference to the Liam Neeson movie. Children were very much kidnapped by the Canadian government.

In any case, these decisions were made for my own benefit and not with the audience in mind. The use of the name “Taken,” a small part of the credits, is for my own amusement, not to provide more insight to the viewer. This method of making art doesn’t normally produce compelling, saleable artwork, but if the purpose of the work is get over my depression, to just be active, or to just make images to amuse myself, I think it’s a job well done. Make art! Make art because it makes you happy or because you simply need to. Making art in order to sell them fine, but really, it should be the least of your motivations.

With that in mind, it’s great to see my work framed. Framed to ultimately end up hung on my own wall years from now.

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Mommy Issues

Octopus

In Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Nazi scientists were curious about parental bonds, especially regarding identical twins. (SPOILER!) Young identical twins of opposite genders are kept by the scientists with their mother. Occasionally, the boy would dress like a girl and the twins would be nearly impossible to tell apart. On what was probably the last stage of the experiment, the mother was forced to choose one of the twins. She was to give up one of them to a fate unknown to her. At the time, the boy was dressed like his sister, and both children desperately clung to their mother, not wanting to be taken away. Crossdressing however did not save him, and the mother, after struggling for so long, finally let go of her son.

The boy grew up to be the main antagonist of the story, fueled by the mystery of that fateful day. What was the meaning of that day? Did his mother truly let him go or did his mother mean to let go of his sister instead? And if his mother said she meant to keep him with her, could that really be believed? This is the genius of Naoki Urasawa. He has a gift of exploring people’s most common insecurities.

It’s the life raft question. What if you were the one left in the ocean?

I have three sisters. I grew up, knowing that my mother loved us all but not equally. I knew this even at a very young age. And even after she passed away, I was reminded that she loved me less compared to one of my sisters. It makes me bitter sometimes knowing this, but it didn’t turn me into a monster the same way Naoki Urasawa’s character did. I am confident, that like all mothers, she would sacrifice herself to save her children. But just like the story, given the choice, I’ll probably be let go to the hands of Nazi scientists.

Writing this now, I look back at how this truth, albeit common, might have affected me as a person. It might have affected my confidence growing up, doubting why I wasn’t as beloved as my sibling. But that lack of confidence could also have been fueled by a father who was never really the most encouraging person in my life growing up. I was told I threw a ball like a girl before I was even taught how to throw. Perhaps it affected how I see women in my life. Growing up with sisters have been a great influence in making me more sympathetic to feminist concerns, but perhaps my childhood has given me mother issues that affects not only how I relate to women. I don’t know. I’m just throwing this out there. It’s a bit late for Mother’s Day, but I remember feeling three things on Sunday. One is gratitude and longing for a mother who passed away. Two is regret for not being there for her during the last years of her life. Three is bitterness… selfish, idiotic bitterness.

The thing is this is not the only time I’ve had the mixed feeling of being second best (if that). I remember dating a girl once knowing that she liked another guy long before she even took notice of me. Now this is true for most relationships in the world, but I felt like she could drop me anytime this other guy showed any affection towards her. I was grateful for the attention she was giving me, but I was also insecure. At worst, there was even a hint of bitter victory, like “Ha! Finally, you like me now, after ignoring me for so long, you bitch!” And all the time she was with me, I kept wondering if she’d rather be with that other guy instead. It was very confusing.

Now as for my mother. All of the love and kindness she has given me, a dumb part of me would sometimes feel that it all pales to the love she has for my sibling. Enjoy the scraps. Your sister is getting the full meal. And just like with that girl, would my mother really have spent all that time with me? Wouldn’t she rather be with my sister instead?

Now, I realize how juvenile that all sounds. It’s juvenile, petty, and competitive. It probably doesn’t reflect her true feelings, but sometimes my mind goes there. It just does. In many ways, I should be grateful for having such a wonderful mother raise me. After all, there are many others who don’t have the luxury to complain about their parents. Or worse, having parents who mistreat them. I just wish sometimes that I merely suspected my mother having favorites, instead of having it proven to me several times in my life.

