Tuesday, August 31, 2004

There and back again. 




Monday, August 30, 2004







Sunday, August 29, 2004





Ludo spills the beans... 




Saturday, August 28, 2004



From XXX to r. 

Ok...if you'd have asked me a year ago, I'd have told you something brash...something to the tune of 'Japanese people (with rare exceptions like T. Usami) don't understand or care about things like philosophy or ethics, especially the kind that matters.' Well, if you were to ask me today, you'd get a slightly different answer. Some of them DO understand and care actually...the only thing is that they never hang out in 'cool' (as Jean for a definition) places, and they don't have good fashion (hi Audrey). They are kind of 'grub-like' and if you want to find 'em, you kind of have to root 'em out of their dark hidey-holes...Which is of course what I DID recently. I messed around and made a special new Japanese 'friend' (XXX) who is a PHD in philo at one of the Ivy League schools here in Tokyo. I've recently been picking XXX's brain on this and that, and it is both refreshing and compelling to hear XXX's (slightly non-Western) views on...well, everything under the sun. Here's a recent, almost unedited email that XXX sent to me. Enjoy. Oh, I'm sure XXX would want me to say that XXX wishes to be forgiven for any English mistakes (hi Mr. You Know Who You Are) that might be extant. I think that XXX and I will be having a discussion soon over a can of seasonal 'Aki Biru' in Setagaya Koen. See you there? Yawn...
Hi Robert,

This is XXX. I promised you that I'm going to talk with you on the book 'Information Bomb' by Paul Virilio. I am very sorry that I was so slow. It's mainly because of my English, but partly because of the XXX I'm going to do this weekend. First of all, I would like to appreciate your introduction. Paul Virilio was worth reading for me. I got some suggestive ideas for my study from his book. To tell the truth, I didn't like his negative attitude at first. In the first ten pages, I got already bored with his critical-only way. He is not logical, nor theoretical, and he won't bring any alternative idea for our future. I couldn't have agreed to his way, because I usually try to be logical and theoretical as possible as I can. BUT, the further I went on, the more I felt he has something true. As I said, he's never logical nor theoretical, so we have to abstract his theoretical core to discuss and evaluate his work. I'm going to pick up Virilio's points I'm interested in and then make comments. O.K. Let me get into the main subject.

As for the first 2/3 part of the book (chapter I to VIII), I was actually not so impressed. He points out many of the bad side-effects of world wide spread of the Internet, for example, the end of space, loss of distance, perpetual feedback (cause accident or panic), destruction of culture, too much shift to sight sense, loss of the flesh, allover-informer's society, oppression of languages, declining of space exploration, childish-immature world, declining of analog comparison ability, and so on. These changes are the effects by 'Information Bomb' he calls. I can agree to most of his observations, but I can always say 'So what?' about all above effects. He is just indicating changes of the human world. However, human being is always changing. Even though the effects of spread of the Internet causes many changes on our life and somehow destructs our old traditions, we can't say it's harmful enough to be stopped, when it brings us great benefits on the other hand. In any case, every invention has changed our life once and forever, and they always have both dark and bright side.

Of course, as a scholar of philosophy, I always wonder if civilization has made human happy or not. It's one of the fundamental questions. But the computer and the Internet seems the last thing to harm the human life, comparing to other great material inventions, for example, steel tools, gunpowder, steam engine and atomic energy. The Internet can connect all humans each other and bring the fruit of civilization to all corners of the earth freely and instantly. Hasn't it one of the most beautiful dreams that humans had since dawn of civilization? Isn't it a brilliant victory of human intelligence? So Paul Virilio seemed have great disadvantages to prove the Internet is harmful for human beings, and actually he looked for me just a moaner looking only dark side of Internet's effects in the first 2/3 part of the book. He is actually able to make a lot of attractive metaphors, and that's all.

After around the chapter XII, however, I unexpectedly started to find some thought-provoking sentences because, I suppose, Virilio went further to state WHAT the Information Bomb is going to destroy, instead of HOW it explodes. I was really interested in his below seven statements .

1. The Internet tramples the historical IMPORTANCE OF LOCAL TIMES and the world time is preceded exclusively (Chapter XII).

2. Daniel Allevy knew that scientific progress destroy all kinds of time duration rather than complete and end of the history (Francis Fukuyama). " Today people abandon to understand THE POLITICAL TOTALITY in which their life is developed." (Chapter XIII).

3. We are narrowing the spread of the world. Because our body is going to make no action to move, any action to move or transfer itself is going to be nonsense. Then, we lose the value of THE FACT THAT THERE IS 'ACTION' BETWEEN SELF AND AIM, considering only instant interactions valuable (Chapter XIII).

