Category Archives: history

Kimonos and Fake News

Spoliarium

I’ve been doing a bit of an informal survey after hearing a friend spout off what sounds like anti-Japanese sentiment disguised as facts. In an attempt to disparage the character of Japanese culture specifically and the Japanese people in general, she mentioned that the kimono was designed specifically for the woman to easily have sexual encounters with men at a moment’s notice. That is why what appear to be cushions or pillows are attached at the back of the outfit. This factoid (or to cut to the chase, this lie) seems to be designed to hurt the Japanese image by basically calling their traditional attire a sex attire and by virtue implying that Japanese women have a history of having loose morals.

I’ve been asking Koreans around me about the reason for the kimono’s design and most people reference this rather risqué explanation to different degrees, with some being more polite than others. This was very fascinating since the people I asked were mostly well-educated people who have visited Japan several times, if not lived there for several years. They mostly came up with the same explanation, although some expressed doubts regarding its veracity.

Now, I’ve read about kimonos, seen them worn many times first-hand, and been with people who had it put on. There are many degrees, but kimonos can be quite complicated to put on. It took my friends almost an hour to have it put on them, and this is with a professional assistant. When you see people walking around Japan with their Sunday best kimonos, these are mostly complicated attires with several layers. They are not the fastest things to take on and off. Probably the easiest and least layered kimono I could think of are the yukatas worn in the summer, but compared to the Korean hanbok, they are probably a little more complicated to put on and off, so I don’t understand this idea of “easy access.” As for the cushions or pillows attached in the back. They are otakos or oversized ribbons mainly placed there for aesthetic purposes. I would hardly consider them pillows. One of the reasons for putting so much material around women at the time was that it was considered ideal for women to have a straight, flat figure. It was simply the aesthetic at the time. And as for pillows and the idea of having women basically be on their backs, Japanese women, when fully attired in traditional garb will have a very complex hairdo. Back then, they would never rest their head on pillows for fear of ruining their hair, and instead rested their head and neck on what amounts to a wooden platform. The whole pillow/easy access thing is simply a fantasy.

But what lends it credibility is a bit of truth. One is that there is a history of courtesans and prostitution in Japan which does involve the image of geishas wearing heavy make-up and kimonos. But this is counter to the easy access image the rumor I’ve been hearing. Another bit of truth is that kimonos are usually tied from behind, thus women would often require assistance when putting on such complicated attire. Prostitutes would sometimes tie their kimono in front so they could easily put them on and off without assistance, but that it not the only sole reason to wear a kimono with the ribbon in front. Elderly people for example, would tie their kimonos in front to make it easier to wear them. In any case, there are many reasons why kimonos could be tied in front, but I think the originators of the easy access lie just latched on to the prostitution story and made it true for all kimonos.

But what is the purpose of the lie. I imagine it is a relic of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. I ask people where and when they first heard of this explanation and not many people could tell me exactly when. It seems to have been rooted in their childhood. Thus, even when I offer a counter explanation, some find it hard to divorce themselves from the old take. Perhaps it was designed to disparage the Japanese, and in doing so, boost Korean nationalist sentiment. This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen. In the 80s, children in the Philippines were taught that Armando Lite invented the ArmaLite (M16), Agapito Flores invented the fluorescent lamp, and Eduardo San Juan invented the Lunar Rover. There’s a possibility that Eduardo San Juan did exist as an engineer, but there is no record that he was the chief engineer for the Lunar Rover. And as for the other two, they are nothing but clever puns. But why make up the lie? They were designed to boost national pride, encourage children to take up science and engineering, and instill a bit of anti-American sentiment since all inventors were said to have had their inventions stolen and their credits removed, thus making the lies unprovable. I suspect the Japanese kimono lie was created in the same vein, especially since the Koreas were occupied by the Japanese the same way the Philippines was occupied by the Americans.