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No Asian Characters For You!

Phonograph

Ghost in the Shell is close to my heart. I’ve been watching anime since I was a child, but nothing really captured my imagination than Masamune Shirow’s vision and his infectious enthusiasm over his subjects, often evident in notes either throughout the manga’s pages or in long essays at the end of his books. After stumbling upon the fifth issue of Ghost in the Shell (this was before the trade paperbacks), I followed most of his works in film and even video games.

 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything come out Shirow outside of the erotic material which he’s recently devoted most of his time to, so it’s a bit disappointing that the latest film based on his work is not only whitewashed, but it seems to have been concocted more by film investors than by people actually familiar with the work.

I realize that one of the main reasons why Scarlett Johansson was hired to play the Japanese Motoko Kusanagi is that without her, the film probably wouldn’t have been made. The film needs to attach itself to a big name in Hollywood to guarantee a certain amount of audiences in theaters. Unfortunately, it’s this same type of mentality that keeps minorities from getting roles and populates many Hollywood movies with the same small group of people over and over again. Now granted, the film will also star Takeshi Kitano as one of the Japanese characters, but this reeks of casting for the sake of the actor’s name. Kitano isn’t really the best English speaker, and I suspect it will come off as awkward and as badly as his flat performance in 2001’s Brother. I remember reading that Kitano would regularly get involved in projects that he doesn’t fully enjoy (gangster films) in between artsier and unfortunately less profitable projects. If this was the case, it makes me think that this Ghost in the Shell movie is the former, but a certain amount of people will see the film just for the Takeshi Kitano name alone. It’s pretty cynical. Instead of relying on Hollywood star power, the filmmakers should just focus on the strength of the writing. Great movies will sometimes have breakout stars, and they become breakout stars because filmmakers took a risk on them and believed in the story they are telling.

As Jon Tsuei wrote in a Twitter rant, the story of Ghost in the Shell is a unique product of the Japanese experience. Even the book sees and talks about everything from a Japanese standpoint. Many people have pointed out that the character Motoko Kusanagi looks and IS white, but this is a critique of the anime and manga as a medium (most characters are drawn “white”), it is not valid point when it comes to the specific story and the character which are both Asian. To remove it from its roots creates a product that might as well call itself a different name. They already did a western adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. It’s called The Matrix Trilogy. Can we not just leave it at that?

And going back to the defense that anime and manga characters physically look white. This is the laziest close-minded defense. They don’t look white. They rarely physically look Asian either. I don’t see too many races where people have giant eyes with orange and purple hair. If anything, the way they’re often dressed makes them look Asian. Their character and mannerism makes them look Asian. It’s the reason why there’s something a bit odd when foreigners dress, talk, and take on the mannerisms of Asian people. It’s not just the language. Just see the western adaptation of My Sassy Girl where Elisha Cuthbert takes on the character and mannerism of a Korean girl. It doesn’t work.

Many fans fear that the western adaptation would result in an inferior experience, and they can’t be blamed for feeling that way because Hollywood doesn’t really have a great history with adapting Asian IPs. Godzilla was a bust. Oldboy was far inferior to the original. Dragon Ball was a disaster. And on a personal note, I just don’t buy Scarlett Johansson as an action star. I find the Marvel movies quite tedious, and I don’t find her physical scenes in the movie believable (yes, I realize it’s a comic book movie). Despite the success of the movie Lucy, I think it’s a very poor action film both in its execution and writing (SPOILER: She ultimately “evolves” into a USB thumb drive!).

In the end, I think this just adds to a long list of whitewashed characters in Hollywood. I realize many of the whitewashed characters are fictional and are thus open to reinterpretation. Not many actors are trying to pull off black faces; the characters are just turned white. But it’s exactly this reinterpretation that keeps media mostly white and minorities with very little representation. Call it the reality of moviemaking, but it’s also a very racist thing to do, denying people their characters and stories. It’s rare for minorities to have their own stories… their stories often have to whitewashed in order to be told.

