Sunday, July 31, 2022

Playing with fire

I find these two guys to be entertaining and informative. They lived in China for several years and speak fluent Chinese. After sensing things were going south in China, they moved to the States, but they still primarily cover China. Their insights are always interesting and presented in an entertaining manner. Among other posts, they run a weekly podcase a podcast I usually watch at least in part.

As for Taiwan, after Hong Kong we should state that the 'One China Two Systems' position is clearly no longer tenable and that we don't recognize the CCP's position on that matter.


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Welcome home Master/Mistress

OK, this is weird. Earlier I posted about a visit to a Japanese Girls Bar. I probably should have known better than to do it, but I decided to search for other strange Japanese bars. That search led me to Japanese maid cafés and hoo-boy, they take cringe to a whole new level.

In the above video (turn on captions) a fellow takes us on a visit to a maid café. The waitresses are dressed in frilly, mini-skirted French maid outfits and talk in high pitched giggly voices. They greet him as Master and take him to a table where his maid (the owner of the place) serves him. The dining experience starts out absurd and gets more and more entertainingly ridiculous as it proceeds. 

After showing him the entire menu, in a relentlessly cheerful and enthusiastic manner, she brings him the drink he ordered. She also has a flask, and she makes him recite some magical words to turn the contents of the flask pink, which she then pours into the drink tuning it pink too. It's magic! They then have to recite some more magic to infuse the drink with love so's it tastes even more delicious. 

This magic business goes on with every dish she brings and finally ends up with them waving around heart-shaped plastic magic wands as they do their incantations. Along the way she also draws a cartoon bear on the eggs on top of his rice and eventually they take a picture together. For the picture he has to pose with her while wearing bunny ears. The guy's reaction through all this is hilarious. Understandably, he is completely embarrassed and yet he is still entertained by all the foolishness. 

In trying to make sense out of this maid café lunacy I discovered it was rooted in Japanese anime culture. In fact, when the fellow first enters the café he says, "my otaku soul's screaming!" Otaku means: a person having an intense or obsessive interest especially in the fields of anime and manga. Appealing to that otaku crowd, the maid café is set up to be an anime world with the waitresses cosplaying as anime maids. In preparing this post I watched a recorded live stream made by two American guys and four girls who went to this same place -- their reactions were centered mainly around the anime elements of the café. They even recognized some of the anime characters the maids were imitating in their cosplay.

In the captions you'll see him use the word 'cute' repeatedly. Listening to the soundtrack he actually uses the Japanese word 'kawaii' which has a much more nuanced meaning than just cute. Kawaii refers to a specific cultural style. It refers to people or things that are "charming, vulnerable, shy and childlike". All of the elements of the café are deliberately kawaii: the color scheme, the frilly maid outfits, the high-pitched voices and giggling, the cutesy details of the food, the font styles they use, the goofy bunny ears, and the kid's games they play (shown in the video below). This is all performance theater for otaku fans.

Finally, we'll end with a video from Sue Perkins of the BBC visiting the same place. She's rather rude during the entire segment. What's she's obviously fixated on is the idea that these poor girls are forced to dress up and engage in this lunacy by the Eeeeevil patriarchy. What's funny is that much of this kawaii business was cooked up by young Japanese women (and one look at a J-pop boy band and the bunny ears the fellow above wears for his picture tells you that this kawaii stuff applies to boys as well as girls). Further, the neighborhood this café is in is the very center of otaku culture, so she has to know the context it sits in.   

I picture her, in another setting, lecturing us about the wonders of diversity while all the time disdaining anything outside of her proscribed horizons. However, in fairness to Sue, I think it is part of a longer show called Japan with Sue Perkins so it may feel different when presented in the show, but in the clip we see she comes across as being insufferable. She ends the segment by informing us this is a place for shy men to interact with women. Well, it's partly that I suppose, but I think it is mainly just otaku Disneyland.


Sunday, July 24, 2022

Henry Bosak's modern still-lifes

Click any image to enlarge

Henry Bosak is an American illustrator and painter, originally from Nebraska, but now based in Arizona. His still-lifes, rather than being the conventional bowls of fruit and what-not, are instead of mundane everyday objects. These examples, and those after the jump, are taken from his website (linked above via his name). I quite like his work. There are many more at his site. 

Henry Bosak

Friday, July 22, 2022

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Appeasing the angry Gods.

Aztec human sacrifice
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. - Rita Mae Brown
It is time for us to do what we have been doing, and that time is every day. - Kamala Harris 


Monday, July 18, 2022

Link maintenance

Just a small change to my blog's links. 'Under Blogs of Interest' I've added Pergelator. He's commented some in here and that's how I found his site. It is a very nice mix of different topics and interests. At the risk of having him inundated with a Flareslaunch, which is mainly my faithful spam bots following a new link to post herbal Viagra ads, be sure to check him out.


Sunday, July 17, 2022

Building a new capital city

Washington D.C. is a city built from scratch to be our Nation's capital. Likewise, Brazil moved its capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia. Currently Indonesia has plans to move their capital from Jakarta on the island of Java to a new site on Borneo.   

In describing Jakarta's flooding problem the narrator alludes to 'climate change' driven rising sea levels. However, when he explains the process it is driven by other forces. Jakarta was built on swamp land and the rivers running through it have become so polluted that, to get drinking water, they need to pump out ground water. This causes the soil to compact so the problem is actually the city sinking below sea level rather than the sea level rising.