I believe this is an early attempt at “fake news” or propaganda. Unfortunately, with me trying to disprove the old “fake news,” I could be labeled as “fake news” as well. I’m not sure if propaganda had the same vicious back and forth cycle back then as well. I figure some lies just faded after people saw the light of truth and reason. But maybe I was being naïve in thinking they are not as persistent, after all, what was my friend spouting? And to bring it back to the modern era, I had my wife look up some of the anti-Japanese sentiments my friend was spouting including the kimono explanation online. True enough, she finds them in a Korean anti-Japanese site. Old “fake news” makes it to the modern age.

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Hostage Families

Cherubs

Outside of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I cannot think of anything that Facebook has been involved in that ultimately resulted in good. Right now, it’s my main platform for keeping in touch with my family over the Internet, but we could definitely switch over to other ways of communicating if only someone would teach my father how to use WhatsApp (which ironically is another company which Facebook bought).

I haven’t updated my Facebook for years now. A couple of times, hacked accounts have even posted pornographic ads on my wall, and it stayed there for days without me even noticing. I guess like many people, I have outgrown the platform and are now more into other platforms like Twitter or Instagram (again, another company which Facebook bought). It really doesn’t benefit me to distant relatives and acquaintances’ baby pictures or vacation photos. And it really doesn’t do me any good to debate people I sorta know about political issues we both believe we are experts on. That’s what Twitter is for. I get to post a comment and leave it at that. Let some stranger deal with it. I could engage with responses if I want to. It’s different on Facebook when an uncle is telling me on my wall that I’m a communist.

The biggest turn off recently is that what people have long suspected about Facebook has finally been confirmed. Cambridge Analytica was using Facebook data to manipulate elections by feeding people propaganda. This is only one company that was revealed to be using this. Who knows which other companies are using Facebook data and to what end? And Facebook is caught in a true damned if they did, damned if they didn’t situation. Either they were complicit to Cambridge Analytica using Facebook information, or they were asleep at the wheel and let their users be subject to political propaganda. They’re either evil or stupid. And the thing is, the main tool they used to reach their goals is narcissism. It’s a perfect ball of evil. It’s often narcissism that compels someone to maintain and keep up a social network page. It’s narcissism that compels someone to seek out news that reinforces their own beliefs. It’s narcissism that pushes people to share the news with like-minded people. People never do it to inform or change minds; they do it to show how well-versed they are with a subject. And it’s narcissism and boredom that compels people to take those inane quizzes and surveys that Facebook frequently posts, the main tool which people used to collect data.

And to what end? What has Facebook done? Well, at the most innocuous, they sell our data to marketers who in turn sell us more things we don’t need. At its most insidious, they allow companies data to manipulate people’s views and shift elections and policies. Or simply they sell data to companies who will in turn use it to monitor people. Just recently, news broke out that Facebook lets ICE agent track undocumented immigrants and deport them, breaking families apart. Good thing those families have Facebook. Children could use it once mommy and daddy are forced to live in another country.

The most major event I could think of that Facebook was widely credited for allowing to happen was the Arab spring. And even that event is mixed. Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube were great platforms to share what was happening out in the streets in Africa and organizing protests. But that was 2010 Facebook and fake news was not as prevalent then as it is now. Also, it is notable that Mark Zuckerberg seems more open to courting Russian and Chinese authorities to the platform as opposed to doing damage control and making sure the platform is an open and welcoming space for people living in the west, where free speech is assumed to be a priority for a company like Facebook. But going back to the Arab Spring, I don’t really think it resulted in progressive change. If anything, it set many people back in Africa. There’s more instability now. Shiite and Sunnis are fighting now more than ever. Col. Gaddafi had grand visions for Africa and kept his country together.

Anything historical or progressive Facebook pushes now I’ll always see with a cynical view. To what end are they pushing this? And if I’m getting this news or political push, surely another person is getting the exact same news but given a diametrically opposite slant.

In any case, I’m depressed enough as it is and don’t need Facebook in my life. I’m already wasting enough of my time doing other useless things. I really don’t need to scroll through people’s Facebook posts wasting more time. Well, I want to sometimes. We all want to see how wretched our past acquaintances are compared to us. We are all small, petty human beings. But I wouldn’t want a giant company to use my evil desires to enrich themselves and further their own evil agendas.

