Tags: Japan, Oshiya, Pusher
Incredible! I am so glad I don’t have to commute in Japan. In Japan, railway companies hire people for the position of the oshiya, i.e. the pusher who pushes people into the train. Seeing this, I wonder how many people have already died in Japanese commuter trains? Shudder
Tags: Beijing, China, Olympic Games, Olympics, Paris, Tibet
Kinda evil – but probably truer than we would like to be true. How do you feel about the situation of Tibet and the Olympics taking place in Beijing this year? With all due respect for the importance of the games for the athletes and for putting China on the map of international sports – my gut feeling tells me that it would be more than justified if the Olympics were boycotted. Actually, if I had a free wish, that would be what I would wish for: that all countries would stand united and boycott the games. How can you just close your eyes and pretend politics and sports have got nothing to do together?
Tags: Baudrillard, Cayce Pollard, Fashion, Pattern Recognition, Philosophy, William Gibson
So I’ve finished William Gibson’s Pattern recognition, but felt a bit let down by it in the end. SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t read the book yet but intend to read it in the near future you probably should stop reading here.
I immediately liked Gibson’s take on our branded world and the idea of the main character, Cayce Pollard, developing an allergy against brands and labels. In terms of coherence, it didn’t quite make sense to me though why she had developed such an obsession with The Buzz Rickson’s, a Japanese designer version of a classic US Airforce flying jacket. You might say that this critique is beside the point – it probably is, and I probably read this book too much like I’d read a film (btw, have the rights for a film been sold already? must find out), and I very picky about narrative structure. It’s not at all like that that I expect every movie to tell a perfectly linear story – but if a film adopts a fairly conventional style (of cinematography and editing), then I do expect the plot information to be coherent. And PR is also written fairly conventional, hence my expectations towards coherence.
Back to the Buzz Rickson’s: I admit that until 2 minutes ago, I assumed that the Buzz Rickson’s had entirely been made up. It isn’t. How sad. It is available for € 455 from History Preservation Associates, and I really don’t like it. I had made up my own idea idea of a Buzz Rickson’s which had a slight velvety touch and a dark petroleum tint (wherever I got that from). That’s what it looks like:
Cayce’s lack of reaction towards this iconic jacket probably has to do with the fact that it’s a slightly tweaked, Japanese version – Cayce also isn’t allergic to Hello Kitty characters, and this makes sense because branding and culture are related. But other than you’d expect, she feels at home at Starbucks, although Starbucks looks the same and operates the same way anywhere in our globalized world. The character Damien asks her this very question, but Gibson offers no answer to it. You might say I am just nitpicking, but I’m just a bit disappointed because I had expected a certain epiphany or revelation regarding the exact nature of Cayce’s allergy. In the end, the allergy is gone, and Cayce worries briefly whether she’d be able to continue working in her professing, hunting cool, but that’s it for that. No one knows what triggered it, no one knows why it’s gone in the end.
…and God help you if you use voiceover in your work, my friends. God help you! It’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character. You must present the internal conflicts of your character in action.
Gibson’ voice-over are emails. Nobody knows in the end why the character Damien has to be shooting a documentary about a dig in Russia, where drunk fortune-hunters dig out WW2 treasures including a Stuka complete with mummified pilot. I thought the dig’s would have a function there, because the revelation of the identity of ‘the maker’ of the footage takes place in Russia, but Gibson doesn’t make use of Damien in that context. That leaves him with three story lines dangling loose after the revelation: The whereabouts of Damien, of Cayce’s Mom and of Voytek and his sister Magda, but instead of presenting the dénouement in action, all we get is a succession of emails (presented without subject line – I kind of resented that).
In an nutshell: While I enjoyed the read and eagerly followed in the footsteps of the main character through her marketing-imbued conspiracy, I was a but disappointed by the miserly secret that was to be uncovered. After that major build-up in which Gibson heavily drew on snippets of Baudrillard (having Cayce contemplate about Tommy Hilfiger clothes as simulacra of simulacra of simulacra), I was hoping for a bit more meat in the philosophical frying pan. And as conspiracy theories were one of its subtexts, I also hoped for a bringing together of all the plot lines that had been started.
