Category Archives: media

Striking Viral Gold

Calendar

Lately, there’s this new mascot in Korea has skyrocketed in popularity. Pengsu is a headphones-wearing penguin that does 10-minute man-on-the-street skits produced by EBS, the Korea Educational Broadcasting System. Unlike a lot of Korean comedy, the character is able to attract both young children and adults with his witty ad-lib free of sexual overtones, cursing, or slapstick.

I must admit, I too find him amusing. The whole set-up is reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen skits. Talk to someone for a few minutes, move one, rinse and repeat. He also has recurring things he comes back to, basically building his own world simply by virtue of the story he spins.

Much like PBS, EBS survives through sponsorship and advertisement. Because they’re mainly focused on education, they’re not as attractive to companies compared to other bigger broadcasting companies in the country. The character Peng-su’s surge in popularity not only because of the character itself but also due to the story of an educational character crossing over to the viral mainstream. And that is one of the things that interest me most about the character. A lot of the character’s fans are quite keen on speculating on what products the character would or should endorse in the future. Already, I’ve seen news stories of companies courting the creators of the character to ink a deal to start hawking their merchandise.

Now I know that some characters or some shows are always in danger of not having enough funding to continue. It’s always difficult finding funding for the arts. But to me, the Peng-su phenomenon is akin to having a viral tweet or Instagram post. When an unknown account suddenly goes viral with one tweet, it is often followed by either the original poster advertising something in response to the sudden popularity or just shrugging it all off and linking to something innocuous. That attitude of “BAM! You’ve hit the big time, not milk this for all it’s worth” is so pervasive that it’s a tad off-putting. Now, I know that this has been going on since the very beginning of mass media, but now it’s almost the very first thing one thinks of the minute they get a hint of fame (or infamy even). And now it’s even come to cartoon mascots. It’s a bit weird. I mean, I enjoyed cartoons and different characters and media when I was younger, but not once did I think they should trade their fame for more advertising revenue. G.I. Joe was already selling me action figures. I didn’t think they should advertise McDonalds just so they could eke out more episodes. Sesame Street could easily survive if Big Bird started selling life insurance.

I’ve seen this kind of talk with athletes before in the country. And this I understand. The champion figure skater Kim Yoona was super popular (and still is) in the country and her fame coupled with her good looks made her a magnet for advertisers. And good for her, too. Athletes only have a few years to capitalize on their fame, so she did well with her advertising and she didn’t overdo it either.

I remember Howard Stern once saying, “just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.” Which is him saying just because you can be part of any sort of project just to make a few dollars, doesn’t mean you should say yes to everything. You can afford to not be part of everything. You can afford to say no. Which is more than I can say with some celebrities in Korea. There are times when the media just keeps on pumping the same set of people again, and again, and again. Sure, they might think their current popularity has a very short lifespan, but during that lifespan, I’m already sick of their face on television (Yes, I’m sick of Park Na-rae). This is one reason why I get easily put off by Korean television. It’s the same people again and again until you get sick of them.

Now, I do hope this Peng-su character lasts for a while. If anything, his popularity shows that there is more to Korean television than singing, people eating, or fake reality show BS. It’s also good to see a character be successful fueled mostly by wit. It’s a good departure from the standard brand of stand-up comedy you would see in Korean gag comedy.

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Hello Misery

Flower

When I was a kid, my uncle gave me a collection of Joker stories. It was a decent collection of works, starting from his origin as the original Red Hood to a story about the Joker celebrating his birthday. It was a much more compelling collection for my young brain compared to another book which the same uncle gave me a year before, a collection of Ra’s al Ghul stories. It was great that I was getting a bunch of comic books at the time, but I sometimes wonder why I kept getting collected stories of Batman villains. Did my uncle have a thing against the Caped Crusader?