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The Message with Sally Yates

Copies.jpg

I was going to write a love letter to Manitoba, but recent news has got me upset. What happened with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was not the Saturday Night Massacre. Nixon was more subtle by comparison. The Trump administration had the constitutional right to remove Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates from her position for not following Trump’s executive order to ban Muslim immigration from seven countries, but there is absolutely no reason to tar and feather her by saying she “betrayed” the country and that she is “weak on borders and weak on illegal immigration.” The statement they issued was petty and vindictive, and they flaunt their authority over the justice system, completely ignoring the federal court orders to have the immigration ban stayed. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates cannot act on the executive order when federal courts are against it and the Supreme Court has not made a ruling on its legality.

As the top lawyer of the United States, it is not the attorney general’s job to agree with everything the president does. To do so would make the position technically moot. This also isn’t the first time an attorney general or a deputy attorney general has acted against a sitting president’s orders. James Comey famously went against the president’s wishes just a few years ago. Of course, many attorney generals go along with the administration’s wishes. After all, they get their by the administration’s recommendation. Eric Holder was extremely partisan and didn’t go after the big banks after the Obama administration mentioned that they weren’t looking to prosecute them. But while they are partisan appointees, their job is to uphold the law and make sure that the executive branch acts within the scope of the law. It is not the attorney general’s job to do something which they believe is illegal or somehow bend the rules to make them legal. They definitely can, and can be rewarded for being loyal partisan actors, but it’s blatantly unethical to relieve someone of their position for not doing something which they believe is illegal.

This constitutional duty to not blindly follow the leader but to follow the letter of the law as well as what is ethical is what allows me to sleep at night despite knowing that Trump has the nuclear codes. He may order a country to be bombed simply because a citizen there annoyed him on Twitter, but it is the officer’s as well as everyone else in the hierarchy’s duty to not follow his order if they deemed it illegal, immoral, or unethical. It is their civic duty to do so; and to follow the president’s order in such a case would be a dereliction of duty. This is what Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to do, to carry out an act which is in her opinion, an opinion based on a lifetime of working for the justice department, is both illegal and indefensible. It was her duty to refuse the president. And for that, she got sacked.

But really, what choice does she have. The Muslim ban is clearly a disaster and several federal court orders agree. It was an executive order that was hastily made without consultation from the president’s own top advisors. His own Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, does not support the order, and believes it endangers the troops he’s been recently made in charge of. As far as I can tell, the only people who were certainly in the room when Trump drafted the order was Stephen Miller, a young political operative with a racist history, and Steve Bannon, a publisher of a Web site frequented by neo-Nazis. They’re not exactly the people with the most expertise regarding immigration and national security. But then again, neither is Trump. The woman Trump fired had more years serving the public, more years keeping the country safe, than Trump.

And to those defending the Muslim ban, calling it a mere travel restriction, even Trump calls it a ban. And whatever name you call it, and even if you only limit it to those seven countries, it still affects Muslims. It still goes against the notion of having no religious test for the country. It flies in the face of common decency. The measure doesn’t make the US safer. It makes it harder for the military to gain allies in those seven countries and serves as a great recruitment tool for ISIS. But then again, what do expect from the great military expertise of Trump, Miller, and Bannon?

Sally Yates’ firing goes along with the message that the Trump administration is sending out. From journalists and employees at the National Park Service, to long-time government employees and officials- if you’re not with the Trump agenda, you should be fired. This is an amazingly flagrant display of authoritarianism.

It’s been a really dark few days. Even Canada has not been immune to Trump’s brand of intolerance. Quebec has been marred with tragedy, with the shooting of a mosque. And while some detractors will point out that Quebec has had a history of intolerance long before the Trump phenomenon, the shooter has been a part of the same alt-right movement which supports Trump.