I appreciate Cayce’s view on fashion though, while this might also seem to be completely beyond the point:-) Because she’s allergic to labels, she tries to give herself an ‘un-branded’ look, for instance takes her Levi’s jeans to a workshop to have the brand names on the buttons removed. Last week I went to one of those no-name fashion stores that flourish in suburban industry estates , and while most of the clothing there has the depressing appeal of poverty-chic (clothes that will fall apart in the wash quicker than you average H&M shirt), you can be lucky and find an absolute gem, something that looks completely underground-ish because it is so far removed from the available label styles but costs next to nothing. I bought a very odd looking T with a skull print (nothing special yet) for € 8, but the skulls were transparent (not quite sure whether intended or not) and a bit frillier than the rest, giving it a nice texture, particularly above the boobs;-) I like it particularly on top of a pink long sleeve – must post a picture some time…
Tags: South Africa
Last Sunday’s post was dedicated to Korea, this Sunday’s post is dedicated to South Africa, in particular my former digs mate Trusha, and also my former digs mate Sarah G., although I have lost touch with her (I know that she’s married – wedding was held in India, but I am not so sure whether this also means that she moved to India).
I prepared a vegetarian curry and roti for lunch – the latter being a type of bread, for most Europeans/Westerners probably strongly reminiscent of tortillas, but nicer:-) So far, I am not even half as far as I intended to get in my command of the Indian cuisine (guided by the Indian cookbook I received from Trusha’s mom Gayatri – the best cookbook ever, truly packed with recipes and wisdom – other than most European cookbooks which take two pages to explain just one dish). Nevertheless, roti will always do the trick if you want to impress someone (well – a European) with your skills in preparing Indian food.
I took a picture of my roti making attempts – it may be that the output would seem rather curious to any experienced Indian cook. My digs mate Sarah had a very peculiar way of preparing them – she put one that was already done on top of the one she was about to bake and then twisted, twisted, twisted it until it was well-cooked, but not burnt. Hers were also perfectly round – I haven’t yet developed enough ambition in the area of symmetrical food;-)
All in all, I made 20 roti from a dough of maize meal and white flour (I like it better with wholewheat flour, but the one I had had gone off) of which we ate 11 just among the two of us, to complement the curry;-)
As you might have guessed already (if you think along those lines), vegetarian curry and roti is also a perfect Lent meal. One more day until I have reached Day 20 of my 40 days of Lent – meaning I am only just about halfway through it 😦
If I hadn’t started a blog and hadn’t stumbled over Neha’s Blog, then I would miss out on so many things in the arena of global popular culture! I still have no idea whether I will ever make it to India (I have the secret hope that a friend of mine who is going to get married to an Indian-American is going to celebrate twice and that I’ll be invited to the Indian ceremony:-) but nevertheless I love all things Indian. Today she recommended Nike’s new commercial, tailored to the taste of Indian audiences: Cricket Crazy!
Speaking of globalization: In the case of this commercial it seems as if some South American rhythms have crept into the tune. The downside: It’s great to have youtube, in particular if you don’t have a TV, but some things just have to be watched on a big screen to catch on. Silver screen would be even better – for comparison, I have also included the Nike basketball commercial which struck everyone when it first appeared in the movie theatres. The vibe doesn’t really come across on youtube.
Daily Lent (Day 11): I am now beginning to fantasize about food that contains sugar. A piece of classic German fruitcake from the pan would be the best, made from yeast dough covered with plums and with crème fraiche poured over the hot cake. Quetschekuche mit Schmand… drooooool… Actually, a cuppa tea with milk AND SUGAR alone would be really nice right now.
Since people searching for ‘Borat naked’ on the web keep ending up on this site*, I’ve decided to put together a quick itinerary for these folks. First off, here is a youtube video featuring the naked chase:
Here are the essential sites dedicated to the screen character Borat Sagdiyev – allegedly Kazakhstan’s sixth most famous man.
- Borat [Wikipedia on Borat] is a screen character played by Sacha Baron Cohen [Wikipedia on Cohen]
- Other popular characters created and impersonated by Cohen are ghetto boy Ali G [Wikipedia on Ali G] and gay Austrian fashion reporter Bruno [Wikipedia on Bruno].
