Saturday, October 15, 2005

Good Satire

The folks at RealDoll have been plying their creepy trade in utterly lifelike sex dolls for quite sometime now.

While I do have concerns that such a doll could help warp people's sexuality to the point that they have trouble with the emotional/empathetic aspects of a relationship with a real person, it's not like porn doesn't already do that to a large degree.

It's hard to read their FAQs and not rate them pretty high on the creep-o-meter. I think they realize the stigma that their product might have and over compensate a bit.

Rather than go puritanical and shit on them, the folks at RealHamster serve them pretty good. Peep their FAQ page:

Real Doll:

Question: Can water become trapped inside the doll?

No. REALDOLL's body is not hollow. REALDOLL is a SOLID love doll.

Question: What happens when "the honeymoon is over" and I feel that the doll is not for me and wish to return it?

Although we'd like to fully satisfy all our customers, our firm policy is: ALL SALES ARE FINAL.

Question: Does the silicone flesh have a foul flavor?

No. REALDOLL's flesh has no noticeable flavor.

Real Hamster:

Question: Can water become trapped inside the hamster?

Not in anywhere that matters. REALHAMSTER can easily be dried inside and out in seconds with a hair dryer. Alternatively, the hamster can just be left running for half an hour to dry itself.

Question: What happens when “the honeymoon is over” and I feel that the hamster is not for me and wish to return it?

Nothing. Nothing will happen at all.

Question: Does the fur have a foul flavour?

No. Expert hamster-tasters all over the world agree that REALHAMSTER is representative of the world's finest tasting hamsters.

Also, you might find it weird for someone who believes in intelligent design to link this site, but I appreciate Flying Spaghetti Monsterism in its purpose as well. What do you think? Good satire? People being assholes? Let me know.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pro-War or Pro-Doing a Shitty Job

I'm a little late on this, but I read this great article in the Chicago Reader last week:

This is what I want to see. Not polemics on either side, or accusations of being "unpatriotic". I want to see what the people whose lives are on the line think about this.

This man's story is particularly poignant since he obviously had a sincere passion for his work and wanted the best for all involved. You see, this is what many of us have feared--not that the invasion itself is 100% wrong, but that it was being administered by people whose own agendas are blinding their ability to do what's best for the troops and civilians on the ground. All the ideology and desire to establish democracy don't matter if the reality is that you are committing human rights atrocities in order to keep your numbers up. That's only going to lead to anti-American sentiment and more danger for all involved.

But it's one person's perspective. I'd love to hear more from troops who think we are doing a great job, and put their story next to this man's. As it is though, I see a great, courageous, empathetic America who was leveled by a deceitful, poorly planned war program. How many more of him, American or Iraqi, in Iraq? Who is going to take responsibility for this?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Discover a New Land Today!

Happy Columbus Day! Instead of sitting at home wasting your free day today, I encourage you to "discover" new lands and wealth today. Create your own flag and travel to new lands, claiming them for yourself. Cross the city border into the unchartered lands beyond and subdue the savages beyond who are too dumb to work public transportation. Ignore existing land beliefs and rules of governing. Go enslave some white people and kill pregnant women. Demand that they get you some bling and cut off their appendages if they return empty-handed.

Be a great man! This is what today is about!

Most of all, once you have killed most of the other natives of your area, establish hateful, bizarre entry laws to prevent their descendants from setting up shop in the lands you've discovered!

(This is satire, please don't take it literally. Don't say I shouldn't write this--I'm not the one who is glorifying the above acts with a day of celebration.)

My first Columbus day event was on the U of I campus. We were in front of the Illini Union and I was holding a sign that said, "Celebrate Genocide!" The College Republicans were counter-demonstrating next to us. They were brave in a way--even though they had the majority, pro-genocide perspective, there were only a dozen or so of them (all white) and a huge mixed crowd of anti-Columbus Day demostrators.

I smiled at them and pointed at my sign giving a thumbs-up sign. One of them shouted at me, "If you don't like it, go back where you come from!" It was neither the first nor the last time I've heard that brilliant argument leveled towards me. My smiled broadened.

"They celebrate Columbus Day in Pittsburgh, too!" I explained.

This is one of those issues I don't understand the schism at all. Columbus' own diary explains his thinking and the atrocities he inflicted on the Native Americans. He did some courageous things, and he also killed millions of innocent people. That doesn't qualify for a day of national celebration in my book. If it does in yours, please explain--I'd love to hear.

Angry? Asian Man

If you haven't peep Gar's blog "en 'script' CHUN". I've never had the pleasure of meeting Gar, but we share some uncannily similiar life experiences.

Today, Gar samples and comments on a WaPo article about Angry Asian Man, Phil Yu. Yu is probably the most influencial blogger within the Asian American community (if we are counting outside influence balanced with pure self-hatred, Michelle Malkin has him beat hands down).

I would put good money that Gar is right--we may not see them, but WaPo is likely to be hit with its share of anti-yellow hate mail in the next week or so. Just look at Phil's own page if you want to see some of this genre.