4. Automatic management of knowledge is starting. Analogue information is transforming to digital information. After the age of 'The order of things' (Foucalt), the age of computer code language is starting. The numbers reigns claiming its mathematical omnipotence, the tools of numbers is absolutely getting superior to ANALOGY, that is, to everything which suggests similarity, relationships of similarity between life and things (Chapter XIII).

5. Once at the age of transport revolution, the time of travel, the thickness of physical movement was needed. Now at the age of communicative revolution, the time is unnecessary, the information is communicated instantly, and the arrival is whole spanned because the information flow is interactive. Interaction is superiority to ANY ACTION, ANY CONCRETE CONDUCT (Chapter XIII).

6. No event occurs in the true sense of the term anymore. THE DEPTH OF HISTORICAL OCCURRENCE is already knocked down by the undulation of instantaneousness (Chapter XIII).

7. The aim of reformation processing in this end of millennium is to change the all exchanges cybernetic, and the last obstacle still remaining is the only one, life, ISOLATED 'MICROCOSMOS OF HUMAN'.

So, the reformation is going to invade into this microcosmos and vanish it by the industrializatiton of life at any cost (Chapter XIV). Capitalized terms above are things being destroyed under the diffusion of Internet, Virilio think. With above statements of what are being destroyed, I could catch up his vision. From my point of view, studying Hegel, it seems the 'individuality' that Virilio's afraid of being destroyed. Individuality means what keeps things cohesive, independent, and distinguished. Individuality of persons, individuality of nations, individuality of body, individuality of climates, individuality of markets, individuality of cultures and arts, and so on. Virilio think that development of technology and spread of the Internet are going to destroy any kinds of individualities.

In my opinion, the individuality means the borderline, and the borderline permits modern human the sense of order and moral. That is the reason why Virilio's point of view seems a kind of ethical. That is, I think, natural consequence and he has a good insight into human condition. His problem is, however, that he stopped just at insight. I decide that he has to put more thought into the nature of individuality. What is the individuality? What brings us the individuality? I believe the individuality is a product of modern society. The system of modern society and capitalism gives us individuality and connect us together. It gives detachment and convergence all at once. That is the source of its energy and dynamics. Difference and integration at a time.

Actually, as Virilio says, the spread of the Internet will connect everything together and some kinds of modern individuality are going to be vanished, however, we can guess easily that other, new kinds of individuality should be going to be produced on the other hand to maintain movements of global economical and social system. This process should have continued since the birth of modern society, and the Internet just accelerates that. Virilio is definitely right, I see, in pointing correctly what is being attacked and the process is being accelerated, but he can' t stop the process nor solve problems only indicating that. It's my view that we have to consider what bring us modern individuality and what kind of construction it has. That should be Ethics of our age I believe. Our individuality has a dynamic and social structure, and some kind of 'medium', for example money or language, help it keep its structure and reproduction itself consistently.

In my study, I am trying to explain the construction of modern individuality freshly, applying thoughts of Hegel and J. Lacan. I want to make new drawings of modern human mind (especially modern Japanese mind in the future) considering the relationship among consciousness, medium, and unconsciousness. But, anyway, I might as well cut it out around here and give way to you. I would like to know your interests and then discuss matters in more depth or width. Please feel free to discuss things in your way and at your pace, and forgive me for being slow on occasion. I'm really looking for discussion with you and welcome any further development.




Wednesday, August 25, 2004

BankART is hot 


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Is it because I'm an otaku? 

For the first time in my life someone used the 'o' word to describe me. It was a mature Japanese lady-friend of mine, and it happened while we were having tea and cakes at Cha-no-ma the other day. Oh, bother!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Stretch your dialect. 

Get ahead of the J-dialect game here.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

We've come a long way, Mr. Snow! 

Jean and Robert: A continuing virtual love affair...

1. First encounter...

Robert: (Smiles) Touche! But there was something else that I wanted to mention. Don't you think that blogging itself is comparable to masturbation anyway?

Jean: (Takes a long sip) Where are you going with this?

Robert: (Leaning closer) I think you know where I'm going with this, Jean. Peter commented with the queston "When will people learn to draw their curtains?" and I think that the answer is that they'll draw their curtians when they realise that no one is looking anymore. Isn't that the difference between a blog and a diary anyway? The thrill of indecent mental exposure to complete strangers?

Read more here.

2. Second encounter...

[momentary lull in conversation in which they fail to make to make eye-contact for a few seconds while constantly wishing their were fondling one another's keitais.]

J: Well?

R: OK...Well it's like this, Jean...I'm trying to figure out if I should be your friend or kill you.

J: [Cooly adjusts his nifty specs in a comendable effort to appear nonplussed] Go on.