- You can become Borat’s friend on myspace.com/borat.
- Before the movie, there’s was a two-part television show introducing Borat [Wikipedia on this programme]. It was broadcast in 2004 on Channel 4 and E4 in the UK as a spinoff to the Ali G show.
- Borat has an official homepage: borat.tv.
- There are several inofficial Borat fanpages: Boratonline (uk), Boratfans.com (trying to be as trashy as the original), Boratmovie online (but you won’t find the movie there), and Boratwear.com (the last one comes with a shop).
- boratgallery.com, boratlingo.com boratimages.com are now defunct (copyright violation? but that’s just a private guess)
- If you are looking for production information to reference the film, Borat’s page on the Internet Movie Data Base would be a good start.
- Your best bet to get an overview of the reception by critics is Borat’s page on Rotten Tomatoes.
- If you don’ know what the Borat fuss is all about, you could start with this video interview with Borat on movies.com
I’ve put a “globalisation” tag on this post because I think that the controversy about Borat has to do with the different reception it got in different parts of the world – it’s probably easier to enjoy the film in Europe than it is in the USA, Kazakhstan or Romania.
*) I wonder why! I’ve never written a single word about him. I haven’t even seen the movie – and I suppose it is better that way, as it would only wind me up.
A colleague sent this mail to “staff@” today – I’m not particularly fond of bulk email from colleagues, as at best 25% of the staff are really concerned. And this is the kind of mail I like least – an inspirational email. I think that’s just a waste of bandwith and doesn’t belong in corporate communication.
Even though, I thought this mail was interesting – its concern is futile nonetheless. They’re asking people to pull the plug on all their electric appliances for the time between 19:55 and 20:00 tonight, on the occasion of the publication of the United Nation’s current report on climate. In other words: Spend five minutes in darkness and contemplate about the climate change.
The winter of 2006/2007 is definitely going to be the one that will stay on my mind as the first winter that wasn’t one – and not only here, but the winter in which the icebergs began to melt and the polar bears died because ice floes crumbled beneath their feet. The frightening thing about global warming is that there is no escape – the joke of the 1980s that we cannot throw this world away when it’s wasted because we only have one, has became the scary truth.
Tags: Earth, Information age
I’ve never discovered a Google Earth Oddity myself, and I doubt that I ever will (although I’ve tried): Scanning the surface of the globe for an interesting squaremetre is definitely a too tedious job to be considered a possible path of fame. But I like looking at other people’s discoveries – have a look at my little collection!
I find it difficult to make up my mind, but at least for this brief moment this one is my favourite: Strong language spelled in wheat on a field outside Little Houghton in England.
THE PINK BUNNY RABBIT
This is the runner-up – an artwork created by Italian (I think) artist Gelitin and captured by Google Earth. I like this in particular because I first saw it in a book (and posted about in October 2006). Even if Gelitin isn’t Italian, the bunny is (or was, but it’s hopefully going to remain on GE).
Whoever or whatever. Also made in the US of A and hopefully not a PR-Stunt – although, even if it were, this is probably nothing more significant than the logo of a local football team.
I found all these gems in the fark forum.
If you want to give it a try yourself, download Google Earth (it’s free AND runs on both PC and Mac:-) and enter the coordinates which I’ve specified below each picture.
EDIT: I had another favorite Google Earth oddity but wasn’t able to find the link for some time. I’ve dug it up now, but only to discover that Google Earth itself (i.e. the company) does quite apparently NOT appreciate the idea of Google Earth oddities – they photoshopped that giant bug belonging to the order of Thrysanoptera (vulgo: Thrips) away that was roaming the fields outside Aalen in Germany! That’s surprisingly anti-Web2.0 from them – erasing the traces of users’ discoveries. I managed to find a screen shot of the location from the time when the bug was still there (see below):
But if you have look at the site now (link to location on Google maps online, you might want to zoom out a bit), you’ll find that it’s gone. No more. Dead. You can even see where it was, as the new patch of soil they added does not blend in well – different shades of green. Pffff… I hope they are going to give us our bug back some day!