What boggles my mind is that there’s a completely watchable Ghost in the Shell animated film that people can still watch. Not only that, there’s a couple of seasons of the animated series as well. I don’t really see a need for a live-action western adaptation. This is like when OldBoy was adapted by Spike Lee, when the 2003 Chan-wook Park original is not only superior, the visuals still stand out to this day. Go pick up one of Shirow’s books (not the art books) or watch the anime. Forget this movie.

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Canadian Anime

Emily_Murphy

Printed and distressed my Canadian posters to make them look more authentic. I’m hoping I succeeded (http://josephmreyes.com/Blamco.html). People can compare the results from the images I posted in the past couple of months. I’m happy with the resulting images. I’m hoping others are too.

 

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AIDS Cures on TV

Serial

My niece colors like a serial killer.

I saw Bill Maher interview Dr. Samir Chachoua, the doctor who is currently treating Charlie Sheen. He’s the doctor who advised him to get off his regular meds, use a treatment that he claims cures HIV (not therapy), and apparently even injected some of Sheen’s own blood to himself in order to assuage Sheen’s fears. It is a bit concerning that Bill Maher would give the doctor a media platform when prior to the interview, Charlie Sheen said in Dr. Oz’s show that his “numbers are back up” after getting on Dr. Chachoua’s treatment. Still, the booking was not much of a surprise. Bill Maher keeps giving questionable people platforms. He once talked to Sam Wurzelbacher or “Joe the Plumber” as if he was a serious person. He also basically birthed S.E. Cupp who often comes up with the most ridiculous points on issues.

But aside from the doctor’s many dubious claims on the program (“I’ve cured entire countries!,” “Sheen is HIV negative.”), I believe there’s value in the message that we shouldn’t be complicit with the status quo. We should have healthy skepticism of what’s being told as well as keep an open ear to what’s new. Is the current HIV and AIDS treatment truly the best science has to offer? Perhaps we should be looking at other options. I haven’t done much reading regarding Dr. Chachoua’s claims. But my skepticism goes both ways, to the established science which is married with corporate interests and to the unknown Dr. Chachoua. My skepticism for the doctor comes from Sheen himself. His numbers are back up. I already fear that he’s leading Sheen down the wrong path, whether the doctor knows it or not.

The many claims Dr. Chachoua put out on Bill Maher’s show paints a great picture of possibility regarding curing AIDS and other disease, but the media tries to ridicule him and his treatment based on arthritic goats. While he may indeed be a “quack,” we should not dismiss the possibility of finding cures in the least likely of places, even arthritic goats. There is value in looking at all alternatives and not just surrendering to what the established truth is. Scientists right now are looking at sloth hair clippings for new antibiotics. However, it all must be evidence and results-based. And right now, I still haven’t looked at evidence that supports the doctor’s claims.

I guess the fear here is that this will produce another Jenny McCarthy: more “experts” that would convince people to forego proven treatments to their detriment. This is generally a symptom of the mistrust against authorities, and unfortunately in many cases, people rail against scientific authority for the wrong reasons. This is why there’s a resurgence of flat earthers and creationists along with the climate change deniers. The Charlie Sheen/Dr. Chachoua HIV thing could very well be explained as a similar reaction against established scientific authority. I am hoping it leads to more creative zeal regarding the treatment of diseases, not necessarily from Dr. Chachoua who may or may not be a “quack,” but to many people in the scientific community. I’m hoping it doesn’t result in a wave of AIDS denialism. So yeah, for now, I’m cautiously optimistic about the doctor’s appearance on Bill Maher’s show.

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Canadian Feminist

Emily_Murphy

Emily Murphy inspired by Lautrec on a day when I have not much energy to write anything.

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Unsolicited Nocturnal Comforts

Courer_des_bois

A short piece about comforting the cold:

We had a few drinks, things were good. I met her at a party in Osborne Village. She knew I was married, but she was totally cool with having drinks me somewhere else. Later, we ended up in her place for a few more drinks.