Read more here.

The real thing 



Kumi and I were hanging out about a year ago to the day in Nakameguro. We went to see this sound installation by Keigo. Anyway, I wonder how she's doing these days...Kumi, can you hear me?



Tujiko Noriko - INTERVIEW 

Sorry for the delay, but I just got finished transcribing and translating a long overdue interview with Tujiko Noriko. Thanks for waiting! The English version is below. Let me know what you think. If you need the Japanese version, let me know. Enjoy!
Tujiko Noriko as interviewed by Robert Duckworth

R: Please say a few words about your propensity for physical self-exhibition.

T: This might sound a little naive or something, but my sexual identity is like, much stronger than my feelings about of who I am as a musican...or even as a Japanese I guess. That's why I 'work it' as much as I do when I'm on stage. (Especially on my homepage with my little 'naughty' pics.)

R: Explain why the following statement is true or false: Since moving to Paris, Tujiko Noriko has been making a careful effort to keep herself poised at a distance far enough away from the various factions of the Parisian laptop "in crowd" in order to prevent herself from being artistically subsumed by them, yet close enough to them to allow herself to utilize them.

T: False. Right from the start, I found myself being cast as a kind of 'Dragon Lady' or at least some kind of Japanese femme fatale by the locals (you boys know who you are, and where you've been), so I just decided to run with it, and look where it's gotten me!

R: As an artist, compare things in general with Mego and Tomlab.

T: I'm really kind of tired of answering this question over and over again. Can't you just refer to my other interviews?

R: On your Tomlab artist's webpage, the following statement may be found in English: "Sorry but this work is protected by JASRAC. Due to the high monthly fees we cannot offer you audio previews here. What's the story?

T: Yeah, that's a really big mess and actually I don't understand it myself. Sorry...But, ummm, buy my CD, OK?

R: Elaborate on your love of doughnuts. What's your favorite kind? Are there any major differences that you've noted between doughnuts in Japan, Europe, and other places? Have you had Krispy Kreme doughnuts from America? By the way, were you aware that Mister Donut is from Boston originally?

T: European doughnuts sort of suck. I like the big, soft, sugary kind from KK in America best of all. Very American, you know? Big and sweet. Everytime I'm on tour there, I just buy a big box of them and sit up in my hotel room and pig out on them. The jelly and cream-filled ones are OK, but they can get sort of icky if you eat too many of them. I really like the Japanese doughnuts too, but it's a different kind of thing. You know, they have so many crazy flavors and stuff, right? Like shrimp doughnuts and stuff like that. Kind of like Japanese pizza. I mean, what's up what that? (Laughs) Mr. Donut? No, I had NO IDEA that Mr. D. was from America. I'd always see that old fart of a white guy's pic hanging over the cash register from when I first started going there when I was living in the Kansai, but I just figured it was...I don't know WHAT I figured it was. I guess I didn't think about it too much. Things always went kind of blury back then after the sugar rush kicked in.

R: A certain review of "From Tokyo to Naiagara" praises Tujiko Noriko the singer by stating that your voice is very expressive. Yet in the same stroke it devalues Tujiko Noriko the lyricist by going on to state that your voice is expressive to the point that what you are actually saying is immaterial. Furthermore the reviewer finds the translation of your lyrics "disappointing." Given this, please comment on the relationship between vocal expressivity and the emotive content of lyrics in your songs in terms of writing and performance. Also, why was "From Tokyo to Niagara" the first of your albums to include English translations? Who is the translator and how did you meet him or her? Are there any plans to go back and have the lyrics to the previous albums translated and made available? How important is it to your for your audience to be able to comprehend your lyrics?

T: I was at this party one time in Paris and there was this German girl who could speak pretty good Japanese, and she kept insisting that my voice as it appears on my CDs is both 'phallic' and 'yannic' but I was kind of wasted, and there was a cute guy there anyway giving me the eye, so I was like, just saying whatever would get her off my back and him into the sack. I still wake up sometimes failing to completely remember that night. What am I saying?!? I mean, when I sing in Japanese, it isn't by mistake...but then again, sometime what I'm feeling somehow seems better in English, so I dunno...My translation? It wasn't bad. The person who did the work is someone that I met here in Paris. She's pretty good. Old stuff? Well, I'd love to go back and have all the old stuff translated in to English, but I'm not looking backwards now, just forwards, so...Honestly, I don't really care if my audience understands my lyrics or not.

R: Which Max/MSP object can't you live without, and why?

T: I like that one with all the little code things and the stuff with the do-dads in it. Definitely!

R: Do you consider the fact that you were employed as a hostess in Ginza and Roppongi during your university days a formative experience in personal and artistic terms? If so, how? Also, one very specific question: What was the most lavish personal gift you received from a patron during this time?