Tags: Asian, Cheese, European
Please excuse my brief reiteration of cultural stereotypes… I just wondered whether Asians, far East Asians that is, are really not able to digest cheese or whether this was just a global legend (notice the pun? global legend as a neologism combining urban legend and globalization? ha ha!). Because I would never want to be an Asian in my next life if that meant that I would not be able to eat cheese!
There is no image of the cheese that caused my wondering, but it looked a bit like the cheese that I’ve added to this article: a mature specimen of camembert! I love camembert, but if my glands and enzymes were unable to process cheese, then that would probably be the slab that would make me puke! But as things were, it was one of the most delicious bites that I’ve had in a while. It was so moist that it nearly became liquid when I sliced it, due to its 50% of fat in milk solids, and it had the most refined, savoury-sour smell a cheese could have. There are some Europeans, too, who would rather eat the dirt under their toemails than a smelly, mouldy cheese – so how would a Japanese react? Would he feel like I would feel if someone forced me to eat a century egg (argh – see image below)?
But I figure this equation is lopsided: The reason why this egg looks so disgusting to me is that its shape and proportions _remind_ me of an egg, and I really like eggs – but this one looks just like an egg that’s off! It looks like a f___ing, rotten, hardboiled zombie egg.
So: If Asians cannot digest milk, then plain Gouda or Edamer cheese, i.e. something not as mouldy looking, would be just as disgusting to them as my camembert. No? Anyone who knows (or who knows an Asian who did NOT grow up in the US or UK and was not exposed to cheese until an age of, say, 18) would you care letting me know? Thx a lot.
Tags: Cultural Capital, Education
A friend sent me a link to the Scholar ship which – pun intended – is indeed a ship, a cruise liner, packed with scholars, students and teaching staff alike. The Scholar ship will depart in September 2007 from Piraeus (Greece) and, via Lisbon, Panama City, Papeete, Suva, Sydney, Shanghai and Okinawa, will arrive in Kobe, Japan, three months later.
But it’s not just a seacruise, it’s a university set afloat, offering undergraduate and graduate courses in Business & Management, Communication & Advertising, International Political Science & History, Conflict, Peace and War Studies, Cultural Studies, Social Anthropology, Sustainable Development, Art History, Fine Arts, Literature and Performing Arts – TO NAME JUST A FEW…. check out their study programme.
The second trip, starting in January 2008, begins in Kobe and goes back to Piraeus, this time via Cape Town and Buenos Aires. They’re still looking for students ($ 20,000 for one trip) and have just announced that they’re giving away 50 scholar ships (meaning that you pay only half the price). Also, they’re looking for ESL (English as a Second Language) staff… Am I tempted? Hmm, I guess I would go nuts if I were trapped on board a ship for three months, above all as a teacher, meaning approachable for all…. but the thought of seeing all those places is rather neat…
Tags: Big Brother, Celebrity Big Brother
Has the recent crisis caused by TV celeb Jade Goody’s ranting against Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, her fellow housemate in Celebrity Big Brother 2007, finally stirred up a backlash against (white) Trash TV of that kind? I’m deliberately modelling the term White Trash TV after the German Unterschichtenfernsehen which is to describe TV programs targetting a low income, low level of education audience. The “low level of education” is, however, what counts in this construct – it may be the result of low income, but doesn’t mean that rich people couldn’t be chav (meaning: rude, loud and uneducated, German: prollig) as well.
The discussion of Unterschichtenfernsehen was highly controversial in Germany, in particular because it was considered a denigrating reflex of the bourgeois (saturated, educated, wealthy) classes against the culturally impoverished lower classes of society. Unterschicht (lower class) is not the immediate equivalent of ‘working class’, in particular because there is no such nostalgic thinking about the working classes as it exists in Britain. The working classes and their ‘organic’ socially supportive culture and ‘authentic’ way of life have played a crucial role in the shaping of the idea of culture put forward by Richard Hoggart und Raymond Williams, the godfathers of contemporary cultural studies. This type of mutual support and nearly wholesome lifestyle is absent from the notion of the Unterschicht.