Hmm... a city built on a swamp sinking? Maybe we need to start drilling more wells in Washington D.C. to solve one of our problems. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Apartment interiors by Hammershøi

Click any image to enlarge

Vilhelm Hammershøi was an early 20th century Dutch painter best known for his paintings of apartment interiors. They are composed by the planes made by the walls, floors and doors with sunlight streaming through the windows. Household objects are seen sparsely as well as sometimes the figure of a solitary woman.

Vilhelm Hammershøi

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Visit to a Girls Bar

This is different than my usual Walking in Cities video in that it starts out with a visit to a Girls Bar in Tokyo. The Girls Bar visited in this video charges a 3,000 yen (~$22.00) cover to be able to enter and stay for an hour. You'll be charged more if you stay longer, and there may be extra charges for drinks. 

It seems odd, but what you're paying for is conversation with the bartenders who are young, cute girls. They're not prostitutes. In fact, you're not supposed to touch them or even have risqué conversations. That said I imagine some are sketchier than others and I suspect that getting too drunk in one is a good way to get your bank account vacuumed clean. 

As explained in the above linked article:

For those of us who grew up outside of Japanese society, the idea of paying someone just to talk to them may be hard to grasp. But girls bars may actually be a product of Japanese work culture that leaves employees very little time to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship. It’s a compromise that allows men in Japan to enjoy the company of women, even if it’s just for a while. 

Who goes to girls bars?

Mostly men. It could be a tired businessman who’s just gotten off work and wants a drink and a chat. Or it could be a young man who’s nervous around women and wants to practice his conversational skills. Or even a foreign resident who wants to improve his Japanese or rather a tourist who just wants to see what Japan has to offer. 

It could be a person like me who unwittingly wandered into one and didn’t realize it was a girls’ bar until my cute girl bartender told me I’d be charged for every half-hour I was there!

As you can see the bar shown is quite small. It seats 5-6 customers and has 3 girls working plus a bouncer. The place has 3 customers, 2 jovial Japanese fellows on one end and a female Thai tourist on the other. Apparently, the bar has a Thai theme (in the comments they think the 3 bartenders are Thai girls). The place seems amiable enough, although at $20+ an hour plus the risk of getting simped out of your life savings it may not be amiable enough.

After his stay there he does take a stroll in the streets surrounding it.


Friday, July 08, 2022

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Making an American hotdog

I have previously posted a video of a Mongolian fellow making a hotdog. His idea of a hotdog was shredded beef on a hotdog bun. It missed the mark, but it's the thought that counts and it did look tasty. In the above video a Korean chef makes hotdogs from scratch and the result definitely looks delicious.


Monday, July 04, 2022

Happy 4th of July

4th of July, Butterfly Beach by Thomas Van Stein 

Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. - George Washington


Sunday, July 03, 2022

Crying enough

 Below is an old post of mine, originally put up on July 4th of 2010. As I write in the end of the post:

Americans forget how revolutionary we are. Jefferson's "all men are created equal..." is both intoxicating and destructive.
The post is about the song Dimonkransa. It is a song about an elite lamenting the voice given to the common man. In the song there are the lines, "we have all opened our eyes and each one, relying on his judgment, confidently declared that what was round was in fact square". In the U.S. today, cancel culture and the attempt to delineate acceptable speech is just the same lamentation by a different self-declared elite. As for me, I prefer Jefferson's "all men are created equal" and all that it implies.    

Above is the song Dimonkransa sung by Myra Andrade of the Cape Verde Islands. Cape Verde received their independence from Portugal on July 5th, 1975. The liberation movement was led by the socialist African Party of Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). Andrade's father was a member of it, and in fact she was born in Cuba.

Upon independence Cape Verde was a single party government, but in 1990 at a party congress the PAICV approved the introduction of multiparty democracy. In the election that followed the opposition fared well, and Cape Verde has evolved into a stable multi-party democracy.

However, this is not a post about her politics, nor the sort of third world socialism that bubbles through the undeveloped world. It seems to me there is a deeper strata, a bedrock so to speak, which lies under the languid melancholy of her lyrics.

It was said that democracy,
Lopsided democracy,
It was said that democracy
Was like a hidden treasure,
But now that it has been found.
We have all opened our eyes
And each one, relying on his judgment,
Confidently declared that what was round was in fact square,
And went to work, with a great many theories,
To prove that he was right.

(lyrics from the version she sung on her first album Navega)

Andrade is ill at ease with democracy, but for social rather than political reasons. Early in the song she calls it 'lopsided democracy' and as its lyrics unfold her complaint is that each person, not matter how foolish they are (and she clearly thinks many if not most of them are fools), now express a cacophony of opinions and arguments that bury the truth. 

She ends the song singing of English businessman and listing names from Cape Verde's past, some who have been elevated and some who she fears are being forgotten, and expresses distress at this reordering of authority. 

Stripped to its bone, the song is about a lost elite. Andrade is expressing nostalgia for a short-lived one party rule and for an escape from European domination. Of course it is her party that should rule and she now makes her home in Paris. Perhaps it is she that is lopsided, rather than all of the happy fools she mocks?

The time will come when old Náxu’s opinions
Will not be held in higher esteem than those of a babe in arms.
People will come together and cry: enough!

Americans forget how revolutionary we are. Jefferson's "all men are created equal..." is both intoxicating and destructive. It is a hell of a thing not to have to step into the gutter to clear the side walk for a swaggering aristocrat. Andrade is intimidated by and dismissive of people who have opened their eyes, and each one, relied on their own judgment, but a free man knows better.

As for coming together and crying "enough"? That is exactly what our 4th of July celebrates. Happy 4th of July to you all.