Since I read and re-read that book, along with other Batman comic books, the Joker has always been the most fascinating of the DC villains for me. Marvel has its share of compelling villains, particularly the X-Men and Spider-Man’s roster of foes, but the Joker for many comic book readers is the most beloved villain in the industry. Some might say that it is because despite him being cartoonish, he has a very human quality which keeps him apart from the overly fantastic qualities of the likes of Lex Luther or some purple space tyrant in any book or film. This is true to some degree, but I believe it is something else. The Joker is the revenge fantasy of the miserable.

And really? Who isn’t miserable? Who wasn’t miserable as a teenager? Getting picked on, not having a girlfriend? Who’s not miserable now? Stuck in a dead end job, have a wife/girlfriend who doesn’t care about you, have no woman in your life, no future, etc.

When you’re miserable as a teen and you read comic books, heroes like Batman or the X-Men might inspire you. They have miserable lives as well, but through different means, Bruce Wayne with year of training coupled with immense wealth and the X-Men with their super powers, they manage to make something out of their miserable lives and perhaps make the world a better place. But those characters all have their trump cards, they all have their deus ex machinas which lifts them up from their impossible situations: infinite wealth, super powers. The allure of the Joker is that his super power is that he’s insane… he’s insane, and more importantly, he’s miserable. And that’s an element that everyone in the world has infinite access to. With enough misery, maybe you can become a super villain like the Joker. Maybe life would be more interesting then. You can’t be Batman or Iron Man. You hardly have any money in your bank account. And you certainly don’t want to work out or train or be a real hero like a police officer or something. That takes too much time. Also, it’s much, MUCH easier to terrorize people than to actually save people from criminals or any danger. Where will you find people to save? There are people available to terrorize everywhere. And bonus points, there’s no Caped Crusader to stop you. The Joker is easy access.

Just look at the mass shooters in the news. They are all miserable and most of them have this grand delusion of being famous. Spreading misery around is the shortcut way to infamy, to being bigger than what they are. That’s why a lot of people refrain from publicizing their names too much. That is giving the criminals exactly what they want. And isn’t that the Joker’s modus operandi? Do something horrible, terrorize people, get caught, and yet be satisfied knowing that the terror he caused will forever live on in the hearts of those on the outside.

I think this is why the Jared Leto version of the Joker was so disdained and totally doesn’t work. Most people who loved or at least understood the Joker know that it is a character born out of misery. On paper, Jared Leto has never been “not cool.” He was a teen heart throb, still has lots of adoring fans, and he plays in a band. And his “cool” Joker was not miserable at all. He was ripped. He got a grill. He has tattoos. He was barely hiding the fact that he was Jared Leto, Jared Leto who spent a couple of hundred dollars in a Hot Topic. He was everyone the miserable teen who loved comic books wouldn’t hang out with in school. He was co-opting a truth which he has never realized, a “cool guy” trying to be a juggalo and failing at it.

It is interesting how the character basically started out as a gimmicky thief, then later turned into a maniac often inspired by sociopolitical purposes. It is like the character grew and became disenfranchised with itself and realized that everything around it has gone to hell… and snapped. And again, isn’t that what happens with a lot of these mass shooters in the news? In many ways… that is the fantasy. Life is getting worse, but that’s okay, one day you’ll just snap and not care about anything. Boom. That’s your super power. And by the way, I’m not saying that our collective fascination with the Joker is a bad thing or not, but the character does touch on the nihilistic side of humanity, when everything is so bad that nothing holds meaning anymore, and maybe out of all of that misery, maybe we will come out as bigger, more interesting characters. Forget Bruce Wayne. It’s too late for us to be born rich. But it is never too late to be miserable and crazy.

Looking at this new Joker movie coming up, I could see that the character is again digging deep into the misery in order to transform into the laughing villain we all know. Joaquin Phoenix, is literally morphing his body, looks miserable, and yet totally relatable in his expressions. The Joaquin Phoenix will be the most common costume for men come Halloween 2019. I’m excited for it.