It’s going to be a tiring few years. I believe the wave of bigotry will continue to wreak havoc long after we stopped getting daily bad news from Trump. There will be frequent protests and frequent outrages. Luckily, it is exactly during these times when people can become heroes by fighting injustice. Sally Yates will now be remembered as a hero. Honestly, I doubt if many people knew her name before she stood against Donald Trump. Now it’s time for people to go against him, take advantage of the growing rage against the US government’s recent actions, and make a name for themselves. If not because it is the right thing to do, but it is also good politics.

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Horrible Week

Dead_Rabbit

To the two guys who kept arguing with me on my Intro to Criminal Law class before, tell me how racial profiling doesn’t exist now?

The recent events in the US have been the most malignant in terms of race relations recently, a mixture of bad police culture, guns, and a history of racial injustice. I’ve been tweeting about it for a couple of days now, and I’m sure many people have said more thoughtful things about it than me. But what gets to me most about these events is how the movement Black Lives Matter get tarred and feathered. “They’re a terrorist organization financed by George Soros!” “What about the cops?! Blue Lives Matter!” “What about everyone else? All Lives Matter!”

First off, enough with the conspiracy theories. Even if the movement was started by the Illuminati, it is working against a system that is corrupt. A system that is flush with guns, have bad training, and is protected by an abusive union. Even if Black Lives Matter had connections with the Black Panthers, it is a reaction to a system that has continually failed a group of people. Stop being obtuse. People are getting shot and killed, and people are angry. Not everything has to be a convoluted conspiracy of global destabilization. Remember Occam’s razor.

Cops’ lives matter, of course. They all have families and many police officers are minorities. The problem here is the police have a tendency to oppress minorities. They are the ones arresting, oppressing, and shooting black people. To say, blue lives matter, is a false equivalency. No one is systematically oppressing police officers. No one. They are the power. They are the ones with the authority to arrest, detain, and shoot if necessary.

To say “blue lives matter,” is almost the same as complaining about the existence of Black history month, or the BET Awards, or gay pride parades. Minorities have these things because they rarely get a say in things. They have been marginalized and now they are speaking out. Cops have never been marginalized. The song Cop Killer and that video of “pigs in a blanket” did not cause of a long history of suffering for police officers. It didn’t get them arrested. It kept them off schools and jobs. Police officers actually have it good. Many news outlets say that the shooting in Dallas which killed five officers was the deadliest attack on police officers since 9/11. If that’s the case, then being a police officer actually sounds safer than being black, gay, or a toddler in America.

And of course they’re safe. Judging from the protective gear, equipment, and tactics they’ve been using, they’re bound to be safe. The police forces on TV look more prepared for war than the poor soldiers sent to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. Police officers are bound to be safe if their first reaction to a black woman crying after her boyfriend got shot is to point guns at her as well. Diamond Reynolds was a woman whose loved one just got murdered while her daughter was in the vehicle. She’s not a Magneto. It reminds me of that Natalie Merchant song Gun Shy. “There is a world outside of this room, and if you meet it promise me, you won’t meet it with your gun.” Unfortunately, I keep seeing examples of the opposite.

And as for “all lives matter.” I agree. All lives matter. It’s just that black people in America want to be part of that “all.” They have a long history of not mattering.

 

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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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Nothing on TV

David Letterman announces that he will be retiring from the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN on the broadcast tonight, Thursday, April 3 (11:35pm-12:37am, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

David Letterman announces that he will be retiring from the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN on the broadcast tonight, Thursday, April 3 (11:35pm-12:37am, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

This hit me much like Seinfeld did on its last show. It’s just entertainment, but it breaks my heart a bit knowing that the Late show is now gone. It is a sadness not just for a show ending, but a bit of mourning since it serves as a marker for time past. We are now at an age, when the Late Show with David Letterman is no more. And to the more extreme, it is a reminder of the inevitable. Everything ends. Enjoy every sandwich.

I guess the next show’s end that would affect me as much would be Conan O’Brien’s show, that and the Howard Stern Show on satellite. Here’s hoping both shows last far long into the future.

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