What I found fascinating about the story was something I noticed before reading Malcolm, or Alvarez's work on the Mariposas is just how "normal" community heroes are. I mean this as a tremendous compliment to Phil, so don't take it the wrong way. He is smart, he is a good writer, but he's not really smarter or a better writer than a lot of people I know. What makes him different from anyone else is the effort and conviction he has put into his work and that is reflected in the effect he has had on his community. Through these efforts, he has become the top journalist for the 21st century Asian American community.

I think this is a barrier for many of us in improving our society and world. We believe deep down that "heroes" are some mystical creatures that we bear little resemblance to. We are dead wrong. The difference between most of us and heroes is a tiny bit more confidence, a little less wasted time and a little more love for others and the society.

I believe that I can be a Malcolm or a Mirabal, but more importantly, I believe that we all can.

Real Teenagers!

We took full use of our Facets Cinematheque (pronounced Fa-sets Sin-a-ma-"the Q") last week hitting the theatre twice and watching several DVDs. The film showing, which Liz and I saw on Tuesday, and my friend Frank and I checked out again on Thursday, was "Shimotsuma Monogatari" which means, "Fairy Tale of Shimotsuma" (a ruralish area in Japan, about two hours by train outside of Tokyo).

Of course the American distributors, as usual assuming (probably correctly) that us Americans are only interested in "samurai", "geisha" and "kamikaze" made the questionable decision of changing the title to "Kamikaze Girls" after the "Kamikaze Jackets" that Japanese biker gangs often sport.

Other than that little glitch though, the film was incredible. I'm prone to hyperbole, but I swear this was one of the best ten films I've seen in my life. The characters were quirky and manga-ish, i.e. utterly realistic and exaggerated at the same time. Basically, they were the exciting people you meet if you put in the work to meet exciting people. The story centered on two young women--both seventeen and in the eleventh grade. One is a crazy fashion kid and the other is a bike gang kid. I won't describe them more because I don't want to rob the spontaneous amusement gained by discovering them through the film.

Refreshingly, neither of the main characters is sexualized or has their worth calculated through men. They really just discover what they are passionate about by questioning and exploring individually. This really moved Liz and I--we both identified with different parts of each of the characters and loved both their beautiful and ugly characteristics.
Failed idol singer turned successful actress Fukada Kyoko's portrayal of the fashion crazy kid is spot-on. The store they frequent in the film and becomes a major plot point, "Baby, the Stars Shine Bright", is real and in fact, you can see its homepage here.

I've never been to see that store in Daikanyama, but picked up some nice gear for Liz at Harajuku's Body Line, which deals in similar genre clothing.

Model turned rocker turned sometimes actress Tsuchiya Anna is brilliant as "Ichiko", a biker girl who communicates in poor Japanese and headbutts, but is clearly a wonderful human being.

The story deals in flashbacks that show not only how the characters came to meet and grow together, but also how they developed from kids to the mostly grown-up teens they are at the time of the story. This was what hit us--we so rarely see children and teenagers depicted realistically in Hollywood film. Children are props to be admired, passed around and saved; teenage girls are sexual objects to be desired. Even films that seek to address these issues like "American Beauty" still deal mostly in stereotypes and cookies. This film actually reflected what we like about teenagers--they think for themselves and figure stuff out and if all goes well are dependable, loveable human beings who have a lot to offer and teach.

There is a lot of warmth and humor in the story that depends on knowledge of Japanese language or culture, but I don't want to say that it's "lost" without that understanding because, with a little faith and effort, it is readily accessible. You see, this film gets what irritating "Lost in Translation" and all of its referencers missed: human feeling is communicable through genuine empathy, and those who laugh it off or mock uniqueness or different ness as missing out on the beauty of life.

When the joke is there, instead of pretending it's stupid because you don't get it, look for it and you will be rewarded with joy and growth.

You see, what impressed me most about this film was how much it loved its characters. It didn't make them feel bad for being female or quirky or not the type of people who are in films. Liz and I thought that this might be why it got such bad reviews from the SFCA (Self-absorbed Film Critics Association). Reading the reviews, we agreed that they didn't really read as strong arguments against the merit of the film, but instead as indictments of the reviewers' own inabilities to love human beings in their crazy diversity. To put it bluntly, they found the same parts of the characters that we identified with to be "unrealistic" or "boring" and lost interest as the character became independent and strong.

Furthermore, they worked their own prejudices about Japan into their assessments of the film, ripping the American title while still commenting on the "sameness of the adults in the society" with a dripping condescension that failed to acknowledge the reviewers' own "sameness". Did the film have "too much imagination" or the reviewers too little?

In the reviews, I saw the same bitter ex-pat attitude that had my foreign teacher colleagues in Japan spewing racist commentaries in all directions. Of course, at least the teachers spent months and years immersed in the society that was their target. They weren't sitting in the safety of their cushy theatre chairs, fed-up after 90 minutes of having to see lovable human characters instead of replications of their stereotypes.
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