The lower classes on TV
The present day (German) Unterschicht is a construction in which the individual is disconnected from society and sociability, prone to drugs and alcohol, isolated in their run-down council homes, dwelling in derelict bedsit and unable to look after themselves or their children of which they have many (i.e. more than an average of 1.2 per couple which is the average birth rate). The television set is their substitute for both sociability and education and has since long sucked up all their ambitions. The result are dysfunctional families, put on public display in Die Supernanny, modeled after the British Supernanny Jo Frost, who does not only show the parents to discipline their children, but to carry out such essential tasks as maintaining their households properly. Wrecking the TV set in the kids bedroom is one of the first tasks she sets them.
Murder by neglicence
What is crucial in the Neue Unterschichten-Debatte (the controversy about the new lower classes) is that the term Unterschichtenfernsehen occurred at a time when several cases of neglected, abused, molested (and eventually killed) children caught the media’s attention. In 2005 alone, 178 cases of manslaughter or murder resulting from gross negligence were reported in Germany, murder on children, that is, the most dramatic cases being seven-year old Jessica who was starved to death, two-year old Kevin who was found dead in the fridge of his father who was a drug-addict and 10 months old Leon who died of thirst when his mother simply left him and his sister locked up in her flat. I wouldn’t like to assume that such things have never happened before, but suggesting that this was a new development was part of the discourse.
New idols: The chav takes the cake
The connection between such deprived and depraved individuals the parents of these children have to be assumed to be and the content and effects of Reality TV, spear-headed by Big Brother, were soon to be made. The most popular indvidiuals of this new breed of TV celebrities were the least educated ones and their rise to stardom was accompanied by a certain fascination with the coarseness of their conduct.
Zlatko, for instance, a contestant on the first German edition of Big Brother, was known for not knowing who William Shakespear was – in a similar way that Jade appeared to be ignorant of the most basic knowledge, such as the location of the city of Cambridge (she thought it was in London) or the meaning of the word ‘influential’ (although she knew she was rated 25th most influential person in the world by Heat magazine).
In her rude and loud behaviour Jade was topped only by her own mother who joined her on CBB5 – and claimed after the eviction of Jade that she “would still love to squeeze her (Shilpa’s) neck until her eyes pop out ” Daily Star). All in all this made Jade “play the role of lumpen proletarian gargoyle: inarticulate, lacking in basic general knowledge, prone to flying into ecstasies of rage such as she subjected Shetty to the other day.” (quoted form K-Punk).
The point I’d like to make here is that it was exactly this combination of traits – inarticulate, irritable, incoherent, unfair (sometimes flagged as ‘honest’) – that were Jade’s claim to fame in the past – in the similar way that previous contestant Nikki was famous for her tantrums. What we witness in the promotion of such TV celebrities is the sacrifice of the human ability to tell right from wrong for the sake of entertainment on the level of a gladiator fight.
Bringing out the worst in people
So the backlash against (white, or any) trash TV that I was hoping for did not come to pass. The causa Jade Goody, i.e. putting her in the pillory for racism, is just a sham. The issue that is really at stake here is (or should be) society’s own disgust with the kind of entertainment that they’ve demanded and created – but unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if society is able to acknowledge and face this fact. Nobody pulled the plug on Big Brother, they simply axed Jade Goody – for what was inappropriate and disgusting behaviour indeed – only everbody knew that someone of her merits wasn’t exactly a good person to be send as an ambassador to further understanding among nations. (The fact that _ALL_ media production meanwhile has a global audience is another aspect that was ignored by the producers – just think of the case of the Mohammed caricatures).
Nothing good could ever come of Big Brother, and it’s actually a coincidence that nothing worse has happened so far. For those who have forgotten this, some wise words from Radio 1 DJ Nihal on the matter: “The whole point of Big Brother is to bring out the worst in people, it’s not to bring out the best. It’s not that all these people sit around having a nice cup of tea. It is to bring out the worst, and to expose hipocrisy, ignorance, bigotry and also this veneer of respectability that celebrities have is just taken away.”
Ok, and that’s where I’ll end my obsession with the CBB racism row.
Dirk Benedict a.k.a. “Face” is currently one of the housemates on UK Celebrity Big Brother. Being American, he seems to be bonding a bit (or at least trying to) with Shilpa Shetty, both being alienated by the chav crowd in the house.