T: Yeah, it was an importat phase for me. I mean, I didn't HAVE to work. My folks were giving me lots of cash and stuff while I was in college. And of course I was going to kind of the Japanese version of an Ivy League school [Waseda], but I guess I just kind of did it for the experience...well, truth be known, the experience and also the free stuff from my customers. But yeah, and I haven't thought about this in years, I suppose that that's what got me interested in people and their stories. Everyone's is different, everyone's is the same. But there are some stories that are like, way, way out there. They were always my favorite. What was the other question? Oh yeah, about gifts? I'd rather not say, but it involved something edible. (Laughs)

R: What's your blood-type?

T: Robert, have you been in Japan too long or something? (Laughs) Ummm...can we go on to the next question, please?

R: Recently, in one of your e-mails, you mentioned someone saying something about a 10 year cycle of people moving to a new city (especially in a foreign country), settling in, becoming restless, and eventually moving on. With this in mind, what do you see yourself doing in 10 years, and where do you see yourself doing it?

T: Right. Well actually, I don't remember sending you that one, sorry! But if I think about it now...hummm...let's see...I dunno, that kind of seems like not ME anymore. I'm totally into living in Paris right now, but...Oh, now hang on a second, actually, forget all of that. It IS true! I'm thinking of moving to Brussels with a friend of mine sometime, but it is just a kind of dream. Please don't think it is because I don't love Paris...I DO. It's just that Paris can be....ummm...sort of confining, know what I mean?

T: What's the most vulgar word or phrase that you know in Japanese? In French? In English?

R: I'll have you not forget that I'm a lady, Robert. You wouldn't ask a lady such a question, would you? FUCK YOU!!!

T: You mentioned once somewhere being influenced by some Japanese music from the 70s and 80s. Which bands/singers were you talking about, and in what way where they an influence on you?

R: Are you more of a miso-ramen, or shoyu-ramen kind of girl?

T: Actually, I prefer miso...but more than ramen, I'm into gyudon. That's why I was so shocked when Yoshinoya's beef bowl got changed! I was really pissed off that day, and I wasn't even in Japan. Remember I sent you that email and I was like, asking you if you had some gyudon on the last day or whatever? I've still got that email saved somewhere. It's all about the 'gyu' over the 'buu' anyway, right?

R: What information can you provide about your upcoming movie project? Please spare no detail.

T: That's actually still in development and I can't really say too much about it. Otherwise I'd probably get a few nasty emails tomorrow which I'd just ignore anyway. Ask me the same question in about 3 months, OK?

R: You implied on your webpage's RADIO link that you had a "mannequin-heart." Assuming that you were actually speaking in earnest, what would be the origin and nature of such a heart ? Do you feel that it would be an asset to you in your aspirations as an actress? Incidentally, if you were suddenly asked by Quentin Tarantino to drop everything and appear in "Kill Bill Vol. 3" as a whip-cracking assassin bitch, would you do it?

T: What's a "mannequin-heart" mean to YOU, Robert?

R: I'm not sure, Tujiko. That's why I'm trying to pin you down on it.

T: Well, let's just say that any kind of emotional 'fashion' is very wearable...dressable and undressable...if you have such a heart. Whatever looks good at a party, you know?

R: Please compare your working relationships with Aki Onda and Hironobu Sasaki. As producers, how do they differ, and how are they similar? Are there any other producers that you'd like to work with in the future?

T: They're both different and I don't really wan't to compare them. Each does something different for me, so...

R: Please list all of the URLs in your browser's history cache from yesterday.

T: That'd take too long, so I'll just give some random stuff, OK? Just a bunch of porn, my homepage's URL, Momus' webpage (I finally found that butt-naked pic of him, but isn't that a Photoshop job?), the Japanese embassy in Paris, some French movie sites, some friends of mine who are doing fashion design in Milan, and also the Porsche corp. website.

R: In the past, you expressed a desire to perform with live musicians at some point in the future. Do you have any concrete plans at the moment? What kind of ensemble do you envisage?

T: I'm not really into her music much, but I could see myself doing something kind of what UA or Shena Ringo has done in the past few years, but with more of a computer thing to it. I dunno...that's the only think that comes to mind right now. The only problem is that I'm sure that all of the musicians would want me to be more strict in rehearsal, but I'm not really like that. I'd just be like, whatever!