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A Taste for Crime

Repetition

Under the Son of Sam law, criminals are not allowed to profit from their crimes by selling their story. Even after they served their time and if they managed to get out, it is illegal for murderers to write books recalling the grisly details of their crimes. And yet… why do we allow other people to exploit their crimes for their own profit?

I haven’t really thought much about it until I was listening to the latest Sword and Scale podcast regarding Christopher Watts, a man who murdered his pregnant wife and two daughters. To others, the family seemed like a perfectly, photogenic family with the dream house and all, but apparently he was abusive, cheated on his wife, and the family was actually struggling financially. It always bothered me how the host/narrator of the show seemed to describe the state of the victims with glee, but it was particularly disturbing this time around when Mike Boudet described the victim’s unborn child as well as her underwear for no reason except maybe to add more titillation to the broadcast. I know it’s subjective in my part, but I imagine him almost licking his lips as he describes the pictures which were paraded around by tabloids like the Daily Mail. It crossed from being informative to being almost pornographic in its exploitative nature.

Now, I’m no fragile flower. I have no problem consuming violent and even bizarre media, but when shows like Sword and Scale market themselves about true crime, I would imagine it’s about the details of the case and how it was put to rest, not about the gory details or overdrawn subjective commentary. Also, the fact that the show praised the work of the polygraph expert in the case tells me that the show couldn’t care less about the workings of the law and how justice should be pursued.

Polygraph tests are inadmissible in almost every jurisdiction in the United States. No one can be forced to submit to a test, and they are proven many times to be inaccurate and open to manipulation. In the Watts case, the suspect volunteered for a test where he was interviewed by the agent in ways that suggested she had more insight regarding the truth in his heart. She was practicing pop psychology with the atmosphere of law enforcement. They were in effect interviewing him without a lawyer and pressuring him to confess to crimes under tremendous pressure. Granted, he was a horrible human being who happened to be guilty, but what if the next person being interviewed by the agents was an innocent person? As Mike Boudet described the polygraph expert, she was like a mongoose strategically catching a cobra. How nice. That mongoose would also be catching innocent animals using the same set of skills and loose ethics.  Protections for suspects are designed for both the innocent and the guilty. Sword and Scale seems to not realize this as the host colorfully condemned the rather easy target.

The purpose of these shows is not to inform the public or to promote justice. Their purpose is to entertain and sell more subscriptions to Blue Apron or Dollar Shave Club. And really, what’s the attraction that these shows are working on? What is the bait with which they are attracting viewers and convincing them to push subscribe on their phones? Is it the workings of the law and justice, or is it just the scandalous details of the crime? Is it the feeling of superiority after the downfall of the perpetrators? There can be a fine line between good shows and exploitative garbage, and I really don’t have a problem with true crime shows or even fictional crime dramas, but when it lingers on gory details, unnecessary subjective interpretation, and disregard for the implications of the actions of law enforcement, then it becomes really, really problematic. Instead of the detailed investigation of crimes like Sarah Koenig’s Serial, you get the shoddy analysis and proselytization of Nancy Grace. It makes for poorer, ill-informed citizens.

And of course, there are still real victims of these crimes. Victims whose loved-ones just got delightedly reminded again of how the victims were killed and the state they were in when they were found.

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They are just kids… racist kids.

drummer

Kids will be kids, and 17 year-old young men are still children. Nevertheless, it is disheartening how so many people in the media are bending over backwards telling everyone that what we saw those Covington kids do was not racist at all.

It was racist. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of any sort of bigotry will recognize the smug smile on Nicholas Sandmann’s face. It’s the smile that says among many other things, “I’m going to get away with this.”

I don’t want to dissect everything that happened. There are videos and different analyses about the event. It doesn’t have to be treated like a Zapruder film. Everyone’s actions are as plain as day.

