Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Do They Dream of The Girl From Hell?

The first season of the anime series Jigoku Shojo (Girl from Hell) ended last night. I found the ending OK, but a bit anti-climatic. The whole series wasn't all that spooky to begin with.

It does, however, offer a peek at what's going on in Japanese/Far Eastern society lately: bullying, back-stabbing, unrealistic expectations, the stifling demands of centuries-old traditions and the desire to retaliate against all that. Thus, in true escapist fashion, fantasies like the Girl from Hell were born. How many of these angry, bitter souls would give up their chance of entering Nirvana in exchange for vengeance? Plenty, I'd say.

In the same report, according to the BBC's Tokyo correspondent, views on suicide in Japan haven't changed much since the days of the samurai. Even my cynical self finds this abhorrent beyond words. They are notoriously clingy when it comes to traditions. What is tradition anyway, other than behaviour sanctioned by ages of use? This kind of obstinacy annoys me a great deal. The willingness to lie and bribe to justify whaling; encouraging middle-aged princesses to supply male heirs for a purely symbolic dynasty, without any heed to their health and the objections of their spouses; and now, this.

Suicide, like vengeance, should be never be a "responsible" choice for anyone.

If the BBC correspondent's claims are true, Japanese society is in terminal condition. This country needs its young more than ever. The Administration, however, is overrun by dinosaurs who are instead brainwashing them about the "good old days", cultural superiority and that those fourteen losers in Yasukuni are actually heroes. The Mainland Chinese aren't helping either, with their ceaseless demands for "atonement", "apologies" and - the magic word - "compensation".

Confined by tradition and bogged down by other people's emotional baggage as well as their own, it's no surprise that some Japanese choose to take their own lives. How many others would be dreaming of the Girl from Hell?

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Sense Over Sensitivity

One day, while surfing the radio channels on the drive home from work, I stopped when Red FM 104.9 announced the airing of a "prize-winning ad". I kept my hopes low. "Prize-winners" from this country are famous for antics that draw laughter and ridicule from the international community.

"Oh, beautiful monster," sang a man in archetypical Indian-accented English, "why are you jumping in my heart?"

Before the defense could rest, the singer went and strengthened the case further by quoting Roberta Flack: "Now you are killing me softly with your smile... ."

It was Celcom, extolling the virtues of its new Tamil SMS services, "because some things make more sense in Tamil". After that horrid demonstration by that Hariharan-wannabe I could find no argument against it. That logic could be applied to foreign groups like Modern Talking and Michael Learns to Rock.

To drive the point home for the more thick-headed listeners, a melodic female voice posed a question in a similar accent, "How can baby fish eat a killer whale? How can that be?"

At that point I cracked up. It was awful, derogative and insensitive.

It was also hilarious.

Friday, 3 November 2006

Hopping Onto The Book Ban(d)wagon

Are you upset with the latest list of books banned in this country? You're not alone. A small cadre of bibliophiles have even set up a blog to reverse what they feel is a worrying trend. While I find the ban irksome, this kind of excessive mothering shows that the government doesn't think we can decide what's good for us.

Frankly, I'm not much of a book lover, so it doesn't affect me a whole lot. I'm doing this for fun. And I don't like being painted as a cloistered, immature puritan out of expediency.

One thing noticeable (and predictable) about the list is that most of the titles have something to do with sex, religion and women, or a combination of two or more of those. It looks as if the censors took just one look at the title and BAM! Down came the rubber stamp. Maybe it's the exhilaration in the stamping, like a power trip. Or, maybe it's something else that's the real focus of the stamper's ire.

Anyway, with the help of, I took a closer look at some of the books not investigated by fellow watchdogs.

  • The Beauty of Chinese Yixing Teapots
    This ban is a mystery; all the book apparently talks about is tea and teapots. I see no reason for this, except that maybe it's the author that's banned, or if there are pictures of teapots that look remotely sexy. Or, maybe it was really, really late at night. They were sleepy and thought they were looking at The Beauty of Chinese Yixing Sexpots instead. So, down came the rubber stamp.
  • Women
    This book, by Annie Leibovitz and the late Susan Sontag, does have some provocative pictures: partial nudity, exposed innerwear, etc. Of course the chances that it could be abused are great, but better stroke materiel is available through the Internet, and from our legion of young, brilliantly-coiffed bootleggers. Big heavy deal.
  • Company to Company Teacher's Book
    "...for anyone studying or working in business, commerce or administration who needs to correspond in English," says the blurb. I don't know why this was banned either. Did the author use an unflattering scenario about Malaysia in a case study? Or maybe it's the emphasis on using English as a business medium that offends the officials?
  • How to Talk to Your Child About Sex: It's Best to Start Early, But It's Never Too Late : a Step-by-Step Guide for Every Age
    I still shudder with dread when I recall the New Straits Times report about our youth's ignorance on sexual matters ("You mean, sex is for making babies?"; "I can get AIDS through sex?"; "Sex makes me pregnant?"). They need to know, have to know. Don't deny them the knowledge.
  • Taking Chances
    Unfortunately, the ISBN given for this book was wrong, and a word search turned up multiple results. But I guess the title alone is threatening enough. Too many Malaysians are causing catastrophes by taking chances on roads, gaming machines and Magnum 3-D betting centres. What would happen if they started taking chances at general elections?
  • Life on Earth: And Other Pieces (The New Cambridge English Course)
    They banned an English course supplement? Can you blame me for thinking this is part of some covert nationalistic war on the perverse penetration of the English language in our society - which might actually be a good thing?
  • Addicted to Love: The Kate Moss Story
    What's worse than a book that "glorifies" an anorexic, neurotic supermodel, or a book that "glorifies" a drug addict? A book that "glorifies" an anorexic, neurotic supermodel who also happens to be a drug addict, with a topless but covered picture of said stick-figured substance-abuser splashed on the cover... Gah! My eyes!
  • The Poor Bastard
    An anonymous reviewer talks about this book, thus: "...Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy feels trapped, treats girl like crap and takes her for granted. Girl breaks up with boy and moves on. Boy can't get over it, ...and falls into a hellish, self-conscious existence pondering his hang-ups, aging body, mortality, inability to meet women, obsession with porn..."

    Hmm. Does this sound like people we know?
  • The Missing Page and Ransom
    These books by Singaporean Douglas Chua, set in an alternate reality where we are really at war with Singapore. Somebody has issues.

On the other hand, banning Spongebob Squarepants from the airwaves is a much better move. His bizarre laugh gets on my nerves.

Thursday, 2 November 2006

Today's Matinee Feature

More than 5,000 policemen. 1,000 Road Transport Department enforcement officers. 8,000 firemen. A 15-day nationwide campaign.

Road accidents: 15,716 cases.

Death toll: reduced by five.

Ops Sikap XI
Malaysians Don't Give a Damn

Today The Malay Mail sarcastically asks, "Is Ops Sikap XI worth it?" The answer's blatantly obvious.

They don't care about their loved ones, and don't mind leaving them with tragic memories.

They don't mind being compared to four-year-olds or the colour-blind.

They don't mind spending the rest of their lives in a coma (they don't like cookies baked by their children too, it seems).

They don't mind orphaning their children or widowing their spouses.

They don't mind orphaning other people's children or widowing other people's spouses.

They're convinced that driving big or expensive vehicles grants them g*d-like status on the roads.

Most of all, they don't think it could happen to them. So far, at least 15,716 people found out they were wrong.

So was it worth it? Not to me. But such a minor setback won't stop the roll-out of the next big production, Ops Sikap XII: Malaysians Still Don't Give a Damn.