R: Recently, your name was mentioned in the the following categorical statement: "...Locquet, Noriko, and So are contributing collectively to an emergent stylistic trend which finds folk musical styles and vocals conjoined to prominent electronic processing treatments." (Stylus Magazine, August 2003) In your mind, does this grouping have any validity at all? If so, please name some other people and or groups that you'd like to see included. If not, please suggest the genere to which you belong. Also, is it just coincidence that two of the three singers mentioned are Japanese and female, or is this somehow a stylistic prerequisite?

T: Yeah, all of that kind of thinking just doesn't interest me. I mean, I'm sure there is someone out there who's trying to get a PHD in figuring out the relationship of Marcus Popp to Japanese women, but...Look, I'm just writing pop music. I don't think you have to be Japanese or female to do that, but I don't think it HURTS to be both! I would like to try being a man for a while, but then again, EVERY girlfriend I have says the same thing, so I mean what does that tell you?

R: Ask yourself a question and answer that question here.

T: No comment? No comment.


R: Where would you go and what would you do on your dream date?

T: Shopping in Odaiba with my darling!

Schiller thriller! 

Freude trinken alle Wesen

An den Brüsten der Natur;

Alle Guten, alle Bösen

Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben

Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;

Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,

Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.

[The above pics came from this page. The German, from Beethoven's 9th. The tentacle sex, only from the minds of the Japanese. Enjoy!]









Saturday, August 14, 2004



















Bubble Boy (redux) 

The other day, I posted this as part of my 'Boy In the Bubble' essay.

"Ah, the roaring 80’s! When things got so bloated that even the embodiment of that era’s zeitgeist (on BOTH sides of the Pacific), Pac-Man - whose name derives from a Japanese onomatopoeia ‘paku-paku’, meaning ‘to munch’ - had little choice but to eat his own heart out. All hail the Japanese and their indefatigable language! It was then and still is now the uttermost user-friendly syntax of a hyper-capitalism (a la Baudrillard) itself. This metaphor, logically extended, allows us to imagine the Japanese consuming machine built on an American pre-WWII ‘Classical’ capitalism, functioning as a kind of obsolete ‘machine code’. This metaphor, distended, poses the question: If Japanese is the language of consumption itself, wouldn't it be advisable to articulate a kind of 'KEIGO OF CONSUMPTION'? Where IS the Japanese version of F. Scott Fitzgerald when you need him/her to write 'Za Gureto Gatsby?"

Well, thanks to Marxy (David), I've finally found the answer to my silly question: Where IS the Japanese version of F. Scott Fitzgerald when you need him/her to write 'Za Gureto Gatsby?"

The answer is Yasuo Tanaka, the current Gov. of Nagano Prefecture. Back in the 80's he was a member of the Japanese literati, and during that time he penned a book called 'Nantonaku Kurisutaru' (Somehow Crystal) which is about the gluttony and excess of Japanese mid-bubble consumptive lifestyles. David explained to me that it has a voluminous index of all of the hundreds and hundreds of BRAND NAME products that are mentioned in the novel. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this one. (Click here for an image of the cover.)

A disclaimer from Rod about my writing. 

If you want to understand my essays, you must come have coffee with me beforehand. It’s kind of like the way 3D movies just don’t make sense without the special eyeglasses [or a firsthand knowledge of three-dimensional reality itself].

Friday, August 13, 2004

Something old, something new... 

Well, it looks like gay people aren't married anymore. Damn it. I knew Roddy and I should have gotten married when we had the chance.





Can they start exporting cool? 

David has had this essay on "Debunking gross national cool" up on this webpage since July, but I'm just now getting around to reading it.

One year ago today 

Here's what I was blogging about exacty one year ago in TKO. (Thanks for the good times last summer, Rod!)

In case you are somebody who cares... 

...this fuc*ker will be landing in Japan sometime today. Hrumph.



Today's Wundertrack 

Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Today - Vic Chesnutt

Thursday, August 12, 2004



Smoke 'em! 

[NOTE: If pics don't appear, click on the block where there should be one and you'll be taken to a new page with the appropriate pic.]

Tobacco in Japan. If a closer look is taken, it becomes decidedly harder to make such tidy, almost sensational proclamations like 'the end is nigh...' that recently have appeared on Click Opera, specially in the case of Japan Tobacco (JT). Of course such remarks are not without their effect. Indeed, such hyberbolics, will probably send most North Americans, who have been waiting, poised in anticipation on their political p's and q's for well over a decade now, into a state of absolute political delirium.

That's because the solace they seek in any would-be doomsayer of Japnese Big Tobacco is only a little more than a kind of ideological mirrioring: 'See, I TOLD you that tobacco is universally evil! It says right here that they're even beginning to get the picture over in Japan!'. Well, true enough, but please remain mindful of the fact they THEY HAVE BEEN ALONE IN THEIR QUEST FOR SO LONG, and are weary at this point. Granted they are in need of the respite that such rosy words can give, but when they become divorced from cold, hard reality...