First off, a Catholic school decided to bus a group of young men for political purposes. It was for the March for Life, an annual rally protesting the legality of abortion. Again, a Catholic school (which is not supposed to be political) decided to bus a group of young men (who will never, EVER, be pregnant) to protest the legality of abortion (participating in a political event, a very adult thing to do). The school organizers and their parents decided it was okay to have young men, voice their opinions on political issues, but the minute they get into racist shenanigans, they are immediately reverted back to innocent young children who have no idea how racist their actions were.

Also, prior to the viral video, there’s already evidence of the boys harassing young women with vile remarks. These are not the innocent actors that the Sandmann’s PR firm would have you believe. These boys are not the type who would freeze up and nervously pray silently when they see an old Native American man play a peace drum. They were loud, obnoxious, and combative.

What annoys me however is how quickly people in the media quickly turned from condemning their actions to making excuses for them after a PR firm got to them. So many articles and people online would try to convince you that the boys weren’t being vile, that there was a bigger story from a different angle. There isn’t. The boys were racists and misogynists. Their school and their parents are equally racists and misogynists.  If anything, the bigger story here is how easy it is to dupe the players in the media, and how yet again, attacks against Native Americans are so engrained in society that people easily ignore them. Tomahawk chops? That’s just something they learned through football! Mocking dance? Well, they were just moving to the beat of the drum! Native Americans experience racism regularly but you don’t nearly see much outrage about it. If anything, injustice against Native Americans is often seen with hopeless familiarity, “here we go again.”

It would be interesting to see how the media would react if the same actions the boys took were done by a group of a different color or gender.  I’m guessing more colorful language would be used to describe them, “a gang” if they’re black or brown men, and the word “hysterical” if it was a group of women. And you wouldn’t really see too many people quickly giving them interviews over the Today Show. Then discussions regarding crime, drugs, or rampant feminism would follow.

Ironically, Donald Trump has invited the Covington boy to the White House after saying they were victims of fake news. Donald Trump famously tried to get the Central Park Five, a group of black teens, executed despite being innocent of a crime. There are many differences between the Covington boys and the Central Park Five, but we all know which one matters the most.

And unfortunately, it’s not only Trump that has this bias. It’s so many people in the media as well.

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Boycotting Jackassery

Grandma

Ad boycotts are great. Boycotts are great. Jack Schafer is wrong, dead wrong. Ad boycotts or boycotts in general are democracy in action. It’s the people telling companies exactly what they want, and the companies responding in return.

Jack Shafer writing for Politico, defends Tucker Carlson (and even previously defended Bill O’Reilly) and his right to have a platform where people are allowed to express their views freely, and argues that if advertisers were only allowed to support shows whose political views they support, then the only shows on TV would be the blandest centrist shows which cater to all demographic. Cenk Uygur  from The Young Turks doesn’t like the idea of pressuring advertisers either, saying that if a person doesn’t like a show, then just don’t watch it. Let it die a natural death.

The problem here is that toxic ideas, especially from those with a following, don’t die a natural death. Despite being deplatformed, if Alex Jones makes a controversial vile statement, his followers will still amplify it. But by the very fact that he is deplatformed, the extent and the damage he can cause is contained to a minimum. Ann Coulter doesn’t really have a regular media platform outside of her social network, but because she occasionally shows up on television, her celebrity status and her vile ideas remain. You can’t just “not watch” Ann Coulter and hope she disappears. It doesn’t work that way.

Jack Schafer and Cenk Uygur are wrong in thinking that companies, when they advertise in a show, are supporting the political message of the show. They might and they could but they don’t definitively do just by the virtue of advertising there. What they do however is enable shows to spread their message. Companies’ goals are to reach the audiences of the shows they advertise on. That is simply it. In doing so, they allow the shows to continue their programming. They want to sell things, not sell a political message or change hearts and minds. Some companies might be politically motivated, but by and large, that’s not how companies and advertising works.