Things were getting hot and heavy, her thermostat finally started working and my bladder was getting heavy. It was this time when, unfortunately for her, she passes out.

This left me no choice but to do that thing which I believe most men would end up doing in such a situation… I grabbed a colorful Afghan from a closet and casually laid it over her. Manitoba mornings can get really cold.

Some might say I draped her. But I like to think there was some understanding between us after she took a couple of shots of Fernet-Branca.

Anyway, she’s now accusing me of being a drapist and dragging my good name in the mud.

An article from the Winnipeg Sun says that she woke up all stinky and sweaty, not knowing how she got to feeling so disgusting. She said she didn’t consent to being draped and was perfectly fine sleeping without an ornamental Afghan from Pier 1 Imports covering her.

That was just the beginning of my troubles.

No one bought her initial accusations, so she found some other women who claim I draped them as well. Some women were from as far back as college. I could barely remember their names. One woman in particular claimed she passed out after a party and I put a California king-size duvet over her. Then my buddies took turns putting blankets over her to keep her warm. It was -30 in Winnipeg.

She claims she was gang draped.

Another woman said I tried to put a small microfleece blanket over her while we were out camping in Portage la Prairie. I did, I’m not gonna argue that. But I thought she was cold and she was asking for it. Also, that blanket wasn’t so small. Some might say it’s even bigger than the average microfleece blanket.

A supervisor I used to work with in a nursing home claims she saw me putting bouclé blankets over people as they slept. They woke up all toasty, not knowing who draped them. Some don’t even realize they’ve been draped, to which I say is more plausible. They could’ve draped themselves!

The supervisor says she kept silent over the drapings because one time when she was in her office catching a quick nap on her desk, she claims I snuck in and covered her with a machine-washable Hudson’s Bay point blanket. She ended up sleeping for over an hour.

Of course I deny all of these draping allegations, except for that one incident back in 97.

There was an old gentleman sleeping on top of cardboard mat in an alley behind the Burton Cummings Theatre. I ended up covering him with 1200TC Siberian goose down comforter in the dead of the night without his consent.

Okay, I’ll give them that. I draped a homeless man once. But I swear he liked it. In any case, that doesn’t make me a serial drapist.

 

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Making Art for No One

Here’s an advice to artists out there. If you’re gonna make art, make sure that it would actually mean something to someone. Let me illustrate this.

Here’s a fake anime movie poster of Maurice Ruddick, the singing miner. He’s an Afro-Canadian survivor of the 1958 Springhill Mining Disaster in Nova Scotia. He’s a figure of Canadian history not only as a survivor of the disaster but also as a victim of segregation.

Maurice_Ruddick

Here’s the Canadian Heritage video about him.

I played around with the poster, and here’s a rather racist version of the poster. It depicts a white character as the central character. And yes, the Japanese is mangled. I know.

Maurice_Ruddick_White

Now, to fully appreciate the whole thing, one has to be:
1. Interested in things Canadian
2. Interested in Canadian history
3. Know about Maurice Ruddick
4. Interested in Maurice Ruddick and the Springhill Mining Disaster
5. Interested in anime like the ones produced by Studio Ghibli
6. Can read Japanese
7. Know about the 12 Years a Slave Italian poster controversy
8. Know that some studios would use lesser characters in films to market a movie simply because they are more marketable/palatable to their perceived audience
9. Is actually willing to have cartoon posters on their wall

Now, how many people actually fit all of those characteristics? Not much. I think I already hit a snag with the second and third criteria.  If you’re planning to sell work, don’t make it too niche. Otherwise, you’ll be making a lot of work to keep to yourself.

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Keiko and the Canadian Space Arm

Canadian_Arm

A little too busy today for a long entry. Instead, here’s a picture of a fake anime movie based on one of Canada’s greatest contributions to science: the Canadian space arm.

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