The war here in Asia against Big Tobacco is far, FAR from over. It isn’t even the beginning of the end, more like the end of the phase that comes before the beginning of the beginning of the end. (Ahem...) Admittedly, JT stands out among its rather Politically Incorrect Asian Big Tobacco brothers as the least insensitive, but their anti-smoking resolutions - a new ethics of smoking, etc. - are hardly anything more than lip service. The adds that were recently curated on Click Opera were wonderful...as design culture or Japanophilla, and I'm sure they'll have a huge impact OUTSIDE of Japan. Say for example in North America, among hipsters whose all-embracing, A-Z knowledge of Japanese culture somehow tacitly omits from the 'S' section the word 'smoking'. This is a pity, as it is such an intrinsic part of the culture here, for better or for worse.

With this being said, a brief apologia is in order; the shield the following paradox provides this writer: Statistically speaking, the smoking rate among adult men is almost 50% (about double the U.S. figure), while for women it is below 15% (actually 5% lower that the U.S.). Despite the fact that the Japanese smoke more than almost any other country in the world, Japanese longevity for both men and women ranks first in the world; well above that of the U.S. and other deveopled countries. In other words, it is possible for the Japanese to...err...roll their cigs and smoke ‘em too! (Pardon.) This simple fact couldn’t be anything other than terrifically infuriating to North Americans, who seem to expire in droves yearly from (ironically) from much less excessive smoking patterns.

So for the time being, the Anti-smoking hysteria yet to arrive in Japan and smoking is still relatively popular. Why shouldn’t it be? There is no apparent (repeat, apparent) DOWNSIDE. That is unless one considers that the glowing stats floating around in that flotsam and jetsam of information known as the internet are probably all insidious concoctions that the Japanese Govt. (in league with Japanese Big Tobacco) hasdreamed up. One comment culled from Click Opera is particularly telling, and deserves to heard in full:

“I had a debate in my graduate seminar here in Japan about whether there is a causal relationship between smoking and cancer (which was somehow related to a paper we read about causal relations in channel management power struggles...beats me.) The prof was a hard-ass, long time smoker who had recently given up but wasn't sold on the links between tobacco and cancer, and preparing for class, we had to read this diatribe written by an ex-JT employee about how the anti-smoking brigades were all educated middle-class goody-goody effetes trying to make the lower classes feel bad about themselves. I started building a strong case against selling tobacco from a marketing perspective, and then one of the other profs said, "Yes, I noticed that in North America, they are all pretty much sure that tobacco and cancer are related." And it hit me: the Japanese do not even believe that smoking causes cancer. They think, hey maybe there is some correlation, but it's not proven yet. These were highly educated people saying things like "Well, when the link is proven, then we can make better decisions...” This is what happens when a government monopoly owns tobacco production for a long long time; no one in power benefits from anti-smoking campaigns. The guy that said that this is a way to ease the growing eldery population is on to something...But I have this feeling that the death rates in Japan from tobacco are not as high because they eat a lot less junk than Americans and thus have less incidence of heart disease.”

Interesting. In fact the situation is unfortunately a little more subtle than this. Again as shown on Click Opera, what has arrived here in Tokyo is the wolf in sheep's clothing, a sort-of avant-courier of faux-PC (i.e. JT’s latest add campaign).

"I can only assume it's a desperate attempt by the Japanese tobacco industry to demonstrate responsibility and make the case for self-regulation."

Early distant warning? Cries of too little too...soon? Perhaps, both, but at least no one is crying ‘Wolf!’ just yet, so JT can breath easy while it smothers public clarity with smoke and mirrors PR.

Well, if the health risk is negligable (again, referring to the smoking/longevity gap), why not just focus your agitprop on the ‘social graces’ of smoking? The North American version of an anti-tobacco add (naturally paid for by Big Tobacco) probaby reads something like: SMOKING KILL HUMANS DEAD! In Japan? Probably something like: Smoking can also become more festive and less icky. Which is more effective where? The following comments from various individuals were culled from Click Opera:

“I like the campaign, too. It's so removed from the American style of anti-smoking ads (pregnant bellies with cigarettes poking out of the navel and so on) that it might just be effective if they adopted it here.”

“I'd pay money to see an anti-smoking campaign based in New York that compared smoking to bumping into someone.”

“I think this is an excellent campaign for Japan, where politeness, and keeping within one's own space, is so valued. God knows what would work here, maybe "Woo hoo, you STINK!" ads?”