Advertising keeps shows alive, and shows will remain alive as long as they have viewers and advertisers who are interested in said viewers. Tucker Carlson could turn his political show into a cooking show, but as long as viewers watch the show and support the advertisers’ products, the advertisers will continue to keep the show alive (not necessarily support the show’s views. Stop thinking this). But how do you let a show or a television station know that you are not happy with something when you don’t watch a particular show in the first place? Then you go to what you actually use or support in your real life, the advertisers. Bill O’Reilly survived years with seniors having his show on right after Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. People who are politically “woke,” are generally younger and couldn’t stand up against him and boycott his show when they don’t watch his show in the first place. And Bill’s hold with his senior audience is rock solid. So how does one act against him, go after his advertisers.

Boom. It worked.

And as much fearmongering there was about slippery slopes and threats to the free speech, Bill O’Reilly’s show has been off the air for a while now. People are still free to speak. Bill is still free to peddle his hatred on other platforms. The same goes for Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, and Gavin McInnes.

The whole free speech argument is a shell game. It is a way to distract from the vile things someone is saying in order to appeal to someone’s ego or righteousness. “Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech.” Sure. But notice how people who usually say that are hatemongers or conservative trolls? And as much as progressives will often defend the free speech rights of hatemongers when their advertisers are being threatened, it never really goes the other way around. Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was an attack on free speech and freedom of the press, and yet I don’t necessarily hear the loud voices on the right standing up for the dead journalist. What about Colin Kapaernick’s free speech? These people on the right are not playing it straight, folks. They’re simply not.

See, the right’s problem with ad boycotts and boycotts in general is that they usually don’t work when it comes to their causes. Remember the boycotts against Nike, Starbucks, NFL, Keurig, Apple, etc.? They simply don’t work. Wars against Christmas have been fought every year and there have been boycotts against companies, but yet most of these companies still stand. The right wing’s victories in these boycotts, if there even are, are often miniscule and symbolic, certainly nothing worth smashing your own Keurig coffeemaker over.

So yeah, Tucker Carlson is human garbage. It’s a shame that major networks keep giving him shows time and time again despite being human garbage. People are boycotting his advertisers right now because Tucker Carlson suggested that immigrants make the United States dirty, then later doubled down on the claim, stating that illegal immigrants produce about five pounds of garbage per person as they cross the desert. Someone tell him Americans generate an average of 4 pounds of trash per day and 1500 per year. Tucker Carlson is a white supremacist, nationalist turd. Advertisers on his show help keep his racist platform alive. Sure, they might not necessarily support his message, but they sure allow him to say them.

 

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On Khashoggi and Distractions

Aquarius

I never thought I’d ever see a live minstrel show in my lifetime. But that’s exactly what Kanye West did in the oval office in front of Donald Trump. He performed as a “black supporter,” a minority supporter whose years where he was hailed as a celebrity and an icon by the black community would be weaponized to delegitimize all complaints against the Trump administration. “Maybe Black Lives Matter and Colin Kapernick are just over-reacting! Kanye West, a prominent black celebrity, is out there hugging Donald Trump. They must not be well-versed on the issues as much as Kanye, the genius that he is.”

What’s shameful is that they let Kanye just go around and hurt himself by letting him speak nonsense. Doesn’t he have relatives or people that care about him? Doesn’t he have anyone to tell him that talking about multi-verses in the oval office in front of cameras make him look like a fool? Why are they letting him advocate prison reform specifically for one person, who is probably one the least-deserving of presidential pardons out of the millions of people locked up in the US? Is Donald Trump so desperate for black friends (and celebrity friends) that he would willingly exploit someone who clearly needs help? Kanye’s rant in SNL a couple of days ago was embarrassing. He held everyone hostage while he indulged in his narcissistic lectures. Trump just magnified that a thousand times and turned the whole country into SNL.

Kanye West is a distraction, a disgrace, and dumb moron. Call him a musical genius if you want, but don’t forget to include “musical.” Being called a genius in one field doesn’t give one carte blanche authority on every other subject.

Long live Taylor Swift.