Of course I knew that Who wants to be a millionaire is a format that is aired globally. But little had I expected that the Indian show is presented by the majestic Amitabh Bachchan! Look at this:
Seems like Big B is planning to resign from Kaun banega crorepati* – SRK is the proposed replacement! I don’t think he would stand a chance, he’s simply not old enough yet (age-wise, yes, looks-wise, no!). Read more on Neha Kumar’s blog.
*) Kaun means who (“Kaun hai?” is a frequently asked question in Bollywood films whenever the heartthrob passes a group of people of the opposite gender), and crorepati, according to my research means wealthy; banega must then be some equivalent of ‘wants to be’.
This post is dedicated to Neha Kumar who introduced me to Nach Baliye (see older posts). Earlier today she wrote on her blog:
Indian dances famous abroad!
Its good news for all us Indians !!
Looks like, our dances not only enthrall us, but also people from other countries… I happened to meet one such admirer (thanks to wordpress ) Want to thank you Jana, for taking so much interest in our culture and dance..
Oh they are famous indeed 🙂 To prove this, I grabbed my camera to take a picture of my shower cabin. Of course the shower itself is anything but interesting, but have a look at the pictures that I put up when I moved into this flat two years ago:
These are cards issued by Rapid Eye Movies, the main German/Austrian distributor for films from India – as you can tell immediately from their website: They have just launched a (German-language) magazine called “Bollywood”. They used to specialize in Far East Asian films until a while ago, until they brought Khabi khushi khabi gham (forgive me for not getting the Hs and Es right) to Germany and met with major success with it. The cards are from the official release in their tiny first run movie theatre in Cologne.
The representation of Bollywood films in Germany/Austria is lopsided though. The majority of people who watch movies regularly (on TV or in the theatre) will know Shah Rukh Khan. Did you know they even dub his films into German to be able to air them on TV? :-))) Wanted to find a bit with German synchronisation on Youtube but wasn’t successful, hence here a screenshot from a description on RTL Television:
And while Shah Rukh is pretty famous already with viewers from all walks of life (i.e. not just the Indian community in Germany, not just teenagers), only few are enlightened about anything Bollywood beyond Shah Rukh. Hmm, with the exception of Austria/Switzerland probably, as the Austrian and Swiss landscapes keep appearing in Bollywood movies 🙂
But the interest in India is ever increasing, although the stereotypical knowledge probably includes the following notions:
– More Bollywood than Hollywood films have been produced in film history.
– India has a population of more than one billion.
– India is the leading software developing nation.
– Many Indians are very well educated.
– They don’t eat beef.
– They have the A-bomb (don’t really know whether this is true, but this is what many people belive).
I even once took a course in Hindi which was offered at Cologne university: 8 of 60.000 students took the course at the time (1998). Unfortunately, we were all so eager to learn that we had finished the lecturer’s course book in nearly half the usual time – actually already reaching the point where we couldn’t take in anything new, anymore because we hadn’t really grasped the old yet. When the exams in all the other subjects came around, half of us (including me) discontinued the course. So the words I understand when watching anything Indian are the following:
– zindagi hai (that’s life)
– sirf (only?)
– ek (one)
– pyar (love)
– main bhi (me too?)
– accha (good)
– diwana hai (he’s mad)
– lekin (but)
– bahut (much/many)
– sukriya/dhanyavad (thank you)
Not enough to follow the plot, I fear;-)
Ok, that was my little excursion into what I think to know about the awareness of Bollywood and India in Europe…
Good night, you people.
Sort of. I stumbled upon Neha Kumar’s blog on which she had just covered the dismissal of two contestants from an Indian dancing/casting show: Nach Baliye 2!
I am absolutely crazed about Bollywood movies – I do actually not watch them so often, but they make me instantly feel good. Indian pop music makes me happy, too. And the two clips from Nach Baliye Neha shared with me are just as gorgeous. I like the first one in particular, as it is more traditional and I already knew the song, it’s part of the musical score of Dil Se (1998). The other ones are better dancers (or so I would think, but who am I to judge).