So what if we just pulled the old switcheroo at a national and international level, and secretly replaced the adds in North America with the adds here in Japan, and vice versa? Wouldn’t some kind of paradigm shift occur? Wouldn’t smoking be eradicated overnight? Wouldn’t...make a bit of different, but it might be a lot of fun to try! At least then the visually saturated add environments that makes our heads swim would be temporarly drained out. The only problem is that after breathing a collective sigh of aesthetic relief, everyone the world over would feel the need to go have a quick smoke, natch.

Not wanting to drag Heidegger into the fray, but...The almost totaly ineffectiveness of the SMOKING KILLS type adds in North America is surely due to a wealth of reasons, but among these one is paramount: Death and the imperceptibility of its impending nature. The argument is as simple as it is ignored by persons who wish to make a case against the current anti-smoking adds in North America as being useless. The idea that, in a gamble to win smokers over to the anti-smoking camp, to appeal to a person’s sense of finitude - i.e. their impending death which will be hastened by smoking - is to play a sort of trump-card is totally untenable. Such gambits fail to take into account such unspoken exchanges as...

Sign displaying anti-smoking message in North America reads: “SMOKING KILLS!”

Man who sees this sign subconsciously thinks: “Yeah, but in like, 30 years from now!”

This really speaks for itself. Although Death, as folks like Heidegger, Schopenhauer, and others have suggested (in markedly differing ways) is THE event of import in life, actually sensing the full weight of its impending nature is...elusive, to say the least. There are various arguments here, but basically the closer man approaches a lucid awareness of his non-infinite (at least corporeally speaking) nature, the more ‘meaning’ his life seems to have. The ‘real’ meaning doesn’t really matter, just the feeling of meaning ‘perceived’. Coversely, were some human to come into an infinitely long life-span, this may very well be the worst possible possession on earth - a kind of metaphysical White Elephant, if you will - as far as any kind of ‘will’ towards progress or development in concerned.

Sure, given an infinite ammount of time, the body could be sculpted into that of an Adonais, the mind into that of an Einstein, but why bother? Since there would literally be no harm in not-doing so (i.e. a premature death due to atrophy of the body, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.) Furthermore, on a daily, functional basis, this ‘distancing’ is basically the kind of mindset that humans enjoy/suffer from. With ignorance being bliss and all that, so ‘death inevitable’ hardly seems so. This writer sometimes ponders how an anti-tobacco sign that read more like a Domino’s Pizza add would go over: SMOKING KILLS IN 30 YEARS., GUARANTEED! (Or it’s on us!)

Below is a much better way to get red-blooded males to stop smoking...

So regrettably, there is even less resolve to change the actual smoking situation behind the Japanese adds that were recnetly displayed on Click Opera than North American adds that have been around for more than a few decades. Why is that? Well, aside from the public sentiment thing and the longevity in spite of/in the face of Death thing, there is also the non-reality of JT ever getting slapped with a big class-action lawsuit. In America this has already become a reality, but here in Japan, Big Tobacco knows it will remain a kind of cancer victim’s pipedream, at least for a long, long time to come. JT can look for the (much lauded) 'Japanese social harmony' (i.e. sheeplike social tendencies of the Japanese themselves) to keep potential plaintiffs hemmed in.

Not to get all expositional towards the end of a post, but if consider what just happened in China last month: The world’s largest tobacco museum opend in Shanghai. Situated in Yangpu District, the five-story museum houses around 150,000 exhibits collected from tobacco companies and smokers on the Chinese mainland and abroad. Seven display halls cover tobacco farming, management of the industry, tobacco culture and smoking celebrities. A display on the tobacco industry includes wax figures of tobacco farmers and workers in cigarette factories. It also includes several tobacco processing machines. A touch-screen display includes more than 10,000 cigarette packages. The exhibits include some smoking equipment, such as pipes and cigarette holders, used by famous people, like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. (Liberal excerpts taken from a chinaview.cn article.)

What does all of this mean? In the world war of Asian Big Tobacco vs anti-tobacco forces, the recent developments in Japan are simply a strategic move, a ruse if you will. The real, the TACTICAL moves that are now all being made covertly and otherwise all indicate that China has been chosen as the battlefield for the final showdown. Things will get worse before they get better, at least for Asia.

Afterglow: The following liners were penned by a non-smoker who also not anti-smoking per se. There means by which one’s END may be expedited are legion, and tobacco is but one among them. Name your poison, but don’t name mine for me. This writer is simply pro-awareness, pro-education, and also pro the non-infringement of personal liberty...up until the point that said personal liberty begins to infringe on others who are trying to exercise this same right. So, until next time, as my friend Brad likes to say, ‘Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.’ Just not around me...










[If any of my pirated pics don't load, please click on the link that's where a pic should be!]