Saudi Arabia is out of control. The presumed assassination and disposal of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the stuff of mafia movies. The United States is now getting a taste of what Saudi Arabia did to Canada a few months ago. Fortunately, we have a leader who is willing to stand up against Saudi Arabia. As for the US, Trump said it plainly, the Saudis are buying way too many weapons for the US to be concerned about one presumably dead journalist (who is just a US permanent resident, not a citizen). It is disgusting.

I said it before. MBS is Kim Jung Un with oil money. He behaves the same way as Kim Jung Un. The only reason why he is not ostracized by other countries is because of his country’s oil wealth. He is no reformer. If anything, he appears to be more dangerous at his young age than his predecessors. And unfortunately, with Trump unwilling to go against Saudi Arabia, this reckless behavior will only continue to escalate.

In a few weeks, people will forget about Khashoggi. Even in this page, I wrote about the distraction of Kanye West before I wrote about Khashoggi which arguably has greater consequences in the future. There will be greater distractions, and people will focus again on hating Iran instead of the Saudis. The US and the rest of the world will forget and let the Saudis do whatever they want. After all, if they can get away with 9/11, what’s that compared to one missing journalist.

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The Woven Tale Press

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Thank you to the good people at The Woven Tale Press  for including me as one of their featured artists for their issue this month. They do wonderful work at introducing new artists as well as literary works to enthusiasts.

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America is Bored

Drink

Many years ago, I enjoyed the first couple of season of The Apprentice. It was a rather goofy show. I saw it the same way I saw America’s Next Top Model. The Apprentice wasn’t producing any Warren Buffets out of its pool or talents, and America’s Next Top Model wasn’t going to produce the next Heidi Klum (who happens to have a reality show at the same time as well). I knew at the time that Donald Trump was full of it. He marketed everything and was willing to plaster his name on everything. His audiobook even had a section devoted entirely on advertising products. He was a cartoon of a man, and it was entertaining at the time. And then I got bored by third season.

I used to enjoy Gavin Mciness. I read Vice regularly on its early days and often enjoyed his many contributions although I didn’t really agree on some of his opinions. After splitting from Vice, I still enjoyed Gavin Mcinness with some of his comedic attempt. I thought the whole, “how to be a man” thing was great satire. And for a short period, I thought his hyper-masculine rants and conservative turn was a Kaufmanesque attempt at humor. It wasn’t. I moved on.

I saw a few of Jesse the Mind Ventura’s old show on conspiracy theories. I thought it was hilarious when it came out. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was tongue-in-cheek or not, especially when he goes around with his “investigative team.” A lot of what they talked about was hilariously flawed, but with a bit of production, it made it more entertaining than it should be. A couple of times, he even had Alex Jones on the show. I didn’t really know much about Alex Jones at the time, but I do remember that a lot of the big revelations and conspiracies he was talking about in the show all amounted to teases which led to nothing. There were no evidence. Just a couple of men often staring at a barbed wire fence and making up stories about what’s on the other side. I got bored and moved on to shows which had actual writers.

The first time I heard about Milo Yiannopoulous was when I heard about Gamergate. I wasn’t really that invested in the issue at the time, after all, there are bigger things out there in the world that should concern people than “ethics in video game journalism.” I found that Anita Sarkeesian and Milo Yiannopolous at the time were both working their own crowd to build up their brands. I was just amused that the whole thing blew up so much that Sarkeesian found an audience at the UN and Yiannopolous became a hero of the alt-right. And I’m like… how about playing video games instead of just arguing about them?

I used to watch Michael Lebron on Lionel Nation. He came into my radar around the same time I started listening to Sam Seder. I thought some of his arguments made sense, and it was interesting how he would sometimes go against popular takes on politics, culture, and what not. I thought he was a decent but an old-fashioned broadcaster. Then I moved on to other things. Next thing I know, I see him peddling Qanon conspiracy theories and posing with Donald Trump. Ugh.