Once upon a time, in the mythical land of ‘Wa’, a place whose very name was synonymous with the concept of peace and harmony itself (that is, before Japan footed a disproportionate amount of the war bill in both Iraqi wars at the behest of America), the yen ruled supreme - yada, yada, yada. Well, that IS how the prologue goes, at any rate.


But these days, actually finding someone who CAN’T recount verbatium the tale told ad nauseam of a nation toppled by an atom, a godlike Emperor fallen from grace to become merely a 'man', and a blessed little economic bubble that saved everyone here, at least for a while, from being ‘merely’ Asian (instead of tellingly ‘Japanese’ a mark of prestige) is a more than formidiable challenge.


However, the number of voyeristic Japanophiles out there that can actually make the quantum leap from mere historian of, to soothsayer for this island country can be counted on one hand -- and with a few digits to spare at that. Why is this so? Well, picking up the saga where thing left off in the first paragraph:


Ah, the roaring 80’s! When things got so bloated that even the embodiment of that era’s zeitgeist (on BOTH sides of the Pacific), Pac-Man - whose name derives from a Japanese onomatopoeia ‘paku-paku’, meaning ‘to munch’ - had little choice but to eat his own heart out. All hail the Japanese and their indefatigable language! It was then and still is now the uttermost user-friendly syntax of a hyper-capitalism (a la Baudrillard) itself. This metaphor, logically extended, allows us to imagine the Japanese consuming machine built on an American pre-WWII ‘Classical’ capitalism, functioning as a kind of obsolete ‘machine code’. This metaphor, distended, poses the question: If Japanese is the language of consumption itself, wouldn't it be advisable to articulate a kind of 'KEIGO OF CONSUMPTION'? Where IS the Japanese version of F. Scott Fitzgerald when you need him/her to write 'Za Gureto Gatsby?


The seemilngy indefatigable bubble grew and grew, and grew still more, becoming over-inflated -- well beyond the limits of macro-economic sanity -- from the conspicuously consumptive, pipe dream lifestyles being lead in the Land of the Rising Sun. Until one day the inevitable finally occured: the whole thing blew up in the faces of the unsuspecting Japanese. It must have been back in ‘89 or so...


Well guess what? In terms of the financial bottom line, they’re STILL wiping the post-bubble residue off their collective mugs in an effort to well, save ‘face’ as the saying goes.


Naturally a kind of economic triage was attempted immediately in the wake of the financial decimation: downsizing bloated staff, phasing out the lifetime employment system, trimming the fat from the biannual bonus. The belt of a nation was taken in a notch or three. Though the funny thing is that up until quite recently, that is after things leveled-out for the most part, a first-time visitor to Japan would have been able to enjoy their time in Tokyo unawares, with no inkling that they were jet setting it up in a country caught in the throes of a lingering post-bubble recession. That’s because the shopaholic frequenters of places like Daikanyama (which makes Rodeo Drive look like skid row) have been utterly obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses -- err, the Susukis, and most especially since the economic ‘Fall(out)’ took place.


Of course this is mostly common knowledge to one and all -- that is, except for the Japanese themselves, who were probably way too caught up their own visissitudes to actually notice that their spending addictions weren’t being weaned off spending out of pocked, but rather force-fed even more glutionous portions. And yes, all of this WAS true, up until about...the day before yesterday, when a cross section of the the twentysomethings finally figured out being poor was hipper than not, but of course with that typical Tokyoite twist: the Japanese have transcended living on the cheap because they HAVE to; they’ve realized the beauty of doing so because they simply CAN. Who will be the next self-committed winner on ZENIGATA KINTARO/Binbou Battle? Who know's, but their 'cool' value of their 'cool currency' will soar. Now why don't you try communicating this cultural nuance to anyone who lives in China, where the per capita income hovers around 1,500 USD/year.

Now since the bottom line in either case is, in a word, thriftiness, this may seem to some to be of mostly semantic rather than actual real-world relevance. HARDLY. The crux of it all is that this is actually an expansive rather than a reductive behavior, since have added the Swiss army knife-life ‘not spending money to aquire cool’ option to the previous toolbelt of cool that previously exclusively ‘spending money to aquire cool’ tools. The following three terms barely scratch the surface of an emerging, ever-growing list of keywords - the standard cant to iterate new economic va et vient - that has become nearly universally recognized: freeta (part-time work as a career), slow-life (an educated sidesteping of the rat-race), UNIQLO (cheap, cool duds anyone can afford to wear), etc.


Morgan Spurlock need look no further for the subject of his next documentary than Tokyo, where the recent paradigm shift in thinking has made rail thin and faux poor the new rich, but by choice this time, and thus with own, new kind of otherworldy dignity. Lifestyle as a plastic art was never this good.

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