What I’m getting at here is that America seems to have been caught up with me at my most bored a few years ago, me at my watching Jerry Springer because there is nothing else on television (and yes, I know Jerry Springer is a better statesman than most of the clowns out there right now). I’m surprised that these people I mentioned have large followings, enough for Mcinness to have global franchises of his hate group and for Trump to become the leader of the free world. Why didn’t the rest of the world move on? Couldn’t they see there are more entertaining stuff out there?

In any case, here’s hoping that the joy of seeing D-list entertainers will be usurped by an even darker desire… the desire to see someone spectacularly fail. It was entertaining to see the whole Gamergate thing erupt, but it’s even more entertaining watching Milo Yiannopolous fail again and again at trying to be relevant. It was entertaining to see Donald Trump rise. It’s the reason why cable news gave him and his supporters so much free coverage. But it would be even more entertaining to see a US president fail spectacularly. This would guarantee more rating for cable news shows.

I believe this is what ultimately will happen. People will root to see him fail just for the spectacle of it. How do I know this? The times I was watching The Apprentice, reading Gavin McInnes, or checking out Lionel Nation or Gamergate, I remember those are periods when I would occasionally scroll through Failblog. It was quite entertaining to see people fail. So yeah. C’mon America. Catch up with me at my most bored.

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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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On Journalism and Everyone Who Practices It (Whether Inadvertently or Not)

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Journalism is noble profession. The problem with journalism however is that far too many people fancy themselves as doing journalism when they’re doing anything but. Either that, or it gets muddled with punditry and people would sometimes no longer have any idea what they’re reading or listening to anymore. Do people who watch Shawn Hannity actually believe they’re not watching the news? I’m sure they think they’re watching the news and not just some college dropout opine about conspiracy theories. And with the rash of news and opinion outlets which cater to every political persuasion, anything that doesn’t fit or contradicts with our own biases could easily be waved off as fake news. The president of the United States does it. My father does it. Even my wife does it from time to time. I myself am not immune to consuming news from outlets that only share my opinion. I often get my news from left-leaning outlets. Probably the most right-leaning outlet I would occasionally watch would be Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, but that’s only because the vileness of the current political climate have left them no choice but to go against their former right-leaning ways.

And one of the reasons why I tend not to consume anything from the right is that it’s often awash with conspiracy theories and generally vile attitude towards others. How the heck did Alex Jones get an audience? Who would trust anything that Jesse Watters says? And that’s just people on TV. There’s a plethora of right wing talkers on the Internet who dare I say are more unqualified to talk about politics and the news but still command a sizeable audience. And this again blows my mind because none of them are funny and witty at all. Without actually informing their audience, I would expect them to either be witty or funny at a minimum, but no, they’re just not. Outside of wit and humor, they just often resort to hate, which I understand is just as entertaining and addictive.

But what’s most ironic is that while the president of the US denigrates and makes villains out of real journalists, many right wing commenters who often cloak themselves in the amorphous mantle of journalism/punditry join in and attack the free press as well. “These are fake news.” “lame stream media.” As if they don’t belong and are not protected by the same rights real journalists are working under. It’s the same way Trump and many of his political supporters attack the government and this fictional “deep state” as if they’re not the ones currently running everything. It is insanity.

Just yesterday, five journalists were gunned down in Annapolis. This was after the president called members of the free press the enemy. This was a day after Milo Yiannopolous publicly opined that he wanted journalists to be hunted down. And again, ironically, Yiannopolous also happens to work for Info Wars and previously worked for Breitbart which would in some ways make him part of that group he wants attacked. And while they all attacked the 1st Amendment, I’m sure it would be that same 1st Amendment they would use to protect themselves from any liability. “I was just kidding.” “It wasn’t serious.”

God bless the journalists who do their job right and do their job well. We all need them now more than ever.

Maybe it’s not the most appropriate example from many liberals because he is a right winger who I often disagreed with, but I always admired how Charles Krauthammer went from Harvard medical school, to speechwriter, to journalism. I wish I had his courage and his gift to write.

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